Midrash Tanhuma, Vayera 8
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מדרש תנחומא, וארא ח ,תלמוד ירושלמי מסכת קידושין פרק א דף סא טור א /ה"ו
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אחד מארבעה בני אדם שעשו את עצמן אלהות, ונבעלו כנשים... חירם ונבוכדנצר ופרעה ויואש. חירם מנין, שנאמר אמור לנגיד צור כה אמר ה' אלהים יען גבה לבך ותאמר אל אני (שם /יחזקאל/ כח ב), ולפי שעשה את עצמו אלוה נבעל כנשים שנאמר שיחת חכמתך על יפעתך וגו' לראוה בך (שם שם /יחזקאל כ"ח/ יז), מהו לראוה בך, יעבדון ריעותיהן בך. נבוכדנצר מנין, שנאמר אעלה על במתי עב אדמה לעליון (ישעיה יד יד), א"ל הקב"ה חייך אך אל שאול תורד אל ירכתי בור (שם שם /ישעיהו י"ד/ טו), מה עשה הקב"ה, הגלה אותו עד שהוא במלכותו, והאכילו עשב כבהמה שנאמר ועשבא כתורין לך יטעמון וגו' (דניאל ד כב), והיו הבהמה והחיה רואין אותו בדמות בהמה ובועלין אותו. יואש מנין, שנאמר ואחרי מות יהוידע באו שרי יהודה וישתחוו למלך (דה"ב =דברי הימים ב'= כד יז), מהו וישתחוו למלך, שעשו אותו אלוהא וקיבל עליו, שנאמר אז שמע (אליהם המלך) [המלך אליהם] (שם /דברי הימים ב' כ"ד י"ז/), ונבעל כנשים, שנאמר ואת יואש עשו שפטים (שם שם /דברי הימים ב' כ"ד/ כד...תני ר' ישמעאל מלמד שהעמידו עליו בירניות קשים שלא הכירו אשה מימיהם והיו מענין בו כדרך שמענין את האשה. פרעה עשה עצמו אלוה, דכתיב: לי יארי ואני עשיתני (יחזקאל כט) ופרעה עשה עצמו אלוהא ונבעל כנשים, שנאמר הנני נותן את פרעה הפרע מלך מצרים (ירמיה מד ל), מהו הפרע, שפערו לאחריו, הוא פרעה שהיה זכר ונעשה נקבה.
There were four men (kings) who made themselves into gods and [consequently] were penetrated like women . . . Hiram, Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, and Yoash. 1) From where do we learn of Hiram? As it says, “Say to [Hiram,] the Prince of Tyre, ‘So says the Lord God: Because you have been so haughty and have said “I am a god” . . . I will bring against you strangers, the most ruthless of nations. They shall unsheathe their swords against your prized shrewdness and they shall strike down your splendor’” (Ezek. 28:3–7). Since he claimed that he was a god, he was penetrated as a woman, as it says, “Your heart was haughty because of your beauty, you debased your wisdom for the sake of splendor; I have cast you to the ground before kings and given you over to them to make an exhibition of you” (Ezek. 28:17). What does it mean “to make an exhibition of you”—they will have their desire will with you. 2) From where do we learn of Nebuchadnezzar? [About Nebuchadnezzar] it is written: “Once you thought in your heart, ‘I will climb the sky, I will set my throne higher than the stars of God . . . I will match the Most High” (Isa. 14:13–14). God replied to him, “Instead, you are brought down to Sheol, to the bottom of the pit” (Isa. 14:15). [God] exiled him from his kingdom and fed him grass like a beast, as it says [referring to Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Daniel], “You will be driven away from men and have your habitation with the beasts of the field.” [What does this mean?] Beasts will see him in the form of a beast and sexually penetrate him. 3) From where do we learn of Yoash? After king Yehoiada’s death, the princes of Judah came to bow before the king [Yoash] (2 Chron. 24:17). What does it mean that they bowed before the king? They deified him and he accepted it. . . . [Later, in the same chapter we discover the fate of king Yoash.] It is written, “They inflicted punishments on Yoash” (2 Chron. 24:24). Taught Rabbi Ishmael: This teaches that they appointed over him cruel guards who never knew a woman, and they would abuse him the way one abuses a woman. 4) From where do we learn that Pharaoh deemed himself a god and was penetrated like a woman? From the verse, “I will deal with you, Pharaoh, king of Egypt . . . who says ‘The Nile is mine, I made it for myself ’ (Ezek. 29:3). It is I who created myself ”! Pharaoh made himself a god, and [as punishment] he was penetrated like a woman, as it says, “Behold I will deliver Pharaoh Hophra, king of Egypt, into the hands of his enemies” (Jer. 44:30). Why was his name Hophra? Because he spread him open [phar’a] from behind. This is Pharaoh who was a male and was made into a female. [Translation by Rabbi Steve Greenberg]
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Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. The general rule of "middah knegged middah" (measure for measure) requires punishments to fit crimes. Why do you think, in the view of the rabbis, should the crime of royal hubris be punished with anal rape? ( Hint: In the ancient world, the ladders of hierarchy put God above men and men above women.)

2. In the greco-roman world, a man could appropriately have intercourse only with a person beneath him in status and power, a woman, a slave, a boy...but not an equal. In what way might this historical context help us to understand this midrashic text?

3. Considering this midrash and its context, what options might this suggest for interpreting the text in Leviticus 18:22?

4. Excluding the very violent expression than rape, do you think that in our own contemporary culture, men feel shame when they are treated as if they were like women? Words like "sissy" are still used to make fun of boys on the school playground. Why should being like a girl so humiliating to a boy?

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Time Period: Rabbinic (Maccabees through the Talmud)