All my life I’ve heard that somewhere in the Bible there was a statement to the effect, “It is better to cast your seed in the belly of a whore than spill it on the ground.” This alleged statement was a topic of discussion with some of my friends today, including one unbeliever who adamantly stated a preacher had told him that such a statement was contained in the Bible. I have previously attempted to research the existence of this very statement through computer searches to no avail (which was really no surprise to me). Can you comment?
There is no such verse in the Bible, although it seems to be a biblical “urban legend.” The reference to spilling one’s seed on the ground comes from Genesis 38:9:
Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother.
I like the way David Guzik explains this passage in his commentary:
When Onan’s brother died, the levirate custom of that time (which was codified into law in Deuteronomy 25:5-10), was that if a man died before providing sons to his wife, it was the duty of his unmarried brothers to “marry” her and to give her sons. The child would be considered the son of the brother who had died, because really the living brother was acting in his place. This was done so that the dead brother’s name would be carried on; but also, so that the widow would have children who could support her. Apart from this, she would likely live the rest of her life as a destitute widow. Onan refused to take this responsibility seriously; he was more than happy to use Tamar for his own sexual gratification, but he did not want to give Tamar a son that he would have to support, but would be considered to be the son of Tamar’s late husband Er. Onan pursued sex as only a pleasurable experience; if he really didn’t want to father a child by Tamar, why did he have sex with her at all? He refused to fulfill his obligation to his dead brother and Tamar. Many Christians have used this passage as a proof-text against masturbation; indeed, masturbation has been called “onanism.” However, this does not seem to be the case here; whatever Onan was doing, he was not masturbating! This was not a sin of masturbation, but a sin of refusing to care for his brother’s widow by giving her offspring, and of a selfish use of sex.
Hope this helps!
P.S. I have received emails from people absolutely convinced that they had heard such a verse in church at some point in the past. I promise, having personally read every word of the Bible several times over, there is no such verse. But there is such a thing as faulty memory. . .