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A Theology of Sexuality and its Abuse: Creation, Evil, and the Relational Ecosystem, Part 2, by Andrew J. Schmutzer

The way travelers encounter the city “gate,” whether welcoming or ominous, sets a *judicial tone for the entire narrative; stories that use menacing meetings of various kinds (Gen 19:1–2; cf. Judg 19:15).164 Further, the “door” signals a deeper threshold. In the case of Lot, he is a keeper of both boundaries (e.g., gate, door), vital protection for vulnerable strangers. The door functions as “personal space,” a gateway to a far more private world (cf. Song 7:13; 8:9). Thus in these stories, movement itself is thematized with a threefold analogy: (1) entering the city gate, (2) passing through the door of a house, (3) and the threat of sexually penetrating the male or female body.165 Sexual violence threatens every group, from male bodies to Lot’s daughters, and finally Lot himself (19:5, 8, 9; cf. v. 36)! Breaching so many boundaries is not only hostility, but festers into greater violence, social disintegration, and vandalism of community shalom for all.

The attempted violation of the house by the men of Sodom is the very image of rape … In all narratives of sexual violence in the Bible, doors and entryways are central concepts in establishing narrative space—marking a clear boundary between inside and outside—and the site of violation is always on the rapist’s own territory.166

In these stories, rape—an abhorrent misuse of power—is both crime and catalyst, enflaming further brutalities. What happens to aliens and strangers is the antithesis of the command to “love them as yourself” (Lev 19:34). Rape is the symmetrical opposite of hospitality.167 Not surprisingly, hospitality is implicitly tied to sexual danger.168 Like a grotesque meal, “the host in Judges 19 offers the Gibeahites the concubine and his daughter as alternatives” to his male guest.169 The rape of the concubine (Judges 19) is literally situated in a context of “religious, social, and moral decline,”170—“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg 17:6 [chap. 19]; 21:25 RSV). How true: the concubine dies “with her hands on the threshold” of the door, what should have been a “safe zone” (19:26). The host shockingly spoke out of his moral conditioning, “do to them what is good in your own eyes!” (19:24 AT).

For Tamar, Amnon uses the door first to isolate a nurse, then exclude the shamed (2 Sam 13:17, 18). By contrast, the well-ordered Hebrew home was to be God-fearing, the very doors themselves testified of God’s law and family shalom (Deut 6:9; cf. Exod 13:9; Matt 23:5).

Such stories can bring a rare expression of what Robert Alter calls “narrated monologue,”171 the narrator’s moral assessment or judgment—“They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing against Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done” (Gen 34:7b; cf. Judg 19:23; 2 Sam 13:12). A thematic profile is also evident in God’s absence or silence. So it is significant, I believe, when God’s name is entirely withheld from a chapter of rape, deceit, and gruesome murder (Dinah, chap. 34), only to reappear in chapter 35 with “God” [10x], “El Bethel” [1x], “El-Shaddai” [1x], a divine audience (35:13) and eight occurrences of the names “Bethel” and “Israel.”

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Category: Fall 2013, Ministry, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Andrew J. Schmutzer, Ph.D., is a Professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL). He regularly writes and speaks about sexual abuse from a theological perspective, to help equip churches to care for the abused in their midst. Andrew is the editor of the collaborative book, The Long Journey Home: Understanding and Ministering to the Sexually Abused (Wipf & Stock, 2011), a contributor to numerous books including Finding Our Way Through the Traffick: Exploring the Complexities of a Christian Response to Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking (Regnum Books, 2017), The Moody Handbook of Preaching (Moody, 2008), Naming Our Abuse: God's Pathways to Healing for Male Sexual Abuse Survivors (Kregel, 2016), Between Pain and Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering (Moody, 2016), and Genesis: See Our Story Begin (NLT Study Series). He is one of the editors of The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul (Moody, 2013), and author of Be Fruitful and Multiply: A Crux of Thematic Repetition in Genesis 1-11 (Wipf & Stock, 2009). He can be reached at aschmutz@moody.edu.

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