ANOTHER VIEW ON ONAN
By “A concerned Friend”
What has been written on spilling the seed by Onan has been used to burden many, many consciences. Nobody has the right to burden the conscience wherein God does not burden it.
There is probably no married man, not even such as condemns the spilling of the seed most vehemently, who is not guilty of spilling the seed. Marriage is given not only for producing children, but also for the joy of sexual intercourse. Since this is so, every man who has intercourse with his wife during her infertile period is spilling seed. Then in intercourse during the fertile period almost always ONLY ONE SPERMATOZOON penetrates the egg of the female. ALL THE REST, MILLIONS OF THEM, ARE SPILLED, WASTED. The Hebrew word used in Genesis 38 means to waste, corrupt, destroy, devastate. All but one are destroyed, wasted. Spilled, if you will. THEY DO NOT PRODUCE.
God himself destroys the seed – in regular intercourse, in night losses, in menstruation. All natural processes.
Onan is said to have been killed by God because he spilled the seed. THERE IS NOTHING IN THE WHOLE BIBLE THAT SPECIFICALLY CONDEMNS THE SPILLING OF THE SEED.
BUT THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE BIBLE THAT SAYS THAT THE BROTHER OF A DEAD HUSBAND SHOULD GO INTO HIS WIDOW TO RAISE UP CHILDREN FOR THE DEAD – specifically the firstborn of the union. All kinds of sexual sins are condemned in the Word, but not once the spilling of the seed.
A brother could refuse to marry the dead brother’s wife and not be killed for it. And so it is said the only difference between such an unwilling brother and Onan was that Onan spilled the seed and that therefore God killed him – IMMEDIATELY, according to Luther. There was another difference – a big difference. Onan did not refuse to marry Tamar, his brother’s widow. If he had, Tamar, according to Deuteronomy 25: 5-10, could have taken off his shoe and spit into this face and thus shamed him. No, he married her. But he destroyed the seed during intercourse. Why? “Lest that he should give seed to his brother.” THAT was his sin. To raise up seed for the brother was why Judah told Onan to marry Tamar, to go into her. We read: “And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also.” The Lord had slain Onan’s wicked brother before that.
What was the “thing” that displeased the Lord? Onan did three things: 1. he spilled the seed; 2. he prevented birth; 3. he refused to give seed to his brother, although he married the widow. The whole idea was to raise up seed for his brother. Spilling the seed was only a means to that end, wicked end. It was like taking a vow and not fulfilling it.
It is a question whether God killed Onan immediately. The Hebrew verb used in Genesis 38:9 means in the tense used there (Piel): “Often, much, for a long time.” It seems that God gave him time to repent of his refusal to give his brother seed. But Onan persisted. So God killed him.
The NIV and AAT both translate, not “when,” but “whenever.” So also other translators.
How can anybody say that spilling the seed is worse than adultery or even incest?Especially disturbing is this in view of the fact that nowhere in the Bible is spilling of the seed specifically forbidden! How can we condemn it if God himself spills the seed – in night losses, in intercourse, in menstruation?
It is said that wasting the seed is a violation of God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. In the first place this is not an absolute command. Jesus did not marry. Paul did not marry. Many cannot marry even it they would. Secondly, God does not say anywhere that we must have as many children as possible. A person may be said to be fruitful even if he has only six children although having been capable of having many more.
God told our first parents to fill the earth. The earth is pretty well filled up. If all people from the beginning had had all the children they could possibly bear there would perhaps be no standing room on the earth.
It is said that God would supply the need of all the children brought into the world even if everybody produced as many children as possible, that a large family should not worry anybody. But we all know families, large families, that cannot buy their food, that cannot pay their rent, that are suffering. They are families in our own churches.
Does this mean that Jesus failed to keep his promise in Matthew 6? No! If they are alive, the promise is being kept. He has has ways of providing. Jesus may be testing the family. Or the family lacks faith or initiative. Paul was hungry at times. In Hebrews 11 we read of the martyrs, who at times were destitute. A destitute family may hesitate to add to an already suffering group.
If what Provan wrote is true, then nobody will be saved – outside of a handful of a handful. If any form of wasting the seed is sinful, then nobody will be saved – not any married folk. If any form of birth control is wrong, then perhaps a few people will be saved. I do not presume to advocate any form. But I don’t want to judge those who use some forms of it, even if it involves wasting some seed. I believe it is a faulty exegesis to condemn all spilling of the seed on the basis of the Onan story. I repeat, EVERYBODY DOES IT IN SOME WAY OR OTHER. The seed is not human life. If it were, think of the millions of lives wasted in every intercourse.
I end as I began: Nobody has the right to burden consciences wherein God does not burden them.
A Concerned Friend