Okay, so before I got into this whole read-the-Bible-in-one-year-and-blog-about-it project, I’d thought I’d long since come to terms with the fact that the Bible was written by men. I thought I’d accepted the fact that it was written a long time ago and, as a result, was unlikely to depict women the way I might expect. I’d thought I would tolerate the subversion of women throughout the text and be able to move on.
Well, I was wrong.
In fact, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to the treatment of women in Genesis 19-21. In these chapters, there are three crazy stories–each involving women. I promise to me good tomorrow; today, please excuse my rant.
I’m going to begin with the last of the three chapters because its subjects were introduced earlier. A few chapters ago, Abraham and Sarah had discussed Sarah’s inability to give Abraham a child. (Of course, it’s her fault!) Sarah suggested that Abraham sleep with Sarah’s servant, Hagar, who, as a result, gave birth to Ishmael. Then, by a blessing from God, Sarah gets pregnant with Abraham’s son. After Sarah gives birth to Isaac, she tells Abraham to get rid of Hagar and Ishmael so that the latter will not share in Isaac’s inheritance. Hagar and her young son are sent out into the desert, where Hagar expects to see Ishmael parish. He survives by God’s hand.
See, it’s an awful story! Perhaps I haven’t read far enough, but there was not (yet?) a consequence to Sarah’s actions. It was by her suggestion that Hagar got pregnant, and then she was jealous of Hagar’s child. It seems like each of the stories in Genesis has some sort of moral, and I’ve yet to find the moral to this one. Oh, and then there’s Abraham’s practice of describing Sarah as his sister when they travel so that she can sleep with the ruler of the land and his life may be spared. Don’t worry; he’s compensated with livestock and slaves and silver.
Genesis 19 deals with Sodom and Gomorrah. Now, like many people, I already knew that Sodom and Gomorrah were the “evil” cities and that the chapter regarding them was the first mention of homosexuality in the Bible. As a lesbian, I’d been fully prepared for the mentions of the gay villagers; what I had not expected was the treatment of women in that chapter. When the Lord and two angels visit Lot’s home, the Sodomites knock on Lot’s door, asking him to send the visitors out so that they may have sex with the men. Lot answers their knocking by telling them that they must not “do this wicked thing.” He then goes on to say that he has two virgin daughters. Lot says, “Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them.”
‘What you like with them’? Yes, neighbors who will soon burn for your sins, please, don’t sleep with these men; sleep with my daughters instead! And, are there any women in Sodom?
So, then, after Lot and his daughters escape from Sodom, they hide in a cave. Years pass, and the two women despair that they haven’t slept with men. So, they conspire to get their father drunk and then sleep with him. They follow through with their plan, one girl on each of two nights.
Are they punished for tricking their father into sleeping with them? (Keep in mind that when Ham just saw his father, Noah, naked, Ham was disciplined.) No, silly. The women are rewarded for their actions by birthing sons.
But, what do I know? If anyone has any related information that would help to clarify the moral ambiguities in these chapters, please comment.
Happy Twelfth Night! :^)