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wombly ties

November 10, 2013

I have been thinking a lot about Kurk’s post on Joseph and motherly instincts. Of course, this shows how little of the original culture shows through in English. The two women were both female, but only one had a biological link to the child. Joseph was Benjamin’s only brother of the same mother. The link is by the womb, but refers to a biological relationship, not a motherly relationship. Men had the relationship also, brothers had it, brothers and sisters had this relationship.

In Greek, the brother and sister are adelphos, and adelphé, of the same womb, biologically related. This is the supreme relationship in ancient times. The spouse, unless a passionate lover, as in Song of Songs, the spouse could be a throw away. Here is an instructive story,

Taking precautions against further resistance, Darius sent soldiers to seize Intaphernes, along with his son, family members, relatives and any friends who were capable of arming themselves. Darius believed that Intaphernes was planning a rebellion, but when he was brought to the court, there was no proof of any such plan. Nonetheless, Darius killed Intaphernes’ entire family, excluding his wife’s brother and son. She was asked to choose between her brother and son. She chose her brother to live. Her reasoning for doing so was that she could have another husband and another son, but she would always have but one brother. Darius was impressed by her response and spared both her brother’s and her son’s life.

Who was closer to her womb, apparently her brother. It was not about motherly feelings, but about family solidarity. But then even the eunuch has these feelings for Daniel. God for his people, mothers for children, brothers for brothers, these are the wombly feelings we find in the Hebrew Bible. I would suggest that sisters and brothers for each other, children for parents, parents for children, all the natural family ties, are the wombly feelings, not “motherly” feelings.

I don’t mean to downplay the difference in circumstance between men and women in Bible, but I do believe that in emotional makeup, men and women both, were to have wombly feelings, family loyalty. Here are a few examples,

And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there. Gen. 43:40

Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: Zec. 7:9

And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them: 1 Kings 8:50
Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. Dan. 1:9
Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever: Amos 1:11
The term is more often related to brothers, to family love and biological ties, than to motherly feelings. I am not denying the motherly instincts, but just want to put things in context.
5 Comments leave one →
  1. Dana Ames permalink
    November 11, 2013 11:45 am

    In EO, we hear a particular hymn, the Paschal Stichera, very often during the Paschal season. At the end comes this verse:

    “This is the day of Resurrection; let us be radiant in the festival! Let us embrace one another; let us call “brothers” even those who hate us, and forgive all things in the resurrection. And so let us proclaim: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”

    This is my favorite verse among many beautiful and deep expressions – tears of joy come to my eyes every year when I hear it the first time at the Pascha service.


  2. November 12, 2013 7:13 pm

    So I’m wondering about the many varieties of family and how they might play into these wombly loyalties:
    – do adoptive children have wombly loyalty to their adoptive sibs, and vice versa? does it depend on the time or form of adoption? Or is wombly loyalty firmly attached to the biological, rather than the symbolic, womb?
    – children of the same mother, but not the same father? (eg a widow with children who remarried and bears more children) Does wombly loyalty eliminate sibling factions?
    – children of the same father, but not the same mother? is there phallic loyalty, too, or only wombly loyalty? Is wombly loyalty apparent in the scheming of potential heirs to the throne of a king with many wives?
    – half-sibs more generally?
    – half-sibs in cases of levirate marriage?

  3. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    November 12, 2013 8:19 pm

    I think wombly ties are metaphorical. It means to love someone as if they were from the same womb, or family. So a person can have this felling for anyone. Remember how the lovers talk, “my sister, my spouse.” It is a term of endearment.

    Sent from my iPad



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