Does The Bible Teach Necessity As a Defense (or permitted exception) to Incest?

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Jon Rowe

Jon Rowe is a full Professor of Business at Mercer County Community College, where he teaches business, law, and legal issues relating to politics. Of course, his views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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13 Responses

  1. Jon, what do you make of the fact that the younger women in the story are conscious of what they are doing, acknowledging that it was on some level wrong, while the father is unaware of what was going on and therefore avoided having to work through the moral calculus? Does this dovetail with the idea of woman-as-temptress seen in the Garden of Eden story?Report

  2. Avatar Jon Rowe says:

    I don’t think it necessarily follows that the younger women KNEW it was, in that particular circumstance, wrong. Just that they KNEW their father would be resistant to the idea so they had to get him drunk.Report

  3. Avatar Emma says:

    “That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.”

    So the old mans drunk and sleeping, yet he still gets a boner and his daughter fucks him to ejaculation without waking him up? Who wrote this shit? Let me guess. An old drunk bloke?Report

    • Of course, men can achieve erections while they sleep and can even ejaculate while asleep. Both age and intoxication are known to diminish a man’s capacity for these sorts of sexual feats, and Lot (or rather, his daughters) would have been up against both of those factors if the story is taken as true on its face.

      But really, is this any lesscredible than, say, a flood of the entire world, a virgin conceiving a child, dissolving himself into a man and then reanimating himself as a zombie, a man being eaten by a whale and then regurgitated still healthy (but presumably stinky) three days later, a talking shrub, or a man gaining strength because of his long Fabio-like locks of hair and then losing it after getting a shave?Report

      • Well exactly. It is all absurd. We are debating nothing more than stories made up by goodness only knows who for what whatever reason they served at the time. We may find them an amusing distraction but can’t honestly take them seriously as having any bearing on life in the 21st century.Report

  4. Avatar Steve S. says:

    Let’s be clear about what the levitical laws are and are not. They are not general principles that all mankind are expected to live by. They are part of a reciprocal agreement between a putative deity and an ethnic group. The Garden of Eden and Lot’s daughters stories are consistent with these laws in that they supposedly occurred before the agreement existed. But in the end it’s just an ancient ethnic group’s rules and I don’t see any compelling reason why anybody outside that group should particularly care, outside of sociological and historical interest, what the Bible has to say on these issues.Report

  5. Avatar BSK says:

    I think the factual nature of the stories is besides the point. In fact, I think the unlikeliness of the story increases the likelihood that the Bible justifies incest in some form or another.

    If the Bible were simply an historical accounting of what happened, then it’d be hard to garner any value of what it said. Maybe the Lot story justifies incest. Maybe it was just something weird and interesting that happened.

    The fact that most of the stories are made up but still included demonstrated they were valued, for one reason or another. If it is made-up, someone made that story up for a specific reason and put it in “the Bible” for a specific reason.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to BSK says:

      If I had to guess the reasoning behind the story, it wouldn’t be to justify incest; I think the message would be something along the lines of, “Look, you’re supposed to be fruitful and multiply. Maybe you don’t really want more crying brats to feed and your spouse is getting on your nerves right now, but if Lot’s daughters could do it, then certainly you can!”Report

      • Avatar BSK in reply to Rufus F. says:

        That is definitely a possibility. My primary point was that the historical accuracy of the stories (or lack thereof) doesn’t necessarily mitigate their messages… if anything, it might enhance it (not the legitimacy of those messages perse, but the conviction of the messenger in delivering them).Report

  6. Avatar Steven B says:

    In my opinion, the Lot passage is not an explicit pronouncement against incest. The story was not passed down for generations to teach a moral lesson about God’s objection to incest. Clearly the story implies incest to be unconventional and most likely objectionable in that culture. Otherwise there would be no need to get the old man drunk. But the reason the story was promulgated was to express the wonderment of the tricky ladies and the resulting formation of the Moabite and Ammonite tribes.

    That there is no express condemnation of incest here (or elsewhere in connection with the tale) does lead one to conclude that necessity does provide an exception to the general societal prohibition regarding incest.Report

  7. Avatar James K. says:

    Isn’t it relevant that the descendants of the Lot incest are the Moabites and Ammonities, among the Israelites’ most loathed enemies? The origin story is clearly meant to degrade those peoples.Report

  8. Avatar Jon Rowe says:

    Someone emailed me that very point. It could be.Report