The duty of a philosopher is clear. He
must take every pain to ascertain the truth; and having arrived at a
conclusion, he should noise it abroad far and wide, utterly regardless
of what opinions he shocks.
- Henry Thomas Buckle
In this report we are not interested in the truth or falsity of the stories, but in their sexual morality. To keep this page within a reasonable length, I chose incest as the common denominator. Still, there was more of it than I expected. Religion's Puritanism needs no introduction, which is what makes these biblical sex stories so interesting. The Bible is no paragon of sexual probity.
I reserve my first criticism for tight-ass censors; many of these stories would not meet their criteria. My second criticism goes to moralists who seem to get a sense of satisfaction out of regulating sex by guilt or law. When Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he answered because that is where the money is. Similarly, for those who crave authority, sexual control of others is where the power is. It is why clergy have devoted so much attention to it.
Let's face it, sexual desire is a powerful instinct in every animal, without which reproduction would falter. The Hebrews took Genesis 1:22 seriously, where God said to be fruitful and multiply.
In complete opposite was the Christian view expressed by Paul. Paul should be taken in context with his belief in an imminent end to the world, but that significant detail has gotten lost over the years. Even then, Paul grudgingly recognized the power of sexual passions when he allowed for marriage to escape Satan's temptations.
concerning the matters about which you wrote. It is well for a man not
to touch a woman.
2But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.
3The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.
4For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does.
5Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control.
6I say this by way of concession, not of command.
7I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
8To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do.
9But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion. (1 Cor. 7:1-9)
The juxtaposition between Genesis and Paul bears reflection. Here, God is supposed to have given us the desire to procreate while Paul condemns it as the work of Satan. Compared to the millions of years of our evolutionary history, the licensing of sex through marriage is very recent. Even if we accept the existence of Adam and Eve, there was no organized religion or state to marry them. It makes a case for common law marriage.
Since Moses' brother Aaron was the first Hebrew priest, what about the patriarchs, like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and sons or Cain and Noah? By process of elimination, they had to be married by priests who represented other gods if they were formally married.
Before we get to the prurient exploits of biblical incest, there were some strict laws against incest in the Book of Leviticus. Today, incest generally applies exclusively to blood relatives. Below, they applied to in-laws too. Even seeing one's nakedness was equated with incest.
1. Sex with your father's wife - both die.
2. Sex with your daughter-in-law - both die.
3. Sex with your mother-in-law; both shall be burned to death.
4. Sex and nakedness with a sister or half sister - they shall be cut off.
5. Sex between a man and his aunt - it is not clear if they are to die or if any children produced die.
6. Sex between a man and his sister-in-law - any children produced shall die.
7. For a child to see his mother or father naked was equated with incest.
67 (Lev. 18:6-7)
There was one exception to incest, called a levirate or brother-in-law marriage. In short, a widow was obligated to marry the eldest brother of her deceased husband. The continuation of a name was important because the Hebrews believed that a man continued to exist as long as his name was remembered. Levirate marriages also kept property within the family.
56 7 8 9 10 (Deut. 25:5-10)
There are two stories where the levirate regulation surfaces. The first is between Judah and Tamar, already discussed, and the second between Ruth and Boaz in the Book of Ruth. By a curious coincidence, both were descendants of David. The above biblical laws against incest do not seem to apply when marriage between family members fulfills levirate obligations.
Paul would not likely condone exceptions. Responding to an incident of incest in the Church of Corinth, Paul stated in no uncertain terms that it was immoral and that the man should be "delivered to Satan for destruction" so that he may be saved when Jesus Christ returns. In other words, kill him.
actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that
is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father's
2And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
3For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment
4in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus,
5you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1 Cor. 5:1-5)
In Mark 12:18-27, Jesus was presented a problem relating to levirate marriage. The Sadducees who didn't believe in resurrection asked him about a woman who was married to seven brothers before she died, leaving no children. "In the resurrection, whose wife shall she be?" Jesus' answer was that there are no sexual relationships in heaven.
These would be dysfunctional families by today's standards. But to be fair, despite the proscriptions against incest, discussed above, most of these stories involve what I would call, Judaism's royalty. The writers saw fit to configure the stories to demonstrate the purity of their race. Incest was practiced up to medieval times; for to mix with commoners would contaminate the royal bloodlines.
