Cognitive Disconnect - Sex and the Single Prostitute | Isaac | Theology

There is an odd story in Genesis 22.

It is the one about God telling Abraham to make a human sacrifice of his son Isaac. Abraham understood God to tell him this, in spite of Godʼs previous assurances to both him and his wife, Sarah, that in Isaac lay the seed of Abrahamʼs posterity and a great nation. In as much as the timing of the sacrifice was to be far prior to Isaac having the ability to plant any of Abrahamʼs or his own seeds, this contradiction must have confused Abraham as much as it does us, to this very day. Never the less, Abraham dutifully took the boy, trussed him up and laid him on the rock and wooden alter Abraham built, with Isaacʼs assistance, for just this use. The Bible tells us that Abraham had the knife out, raised and ready to split Isaacʼs gullet, preparatory to setting the entire bloody mess alight. Only then, did God elaborate on the plan, letting Isaac off the pyre. This is a deeply disturbing story. Modern men and women worry about the long term psychological impact it must have had on little Isaac and wonder that he did not grow up permanently warped and whacked as a result. Of course, when one reads all about the Jacob and Essau story and the “hairy coat” thing, there is evidence of Isaac becoming the head of a dysfunctional family, lending credence to that suspicion. Maybe, Isaac was a bit bent by the whole affair. Theologians havenʼt paid much attention to the psychological effects, if any, on little Isaac. Theologians have, over the ages, used this story for a variety of purposes, including, and commonly, as an example of perfect obedience. However, I prefer the spin by some theologians that the story is proof God does not countenance human sacrifice, even as a sacrifice unto Himself. Under this theological construct, it seems God was merely “explaining” to Abraham, Isaac and all the rest of us that human sacrifice is a no-no. Christian theologians have married this story up to the Christ story to explain that God reserves to Himself, and to Himself alone, the right to sacrifice a son for the sins of the world. Nobody else gets to do this. (Among the many things upon which Juaic and Christian theologians disagree with Islamic theologians is who was laid upon the alter. The former say Isaac, the latter say Ishmael. Either way, the storyʼs meaning is the same. The distinction regarding which son was offered for sacrifice has more to do with the claims concerning who really has the right to Palestine/Israel. The answer to that, of course, appears always to have been who has the best military at the moment.) Theologians, some of them, like Supreme Court Justices, Scalia excepted, will, trying to narrow the implications, tell you this story emerged during a period when human sacrifice was common in religions of the near East. These theologians, some of them, will tell you that the story is not about the sanctity of human life. These will say, to the degree it is about anything beyond perfect obedience to God, it is about the primacy of Godʼs will over the strictures of manʼs cultural imperatives and/or laws.

Interpreted narrowly, Godʼs will stood against the essential egomania and attendant insecurity of ancient men that allowed human sacrifice to make some sort of sense. In short, God said, regardless of what the high priest said from atop the pyramid, you ought not kill that virgin. The Roman Catholic Church made good use of this story. It was used to assert  primacy of Church law over civil law. The story was also used to convince the remnants of the pre-Columbian native American societies that God allowed the destruction of their societies, in part, due to the ongoing human sacrifice. So, the story definitely had its practical uses. The logical interpretation of the story and the conclusion to which it leads is, when a custom and/or law of man stands against Godʼs will, manʼs law or custom ought not prevail. Of course, this interpretation begs the question of who gets to define Godʼs will. This little catch has, itself, led to a great deal of mischief. But, that is a question for another day. Put Isaac and Abraham aside for a moment. There is another odd little story in Genesis. This one is found in Chapter 38. This story is not in the Qur'án but the story has been used in Islamic tradition as an example of womanʼs wily ways. It is frequently used in the Judaic and Christian traditions in much the same way. This is the story of Tamar, not King Davidʼs mother but the other one, Judahʼs daughter in law. (Tamar was the mother of the founder of Davidʼs line which, as we all know, included Joseph, stepfather of Jesus. So, while this one wasnʼt Davidʼs mother, neither was she chopped liver.) It seems Tamar was the wife of Judahʼs oldest son. According to the Bible, God did not like the way Tamarʼs husband did the dirty so He slew him. God did not mess about back in the day. As was custom, Tamar, as widow of the oldest son, was immediately married off to the next son in line. Unfortunately, whatever this second husband was doing in the sack with our gal did not please the Lord any better than the other brother had done. So, the Lord slew that brother as well. Can anybody say “sex education?” Naturally, this being a patriarchal society, Tamar got all the blame. Since they really couldnʼt prove anything she did was responsible for killing the boys, they assumed she was just really bad bandicou and sent her back to her fatherʼs house. Ostensibly, she was to wait there until Judahʼs third, and last, sonʼs testicles descended and hair grew in all the appropriate places and, then, she would be married to him. That was the deal. Instead, Judah decided he couldnʼt risk another son to a woman who literally was fucking people to death. So, he kept putting things off, just never got back to her about it. Ladies, you know how that goes, he promises to call and he never does.

