OF NOTE: This article is the fourth chapter of  K. J. Aaron 's Sexuality and the Bible  which has been posted because it is EXCELLENT and that it has value to help people understand the Bible. A special thank you is due to Keith Hunt for his recognition of such rare Biblical study material and for granting permission to re-post it here at this website. The reader is strongly encouraged to start with the 1st chapter...see the links (below) for these pages/chapters:

 1st Biblical Euphemisms for Sexual Activities  2nd Prostitutes and Prophets   3rd   Nude and Lewd:The Bare Facts    4th The Sin of Onan: Birth Control and More! 


The Sin of Onan: Birth Control and More!       

 K. J. Aaron               


"It is better to cast your seed in the belly of a whore than to spill it on the ground," says the Bible. Or does it? 

In the notes of "Dake's Annotated Reference Bible," this is number 26 on a list of 36 quotations mistakenly believed to be in the Bible. To understand why some have supposed this is a Biblical verse, we must consider an old law that required a man to marry his brother's wife if the brother died: 

If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her (Deuteronomy 25:5). 

By doing this, the first child born to this union was considered the dead brother's child:

 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel (Deuteronomy 25:6). 

Centuries before Moses formulated this custom into a written law, however, it was being practiced. A specific example involves the marriage of Onan and Tammar. Tammar's first husband died, and "Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother" (Genesis 38:8,9). 

The fact that Onan "spilled it on the ground," reflects the primitive living conditions at the time. He apparently lived in a cave, tent, or but with dirt floors. 

We are told that the Lord slew Onan (Genesis 38:10) - a common Old Testament expression when a person died of unknown causes (2 Samuel 6:7, etc.). All things, good or bad, were attributed to God (Isaiah 45:7). Evil spirits were sent by God (1 Kings 22:22). Even the adversary, "Satan," who afflicted Job, was but the Lord's instrument (Job 1:12). The concept of a separate, supernatural being in an intense conflict against God, was a later development. So, when Onan died, it was said the Lord smote him. Considering the setting, the physical cause was probably a heart attack that occurred during the sex act. 

Over the centuries, birth control and masturbation have both been condemned on the basis of this incident. But the careful reader will notice that the sin for which Onan was judged was neither. Onan's act was not masturbation; it was "coitus interruptus." And while this was a form of birth control, we are not told he did not want children. He resented the idea that a child born to this union would not be considered his. 

Later, Onan's widow, Tamar, disguised herself, sat by the road, and

 When Judah [0nan's father] saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter-in-law).... And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter-in-law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt (Genesis 38:14-16,24). 

What glaring inconsistency! Supposing his daughter-in-law had become a whore, Judah wanted her burnt - yet he did not feel it was wrong for him to patronize a whore. When she produced the staff, signet, and bracelets which he had given her, it was evident he was the father-to-be! Twins were born, one of them Pharez, through whom the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was extended on down to David and, ultimately, Jesus (Matthew 1:3; Luke 3:33). Thus, Judah became the head of a tribe of utmost importance in Biblical history: the tribe of Judah, named after him, and perpetuated through incest with his daughter-in-law! 

All of this brings us back to the words: "It is better to cast your seed in the belly of a whore than to spill it on the ground." It is not a Biblical quotation, but we can now see how the saying originated. Judah's son had sexual relations with his wife Tamar, "he spilled it on the ground," and died. But, later, when Tamar played the part of a whore, Judah impregnated her with twins, and was not killed. Thus, someone, somewhere, put together the saying: "It is better to cast your seed in the belly of a whore than to spill it on the ground." 

A widespread ancient belief. possibly based on the story of Onan, was that a groom faced danger on the wedding night - that even death may be lurking in the shadows. Tobias, whose story is given in the Apocrypha, (the books of the Apocrypha were included in the original printing of the King James Version in 1611, also in Wycliffe's (1382), the Greek Septuagint, and the Latin Vulgate, but were excluded from the Hebrew Bible. They appear in Roman Catholic Bibles. Protestants generally tend to favor a position similar to that expressed by Luther: "These are books which are not held equal to the sacred scriptures, and yet are useful and good for reading") was in love with a beautiful woman named Sarah who had the misfortune of losing seven husbands, each one on the wedding night! "I have heard that this maid hath been given to seven men," he exclaimed, " and that they all perished in the bride-chamber" (Tobias 6:13). The reason for this, we are told, was because a jealous demon in love with her! 

While Tobias pondered just what he should do, the angel Raphael advised him to take the heart and liver from a fish he had caught in the Tigris river, burn these parts in the marriage chamber, and the smell would drive the devil away! 

