What Was Onan’s Sin?
Genesis 38:7-10 “(7) But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. (8) Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” (9) But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. (10) And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also.”
According to verse 7 Er the brother of Onan was killed by God because of sin against God. He must have disobeyed God. His death was attributed to a punishment from God.
verse 8 tells us that Judah ordered to fulfil the requirement of marrying the widow so that she can have children who will be named after her late husband. Onan was bound to this duty to his late brother Er.
Verse 9 Onan accepted to fulfil the assignment but he actually didn’t. Because instead of impregnating the late brother’s wife he would ensure it doesn’t happen by wasting the sperm on the ground.
Verse 10 tells us that God was displeased by Onan’s conduct and the way He had killed his brother Er, He killed him too.
Issues associated with this passage
1. Some people have used this passage to condemn masturbation as evil. Onan is perceived as engaging in masturbation. But was it?
2. Some people have used this passage to reject contraceptives and deem it as evil. Onan is perceived as controlling birth by coitus interruputs.
3. Some people have used the passage to support widow inheritance. They perceive this as an obligation that Onan rejected and died for.
Key questions arise
1. What was the law that bound Onan to marry and impregnate his brother’s wife?
2. What was Onan’s sin?
What was the law that bound Onan to marry and impregnate his brother’s wife?
God had promised Abraham an entire nation of children. Therefore it was agreed that if any married man died before having children, the brother would take the widow and have children with her to keep the name, expand the family and inherit property. Abraham’s family was to grow by all means!
Later on it became part of the law of Moses.
Deuteronomy 25:5-6 “(5) If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. (6) And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.”
The law therefore was
1. Help the late brother have children who will bear his name
2. Help the late brother have children who will inherit his estate
3. Give the widow status and right to the home where she was married, by being husband to her and father to her children.
The law therefore protected
1. Abraham’s larger family from shrinking
2. Late brother’s name from being forgotten
3. Late brother’s estate from those who may want to make it their own
4. The widow from being abused for lack of family protection
5. The widow from shame of lacking children
6. The widow from resorting to prostitution and other desperate means of survival
What was Onan’s sin?
Onan’s sin is around his refusal to impregnate his late brother’s wife. By that act, Onan was guilty of several sins, which combined together makes his sin
1. Onan was covetous. He wanted to inherit his brother’s estate. Therefore he refused to impregnate his late brother’s wife so that there would be no heir to the estate except him.
2. Onan abused his late brother’s wife, by using her for pleasure while pretending to be intent on impregnating her.
3. Onan was jealous of his brother’s name and he didn’t wish his brother well. Therefore he wanted the brother’s name to be forgotten in Israel by denying him children.
4. Onan indirectly refused to fulfil God’s command to go and multiply, when what was desired at the moment was multiplication. This was not the same as marriages where people can agree not to have children. This was a marriage that was designed to deliberately produce children. Onan worked to defeat that divine purpose.
5. Onan refused to participate in growing Abraham’s family. By denying his late brother children, he was denying Abraham children that God promised.
6. Onan’s act made his late brother’s wife to suffer disgrace of being thought to be barren yet she wasn’t. This act hurt a helpless member of society. What we do against the helpless directly offends God! Onan offended God by disgracing this lady.
7. Onan acted dishonestly by accepting to be a husband but harbouring motives not to fulfil the requirement expected of him. He lied to the public but defeated the public trust secretly. His was betrayal of God, family, brother, widow and even self!
Our lesson today?
Onan outwardly seemed committed but secretly he wasn’t. Onan seemed good outside but secretly and deeply hurt a helpless person. God punished these evil acts and rescued the widow from this idiot.
God still punishes even secret sins of those who look right outwardly. God still defends the helpless who are secretly being hurt! May we be warned and comforted in Jesus name!(c)firstname.lastname@example.org (do not delete any part of this post, including this. You are free to share theses posts but don’t edit the authorship or content…Be blessed!)