Book report — Biblical Seductions


I’ve been enjoying an interesting book called “Biblical Seductions” by Sandra Rapoport. It’s essentially a narrative of six sexual encounters in the Tanach, rewritten and expanded based on midrashic traditions. The six encounters are: Lot and his daughters; Dinah and Shechem; Judah and Tamar; David and Batsheva; Amnon and Tamar; and Ruth and Bo’az.

Each of these encounters has deep meaning in the historical and religious development of Israel but I’ve got a quibble with the title. At least two of these events — what happened to Dinah and to Tamar — should be counted as rapes, not seductions. While it’s true that, in Dinah’s story, the text explicitly includes references to Shechem’s ‘sweet-talking’ her, it also includes the telltale verb ‘A-N-A, meaning to degrade, humble or humiliate (generally–see, for example B-Midbar 29:7 or Breishit 15:13) and, in speaking of sexual encounters, to rape (see Breishit 34:2 about Shechem and Dinah). Likewise, in II Shmu”eil 13:14 and 32, it uses this word to describe what Amnon did to Tamar.

Of course, both those episodes had nuances in the Tanach’s text which are expanded in the midrash and for which Rapoport provides in an easily readable and (more importantly for me) adequately footnoted text. Still, there’s something happening here that reminds me a bit of the old blame-the-woman theory of rape.

But, aside from this quibble, I’ve found this book to be a painless way to absorb a lot of midrashic material and to re-read these incidents with a fresh eye. Definitely recommended.

Shayna

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