And when they had finished their supper, they brought Tobias unto her. But as he went, he remembered the words of Raphael, and took the ashes of the incense, and put the heart and the liver of the fish thereupon, and made a smoke therewith. But when the devil smelled the smell, he fled into the uppermost s of Egypt" (Tobias 8:1-3). 

Just why or how this fish smell caused the demon to flee from Tobias is not explained. Nor are we told why the demon fled to Egypt. An event in the ministry of Jesus implies some demons prefer certain territories (Mark 5:10). We also read that demons walk through dry places !Matthew 12,43). For this Egypt would qualify! 

Josephus mentions a certain root the Jews used to drive away devils, while Martin Luther had his own unique methods: he broke wind at the Devil, threw ink at the Devil, and on one occasion is quoted as saying to the Devil: "Lick my ass!" That evening Luther noted in his diary that "he [the Devil] said no more - good way of getting rid of him." 

The devil having fled from Tobias, his marriage to Sarah was consummated, and his life was spared. A grave had been dug for him, but when the maidservant was sent to the bridal chamber, she "opened the door, and went in, and found thtm both sleeping, and came forth, and told them that he was alive (Tobias 8:10-14). 

Understanding the old belief that a groom may face death on his wedding night, certain scriptures now come into better focus. Notice the wording of Psalms 19:5: "...as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man run a race." He rejoices because his marriage was consummated and his life spared! 

Similarly the words of John the Baptist become intelligible: "It is the bridegroom who has the bride; but the bridegroom's friend who stands outside and listens for his voice is very glad when he hears the bridegroom speak" (John 3:29, Goodspeed version). The friend of the groom does not stand at the door merely to listen for groans of ecstasy - he is concerned for the groom's life! When he finally hears the groom's voice, he knows the marriage has been consummated and the groom is alive. His duty at the door is then completed. So, John the Baptist likened himself to the friend, while Jesus was the groom. "He must increase, but I must decrease" (verse 30). John said, his purpose as the forerunner of Christ having been accomplished. 

Primitive ignorance concerning the details of reproduction have resulted in some curious ideas. The wording, "Onan knew that the seed should not be his" (Genesis 38:9), may imply that he believed a child born to this union would be his brother's child - LITERALLY! 

Before the days of scientific inquiry, exaggerated reports made the rounds about how many children a woman might give birth to. One woman named Dorothie supposedly gave birth to 20 children in two deliveries. Described in the old English of the time, "shee was forced to bear up her bellie with a large scarf tied about her neck" In the year 1296 a woman reportedly gave birth to 35 children at one time - a small figure in comparison to Countess Hagerman who was said to have given birth to 365 children!

 In some cultures, it was believed that multiple births could only be the result of multiple fathers. Rabbi Johanan believed that Goliath "was the son of a hundred fathers and one mother." To him, having multiple fathers probably explained why Goliath was so large. 

It was not uncommon for ancient people to believe that giants were fathered by superhuman gods or angels who had larger than average bodies. The Hebrew version is recorded in Genesis 6:2-4: 

The sons of God [angels] saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose .... There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men.

That the "sons of God" in this passage were angels can be argued from scriptures (Job 1:6; 38:7), Jewish history (Josephus), translators (Moffatt, Goodspeed), and church fathers (Justyn Martyr, Methodius). Though the Bible does not specify who led the angels in these actions, according to the book of Enoch (mentioned in Jude 14), it was Azazel, who was later bound with a chain in the desert (Enoch 9:1). One of the most sacred rites among the Hebrews was to send a goat, ritually laden with the sins of the people, into the desert to Azazel:

 "And Aaron shall cast lots (a lottery] upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat [margin: Azazel] ... to make an atonement... let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness" (Leviticus 16:8-10). The Moffatt translation says: "...for Azazel the demon."

(This teaching that angels (though fallen or evil ones) had sexual intercourse with human women and produced giant god like men is TOTALLY FALSE and incorrect. Angels (bad or good ones) CANNOT REPRODUCE. Jesus said angels do NOT MARRY. If angels (and bad ones in this case) could reproduce with human women, they would NOT HAVE STOPPED, they would still be doing so, and what a mess there would be in the world today. What a night-mare thought it would be for women to have to go through life never quite knowing if they were reproducing babies from evil angels. regardless of certain Scriptures in Job, showing angels are "sons of God" [through being created] - the idea and teaching that angels can have sexual intercourse with human women is UTTER GARBAGE - Keith Hunt) 

The accompanying drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci (d. 1519), reflects a belief of his time: that erections were caused by air pressure carried in canals from the lungs!

