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Scrutinizing The Biblical Characters (P. 2/5)

Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3 , Part 4 , Part 5 .

4. Jacob, Leah, and Rachel

Jacob, it is said, was the son of Isaac and Rebekah, and the younger twin brother of Esau, from whom he is said to have stolen the birthright. Genesis 29: 1 –30 narrates that after Jacob ran away from the vengeful anger of his brother Esau, he found refuge to the house of Laban his uncle, who had two daughters: Leah (the elder), and Rachel (the younger). The story goes that Jacob had a crush for Rachel, but that he was asked to first work seven years of servitude to her father before he could have her for wife, but only latter to be deceitfully given Leah instead! It will take Jacob another seven years before he could finally be given his chosen wife Rachel as a second wife. Now I believe it is no longer a secret to us why Jacob preferred Rachel to Leah. We already know how his father Isaac and his grandpa Abraham both made history for their choices of "fair to look upon" women, so since the Bible tells us in Genesis 29:17, that Rachel was “beautiful and well favoured”, we are not surprised that Jacob had kept up with his family’s spirit in preferring Rachel to her sister Leah. Beauty (not character or intelligence) is what seemed to matter for them.

The juicy part of the story begins with Genesis 29: 31 – 35, as well as Genesis 30: 1 – 24. Rachel, Jacob's second wife who was young, beautiful, and newly married, logically received preferential treatment from him over her elder sister Leah. The Lord’s intervention came at that point, not to help the situation as one would expect from a loving and omniscient being, but to bring forth his regular curses. He is said to have ‘opened the wombs’ of Leah and stroke Rachel with sterility, so that the latter became bitterly jealous of her elder sister’s fecundity. To overcome the handicap of her sterility, Rachel authorized her husband Jacob to ‘go in unto’ her maid Bilhah so she can have children by her (Genesis 30:3). And Jacob, just like his grandfather Abraham, wasted no time in executing Rachel’s wish, and he immediately laid with Bilhah, who latter bare children to him. I don't blame him for not objecting to that proposition. After all, how many men do you know who would not be thrilled by such an accommodating arrangement from their wives? Smile

What is very fascinating is that Rachel’s move has unleashed a spectacular wrestling match between her and her elder sister Leah. The latter refused to be outdone by Rachel, so when she could no longer bear children to her husband after reaching her menopause, she also gave her young maid Zilpah to Jacob, so she can continue the birth race on her behalf and help her overcome the comeliness of her younger sister. Once again Jacob did not hesitate for a second to grant such a ‘progressive’ request from his wife. I really find the peculiar method used by biblical female characters in order to overcome their condition of sterility to be very fascinating. What I am aware of nowadays is that most women (including the sterile ones) will usually begin consulting a divorce attorney once they found out about the sexual indiscretions of their husbands. So perhaps those biblical women were more 'accommodative' and 'open-minded' about their men’s needs than modern women? Just asking! Smile

Let me now quote another biblical passage of this story of Jacob and his wives which contains a very morally degenerative influence: Genesis Chapter 30, Verses 14–16. “14. And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakesin the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes. 15. And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son’s mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son’s mandrakes. 16. And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son’s mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.” For Leah to bribe her younger sister (with the sweat of her son’s labour) for the privilege of sexual intercourse with her own husband, is a disturbingly coarse act that I cannot even comment upon any further. Only in the Bible can such a despicable prostitutional bargaining be accepted as part of the “word of God”. In any other book this kind of story will be censored as “indecent and inappropriate for readers”.

5. The Rape of Dinah

Rape is (and has always been) a very sensitive issue which must always be handled with care and delicacy. Even in our current Courts of law, the general public is not permitted in the court room during its recital, so that judgement about the matter can be made without external pressures. What then are we to say when such depravities are prominently related in the Bible (a book that is supposed to be our moral guide) especially since it is also to be read by children? And I am not just questioning the reason for Bible’s redactors to include such disgusting rape stories in their Holy book, but also the way in which they chose to do so.

Let us now proceed to relate the story of the rape of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, which is recorded in Genesis 34: 1 – 31. We are told that Jacob and his extensive family (which included his servants and their families) were peacefully living as strangers within the land of the Hivites. One day, as Dinah went out to see her local friends, she was noticed by the Prince of the land (called Sechem), and, according to the Bible, Sechem “took her, and laid with her, and defiled her” (Genesis 34:2). I am not quite sure what those words mean, but even if they describe a rape case, it is what follows that is even more important, because it relates the attitude of young Sechem concerning the matter. I quote Genesis chapter 34, verse 3 and 4: “3. And his soul crave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel and spake kindly unto the damsel. 4. And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife”

We have here a young man who, after realizing the impetuous folly of his youth for not controlling his passion toward the enticing charms of a girl, was willing to atone for his misdeeds and offered his sincere and devoted love to the damsel and asked his own father to help him get her for wife. He pleaded his cause with fervour, ardour, and great honesty. So even if justice was to be done, at least it should have taken into consideration the mitigating circumstance provided by Sechem’s sincere repentance and need for reparation as we note from Genesis chapter 34, verse 11 to12:11. And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give. 12. Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.” .

