False prophets in the Bible

The Bible expects you to take the words of God’s prophets very seriously, because they speak for God. It doesn’t approve of all prophets, though, and it’s equally adamant that some prophets should be ignored. But even false prophets can do miracles and stuff. So how can you tell who the real prophets are?

The Bible provides a few different ways to tell which prophets you shouldn’t listen to. And it encourages us to test prophecies and reject every kind of evil. So let’s see how many of the prophets in the Bible are not actually true prophets of God, according to the Bible’s own criteria.

Some of the Bible’s prophet tests are not so useful: It suggests that if a prophet doesn’t acknowledge Jesus, his prophecies are not coming from God. But most of the prophets in the Bible lived before Jesus, so can we really expect them to acknowledge him? Well, we are talking about prophets, so maybe we should expect that of them. But still, there’s no way to know for sure that a prophet didn’t ever acknowledge Jesus. Maybe they did, but the Bible just doesn’t mention it. So that test isn’t going to be useful for evaluating prophets of the past. But don’t worry, the Bible has other methods we can use to spot false prophets.

Prophets the Bible specifically calls false

The most obvious way to tell that someone is a false prophet according to the Bible is when the Bible specifically says so:

Now that you have a good idea of what the God of the Bible thinks of false prophets, let’s see who else God’s law says should have been treated the same way…

Prophets of other gods

The Bible says if a prophet tells you to worship other gods, God did send that prophet… but he has to be executed anyway. So does anyone who claims to speak for other gods. That means these people should have been killed and not listened to:

  • Aaron was “Moses’s prophet“, but he made idols and encouraged the people to worship them.1
  • Balaam got the Israelites to worship the gods of Moab.2
  • Micah’s priest, who was also a prophet, served a guy who made his own household gods. And then when some other people convinced him to go with them and be their priest instead, he took those idols with him, so those people could worship them too.
  • The prophets of Asherah were brought along with the prophets of Baal when Elijah challenged them to prove that their gods were real. But for some reason it doesn’t say what the outcome was for the prophets of Asherah. If they had failed as well, you’d think the author would have been eager to report it… But even if their gods were real, the Bible still says prophets who speak in the name of other gods have to be killed.

Prophets who made false predictions

There are a ton of false predictions in the Bible, so that’s another easy way to spot false prophets. The Bible says if what a prophet predicts turns out to be false, God has not actually sent that prophet or spoken through him, and that false prophet must be killed. That makes all these people false prophets:

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Does God listen to sinners?

No.

We all know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but only to godly people who do his will. That’s what a man said in the gospel of John, when he was defending Jesus against the Pharisees.

There are several passages in the Old Testament that agree with that statement. A psalmist wrote that if he had cherished sin, God wouldn’t have listened to him. Solomon said God hears the prayers of the righteous, but is far from the wicked. He also said that if anyone ignored his moral instruction, their prayers would be detestable. When God’s people sinned, their prayers just made him angry, and he wouldn’t listen to them. He covered himself with a prayer-proof cloud!

If you half-heartedly engage in religious rituals, but your behavior isn’t actually good, you can’t expect God to hear you, because your sins separate you from God and hide his face from you. If you don’t listen when God calls, God won’t listen when you call. God doesn’t even want to let wicked people ask him anything in the first place.

Even just being related to a sinner was enough to keep Saul from getting an answer from God. God pretty much never listens to people at all, so of course he doesn’t listen to sinners. Or is it that he always listens to everyone, so he does of course listen to sinners…?

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The Bible repeats itself too much—Part 1

In the beginning, God said: Let there be lights in the vault of the sky… and let them be lights in the vault of the sky. God created us in his image, and in his image he created us. And that’s the story of the heavens and earth when they were created, when God created the earth and heavens.

That sounded awfully unnecessarily repetitive, didn’t it? Well, that’s pretty much how those parts, and a whole lot more, are written in the Bible. Unnecessarily repetitively. Imagine how much shorter the Bible would be without all that pointless repetition…

The Bible says Ephron the Hittite sold Abraham a field with a cave in Machpelah near Mamre, and then Abraham buried his wife in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre. And then it says Abraham bought the field and the cave. For the purpose of burial. Later, Jacob told his sons to bury him in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, which was the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre that Abraham had bought with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite and buried his wife. Then he says the field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.

It tells you that the master of the cupbearer and baker of the king of Egypt was the king of Egypt. It says he put those two people, who were the cupbearer and baker, in custody. And then it tells you what happened to each of those two people (who were the cupbearer and baker of the king of Egypt, who were in prison) after they had been in custody.