In 1280 the Council of Cologne decreed that if a woman died in labor, her mouth was to be kept open with a gag so her unborn child would not suffocate until it could be removed from her body! Even if it meant the death of the mother, the Roman church insisted an unborn child should be spared - since it had not yet been "baptized"! In some cases of difficult labor, a baptismal syringe (as the seventeenth century version shown here) could be used to perform this rite before birth. The nozzle opening of some syringes was in the form of a cross, presumably to add sanctity to its use. 

When Rachel had just given birth to a son, in her dying moments she "called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Ben-jamin" (Genesis 35:18). The name Ben-oni meant, as the margin says, "The son of my sorrow," whereas Benjamin meant, "The son of the right hand." This was probably based on the ancient idea that sons were conceived from the testicle on the right hand side. According to the theory of Anaxagoras (c. 450 B.C.), a woman became pregnant during intercourse because a very tiny person passed into her from the male. Her body only served as an incubator in which it grew - merely a place of development as ground is for a seed. Thus future generations of people existed, in some form, in their fathers - not their mothers. Apparently Rachel believed this way, for she said to Jacob: "Give me children, or else I die" (Genesis 30:1). But, ironically, it was while giving birth that she died!

(Rachel believed not such thing - she just wanted children, and without the male sperm or seed she could not have any. "Give me children, or else I die" is just a figure of speech to say my life is not worth living if I do not have children - for some women not having children is extremely sad - Keith Hunt).

 It was believed that this "tiny person," resident in the male, could in some mysterious sense do such things as hear a message or even pay tithes! "God found Jacob, and there he spoke with us," implying that the unborn descendants were in Jacob at the time (Hosea 12:4). Even more explicit is the reference in Hebrews that "Levi ...payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him" (Hebrews 7:9,10). Because of these beliefs, for a man to cast his "seed" on the ground, as Onan did, could in a definite sense be considered murder.

(The Roman Catholic church may have taught such things in its history, but Paul saying that Levi payed tithes in Abraham had NOTHING to do with the idea of some "tiny person resident in the male. Paul is using the thought that all people come from the line of male sperm uniting with the female egg down through each generation of time. Hence it could be said that I, Keith Hunt, existed from generations ago. It is a metaphor, a concept that Levi did exist in the seed of Abraham, and as that seed passed on to a woman, Levi was eventually born. The thought with Paul was NOT that some tiny person lived inside him. The darked world that knew not God, may have had such crazy ideas, but the people of God lived in the light. David in the Psalms said the "circule of the earth - he knew the earth was a globe, not flat as some, [like the RC church once did] have claimed - Keith Hunt) 

We now know, however, it is the combination of the seed of the male and the egg of the female that produces a baby. This puts the question of birth control in an entirely different light.

 It is also now known that in a single ejaculation there are enough sperm, if every one could be used, to produce a population larger than that of the United States! If birth control is considered murder because sperm is lost, even intercourse that results in PREGNANCY would be murder, for it also causes a vast loss of sperm!

In matters such as providing food, clothing, shelter, safety, jobs, and education, it is generally accepted that the will of God requires of us rational and responsible action. One does not leave these matters wholly to chance. Why, then, should planning be out of place in this most important event: the birth of a baby? If everyone today produced as many children as humanly possible, the world situation would be one of utter sorrow and chaos. 

The story is told of one pastor who took a church when there were only three in his family - he and his wife and a baby. Next year their home was blessed with a new addition. He approached the church board for a raise in salary. The next year another baby was on the way and another request for more salary. Several years passed, several additions to the family, and several more requests for a raise in salary were presented. Finally one board member questioned the wisdom of having so many children. The pastor assured him that "the Lord keeps sending them." The board member replied: "Well, the Lord also sends the rain, but this is no reason not to wear rubbers!"

There are many couples today who are unable to produce offspring. If reproduction is the only valid purpose for intercourse, as Ambrose and some of the other church fathers supposed, none of these couples should ever engage in sexual intercourse! This was not the position of Paul who emphatically recommended sexual relations on a regular basis for married couples. Abstinence was to be practiced only during times of mutually agreed fasting and prayer (I Corinthians 7:5). It is evident, then, that sexual relations did not, and could not, in every instance result in offspring. 

Martin Luther spoke of "doing it twice weekly." He considered it proper for a man to tell a wife who rebuffed him: "If you won't, another will." A young man was applying for a ministerial license. The form he was given to fill out asked for name. He wrote in his name. And address. He wrote this in. In the place where it had the word sex, he wrote: "Yes! usually about three times a week." 

