Something You Didn't Expect
The Holy Bible is by far the most widely known and circulated book in the history of the world, and the stories it contains are held to be literally Gospel truth by over a Billion faithful believers around the globe. No matter where a person lives on this vast planet we call home, they cannot help but be affected by its doctrine, and moreover, by its faithful adherents, who have zealously propagated the religion of Christianity the world over.
There are in the Old Testament roughly three hundred passages which talk of people doing violence to each other, either a report or a threat or a command, or a lament. There are roughly a thousand passages which talk of God's violence or wrath; either a report of his slaying someone, or his threatening people with violence or descriptions of him as a man of war. To ignore the violence in the Old Testament is like making a study of Churchill and completely ignoring the fact that he was English. Violence is not peripheral to the Bible it is central, in many ways it is the issue, because of course it is the human problem.
You know how you sometimes read the Bible and discover something that you didn't expect was there? I'm not talking about anything spiritually meaningful in this case. I'm talking about finding something weirder than you expected. The Bible has more sex and violence in it than you might think.
Sure, Moses was a great leader, an emancipator of his people and a prophet. Most people don't know that he also was the Biblical equivalent of Splinter Cell's Sam Fisher - a well-honed killing machine, able to slay from the shadows without pity or remorse. Martin Luther King may have had a dream, but Moses had a body count.
You can almost picture the scene: An Egyptian soldier is wailing on a hapless Hebrew when Moses, clothed in head-to- toe black, drops down from the ceiling. Moving with cat-like grace, he sneaks up behind the soldier and, taking his head in his hands, snaps the man's neck with one savage twist. As the lifeless body slumps to the ground, Moses lights up a cigar. "Well," he quips, "looks like someone bit off more than he could Jew." Moses later defeated the Egyptian Pharaoh, who, if we remember correctly, had been using Hebrew slaves to construct a 40-foot-high armored battle suit capable of launching nuclear missiles to anywhere in the world.
2 Kings 2:23-24
We've all been there. You're walking along, minding your own business, when a gang of cocky, young bastards start hurling abuse at you. Most of us would just keep walking, or maybe, yell some insults back or flip them the bird. Elisha (commonly regarded as the Luke Skywalker to the Prophet Elijah's Obi-Wan Kenobi), however, decides to take it one step further. Invoking the name of God, he summons motherfucking bears to come and claw the shit out of them.
Christians are constantly asking for prayer in schools to help get today's kids in line, but we beg to differ. We need bears in schools. If every teacher had the power to summon a pair of child-maiming grizzly avengers, you can bet that schoolchildren nowadays would be the most well-behaved, polite children, ever. It's a simple choice: listen to the biology lesson, or get first-hand knowledge of the digestive system of Ursus horribilis.
It should be pointed out that even after his death, Elisha continued to kick ass. II Kings 13:20-21 tells us that when a dead body was thrown into his tomb and touched Elisha's bones, it sprang back to life. It's unknown whether Elisha had this power in life, as well as death, but we like to think he did and that he had the habit of killing his victims with bears, resurrecting them, and then promptly re-summoning the bears to kill them, again. He'd just repeat the whole thing over and over until he got bored.
Contrary to what you may think, the Bible has never shied away from talking about sex. In fact, the entire Song of Solomon is dedicated to describing a couple getting it on, complete with lines like "I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers". This verse is particularly explicit, though, informing us that Egyptians are hung like farmyard animals, and can ejaculate in quantities to rival the annual flooding of the Nile.
Keep in mind, the Egyptians were the Jews' former slave masters and are the bad guys in this story. So, you know their reputation for supreme endowment was well earned when the worst their enemies could say was, "Go on! Go back to those big-cocked bastards! I hope you're happy with their enormous dongs."
The old Egyptians didn't exactly run from their reputation. Egyptian ruins are littered with statues like the one on the right (this one is Min, the god of huge dong-having). They even invented the phallic obelisk to advertise it (picture the Washington Monument, that's an obelisk). That was their statement to the world: "Gaze upon our dick tower and despair."
This passage creates a problem for many new Bible readers. Once you've read this, it is impossible to go back and read the above story of Moses killing the Egyptian guy the same way. When it speaks of the Egyptian beating the Hebrew slave, you have no choice but to imagine him turkey slapping the man. If anything, however, it makes Moses' deadly intervention all the more justified.
They say that history repeats itself, and this verse illustrates that clearly. Our hero Ehud came up with the idea of concealing a weapon by strapping it to his body several thousand years before John McClane did in Die Hard. Instead of strapping it to his back, Ehud chose to tie it to his thigh. One wonders why the royal guards didn't comment when they frisked Elud and felt 18 inches of rigid steel in his pants. Maybe, they just assumed he was Egyptian.
After bypassing the tight security, Ehud continues to act like a Bruce Willis character by busting out a snappy one liner: "I have a message from God for you," he declares shortly before whipping out his blade and shanking the evil, grotesquely obese King Eglon in the belly.
Really, the only way to improve on this would be by shoehorning an awful pun into it, such as "You should really cut down on your fat intake!" or "Looks like being king takes guts!" As he leaves, Ehud shows he hasn't forgotten his good manners by considerately shutting the door behind him. It doesn't say if he went flying across rooftops Assassin's Creed-style, so we're forced to assume he did. As bad as the delivery of that particular message from God went for Eglon, he got off lucky. As you'll see, God sometimes delivers the message himself.
The above happened years after Moses killed the Egyptian guy and led a country's worth of Hebrews into the desert where they wandered aimlessly for several decades (as seen in The Ten Commandments). At some point, a troublemaker named Korah and 250 supporters banded together and aired a series of complaints about the fact that they were wandering aimlessly in the desert.
