Is “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” based on an Old Testament Story of Kidnapping and Forced Marriage?

10 May

Judges 21:25, “In those days [there was] no king in Israel: every man did [that which was] right in his own eyes.”

The above verse ends Judges 21, a somber Old Testament chapter in which murder, rape, and kidnapping all occur.

It is common to say that the movie “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” in which seven good-looking, athletic, and otherwise nice young men kidnap their future wives away from other suitors is somewhat based on the Judges 21 story.  

Actually “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is based on an old Roman legend called “The Rape of the Sabine Women” (the genesis of the “sobbin’ women” subtext in “Seven Brides”).  But let’s just go with it, as we have three stories in which kidnapping is justified as a means of obtaining a wife when the odds are otherwise impossible.

Let’s have a look at that Bible text.  The tribe of Benjamin has no source of women for wives after a civil war within the tribes of Israel.  All of the other tribes of Israel have sworn an oath to not give their daughters to the Benjamites to wed.  

The only way that the tribe of Benjamin resolves this is to find one town which had not sworn that oath and to slaughter the residents of that town so that only the single women are left alive.  Then, needing more women yet, the tribe of Benjamin lies in wait along the pathway to a gathering of Israelites, kidnapping as many women as they need away from their families as they travel.

In both of these endeavors, the rest of the men of Israel are complicit, regretting the vow they had taken to not give their daughters to Benjamites.  

Ironic, isn’t it?

It is an era when people are doing what seems right in their own eyes, not seeking the Lord and His ways.  And it shows.

You see, the Bible, especially the Old Testament, tells the story of fallen man, revealing his warts and everything.  It shows us who we are as the fallen human race.

It often tells of unfortunate choices that did not involve asking for God’s guidance.  So in a very real way, the Old Testament presents man in all his fallenness.  It in no way implies that God approves of these choices that are made.

It is actually an argument for the Bible being a true work written by the hand of God.  A mere mortal Israelite scribe would certainly edit out the unsavoury parts, rather than leaving them intact for all of human history, as they would be such an indictment of his culture!

So, no, God never approved of kidnapping a woman to force her into marriage.  Not in the Old Testament, not in the Roman era, not in the play “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” and certainly not in the grisly story now taking place in Cleveland.

God loves us and created us with choices and moral responsibility for them.

He was the first to make women the full equivalent of men (at Creation).  The chaff that got in the way and distracted us from functional marriages and relationships throughout the millennia did not originate with God.  It originated with our fallenness.

Let us grieve with Amanda, Gina, and Michelle in Cleveland.  Let us grieve the loss of their childhood and innocence.  Let us pray for them, that they might know God as the loving Father He is and not some sort of monster along the lines of Ariel Castro.  

For Castro may have been created in the image of God, but he chose to distort that image almost beyond recognition. 

 

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