Tag Archives: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

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. 


Vampires and the Cleveland Horrors . . .

10 May

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight.  I had to say their names.  Their names are their identities.  These incredibly brave young women never left their names nor their identities behind, despite a decade of horrors in a torture chamber after they were kidnapped in Cleveland and forced to live out the fantasy of a madman in their community, who seems to believe he had taken three common law wives.

I have to use their names.  I can’t just say “the victims of the Cleveland kidnapping horror.”

This is not going to be another post that blames pop culture for crimes that are committed in the same timeframe.  But I do want to look at some places where we have been and wonder aloud where we are going.

There are some things that we just don’t do, because they are insensitive.  They are not wrong, maybe, in some eras, but in others they stand out like a sore thumb.  My fellow conservatives don’t always get this, but it is true.

One example is that I doubt we will ever see a high school production of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” again.  I haven’t seen one advertised in over a decade, so the show has obviously already fallen out of favor, but after this last week, I think it is gone forever.  

Remember the premise?  Seven good-looking, strong, athletic young men in the Wild West, all brothers, find there is a woman shortage when it is time for them to marry.  So . . .  they find a town with seven beautiful, marriageable young women and they kidnap them to be their wives.  

The women subsequently fall in love with their husbands, so the play markets the idea that “all is well that ends well” but . . . you can’t escape the fact that those marriages were begun with a crime, whether it was labeled that way in the Wild West or not!

An influence from my early lifetime that I am, ironically, exploring right now (as long as I can bear it), because I want to write on the influence of vampires on our culture, starting with the mild, never-shown-onscreen vampire antics of the 1960’s and prior to that, is the soap opera “Dark Shadows” which was all the rage with preteen and teen girls in 1966 and 1967.  

I am watching Season Two of “Dark Shadows” on Netflix right now.  It is total irony that the episode I saw last night involved Barnabas Collins, the gentle Englishman vampire, being impeccably polite to the father and boyfriend of Maggie Evans, whom he has kidnapped and is imprisoning in the old Collins mansion, not more than a hundred yards from the new Collins mansion where everyone is frantically searching for Maggie.  

Get it?  Man wants wife (in this case, he wants to take Maggie’s name and identity, too, and turn her into a reincarnation of his wife Josette from the 18th century).  Man kidnaps woman to be wife.  Man holds commonlaw wife nearby in the same neighborhood where she grew up.  Man is so impeccably polite that he gets away with this long term.

Newsflash which most of us already realize:  (not to make us suspicious of all politeness, because there truly are a lot of charming people on this planet who are just naturally nice) abusers don’t generally run around looking odd and saying malevolent things.  They fit in .  That is how they get away with it.  Often they are the most charming person in the room.

In my day, we would run home after school (in 3rd grade) and sneak down to my friend Agnes’s basement where her mother did not carefully monitor what was on television.  Agnes and I would watch “Dark Shadows” five nights a week after school.  We were raised on the idea of a vampire who was ever so nice, at least whenever he was not controlling Maggie Evans (and all the horrific stuff took place offscreen and was only implied).  In fact, many teen girls, a bit older than us, were in love with Jonathan Frid, the actor who played Barnabas.  He had a huge fan club.   

See what that can do to an impressionable young mind?  Create the idea that a person can be 80% wonderful and can be forgiven for the 20% stuff that happens in private.  Even when that 20% is horrific.  Even when it is a crime like kidnapping.  And a moral outrage like erasing someone’s name and identity and forcing her to take a name and identity chosen for her by another.  

Teaching young girls that extreme control tactics are a synonym for love. 

Where have we heard this before?  We have a culture saturated in it now.  We only have to turn to about 25% of our young ladies to find girls willing to believe that someone who scrutinizes their every move and tries to force them to change into his ideal woman is someone who truly loves them! 

This is a very prevalent and dangerous belief.  However, I think when we get beyond the extremes of controlling behavior, we find it is something we all share in common as a human race. 

I believe that control issues are the basis of almost every other sin we commit on this planet.  

God is sovereign, we are not, we try to be sovereign in the lives of fellow humans.  We try to control them.  

It is a very great sin and one we all commit at some point in our lives.

It is one I hope to explore a lot more in upcoming months.

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