Onan's sin-what was it really?


#1

Background
Judah’s eldest son Er, got married to Tamar.but Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord and the Lord put him to death.(Gen38:7).
Judah told Onan the next son in line to go into Tamar and give his dead brother the sons he never had, so to speak, and fulfil the duty of a brother in law.
Onan had intercourse with Tamar and then Spilled his seed on the ground, preventing the life giving opportunity that all intercouse should be open to we are told.
What he did was displeasing in the eyes of the Lord, and he put him to death also. (Gen38:10)

**Question **
So Why did Onan die-what was it exactly that was displeasing to the Lord? 2 options…

  1. He spilled his seed–a form of contraception.(also like masterbation)
    or
  2. The fact he selfishly attempted to hold back from giving the dead brothers wife, Tamar, a child.

Protestants may say he was killed, for the offense number 2, catholics apologists point out that in Deut 25: 5, offense number 2 is not punishible by death, but rather the punishment is a public humiliation, like getting spat upon in the face etc… but not death.
Here is my problem…The deutronomic covanent was not yet ratified nor known in this early age, as it dosent come on the scene until much later in salvation history.

So how can we say for certain that offence number 1 is the one punished by death.


#2

Fr. Brian Harrison gives some of the arguments for the Catholic case, in The Sin of Onan Revisited

Fr. Harrison answers the above objection,

…It follows that those who say his only offence was infringement of the levirate marriage custom need to explain why such an offence was punished by the Lord so much more drastically in the case of Onan than than it subsequently was under the Mosaic law.

DC.


#3

Fr. Brian Harrison gives some of the arguments for the Catholic case, in The Sin of Onan Revisited

have not read article yet, but there seems to be some real cracker articles on this site! thanks very much.

from the article…

Quote:
…It follows that those who say his only offence was infringement of the levirate marriage custom need to explain why such an offence was punished by the Lord so much more drastically in the case of Onan than than it subsequently was under the Mosaic law.

good point. Why was onan punished more harshly, compared to those under deuteronomic covanent? Well I have been listening to scott hahn and jeff cabbins on EWTN, and Hahn says that the deuteronomic covanent was given by Moses, and God accepted IT. Moses makes an “easier covanent” than the levitical one/at MT. sinai (The one given by God to Moses), because the peoples hearts are Hard!

this may explain why the people were subsequently punished less severly under the deut. covanent for the same offense as Onan.


#4

Well, it’s also possible that BOTH are true. The first option is a sin because of the second one, and the second one is a sin because of the first one. They’re a tag-team of death. Afterall, the sin in the second option is still contraception.


#5

I think how God would punish for a sin wouldn’t necessarily be different just because the deutronomic covenant was not established yet. We have all had selfish feelings, wants, or desires that do not agree with God. I’m not trying to say that that is okay to continue to think or feel that way without trying to change, but how we act on them (or don’t) says whether or not we have prevailed over sin. In Genesis 38:10 it says “What he DID greatly offended the Lord, and the Lord took his life, too”. What did he do? He did not want to contribute to the offspring of his brother, but instead of doing what was right he did what was wrong. I know that he was thinking only of himself, but I think when he actually did something wrong to benefit his selfish desire instead of doing what was right, then that is the worse than just thinking about it. I know this is my personal view of this, but to me it seems logical what the punishment was for.


#6

So Why did Onan die-what was it exactly that was displeasing to the Lord? 2 options…

  1. He spilled his seed–a form of contraception.(also like masterbation)
    or
  2. The fact he selfishly attempted to hold back from giving the dead brothers wife, Tamar, a child.

If he was killed for option 2, why was Shelah (or Judah) not also killed? “Shelah was grown up, yet she [Tamar] had not been given to him in marriage” (Gen 38:14). Either it was Shelah or Judah who made the decision not to have Tamar marry Shelah, even though that was what the Levitical law would require. Either one or the other (or both) is therefore guitly of option 2, and yet neither of them is killed for that crime. Onan’s sin, then, must be option 1.


#7

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