Since we are told that Solomon had a thousand women in his harem (1 Kings 11:3), if he had sexual relations with a different one each night, it would take almost three years to make the rounds. This means Solomon would have had sex one thousand times as often as the average woman in his harem! Such are some of the inconsistencies of polygamy. 

Much of the controversy regarding birth control hinges on when life actually begins. This, in turn, is at the center of today's abortion controversy. Is a person on his 20th birthday really 20 years old - or is he 20 years and nine months old? According to the law of Moses, an unborn child was not considered a living being - at least not in the same sense as one who had been born: 

If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished ... and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot (Exodus 21:22-25). 

The distinction here is this: if a man hurt a pregnant woman in such a way that she lost her baby, the guilty man paid a fine. But if the woman herself died, then he had to give his life for her life! Since he was not required to give his life for the fetus, there is the definite implication that it was not considered a separate and independent life prior to birth. 

(THIS IS UTTERLY FALSE. Such reasoning from this Scripture does NOT support ABORTION! If it did then the argument that you can kill a fetus or unborn child right up to the ends of nine months in the womb, would be justified by God. Even nations like the USA and Canada, have OUTLAWED late abortions. They can see from LOGIC and from science, that killing an unborn child in the latter end of nine months is NOT RIGHT!

What this verse above shows is (and some may question God on this) that the Lord DOES value established adult life and maturity more important in certain ways than an unborn baby. Now, remember, God is able, and WILL, resurrect ALL people one day. But if we had to put a "dollar" figure on an unborn child and a grown adult woman, the woman would have a higher price tag. I hope putting it this way may be offensive and tacky sounding to some, but the meaning of Exodus 21:22-25, must be understood that way. Those verses do not teach God is in favor of abortion at any stage of nine months. God and science prove human LIFE BEGINS AT CONCEPTION! There is a sperm or seed with 23 units and an egg with 23 units. When they come together to make 46 units, human life has been formed. To deliberately, with planned forthought, kill that human life is MURDER - Keith Hunt) 

When Moses ordered women stoned to death for committing adultery (John 8:5), it is evident many of them would have been pregnant at the time of stoning. In the Mosaic massacres, such as the one at Moab, literally thousands of pregnant women - wives and mothers - were killed by Israelite soldiers (Numbers 31:17). It was not abortion in the modern, clinical sense, but the outcome was the same for the fetuses. 

(I have shown on this Website, that MERCY could be applied to any specific "capital punishment" law in Israel. Death was not automatic and an absolute must. Jesus had mercy on the woman taken in adultery, and God did not kill David for his adultery with Bathsheba. I have also shown that under the Old Covenant certain things were ALLOWED by God, but under the New Covenant there is a much higher bar to jump over. As God can and will resurrect all life, born or unborn, so some were killed in carnal battles of warfare. For a full in-depth study on "warfare" I refer you to the series of articles I've written on this subject, on this Website - Keith Hunt) 

The abortion issue has provided a theological paradox. If a fetus is an immortal soul from the second of conception, as many believe and if a child who dies before the age of accountability goes to heaven - this would mean that doctors who do abortions send more souls to heaven than the preachers, and abortion clinics save more souls than churches! 

(Of course this would be true IF the immortal soul teaching was Biblical - but it ain't, hence the argument has no merit. Study the studies under "Death - then what?" - Keith Hunt) 

The case of Onan has been cited against masturbation; but, as we have seen, this was not the sin for which he was condemned. The word masturbation probably comes from mas (semen), and tubare (to agitate), though some link it with manus (hand), since the hand is commonly used. Some have used other objects and a few their own mouth (self-fellatio). This is very rare, however, for (as the Kinsey report says), only about two or three in 1,000 are double-jointed enough to do it.

One day Sarah caught Ishmael teaching Isaac how to masturbate - according to some commentators. Though the Bible itself does not spell this out - not in so many words - it does say Ishmael was "mocking" (Genesis 21:9). The Greek and Latin versions add, signficantly "with her son Isaac." The word translated "mocking" is certainly capable of a sexual meaning. It is the word used by Potiphar's wife when she accused Joseph of trying to "mock" (rape) her (Genesis 39:14,17). When a Philistine king saw Isaac and Rebekah "sporting" (translated from the same word), he was convinced they were not merely brother and sister! (Genesis 26:8). The same word is translated "play" when the naked Israelites partook in orgies around the golden calf (Exodus 32:6,25). The "Jerusalem Bible" says Ishmael was "playing" with Isaac, which was obviously not innocent play - it was distasteful enough that Sarah demnaded that Ishmael and his mother be BANISHED! 