God says he’s seen how the Egyptians are treating the Israelites, and he has heard their cry. And then he says it again. God tells Moses he’s the Lord, and to tell the Israelites that he’s the Lord, and that he’ll free them from Egypt. Because then they’ll know that he’s the Lord, who freed them from Egypt. Also, he’s the Lord. (And that’s just in one chapter; there’s plenty more of the same later.)

When a cloud covered the tabernacle and the glory of God filled the tabernacle, Moses couldn’t enter the tabernacle because a cloud covered the tabernacle and the glory of God filled the tabernacle. It says Moses sprinkled some oil and blood on Aaron and his garments, and on Aaron’s sons and their garments. And that’s how he consecrated Aaron, and his sons, and their garments.

Near the end of Leviticus, the Lord decides he needs to tell everybody that he’s the Lord a couple more times. When some Israelites were challenging Moses’s authority, Moses said God would have whoever really belonged to him come near him, and the man he chose he would cause to come near him.

When the priests and soldiers were marching around Jericho for seven days, it says on the seventh day they marched around the city seven times, the same way they had on the previous days, except this time they circled the city seven times. Then when Israel attacked the city of Ai, it says they left no survivors or fugitives. That’s redundant, because in that situation anyone who was one of those things would also have to be the other.

After God is done talking to Job, he tells the people who have been defending him against Job’s blasphemy Job’s friends that unlike Job, they have not spoken the truth about him. Then he says the same thing again.

Post-settlement stories

In a story in Judges, six hundred armed men stood at the entrance of the gate, and five men went in and took the idol, the ephod, and the household gods that somebody had in his house, while the six hundred armed men stood at the entrance of the gate.

The story of Ruth begins by telling us about a man from Bethlehem in Judah who took his family to live in Moab. Then it mentions that they were from Bethlehem, Judah, and that they went to Moab, and lived there. Later, it says that man’s wife had a relative from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz. And then it says the wife’s daughter-in-law went to work in the fields of Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.

David told Jonathan that tomorrow would be the New Moon feast. Then after they discussed what they would do tomorrow, Jonathan told David that tomorrow would be the New Moon feast.

After Jonathan died, David asked if there were any relatives left for him to show kindness to. Whoever he was talking to summoned a servant, and then David asked the servant the exact same question. Was it really necessary for the story to include that first part, where he doesn’t get an answer? The servant then tells David about Jonathan’s son, and mentions that the son is lame in both feet. Ten verses later, the narration mentions that Jonathan’s son was lame in both feet.

Rehoboam was advised to be a servant to his people and serve them, so that they would always be his servants. There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam.

When the king of Assyria removed the Israelites from their land and replaced them with foreigners, he was told that the people didn’t know what the god of that country required. And he was told that that god had sent lions after them, because the people didn’t know what the god of that country required.

When the king of Babylon removed the people of Judah from their land, he carried off all the fighting men, and all the skilled workers and artisans. He also deported the entire force of fighting men, and a thousand skilled workers and artisans.

Jesus (who was God, who was all-knowing) informed God that his disciples were “not of the world” any more than he was, and then he said it again, in case he hadn’t heard himself. According to John, when Judas came to betray Jesus, Jesus betrayed himself instead. And then when nobody arrested him, he did it again. Three times in a row, Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, Peter said he did, and Jesus told him to feed his sheep.

In three different chapters in the book of Acts, Peter tells people that when God sent Jesus to them, they had him killed, and then God brought him back to life.

Continue reading The Bible repeats itself too much—Part 1
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When did Nebuzaradan burn down the buildings of Jerusalem?

In 2 Kings, it says Nebuzaradan, a commander working for the king of Babylon, burned down all the important buildings in Jerusalem, including the temple, the palace, and all the houses. It says he did this on the 7th day of the 5th month of the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar.

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The Story of Ehud and Eglon
A Message From God

In the early days of the land of Israel, there was no king to tell the people what to do. Instead, they were led by “judges”, but the people didn’t listen to the judges; they did whatever they wanted. God didn’t like what his people were doing, so he let Eglon king of Moab take over Israel. Then the Israelites asked God to deliver them from Moab, so Ehud, the judge of Israel, was sent to meet king Eglon. Ehud said he had a secret message from God for Eglon, so Eglon sent all his attendants out of the room for privacy.

