The Harlot by the Side of the Road

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When we think of Bible Stories, we think of things like David and Goliath, or the three messengers in the furnace. We think of Pharaoh refusing to let Moses' people go, and of his soldiers being swallowed by the Red Sea. We don't tend to think first of rape, murder on a personal level, incest (both willing and not) and the like. We don't think of our heroes committing adultery. But, as The Harlot by the Side of the Road demonstrates, some of the most important and significant tales of the Bible deal with just such human activities.

The book is made up of several chapters, each of which is dedicated to a certain tale of the Bible. Each one seeks to dispel one or several myths about the supposed meaning of the Bible. For instance, are you aware that the sin commited by Onan was not masturbation, but coitus interruptus, and thus referring to masturbation as Onanism is not only foolish, but utterly misleading? Have you heard the story about the daughters of Lot, who are praised for getting their father drunk and having sex with him in their fear that all their peoples are dead, and they must repopulate it? In fact, the two girls had sex with their father on two separate nights - what, he fell for the same "trick" twice? Not likely. Mind you, these are the same daughters, virgin before this tale, that Lot offered to throw to the mob of Sodom before he even knew his visitors were angels. It must have been hard to be a woman of Judah...

Probably the best thing about this book besides its inquiring look at the mindset and purpose of the biblical authors and editors is its easy accessibility. Each story is provided with enough information to make a reasonable assumption about what, in fact, was going on. Readers who want more material about editing of the bible, however, are encouraged to check out Kirsch's King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel, which discusses in more detail one or two of the stories in this book, and considerably more about the unseen but well-felt editors of the Bible.

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