Monthly Archives: February 2022

Should people gain knowledge?

No.

When God created humans, the very first command he gave them was that they must not eat fruit from the tree that would give them wisdom and knowledge about morality. God thinks knowledge can mislead people. He overthrows people who dare to learn things. It’s a fatal mistake even to try to find out what God wants you to do, because he won’t punish you as much if you don’t know you’re doing anything wrong.

Solomon didn’t think it was honorable to “search out matters that are too deep“. He said the more knowledge you have, the more grief you will have. He thought you should be willfully ignorant, just because you might not like what you hear.

Paul said everyone should just continue believing whatever they already believe, rather than learn the truth. He thought it was best to know almost nothing. He thought knowledge just made people arrogant. Sometimes Paul didn’t seem to think people should know anything, except maybe if they didn’t know they knew anything.

Yes.

But God causes people to gain knowledge, so it must be a good thing, right? When God offered to give Solomon anything he wanted, Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge, and God was so pleased with that choice that he gave him bonus gifts that he hadn’t asked for as well.

Solomon wrote proverbs to give people knowledge, and he encouraged people to listen to the knowledge others had. He said knowledge is extremely valuable, as well as pleasant to have. Desire without knowledge is not good. Knowledge makes people strong and helps rulers maintain order. Righteous people have knowledge, which helps them survive. If you’re wise, you will have knowledge, which fools lack, and you will seek to gain more knowledge. Knowledge comes along with fear of God. Only fools hate knowledge.

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Discrimination by nation

I’ve been cataloging everything the Bible has to say about various forms of discrimination. One type of discrimination that gets a lot of attention in modern times is racism. And the version of the Bible I’m working with does appear to use the word “race” in that sense a couple of times. But back in biblical times, they didn’t really have the same concept of “race”. So rather than write about “racism” in the Bible, I’m going to discuss the closest thing the ancients actually did have: Discrimination by nation.

Equality?

Let’s look at the least discriminatory parts of the Bible first. It says Israel isn’t the only nation God cares about; the nations are all the same to him. He cares about what people do, not who their ancestors are. God loves foreigners and wants his people to love them too. He says his people shouldn’t mistreat or oppress foreigners. They should judge everyone fairly and justly and treat the foreigners among them the same as the native-born Israelites, because they once lived as foreigners in Egypt.1

In fact, there’s one passage that just assumes Israelites want to help foreigners in need, and encourages them to help each other the same way they would help foreigners. (That’s not going to do much good in the cases where that assumption is wrong.)

Sometimes the Bible says its laws should be applied equally to Israelites and foreigners living in Israel. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing, though. Mostly what that means is that people will get stoned to death if they don’t follow the rules of the religion of the people of the country they happen to be in. But if foreigners do worship and obey him, then God will… allow them to worship and obey him.

God did occasionally disapprove of his people oppressing foreigners. (At least when they did it without fearing him.) But that didn’t do much good when he was telling them to oppress them most of the time. Foreigners were amazed and confused on the occasions when Israelites actually decided to be nice to them.

An angel who was the commander of God’s army said he was not on Israel’s side or on their enemies’ side. God thinks all nations are worthless and just wants everybody to die.2 Equality! David once entrusted the ark of the covenant to a Philistine, and later he allowed hundreds of Philistines to join his army.3 That’s quite a difference from how he normally treated Philistines. Solomon asked God to answer the prayers of foreigners, though I’m not sure it says God agreed with that part.

When Ezra said all the Jews should disown their foreign wives and children, there were about four people who disagreed. Jesus once healed a girl even though she was a Canaanite, though it took some convincing. There was one Samaritan who was willing to help a Jew… in a story Jesus made up.

After Jesus died, Peter convinced himself that foreigners could be saved, which his peers thought was a pretty weird idea. He decided he should preach to Gentiles even though it was against God’s law to associate with them. Paul, too, thought God now judged people according to their actions, their beliefs, or his own whims, and not by their nationality.

Ambivalently unequal ordinances

Sometimes the Bible says things about certain nations that I’m not sure whether to classify as favorable or unfavorable treatment.

It says God gave his laws to Israel, and not to any other nation. Some of those laws suggest that being a foreigner living in Israel automatically makes you disadvantaged and unable to provide for yourself somehow. But to make up for that, God’s law says Hebrews have to give foreigners free food. It says Hebrews aren’t allowed to eat animals they found already dead, but they can give them to foreigners to eat.

It says every seven years, an Israelite has to cancel any debts that another Israelite owes them. But they don’t have to do the same for a foreigner. And an Israelite isn’t allowed to charge another Israelite interest. But they can make a foreigner pay interest.

Jesus told his followers to only preach their message to Jews, at least at first.

Between Gentile nations

The Bible says God had his people wipe out a lot of other nations and steal their land. But it says God didn’t want them to invade the land of the Ammonites.

The Moabites and the Midianites both led Israel into sin in the Peor incident. God told Israel to go to war against Midian because of this. But he told them not to go to war with Moab, even though they did the same thing.

The Romans thought it was okay to violently punish people without a trial, as long as they weren’t Roman citizens.

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How did Saul feel about Michal being in love with David?

The Bible says when King Saul found out that his daughter Michal was in love with Saul’s rival David, he was pleased. Saul had been afraid of David, but this gave him hope. Now he would have an opportunity to try to get David killed in the process of proving he was worthy to marry the princess.

But a few verses later, it says when Saul found out that Michal was in love with David, it just made him more afraid of David.

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The Story of Samson’s Riddle
Out of the Strong, Some Way to Cheat

Samson was another judge, who saved his people when God let the Philistines take over Israel. Samson was a life-long Nazirite, which required him to abstain from wine, corpses, and haircuts.

While Samson was on his way to a Philistine city to visit a Philistine woman, he was attacked by a lion. God gave him the strength to easily kill the lion with his bare hands. Later, when he was on his way to the Philistine city again to marry the Philistine woman, he found that some bees had made a nest in the lion’s body. He took some honey out of the dead lion and shared it with his parents. But he didn’t tell anyone where the honey came from.

Samson challenged 30 Philistine men to try to solve a riddle by the end of his week-long wedding feast. They agreed that the losing party would have to give the winning party 30 sets of clothes. So Samson told them a “riddle” that they couldn’t possibly make sense of without knowing about the lion incident that no one but Samson knew about.

The Philistine men realized that Samson was unfairly trying to take their property. So they threatened to burn down his new wife’s house unless she told them the answer to the riddle. Samson’s wife cried constantly for the rest of the week until Samson gave her the answer. Then she told the answer to the men, and the men gave the answer back to Samson.

Samson knew those 30 Philistine men must have cheated, since there was no other way they could have possibly solved his “riddle”. But he gave them the promised 30 sets of clothes… which he got by killing 30 other Philistine men.

Continue reading The Story of Samson’s Riddle
Out of the Strong, Some Way to Cheat
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Was Mahlon’s name maintained?

In ancient Israel, it was customary for a remarried widow to name the first son she had with her new husband after her dead husband. In fact, God’s law required it. In order to maintain Mahlon’s name in his family, his widow (Ruth) and her new husband (Boaz) should have named their son after Mahlon.

And that’s what Boaz said he was going to do. He even said that was the reason he was marrying Ruth, so the dead man’s name would be maintained and wouldn’t disappear.

But apparently that’s not what they actually did. Boaz and Ruth named their first son Obed, not Mahlon.

Continue reading Was Mahlon’s name maintained?
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