Aug. 31, 2020

John Podhoretz on Genesis 34 – “The Rape of Dinah: Enduring Challenges from Genesis’s Most Difficult Story”

One of America’s leading public intellectuals, John Podhoretz, joins Mark on today’s podcast. In addition to contributing to various publications from the Wall Street Journal to the Weekly Standard, serving as speechwriter for two American Presidents, and appearing as a political commentator on CNN and Fox News, John has, for the past 11 years, been the editor for Commentary magazine, one of the most important sources of ideas in the digital world. He is also a Rabbi’s son-in-law, and his friendship with Mark goes back 25 years, when Mark served as an intern for him. The passage he has chosen to discuss is Genesis 34. John starts off by explaining how he has worked to maintain the quality of Commentary into the digital age, and offering his summary of today’s passage. He and Mark then explore the concept of peace through strength evident in the passage, the differing views of the events within it, the beauty of the Bible, and the significance of its identification the ‘thing that must not be done’. They also review the sophistication and moral seriousness of the Torah, and John shares the lessons about mankind which he has learned, including the central difference between conservatives and liberals. Listen in today, and enjoy this enlightening conversation between these two great thinkers as they reaffirm the power and the eternal influence of the Torah.

Episode Highlights:

  • How John has maintained the quality of Commentary while bringing it into new digital media
  • John’s summary of the passage
  • Peace through strength
  • The difference between Jacob’s view of the event and his sons’ view
  • Understanding the beauty of the Bible
  • The ‘thing that must not be done’
  • The sophistication and moral seriousness of the Torah
  • The lessons that John has learned about mankind
  • The central difference between conservatives and liberals


“The task of Judaism is to renew the old and sanctify the new, and you have certainly done that with Commentary.”

“This rape then turns to love, I guess, the next morning.”

“The circumcision they transform into a military tactic.”

“It was the first example of peace through strength.”

“It’s tantalizingly unclear what God thinks of what the two young men did.”

“One of the beauties of the Bible is the complexity of everybody in it.”

“God is not a wimp.”

“We could have been over before we got started.”

“You have to have just outcomes with just means.”

“The framing of biblical morality is, in some ways, a visit from a radical future.”

“Here is the book on how to live and nobody else on the planet was anywhere near the sophistication and the moral seriousness of these presented rules of conduct.”

Genesis 34 -


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