At least one writer sets forth the view that when Samson was made to "sport" before the assembled Philistines, it was a public display of masterbation (Allen Edwards, "Erotica Judaica" p.67,68). We are told they called for Samson "that he may make us 'sport'" and "he made them 'sport'" (Judges 16:23-27). Two different words, each translated sport, are used here. The one is "tzachaq," the same word used regarding Ishmael with Isaac. The other is "sachaq," both being variants of "shahaq," meaning to rub or beat, to pound repeatedly. It could be that Samson only jumped up and down like a crown in making sport for them. But IF these terms are used euthemistically - IF there is a sexual implication here - masterbation could have been included in the degarding acts Samson was forced to perform.

According to a legend, Zedekiah (mentioned in Jeremiah 52;11) was not only blinded, but compelled to masturbate in the presence of Queen Amyitis and that Ezekiel was forced to join him in this (Ibid., p.98). 

On one occasion when he was very angry at Joab, David pronounced a curse on his entire family! "Let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper, or that LEANETH ON A STAFF, or that falleth on the sword, or that lacketh bread (2 Samuel 3:29). There is some question as to the exact meaning of the words "lean" and "staff" here, especially since they are never translated this way anywhere else in the Bible. 

In his translation called the "The Hebrew Iliad," Pfeiffer uses the term masturbator: "May there never be missing from Joab's family one ill with gonorrhea, a leper, a masturbator, one falling by the sword, and one lacking food." The Goodspeed translates it: "an effeminate creature," while the Revised Standard version, also coneying the idea of effeminacy, reads: "one who holds a spindle." The idea here is that either this man would be a homsexual or a masturbator, the latter because he would be so ugly no woman would want him. In either case, he would produce no offspring - such being considered a great shame.

In 1833, a lecture given by Henry Varley before a large audience, claimed masturbation caused short stature, a contracted chest, weak lungs, and other disabilities. Mrs. Ellen G. White, whose writings are still considered nearly infallible by some Seventh Day Adventists, wrote in detail on masterbation, stating it would cause cancer, blindness, and insanity. In 1887, "Spermatorrhea" a book by J.L.Milton, discussed the use of the devices pictured here to prevent boys from masturbating. Two featured spikes to inflict pain - and one was designed to ring a bell in the parents' room - if the boy had an erection.

At a church camp when I was a teenager, one young man told me demons made him masturbate. His father told him it was a normal desire, but he was convinced it was demon possession. Right or wrong, masturbation is quite widely practiced. A seminary teacher asked a class of young men how many of them had ever masturbated. About half raised their hands. He told some people later that half of his class were masturbators and the other half liars!

Instead of condemning masturbation as "self abuse," some Christian writers today consider it in some situations, as self-help. "secrets of eden: God and Human Sexuality" says: 

One means of self control may be masturbation .... It occurs in almost everyone's life at one time or another. Masturbation is the one sexual outlet the teenager and the adult Christian have outside of marriage that is not condemned in scripture. Masturbation produces none of the mental or physical side effects with which parents and grand-parents have frightened children for centuries. 

If Old Testament prophets condemned masturbation, it was not merely as a sexual activity, but because of its association with IDOLATRY. In those days, semen, produced by masturbation, was presented as a sacred offering to various gods and godesses as a fertility rite. 

Nude Sumerian priests ceremoniously presented semen as sacred offering (Erotica Judaica, pp.10,11). In ancient India, the Vedic sacrifice involved daily offerings of semen food for the ritual fire. The god Agni is depicted devouring the fluid which spouts from the ever-erect lingam of Siva. An Egyptian belief held that the Nile resulted from the masturbatory ejaculations of Osiris, while coffin texts tell about Atum-Ra creating the universe when he masturbated with his fist. An old Babylonian idea was that the water-god Enki fertilized that land with his seed by a torrential act of self-stimulation. Offerings of semen were presented to the Ammonite fire god Molech - a practice condemned by Moses:

Thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech.... Whosoever he be ... that given any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death ... and if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man, when he giveth of his seed unto Molech, and kill him not; then I will set my face against that man ... and all that go a WHORING after him, to commit WHOREDOM with Molech (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5).

Though actual children were sometimes sacrificed to heathen gods (Psalm 106:37, etc.), the wording here about whoredom with Molech - a man giving of his seed unto Molech - strongly suggests that this particular rite was an offering of human semen (cf. Adam Clarke, "Clarke's Commentary," Vol.1, p.571). 