Adam and Eve
As absurd as it is for a man to give birth to a woman, rib or no rib, it sets up Eve as Adam's daughter.
2122 (Gen. 2:21-22)
Then Eve became Adam's wife and had two children, Cain and Abel.
12 (Gen. 4:1-2)
Literally interpreted, Cain's wife had to be either Eve or an unnamed sister.
It is more likely that the writers meant to show that Cain's bloodlines went in a different direction. The word "Cain" resembles "Canaan."
Noah and Ham
The man who God saw as the most righteous on earth had a drinking problem. No sooner did the ark settle on land when he planted a vineyard. One day Noah got drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. Ham walked in accidentally and saw his nakedness. When Ham told his brothers, they carefully walked in backwards and covered him up. The puritan Noah cursed him to be a slave to his brothers. The reference to what Ham had done to Noah could imply something beyond casual looking.
2021 22 23 24 25 (Gen. 9:20-25)
Abraham and Sarah
Abraham's wife Sarah was his half sister by the same father.
When entering Egypt, Abraham had had her pass off as his full sister.
1011 12 13 (Gen. 12:10-13)
Abraham was richly rewarded for pimping his wife to Pharaoh.
1415 16 (Gen. 12:14-16)
Yahweh later inflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarah. When Pharaoh made the connection he let them both go with their gifts. In Genesis 20 Abraham and Sarah tried to pull the same hoax on King Abimelach. This time Yahweh revealed to Abimelech, before he had sex with Sarah, that she was married to Abraham. When Abimelech confronted Abraham over his treachery, Abraham revealed she was his half-sister by the same father. Still, Abimelech demonstrated his generosity by lavishing gifts, among them was 1,000 pieces of silver. For some reason Yahweh punished Abimelech by sterilizing all the women in his household. To Abraham's credit he appealed to Yahweh to lift the curse, and it was lifted.
Lot and his daughters
Lot's daughters got him drunk and conceived children. How Lot could be drunk and be able to get an erection is problematic. How he could ejaculate while being oblivious to his daughters' presence also defies reconciliation. If we assume he was asleep, wet dreams cannot be timed. Perhaps, Lot faked his unconsciousness.
3132 33 34 35 36 (Gen. 19:31-36)
Another one of Lot's memorable gracious acts was to offer his virgin daughters to the men of Sodom to do as they please.
67 8 (Gen. 19:6-8)
Hagar and Isaac
There is one possible incident of sibling molestation. The question is what did Sarah see when she saw the son of Hagar "playing" with her son Isaac? Hagar was Abraham's concubine who had already produced a son through him named Ishmael.
Whatever it was, it was enough for Sarah to convince Abraham to cast Hagar and Ishmael away. We could interpret the phrase "the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac" to mean their "playing" could elevate to an incestuous homosexual relationship. It is the suddenness of Sarah's change of heart that makes the incident suspicious.
1011 12 13 14 (Gen. 21:10-14)
Isaac and Rebekah
Isaac's marriage to the daughter of his father's brother would make Rebekah his cousin.
In Genesis 26, Isaac tried pimping his wife to Abimelech as Abraham had, saying that Rebekah is his sister. Fortunately Abimelech saw them petting before he had the chance to take her into his harem.
Jacob, Leah and Rachel
Jacob married his cousins Rachel and Leah. From this polygamist marriage, the namesakes of the twelve tribes of Israel were born.
1516 (Gen. 29:15-16)
When Jacob arrived at his uncle Laban's house and saw the youngest daughter Rachel, it was love at first sight. Jacob offered to work for seven years to earn Rachel as his wife. When his time was completed, Laban ordered a feast that day. In the evening, with Jacob expecting Rachel to come to his bed, Laben sent his oldest daughter Leah instead. It wasn't until morning that Jacob realized that he had consummated his marriage to Leah instead. So Jacob worked another week for Rachel, but he had to work another seven years for Laban.
God made Leah have four sons first because she was unloved, while Rachel had none. Frustrated that she could have no children, Rachel offered her servant Bilhah as a surrogate. Bilhah had two sons while Leah went through a dry spell. Then Leah gave her maid Zilpah to Jacob, producing two sons. Leah bribed Jacob with mandrake plants, a reputed aphrodisiac and fertility drug. That gave her a sixth son and a daughter. Finally, Rachel bears Joseph (Gen. 29-30).
