Bible Legends, Church Life

Did God Actually Kill Onan? For spilling Semen?

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Judah & Tamar – It’s all about TAMAR! Maybe. But could it have been all about JESUS?

Did God Actually Kill Onan? What? No, He did not…

Onan is not your regular Bible Hero.. By the way, who is Onan? Have you ever heard about him? Or her?

Well, to make the short story shorter, Onan was the second son of a Bible Legend named JUDAH. Judah had three sons with his wife Ms Shua (we never really got her name, but her father’s name was Shua). Someday I will do a story on Judah; but suffice to say, Judah’s life was riddled with controversies as kept moving from one controversy to another. However, God had an eye on him, because from Judah continued the scarlet thread that led to the birth of Jesus the Saviour. #ALineageOfGrace

Back to the story, Judah married his controversial wife Ms Shua and they had three sons – Er, ONAN and the little Shelah. Whoa! Finally we are hearing about Onan. Now this is where the story became stranger than fiction: Er grew up and got married. He married a young lady named Tamar, a lady who would become a “curse” in Judah’s life, a thorn in his flesh… Was it her fault? Or was it Fate? Or Destiny?

Genesis 38:6 – In the course of time, Judah arranged for his firstborn son, Er, to marry a young woman named Tamar.

Genesis 38:7 – But Er was a wicked man in the LORD’s sight, so the LORD took his life.

Genesis 38:8 – Then Judah said to Er’s brother Onan, “Go and marry Tamar, as our law requires of the brother of a man who has died. You must produce an heir for your brother.”

Genesis 38:9 – But Onan was not willing to have a child who would not be his own heir. So whenever he had intercourse with his brother’s wife, he spilled the semen on the ground. This prevented her from having a child who would belong to his brother.

Genesis 38:10 – But the LORD considered it evil for Onan to deny a child to his dead brother. So the LORD took Onan’s life, too.

This is so bizarre, to say the least. And the questions just won’t stop…

“Man dies mysteriously after allowing his semen spill to the ground… and they said God killed him” O_O

You may want to ask: Why is God killing people? Why would God kill two brothers? Since when did it become a crime punishable by death to allow your semen spill to the ground? If God really cared about descendants, why did He kill the firstborn Er in the first place? And how did killing Onan produce the much wanted descendants? What did Er do that was so grievous that God killed him just like that? And is there really a god who goes about killing evil people?

We probably would get some insight from Job in the Bible who lived shortly before the time of Judah. He lost everything, including his wealth and children, yet he ascribed it to GOD who took them away from him! He said: “The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!” (Job 1:21)

However, we all know that the Lord did not do that to him. Adverse events usually happen to people, and in an attempt to find closure, people try to find meaning and give explanations to the tragedy they are going through. “Er was a wicked person, and Onan was a mean and selfish brat. That must be why God took them.” And everybody believed it must be God killing the bad boys. That is so wrong!

Harmful Cultural Practices against Women

Tamar was married to Er. Er’s wickedness, whatever it was, was obvious to everyone. He died and everybody believed he deserved it. That was how his widow Tamar became Judah’s responsibility, and he’s got to make things right by her.

We need to understand that Onan did marry Tamar, according to traditional rites recognized at that time. That was a decision Judah made to protect the young widow, Tamar. Onan was a single young man and for all we know, Tamar was his only wife. But Onan was not happy with that decision to marry Tamar – because if they had any children together, culturally, the children didn’t belong to him but to his late brother. He did not want that kind of life. He wanted his own thing. And the way to achieve that was to make sure that his brother’s widow remain childless while he find his own wife and have his own children. Besides, if there is no heir for his brother, he Onan could inherit his brother’s possessions, leaving his widow stranded. So, for the period they were together, every sexual encounter ended the same way – as sexual ‘extercourse’, because the semen never went in – he kept spilling his semen on the bedding, on the ground, or wherever he wanted, thus frustrating the woman and he just wouldn’t give her the only thing she needed – a child. This is not a good way to treat the woman who is trapped in the family.  Unfortunately, shortly afterwards, he died, and the popular opinion was that God killed him, his sin being selfish intercourse with his wife.

The story continues in the following verses – Tamar was sent away from Judah’s family back to her parents and nobody in Judah’s family was willing to take care of her and give her the protection she needed. Even then they continued to monitor her and were willing to take another unbelievable action, like killing her or worse burning her alive when they learned that she could have been sleeping with other men!

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Judah’s Cruelty: “Go back to your parents’ home and remain a widow there until my son Shelah is old enough to marry you…” (vs 11) and in vs 24: “Bring her out, and let her be burned”

Harmful cultural practices against women have been around for centuries, and this is just one of them. It is wrong and unacceptable that a vulnerable woman like Tamar was thrown forth and back in a family by people who should protect her. Onan by law had the choice to refuse to marry her or raise kids for his late brother, but he would rather save his face from the publicity involved in refusing to marry her – so he married her and tormented her for the rest of that marriage.

This chapter has generated so many confusion, controversies and mockery in today’s world. God has been judged and condemned – for being such an impulsive killer, and for matters ranging from masturbation, to pornography and contraceptives. Young people have been told that if they masturbate, they will die like Onan. Couples have been told that God hated contraception, including withdrawal methods, that was why Onan died. And some dirty minds keep asking why God was watching a couple having s3x!

God did not kill Onan or Er! They might have been the bad boys, or the mean and selfish young men based on their upbringing and life choices, but if they deserved to die for reasons like spilling the semen, so did Tamar and Judah – for prostitution and incest. The righteousness and the justice of God cannot be consistently matched or justified by these isolated events.

Moral of the Lesson…

One could argue, what is Genesis chapter 38 doing in the Bible? Well, looking at the big picture, it’s all about Jesus. Back to my initial point: Jesus must come through the lineage of Judah, andin fact, the prophecy of Judah’s lineage leading to the messiah had not been released at this point, yet Judah’s life was filled with so much controversies, tragedies and wrong choices. Yass, the devil fought tooth and nail to corrupt the seed. So it was not about Judah or Er or Onan, it was not even about Tamar… It was all about Jesus. And till today, many times we fail to see that picture; in fact, the entire chapter (Genesis 38) has been so crowded with all the obvious atrocities written in that chapter that we fail to see the precious seed fighting so hard to remain uncorrupted. Look beyond the present, because even in the chaos, God is still in control .

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Judah’s immediate family tree. Not cool at all!

Watch this space while you think about this family tree! Judah really had it bad.Thankfully, Judah eventually found redemption. But that again is a story for another day ❤

All scriptures, unless otherwise stated, are from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation.