The Bible is a Christian’s documentation of the life of Jesus Christ, the guide for living a Christ-like life, and is filled with the accounts of God interacting with the Israelites—it is the Book. So I know you’re reading this title like, “This sounds like blasphemy.” Well, we certainly don’t intend for it to be blasphemy.
Within the Bible, especially the Old Testament, we get a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived nearly 3,000 years ago. It is equally a historical and cultural record as it is a religious one. Because of this, we can find all sorts of delicious things within the text: rules for food (Kosher), the oppressive state of Roman rule (Cesar), and even the sexual habits of people at the time.
It’s not so much that the Bible encourages specific sexual beliefs—it does promote abstinence in Corinthians and fidelity in Exodus—but rather that the commentary within the Bible reveals the common beliefs and practices at the time for us. Some of them are quite surprising.
Here are the top 10 surprising sexual beliefs in the Bible.
10 If Your Genitals Have Been Damaged, You’re Not Allowed in Temple
Deuteronomy 23:1 “If a man’s testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the LORD.”
Whoa. Okay, first of all, we feel really bad for anyone who had to go through this unwillingly. We’re pretty sure people didn’t have the strong anesthetic back then as they do now, even if it was an accident—ugh, anyway.
This passage is from a larger verse outlining the people who were not allowed in the temple. Included among those with crushed genitalia were Moabites and Ammonites, two groups the Israelites did not have a good relationship with. But the reason why people with damaged genitals were not allowed to enter stems from a demand by God that priests, or those who “approach to offer the bread of his God” be physically perfect (Leviticus 21:16-23).
This meant anyone who had any kind of physical abnormality or impairment—blindness, one arm too long, etc. God wasn’t specifically condemning those with crushed testes.
9 A Woman Could be Killed if She Grabbed a Man’s Genitals Without Permission
Deuteronomy 25:11-12 “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, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.”
Yes, this is what you would call a nut shot, and the very patriarchal society of the day took major offense to it. Not much has changed—I mean, we don’t cut off anyone’s hand for it nowadays. But when fighting the low-hanging gender, the logical choice is to, you know, go for the family jewels. Outside of a great battle tactic, I’m sure it also crossed the lines of sexuality and marriage in their eyes.
8 Slavery, Human Trafficking, and Perverse Behavior are Common
Leviticus 25:44-46 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.”
According to Exodus 21:7-11, if a family sold their daughter into servitude, she couldn’t buy her way to freedom the way a man could. If they sold her as a servant-wife, the man who owned her had to deprive her of food, clothing, and marital rights for her to be allowed to leave. Outside of this very specific rule, slavery was generally accepted—but it had to be “fair.”
Nowadays, we have a different term for this practice: human trafficking. The awareness of the immorality behind slavery and human trafficking is fairly new to humankind, and even still, we aren’t too good at controlling the urge to participate in it. So before you go condemning a group of people, think about how we, as a species, have not moved on from this practice. Instead, we go to great lengths to kidnap people, sell them into sex work, and hide the transactions, which I’m pretty sure is even worse.
7 Brother & Sister
This is a story about brother and sister:
II Samuel 13:11-15 “…he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.” “No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.”
What do you think happens next? Methinks that the brother doesn’t listen.
“But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her. Then Amnon [the brother] hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!””
Let us just call it what it was, rape. Except it was rape among family members—rape-incest. Never once does the Old or New Testament condone incest, though it certainly mentions it a few times. One of the more famous incidents happens in Genesis 19:31-36. Lot’s two daughters get their father drunk and sleep with him so they could have children. In Samuel 13:11-15, Amnon rapes her sister.
So yeah, incest is in there, but not praised. Instead, readers should take this as a lesson and learn from man’s mistakes instead of repeating them.
6 Bestiality Happened Enough That It Has a Spot in the Bible
Leviticus 20:15 “If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he is to be put to death, and you must kill the animal.”