Reuben rapes Bilhah
When Reuben lay with his father's concubine, the scandal spread throughout Israel.
His father Jacob upbraided him in front of his brothers.
Moses and Aaron
Their father married their aunt.
Moses was a violent man. But since the topic is sex, his marriage to the Midianite Zipporah (Ex. 2:15-22) makes for a great hypocrisy when we take into consideration his hostility to foreigners. He warned the men of Israel against marrying daughters who served other gods.
34 (Deut. 7:3-4)
Regardless, he took a Cushite woman for a second wife, for which his sister Miriam and his brother Aaron criticized him.
12 (Num. 12:1-2)
Yahweh's reaction was to inflict Miriam with leprosy (Num. 12:3-16). When his own men fraternized with Midianite females, he had the tribe massacred except for the virgins (Num. 31).
Amnon rapes Tamar
2 Samuel 13: Amnon was so infatuated with his half sister Tamar that it tormented him to the point of illness. He didn't know how to get to her since she was still a virgin and it was difficult because of the custom of segregating young men and women from one another. Anmon's crafty cousin Jonadab suggested that he feign sickness and then ask his father David to allow Tamar to serve him.
The trick worked. Before Tamar came, Amnon sent the men away from his chamber so they could be alone. When she entered his bedroom with food, he asked her to lay with him. She refused, saying it would cause her shame. But if he asked David for her hand in marriage, he would not refuse. Then there would be no scandal.
But Amnon would not listen to reason. He forcible raped Tamar and his hatred exceed his love for her for having refused him. Then Amnon chased her away. As she left, she rent her clothes, put ashes on her head and wept. Surprisingly, Tamar was more upset at being chased away (verse 16) then being forcibly raped.
Her brother Absalom tried to console her, but David was clearly angry. Absalom masked his anger by treating Amnon as if nothing happened. Two years later he had Amnon killed. David, his sons and his servants wept, but Absalom was comforted over Amnon's death. Absalom fled and stayed away for three years. David mourned over the second loss every day.
Absalom's dirty deed
The full story of Absalom's failed coup d'etat is told in 2 Samuel 14-18. At one point David and his servants fled Jerusalem for safety, leaving ten concubines to keep house.
16(2 Sam. 15:16)
On advice, Absalom had coitus with his father's concubine as a way of showing his strength and his contempt for his father David.
2021 22 (2 Sam. 16:20-22)
After David returned to Jerusalem he disowned the ten concubines which Absalom violated. They remained in house arrest and were kept in sexual quarantine for the rest of their lives.
3(2 Sam. 20-3)
Absalom's head got hooked in a tree when riding his mule, leaving him hanging. David's general Joab impaled him in the heart with three darts while he was still alive. Then ten of Joab's armor-bearers struck him until he was dead (2 Sam. 18:9-15). David mourned over the loss of his son.
Solomon and sister
Solomon earned his reputation for wisdom for settling a motherhood dispute between two prostitutes by threatening to divide the baby in half (1 Kings 3:16-28). He is said to compose 3,000 proverbs and 1005 songs, some of which can be found in the Bible: Proverbs and Song of Solomon.
Solomon's appetite for women was equally legendary. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines of all different nationalities. To give a sense of his virility, he would have to have sexual intercourse roughly three times a day to get through his entire collection in a year.
12 3 (1 Kings 11:1-3)
But it is in the Book of the Song of Solomon where we find out that one of his wives was his sister. His erotic writing makes for the kind of reading you would not expect in the Bible.
12 (Song of Solomon 4:9-12)
2 (Song of Solomon 5:1-2)
The Gospel spin on Mary's divine conception would technically leave Jesus a bastard child, even if the father was a man unknown to Joseph. If God is the Father, then we are his children. So it would mean that Jesus was conceived out of incestuous sex. It's just a thought.
If Jesus was a real person, the only explanation is that he had a human father. If Mary and Joseph were aware of a miraculous birth, it leaves open the question of why Jesus was subjected to the purification rites like any other Hebrew child. And why did Mary perform ceremonial purification rites for herself like any other Hebrew mother?
at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus,
the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord")
24and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."(Luke 2:21-24)