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A Message From God
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Did Jesus want people to obey the law?

Yes.

Some people claimed that Paul was speaking against the law and saying that Jesus was going to change the customs given by Moses. But those were false witnesses. Paul didn’t believe Christ promoted sin. Jesus himself said he had not come to abolish the law. He said as long as the world exists, not even the smallest bit of the law will disappear. After he healed a leper, Jesus told him to go through with the rituals that the law of Moses requires.

According to Jesus, the law is still very important. Keeping the commandments is how you get eternal life! So you must be careful to do everything the teachers of the law tell you. You can’t get into the kingdom of heaven unless you’re even better at obeying the law than law-obsessed people like the Pharisees. (Even they didn’t keep the law thoroughly enough to satisfy Jesus.) And even after you make it into the kingdom of heaven, he says your status there will be determined by how strictly you keep the law.

No.

A lot of the things Jesus taught were in contrast to the Jewish law given by Moses. Jesus would specifically mention one of Moses’s laws,1 and then contrast that with how he thought people should behave. Sometimes he was just adding to what Moses taught, but other times he was telling people not to do what Moses had told them to do.

For instance, Jesus thought the command to love your neighbor also said you should hate your enemy. It doesn’t actually say that, but that’s what Jesus seemed to think the law was. And he said you should do the opposite. Then there’s the “eye for an eye” rule, which actually is in the Old Testament law. Jesus told people to disregard that law, and to instead encourage people who mistreat you to mistreat you even more.

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Censorship in the Bible

I’m a big fan of freedom of speech. Here are a few of the reasons it’s important for everyone to be free to talk about controversial things without being forcibly silenced:

  • Think about important truths that were strongly rejected in the past. Those ideas could never have become accepted if people hadn’t been free to discuss them and to advocate for unpopular views.
  • The people deciding which views to forcibly suppress could easily be in the wrong, and end up suppressing the truth. The use of force doesn’t favor the people who are right. It favors whoever happens to be more powerful and capable of violence.
  • Even if it is in fact wrong views or potentially harmful ideas that are being suppressed, that just hides the fact that people have wrong beliefs, which makes it harder for anyone to actually do anything about it. If discussion of a topic is banned, there is no opportunity for anyone to correct people who are developing dangerously wrong beliefs about it. If people aren’t allowed to talk about their desire to harm people, that just means the victims will be less likely to be prepared to do anything to stop them.
  • Banning the expression of false beiefs can also backfire, causing people to assume that the truth is being hidden from them, and that the things people aren’t allowed to say must be true. And they will never realize how weak the arguments for those bad ideas are, if they never even get a chance to hear those arguments.

Many people believe that the USA, the country that values freedom of speech more than any other, was founded as a Christian nation by Christians based on Christian principles. If that was true, you would expect that the founders’ regard for free speech would have some basis in the Christian Bible. Or at least that the Bible would agree with them about it. Let’s look at what the Bible says about silencing speech, and see if that’s the case…

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Did Israel take any of the land of the Ammonites?

No.

The Bible says when the Israelites were conquering some nations on their way to the promised land, they stopped at the fortified border of the Ammonites. God told them to leave the Ammonites alone, and the Israelites obeyed, and kept away from the land of the Ammonites.

After the Israelites had settled in the promised land, Jephthah stated that Israel had not taken the land of the Ammonites. The Amorites, maybe, but not the Ammonites.

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The Story of the Gibeonite Deception
The Colonists Get Rid of the Natives

After destroying Jericho, the Israelites next went to the city of Ai, killed everyone there with swords, stole all their belongings, and burned down the city. When the nearby people of Gibeon heard about that, they figured out a way to keep the same thing from happening to them. They asked Joshua to make a treaty with them.

God had forbidden the Israelites to make a treaty with the people who lived in the land they were taking over, so when Joshua asked, the Gibeonites said they lived far away. So Israel made a treaty of peace with Gibeon and swore not to attack them.

Continue reading The Story of the Gibeonite Deception
The Colonists Get Rid of the Natives
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Did God only create good things?

The Bible says when God finished creating the world, he saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Later on, it says his works are perfect, and everything he created is good.

But that’s clearly not true. If God made everything, and not everything is good, that means not everything God made is good.

What about that one tree? The Bible says God made a tree that would bring death to those who ate from it. What’s so good about that tree? It served no purpose but to tempt people to disobey God and bring a curse on the world. That tree is something God created that was not good at all.

Continue reading Did God only create good things?
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