“A faith that cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.”
- Arthur C. Clarke
“You should not commit adultery” is quite a fair suggestion for anyone to make. But when it’s not a friendly suggestion but a Commandment, and a certain person (Onan) ignores said Commandment, and the maker of the Commandment (God) also ignores his own Commandment (which allegedly covers all of Mankind,) what we’re left with is a great big embarrassing contradictory hot mess, a la -
And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also.
While Onan was fornicating with his brother’s wife, he felt a moment of guilt and realised he shouldn’t make his sister-in-law pregnant, because, well, that would be wrong. Reaching a mental compromise, he continued giving it rizz right up until climax, at which time he pulled out and ejaculated onto the floor.
God, having perved over the entire sordid scene, was unhappy. He wasn’t unhappy because of the adultery (oh, no; he conveniently forgot about that Commandment for a moment,) but rather because of Onan climaxing onto the ground when he could have impregnated his brother’s wife instead. And so, God, quite arbitrarily and contrary to his own tenets, killed Onan.
In summation, although committing adultery is breaking the 7th Commandment (you might also be breaking the 10th Commandment if your brother and sister-in-law happen to live nearby,) it’s apparently okay to have sex with your brother’s wife (must be in the small-print somewhere). Just don’t dare to pull out at the money shot or the hand of God will smite you from existence, even though killing someone (even if it’s God who’s doing the killing) is breaking the 6th Commandment.
I have added the following thanks to altruistico highlighting a couple of valid points:
Admittedly the fact that Er (Onan’s brother) was dead is central to the whole thing. Why, then, is Onan having sex with Er’s wife if he doesn’t intend to uphold the law of the time? He should only be having sex with her to fertilise her and give her child from her dead husband’s bloodline. He does have sex with her, but not to give her child, only to fulfil his own adulterous desires. To clarify that: if Onan was willing to have sex with Tamar (Er’s widowed wife, Onan’s sister-in-law) after his brother was dead, then he was likely harbouring such thoughts while his brother was still alive.
Let’s not forget it was Onan and Er’s dad, Judah, who told Onan he must have sex with Tamar. The same Judah who at a later time thought he was having sex with a prostitute (good excuse), only to discover she was actually his dead son’s wife. Oh, and Tamar later gave birth to twins from Judah’s seed. Well done, Judah. And why did God kill Er in the first place? Because Er was ‘wicked’? Hmm. Nope, that’s all the exposition there is. God killed Er. Then God, through Judah, told Onan to impregnate Er’s wife. Onan sort of gave a half-assed job of it, wanting the nookie but not the after-responsibility, and so God killed Onan, too. And God ignored the whole Tamar/Judah thing because ‘technically’ one was a widow and the other a widower and therefore not committing adultery or incest or anything, really. And somewhere within all this there’s a moral being taught.
God, while admittedly acting within the bounds of ancient Jewish law concerning adultery as it was defined back then, still acted as an utter arse as he does throughout the entire Old Testament. Let’s face it, God would have probably smote Onan even if Onan had injected his seed into Tamar but failed to give her child. Such were the whims of the Old Testament’s God. The fact that his attitude perks up some in the watered-down sequel fails to impress me; you can’t teach an old god new tricks.
Any deity who goes around smiting people willy-nilly is only going to receive worship through fear, which is exactly what the scribes of the Old Testament wanted – to bring their nation to heel using the best technique at their disposal. Once you’ve got them, you’ve got them. But not only did these ancient men and women fear their god, they also truly believed in him. Two thousand years later and the vast percentage of the world’s population still believes in the deity of the Judean/Christian faith.
Can you imagine what would happen if someone went back in time and handed out thousands of copies of Michael Moorcock’s omnibus collection of the Eternal Champion? I shudder to think.