The Story of the Golden Calf
Moses Receives the Commandments

On the mountain, or wherever

Moses climbed up Mount Sinai to meet God, who told him that his people needed to keep his covenant. Moses went back down and told the Israelites, and they said they would keep it. So Moses went back up the mountain and told God what they said. Then God said he was going to come and talk to Moses. Then Moses told God what the people had said, again.

God told Moses how the people should prepare for God to talk to Moses, and how Moses should keep the people away from the holy mountain while God was there. Then Moses went down and told the people what God had said. He also told them not to have sex during the visit from God, which God had not said anything about.

Moses stood at the foot of the mountain with the people and talked with God. Then Moses went up to the top of the mountain so God could talk to him. God told Moses to go and warn the people not to get too close to the mountain. Moses reminded the all-knowing God that they had already put limits around the mountain to keep people away, because God had told them to.

Then God told Moses to go down and get his brother Aaron. So he went down and told the people to stay away from the mountain, again. While Moses was down there with the people, God told them the Ten Commandments. But God was too scary, so the Israelites told Moses not to let God speak to them directly. So Moses went back up the mountain, and God gave him some more laws for Israel, so they would have more opportunities to sin. God thought that would help save people’s lives, but somehow it didn’t work.

Then God told Moses to come up the mountain with Aaron and some others. So Moses went down the mountain and told the people about all those laws. The people said they would obey them. Moses wrote down the laws, and then he came up the mountain with Aaron and some others. Then God told Moses to come up the mountain so he could give him the law. So Moses went up the mountain with his assistant, Joshua, leaving Aaron with the people. A week later, God started talking to Moses and giving him more instructions.

A festival to the Lord

The Israelites thought they saw a fire on top of the mountain, where Moses was staying for 40 days without eating or drinking. They didn’t know what had happened to him, so they got his brother Aaron to make them a calf idol out of their gold earrings. Then Aaron announced a festival to the Lord. So the people ate and drank and sang and danced and sacrificed burnt offerings.

Then God told Moses to go down to his people, and also to stand back so he could destroy his people, because they were worshipping an idol. But Moses pointed out that if God killed all the Israelites, he would be breaking his promise to Abraham, and the Egyptians would think God was evil. When the all-knowing, never-changing, all-good God heard this, he changed his mind and decided not to kill everybody. Then Moses and Joshua went down the mountain.

Moses has a cow

When Moses saw the golden calf, he was so angry that he broke the tablets of the law that God had given him. He ground the calf into powder and made the Israelites drink it. Moses asked Aaron what had happened. Aaron explained that the people had given him some gold jewelry, and he had thrown it into a fire, and then a calf came out!

When Moses, Aaron, and God saw the people celebrating their festival to the Lord, they thought the Israelites were becoming too evil. To fix that problem, they decided to tell the Israelites to murder each other. So Moses commanded all the Levites to go through the camp and kill their families and friends and neighbors with swords. Because they did this, killing about 3000 of God’s people, Levi became God’s special blessed tribe.

Then after God had forgiven his people, Moses went back up the mountain and lay facedown 40 more days without eating or drinking, and convinced God to forgive his people. So God struck the Israelites with a plague.

Moses broke the law

God told Moses to take the Israelites to the land of Canaan, which he had promised to give to Abraham’s descendants. But the ever-present God said he would stay behind. If the all-good, untemptable God went with the Israelites, he might not be able to stop himself from killing them all. But Moses convinced the never-changing God to go with them anyway, to make sure the Israelites would all die and people would think God was evil. Then after he convinced him, he tried to convince him again, but God ignored him.

God told Moses to bring two new stone tablets up the mountain, so that God could write on them the same laws that had been on the first tablets before Moses broke them. So Moses went up the mountain one more time, and God made Moses write down his laws, which were completely different from what God had written on the original tablets. Moses put the tablets inside the ark of the covenant, a chest that had been made by Moses or whoever, that had nothing else in it (aside from the other things that were in it).

The end.

The moral of the story

God loves murderers.


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The Ten Plagues

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The Offensive Offering1

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Should people drink wine?

No.

