The Story of Samson and Delilah
Brawn and No Brains

Samson got a new girlfriend, named Delilah. Samson’s enemies, the Philistines, paid Delilah to figure out Samson’s secret weakness, so they could capture him. So Delilah asked Samson three times how such a strong man could be successfully tied up, and Samson gave her three false answers.

Each time, Delilah tied him up the way he suggested while he was sleeping, and then woke him up by telling him the Philistines had come for him, but Samson easily broke out of his restraints. Delilah kept nagging him every day, saying if he really loved her, he would tell her how to drain his strength and allow his enemies to capture him. So he did.

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Brawn and No Brains
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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.

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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.

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Everything wrong with the Ten Commandments

The 1st Commandment

You shall have no other gods before me.

  • This rule is based on the idea that God is jealous of other gods. But the Bible says jealousy is a sin! If God is jealous, he should get the plank out of his own eye before he starts blaming other people for failing to accomodate his own moral flaws.
  • Why would God be so jealous of other gods anyway, if other gods don’t even exist?
  • What harm could having other gods cause? God can’t be the victim, since nothing humans do has any effect on God. Maybe it would harm other people if those “gods” required people to do bad things. But this God’s instructions are already so bad, I doubt following other gods’ commands could be any worse.
  • Despite failing to explain how following other gods would cause any more harm than following this God, the Bible says the punishment for worshipping other gods is death. God seems to be commanding people to kill people for no good reason.
  • If God is so great, why can’t he just persuade people to prefer him by showing everyone how much better he is than the other gods, instead of resorting to threats?
  • The goal of getting people to stop believing in gods that aren’t real is good, but the method is all wrong. You don’t change people’s beliefs by force. That’s not how belief works.
  • Legally restricting who people can worship is a violation of freedom of religion, which is regarded as a fundamental human right in most of the modern world.1
  • God seems to be saying he doesn’t want people to regard any other gods more highly than him. So is he okay with people worshipping other gods as long as they consider them to be lesser or equal to him? If not, why didn’t he say so here? Why specify “before me”?2

The 2nd Commandment

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.

  • Well, that first sentence was poorly worded. Did they really mean to say you’re not allowed to make any images of things? Does God hate art? Is photography a sin?
  • Making images doesn’t harm anyone, including God, so this is a victimless crime.
  • And a victimless crime is not worth cursing people over.3
  • Legally restricting how people can worship is another a violation of freedom of religion, which is regarded as a human right in most of the modern world.4
  • God goes on to suggest that if someone breaks this rule, he will punish several generations of that person’s descendants, regardless of whether those descendants actually broke the law themselves or not. Even God admits that that’s an absurdly unjust thing to do, but he’ll do it anyway.
  • A lot of Christians are pretty bad about breaking this rule. They make tons of religious images, and sometimes it seems like they even kind of worship them. And they seem to think God would approve of that somehow. Amusingly, one excuse Christians make for doing this is that they’re not worshipping an image of Jesus, they’re just using it to help them worship who the image represents… just like every other idolator.
  • The Bible says God told Moses to make the ark of the covenant, which had graven images of heavenly beings on it. The ark was treated as a physical representation of a god, just like every other idol. God didn’t even seem to mind people treating the ark as an object of worship. When Joshua bowed down to it, God rebuked him… but only because he didn’t think Joshua should be praying at that time because he should already know the answer to what he was asking. He didn’t rebuke him for bowing down to the wrong thing. God doesn’t seem to have a problem with this particular idol.
  • Even God failed to keep this rule. When he created humans, he was making an image of something in heaven (himself). He even apparently wants people to worship one of the people he made in his image! I guess we’ll have to stone God to death now.

