Biblical Bad Boys who make Henry VIII Look like a Feminist

Dirty rotten men.


It is probably unfair to hold the men of the Bible to modern standards of gender enlightenment. The patriarchal cultures of the ancient Near East, after all, were not exactly known for producing sensitive males in touch with their feminine side.

Even so, a handful of men are depicted in Scripture as so rotten in their treatment of women that, cultural differences notwithstanding, they make Henry viii seem like Alan Alda. Here, in the judgment of feminist scholars, are some of the worst.

Adam. Confronted by God for having eaten the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, he heaps all of the blame on his mate: "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate." Chivalry and the taking of personal responsibility clearly had not yet been invented (Genesis 3).

Abraham. To save his own neck when he and his wife, Sarah, venture into Egypt, the Hebrew patriarch passes her off as his sister so that the pharaoh can have sex with her. ("You are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife'; then they will kill me. . . . Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you.") The ruse works. Sarah is taken into the pharaoh's harem temporarily, and the pharaoh "dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels." Abraham repeats the ruse later with Abimelech, king of Gerar (Genesis 12).

Lot. Abraham's nephew, he offers up his own virgin daughters to a mob in Sodom who demand sex with two of Lot's male houseguests. "Let me bring them out to you," Lot tells the mob, "and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men." The guests—who as it turns out are angels of God—intervene, however, and Lot does not have to deliver on his offer. Later, his daughters would get him drunk in order to have sex with him (Genesis 19).

King David. Whether it's rape or seduction, he leverages his authority to have his way with the married Bathsheba, whom he spies upon while she is bathing. When she becomes pregnant, David arranges for her soldier-husband to be killed in battle so he can take her as his wife (2 Samuel 11).

Amnon. A son of King David (who has several wives), he falls in love with his half sister, Tamar. Pretending to be ill, he asks his father to send Tamar to tend to him, and then he rapes her when they are alone. Tamar's full brother, Absalom, would later take revenge by murdering Amnon. David, however, is not pleased, and David and Absalom become estranged (2 Samuel 13).

The Levite. Without a doubt, the worst of the bunch is the unnamed Levite from Ephraim, whose story is told in Judges. On a journey, he and his concubine spend the night as guests at a house in Gibeah. There—as in the story of Lot—they are confronted by a mob that surrounds the house demanding to rape the Levite. "So the man seized his concubine and put her out to them. They wantonly raped her and abused her all through the night." In the morning, the Levite finds the woman unconscious at the door. He throws her on a donkey, takes her home, and proceeds to cut her into 12 pieces and ship the body parts "throughout all the territory of Israel" in order to stir up a bloody reprisal against Gibeah. Scholars say the disturbing episode, along with the Lot story, illustrates an apparently common view in biblical times that the sexual violation of women was less shameful than the violation of men (Judges 19).