And the Lord slew him, also

The Bible is full of great, if sometimes divinely ambiguous, passages. Somewhere in the Book of Leviticus (chapter 26) God tells His People about the blessings He will bestow on them if they heed His commandments. He does this in a full paragraph of generous promises. In the next few pages He details the escalating curses He will afflict them with if they disobey His commands. In the end their great-great-grandchildren are eating their own children and fleeing in terror from the rustling of a leaf on a tree [1]. Great stuff from the All-Merciful.

Perhaps my favorite short bit is the brief story of Onan. Onan is known in polite society as the father of onanism, which is Victorian slang for masturbation [2]. It is not recorded that he actually did the solitary, self-pleasuring for which Victorian children were severely punished. Onan, every Bible reader knows, practiced coitus interruptus, as detailed in Genesis 38:9.

The story is that Onan’s older brother died and Onan’s father instructed him to do his duty to his brother, impregnate his widow, as the law demanded, and raise up seed to his brother’s name. This would allow the baby of the eldest son to inherit all of his grandfather’s property when the old man died, cutting Onan out of the inheritance entirely. Onan went to do his duty, had second thoughts, pulled out, spilling his seed on the ground. He apparently got in the habit of doing this, as Er’s widow, Tamar was not getting pregnant in spite of his many conjugal visits. Then, my favorite bit:

And what Onan did was hateful in the sight of the Lord and the Lord slew him, also.


Meaning, one assumes, that the Lord had slain Onan’s older brother, for some wickedness not reported in the Bible.

I am not a faithful or careful reader of the Old Testament, am only fleetingly acquainted with the New Testament. Of course, the fault here is my sloppy reading. The Holy One, blessed be He, didn’t spring this as a mischievous surprise, a punchline, the way I did, He carefully explained everything in Genesis 38:8, writing in His customary third person:

…6 Now Judah acquired a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; so the LORD put him to death. 8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife. Perform your duty as her brother-in-law and raise up offspring for your brother.”…

Genesis 38:6-8

Always remember, the Devil can cite scripture, for a laugh. If you think that’s funny, try swallowing a bite of your child’s tender flesh as you fight your need to flee in terror from the sound of the wind rustling a dead leaf on a tree branch, punk.

Further reading:

Job 5:2
For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one.

[1] from the final part of the great Leviticus 26:

36 “‘As for those of you who are left, I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall, even though no one is pursuing them. 37 They will stumble over one another as though fleeing from the sword, even though no one is pursuing them. So you will not be able to stand before your enemies. 38 You will perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will devour you. 39 Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their ancestors’ sins they will waste away.’”

more here


OK, you got me, I pulled that Victorian reference out of my ass, here’s the actual origin:

early 18th century: from French onanisme or modern Latin onanismus, from the name Onan (Gen. 38:9), who practiced coitus interruptus.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s