Isaiah's mention of men becoming "as a garden that hath no water" (Isaiah 1:30) was understood by rabbis as a drying up of the sap of manhood - the result of masturbation performed for the purpose of offering semen to idols. An older reference - and probably the oldest written mention of masturbationus - appears in the "Egyptian Book of the Dead" (1550-950 B.C.). In the ancient Egyptian writing shown here, a man is saying he has not committed fornication, has not had intercourse with men, Ancient Egyptian book mentions ritual masturbation. and has not masturbated in the sanctuaries of the god of his city. The phallic symbol used in expressing these thoughts is apparent

According to a widespread ancient belief, the loss of semen - by masturbation, sexual relations, or even a wet dream - could cause bad luck if it occurred before a battle or some other important event. The Wagiriami of British East Africa believed that if men slept with their wives during wartime they would be unable to kill their enemies. The North American Indians generally did not cohabit with women while at war. A tribe in British Columbia abstained from sexual activity for three or four weeks before a campaign. The Sia of New Mexico abstained for four days before going hunting. 

This same basic belief was held by Moses. When he announced that God would come down upon mount Sinai in three days, he ordered: "Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives" (Exodus 19:15). And before battles, he said: "When the host [army) goeth forth against thine enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing" - an expression linked, by usage and context, with sexual activity (Deuteronomy 23:9).

(Sex of itself is not sin or wicked, hence this could be a command for not using sex in a wicked way. Then it may not have anything to do with sex, but any false wicked way to bring good fortune in battle, as many heathen people were wont to do before going into battle. The context does not support sexuality as Mr. Aaron supposes - Keith Hunt). 

When Uriah refused to have sexual relations with his wife during battle, it is evident he was very loyal to the cause for which they were fighting (2 Samuel 11:11). But it is also possible he feared a loss of semen would weaken him or bring bad luck - according to the ancient belief. 

(Probably had nothing to do with ancient belief of heathen ideas, but was just being very focussed on the job of battle. Some coaches today do not want their team members to have sexual relations before a big game or final event - it is a matter of focus, a setting of the mind on a serious undertaking - Keith Hunt)

After Samson had spent many hours making love to a harlot, he arose at midnight and confounded his enemies by tearing down the gates of Gaza and carrying them all the way to Hebron - a distance of about 40 miles! (Judges 16:1-3). Apparently the writer wanted to stress how strong Samson was, pointing out he could do all this even with the loss of semen. If this was not the point, why was it essential to mention his activities with a harlot just prior to the feat? 

(And true it is, the idea of letting out semen makes you less strong or somehow weak, is silly. There maybe a pleasure of a high and then a low and relaxation for a few minutes, but within a few minutes a man can be just as strong as before the loss of semen. Not having sex before some important event is just a matter of "focus" of the mind, and has nothing to do with loosing physical weakness - Keith Hunt)

When David and his men fled from Saul, he asked the priest at Nob for bread. Since only sacred bread was available, the priest asked "if the young men have kept themselves at least from women." David's reply was: "Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy" (I Samuel 21:1-5). 

There is an interesting twist here. The priest asked David if the young men had kept away from women. David's reply to the priest was that women had been kept away from them! The basis for the priest's questioning was rooted in the law of Moses: "Whosoever he be ... that goeth unto the holy things ... having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off..." (Leviticus 22:3-6). If David's men were to eat the sacred bread, they could not have a trace of semen on them. David assured the priest the "vessels" of the young men were clean. The word translated "vessels" is common enough, having a variety of usages - bags, garments, weapons, tools. The English word "vessel" comes from the Latin "vas," meaning a vessel or duct, and can be seen in such words as vase, vascular, vasculum, and even vasectomy (an operation involving the duct of the testicles). In Latin, "vas" can mean tool, whence the erotic expression "bene vasatus" (one well-tooled). It would appear then, in this context, that when David said the "vessels" of these young men were clean, he referred precisely to their sexual parts.

Even an accidental ejaculation of semen, commonly called a "wet dream," rendered a soldier unclean and required a temporary separation from the other soldiers:

 If there be among you any man, that is not clean by reason of the uncleanness that chanceth him by night, then shall he go abroad out of the camp, he shall not come within the camp: but it shall be, when evening cometh on, he shall wash himself with water: and when the sun is down, he shall come into the camp again (Deuteronomy 23:10,11).

The basis for this taboo was probably that those who were unclean would contaminate the others with bad luck. Each new morning produced two groups of individuals: those who had wet dreams the night before and those who did not. Just why washing was not prescribed until many hours later, at evening, is not explained. 

We can easily recreate the scene. When morning came, those who experienced wet dreams during the night gathered at a designated area outside the camp. Having to spend the whole day out there, some probably made it a time for telling jokes or sharing erotic details of their dreams. No doubt some Soldiers "unclean" until sundown, welcomed a day off and may have taken things into their own hands! Fraud, it seems, would be hard to detect. Even an official penis inspector would have no way to determine which cases were accidental or which were deliberate! 