Going after wine is a foolish thing to do. It will only betray you, cloud your judgement, and cause all kinds of suffering. Wine makes you stupid, unhealthy, and defiled. Only wicked and indecent people get drunk on wine, and only godless people and detestable pagans drink wine all day. If you don’t belong to the dark side, you must remain sober. So if anyone offers you wine, follow Jesus’s example and refuse it. God will not forgive people who enjoy wine, until the day they die.

That won’t be too long though, since the Bible says people who are accused of being drunkards must be executed. But people who get drunk, or even associate with drunkards, won’t be forgiven after they die, either. They won’t be allowed in the kingdom of God. People who are good at drinking wine will fall apart like they’re being consumed by fire. God will destroy those who shamefully get others drunk on wine, as they deserve.

Yes.

Paul advises people to drink wine to improve their health. Solomon also wisely advises people to enjoy wine, with God’s approval. Wisdom herself invites people to drink wine, so it can’t be a foolish thing to do. And drinking wine and getting drunk can’t be a bad thing to do if God makes people do it, right? Would God force people to sin?

God created grapes so people could make wine to gladden their hearts and make them thrive. Jacob, the father of God’s chosen people, was given an abundance of wine as a blessing. God gave his people wine as a blessing and a reward for following his laws and honoring him. Not getting to drink wine is a curse and a punishment for failing to do what God wants. For instance, God takes away people’s wine when they fail to recognize that wine is a gift from God.

God told Aaron and his priestly family they could have all the finest wine of the land. He tells people to invite others to drink wine. He said when you free your slaves, you should generously supply them with wine, as he generously supplies all people with wine. God clearly doesn’t see wine as a bad thing.

Noah was righteous and blameless, and he made wine and drank it till he passed out. Even Jesus drank wine and provided others with wine, and he never sinned. So drinking wine is not a sin. In fact, it’s a requirement. Some of the religious rituals God commanded his people to engage in involved drinking wine.

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Religious discrimination in the Bible

In this post, we’ll look at passages in the Bible that express disapproval of different religious views. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that; religions are beliefs, and beliefs can be wrong, and having wrong beliefs is a bad thing. Pointing out people’s false beliefs and trying to correct them is a good thing. But sometimes people go about combatting wrong beliefs in very wrong ways, such as trying to force people to change their beliefs or be punished.1 It’s also bad if your disagreement is actually based on false beliefs of your own. There is good religious intolerance and bad religious intolerance. Guess which kind the Bible is full of.

Equality

First, let’s look at the non-discriminatory things the Bible has to say about people of different religions. It says Jesus welcomes Jews and Gentiles alike. It says if a Christian and a non-Christian are married, that’s no problem, and they should stay together. (The Bible states that that part is not the word of God, though.) And it says that God shows mercy to people who act in unbelief, and that people should show mercy to those who doubt.

Well, that was quick. Now let’s look at the actual discriminatory passages…

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What are the Ten Commandments?

The book of Exodus tells about God giving Moses the Ten Commandments. Moses also recounts this event later on in Deuteronomy, listing the same Ten Commandments. He says God gave him those laws, wrote them on two stone tablets, and added nothing more. He says after he broke those tablets and had to get new ones, the same list of laws was written on the new tablets. And he refers to the laws that were written on the tablets as the Ten Commandments. The list of laws goes something like this:

  1. Don’t worship other gods.
  2. Don’t make images.
  3. Don’t misuse God’s name.
  4. Don’t work on the Sabbath.
  5. Honor your parents.
  6. Don’t murder.
  7. Don’t commit adultery.
  8. Don’t steal.
  9. Don’t give false testimony.
  10. Don’t covet.

But in Exodus, when God gives Moses the laws to write on the new set of tablets, they’re not the same laws that were on the first ones, despite what Moses claims. God gives him an almost completely different set of laws, and these too are referred to as the Ten Commandments. The new list of laws goes something like this:

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The end of the world

This is a summary of what the Bible says will happen when the world ends. The predictions are scattered throughout various parts of the Bible, which makes it hard to tell how they’re all supposed to fit together. Some things just don’t fit together at all. But I’ve attempted to put everything in order and make a fairly coherent narrative out of it, using whatever chronology clues I could find in the Bible.

