What the Bible Really Says About God and Sex

Michael Coogan's book God and Sex was a page turner for me. Not only is it about two of my favorite subjects *ahem* but it is a one stop shop to learn about a complete range of sexual issues in the Bible by a biblical scholar. We learn about sexual terminology in the Hebrew culture like "hands" "feet" "flesh" "nakedness" and "to know." When Ruth uncovered Boaz's feet (Ruth 3:7-8) guess what she was probably doing folks, yep, probably giving him some head--Yeahhhh baby!!!!

It's all here in an introductory fashion: gender roles in the Bible, polygamy, homosexuality, abortion, marriage and divorce, rape and prostitution. What is crystal clear from reading this book is that the Bible represents a patriarchal society, no if ands or buts about it. Men ruled over women. They owned them. When a virgin was raped the father lost some of the value of his property, which was the real crime. The tenth commandment placed the value of wives below their husband's house, but higher than his servants and animals (for it lists his property in a descending order).

But one of the most striking chapters to me, and my personal favorite, was the last one where Coogan describes the sex life of Yahweh, who had one just like the other gods and goddesses of that era. While I'm no voyeur, this was amazing stuff to me, not the fact that Yahweh had a consort whose name was Asherah (the "queen of heaven" a counterpart to Yahweh as the "king of heaven"). I already knew that. She was worshiped as part of the folk religion of that day, as well as by kings and officials. William Dever has already documented this stuff in his book Did God Have a Wife?. In one jar fragment Yahweh is pictured with a big dick and his arm around Asherah! The "sons of god" in Genesis 6:1-4 were their offspring. These "sons of god" became problematic to later monotheists so they reinterpreted them to be angels. Makes sense. Right? What else are you going to do with obvious mythical divine beings like these and a divine family after rejecting your former polytheism to become monotheists? Religionists have been revising their religion from the beginning.

The really fascinating stuff to me was how Yahweh treated his wives. Yes he was a polygamist. This was a metaphor, or political allegory, of course, but the allegory must have a meaning for the people it was spoken to, otherwise it wouldn't make sense to them. The prophets Hosea, Jeremiah and Ezekiel tell us about their unfaithfulness to Yahweh their husband, and what he did to them as a punishment for their unfaithfulness. Ezekiel 16 and 23 contain "some of the most shocking and sexually explicit language in the Bible" Coogan tells us (p. 183). In this allegory, the unfaithful wives of Samaria and Jerusalem are brutally punished by their divine husband Yahweh. At one point he strips them before a mob. Then comes a warning from Yahweh himself, that he did this so "that all women may be instructed not to act promiscuously as you did" (Ezek. 23:48). Coogan tells us the implication is that husbands "can and should imitate God, and wives should learn from the allegory." (p. 187). Thus these biblical depictions of Yahweh as "an insanely jealous and abusive husband" are very instructive of the power men had over their women. Surely no omnibenevolent God would ever couch his revelation in these particular cultural analogies that were destructive of women. Surely no omniscient God would do this knowing that in the 21st century people would rightfully rebel against such a concept of god as nothing but a fiction created by male chauvinist pigs. Surely he wouldn't step on his dick like that? Or would he? ;-)

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14 comments:

GMpilot said...

I'll have to look into this one! Terms like "hands" "feet" "flesh" "nakedness" and "to know" are all well and good, but the one that always disturbed my young mind was Song of Solomon 5:4: “My beloved put in his hand by the hole [of the door], and my bowels were moved for him.” Was this woman having a bowel movement while her S.O. was trying to open the bathroom door?
In those days, of course, I knew nothing about sex, let alone about sex involving feces. I just knew that that passage didn't sound right.

“Sex and religion go hand in hand,
So it isn't very odd
To ball a broad in the jungle night,
And to hear her sigh 'Oh God!'”

Sol Weinstein had it right forty years ago.

LadyAtheist said...

GMPilot maybe that quote is about this phenomenon: http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Womens-Health/Odd-cramping-after-orgasm-and-bowel-movements/show/321482?page=1

Lvka said...

Husbands no more owned their wives than parents owned their children. (Structure and hierarchy do not abolish or demean or degrade one's personhood).

The Trinity is also hierarchical, with the Father being greater than the Son (John 14:28), yet Father and Son are one (John 10:30).

The same thing in Saint Paul's Epistles, where wives do listen to their husbands, and servants do obey their masters, yet in Christ they're all equal.

Hierarchy doesn't abolish equality.

Wes Widner said...

"Religionists have been revising their religion from the beginning."

Does that include the religion of naturalism?

Jeffrey A. Myers said...

@ Wes,

A) Naturalism is not a religion.
B) Naturalism is based on the scientific method, the primary underpinning of which is the revision of mistakes when new information is uncovered. This is a feature of the system, not a bug. It is science's greatest strength.

Clare said...

