A word on euphemisms. Verse five, explaining marriage, says “Her husband’s brother shall go in to her.” The NCT has “he shall enter her place.” Why am I having flashes of 50 Shades of Gray and its obsession with “down there”? This is some serious Ikea erotica. The NRSV renders verse 11 by saying the woman is “reaching out and seizing his genitals,” while the NCT calls it his “vital organ” or “sore spot.”
From what I’ve been told, parents frequently do this sort of thing with their children, having made-up names for genitals. Were my parents the only ones that used technical terms in explaining the (only, as far as they let me know) difference between boys and girls?This chapter, like the last one, has more good in it than bad. It sets, for example, a maximum limit on how many times you can whip someone for a crime, at forty lashes. Apparently other Middle Eastern laws allowed up to a hundred. While levirate marriage may be bizarre from a modern perspective, it was a way to take care of widows, and if Ruth is any indication, passing over your brother’s wife wasn’t quite as shaming as this chapter suggests. The banning of using different weights makes more sense that this was pre-coins, so people would weigh out gold and silver. It’s a rule against cheating in trade.But as usual there are decidedly negative things that I can’t figure out any positive spin on. One is particularly bizarre: cutting off a woman’s hand if she grabs another man’s genitals. Um, why? It’s very random, and not exactly eye-for-an-eye. Or is the hidden implication here that she actually, er, removed them? Or is it that, by touching another man’s genitals, her hand has been “unfaithful” to her husband… even though she’s defending him in a fight? It’s also bizarrely specific. Was this a common thing? Were women going around grabbing the genitals of the men their husbands were arguing with?Is this all a euphemism for something else?The chapter also ends with a command to “blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; do not forget.” (v 19) Setting aside the paradox here (never forget to not remember the Amalekites?) the justification in Deuteronomy is interesting. “[The Amalekites] attacked you on the way, when you were faint and weary, and struck down all who lagged behind you” (v 18), but when Exodus reported on the battle, all it reported was “Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim” (Ex. 17:8). In fact, the previous verses said that the Israelites had been camped at Rephidim for a while and had water, so the idea that they were weary, or that people were “lagging behind” doesn’t quite mesh. This is just more evidence of different versions of the same story, I suppose, and Deuteronomy wanted to highlight that what the Amalekites did was unjust, i.e. preying on the weak, which is something you’re not supposed to do.Unless she grabs someone’s genitals in a fight. Really, that verse is just bizarre.

The Japanese: houtei “(criminal) court,” shuttou suru “to appear, to go before” (v 1), muchiutsu “to whip,” zaijou “crime” (v 2), iyashimeru “to degrade” (v 3), takkoku suru “to thresh,” kutsuko “muzzle” (v 4), boufu “one’s late husband” (v 5), giri no shimai “sister-in-law” (v 6), giri no kyoudai “brother-in-law,” kobamu “to refuse, to turn down” (v 7), iiharu “to insist, to assert” (v 8), okosu “to raise up” (v 9), kyuusho “vital organ, sore point” (v 11), seikaku “correct, exact” (v 15), tsukarekiru “to exhaust,” shingari “rear,” rakugosha “derelict, dropout” (v 18), nuguisaru “to wipe off, to blot out” (v 19).

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