For those who don’t know what bestiality is, it’s when a human and an animal have relations with each other…100% prompted by the human. This definitely falls into the “barbaric” category. But like incest, it’s not a belief the Old Testament agrees with. In fact, it condemns it. You have to wonder how often did this happen in order for it to make its way into the Old Testament?
5 Polygamy or Abstinence—Which One is It?
If we followed the Old Testament to the tee, polygamy would be much more common. Though the Bible ultimately pushes monogamy, notable figures operate otherwise, as far back as Cain’s son Lamech. “Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah ().” Moses had two wives. The Old Testament documents King Solomon having many wives. Abraham and Sarah, and Rachel and Jacob, both had several other misters and mistresses.
The fact is, God never directly punished polygamy and it was widely practiced among households. But polygamy wasn’t practiced to satisfy some strange perversion (for the most part). It was more a way to birth offspring to work in the fields, protect women, increase household wealth, and, as terrible as this may sound, replace a wife if she died during childbirth. It was logical.
On the flipside, if we followed the New Testament, no one would ever get married, and we’d stop reproducing. In Corinthians, the Apostle Paul encourages men not to marry if they aren’t married already. Why? Marriage and sex are distractions from prayer.
But, if you absolutely had to have sex, St. Paul makes this suggestion, “Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (Corinthians 1:4-5).
4 Premarital Sex Is Not Condemned
Ruth 3: 6-8 “Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down.”
There are some beliefs held by Christians that aren’t necessarily corroborated by the Bible, except when it comes to human interpretation. One of the more popular beliefs we hold is that premarital sex (sex before marriage) is bad. There are reasons why we may “discourage” it looking at a secular standpoint, but the religious reasons are contested.
In the Old Testament, Ruth had sex with Boaz, a farmer and family friend of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, before they were married. God did not expressly condemn the act, nor the Bible, and Naomi encouraged it. But before we commit this interpretation to memory, there are arguments against the claim. It all has to do with the last six words in the passage above.
In Hebrew, “feet” is a euphemism for genitals. Some argue that it is a mere consequence. Guess we’ll just have to wait to find out.
3 “Be Fruitful and Multiply”
Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Seems pretty straightforward to me. When God first created man and woman, he intended for them to populate the Earth. To increase in number, or in layman’s terms, make a lot of babies. As we all know, to make a lot of babies means you need to make a lot of love.
Reproduction is essential to sustaining life, so this encouragement from above is very reassuring. The New Testament shifts the focus from the act, however, to the resulting joy children can bring people.
Psalm 127:3 states, “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.”
So basically, get it on and make babies.
2 Pleasure is Good
Proverbs 5:18–19: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. May her breasts satisfy you at all times, may you be intoxicated always by her love.”
The Old Testament is full of examples of satisfying, healthy relationships, monogamous or otherwise, and deals with the topic of desire quite often. It’s obvious by the poetry of the selected Proverbs verse that they really did mean it, too (at least the guys did, but that’s another issue). The Testament’s verdict is that pleasure is good, and neither husband nor a wife should deny each other that pleasure. It even calls out Isaac for “caressing” his wife Rebekah (Genesis 26:8). Jumping into the New Testament, even St. Paul agrees that a husband and wife shouldn’t deny each other of their bodies.
1 Acceptance of Everyone, No Matter What
What is the second most important commandment in the New Testament?
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’”(Matthew 2:3 –40).
Even the eunuchs—men who were castrated during war, intersex people, and those with genital abnormalities—had a special place in God’s heart. Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’s closest friends and followers, was a prostitute. Jesus stopped the stoning of a woman who had an affair, famously demanding that he who is without sin cast the first stone (John 8:7). In the Old Testament, David and Jonathan seemingly fall in love with each other at first sight (2 Samuel 1:26).
The Bible is not a guide to sexuality. It is a moral code dealing with love—love for God, love for each other. And Jesus tells Christians to love their neighbor; you don’t have to concern yourself with other people’s sexuality.
Be you, be good, be faithful.