27 February 2009

Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord (so the Lord slew him)

And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. Genesis 38:7
This is the first of God's named murder victims.

We know his name (Er), his father's name (Judah), his mother's name (Shuah), and his wife's name (Tamar). And we know that "he was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him." But that's it.

God killed Er for doing something, but the Bible doesn't say what it was. So what did Er do?

Did he get drunk and lie around naked in his tent and then curse his unborn grandson (and all of his descendants) with slavery because his son saw him drunk and naked? No that was Noah, "a preacher of righteousness".

Did he abandon his first son to die in the desert and then show his willingness to murder his second son for God as a human sacrifice? No that was Abraham, a perfect Friend of God.

Did he offer his two virgin daughters to a sex-crazed mob of angel rapers and then get drunk and impregnate them? No that was Lot, a just and righteous man.

So what was it that pissed God off so much that he just had to kill him?

You'd think if it was important enough to kill him, it would be important enough to tell us why.

God's next killing: Onan for spilling his seed


Unknown said...

Weird as it seems, this whole incident is in fact a display of God's grace. Through disobedience by Judah's family, people died. Keep in mind that this was the beginning of the nation Israel, so God did horrid things to make it clear that He was not joking when He have His do's and don'ts to His people. Same thing happens in the NT with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. This was the beginning of the Jerusalem church, and their deaths were warnings that fellowship means individual sacrifice; there is no place for ego or self in either early Israel or the early church.

Steve Wells said...

Thanks for clearing that up for us, Steve. You got all that from one verse? (And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.) Very impressive!

But I agree with with you on one thing. "God did horrid things."

That's quite a god you've got there, Steve.

BTW, what do you think Er did?

Raytheist said...

It is impossible to hide behind the doctrine of Grace to justify the killing of Er, without documenting what he himself personally did. There is nothing gracious about declaring "Er is wicked, I'm going to kill him" while allowing the likes of Abraham, Noah, Lot, and so many others to stay alive, especially after their own wickedness has been written. There is no grace, and definitely no apparent justice in any of this.

Uruk said...


Ingenious post! Simply ingenious!

Love the pic you posted, too.

Brian_E said...

I know...I bet Er had a foreskin! That really seems to piss god off.

busterggi said...

Obviously Er wickedness was so unspeakable that no one could say what it was, that's why it isn't said.

I need a cup of tea, I'm talking like a believer.

Markus Arelius said...

Maybe he too spilled ejaculate on the ground, or deposited it outside of a woman's vagina?

Seems plausible given the follow up events.

uzza said...

You're misreading it. It never says he was 'wicked'; for that you have to do something. It says he was "wicked IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD"; for that it's enough if the lord just thinks you've done something. Kind of like being a suspected terrorist.

Unknown said...

Well according to Shlomo Yitzhaki [better known by the acronym Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki), (February 22, 1040 – July 13, 1105), was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of the first comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). He is considered the "father" of all commentaries that followed on the Talmud] he did in fact commit a wicked act - he would pull out before he finished and he would finish on the ground. He did this to keep his wife (Tamar) from becoming pregnant, for he wanted her to remain beautiful and appealing to him for longer.

Remember not to look to deeply into the literal translation of the words.

Unknown said...

Couple of thoughts:

Maybe he ate shellfish or forgot to shave or broke that rule about keeping milk and dairy products together or whatever the hell it is.

Or maybe this story is the origin of the saying:
To forgive is divine."

Oh, wait, Er erred and god saw him erring, or god saw him as wicked, slight distinction there, yet he was NOT divinely forgiven.
"You look wicked to me, my lad, I'm going to kill you.", sayeth the lord.

Well what chance does that give the poor bugger then? He didn't even say "Jehovah" ferchrissake (oops, now I'm doomed).

joshua walker said...

From a literary standpoint, this passage functions as excellent foreshadowing: now we, the readers, understand the decisiveness and thoroughness of the punishments the main character will dole out. Further, we are placed outside his mind and decision making process, and are only left with the knowledge that this god demands full obedience.

Or as the other Steve said: sometime you have to make an example out of the bad boy in your class if you want the rest to pay attention.

Steve Wells said...

I agree, Joshua. "This passage functions as an excellent foreshadowing: Now we, the readers, understand" the absurd, cruel, and vicious nature of God's arbitrary killings.