It seems more people may have worshiped God's wife, Asharah, than God himself, as there were more statuettes found of her than of him.

Vilges Suola said...

'Hierarchy doesn't abolish equality'

Ezekiel 16:

38 And I will judge thee as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy.
39 And I will also give thee into their hand [...] they shall strip thee also of thy clothes, and shall take thy fair jewels, and leave thee naked and bare.
40 They shall also bring up a company against thee, and they shall stone thee with stones, and thrust thee through with their swords.

They were very much into equality in those days, obviously. Or am I 'taking it out of context'?

lpowlick said...

I haven't read this book yet, so I don't know if the author addresses it. But I have found that in the Mosaic Lows -- or anywhere else in the Bible -- there is much about whom a man may or may not sleep with. Yet there is no prohibition that I have found against a man sleeping with his daughter. And no one ever comments on this.

James said...

Lvka's comment is one of the most impressive pieces of doublespeak I've read this week. The bible does not promote equality between men and women. Something which he tactically admits with his 'Husbands no more owned their wives than parents owned their children.' comment but then trys to cover it up with some jesus gibberish. The reality of Lvka's views are go something like this 'sure god views us as being equal in a spiritual mystical sense but in real life as the man I'm the boss and you have to do what I say'.

a selfish poet said...

for chrissake guys, wake up! the bible is ALL about sex. genesis 1:1 to 11:26 is pure sex/life education myth, and by myth i don't mean lie i mean literary construct designed to transmit information. i hold that this section of the text is the scroll with the seven seals refered to in apocalypse. a little reworking of key word etymologies and the euphamisms employed so lavishly in the text settle into the dust in more concrete form. e.g., serpent is nachash, which is copper, which is mirror, which is self reflective device, which becomes the notion of self awareness. the laver satisfies this textual construct. that's why they can't figure out the 'sea monster', tanin. in aramaic it means 'double', hence, your 'double' reflected in the calm water of the laver, which, ironically, was made from copper mirrors gathered from the women in the camp. the 'bottomless pit' is actually the altar, the larger one, in which were burnt various portions of the sacrafices, because, well, it had no bottom. simple.
the adam and eve story is bristling with sexual metaphors. it's all figs, frocks, mirrors and cocks weaved into a family friendly camp fire yarn. without being too graphic about the anatomical details it portarys the hapless wanderings of guy and a gal who met up in the forest one day, and there just happened to be a mirror there, and well... things got a little hot. the whole mishkan arrangement is not only reflective of the camp lifestyle of the people, region and time in which it was born, but, more importantly, a mnemonic for the adam and eve myth, and, most importantly, contains the solution to the tragic couple's dilemnas.
my personal opinion, for what it's worth, is that the complete collection is resolved in gen 1:1 to 11:26 and all of apocalypse. apocolypse provides the solution to the mishkan, which then provides the solution to the adam and eve myth, thereby rendering the remainder of the collection redundant.

Lvka said...

Vilges Suola,

not sure what that passage has to do with either equality or inequality...


Ipowlick,

not sure what exactly you've been reading: it's contained in both Leviticus 18:7 and 18:17, for instance.


James,

it's ok, don't sweat it: I tried to shoot more then one rabbit with a single shot, and I can't say I'm shocked or surprised that someone superficially glancing over my comment (in a sea of comments) can't take it all in at once.

If you understood only this, that the submission of wives to their husbands no more 'de-personalizes' or 'objectifies' them than the submission of children to their parents, than that's enough.

James said...

"it's ok, don't sweat it: I tried to shoot more then one rabbit with a single shot, and I can't say I'm shocked or surprised that someone superficially glancing over my comment (in a sea of comments) can't take it all in at once."

Oh wonderful well Im sure your going to follow this up with an explantion as to just how I got it so wrong right? No it seems not.

"If you understood only this, that the submission of wives to their husbands no more 'de-personalizes' or 'objectifies' them than the submission of children to their parents, than that's enough."

So what exactly am Im supposed to take from this? That a woman is the equivalent of a child when compared to a man? This is just classic misogyny, you can dress it up with all the religious language you want but the end result in practical terms is the same.

nazani said...

@ GMpilot - I think you're confused by the modern meaning of "bowels" - a section of lower intestine. In King James' day, "bowels" referred to the entire contents of the abdominal cavity, so the moving bowels in this verse might be nothing more than a fluttery feeling in the tummy. Or, it might be strictly metaphorical, as in "my heart leapt with joy."

@Lvka "Parents" didn't own children, but fathers did: "And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant.." What I've gathered from reading the Bible is that a wife's status in a marriage pretty much depended on how powerful her family was.

cipher said...

If you understood only this, that the submission of wives to their husbands no more 'de-personalizes' or 'objectifies' them than the submission of children to their parents, than that's enough.

Why in the world do all of you even bothering responding to this fool? It only encourages him.