What more could this young man do in order to atone for his mistake, considering the fact that Dinah herself was not opposed to the idea of being his wife? His father (Hamor) also pleaded with Jacob’s family, begging them for the hand of their daughter for his son under whatever prize they would ask. I haven’t learned in all recorded history about a people that was so ready to comply with the demands of another people than what the House of Hamor was willing to concede to the House of Jacob for such a trivial indiscretion on the part of their prince. In whichever angle I look at this story, it always look to me that young Sechem did not deserve the brutal retaliation which the sons of Jacob inflicted upon him, his family, and his country.

What did Jacob and his sons demanded of Sechem and his father as reparation for his misdeed? Their price was not love, honour, or protection for their daughter. They didn't even ask gold or any wealth, but only... circumcision!! Big Grin So cutting off the foreskins was more important to them than money or the happiness of their daughter. It thus appears to me that they considered the union of Sechem to their sister as rape only because he was uncircumcised, otherwise they wouldn't mind about it at all! But being eager to keep his pledge of reparation and to win the object of his love, young Sechem (and his father) complied immediately with their demand and offered themselves (as well as all the males in their community) to be circumcised. But not even this was enough to satisfy the savage cravings of Jacob’s son.

What followed from them was an despicable act of cruelty which defies all comprehension, so I will let the Scriptures speak for themselves by quoting Genesis chapter 34, verse 25 – 29:25. And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. 26. And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out. 27. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28. They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field, 29. And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.”

This is the most barbaric and the most diabolical crime ever perpetrated upon an innocent people, particularly in the name of peace and reconciliation! Angry If you have knowledge of any worst crime against humanity committed in history than this one, please let me know. Not even the alleged rape of Dinah could possibly justify that savage massacre (plus lootings and vandalism) committed by Jacob’s sons on peace-loving people who only showed to them the most compelling act of benevolence ever seen anywhere else. We must also note that these bloody criminals (the sons of Jacobs) are the venerated ancestors of the twelve original tribes that constituted the mythical "chosen people" of Israel. If their heinous action was approved by the Lord and is understood as the model of biblical justice and ethics, then the Bible itself is a book with a questionable moral value and it should therefore be rejected by all decent and peace loving people of this world, so that violent atrocities of the Inquisition or the crusades’ type would stop being repeated in this world.

6. Judah and Tamar

Judah (one of the sons of Jacob) is one of the leading characters of the Bible. His name is respected by the Bible’s believers, who honour him as one of the founding fathers of the “chosen people”, whose direct descendents are known today as the Jews. We have just finished reading a biblical story in which he and his other siblings have committed the most despicable massacre known in the history of mankind. Let us now see if there is any good side about the character of this man of God which we can all be inspired to by reading through Genesis 38: 1 – 52. And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her. 3. And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er. 4. And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan. 5. And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.”

The provocative wordings with which the Bible’s redactors frequently chose in expressing the marital relationship between a man and a woman is in itself condemnable, considering the fact that the Bible is a manual at the disposal of children. Instead of writing words such as “Judah saw a Canaanite named Shuah; he took her, and went in unto her, and she conceived...”, wouldn’t it be more decent and appropriate to say “And Judah saw there a Canaanite named Shuah, and he married her and their first child was called Er, and their second child was called Onan, and their third child was called Shelah”? But seemingly, the redactors of the Bible wished to express things in the most obnoxious and inelegant way possible.

For the time being, let us continue with the biblical narration by quoting Genesis Chapter 38, Verses 6–7: “6. And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. 7. And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him” Whatever the reason that the Lord has chosen to slew Er is not told. But nonetheless, let proceed with Genesis Chapter 38 Verses 8–10: “ 8. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. 9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled [it] on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother 10. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord therefore he slew him also.”

At this point, we are getting increasingly uncomfortable with the Lord’s habit of arbitrary slewing people without any valid reason. How could the Lord decide to kill Onan for refusing to raise a family in a forced marriage which he did not wish to be part of? Don't you think it is unbecoming of the ‘merciful’ Creator of heaven and earth (that the Bible’s Lord is said to be) to ruthlessly infringe upon the freewill of his subjects? It might also be important to quickly notice the indecent phraseology employed in chapter 9 above, when we are told that Onan who, after going in unto his brother’s wife, "spilled his seed on the ground”. How could you, as a parent, explain such an expression to your young children who wish to read the Bible for ‘guidance’ and ‘inspiration’ but don't understand what the expression means?

