A Lost Parable: The Sin of Contraception

The following parable from the lost Book of Hokum, is mentioned by several ancient authors, but until its recent discovery in a midden in the Middle East, the content of the story was unknown.  I have provided this translation.

And lo, there was a man who had two sons. And he said unto them, “My sons, I grow weak and feel the hand of Death upon me. I will divide all that I have between you, my lands, my flocks and my herds, my servants and my riches.”   And his sons wept to hear him speak of Death, but consoled themselves, thinking, “Truly, it is the lot of all men that life shall be taken from them.” And when he had died, they mourned him the accustomed time and divided his wealth between them as he had wished.  And because their father had lands on both sides of the Middle Sea, the elder son betook himself across the waters to dwell in those lands, while the younger remained in their birthplace, divided from him by the Sea.

Now the elder son took a wife, a woman dear to his heart who bore him two children, a son and a daughter. And after the daughter was born, she said to her husband, “Behold, I have given thee a son and a daughter.   I will willingly bear more children for thee that our people may grow and be a power in the land.” But the eldest son admonished her saying, “My best beloved, we will be content with these two children who will be ours to love and who will love and support us in our old age.   We will have no more, so that all that we have may be given to them in abundance. For more children, though a great joy, will demand their share of what we have, and if there come a time of famine or drought, the blessing of many children may become a curse. Therefore when we lie together, let us use the knowledge that has been given us to prevent the conceiving of children.” And so they did.

But the younger son also took a wife, who was no less dear to him, and she too bore him two children. And she said, “Behold I have given thee two children. I will willingly bear more for thee that our people may grow and be a power in the land.” And the words of his wife were pleasing to the younger son, and he gave heed to what she said. And in so doing, they repudiated the knowledge given to them to prevent the conceiving of offspring, telling themselves it was a great sin to impede the course of nature. In the years that followed, many more children were born to them, to the number of twelve.

And when these children were of age, they too married, and children were given to them.   And because they followed in the ways of their parents, they too had many, many children, until their family was as numerous as the leaves on the tree. But the elder son’s children did as their parents had done, and each bore only two children.

Now it happened that the younger son’s grandchildren found their portions were not to their liking, being small and insufficient to what they believed their needs to be. And though they were of one kin, some, whose blood was hotter than the rest, began to grumble, and then to chafe and shake their spears, saying, “Our children do not have enough, while yours have plenty.”   Then angry words were spoken and fighting broke out on that side of the Middle Sea. Some raided the others’ granaries, and some were slain defending their homes and their fields.   And soon they chose them leaders who ruled with an iron hand, leaders who lived for war and power, and who did not care how many perished.   And a great tribulation came upon the kindred of the younger son, as much of what they had was destroyed.

Then some of those who had lost their homes looked across the Middle Sea and saw the children of the elder son living in peace and plenty.   And they sent emissaries to the elder son, who received them kindly. “Help us,” the emissaries said, “we have nothing and you have so much. Give us alms that we may not die. Take us into your land that we may live again.”

And the elder son was troubled and called his children and grandchildren together to counsel with them, saying, “What shall be done?” And some said, “We must help them, they are our kindred,” while others said, “This is nothing to do with us.   They are the cause of their own destruction.”

But the wisest among them said, “Let us help them but only if they will agree to limit their numbers as we have done. For if they continue to multiply in this way, and continue in their belief in the sin of contraception, they will only sow the seeds of discord in years to come. Further, let us demand as recompense for the alms we give them, that they sit with us to study the arts of peace so that all might learn it is better to seek wisdom than war. And if there be those who poison the minds of the young with hatred, who would take what they want at the point of the sword, who worship death, let them be cast out and their words repudiated forever. Sothlice.

3 thoughts on “A Lost Parable: The Sin of Contraception

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  2. […] For further reading: A Lost Parable: The Sin of Contraception […]

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