Well, it finally got back to Tamar, who had been lying fallow all this time in her fatherʼs house, that the third son was fully developed and ready for bed. She figured it out, no dummy she. She knew Judah had no intention of letting her get laid proper and she got pissed. However, she did not just get mad. She devised a way to get satisfaction. She disguised herself as a temple prostitute, they had those back then, and waylaid Judah, the old man himself, by the city gate of Timnah. She caught him horny, on the road, away from the wives and she laid him down good and proper. Judah, for some reason, did not recognize her, she was older and maybe had put on a bit of weight, canʼt say, I wasnʼt there. As it happened, he couldnʼt pay for the lay once heʼd enjoyed it. The Bible makes it clear he believed he received fair value for the agreed price and, as he was an honorable john, he arranged to pay later. She had her doubts. So, he gave her his “staff and seal” as surety that he would bring the lamb he agree to swap for his visit to the honey hole. Well, when he sent the lamb along later with a friend traveling that way, the friend could not retrieve the staff or seal. He could not retrieve them because nobody in Timnah had ever heard of a temple prostitute working their streets. It was a family oriented market town, “That sort did not hang here,” he was told. When told, Judah said “Damn” and simply forgot the whole thing. A bit later, it turns out Tamar is great with child, twins, in fact, and all Hell broke loose. Seems unmarried women werenʼt supposed to be out fornicating or otherwise getting knocked up back then. Even though Tamar lived in her fatherʼs house, she was still, officially, part of Judahʼs household because he was still her father in law. She was, therefore, dragged before Judah for punishment, the standard being to be “burnt.” During his questioning of her concerning who planted the seed in her womb, she said “The man to whom these belong,” as she showed him his staff and seal. Well, as Robert Gibbs might say, “That put a different spin on things.” Judah realized heʼd been caught thinking with his little head by a very clever woman. Long story short, Judah pardoned her because he “realized she had been more righteous than I.” Now, to me, this seems to be an example of God illustrating that the sexual motivations He put in women are normal and natural and not to be suppressed by manʼs laws or cultural norms. And, when these motivations are stymied by foolish custom or law, it is OK to go about your business. Put in modern language, "You go girl." When the Tamar story is married up to the Mary and Martha story in Luke 10: 38-41, it could even be said that the Lord has no problem with women having sex or thinking or

both. This seems as obvious as the no human sacrifice thing involving Abraham and Isaac and the Crucifixion story. Yet, somehow, Tamar has not been interpreted that way by theologians, at least not that I know of. On the other hand, if it does not mean that, what can it mean? It seems to me God is saying He makes people the way they are. When it comes to sexuality; male, female, gay, straight, nobody gets to pick. We all just get assigned. Two odd little stories out of the Bible. If you believe the Bible, these stories must mean something. It seems to me that these stories are there to illustrate Godʼs view of things. Man shouldnʼt be making laws that violate the nature of His creation. Imagine, if you will, what it would be like to still live in a world where human sacrifice was practiced. I donʼt know, maybe prayer would not be enough in such a world and virgin blood would be required for Pat Robertson to steer a hurricane away from the Virginia coast and back out to sea. Or, in such a world, it could be believed that such sacrifice was the only thing that could stop wildfires and earthquakes in California, tornadoes in Kansas and Dick Cheney anywhere. All this, of course, is mere hypothesis since God instructed us otherwise, way back there in Abrahamʼs time. So, we donʼt split them and drain them anymore. I wonder what life might have been like if the religious powers that be had interpreted the Tamar story using the same logic they did with Abraham and Isaac. Women and men of the Judeo/Christian/Islamic traditions may well have spent the past three or four millennia being perfectly comfortable with female sexuality. If nothing else, it would have spared us all those Rock Hudson/Doris Day films. That alone would have made it all worthwhile.

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