The Bible Slam: Genesis Chapter 38

Genesis 38 is a good example of the second class status assigned to women in the Christian bible.

Judah, one of Jacob/Israel's sons, "takes" a Canaanite woman and has three sons with her.   God kills the first of these sons, whose name was Er, because he was "wicked."   However, no explanation about what this wickedness was is given.   Judah tells his second son, Onan, to marry Tamar, who was Er's widow, but God kills Onan also because he "spilled his seed on the ground" instead of fathering a child with his sister-in-law.   Judah tells Tamar that she has to live with her father until his third son is old enough to marry her.

The third son grows old enough for marriage, but Tamar is not given to him.   In the meantime, Judah's wife dies so he goes out whoring for comfort.   Hearing that Judah would be traveling by, Tamar disguises herself and Judah, not knowing it is his daughter in law, thinks she's a prostitute and pays her with his signet, bracelets, and staff for sex.

Later, when he discovers that Tamar is pregnant, Judah orders that she be burned to death for having illicit sex — until she proves with the signet, bracelets and staff that Judah is the father.   Then, he says she's more righteous than he because he had failed to marry her to his third son.

The chapter concludes with Tamar giving birth to twin sons named Pharez and Zarah.   Zarah is born with a "scarlet thread upon his hand."

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Discussion Points.

If the bible is an inerrant guide to morality, it is difficult to understand what is supposed to be illustrated here. First, women obviously have no rights, being "taken" and, in the case of becoming widows, forced to marry their brothers-in-law.   Christians who talk about the "sanctity" of marriage and the "traditions" of marriage do not discuss these biblical principles where women are simply "taken" and widows have to marry their in-laws.

Second, it is perfectly okay for the men to have illicit sex with prostitutes, but the prostitutes themselves can be condemned to a painful and torturous death by burning.

Finally, if Tamar would have been burned to death, then the fetus would also be killed.   What does this say about abortion?

In Genesis 38:7 of the King James Version, there is this sentence:

And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.

There is no reason given as to why "the LORD" decided that Er was wicked. If this book is to be a moralistic guide, it would seem that we would be given an explanation as to the type of behavior that is so wicked that death is warranted.

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