ONAN     6'1m*f RT: the sin of Onan, masturbation

(RT == Readers' Theater: requires little or no memorization,
little or no rehearsal. An indefinite number of reporters are
salted throughout the audience)

JUDAH -- (enters wearing tunic and sandals, crosses to podium,
reads) My name is Judah, son of Jacob. The reason I called this
press conference is to make an announcement. I won't be taking
any questions from reporters because I have been really upset by
this incident. I am sad to report another death in my family.
Onan my second son has died. In keeping with Hebrew tradition,
he will be buried the same day as his death. After the funeral
this afternoon, everyone in Adullam is invited to our house to
mourn the death with us. That's all I have. (turns)

REPORTER -- Judah, is it true that your son Onan was struck dead
by God himself?

JUDAH -- (turns) I told you, I'm not taking any questions.

REPORTER -- But I'm sure you wouldn't want anyone in the land of
Canaan to misconstrue the facts.

JUDAH -- (sighs) I suppose. I... Very well. I assumed that all
the Hebrews in the area would be affected by this death. But
it's obvious from the turn-out at this press conference that
gentiles might be affected as well.

REPORTER -- So, it is true? Was Onan struck dead by God?

JUDAH -- Yes. It's true.

REPORTER -- And this was not the first of your sons to be struck
dead by God, was it?

JUDAH -- No. My firstborn son, whose name was Er, was struck
dead by God a few weeks ago.

REPORTER -- Can you tell us the circumstances surrounding HIS

JUDAH -- Er violated virtually everything the Lord our God holds
dear. He was an unredeemable sinner. If God had let him live,
people, especially the unbelievers would have thought that God
approved of bad behavior. Our people and our God are new to this
land of Canaan. We must set a good example.

REPORTER -- And your second son Onan?

JUDAH -- Well, that's a little more difficult to explain.

REPORTER -- We have reports that Onan's death had to do with

JUDAH -- That's only partially true. When my son Er was struck
down, Hebrew tradition calls for the second son to marry the
widow. It's called levirate marriage.

REPORTER -- Are you saying that Onan was struck down because he
refused to take Er's wife?

JUDAH -- Well, Onan took Er's wife, but our tradition requires
him to make babies with her.

REPORTER -- Are you saying Onan was struck down because he was

JUDAH -- Not at all. The problem was that Onan was already
married. The levirate marriage gave him a second wife. And any
children he produced from the levirate marriage would inherit
Onan's property but the children must be given the family name
of Onan's dead brother.

REPORTER -- Are you saying that Onan was killed because he
didn't want to share his property with children who bore someone
else's name?

JUDAH -- That's what I'm saying.

REPORTER -- That seems a little harsh!

REPORTER -- We have reports that the real reason for this death
penalty was that Onan spilled his semen on the ground.

JUDAH -- I'm not sure how to answer that.

REPORTER -- Is it against your religion for men to spill their

JUDAH -- Let me put it this way: it was a sin for Onan to spill
his semen on the ground.

REPORTER -- Does that mean masturbation is against your

JUDAH -- Masturbation is not even mentioned by God or the
prophets. The reason it was a sin for Onan to spill his semen
was because he was shirking his duty to make babies with Er's
widow under levirate law.

REPORTER -- Yes, but the DEATH penalty?!

REPORTER -- Judah, I think I speak for every man in the land of
Canaan when I say that we all fear for our lives because God
struck down Onan. Could this happen to us too?

JUDAH -- This was a unique circumstance. I'm not sure the death
penalty will ever be administered like this again.

REPORTER -- How is this a unique circumstance?

JUDAH -- Well, it's a little complicated. That's kind of why I
didn't want to take any questions.

REPORTER -- Judah, my readers won't sleep well until they know
for sure why Onan was struck dead.

JUDAH -- (sighs) Alright. Back in the Garden of Eden, God
promised that the devil's head would ultimately be crushed.

REPORTER -- We know about that promise.

REPORTER -- Even us gentiles have been waiting for the
fulfillment of that promise. Are you saying that this incident
has something to do with that promise?

JUDAH -- Yes. As a prophet of God, I now know that God will
become a man in the future and the family God will choose to
live with will be born to my descendants. Er was to be in the
line of the messiah until his sins disqualified him.

REPORTER -- That explains why Er was put to death!

JUDAH -- Exactly. God's chosen family must be good examples to
the world. But after Er was struck down Onan was the chosen one
to continue the line of our redeemer.

REPORTER -- So, it really WASN'T the spilling of the semen that
got him killed.

REPORTER -- Onan's sin was ruining the family connection to
God's chosen family.

JUDAH -- Exactly.

REPORTER -- Wheooh! My readers will be relieved to know that!

REPORTER -- Mine too!

REPORTER -- Judah, doesn't this family connection to God put a
lot of pressure on you and your descendants?

JUDAH -- Let's just say that this death sentence should be a
wake-up call to us to take God's promise seriously. (exits)

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