Trafficking Biblical Women

Trafficking Biblical Women
Detail from 1681 drawing by Struys Jan Janszoon of trafficking women: a persian king's soldiers on horseback collect women to bring to the palace.

Sex trafficking. It’s in the news. A Q-Anon theory that sex trafficking is rampant. And only Trump can stop it. After all, “he” arrested Epstein and Maxwell.

Anyone can argue that this is factually false. (See below.) But I’m not going to talk facts. Well, maybe briefly. But then I’m going to look at human nature. Specifically at what a very old work of literature says. The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) of course.

Facts first. Yes, slavery and abuse of women are widespread. Factory workers, immigrants, prisoners, children of desperate families. It happens right before our eyes. Or, sometimes, under pretences so thin we have to look away to miss them. No, Trump did not arrest Epstein and Maxwell. The federal government did not issue the warrants. And both criminals are longtime friends of his family.

Now, on to human nature. As old-style writers presented it 1500 years ago. Maybe Biblical writers thought they were writing history. Or maybe they were writing historical fiction. But, as you read on, pretend that doesn’t matter. Because their portrait of human nature is the same either way. 

The Tanakh is brutally honest. It describes the worst of human behaviour along with the best. One thing it consistently describes is the trafficking of women. It is always associated with power. And sometimes with wealth, too.

A few examples. Abraham delivers his wife Sarah to Pharaoh’s harem. Abraham says he does it to save his own life. Pharaoh later says the whole thing was a mistake. But the material result is the same either way. Pharaoh pays Abraham a lot of money for his trouble.

King David’s rebellious son Absalom declares his political ambitions by abusing women. Absalom’s advisor tells him to abduct his father’s concubines and take them into a rooftop tent. “It will signal your opposition to your father,” says the advisor. “And it will rally your supporters.” 

King Solomon’s building projects are his great achievements. But they come at a price. And it’s not one he personally pays. Ordinary people pay a palace tax and a temple tax. They report for mandatory labor. And Solomon, to make he secures contracts for fancy imported materials, marries 700 royal women and takes another 300 concubines.

Persian King Ahasuerus holds parties to show off his extreme wealth. When he wants a new Queen, he orders every young woman in the city to spend a night with him. After that, he says, he’ll choose.

Do you see the pattern? The Tanakh lays it out clearly. Kings use women as commodities. And as signs, signals, and symbols of social position. If you can do whatever you want to women, you are powerful.

Trump is an aspiring king. Of course, his corruption is not unique among American politicians. But he has changed the political discourse. He does not use the language of democracy. Instead, he speaks the language of autocracy. And, because he shares power with his children, his autocracy slides into monarchy.

Thus, he cultivates a particular public image of power. Sadly, it is in fact a Biblical image. A sexual predator, entitled by his royal status. Abusing women is, for him, a sign of power.

So, no. He has zero intent to end the trafficking of women. At least, that’s how ancient students of human nature would see it.

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