But we are not done yet with this interesting episode, and so let me comment upon the main part of the story narrated in Gen 38: 11 – 26. We are told that after Judah’s two sons (Err and Onan) were slewed by the Lord, he promised to his daughter-in-law Tamar a third husband (his last son Shelah) who was still a young boy at that time. But for the time being he asked Tamar to go live to her father's house until young Shelah (her next husband) could grow up to manhood. Unfortunately, Judah’s wife Shuah passed away and so he was also left a widower. Could this be the reason why he forgot to keep his promise in providing Tamar with Shelah as a husband after he grew up? Or was he afraid that the his last son will also "spill his seed on the ground" and thus be killed by the Lord like his other son Onan? I do not know. But whatever the case, it is the drama that was to follow which deserves our attention.

Disappointed with Judah’s unfulfilled promise, and knowing that he was also left single after the death of his wifea, Tamar must have taught that there was no compelling reason why she couldn’t have him instead. She also probably knew very well his secretive habits, for when she heard that he was on his way to Timnath, she proceeded to disguise herself as a harlot (i.e. prostitute) and placed herself at a spot where she could be spoted by him. Her tactic worked, for the Holy Scriptures tell us that once Judah saw her and believed she was a harlot, he said to her: “I pray thee, let me come in unto thee”(Genesis 38:16). Like all ‘ladies of night’, Tamar requested Judah to pay her before he could ‘come in unto her’ as he asked. But since the Patriarch had no money with him at that time, he promised her that he will send a kid later to come and give her the convened prize . But before she could service him, the harlot Tamar demanded a pledge as a guarantee that he will keep his word. Desperate to satisfy his sexual craving, Judah agreed and gave the harlot his bracelet, his signet, as well as his staff.

The holy Bible does not tell us whether it was due to his irresistible sexual craving, or whether it was because he was very drunk that Judah couldn’t recognize the voice of his own daughter-in-law or even bother seeing the face of a woman he was sleeping with. But anyway, Judah was to learn his lesson the hard way. Right after that sexual transaction, the harlot has disappeared and was nowhere to be found! Big Grin The Patriarch was then in deep trouble and became extremely worried because his reputation was on the line and he faced a great deal of ridicule and embarrassment should his personal stuff be found at the possession of a harlot, since this will prove beyond any doubt about his illicit sexual relation with her.The prostitutional bargaining that took place between that leading citizen (that Judah was in his land) and his daughter-in-law Tamar is very interesting. Our current media and gossip magazines would be very thrilled to get hold of such an important piece of scandal which would surely make an excellent news headline for them and help them register substantial revenues in paper sales! Smile

Let us now finish the last part of this intriguing episode related in Genesis 38 verse 24 to 26. It is said that this 'one-night-stand' between Judah and his daughter-in-law-disguised-as-harlot has resulted in a pregnancy. What is now interesting is the reaction of Judah when he learned about Tamar’s pregnancy: he summoned her before the council of elders to be charged with whoredom and sentenced to death by burning, in accordance with the barbaric laws of Moses. Then, as Tamar appeared before her judges, she brought forward the evidences which incriminated Judah himself (the supreme judge) as the author of the pregnancy! Big Grin After being confronted with those embarrassing evidences, what did Judah do? Well, he hypocritically withdrew all charges against Tamar and, as a punishment for his own misconduct, verse 26 says that “he knew her again no more”! What a shameful double standard! What a contemptuous application of justice exemplified by this enforcer of the Lord’s law! Judah was all too willing to harshly prosecute someone else for breaking the law, yet he exempted himself from all prosecution even after being ‘caught with the goods’! Smile

7. The Levite traveller

Let me now relate another stinking biblical episode contained in the 19th Chapter of the book of Judges and let you can determine for yourself its moral value. This story is so obnoxious and repugnant to our present moral sense that it could shock even the most vulgar-minded person who is in search of high moral ethics. I presume that only few people can read this story without getting the feeling of contempt and repulsion toward the book in which it is written, which ironically, is a book said to have been inspired by God himself! The story goes that there was a certain Levite man from Ephraim who had a concubine who was from Bethlehemjudah. Let me quote the Bible in Judges Chapter 19 verse 2“And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father's house to Bethlehemjudah, and was there four whole months.”

For the "holy scriptures" to employ such an offensive expression (i.e. played the whore) which is even excluded from polite speech of the English language is something that is highly disconcerting. But to continue, the subsequent verses (verse 3 to 21) say that our Levite man went on to Bethlehemjudah in order to retrieve his runaway ‘whorish’ concubine from her father’s house. In his way back home (five days latter), he and his concubine were forced to spend a night in the city of Gibeah where a certain benevolent old man provided them with shelter.Then a peculiar development ensued. Verse 22 says that a group of men came knocking on the door, objecting to the sheltering of a stranger in their city, and requesting the host to give them the stranger man for questioning.

