Tuesday, December 08, 2009

FFoB 15: The dangers of female wrestling

One of the most perplexing law in the bible is this one in Deuteronomy 25:11-12.

11 If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, 12 you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.

Of course this is only a real issue if this law is applied literally. Studies have revealed that most of the physical punishments of the OT laws can be mitigated using monetary compensation. You can check out a common and well detailed understanding I found online here and here.

But why the harshness? Loren Rosson argues that it is the issue of shame.

If you want to know other Fun Facts of the Bible...


blogpastor said...

I read your post and the link with some interest as well as a smirk.

My take is that the punishment is harsh because of the importance of procreation, having descendants,and all the implicaitions of inheritance and land.

SHWong said...

Well, procreation is extremely important in those days, so your point certainly deserves consideration.

However, there are some possible arguments against your take.

1. Why specifically wife? If grabbing private parts is the issue, shouldn't the prohibition be towards all potential grabbers (especially male buddies)?

2. I know not of any women with such strength as to permanently damage the jewels with such a grip. Maybe women were stronger in those agricultural days?

Sze Zeng said...

I think the punishment can be understood within the patriarchal society of that time.

When man fights with each other, they don't attack the private part because all men know that that is unfair as it is the given weakest part of the male's body. If a man hit another man's private part in a fight, it is a shameful act as that will call off the fight altogether. There can be no fight to determine who is mightier when one is down from an injury at the genital. Hitting the opponent's genital defeats the purpose of fighting. Even until today, men's fight do not start or end with hitting private parts.

Women also know about this. So when a woman want to prevail over a man, it is very easy: grab his balls.

Now here is the point, in order to protect men's supremacy over women this male's weakness must be concealed. And the best way to conceal it is to forbid it. And the best way to forbid it is by legislating severe punishment. When the attack on this weakest part is forbidden, women literally who are physically weaker than men would lose any way to prevail over men. That will maintain the superior symbol of men over women.

So before the introduction of the law, when a man beats a woman, the woman who can actually retaliate back and win the fight by hitting his balls. That will allow all women to overcome men by hitting them at that part. But the ancient men know that this will take away men's superior place in the society. So they introduced the law. So even now in a dual-gender fight, the woman cannot hit the man's genital. And this gives the man, who is physically stronger, the upper-hand over the woman.

SHWong said...

Thanks Joshua, for your input. However, I think you are giving this ball-grabbing maneuver too much credit. If it is about the degree of vulnerability, won't a kick do more damage? Shouldn't that prohibition be the first concern rather than grabbing?

Sze Zeng said...

My response would be that the female in the ancient world cannot lift up their legs as that will expose them and will be regarded as shameful. This is implied especially in Exo 20 and 28 where priests are not to expose their nakedness in the temple. So the society at that time consider such exposure as inappropriate. And since the women have to cover themselves from such exposure, they wouldn't want to lift up their legs to kick balls. So the better alternative is to grab them. :)

Make sense?

SHWong said...

Good point about the kicking.