Prostitutes and Polygamists

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

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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.

 

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Pastor Jimenez and Father Abraham

abraham-sodom-300x243Baptist pastor named Roger Jimenez in Sacramento has been making headlines for preaching that the 49 people who died at the gay club in Orlando deserved it.  Somehow a pastor in California has taken a horrific tragedy, the worst mass shooting in US history and made it worse.

I have many problems with his offensive message, but here I will only mention four points (keep reading after #1).  He apparently based part of his sermon on Romans, so I’ll focus my comments there before jumping to Genesis.

First, according to the apostle Paul, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23) so, biblically one could agree with Pastor Jimenez that the people killed in Orlando deserved to die.  But this is not Paul’s main point, or where his message ends.

Second, Paul also said “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), so we should add Pastor Jimenez, and Dave Lamb to the list of people who deserve death (and all the readers of this blog).  His sermon went viral, but it would have been more biblical if he included himself and everyone in his congregation in his list of people who deserve death.

Third, when Paul talked about the wages of sin as resulting in death, he also spoke of the free gift of God through Jesus (Rom. 6:23).  I haven’t listened to all of Pastor Jimenez’s sermon, but at least as his message and his subsequent comments are being reported in the press, he doesn’t mention anything about God’s grace, which again would have made his message more biblical.  Preachers shouldn’t conclude by saying sinners, like us, deserve death, but they need to get to the good news about God’s grace.

Fourth, father Abraham* instead of condemning the wicked residents of Sodom to death, actually risked his life in prayer for them, asking God to show mercy to the Sodomites (Gen 18:16-33).  I discuss Abraham’s prayer, the Bible’s attitude toward homosexuality, and what really was the sin of Sodom in more depth in Prostitutes and Polygamists in my chapter on homosexuality (pages 161-183), so I won’t go into depth on those subjects here. Tragically, Christians are often perceived to be more like Pastor Jimenez, than Father Abraham.  But how cool would it be if Christians were known to be like Abraham, in this regard, interceding in costly ways for people associated with the sins of Sodom?  We have a long ways to go.

*Father Abraham actually had 8 sons: Ishmael, Isaac, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah; Gen. 16:1521:2-325:2.

My interview on Bible Gateway

 

File:BibleGateway.com-Logo.jpegMy interview on Bible Gateway just went live on the Bible Gateway blog.

In the interview, I discuss my recent (but not most recent) book, Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style (Zondervan, 2015).  If you’ve ever asked, “What’s up with sex in the Old Testament?” then check out the interview, or the book.

Bible Gateway is the most visited Christian website in the world, with about 150 million views per month (even more than my blog–I get a few thousand a month).  They have close to a million Facebook fans.

If you need help with Scripture, Bible Gateway is a great place to start. I use it and recommend it to students all the time.  If you have access to the internet, through Bible Gateway you have access to multiple English versions of the Bible as well as multiple versions in other languages.  There’s a free app for your phone.  There are other tools and resources to help you make sense of Scripture.

Let me know what you think of the interview. 

 

 

The Stanford Rape Judge: Aaron Persky

I met Aaron Persky (here’s the link to today’s NY Times article on Persky) in the fall of 1980 when we were both freshmen at Stanford together. Aaron was the roommate of one of my best friends from Ames, Iowa, Eric Wolfe. (Eric and I were roommates our junior and senior year in our fraternity). I hung out with Aaron a lot our freshmen year, but I haven’t stayed in touch with him since then.

Aaron Persky was the judge in the recent Stanford rape case.  In case you haven’t been following it, a Stanford student (Brock Turner), a star on the swim team, raped a non-Stanford student who was drunk and unconscious. Turner was also drunk at the time. Judge Persky gave Turner a light sentence, 6 months. He could likely get off with good behavior at 3 months.

In my opinion (I’m not a lawyer, nor a specialist in sentencing for rape cases, like Judge Persky), I think Turner should have been given a more severe punishment. I discuss the problems associated with prosecuting rape cases in my most recent book (Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style). Our culture has a tendency to blame the victim. Many perpetrators of rape get off scot-free, so the fact that Turner is sentenced at all is a good thing, not ideal, but a step in the right direction.

Judge Persky is now being threatened, and trolls are hoping that his children get raped. (God, help us.) I have no problem with the petition that calls for his removal. But before I would sign my name to that list I would want to learn a lot more about rape law and rape sentencing in this country, and more about Persky’s record since he’s been a judge.

According to the NY Times article, Persky has been involved in leadership positions for several organizations that advocate for women and victims, including a support network for battered women, which doesn’t surprise me given what I know of Aaron.  It sounds like Persky is exactly the sort of person you would want deciding cases about rape and violence against women.

What do you think?