In order to apease that angry mob of men, the ‘God-fearing’ old man followed Lot’s example by proposing the same monstrous sacrifice of his virgin daughter as we read from the following: Judges chapter 19 verse 23 to 25 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. 24 Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. 25 But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go”. I find it extremely absurd for any father to seriously consider offering his virgin daughter to be gang raped, only so he can protect a total stranger hosted in his house (whether the stranger is an angel of the Lord or not). This is an idea that shouldn’t even come into the mind of any normal father under ANY circumstance.

Luckily for the old man, for some reasons unexplained by the holy scriptures , those lustful beasts refused to take his virgin daughter but only preferred to have the 'whorish’ concubine of the Levite guest! Huh They took her and “abused her all night until the morning” (Judge 19:21). Poor woman! Words are not adequate to describe the great amount of pain, agony, and despair she must have suffered at the hand of those beastly men. It is said that she was left for dead and was found motionless in the morning at the doorstep of the house in which her Levite master was left sleeping peacefully. What sympathy or gratitude did the Levite man show for the despicable ordeal his concubine went through? Let the Bible answer that question, and so I quote Judges 19: 28 – 29: “28 And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. 29 And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.”

The man woke up in the morning showing no compunction whatsoever toward the great suffering of his concubine! Huh Her ordeal did not even bother him at all! On the contrary, he went ahead and finished her off himself by slaughtering her and mutilating her body into twelve pieces! Huh What a more horrific scenario can you think of? Could you find any other awful story that is as morally repugnant as this one? Even horror or violent movies do not show us such graphic scenes of rape and mutilations. So what would you say about such a degrading narrative to be included in a book that has been held as sacred and considered by many to be the infallible guide in all relations of life?

What moral or spiritual benefit can anyone (children in particular) receive from the reading of this distasteful, inhuman, and brutal episode? Can any element of this revolting story inspire love, strength of character, or anything morally elevating? What other reason can anyone give for the recording of such an indecent story other than to give suggestions to sexual perversion and debase the value of women? There is too much parallel between this story and the story of Lot and his daughters, and that is why I believe they were both written by the same person who was apparently obsessed with his misogynistic and sadistic fantasies regarding women. This explains why a woman is described in these stories as such a totally meaningless creature, to the point where even a father can give away his own daughter to a mob of sensual beasts to “do to her what seemeth good unto thee”.
Mystery creates wonder. Wonder produces curiosity. Curiosity raises questions. Questions lead to answers.
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John, I am not entering into a debate here with regard to the relevance of ideas, acts and beliefs of a primitive people in todays world, however I would like to comment.
I was told many years ago by an Anglican Bishop friend of the family when I too questioned him regarding biblical events, 'John, remember the bible was written by man for man'.
History is just that, 'his story' the Bible was written as a not too accurate history of the Hebrew people. Certain notable figures were given centre page so to speak, and it is impossible to write or talk about someone without your opinions of that person finding their way into the narrative.
Polygamy was practised by many cultures today and is still practised by Mormons.
Some marriages then, and now in Islam we would consider to be an act of paedophilia.
Those times are not our times, and their culture is not ours, also many years passed before the oral tradition was transferred to a written one. There was no CNN then!
Consider some of the Biblical stories, many have counterparts in other folk lore. Moses being found in the rushes for example, in Celtic lore Taliesin was found in a similar manner in the river Dyfi. Jesus' virgin birth is not unique. The Egyptian Sun God Horus (whose birthday is celebrated on December 25th) was conceived long after his father Osiris was killed. Zoroasters' mother was also believed to be a virgin as was Mithras. It is worth remembering that the Old Testament is believed to be written by Moses, who was raised as an Egyptian prince and would have known all about the Egyptian religions.
Many of the biblical stories are just that, stories, some to entertain as the book of Tobit, some to frighten, such as Lots wife being tuned to a pillar of salt for disobeying and looking back, and some to encourage like the final outcome for Jacob after being sold into slavery. 
It is also worth remembering that the bible of today is not the original collection of stories. In 325 AD at Nicaea a council of Roman Christian bishops met, at the order of and under the guidance of Constantine, to assemble what we now know as the Bible, they left out more than they included, and changed the wording in places to favour Rome and discredit the Jews, and to raise the status of men, and lower the status of women to the level of chattels. Just as a slave took the name of his or her master, so a woman takes the name of her husband! And in the New Testament it is inferred that Mary Magdalene was in fact the prostitute whom Jesus saved from being stoned to death. What was left and included in the Bible was not the inspired word of God but an edited and abridged version of stories and anecdotal material. Not a manual for spiritual enlightenment but a fuzzy account of the Jewish people and a man named Jesus. It was written thus to suit the rulers of the day, to keep the people down and in their place. It has worked well!
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