According to a later Jewish belief, it was Lilith, a night demon, who caused men to have wet dreams. Though often mentioned in rabbinical literature, Lilith is mentioned only one time in the Bible - in Isaiah 34:14 - where the King James Version has substituted the word "screech owl." The accompanying illustration shows a Jewish talisman used in Germany to ward off attacks of Lilith on pregnant women.

 It is said that during the Middle Ages, a man who had a wet dream was to rise at once and sing seven psalms and a further thirty in the morning as penance. If a man fell asleep in church and had a wet dream, he had to sing the entire psalter! 

But what was probably considered the greatest form of "uncleaness" involved WOMEN - that discharge of blood known to us as menstruation. reflecting certain primitivbe beliefs of the time, Pliny stated that the touch of a menstruating woman would turn wine into vinegar, blunt razors, rust iron, and cause mares to miscarry. Even the shadow of a menstruating woman, was believed, would cause flowers to wither, trees to perish, and snakes to cease wiggling! 

According to primitive superstition, when a girl began menstruating, she was "unclean" and should be separated from others. In a district of New Guinea, daughters of chiefs were kept indoors for two or three years, never being allowed to descend from the house. Some tribes believed crops would fail if a girl touched the ground in this condition. Among the Kolosh Indians of Alaska, a girl was confined to a little hut for a year. Later, in some places, the time for seclusion was reduced to six months. Some were kept for a time in total darkness. Various fasts and diets were prescribed for the uncleanness. Among the Bribri Indians of Costa Rica, a menstruating woman was allowed only banana leaves as plates for her food. 

Many such examples of menstruation taboos could be given. But in keeping with our basic theme, our main inquiry will concern those rules and regulations in the Bible itself. The following is a summary of the details that are spelled out in Leviticus 15:19-33: 

A menstruating woman must be put apart for seven days each month. If a man touches her, he becomes unclean. If she sits in a chair, it is unclean. If she lies on a bed, it is unclean. If a man touches her bed or chair, he is unclean until evening. If he has any kind of sexual contact with her, he is unclean seven days. If the woman bleeds more than seven days, she remains unclean as long as the condition continues. Eight days after her issue stops, she must take two turtle doves or two pigeons to the priest, explaining to him she has completed her menstrual cycle. The priest then kills one of the birds for a sin offering and burns the other one. By doing this he makes an "atonement" for her sin. Failure to comply with these instructions carries a severe penalty: death! 

If a man and a woman engaged in sexual intercourse during menstruation, both were to be KILLED. "And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness ... he hath discovered [margin: made naked] her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people" (Leviticus 20:18). 

("Cut off" does not automatically mean in every place used, "death." It could mean isolated outside the camp of Israel - Keith Hunt)

A well known verse from Ezekiel says: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Not so well known is the fact that one of the sins specifically mentioned in the context is the sin of coming "near to a menstruous woman" (Ezekiel 18:4-6). 

(It would indeed seem that God does not want men to indulge in sex during the woman's menstruous period, refraining from sex during those days is put within a context of righteousness. As of yet we may not know all the reasons for why God wants no sexual relations during a woman's period, the flowing of such body fluids may have scientific health reasons. We can certainly have some ideas on this from how AIDS is spread, or commonly spead today - Keith Hunt) 

There are people who claim to practice all the Bible says - including the Old Testament law of "unclean" meats. But what about the laws concerning "unclean" women? If these laws were followed to the letter, a husband could not kiss his wife during her menstruation, could not hold her hand, could not touch her in any way lest he become unclean! A person would constantly have to be careful about touching beds, chairs, or anything. In checking into a motel room, one would have to ask if any of the maids who made beds were menstruating! One would always be in doubt in a public library that some menstruating woman might have just handled a book. One would not eat at a restaurant lest the cook or waitress be unclean! Were such regulations divine revelations from Almighty God, or do they reflect mere tribal taboos of the time?

(They were divine commands, not the inventions of an Israelite culture absed on tribal taboos. In the society of Israel such laws could be applied, as they were a close-nit community. The law of not touching a woman during her period, is a general statement only. There was no law saying husband and wife had to sleep in seperate beds. Such laws were to treach the Israelites certain spiritual lessons. I cover much of this debate from people in the studies called "Living by Every Word of God - How?" on this Website - Keith Hunt)

 After Jacob and Rachel left Padanaram, her father discovered his "teraphim" images were missing. Catching up with the camel train, he began to accuse them of stealing. "Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel's furniture [saddle], and sat upon them ... and she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me" (Genesis 31:34,35). To have even touched the saddle would have rendered him unclean because of Rachel's real (or pretended) condition. 

