Last week Candy wrote:
Welcome to Keeping The Home: "Thursday, October 29, 2009
As for the biblical perspective - how many children is each family to have? Certainly it is not literally a quiver, or each godly person in the Bible should have had 12 children, but most of them did not. We are to be fruitful and multiply. Some families (such as mine, when I was a child) only have one child. I was a miracle child. My parents tried for several years before I finally came along, and I was the last and only. 'Fruitful' is relative to each family.I read several papers on this a few years ago. The "quiver" is the holder full of arrows that an archer carries with him as he goes into battle. Clearly from the warrior aspect, it is much better to face down the enemy with a lot of arrows in your quiver than not. An archer with only a few arrows better sure be a good shot!
The verse that everyone gets so riled up about is from Psalm 127 and goes:
3Behold, (F)children are a gift of the LORD,
The (G)fruit of the womb is a reward.
4Like arrows in the hand of a (H)warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
5How (I)blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
(J)They will not be ashamed
When they (K)speak with their enemies (L)in the gate.
A warrior would be blessed to reach back and find yet another arrow so that he could take his shot. The writer is making an analogy between that and how blessed is each child. I can't imagine a warrior wanting to go into battle demanding to have only a limited number of arrows - I'm pretty sure the Psalm writer would scratch his head at that type of thinking as well.
Candy goes on:
Birth control - The Bible is clear on not murdering babies. After that, the only thing we see of birth control is where a guy spilt his seed on the ground. However, that seed-spilling was not what was condemned, but the fact that he was commanded, by law, to produce seed with his new wife, to raise up a child in his dead brother's name. That was Old Covenant law, and we are not under that now. Even if we were, that instance, in actuality, had little to do with birth control; it had to do with being disobedient to God's law."
Well that guy's name was Onan and that verse was understood pretty universally to indicate a condemnation of contraception until 1930. I wrote about Poor Onan a few years ago. This seems like a good time to bring it here. Brian Harrison the other of The Sin of Onan Revisted up made 5 points that I find pro-contraception Christians tend to overlook when waving this verse away:
1. Indeed, a further problem faces this conventional modern reading of the passage. If simple refusal to give legal offspring to his deceased brother were, according to Genesis 38, Onan's only offence, it seems extremely unlikely that the text would have spelt out the crass physical details of his contraceptive act (cf. v. 9). The delicacy and modesty of devout ancient Hebrews in referring to morally upright sexual activity helps us to see this. As is well-known, Scripture always refers to licit (married) intercourse only in an oblique way: "going in to" one's wife, (i.e., entering her tent or bedchamber, cf. vv. 8 and 9 in the Genesis text cited above, as well as Gen. 6: 4; II Sam. 16: 22; I Chron. 23: 7) or "knowing" one's spouse (e.g., Gen. 4: 17; Luke 1: 34). When the language becomes somewhat more explicit - "lying with" someone, or "uncovering [his/her] nakedness" - the reference is without exception to sinful, shameful sexual acts. And apart from the verse we are considering, the Bible's only fully explicit mention of a genital act (the voluntary emission of seed) is in a prophetical and allegorical context wherein Israel's infidelity to Yahweh is being denounced scathingly in terms of the shameless lust of a harlot (Ez. 23: 20).
2.Was Onan perhaps slain merely for refusing to give offspring to his deceased brother's wife, as most contemporary exegetes maintain? In answering these questions one must take cognizance of the following significant fact: the penalty subsequently laid down in the law of Moses for a simple refusal to comply with the levirate marriage precept was only a relatively mild public humiliation in the form of a brief ceremony of indignation. The childless widow, in the presence of the town elders, was authorized to remove her uncooperative brother-in-law's sandal and spit in his face for his refusal to marry her. He was then supposed to receive an uncomplimentary nick-name - "the Unshod." But since he nonetheless became sole owner of his deceased brother's house and goods, it is evident that his offence was scarcely considered a serious or criminal one - much less one deserving of death. Death, however, is precisely what Onan deserved, according to Genesis. It follows that those who say his only offence was infringement of the levirate marriage custom need to explain why such an offence was punished by the Lord so much more drastically in the case of Onan than than it subsequently was under the Mosaic law. If anything, we would tend to expect the contrary: i.e., that after the law was formalized as part of the Deuteronomic code its violation might be chastised more severely than before, not more mildly. Indeed, while it is clear from the Genesis narrative that the practice of levirate marriage already existed in Onan's time, there is no biblical evidence that he would have been conscious of any divine precept to observe that practice. This problem seems to have been simply ignored, rather than confronted, by those exegetes who cannot or will not see in this passage any Scriptural foundation for the orthodox Judæo-Christian doctrine against masturbation and contraception and unnatural intercourse between a man and woman, is not exactly a pleasant theme to write about.
