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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