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Bitenosh, wife of Lamech, mother of Noah

Bitenosh, wife of Lamech, mother of Noah

In the latest issue of the Journal for the Study of Judaism, Pieter W. van der Horst takes a close look at Bitenosh’s orgasm.

Bitenosh is – according to the ‘rewritten bible’ text from Qumran, 1QapGen – Noah’s mother and the wife of Lamech. One of the early stories narrated within this fragmentary text tells how, when Noah was born, his father Lamech was startled by his gigantic appearance. Or at least, that seems to be the background, by comparison with 1 Enoch 106, as the text has a gap at this point. On seeing Noah’s extraordinary appearance, Lamech became suspicious as to whether he was the father or it was one of those ‘sons of god(s)’ mentioned also in Gen. 6.2. So Bitenosh has to defend herself. She does so by reminding Lamech of her ‘sexual pleasure’ (‘adinti) during their sexual intercourse:

Oh my brother and lord, remember my sexual pleasure! … in the heat of intercourse and the gasping of my breath in my breast…. Remember my sexual pleasure! … that this seed comes from you, that this pregnancy comes from you.
– 1QapGen 2.8-15

Pieter W. van der Horst argues that Bitenosh’s argument is only cogent if the author understands that Lamech’s ejaculation mixed with her own ejaculation of seed. He argues that the Jewish text is based on a Greek theory of embryogenesis which involved the woman contributing her own seed during sexual intercourse. So when Bitenosh reminded Lamech that she had a gushing climax to their sexual congress, during which Lamech had also ejaculated, her argument that Lamech was the father of the resulting offspring, Noah, rested on this Greek-derived ‘double-seed’ theory of conception.

I see on the first page of the article that van der Horst refers to Erna Lesky’s “seminal study” of ancient Greek theories of embryogenesis. Well played, Pieter, well played.

Pieter W. van der Horst, “Bitenosh’s Orgasm (1QapGen 2:9-15)”, Journal for the Study of Judaism 43 nos 4-5 (2012): 613-28.

H/t: Jim Davila, Paleojudaica[, for bringing the article to my attention]