Saturday, January 3, 2009

Biblical marriage

[Image of King David at]

Leaders of the christianist right are, so far as I can tell, without exception, against same-sex marriage.

Also, without exception (so far as I can tell), they base their opposition on the Bible - the Christian version of "Old" and "New" Testaments, citing a couple of chapters and verses.

Many, if not most, of these christianist rightists, complained mightily about the Newsweek article by Lisa Miller which suggested that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality or same-sex marriage.

Opposition to same-sex marriage is invariably posited on the claim that the Bible speaks of marriage as being between one man and one woman. The nutcase that runs the Traditional Values Coalition, Lou Sheldon, writes that "Miller falsely claims that the Bible and Jesus talk about love and family, but never explicitly define marriage as a union of one man and one woman. This is clearly untrue as evidenced by Genesis 2:24-25 and the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 19:1-8."

Without getting into an exegetical discussion over a few verses that may or may not say what Sheldon would like them to say, I thought it would be interesting to look at one particular example of marriage as defined by the Bible, the example of King David, the ancestor of Jesus.

(Remember marriage is the union between one man and one woman - according to the Christian right.)

"David first wed Ahinoam, a Jezreelite, who may have first married King Saul. David then married Abigail, a widow, but only after threatening her then-husband's life. He then wed Maacha, a foreign princess, simply to facilitate a treaty that protected Israel's northern border. He then wed Haggith, and then Eglah. He then formally married Michal, the younger daughter of King Saul, who although once betrothed to David, was by then wed to a loving husband, by kidnapping her from her spouse to give David a better claim to the throne.

"As the king in Jerusalem, David, seeing Bathsheba naked while bathing, was seized with overpowering lust and, heedless of the consequences, slept with Bathsheba, who was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of the officers in David's army. When David could not hide the fact that he had impregnated Bathsheba, he had her husband killed, married her, and made her his queen."

In his later years, "...King David was old and stricken ... and they covered him with clothes, but [his body] gat no heat....So they sought a fair damsel ... and brought her to the king. And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king and ministered to him: but the King knew her not."
(I Kings 1)

It could be he didn't have sex with her because of all those older, very jealous wives, hanging around waiting to dispatch him to the happy hunting ground if he did!

This is a biblical marriage. One man and one woman?

[The section on King David comes from an article by Fred Simmons, "A New Look at King David, 1010-970 B.C.E.," which appears in the magazine of Humanistic Judaism, Autumn 2008.]

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