Some believe, and not without valid arguments, that these teraphim were "phallic objects." We know that such were in use throughout the ancient world as good luck charms and to avert the evil eye. It is doubtful if any Hebrew woman would dare handle images of this type while menstruating. And so, in the words of Josephus, Rachel's father "left off searching any further, not supposing that his daughter in such circumstances would approach to those images."

The obsession with menstruation has interwoven itself deeply in Jewish history. The early Pharisees prohibited women's use of ornaments or cosmetics during menstruation lest they appear enticing to men. rashi, a well known Jewish commentator of the eleventh century, would not hand the key of his house directly to his wife during her menstrual period. 

The writer of "Pagan Rites in Judaism" mentions a visit to the home of his grandparents when he was a child. After supper his grandfather ordered his grandmother to leave the table. She promptly left; it was rag time. They were Jewish. In the illustration given here, drawn for a Jewish book in 1700, a man is repulsed by the sight of the menstrual rag. 

According to the Talmud, if a menstruating woman met a snake on the road, all she would have to say is: "I am menstruating" and it would glide hastily away. "Baaras," a root used by the Jews to exorcise demons, was considered deadly unless "the urine of a woman, or her menstrual blood, be poured upon it " Such ideas clearly reflect the superstition that existed in the Jewish mind regarding menstrual blood.

At the time of Jesus, Samaritan women, from birth, were considered as unclean as a menstruating woman! The Jews had "no dealings with Samaritans" or as the margin of the "New International Version" has it: Jews "do not use dishes Samaritans have used." For Jesus to talk with the Samaritan woman at the well, and to share the same drinking cup with her, boldly clashed with the basic Jewish traditions of the time. Even the disciples "marvelled that he talked with the woman" (John 4:9,27). 

The best known encounter of Jesus with the menstrual taboo, however, was the healing of the woman who had suffered with an issue of blood for twelve years. In seeking a cure, she had spent all her money and "suffered many things of many physicians" (Mark 5:26). Considering the very primitive methods of treatment at the time, a number of which are mentioned by Clarke, one can understand the embarrassment, pain, and rejection this woman suffered. 

Realizing she was "unclean," she did not dare approach Jesus directly, but came behind, reaching out to touch the hem of his garment. Jesus sensed that someone had touched him in faith. "The woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth" (Mark 5:33). Such fear and trembling may have been due, at least in part, to the belief forced upon every Jewish woman from childhood - that she was unclean and her menstruation was a sign of sin.

When the Biblical prophets wanted to describe something detestable and unclean, they used the example of a menstruating woman. Ezekiel said: "Their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman" (Ezekiel 36:17). Jeremiah spoke of Jerusalem "as a menstruous woman" among the nations (Lamentations). In the time of distress, other nations would of not pproach unto her to help or comfort. 

Promises of forgiveness or cleansing for Jerusalem were compared to a woman being washed after menstruation: "When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem.." (Isaiah 4:4). A fountain to wash away the "uncleanness" was to be opened up for the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Zechariah 13:1), uncleanness here being the term used in other verses for menstruation (Strong's Concordance, 1740,1739,5079). 

Isaiah preached that the Israelites should cast away their idols "as a menstruous cloth" (Isaiah 30:22). Understanding the Jewish taboo, this comparison made a weighty point. In our culture, if a preacher told people to get rid of sin like they would throw away a Kotex, the point would not be as strong.

A guest speaker at a church began his message by mentioning that many things today are co-copilot, coworker, costar, cohost, etc. Having chosen two separate verses for his text, he announced he was using a text and a cotext. Not realizing that it sounded like he said "Kotex," he looked confused as laughter rippled through the crowd!

Preachers have often used a text from Isaiah about self righteousness being as "filthy rags," usually not realizing what kind of rags Isaiah meant! "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as FILTHY RAGS" (Isaiah 64:6). These rags were those used by women during menstruation - for the "menstrual flux" (Strong's Concordance, 5708). 

Clarke gives an interesting reading of this text from an old MS. Bible: "And we ben made as unclene alle we: and as the cloth of the woman rooten blode flowing, all our rigtwisnesse." It is old English, but the meaning is clear. To this Clarke adds: "If preachers knew properly the meaning of this word, would they make such a liberal use of it in their public ministry? How many blush in the congregation for the incautious man and his `filthy rags!'"


posted by Brian Worley   January 21, 2010 Ex-Minister.org     All rights reserved


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