Or as the other Steve might have said: sometimes you have to kill millions of people in horrible ways for no good reason to get the rest to pay attention.

Unknown said...

At least, at this stage in the story, God only punishes the wrongdoer. Later we learn that He is a ‘vengeful’ God, visiting his anger upon the third and fourth generations of those who do wrong ‘in His sight’. This is somewhat at odds with the Christian model of an infinitely forgiving God. For (us) Jews, we are NOT promised forgiveness, even should we repent of our sins. Now, you might consider this a tad churlish of our Creator. However, I feel very strongly, that the notion of a vengeful God is more acceptable than one who says, “OK, so you murdered, maimed, raped, stole, and wore clothes made of mixed fires...... but, hey, you’re only human. So I forgive you. Just try a little harder not to do this again”


So in otherwords, steve:

"Er crimethink doubleplusungood in eyes of Big Brother. Big Brother crimestop doubleplusgood make Er unperson. All jacob's issues must make goodthink and have goodsex. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU!!"

... and that somehow makes more sense than either this verse or steve's explanation.

Steve's explanation makes god sound even MORE Orwellian than the passage itself does, sadly, as these are the exact same methods that Big Brother would use in 1984 to subdue the populace. He does cruel things to people under the guise that he loves them and under the false veil of grace, all for the purpose of keeping his people under control.

In fact, the only real difference between the two is that Big Brother is (correctly) seen as a villain. Yet "god" is seen as a hero (at least by steve), even though they do the exact same things for the exact same reason.

fm said...

Well, I guess it must have been generic wickedness. Or maybe something serious like getting a tattoo. You never know with this god. But in my book, someone getting a tattoo is a perfectly good reason to slay them. God seems to agree.

Unknown said...

None are right in His sight, that is the fact that none can wrape their mind around. It is God who is right and we, His creation question His motives. What gives us the right to question. He is the creator, we just the insignificant creation expresly created in His image to shine forth the glory of His person on this earth that He created exclusivly for us. And what do we do, we become wise in our oun concite, we lie murder destroy. And we have the audacity to question God. You are all just God haters as was all those that God had to distroy because of the intense hatred that is as a virus that spreades and mutiplies if not kept in check. And it, hatred will not be irraticated completly until God kills off all viral seeds of doubt that only the believing is left.
I would rather live my life believing in God and at the end there be none, than live my not believing and be judged by Him.

Believer said...

The wages of sin is death. We are all sinners and deserve to die. Jesus died in our place so that we can have eternal life. It is no surprise to me that God would judge some people with death. Those who are allowed to live long enough to die of natural caused will die and face judgment at that time.

Whether on dies prematurely at the hands of God due to their sin or they allowed to live in sin until they die of natural causes in their old age is entirely up to God. We can not expect God to answer to our human reasoning about justice etc.

What is very important to note however is that God did not spare his own son Jesus because He believes strongly that the wages of sin is death. All those who believe in Jesus will have eternal life i.e. they will spared from eternal death in the lake of fire.

Steven Hawkdahl said...

He did tell you why?! It's right in the verse Er was "WICKED". If God would have to tell you what Er did, that would only mean you don't know God or the Bible, because God's Holy standard is throughout the Bible. Just in case you start more nonsense about things you think were bad, but the patriarchs were still called righteous, this also shows your shameful ignorance of the Bible because "wickedness" or "righteousness" is not based on something you did, but on overall character displayed through your lifetime.

P..R said...

Ive been a christian for a while now. And just yesterday I had this desire to read the bible from the beginning slowly and carefully because i really want to know how God really was and is. So as I read Ive found my self becoming more skeptical than ever. Things that dont make sense to me. Such as this situation with Er and Onan. Why would my God the God that Ive prayed to could be so angry espeacially this being all the way at the beginning in Genesis. From the very beginning of creation life has been nothing but a struggle for all of us. Even till this day evil and sin dwells among us everyday. Why couldnt my God create us just perfect like he is. Why did he create something that breaks his heart and makes him so angry. God creator of all why did you create me so imperfect. Just like you took Er and Onan out of this world, why cant you take evil out just as well you are creator of ALL.

Unknown said...

i mean still wheres the proof er even did any wrong.... this just shows the true sid of the imaginary friend you all call your god and trying to make er look like the bad guy is fucking sad... you know damn well that wouldnt stand up in a court of law