Violence and Conflict in Genesis and Antigone

Topics: Abraham, Cain and Abel, Book of Genesis Pages: 5 (1941 words) Published: November 8, 2006
Violence and conflict have always been issues among animals and humans due to the instinct to survive and hack down whomever or whatever gets in the way. Violence and conflict are major themes in both Antigone and the book of Genesis. Antigone is laden with violent imagery; countless arguments causing conflict between Antigone and Creon as well as Creon and Haemon; and the blatant violence of the various murders and suicides present in the play. Genesis, on the other hand, has a range of stories; a handful of which contain large-scale violence, such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah or Noah and the great flood. Genesis, as a much larger text than Antigone, also contains smaller violence, such as the story of Cain and Abel, which has one small episode of violence, or the story of Joseph, which contains smaller-scale violence but at a wider range. Why is violence such a strong theme in both of these ancient works? Both Sophocles and the various writers of the Bible lived in more primitive times when there were weakly enforced written laws concerning justice and fair play. The common solution to most problems were along the lines of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" which is a violent but sure method of justice. When Antigone buries her dead brother in the story of Sophocles's Antigone, Creon's immediate response is to have her killed and buried in response to the burial and her defiance to his decree. However, when Cain murders his only brother, Abel, " The Lord answered him, ‘No: if anyone kills Cain, sevenfold vengeance will be exacted from him.' The Lord put a mark on Cain, so that anyone happening to meet him should not kill him" (Genesis, 4:15). The character of God isn't exactly loving or caring throughout the entire book of Genesis but he does, for some reason, save Cain from certain death for killing his own brother. Is this to teach Cain a lesson and have him live forever with his sin or is God saying it's morally just to murder one's brother? From other passages in Genesis, I assume God means for Cain to live with his feelings of guilt and remorse as punishment for his deeds. Genesis also has another source of sibling violence and conflict with the story of Joseph. Joseph's brothers hate him because he's Isaac's favorite and also because Joseph dreamed that one day his brothers would bow down to him; as a solution, Joseph's brothers toss him in a cistern. "When Joseph reached his brothers, they stripped him of the long robe with sleeves which he was wearing, picked him up, and threw him into the cistern. It was empty, with no water in it" (Genesis 37:23-24). Initially the brothers planned to kill Joseph. "They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. ‘Here comes that dreamer,' they said to one another. ‘Now is our chance; let us kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns; we can say that a wild beast has devoured him" (Genesis 37:18-20). The story of Joseph also has small amounts of non-sibling violence with the hanging of the baker. "'This is the interpretation. Three baskets are three days: within three days Pharaoh will raise your head off your shoulders and hang out on a tree, and the birds of the air will devour the flesh off your bones.' The third day was Pharaoh's birthday and he gave a banquet for all his officials. He had the chief cupbearer and the chief baker brought up where they were all assembled. The cupbearer was restored to his position, and he put the cup into Pharaoh's hand; about the baker was hanged" (Genesis 40:18-22). Why is violence so prevalent in the story of Joseph? In earlier and even present times, violence was a method of exacting justice or solving what seemed to be a pressing matter. Joseph's brothers clearly feel that Isaac's favoring of Joseph is threatening them in some way so they plan to get rid of him, if not kill him, to remedy the issue. "When his brothers saw that their father loved him...
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