Justifiable Rape? (Part 2): Lot’s Daughters

200px-gentileschi_artemisia_-_lot_and_his_daughters_-_1635-1638In my last post I asked, “Is rape ever justifiable?” specifically in light of the story of Lot and his two daughters (Gen. 19:30-38).

On Facebook my post received even less attention than my usual posts.  Hmm.  I guess people don’t want to talk about these types of stories.  For me it’s not an option since I teach the Old Testament (and while it’s hard when it comes to stories like this one, I still believe all Scripture is profitable for teaching–you can quote me on that).

If you’re curious, I discuss this story in more depth in Prostitutes and Polygamists (150-152).

Here are three reasons to view the behavior of Lot’s daughters negatively.

First, by getting their father drunk they took away his ability to give consent, which means we could call what took place rape.  It’s never good to get someone drunk to have sex with them. This message cannot be stated loudly or often enough, particularly on college campuses.

Second, sex between a father and a daughter was particularly abhorrent and lesser forms of incest were to be punished with death (see Lev. 20:11-21).  Once again, in a world where sexual abuse within families is tragically not uncommon, this passage should never be construed as a license for incest.

Third, their father could have arranged marriages for them from the nearby town of Zoar as he apparently did in Sodom, since both of Lot’s daughters were to be married (Gen. 19:14).

Here are three reasons to NOT view their behavior negatively.

First, the first command in the Bible was “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28), so one could argue that they were simply being obedient to God’s initial commission.

Second, other unorthodox forms of sexual behavior seem to be permitted or even encouraged elsewhere in Scripture.  The practice of levirate marriage, a man impregnating his brother’s widow in order to perpetuate his line was codified in the law (Deut. 25:5-6).  One could argue that Lot’s daughters were acting in the spirit of this practice (before it became law).  Tamar is praised by Judah for being “more righteous” than he after she tricked him into sleeping with her to perpetuate the line of her dead husband Er, the son of Judah (Gen. 38; see also my discussion of this incident in Prostitutes and Polygamists, pages 95-101).

Third, their scheme spared their father the shame of being responsible for getting his own daughters pregnant.  I heard this argument from a female scholar who was presenting a paper at a recent Society of Biblical Literature meeting (in San Antonio). I need to think more about this point, but I initially found it a compelling argument.

I’m still troubled by this incident, but the fact that Lot’s daughters would have been experiencing shock and grief after the deaths of their mother, their fiancees, and almost everyone else they knew should cause us to view their desperate, but improper, actions with compassion.

What do you think?  Was their behavior justifiable?  Do you see other reasons to condemn or defend Lot’s daughter’s actions?

 

Justifiable Rape? The Story of Lot’s Daughters (Genesis 19:30-38)

200px-gentileschi_artemisia_-_lot_and_his_daughters_-_1635-1638

Lot and his Daughters (Artemisia Gentileschi)

Is it ever possible to justify rape? The issue arises in a bizarre story found in Genesis 19.

Immediately after the city of Sodom is sulfur-ified for wickedness and Lot’s wife is salt-ified for rubber-necking, Lot and his remaining family, his two unnamed daughters settle in the hills outside of Zoar (Gen. 19:30).

In order to give offspring to their aging father, the two daughters come up with a creative plan. Get dad drunk and then sleep with him on consecutive nights (Gen. 19:31-32).   Their plan works and each daughter conceives and eventually gives birth to sons, Moab and Ben-Ammi, the ancestors of the Moabites and the Ammonites (Gen. 19:33-38).

When someone is deprived of their ability to give consent to sex, we would call it rape.  In this case alcohol was depriving Lot of his ability to give consent, so one could argue Lot was raped by his daughters. Also, sex between a father and a daughter is a particularly heinous form of incest.

But one can make an argument that this incestuous rape was perhaps justified.

The heading of my NRSV Bible titles this section, “The Shameful Origin of Moab and Ammon” so we know what the NRSV editors think about the morality of this story.

But what do you think?  Should we condemn or defend the actions of Lot’s daughters?  

One should only ever broach the sensitive subject of rape with the utmost caution, and personally, I’d rather avoid it because I don’t feel qualified, but I teach the Old Testament and the Bible doesn’t avoid it (Gen. 34; Lev. 19; 2 Sam. 13), so I think we need to discuss it.

I discuss this story in Prostitutes and Polygamists (pages 150-152), but I’ve had a few more thoughts since I wrote it.  I’ll share more thoughts in my next post.

 

Prostitutes and Polygamists only $3.99

P and P Cover 2Prostitutes and Polygamists (the book, not the people) is on sale now for $3.99 in e-book format directly from Zondervan. Here’s the link to the Zondervan e-Book sale.

Even if you aren’t interested in Prostitutes and Polygamists (but who isn’t?), you should check out other great e-books on sale from other Zondervan authors such as Carolyn Custis James, Scot McKnight, Christopher Wright, Mark Strauss, Tremper Longman III, and Michael Bird.

There are lots of great deals on books related to theology, the Bible, gender and sexuality.

The sale starts today, Nov 14, and ends on Sunday Nov 20, 2016.

(If I were a better marketer, I would say “Act now!  There’s no time to waste!” but I just can’t do it.)

Enjoy.

The King and the Land by Stephen Russell

Stephen Russell’s new book, The King and the Land: A Geography of Royal Power in the Biblical World (Oxford, 2016), discusses the various ways the rulers of Israel and Judah used geographic spaces to assert their power.   It’s an interesting look at an under-studied topic in the realm of Old Testament research.

Russell begins by examining how Solomon built his temple in a Phoenician style (see 1 Kings 5:21-28; 7:13-45), which was consistent with his pattern of expanding his power base by engaging his neighbors through intermarriage and trade.

In chapter two, he observes how Solomon’s father, David, used the purchase of the land of Araunah (2 Sam. 24) to emphasize his special relationship to YHWH, which was a common pattern among ancient Near Eastern rulers.

His third chapter looks at Jehu (near and dear to my heart–the subject of my doctoral dissertation) and his decommissioning of the temple of Baal (2 Kings 10:18-28). Russell concludes that, while Jehu’s pious deed was celebrated in the biblical record, his power was limited in comparison to ancient Near Eastern rulers.

His fourth and fifth chapters discusses how Absalom (in the gate; 2 Sam. 15:1-16) and Hezekiah (with his tunnel; 2 Kgs. 20:20) helped legitimate their power within their social contexts.

Baruch Halpern says, “Well worth reading.”  Thomas Romer declares, “A must read for everybody interested in the question of kingship in the Bible and the ancient Near East.”

Particularly for those of you who share my interests in these issues, I hope you’ll check out The King and the Land.

(I have known Stephen Russell since he was a student at Penn in the early 1990’s.)