bible christianity ethics politics theology

rapists into lovers?

Just reading those intro chapters of Genesis, and I noticed what seems quite a contrast between the human vocation statements in the two creation stories.

  • Gen 1:28 says humans are to ‘fill‘ (מָלֵא mala – be full; fill) and ‘subdue‘ (כָּבַשׁ kabash – be raped; subjugate; be humiliated; etc.) the earth…
  • Then Gen 2:15 says they are to ‘tend‘ (עָבַד abad – work, serve) and ‘keep‘ (שָׁמַר shamar – keep, watch, preserve) it.

Quite striking! The first has images of conquest; of a top-down power play… The second has images of care-giving; of a bottom-up servant-hood…

I wonder if this would be the starting place for a biblical theme of violence?  Perhaps, just as there is a tension between priestly (pro-temple) accounts and prophetic (pro-justice) accounts in the OT, this also evidences a tension between understandings concerning violence and war…

…and just as Jesus agreed with the prophets (over against the ‘religious’ priests), he also agreed with those who were the servants and preservers of creation (over against the violent ones who would kill for religious liberty)!

Thoughts and insights welcome.

4 replies on “rapists into lovers?”

This from Tim, who would know such things – and I hope won’t mind me posting his email here! :)

Dale, I’d be cautious about some of the strongly worded bits of this, while kabash is a strong word it probably means no more than the traditional “subdue” in this context. Also your phrasing tends to set two parts of Scripture against each other as opponents: a goodie and a baddie… I think rather thinking of two “people” who each stress different insights (however strong their disagreements may have been) have now been brought together because the combination is more true than either alone…

PS the only case where kabash MIGHT be translated “rape” I think that misses the richness of the text Est 7:8 is richer than that, it hints at rape (by using the word “subdue”) but also suggests that Haman is trying to put the woman “in her place” cf. ch.1, which means usurping Ahazeureus’ authority (the obbosite of Haman being “subdued” to A etc…

Kabash seems to mean “bring under proper authority”, this is a much more Priestly notion, and one the prophets will not accept too easily, so actually works well for your point – as long as it is expressed in a way tghat does not overstate their disagreement!

…so, in light of Tim’s comments, I’d have to say that whilst there is indeed a contrast between the two (one still is expansionist and the other is preservationist), I’ve portrayed the term ‘kabash’ in its worst possible lexical connotation, and taken it out of its context really in order to do so. Bad exegesis Dale! :)

‘kabash’ seems to best be understood here in the sense of developing the land to bring it under your proper [pro-fruitful, pro-functioning] authority, rather than go out violently force yourself onto the land!

Two more things:

There is a contrast here, in the direction you point out (just not the gulf you suggested) and that’s what happens when God’s people discuss things, we each stress some part(s) of the truth, put both together and in the tension you get fuller truth. Scripture does this often, look at my favourite chapter Is 40, no sooner have we had the picture of God as a warrior king returning in triumphal procession (Is 40:10 where all the language is potentially military), than we get God cuddling little lambs (Is 40:11) – which is true? Both!

There is only one case where kabash can support the understanding that it refers to rape, when Amon rapes Tamar. The action there is rape (no question) but does the word mean “rape” or “subdue” (after all it is rape in the messiah’s household we are talking about, maybe the author prefered a euphemism, or maybe they thought using a euphemism actually made the facts (which are evident) more shocking…

Comments are closed.