Wednesday, 7 October 2009

"So Amazing a Blasphemy"

It's an unremarkable verse in most English translations. Here's Jeremiah 20:7 in the ESV.

O LORD, you have enticed me,
and I was enticed:
you have overpowered me,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all day long;
everyone mocks me.

Pretty innocuous and quite suitable for pious reading aloud in a family devotion. James Crenshaw in his book A Whirlpool of Torment, however, offers these eye-opening comments on that verse.

"In the quotation from Jer. 20:7 above, Jeremiah accuses God of rape. This is no trivial accusation, nor is it uttered in a flippant manner. The words are carefully chosen to cover the act of seduction and accompanying violence."

Elsewhere, Crenshaw provides the following translation of the first part of v.7:

You have seduced me, YHWH, and I have been raped;
You have seized me and prevailed.

It's a disturbing image, and although I'd been aware of it for some time, it was brought back to me again reading, of all things, Mary Doria Russell's sci-fi novel Children of God, where the leading character mulls over God's "silent, brutal indifference."

"You seduced me, Lord, and I let You," he read in Jeremiah, weeping... "You raped me, and I have become the object of derision."

We like to claim many comforting images of God: father, lover, friend, law-giver, creator, sustainer, provider, to name but a few. But homosexual rapist? Shades of Father Zeus and hapless Ganymede?

Harold Bloom, in Ruin the Sacred Truths, offers a similar translation to Crenshaw's, then adds:

"This is so extraordinary a trope, and so amazing a blasphemy, that I wonder always why there is not more than perfunctory commentary upon it."

The domesticated God and the domesticated Bible are a comfortable illusion. Occasionally - but only very occasionally - the wild nature of both escapes the ecclesiastical cage and leaves us slack-jawed.


  1. Ahhhhahahahahaha that's perfect Feast study material ain't it?!?! ;-)

  2. You know if that was written today, it could be put in as little as 3 or 4 words! And none of them would ever be heard from the pulpit!

  3. This passage's context actually begins back in Jer. 19:14 and is the result of having delivered a prophecy, similar to which Jeremiah had been delivering for many a year, i.e, doom and gloom. Not only had the people tired of hearing it and had beaten Jeremiah, but he himself had tired of prophesying. His question of God is one of God's timing, i.e., when is this going to happen.

    What a prurient mind Mr. Crenshaw must have to read such utter nonsense into this verse. It's another case of:
    1Ti 1:7 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.
    2Ti 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
    2Ti 4:4 And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

  4. This is what Priest For Equality have in their Bible Translation:

    "You fooled me, YHWH, and I let myself be fooled. You were too strong for me and you triumphed. All day long, I am an object of laughter. Everyone mocks me."