More about Gawd…

Attempting to read the Old Testament as literature is, at best, not likely to produce either an enjoyable read or a satisfying critique. Trying to ignore the social dimensions of what’s going on in the stories is only one of the problems you’ll encounter. The flat impenetrability of some of the text is also an issue. I’m thinking now of the passage where Abraham meets three men who are Jehovah, and then the text goes back and forth between “men” and “the Lord” with no explanation at all of what’s going on.

But what interests me at the moment, by way of a literary/cultural analysis, is what the heck is going on with Lot’s daughters.

On the one hand, Jehovah is clearly very concerned about the idea that Sarah might be getting it on either with the Pharaoh or with Abimelech. These couplings are Abraham’s idea, not Sarah’s and not the other man’s, but Jehovah never bothers to scold Abraham for trying to pimp out his own wife. Instead, Jehovah sends plagues onto the Egyptians and makes Abimelech’s other women barren.

The message is clear: You’d better not be messin’ with another man’s wife. And the reason, culturally and in terms of anthropoid evolution, is that it’s important for a male to be secure in the knowledge of who his offspring are. Even if the man is such a coward (as Abraham quite evidently is) that he’s willing to pimp out his wife, the other men are being warned not to take him up on it.

However, when Lot offers his virgin daughters to the mob so they won’t gang-rape his male visitors, Jehovah shows no concern at all. True, shortly afterward he destroys Sodom, but the male visitors (who are angels) state explicitly that Jehovah had already decided to destroy Sodom. They have come to the city in order to do that. Thus, it’s not specifically the threat of gang-raping the young women that is the focus of Jehovah’s ire.

And then, shortly afterward, we’re told that Lot’s daughters get him drunk and lie with him in order to get pregnant, because they want to be pregnant and there are no other men around. Now, this is a flagrant fish story. It’s a transparent lie. Quite apart from anything else, if he’s too drunk to recognize his own daughters, he’s too drunk to sustain an erection. No, what’s really going on here is that Lot has been raping his daughters all along and is claiming that it was their idea, that he was too drunk to resist.

Jehovah has nothing whatever to say about this. And why? Because the daughters are unmarried. They’re their father’s property. He’s free to do with them whatever he likes.

This is not far from the passage where Jehovah commands Abraham to start the custom of circumcision. Abraham promptly gathers the men of his tribe together (and we know there are at least 300 of them) and has all their foreskins whacked off. Symbolically, Jehovah is asserting ownership of the men’s penises.

Culturally, this is an assertion that henceforth the rules of reproduction (that is, where men do or don’t get to put their dicks) will be part of the religion. Your dick is no longer your own; it belongs to Jehovah. But what you do with your women, be it Sarah or Lot’s daughters, is not seen as a religious issue. You can do whatever you like.

But that’s all sociology. From a literary standpoint, what we have here is a fictional character (Jehovah) who is obsessed with penises. If the men of Sodom want to put them in the wrong places, Jehovah is going to destroy Sodom. (No other wickedness or sinfulness in Sodom is ever alluded to. This is well before the episode of the golden idol.) If Abimelech even thinks about putting his in the wrong place, even though he never actually does it, Jehovah is going to strike his womenfolk barren.

Jehovah is a bloodthirsty psychopath. And he’s worshiped by millions. Go figure.

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