Tag Archives: genesis 4

Marriage in the Bible – Part 3: Polygamy

No discussion of biblical marriage can be complete without the major elephant in the room: polygamy. Though modern Jews and Christians hold that marriage should be like Adam and Eve, one man and one woman, early Jews thought otherwise well into the post-Christian era. Echos of this practice still exist today in Islam as well as a few very fringe Mormon groups. (Mormonism as a whole outlawed the practice around forty years after the religion’s founding.)

If you are just joining us, this week in honor of my first wedding anniversary, I’m doing a post every day about a different aspect of marriage in the Torah. Monday was marriage in the creation story. Tuesday was Levrite marriage. Today, I’m digging into polygamy.

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Va-Yera – Justice in the Torah (So Far)

Obviously, my posting schedule has not been what I would hoped it would be. But, I have promised a friend that I would post weekly again and so I will desperately try to do that, despite whatever other challenges life throws at me. And to start, I’m picking up where I left off: a brief survey of justice in the bible prior to Abraham.

As I said in my previous post, the genius of Abraham was not just that he argued with God’s punishment (the first biblical figure to do so), but rather that he seemed to articulate a UNIQUE (to Genesis) view on justice. Up to that point, I postulated, all punishments and rewards were to families and clans rather than individuals. With one huge exception, that’s true. His view was that a small number of good people could keep from punishment a larger number of bad people. What he didn’t do was what we really might wish he had done: request individual justice. Save the good people, punish the bad ones. That’s what we all look for in divine justice, isn’t it? Sadly, it wasn’t to be. But, this is the closest we come up to this point, so that’s something. “Sins of the father”, or clan-guilt, is never fully expunged from the Bible, though later passages will also stress individual justice and the Book of Job will suggests that not all apparent punishments are for crimes anyway.

More after the break.

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Noach – Noah and the Flood

Okay, enough procrastinating and creating charts! It’s time to get to Noach because the rest of the world has already moved on to the next portion, Lech-Lecha.

The Noach portion, named for Noah’s name in Hebrew, covers Genesis 6:9, the beginning of the Noah story), to 11:32 the beginning of the Abraham story. That includes three main “tales”: the story of Noah and the Ark, the story of Noah and his drunkenness, and the Tower of Babil.

For me, the story of Noah has always been one of the more difficult for me to wrap my brain around. It’s not that the story is complex – it isn’t. My problem with the story is that it feels too much like mythology, like something that would happen to Odin,  Zeus, or Heracles, rather than a story that we should take any great meaning from. It doesn’t help that God acts “out of character” and lots of innocent lives, human and animal, are lost. And, like all great mythology, it aims to explain in a supernatural way a natural phenomenon: the rainbow. This isn’t something that fits well in modern Judaism or Christianity, but still it’s an important story, certainly one of the most well known, and here it is already in week #2.

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Bereishit – Cain and Able (and Seth)

I’m only a week into writing and I’m already struggling with “point of view”. Should this be a blog of ill-informed Torah commentary from a liberal something-or-other? Even in this first section, there are so many things that I want to write about, but haven’t. (Like how there are two fruits in the garden of Eden, the trees of “life” and “knowledge of good and evil”. And that it seems that the humans were allowed to eat of the first one, until they had eaten of the second… and that Eve was told not to eat the fruit of the “middle” of the garden, but at different points both are referred to being in the middle. Weird.)

The story of Cain and Able appears on its face to be the story of “country mouse and city mouse”, or more accurately “country mouse and hunter-gatherer mouse”. Between the two brothers, two of the primary occupations of early tribal Israel must have been personified:

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