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Thread: The strange wife-sister stories of Genesis

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    Member couch_sloth's Avatar
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    The strange wife-sister stories of Genesis

    Perhaps the most familiar of these stories: Abram told the Pharaoh that Sarah wasn't his wife, that she was just his sister. The pharaoh was interested in Sarah, and brought her to live with him. Abram, as the potential brother-in-law, got a lot of livestock and other valuables out of the 'deal'. God punished the pharaoh, who didn't know that Sarah was married to Abram.
    This type of story is repeated two other times in Genesis.

    It's one of those weird things in the Bible that seems to have been placed there for some specific reason or target audience, that we can no longer identify.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wife%E...ook_of_Genesis

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    Contributor skepticalbip's Avatar
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    The Biblical writers apparently had some odd sex fetishes they vicariously lived through writing stories. Like Lot's daughters getting him drunk then having sex with him. Maybe selling the wife and the buyer then being punished was a common sexual fantasy turn on at that time.

    It seems that such stories provide no recognizable moral or spiritual message, at least none I recognize.

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    Member couch_sloth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    The Biblical writers apparently had some odd sex fetishes they vicariously lived through writing stories. Like Lot's daughters getting him drunk then having sex with him. Maybe selling the wife and the buyer then being punished was a common sexual fantasy turn on at that time.
    LOL
    That didn't occur to me...
    But I have wondered about the medieval monks saving all those stories about the weird sex lives of the Roman Emperors.

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    Super Moderator Bronzeage's Avatar
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    Apparently, the Egyptians had a taste for exotic beauty(don't we all). If a high ranking Egyptian saw an attractive foreign woman, like wealthy men of all cultures, he felt entitled to her. To complicate things even more, Egyptian officials could gain favor with the Pharaoh by spotting the new girl in town and bringing her around to meet the King.

    If she was married, that was an easily removed impediment. Abraham spread the sister story to protect himself.

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    Member couch_sloth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bronzeage View Post
    Apparently, the Egyptians had a taste for exotic beauty(don't we all). If a high ranking Egyptian saw an attractive foreign woman, like wealthy men of all cultures, he felt entitled to her. To complicate things even more, Egyptian officials could gain favor with the Pharaoh by spotting the new girl in town and bringing her around to meet the King.

    If she was married, that was an easily removed impediment. Abraham spread the sister story to protect himself.
    Yes, but why have 3 variations of this story in Genesis (Two not involving the pharaoh)?
    It seems like they were trying to drive home some point, or link these stories to something beyond the narrative.

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by couch_sloth View Post
    Perhaps the most familiar of these stories: Abram told the Pharaoh that Sarah wasn't his wife, that she was just his sister. The pharaoh was interested in Sarah, and brought her to live with him. Abram, as the potential brother-in-law, got a lot of livestock and other valuables out of the 'deal'. God punished the pharaoh, who didn't know that Sarah was married to Abram.
    This type of story is repeated two other times in Genesis.

    It's one of those weird things in the Bible that seems to have been placed there for some specific reason or target audience, that we can no longer identify.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wife%E...ook_of_Genesis
    Oral traditions often have repeating motifs, that are either familiar to the audience, or may even fly right under their radar because they are so common. These also make lengthy epics easier to remember, as they play out similarly every time. I suspect that the original audience for the stories in question probably found them humorous; there are a lot of tricksters and "missing an important piece of the puzzle" plot lines in Genesis. A lot of their culture heroes find themselves in situations that would be embarrassing or disgusting because of lies told earlier on in the story.

    I think the one with Isaac and Rebekah is still funny, actually. In that one, the king discovers the plot when he spies on the happy couple doing some very unbrotherly things in one of his courtyards; the text politely describes it as "sporting together"...

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    Super Moderator Bronzeage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by couch_sloth View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bronzeage View Post
    Apparently, the Egyptians had a taste for exotic beauty(don't we all). If a high ranking Egyptian saw an attractive foreign woman, like wealthy men of all cultures, he felt entitled to her. To complicate things even more, Egyptian officials could gain favor with the Pharaoh by spotting the new girl in town and bringing her around to meet the King.

    If she was married, that was an easily removed impediment. Abraham spread the sister story to protect himself.
    Yes, but why have 3 variations of this story in Genesis (Two not involving the pharaoh)?
    It seems like they were trying to drive home some point, or link these stories to something beyond the narrative.
    The Old Testament was never meant to be a best seller. It is a collection of texts which come from a common culture so overlap and duplication is to be expected. Imagine you go to a family reunion and all your uncles are in one room telling old family stories, and all your aunts are in another room, telling the same stories. You are writing them all down. You have your own Old Testament. No one ever bothered to edit it for clarity or continuity.

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    Cyborg with a Tiara
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bronzeage View Post
    No one including the allegedly omnipotent god who inspired it, ever bothered to edit it for clarity or continuity.
    FIFY

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    Contributor Cheerful Charlie's Avatar
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    36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.
    37 And the first born bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day.
    38 And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.

    The incestuous children of Lot and his daughters were the ancestors of two of Israel's bitterest rivals. Sometimes these tales are rather nasty slurs.
    Cheerful Charlie

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