Review: Prostitutes and Polygamists

9780310518471David T. Lamb is Allan A. MacRae Professor of Old Testament and the Dean of the Faculty at Biblical Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Lamb received an MDiv from Fuller Theological and both an MPhil and DPhil from the University of Oxford. He is the author of Righteous Jehu and His Evil Heirs: The Deuteronomist’s Negative Perspective on Dynastic Succession(Oxford University Press, 2007), God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? (IVP, 2011), recently published The Historical Writings: Introducing Israel’s Historical Literature (with Mark Leuchter; Fortress Press, 2016), and Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style(Zondervan, 2015).

Prostitutes and Polygamists is a provocative and refreshing read that explores the overlooked depths of sexuality of the Old Testament. Lamb begins with an introductory chapter that turns the readers towards the wild nature of “love, Old Testament style.” Following a chapter on the God-ordained union of man and woman—husbands and wives—Lamb investigates nearly every major sexual issue found in the Old Testament, including polygamists, prostitutes, rapists and adulterers, incester, and homosexuals and sodomites. Each chapter is surprisingly detailed for the size of the volume, and Lamb’s witty approach and frequent illustrations lighten the tone of the volume despite the weight of the content. Lamb is also keen to allow the biblical text to guide the reader towards the intended conclusions in the lives of biblical figures explored in each of the chapters.

There is much to appreciate about Prostitutes and Polygamists.First and foremost, Lamb is an engaging communicator and a brilliant Old Testament scholar. There have been at least a few academic attempts to accomplish what Lamb has done here, and none them come close to the combination of wit and humor of Prostitutes and Polygamists. Second, Lamb tackles real and relevant issues without hesitation. The content itself necessitates this approach. However, Lamb does much to balance that necessity with honesty and insight that is rarely seen from the vantage point of the pew. Third, the textual dependence encountered throughout the volume allows the reader to freshly engage the biblical text alongside Lamb’s insight.

The shortcomings are mostly the result of interpretive and category difference. For example, while the incident between Noah and Ham is not commented on at length, it is mentioned in a footnote related to homosexuality (p. 162) despite Lamb’s disbelief that a homosexual action took place. What seems clear is some form of incestral relationship between Ham and either his mother or father—likely the former Leviticus 18—but there is no interaction with Genesis 9 in the Incester chapter. These types of disagreements are somewhat inevitable given the content of the book, but readers should be aware that such shortcomings exist.

Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style by David T. Lamb is a fresh and sensible. Lamb is well-informed, sensitive, witty, and downright hilarious at times. Readers will be sure to appreciate Lamb’s approach and insight into the often-controversial content of the book. This is a book that deserves to be read widely and should be on the shelf of every Pastor, especially those living among the sexual revolution that is sweeping across North America. If you are looking for a book that is both informative and engaging on a topic rarely discussed in church, then Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style by David T. Lamb is an excellent choice. It comes highly recommended!

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