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QUESTION: re Seed in Belly of a Prostitute


Red Question MarkWhere in the Bible do we find the verse saying it is better to put your seed in the belly of a prostitute than to spill your seed upon the ground? This is not a joke.  We were discussing how many believe French kissing is a form of sex, and this subject came up. Can you help me locate this passage?

I have had this question come up several times in the past (although linking it to French kissing is a new twist!).

There is no such verse in the Bible. The only verse that speaks of spilling seed on the ground is Genesis 38:6-10. This passage describes a “levirate marriage.” This was a marriage of a man to his brother’s childless widow for the express purpose of siring an heir for the brother who had died. The Sadducees’ question to Jesus in Matthew 22:23-28 involved this law as later given to Israel through Moses.

In this text, Judah’s son Er died; Judah told his other son Onan to “go in to” Tamar, the widow, and have a child for his brother. Onan, when he went in to Tamar, did not want to have a child by her, so he spilled his seed on the ground. His “sin” was in refusing to honor the memory of his dead brother according to the levirate law.

After the death of Onan because of this, Judah promised Tamar he would give her to his youngest son when he was old enough, which he did not do. Consequently, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced Judah (her father-in-law). When Judah learned she was pregnant, he was ready to put her to death – until she revealed that he himself was the father of her child. He then confessed that she was more righteous than he was.

Perhaps it is the mixing of these two parts of the story that make many people believe there is a verse that says it is better to put your seed in the belly of a prostitute than to spill it on the ground. That, however, is an inference (and not one demanded by the text); it is not a direct statement of the Scriptures. The point of this passage is not birth control; it is Onan’s refusal to follow the Levirate marriage custom (law) – and Judah’s not wanting to risk another son’s life by following it with the third son. His own culpability through using his daughter-in-law as a common prostitute (albeit, unknowingly) is also an ugly, ungodly part of this story.

The only bright thing that came out of it was the birth of Perez who was one of the ancestors of Jesus (see Matthew 1:3, 16). It is interesting to me that all of the women listed by Matthew in his genealogy of Jesus had (or appeared to have) some flaw. Tamar acted as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law. Rahab was a prostitute of Jericho. Ruth was a Moabite woman, a foreigner. Bathsheba (who had been the wife of Uriah) committed adultery with David. While Mary was really a virgin, Joseph thought her to be immoral, and almost divorced her over what was in her by the Holy Spirit. Yet, God accepted all of these women and used each of them to bring Jesus into the world.

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3 Responses

  1. “Onan, when he went in to Tamar, did not want to have a child by her, so he spilled his seed on the ground. “. Sounds like he wasn’t ready for the the whole commitment thing. Child support, custody fights, visitation rights… and the in-laws can be a real pain in the back side.

    As for, “The point of this passage is not birth control; it is Onan’s refusal to follow the Levirate marriage custom (law) – and Judah’s not wanting to risk another son’s life by following it with the third son. His own culpability through using his daughter-in-law as a common prostitute (albeit, unknowingly) is also an ugly, ungodly part of this story” I think that we all know that this amount of mental agility, reason and Consciousness doesn’t exercise itself at “that” moment for guy’s.

  2. Liam,
    I think you are right about “that” moment – which probably meant that it was a deliberate choice of Onan’s before he “went in to her” for the purpose of intercourse.

  3. [...] Tamar’s story is in Genesis 38. Though most of the blame for what happened there falls on Judah, her father-in-law and father of her twin sons, she did play the part of a prostitute in this sordid tale of sex and covenant-breaking. Read about this affair here. [...]

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