The Pentateuch has proven to not keep with the times when it comes to marriage, sex, and women (among other things). Here are a few of the most ridiculous claims we’ve encountered so far.
- If you’re brother dies, be prepared to marry his wife (Deut. 25:5-10). According to Deuteronomy, if your brother dies without providing a male heir, then you (assuming you’re a dude) must marry his widow and (attempt) to produce a male heir to continue his line. If refused, the widow gets to spit in your face and take one of your shoes. Interestingly enough, this only appears as law after the exodus, even though God was quick to enforce it (with a twist on the punishment–death) on Onan hundreds of years prior (Gen. 38:6-10).
- Women are second to men (Lev. 27:1-8). This topic could probably have a “Most Ridiculous” post of its own. This verse specifically deals with the cost to redeem someone who is pledged to God. Or, in other words, the amount of money that will satisfy God in place of the person’s service. Able-bodied men are worth 50 shekels, while women come in at only 30. There are many other passages that hit on this theme of women being second to men, including: giving birth to a daughter makes the mother unclean for twice the time if she had a son instead (Lev. 12:1-5), women can only make pledges or enter contracts autonomously if they’re unattached to their father or husband (Num. 30), and they not counted among those fleeing at the end of Exodus (Ex. 12:37), or in either of the censuses in Numbers.
- Akin’s “legitimate” rape is biblical (Deut. 22:23-29). If a married or engaged woman is raped in a town, and no one hears her scream, both she and her rapist are to be stoned. If she’s raped in the country, only her rapist is stoned. The reasoning? If she didn’t scream (or it can’t be verified) then she must have been complicit in the affair. Or, put another way, only “forcible” rape counts. In classic Old Testament style, if the woman is not married she must marry her rapist. Rape is rape is rape isn’t included in this version of morality.
- God will abort your baby (Lev. 5:11-30). This might be the oddest ritual in all of the Pentateuch. If a man suspects his wife of infidelity, he can take her to the priests where they’ll perform an elaborate ritual to determine her guilt or innocence. In the ritual, she drinks a bitter solution that, if she’s guilty, will cause her to have a miscarriage. That’s right, God has no problem aborting illegitimate fetuses. So much for the sanctity of life.
Homosexuality is regarded by many on the American religious right as an abomination, and that it is against the natural order. The Bible is almost always cited, and most often Leviticus (Lev. 18:22) (or tradition, whatever that is). As the above shows, there’s a lot in the Bible that these same people either disregard completely, don’t consider important enough to insist on violating others’ rights over, or they’re not even aware of.
Exposing this type of hypocrisy is one of our main objectives at Holey Books. It’s not the first time the Bible has been used as a cover for personal prejudices and it’s unlikely it’ll be the last (so we’ll likely be in business for a while). Fortunately, the demographics are changing in the country. Equality is inevitable. And so is the reality that the arguments for “traditional” marriage were not rooted in religious texts, but rather bigotry.