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The Bible: Genesis on Sexuality

This is a work in progress, latest addition on Sunday 9 October 2011 ... an analysis of what the Bible says regarding sexuality.  It is often said by those who oppose full equality that the Bible declares marriage as the union of one man and one woman.  They go on to declare that the Bible condemns homosexuality.  The following is an exploration of what the Bible says and what I believe it means.  For purposes of exploring the Torah, the first five books of what is commonly called the Bible, for this extended essay I am using The Torah:  A Modern Commentary, Revised Edition.  If you have questions or critique, please leave a comment or send me an email (remove the spaces and convert the symbols appropriately)
Teacher Some [at] gmail [dot] com

Genesis 1:28

God then blessed [the human beings], and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and tame it; hold sway over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky, and over every animal that creeps on the earth.”

Context: Three to four thousand years ago, there were many small tribes of people struggling for survival. Numbers mattered. Those who could not or would not procreate might be useful for the moment, but were not helping ensure the future.

This was the first time that God commanded people. The command is to have sex and procreate. We, the humans, have certainly done so. We have filled the Earth, diminished the number of fish and birds and nearly every larger animal on the planet.

With over seven billion people on the planet, we have filled the Earth. The optimum carrying capacity of our planet is probably less than a third of our current population. Here are a few estimates from scientists:

Paul Ehrlich, one and a half billion to two billion persons.

Jack Alpert, one hundred million persons.

Pennti Linkola, six hundred million persons.

Folke Gunther, one to two billion persons.

Genesis 2:22–24

Now God Eternal built upon the rib taken from the man into a woman, and brought her to the man, and the man said, “This time – / bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! / Let this one be called woman, / for this one is taken from man.” So it is that a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Context: At this time in history, a wedding involved the man joining the family of his wife. This is a flowery description of that norm.

At no point in this description is there a commandment that this is the only way to live, to enjoy sex, or to wed. It is an interesting and brief insight into the family relationships at the start of the Jewish people.

As with our analysis of Genesis 1:28, this is all under a need to increase the population of the tribe for the survival of the tribe. Our tribes have grown beyond the size our planet can sustain.

Genesis 4–5

Many begats, not retyped here.

Context: This is the expansion of the family of Adam and Eve. There is no explicit sex, just one battle between brothers (Cain and Abel), a list of names born and to whom and how long they lived.

Genesis 9:1–7

God then blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and let the awe and dread of you be upon all the land animals, and all the birds of the sky, and all that creep on the ground, and all the fish of the sea: they are given into your hands. Any small animal that is alive shall be food for you, like green grasses – I give you all. But flesh whose lifeblood is in it you may not eat. Moreover, for your own bloodguilt I will require your lives; I will require it by means of beasts or by means of human beings – by means of a fellow human being will I require a person’s life. The shedder of human blood, / that person’s blood shall be shed by human; / for human beings were made / in the image of God. As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth and increase in it.

Context: After the great flood, God reiterates the commandment to procreate, allows humans to eat animal flesh (previously humans had been vegetarians), creates capital punishment for murder (including murder committed by an animal), and then reiterates the commandment to procreate again.

As in Chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis, the need to increase the size of the tribe is paramount. It is my opinion that these commandments have been fulfilled.

Genesis 16:14

Now Abram's wife, Sarai, who had not borne him a child, had an Egyptian slave named Hagar.  So Sarai said to Abram:  Seeing as the Eternal kept me from bearing a child, have intercourse with my slave:  maybe I will have a son through her.  Abram heeded Sarai’s voice.  Ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan, Abram's wife Sarai took her slave Hagar the Egyptian and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife.  He came to Hagar and she became pregnant; and when she saw that she had become pregnant, her mistress became for her an object of scorn.

Context:  Abram is 86 years old when Ishmael, Hagar's son, is born, and Sarai is 76.  It is entirely likely that Sarai feared that she would lose her status in the household and Abram would take a younger bride to be his favored wife.  By asking Abram to have a child by her servant, she maintains some control over the situation.

Many quibble with the phrase "as a wife", saying that Hagar was really a concubine and not wedded to Abram.  Whether Hagar is wife or concubine, this is clearly a broader definition of marriage than "a union of one man and one woman."

This is also the start of the controversy between Judaism and Islam.  The above translation is a Jewish work.  A Muslim work would have Hagar as a co-wife and not a slave.

Genesis 17:9–14
God then said to Abraham, “As for you, observe My covenant – you and your descendants after you – in all your generations. This is My covenant that you and your descendants after you are to observe: let every male among you be circumcised. When the flesh of your foreskin has been circumcised, it shall become a sign of the covenant between us. And in all your generations let every eight-day-old boy among you be circumcised, [whether it be] a homeborn slave or bought from foreigners, not of your own descent. Let your homeborn slave and the one you buy be circumcised, so that My covenant may be in your flash as an everlasting covenant. An uncircumcised male who has not circumcised the flesh of his foreskin – that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.

Context: The first thing to note is that the name Abram became the name Abraham in Genesis 17:5 as part of God’s promise to make him a father to a multitude of peoples. The Muslim phrase “peoples of the book”, meaning the peoples of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, is a reference to the descendants of Abraham.

The ritual circumcision called for in the covenant between God and Abraham and Abraham’s descendants may not appear to an appropriate part of the discussion of sexuality. An infant is not going to be acting as a heterosexual or a homosexual for a number of years. Still, treatment of sexual organs in the Bible seems to be fair to mention.

Genesis 17:15–14
God then said to Abraham, “Sarai your wife – call her Sarai no more, for her name is [now] Sarah. I will bless her and, too, I will give you a son through her; I will bless her and she shall become nations; rulers of peoples shall come from her.

Context: Abraham is 99 years old, his wife ten years younger. Isaac will be born when Abraham is 100 and Sarah 90. While sex is not mentioned directly, this is not implied to be an immaculate conception. As with prior mentions of sexuality, there is a strong emphasis on increasing the number of people in the tribe.

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