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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.

Exodus 2:11-12
One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

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
From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!" He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.

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.

Ezekiel 23:19-20
Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt. There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.

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.

Judges 3:16-23
Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way the men who had carried it. At the idols near Gilgal he himself turned back and said, "I have a secret message for you, O king." The king said, "Quiet!" And all his attendants left him. Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, "I have a message from God for you." As the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king's belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

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.

Numbers 16:23-33
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Say to the assembly, 'Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.'" Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. He warned the assembly, "Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins." So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents. Then Moses said, "This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt." As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah's men and all their possessions. They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.

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!!"

Deuteronomy 25:11-12
If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.

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.

Judges 15:15-16
Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men. Then Samson said, "With a donkey's jawbone, I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey's jawbone, I have killed a thousand men."

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
Saul replied, "Say to David, 'The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.'" Saul's plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines. When the attendants told David these things, he was pleased to become the king's son-in-law. So before the allotted time elapsed, David and his men went out and killed two hundred Philistines. He brought their foreskins and presented the full number to the king so that he might become the king's son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.

This passage raises several thousand questions. Just off the top of our head:

  • What did Saul (the king at the time) want with 100 foreskins? Was he going to make a scarf?
  • Did David think this was a strange request?
  • If this was secretly a plan to have David killed, why didn't he require he bring back, say, 100 bear foreskins?
  • Did David just wander into Philistia and kill the first 200 men he saw? Did they think this was odd? Or, with all the other shit that went down back then, did they just shrug it off?
  • How do you forcefully circumcise 200 men without violating the "Don't grab the junk" commandment from earlier?
  • Whose job was it to count the foreskins after David came back? Do they make a pair of tongs long enough for that task?

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
Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire - he is God." Then all the people said, "What you say is good."
1 Kings 18:38-40
Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD -he is God! The LORD -he is God!" Then Elijah commanded them, "Seize the prophets of Baal. Don't let anyone get away!" They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.

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.

David Wong, Owen Ball. The 9 Most Badass Bible Verses. New International Version (NIV)


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