Friday, September 17, 2010

Sex wars and striped sheep

The Biblical views on sex are confusing and hard to figure out. So much of what happens in the Old Testament is either blamed on or credited to God so that people look to the Scriptures for clues as to how they should behave. And yet, all through the Old Testament we find stories of God approving of, encouraging or otherwise not dissuading actions and behaviors that we would never tolerate today.
Genesis 30 is replete with examples of bizarre sexual behavior as the sisters Rachel and Leah get into a competition to see who can produce the most sons for their “family.”
Leah already has a headstart with four sons due to God feeling sympathy for her being the unloved first wife of Jacob. Plus she has the advantage that her sister’s womb was closed by God for reasons we can’t begin to fathom.
So we get a replay of the Sarah-Hagar conflict with the barren Rachel jealous of her older sister’s success in the child-rearing department. She complains to Jacob who angrily tells her it’s God’s fault and not his.
She then decides to make one of her maid servants, Bilhah, have sex with Jacob to produce a son for her. And unlike the Sarah-Hagar story, Rachel does not get jealous of Bilhah who promptly conceives and bears two sons. The Biblical authors don’t seem the slightest bit preturbed at the idea of slaves being forced to have sex with their masters (I think we might call that rape today) and then having to give up their children to their mistresses.
Instead, they just pile it on with Leah matching Rachel maidservant for maidservant and Jacob just hopping from one bed to the next having sex with everybody.
In the midst of all this begetting, we suddenly brake for a story about Reuben - Leah’s first born - collecting mandrake plants during the wheat harvest and then Leah using them to “hire” Jacob to have sex with her again. This is really odd because why would she have to do that? She is still one of Jacob’s wives. Why does she have to bribe Rachel in order to get Jacob to have sex with her?
Nevertheless, the ploy works and Leah becomes pregnant again and again and again.
And then, God suddenly remembers Rachel and arbitrarily decides to open her womb so that she gives birth to the next major figure in the story - Joseph.

Now Genesis 30 completely shifts gears and starts talking about sheep and goats. Jacob asks his uncle to send him back to his homeland with his wives and children. Why he needs Laban’s permission if he has completed the second seven years they had agreed to is not clear. But none-the-less, Laban resists and tells Jacob that if he stays he will give him all the spotted and striped sheep and goats in his flocks. He then tries to doublecross Jacob by having his sons cull out all the colored sheep and put them in their flocks.
But Jacob has the last laugh because he apparently knows some ancient secret as to how to get sheep and goats to bear striped and spotted offspring simply by placing in their water troughs fresh-cut poplar branches with the bark stripped off to make stripes. What is really interesting is that the authors don’t even attribute this particular miracle to God. They just act like it is Jacob being clever or something. Weird.

1 comment:

  1. There are many "weird" things happening in the world today... God does not hold a remote control to manipulate us like a robot. I think we need to read the bible as a book that's honest about mistakes that 'good' people did....
    There are many politicians, businessmen in the world today who have led lives of good reputation but one mistake ruins all...
    The bible is a book which shows-no man is perfect. And we imperfect men/women don't like God to interfere in our lives and so that's exactly what He does... Neither do we like to give God any credit for the breadth He gives us for free every morning we wake up:) Do you have children, Mr. Thomas? Have they thanked you for anything you have done. Have YOU thanked your parents for anything THEY have done.... I hope u get it...