The Political Animal

Human History as Natural History

A Tale of Two Moseses

New Years Then and Now

 

 

 

Back in the old days, every New Year in the Near East, people acted out a Sacred Marriage rite. Kings played the shepherd, Dumuzi, opposite an anonymous Inanna, the fertility goddess. She'd sing love songs ("plow my vulva, man of my heart!"), take a ritual bath, and put on 19 fruit shaped gold beads, 2 gold finger rings, 2 silver earrings, 2 gold breast ornaments, 6 ivory breast ornaments, 1 golden vulva and so on. Then they'd have sex in a temple, and make the land fertile.

Thousands of years after Dumuzi's name got written into the Sumerian King List, the prophet Ezekiel, who was living in Babylon, had a vision of the north gate at the Jerusalem temple. "And behold, there sat women weeping for Dumuzi," also known as Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14).

They're still weeping now. On the next-to-last day of last year, Moshe Katsav, who was Israel's last president, was convicted of rape, sexual harassment, and committing an indecent act while using force. "Never before has a president in the democratic world been found guilty of such deeds," wrote a professor at Tel Aviv.

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Trial transcripts were made public today. Women who worked under him were given jewels and perfume, told they had beautiful hair and voluptuous lips, and physically approached. "It started with just a few small touches of the leg. After that he moved on." And there was nowhere to run.

Another Moshe had already warned his people about predatory men. On their way out of Egypt, he told them what would happen after they'd got across the Jordan, and settled on the land. They'd want a king to rule over them, so they could be like the nations around them. But they should try and pick a good one. He shouldn't covet Egyptian horses, or silver or gold; "and he shall not multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away" (Deuteronomy 17:17).

All of that happened anyway.  After David took over and became king, he started to collect wives and concubines; he made a fool of himself, uncovering himself in front of the servants of his house.  One afternoon, when he was taking a walk on his own roof, he saw the wife of Uriah the Hittite, taking a bath. "So David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her." A son was conceived; and Uriah, sent off into the thick of battle, was killed. "But the thing that David had done displeased the lord" (2 Samuel 11:4, 27).

Another of David's sons, famously, took after his father. David's oldest son, Amnon, fell in love with David's daughter, Tamar. "Come, lie with me, my sister," he asked her. She said no, but he was stronger than she was, so he forced her -- then he lost interest in her.  Absalom, another of Tamar's brothers, went on to defend her honor (2 Samuel 13:11).

But in the end, it was David and Bathsheba's son, Solomon, who became the next king.  He took what was left of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, and made a forced levy of slaves. Then he raised a forced levy out of Israel -- 30,000 men, sent to Lebanon 10,000 at a time. He got 70,000 burden bearers and 80,000 stone hewers quarry rocks to build the foundations of his cedar palace. Then he moved in with a thousand women (1 Kings 11:3).

Inequalities in politics follow inequalities in sex.  We've gotten unused to that.  

References:

http://pdfcast.org/pdf/politics-as-sex-the-old-testament-case

http://laurabetzig.org/pdf/SJOT.pdf

Amir Gilead Photo Credit:

http://search.creativecommons.org/?q=katsav

 

Laura Betzig, Ph.D., is a Darwinian historian at work on her fourth book, The Badge of Lost Innocence: A History of the West.

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