3.It should be remembered also that we are here dealing here with a culture which so abhorred that other form of "wasting the seed" - the homosexual act - that it prescribed the death penalty for this offence. In the light of this and the other factors we have considered, I submit that it would be not only exegetically unwarranted, but quite anachronistic, to suggest that the Genesis author, in line with the 'political correctness' of late twentieth-century Western liberalism, would have taken a relaxed, indulgent view of Onan's method of preventing conception - his "spill[ing] the seed on the ground." We should note also the parallel between the description of homosexual acts as a "wicked" or "abominable" thing in the Leviticus texts and the similar qualification of what Onan did in Genesis 38: 10.
4. Moreover, in the view of revisionist exegetes, Onan's sin is presented here as being essentially one of omission. We are asked to believe that, according to Genesis, Onan committed no sinful act; rather, that his sin was to refrain from acting appropriately toward his deceased brother because of some sort of selfish interior disposition. But why, in that case, does the text describe Onan's sin as a positive action ("he did a detestable thing")? Coming directly after the author has mentioned what is certainly an outward act (i.e., "spilling the seed"), these words in v. 10 plainly indicate a causal link between that sexual act as such and the wrath and punishment of God.
After all, it is not as if the Old Testament vocabulary was lacking in concepts or words to express sins of interior attitude, when that is the kind of sin the authors had in mind. The "heart" of man - whether righteous or wicked - is a rich and important term of moral reference in Hebrew anthropology, and to the extent that Onan's fault was indeed this siof omission, such lack of piety toward his dead brother would have been an example of what the Israelites called "hardness of heart" (cf. Ex. 7: 13, 22; 8:15; Ps 95:7f), perhaps motivated at bottom by personal vanity (not wanting to father any child who would not be legally his), or even by that sheer covetousness for his brother's property which was forbidden in the Tenth Commandment and in numerous other Old Testament passages.
Once again, however, we must ask what evidence there is that this degree of "hardness of heart" would have been seen in Onan's time as sufficient to merit death. If today's revisionist exegetes are right in claiming that "spilling the seed on the ground" is not, per se, censured in this text, it would follow that even if Onan had simply declined to marry Tamar and so abstained from intimacy of any kind with her, this complete abstinence would have been viewed by the Genesis author as no less offensive to God than the course of action which Onan chose in reality - and which earned him a divine death sentence! But we have already pointed out that such a conclusion leaves unexplained the relative leniency of Deuteronomy 25 in penalizing such offences against the levirate marriage custom.
On the other hand if, as Judæo-Christian tradition has always insisted, "wasting the seed" by intrinsically sterile types of genital action violates that natural law to which all men, Jew and Gentile alike, have always had access by virtue of their very humanness, (cf. Rom. 1: 26-27; 2: 14), this will explain perfectly why Onan's sexual action in itself would be presented in Scripture as meriting a most severe divine judgment: it was a perverted act - one of life-suppressing lust. Indeed, over and above its prohibition by natural law, such deliberately sterilized pleasure-seeking could well have been discerned as a form of contravening one of the few divine precepts which already in that pre-Sinai tradition had been solemnly revealed - and repeated - in positive, verbal form: "Increase and multiply" (Gen. 1: 27-28; 9: 1).
5.until the early years of this century, when some exegetes began to approach the text with preconceptions deriving from the sexual decadence of modern Western culture and its exaggerated concern for 'over-population.' Sad to say, these preconceptions have since become entrenched as a new exegetical 'orthodoxy' which can no longer see even a trace of indignation in this passage of Scripture against intrinsically sterile forms of genital activity as such.
Updated November 4, 2009
Today Candy writes:
I am quiverful, but not of the quiverful movement. I am biblically quiverful - meaning that my quiver is full. Do I want more children? Sure, but I'm fine not having anymore, either. It's not just up to me. It's also up to my husband and God, so I am very happy either way. Do I practice birth control? We do not utilize any internal or external means, nor do we abstain when I ovulate (that would be torture). Instead, we are just "careful." I've never had an "accidental" conception from being "careful," but if I ever do, that is a-okay.Um... if it's up to her husband, and they aren't using any internal or external contraceptive and they don't abstain but are just "careful" then I think Candy should get to know "that guy spilt his seed on the ground" because it sounds as if they are practicing Onanism. Candy defended that this way:However, that seed-spilling was not what was condemned, but the fact that he was commanded, by law, to produce seed with his new wife, to raise up a child in his dead brother's name. That was Old Covenant law, and we are not under that now. Even if we were, that instance, in actuality, had little to do with birth control; it had to do with being disobedient to God's law.
She might want to familiarize herself with the 5 points above. I also have tons of links and other blog articles on this over in my del.icio.us file.