Michael Coogan's book God and Sex was a page turner for me. Not only is it about two of my favorite subjects *ahem* but it is a one stop shop to learn about a complete range of sexual issues in the Bible by a biblical scholar. We learn about sexual terminology in the Hebrew culture like "hands" "feet" "flesh" "nakedness" and "to know."
When Ruth uncovered Boaz's feet (Ruth 3:7-8) guess what she was probably doing folks, yep, probably giving him some head--Yeahhhh baby!!!!
It's all here in an introductory fashion: gender roles in the Bible, polygamy, homosexuality, abortion, marriage and divorce, rape and prostitution. What is crystal clear from reading this book is that the Bible represents a patriarchal society, no if ands or buts about it.
Men ruled over women. They owned them. When a virgin was raped the father lost some of the value of his property, that was the crime. The tenth commandment placed women lower than a husband's property but higher than his servants and animals (for it lists his property in a descending order).
But one of the most striking chapters to me, and my personal favorite, was the last one where Coogan describes the sexual life of Yahweh. While I'm no voyeur this was amazing stuff to me, not the fact that Yahweh had a consort whose name was Asherah (the "queen of heaven" a counterpart to Yahweh as the "king of heaven"). She was not just worshiped as part of the folk religion of that day, but also by kings and officials as well.
William Dever has already documented this stuff in his book Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel.
Like other gods and goddesses Yahweh was sexually active. In one jar fragment Yahweh is pictured with a big dick and his arm around Asherah! The "sons of god" in Genesis 6:1-4 were their offspring. These "sons of god" became problematic to later monotheists so they reinterpreted them to be angels.
Makes sense. Right? What else are you going to do with obvious mythical divine beings like these and a divine family after rejecting your former polytheism to become monotheists. Religionists have been revising their religion from the beginning.
The really fascinating stuff to me in the last chapter was how Yahweh treated his wife Israel. This was a metaphor, or political allegory, of course, but the allegory must have a meaning for the people it was spoken to, otherwise it wouldn't make sense to them. The prophets Hosea, Jeremiah and Ezekiel tell us about Israel's unfaithfulness to Yahweh their husband, and what he did to Israel as a punishment for her unfaithfulness. In Ezekiel 16 and 23 contain "some of the most shocking and sexually explicit language in the Bible" Coogan tells us (p. 183). In this allegory, the unfaithful wives of Samaria and Jerusalem are brutally punished by their divine husband.
At one point he strips them before a mob. Then comes a warning from Yahweh himself, that he did this so "that all women may be instructed not to act promiscuously as you did" (Ezek. 23:48). Coogan tells us the implication is that husbands "can and should imitate God, and wives should learn from the allegory." (p. 187).
Thus these biblical depictions of Yahweh as an insanely jealous and abusive husband are very instructive of the power men had over their women. Surely no omnibenevolent God would ever couch his revelation in these particular cultural analogies that were destructive of women. Surely no omniscient God would do this knowing that in the 21st century people would rightfully rebel against such a concept of god as a fiction created by male chauvinist pigs. And I do.