Fantastic beasts

In the end times, God will send many false Messiahs and false prophets. They will perform miracles, which can only be done with God’s help.1

Satan and his angels will lose a war in heaven. Then he will be thrown down to earth, where he will go to war against the Christians. A beast like a leopard with bear’s feet, a lion’s mouth, seven heads, and ten horns will come out of the sea. Satan will give the beast power over everyone for 3.5 years. All the people God arbitrarily decided not to save will worship the beast and Satan. The beast will speak against God and conquer his people.

Then a second beast with a lamb’s horns and a dragon’s voice will come out of the earth. It will perform great signs, confirming that its word is true. It will make a talking image of the first beast, and kill anyone who doesn’t worship the image. It will force all people to receive the mark of the number of the beast on their hands or foreheads.

An angel will preach the gospel to the world.2 Then Jesus will come on a cloud and harvest the earth. An angel will throw trillions of people into a winepress so Jesus can trample them to death, and a five-foot flood of blood will flow out of it. Seven more angels will bring seven plagues on the world. Festering sores will break out on the people who have the mark of the beast.3 The water will turn into blood and the Euphrates will dry up. The sun will scorch people, but the kingdom of the beast will be in darkness.

Then three frog-demons will perform signs, proving that God is on their side. They will gather the kings of the world for battle at Armageddon. God will send storms, giant hailstones, and an unprecedented, city-destroying earthquake that will split Babylon into three parts. All the islands and mountains will be removed.

The beast4 will be put in the Abyss and come back out. Then God will give power to the beast, which together with ten very briefly-reigning kings will burn down Babylon. With a sword from his mouth, Jesus will destroy the nations, the kings of the earth and their armies, and the beast and the false prophet5 will be thrown alive into hell.

God saves Jerusalem from himself

Satan will be locked in the Abyss for a thousand years, and God will resurrect Christian martyrs from every nation who have not worshiped the beast or received its mark,6 and bring them to Israel to reign alongside Jesus as priests. After the thousand years are over, God will bring unprecedented distress on everyone.

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When was Jesus born?

According to Matthew, Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod.1 Herod’s death, and therefore Jesus’s birth, was in 1 BC or earlier.

According to Luke, Jesus was born while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Quirinius became governor in AD 6, which means Jesus wasn’t born till several years after Herod died. So if Luke is right, Herod wouldn’t have even been around to try to kill Jesus, as Matthew claims he did.

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Will the mountains and hills last forever?

The Bible says at least one mountain can’t be shaken and will last forever. It has to, because Mount Zion is where God is always going to live. And the Bible describes the hills as everlasting.

But it also says mountains erode and crumble. Mountains can be shaken and fall into the sea. God makes them quake, and they melt like wax. And it’s not just God who can move mountains. Anyone can do it if they believe they can. Hills can be removed or melt away, so no, they are not everlasting.

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The Story of the Ten Plagues
The Exodus from Egypt

Mass infanticide

The Israelites (the descendants of Jacob) were getting so numerous that the new Pharaoh was afraid of them. So he decided to enslave them and have all their baby boys thrown into the Nile River.

Jacob’s great-grandson Amram and his aunt Jochebed had a baby boy, so they put the baby in the Nile… inside a waterproof basket, with their daughter watching over it. Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby in the basket while she was bathing in the Nile. She adopted the baby, named him Moses, and hired his mother to nurse him for her.

After Moses grew up, he was watching his fellow Hebrews working, when he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. So Moses killed the Egyptian. When Pharaoh heard about that, he tried to kill Moses. The other Hebrews weren’t happy with what Moses had done, either. So Moses ran away from Egypt and lived in Midian until that Pharaoh died.

The Israelites were still slaves under the next Pharaoh. So when Moses was 80, God spoke to him from a burning bush and told him to go tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. On the way back to Egypt, the all-good God tried to murder Moses for some reason. But Moses’s wife touched his feet with their son’s foreskin, which convinced the never-changing God not to kill him.

Moses and his brother Aaron told Pharaoh that the God of Israel wanted his people to go out into the wilderness for a festival. But Pharaoh didn’t know that god, so he refused to let them do that.