God listened carefully to their complaints, weighed their points, then made the earth eat them alive. The text does not make it clear whether or not the earth made that "OM NOM NOM" sound, so scholars are forced to speculate. This really puts things in perspective for the anti-religion critics. They can complain all they want about religious "intolerance" and pushy evangelicals trying to censor TV and annoy people into conversion. But, that's a hell of an improvement over the situation during the Exodus, when God would feed nonbelievers to the mighty Sarlacc.
Two verses later, God sends down a ball of fire and incinerates the other 250 rebels. You have to imagine there was a moment of tentative relief when the 250 rebels saw that they had not been swallowed up along with Korah. "Yeah," they probably said. "Thank you! We were just about to bury that asshole ourselves! Fortunately, we all have learned the error of our rebellious ways and--hey, what's that ... AAARRRGGGHHH! FIRE!!"
This is a man's law, right here. When Conan became king at the end of Conan the Destroyer, you can bet he made sure there was a rule just like this his first day in office. "Ladies, we respect your right to resolve disputes in whatever manner you feel necessary for the situation. But, DO NOT GRAB THE JUNK."
The words in the Bible are actually those of God, speaking to the Hebrews and taking time to add the junk-grab rule into the supplemental commandments that didn't make it into the original 10. This had to be right after God realized his plan for a male-dominated society had a fatal flaw, which is that the women could prevail in any conflict simply by grabbing the men's junk.
Now, you nervous, liberal types are complaining that this is barbaric and misogynistic. Perhaps, a little context helps. Just a couple of pages earlier, in Deuteronomy 23:1, we get this: No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD. "Emasculated by crushing?" Gah! Everything in the Bible has to be understood in context of the times these people were living in. And, apparently, these people lived in a time when "crushing" the nuts was so common that the crushed-nuts victims were an entire demographic that had to be accounted for in the law. Call these commandments savage if you want, but if you were God, how many nuts would you have to see "crushed" before you overreacted? We're thinking the answer is two.
Of course, if you're not a believer and don't think this "grab the nuts, lose a hand" commandment is from the almighty at all, then it becomes obvious what happened: The rule was handed down by some angry clergyman within the first minute or so of having his junk crushed. All perspective tends to go out the window at that moment.
Samson could have dominated this list if we had let him. He was a sort of biblical superhero, who could basically call down the powers of the Lord to turn himself into a hurricane of ass kicking. His whole story involves a feud with the Philistines, people who lived in part of what is now Israel and embraced the long tradition of going to war with the Jews. Or, specifically, the Philistines went to war against just Samson. And, they pretty much lost.
On this particular day, the Philistines had burned Samson's wife to death, and sent some men to capture him. Specifically, they sent 3,000 men. So, at that point, Samson either had the reputation as a world-class badass, or the Philistine army was the equivalent of those shitty battle droids from the Star Wars prequels that could only kill an enemy soldier by crushing him under a pile of their own corpses.
Either way, they didn't send enough. Samson tore apart the skull of a nearby dead donkey and grabbed a jawbone then killed a thousand men with it. A thousand. What should be emphasized in this story was the bravery of the Philistine soldiers, specifically the ones in the back who kept charging even after seeing 700 or so of their comrades go down with shattered skulls. We're talking about guys who probably climbed over a pile of bodies 15-feet high to get to him.
If this story seems improbable, you can always claim mistranslation (for instance, in some versions of the story it's 20 Philistines instead of a thousand). We like to think they merely made the mistake of confusing a donkey's jawbone with that of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Or, perhaps "donkey's jawbone" was mistranslated from the original Hebrew word for "minigun."
Josheb-Basshebeth, who according to 2 Samuel 23:8, "... raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter." Obviously he lost points for killing fewer men and for using an actual weapon to do it, which almost seems like cheating at this point. There was also Anath in Judges 3:31, who "struck down six hundred philistines with an oxgoad." An oxgoad is a sharp stick you used to poke oxen. That started the Israeli tradition of killing large numbers of their enemies with farmyard tools, which continued through Samson and onto modern times, where the Six Day War of 1967 was won by a crippled Israeli peasant wielding a watering can. The Philistines almost certainly remembered Samson as the worst thing that ever happened to them... until David came along.
1 Samuel 18:25-27
This passage raises several thousand questions. Just off the top of our head:
We're guessing we'll never know. It doesn't matter, because at its heart, this story is about love. For the hand of Micah, David went further than any man would have gone. Way, way, way further. Ladies, when a man finally proposes to you, ask him one simple question: "How many dongs would you mutilate for me?" If you demand a hundred and he doesn't blink, he's a keeper. But, if he's David, who was sent after a hundred and then came back with twice that many just for the hell of it, well, you've got a love for the ages.
1 Kings 18:24
The situation was that people of Israel had taken to Baal worship, a faith that added a lot of whores to its rituals and thus gained immediate popularity. Elijah (not the one with the bears, that was Elisha) decided that the people had to choose between Baal and God.
Rather than write a series of books or give a bunch of boring speeches, Elijah invited 450 Baal prophets to a contest, where both sides would set up an animal sacrifice. Whichever God could rain down fire on its sacrifice would be the one everybody worshiped. That is how they used to do religious debates back in the day.
It's brilliant in its simplicity, and we're surprised religious debates were ever carried out any other way after that. You can raise all the intellectual challenges you want about faith and the origins of the universe, but at the end of the day, you have to worship the god who can set you on fire. It's common sense.
We like to think Elijah stood in front of the howling column of heavenly fire, straightened his robes, turned to the crowd and said, "Thus, my opponent's argument falls." Then, he finished the debate in the way that all debates should be finished: by having the losers slaughtered.
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