If I am married, and I am having sex with my wife, is pulling out a sin? Judah's son pulled out when performing his brotherly duties and was struck dead by God. I know that it was because he robbed Tamar of her right to a child, but Deuteronomy and Leviticus speak of the spilling semen as being unclean. Do you think that the Lord views it as wrong to waste a possible conception because we are not letting Him take control of when He wants us to get pregnant, or is it personal conviction?
People commonly focus on physical actions instead of noticing the spiritual problems behind the actions. For instance, when Jesus' condemned the Jews: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28). The Jews were congratulating themselves for following God's law because they weren't committing the act of adultery, but they were allowing the attitudes that lead up to adultery. Jesus said the attitude was just as bad as the act.
"Then Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him. And Judah said to Onan, "Go in to your brother's wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother." But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother's wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also" (Genesis 38:6-10).
Onan was practicing a form of contraception that we commonly call the "withdrawal method." To understand why God killed Onan, we need to consider extra information. Under ancient common law, if a man died before producing any heirs, his wife was given to the next nearest relative as a wife. The first child produced by this couple would then be considered the child of the dead man with full inheritance rights. Another law that comes into play here is that when a man dies, his estate is divided among his living children. You count the number of children that a man had, add one, and then divide the estate that many ways. The eldest child would receive two portions and the rest would receive one portion each. Judah had three children; hence, before Er died, his estate would be divided into four parts. Let's assume Judah had $600,000. If Judah had died first, Er would have inherited $300,000 and Onan and Shelah would have inherited $150,000 each. When Er died, there were only two sons and Onan was the eldest. Thus, Onan's potential inheritance would be $400,000 and Shelah would get $200,000. However, if Onan got Tamar pregnant, then the child would be Er's heir. With one pregnancy Onan stood to lose $250,000. "But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother's wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother" (Genesis 38:9). Onan's sin was not that his semen was spilled on the ground, but the reason why he withdrew before ejaculating. Onan's sin was greed and not an imagined "right" of Tamar to a child.
"If any man has an emission of semen, then he shall wash all his body in water, and be unclean until evening. And any garment and any leather on which there is semen, it shall be washed with water, and be unclean until evening. Also, when a woman lies with a man, and there is an emission of semen, they shall bathe in water, and be unclean until evening" (Leviticus 15:16-18).
"Whatever man of the descendants of Aaron, who is a leper or has a discharge, shall not eat the holy offerings until he is clean. And whoever touches anything made unclean by a corpse, or a man who has had an emission of semen, or whoever touches any creeping thing by which he would be made unclean, or any person by whom he would become unclean, whatever his uncleanness may be - the person who has touched any such thing shall be unclean until evening, and shall not eat the holy offerings unless he washes his body with water" (Leviticus 22:4-6).
"If there is among you any man who is unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he must go outside the camp; he may not reenter the camp. But it shall be when evening approaches, he shall bathe himself with water, and at sundown he may reenter the camp" (Deuteronomy 23:10-11).
Just as a woman was considered unclean under the Old Law during her monthly menstruation (Leviticus 15:19-25), a man was considered unclean for one day after he ejaculated. The uncleanness did not mean the woman or man had done something wrong or sinful. Breaking God's laws were sinful, but most unclean events were not sinful in and of themselves. For example, a pig is not sinful, but it was unclean and it was sinful to eat pork under the Old Law. Yet, today this rule does not exist for Christians (Acts 11:6-9; I Timothy 4:4-5). The uncleanness was by rule and not because of some innate property in the unclean thing. Many of the things called unclean under the Mosaical Law are recognized as reasonable health practices today. A woman's blood flow can be a potential breeding ground for diseases, as can a man's semen.
The rules covered semen being released during sexual intercourse (Leviticus 15:18). But semen can be released for other reasons and Leviticus 15:16-17 cover the cases that don't deal with intercourse. Deuteronomy 23:10 specifically mentions nocturnal emission (or "night wetting"). The male reproductive system constantly produces both sperm and semen. Nocturnal emission is one method God has built into men to handle the problem of excess semen. To put it bluntly, when there is excess semen, the body instinctively pleasures itself to orgasm to release the excess. Masturbation also produces an emission of semen, so it also would be covered by these laws.
Preventing God from Controlling when a Child is Conceived
"The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD" (Proverbs 16:1).
"The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).
"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD" (Proverbs 16:33).
A frequent point made in the Scriptures is that man cannot hinder God's will. God allows us free choice, but in the things that God wants to accomplish, these will come about. As God declared, "Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it" (Isaiah 46:11). The very idea that a mere mortal can stand in God's way is laughable.
God directs our lives (Proverbs 16:9), but we are left to choose our mates, or even if we don't marry at all (I Corinthians 7:1,5, 8-9, 26-28). The decision to marry ultimately determines if a child is born since one must be married before engaging in sexual intercourse. Besides God approves of a man planning for his future (Acts 19:21; 20:3, 16; Romans 1:13; II Corinthians 9:7). When we plan, we should take care that our plans are in harmony with God's will. We should always be aware that some things are simply out of our control (James 4:13-15). Yet, this does not mean we do not plan for the things God has left in our control.