Onan wasn’t just a biblical figure — he was also a popular board game in the 1970s based on the events of the Onan story. If you have never heard of the Onan board game, have no fear — it is not nearly as popular as Bingo but remains fairly memorable to this day.
Onan was the second son of Judah and the eldest brother of Er. He was killed by God, who regarded Onan’s actions as sinful ; he thereby avoided contributing offspring to his family’s line. According to Deuteronomy 25:5-10 , God told him not to “go in to” his brother’s wife, as the latter had “devoted” her to him.
The story of Onan embodies the attitude of many non-believers: the book of Genesis is just a simple tale of long ago, with no relevance in today’s world. Some have even suggested that both the pastoral and patriarchal stories are entirely legendary. Yet, others explain its significance as timeless moral allegories. But is there really a better way to answer this question? To know if the book of Genesis is good for us, let’s look at its contents.
Onan The Bible
The story of Onan in the Bible is a story about a man who was punished for not impregnating his wife. He died because he refused to have sex with her, which angered God so much that he struck him dead.
In the book of Genesis, it says that when Judah’s son Er married Tamar, he died without having any children with her. So Judah told his second son Onan to go and sleep with Tamar and produce an heir for his brother. Onan did as he was told, but “he spilled his seed on the ground,” so that there would be no heir produced. God was angry at this and killed Onan (Genesis 38:7-10).
The moral of this story appears to be that if you refuse to produce an heir when your family member dies without having one, then you will be killed by God as punishment for your refusal.
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Onan And Tamar
Onan’s story is told in Genesis chapter 38.
The story of Onan’s life is told in Genesis chapter 38. A variety of stories are told about Judah and his family, including the birth of Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar, who tricked Judah into impregnating her so she could have a child.
Judah had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er died without having children with Tamar.
Onan’s father Judah had three sons, Er, Onan and Shelah
Onan’s father was Judah, the son of Jacob and Leah, who later became one of the tribes of Israel. Through Jacob, Judah was great-grandson to Abraham and Sarah; through Sarah, he was also a great-grandson to Keturah. Onan’s mother is not mentioned in this story. His brothers were Er and Shelah.
After Er’s death, a custom at the time called for the next brother to marry the widow and thus produce an heir.
In the case of Er, his widow was Tamar.
One of the most notable women in this tale is Tamar. She was Er’s widow, the daughter-in-law of Judah and sister-in-law of Onan.
In Levirate marriage, it was customary for a man to marry his brother’s wife should the brother die without bearing children. This custom is upheld in Deuteronomy 25:5. After Onan’s death, Judah sends Tamar to his son Shelah by an undisclosed woman, but he does not make her his wife although he has reached marriageable age; instead he directs Tamar to return to her father’s house until Shelah is old enough to marry her as per tradition.
But Onan did not want to produce heirs for his dead brother
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In order to avoid this responsibility, he practiced coitus interruptus (pulling out before ejaculating) when he had sex with Tamar.
God thus punished him for this behavior by killing him
The biblical law that a man should produce an heir for his dead brother is no longer followed in modern times
The biblical law that a man should produce an heir for his dead brother is no longer practiced in modern times. It is no longer part of Jewish law, and it was not part of ancient Greek law. It is not followed in Christianity, and the laws of inheritance are different in Islam, where sons inherit twice as much as daughters. Nor is it currently followed by American or British society; the laws of inheritance there are determined by civil statutes and courts.