Balaam's Curse: Part 2 - Queer laws and customs

I learnt about the miraculous wealth of Sodom and the other doomed cities from a Yidon, a wise man who keeps a quail’s backbone in his mouth while he holds audience. Nowhere on earth lived better off people. Backyard gardens yielded precious stones by the bucketful. Push a twig into the ground and a tree would sprout. Livestock took a mere forty hours to double in body weight. And the people! Women wore sumptuous finery every day of the week. A humble boot maker’s household might employ five servants. Every meal in every home was a feast, and the lowest families lived like aristocrats. Prosperity so out of the ordinary was bound to breed behavior out of the ordinary. People were rich beyond dreams, and mean beyond words. The metropolis was a magnet for fortune-seekers, and aggravated out of their minds the locals devised laws and practices to stem the flood of undesirables. Only well-connected traders got entry passes, valid for one day. Would-be settlers had to prove they would inject more money into the economy than take out. Everyone else, on pain of cruel punishment, was barred. The gravest crimes were sharing, hosting and charity. Not even the lower forms of life were forgotten. Trees on public property were pruned down to bare branches so that birds would not have the benefit of fruit and seeds. Not only were laws severe, they were designed for decadent fun. The metropolis became a haven for every kind of pervert and swindler. A man had a right – a duty to rob any stranger caught in city limits, and afterwards to make fun with the errant’s unlucky posterior. Such was the rite of passage, if you’ll forgive the pun, which Sodom bequeathed the world. Had it not been for Lot’s guests, who were really guardian angels come to his rescue, Lot would have had two of his daughters upended in this way. A baying mob was at the door, demanding he surrender the offending strangers. Gallantly Lot offered his daughters in their stead. “Take them and do what you must do,” he said. The guardian angels saved the day. The mob was first blinded and then dispersed.              

Believe what I am telling; a Yidon is no yarn spinner. In Sodom perversity scaled the highest peak. Such punishments the human mind can devise! The penalty for helping a stranger was death. Weddings were citizen-only events; let a gatecrasher be caught and both he and the bride were undressed and paraded on tables at the wedding feast, before being auctioned for the highest bid. And everyone but everyone has heard of body tailoring Sodom’s way. Caught sleeping overnight in city limits the errant, depending on how tall or short he was, had his legs resized: either cut shorter or stretched longer to fit the bed.

Yet Lot had married a Sodomite woman. Eeris, not to put too fine a point on it, was a true-blue miser. The family home was palatial, but there was penny-pinching at every turn; and none more than with salt. You’d never have thought it, considering the  inland sea lapping salt-laden residue onto public beaches, and communal silos filled with enough salt for the needs of every human from the River Nile to the Euphrates. Lot’s wife kept her salt under lock and key. The cook had a careful weekly ration weighed out, and salt was never on the table; you had to ask for it and when it was brought it was in a copper thimble the size of a thumbnail. On the day her husband came home with two guests the first thing Eeris did was run to bully the cook on how to make the ingredients for six dinners suffice for eight. At the table her husband, eyeing the guests picking shyly at their food, asks for salt to be brought. With a look of sanction Eeris tells Lot that her order was late and they were clean out. On pretext of going to borrow from a neighbor, she runs to tell that illegals are sitting at her table. There and then the informer’s salty fate was sealed.

It would be the last supper. Events were in train for the conception in a cave. Prepared by Yahweh no less, a jar of wine with a good strong body was already in the hideaway to give Lot the vigor and verve he would need. The girls were to intoxicate their father before lying with him. It was all part of a divine plan to bring Moab into existence. And as Lot’s god planned events so they happened. The older sister set the example and the younger one followed. Both sure enough were impregnated and bore sons. The older, never one to keep a secret, called her baby Moab, “Born of the father.” More discretely the younger daughter named hers, Ben Ami or “Son of my people.”  Moab grew up, and regular as the four seasons he sired children with his siblings. A third generation boy, Lots great grandson, was named Besuel. He in turn had a son named Laban who became Balaam’s great, great, great grandfather, and passed down the bloodstock of a deviant.