God could have instantly overcome that obstacle in a peaceful way, like by making Pharaoh no longer want to keep his slaves, or by teleporting the people out of Egypt. But God cared more about showing off than about the freedom of his people and the wellbeing of all the innocent people of Egypt. So instead, God decided to cause a lot of unnecessary death and suffering, and to let his people continue to be mistreated in the meantime.

Continue reading The Story of the Ten Plagues
The Exodus from Egypt
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Does God listen to humans?

Yes, he does it all the time

The Bible is full of stories where God listens to humans and does what they ask.

More than once, when God was tempted to destroy all of Israel except Moses, Moses pointed out some reasons he shouldn’t do that. And God decided to let his people live. On the journey to the promised land, the Israelites said they wished they had meat, and God heard them and gave them meat.

When Moses, Aaron, and Samuel called on God’s name, he answered them. When Samuel cried out to God because the Philistines were attacking Israel, God answered him and scared the Philistines away.

When David asked God to stop killing innocent people instead of punishing the person who had displeased him, God answered his prayer. (He was only willing to do that after David made a sacrifice, though.) God didn’t ignore David; he listened to his cries for help.

When Solomon expressed his desire for the temple he built to be God’s home forever, God heard him and agreed to what he said. And just as Solomon asked, he promised to listen whenever people prayed toward that temple.

When God made Jeroboam’s hand shrivel up and Jeroboam asked a prophet to ask God to fix it, God did so. When Asa asked God to help him defeat the vast Cushite army, God struck them down. When Manasseh the evil king of Judah was captured by the Assyrians, he repented and prayed, and God let him go home. Hezekiah had Isaiah pray for God to listen to the Assyrians mocking him, and God responded by sending an angel to kill a bunch of Assyrians and scare the rest away.

When the Arameans tried to kill Jehoshaphat of Judah because they mistook him for the evil king of Israel, he cried out and God rescued him. Later, Jehoshaphat told God that a hopelessly vast army of multiple nations was attacking Judah. He pointed out that it was God’s fault that those nations were there, and that God was expected to save his people from disaster when they cried out to him at his temple. So he did.

Elisha prayed for God to bring a boy back to life, and to manipulate what certain people could or couldn’t see, and God did everything he asked. When Jeremiah spoke to God on behalf of other people, he turned his wrath away from them. Jonah was eaten alive by a fish, but then he called to God for help, and God listened and answered his cry.

God listens and complies even when you might think he wouldn’t

In the days of the judges, whenever Israel was taken over by their enemies, God would hear the people lamenting their oppression and would send someone to save them. Even after he claimed he was never going to save them again, he couldn’t help sending someone to rescue them when they asked him to.

The Israelites asked for a human king, and even though God was displeased, he listened to them and gave them a king. And when Samuel called on God to send a storm out of season as a sign of his disapproval, God did just what Samuel said. Then when the king needed to know why God had stopped helping him, he asked God to communicate through various instruments of divination to indicate who had done wrong, and God complied.

Abraham repeatedly asked God to spare the city of Sodom if he could find enough righteous people there, and God wasn’t bothered; he agreed every time. When God heard how upset Hezekiah was that God had decided he would never recover from his illness, God changed his plan and let Hezekiah recover. When Ezekiel pointed out how abhorrent God’s orders were, God changed his command to make it a little less horrible. When Amos objected to the things God was planning to do to his people, God canceled his plans.

When Gideon was skeptical and asked for miraculous proof that God was really speaking to him, God supplied the exact signs Gideon requested, twice. When Elijah wanted to show people that his God was a real God that would perform miracles on command in order to prove his existence, God cooperated and sent fire from heaven.

When Elijah wanted to murder a hundred men just because he could, God cooperated and sent more fire down from heaven. When some soldiers from Israel cried out to God to help them defeat their enemies, God helped them defeat their enemies. And then when some soldiers from Judah cried out to God to help them defeat Israel, God helped them do that, too. When Naaman asked to be allowed to bow down to an idol, God told him to go ahead.

Continue reading Does God listen to humans?
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