The 3rd Commandment

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

  • A law restricting how people can use religious language is a violation of the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Trying to make law like this would doubly violate the 1st Amendment in the US.
  • Saying God’s name doesn’t harm anyone, including God. So this would be a victimless crime even if there was a God.
  • Despite that fact, the Bible says people have to die for not harming anyone. Killing people just for breaking petty rules like these is barbaric.
  • Or is there more to this crime than what it sounds like? What exactly does it mean to “misuse God’s name”? Or to “take his name in vain”, as it’s sometimes translated? A lot of people interpret this as a rule against using expressions that involve a name for God, but that aren’t actually being used to talk about God. But what this commandment is most likely really about is taking oaths. When someone uses God’s name to take an oath, they’re inviting God to punish them if they fail to do what they swore to do. If you swore by God like that even though you had no intention of keeping your promise, you would be taking God’s name in vain, making it useless as a guarantee of your honesty. But assuming that’s what it means, this commandment is redundant. Taking false oaths is covered by the 9th Commandment.
  • What if someone doesn’t believe, for whatever reason, that God would punish them if they took a false oath?5 That would make it impossible for them to use God’s name in an oath without using it in vain. There are better ways to make sure people aren’t lying. Modern legal systems ensure that there are people who actually will punish perjurers, giving people a real incentive to tell the truth regardless of what they believe about God.
  • Because Jews have been so careful to keep this commandment—hardly ever saying or writing God’s actual name at all,6 and using different words in its place—and because the Hebrew language didn’t originally use vowels, nobody really knows for sure anymore exactly what the correct pronunciation of God’s real name is. And the original wording of the commandment suggests that it only applies to that particular name… So as long as you’re not saying God’s real name that nobody knows, as long as you’re using other words instead (like “God”, or “Lord”, or even “Jehovah“), I guess you’re not really breaking this rule.
  • God himself sometimes swears rather carelessly by himself in the Bible, like when he said Abraham would have descendants “as numerous as the stars in the sky“. (Depending on how you interpret it, that number is either way too high or way too low.)

The 4th Commandment

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.

  • Legally mandating religious observances is yet another a violation of the right to freedom of religion, as well as the right to work.
  • Choosing to work on a certain day of the week doesn’t harm anyone, including God. So this is another victimless crime.
  • It would be a terrible idea for everyone to take off work on the same day. That would mean on that day, no services would be available to anyone. There would be no one available to help you if an emergency happened to fall on the wrong day of the week.
  • Which day exactly is the Sabbath supposed to be, anyway? People don’t seem to be able to agree on that. Some might say it’s Sunday, or Saturday, or maybe even Friday.7 How are we supposed to figure out which of those people we need to slaughter for taking the wrong day off? What the Bible says about the timing of the Sabbath apparently isn’t good enough to clear that up. Since people have failed to remember what the Sabbath day is, it’s going to be hard to keep the Sabbath properly anymore. That’s why the five-day work week was invented, because people couldn’t agree on which day was the Sabbath.
  • Working five days a week is actually more productive than working six days a week. Working even less than that would probably be even better for your productivity and for your physical and emotional health. If God invented this regular day off for our benefit, he didn’t go far enough. But the commandment doesn’t even allow for people to improve on it by taking more days off in addition to the Sabbath. It says you have to work six days.
  • The Bible can’t make up its mind what God’s reason for making this law was, though. Sometimes it says it was purely for our benefit, and sometimes it says it was more about making sure people acknowledge God. And sometimes it says the reason behind this rule has something to do with some made-up story or other, which wouldn’t make any sense even if the stories were true. Why would an all-powerful God need to take a day off and rest? What does the exodus story have to do with taking a day off?
  • If God gave us the Sabbath for our benefit, it seems weird to punish us with death just for choosing not to accept that gift. And regardless of why the Sabbath was established, it’s insane to kill people for working, as the Bible requires. That’s now how people deserve to be repaid for their work. People who choose to work overtime should be paid extra, not punished.
  • This law says there’s one day every week when you can’t make your slaves do any work.8 A good law would have outlawed slave labor altogether.
  • Many people attend church on the day that they consider to be the Sabbath, and the clergy perform their religious duties at church on that day. Aren’t the clergy breaking this commandment when they do that?
  • Jesus, despite supposedly being the same guy who made this rule in the first place, worked on the Sabbath, told other people to work on the Sabbath, and made a bunch of lame excuses for why he thought it was actually fine to work on the Sabbath. And Paul took this rejection of God’s law even further, saying Christians shouldn’t observe any special days.

The 5th Commandment

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

  • Honoring your parents may be a good thing in some cases, but it definitely shouldn’t be an absolute rule. Some parents just aren’t honorable. Some parents neglect or abuse their children. Those parents don’t deserve anyone’s respect. Children shouldn’t have to live with bad parents, much less be forced to honor them.
  • Maybe this rule wouldn’t be so bad if God had also commanded parents not to mistreat their children. But the Bible doesn’t have much to say about that, beyond telling people not to sacrifice their children to the wrong god. Instead, it encourages people to beat their children with rods.
  • If you think your parents are honorable, you’re going to honor them without having to be told. And if you don’t think your parents are honorable, somebody demanding that you honor them isn’t going to change that. The best you could do is fake it (which would possibly conflict with the 9th commandment).
  • The Bible says we should kill kids for disrespecting their parents. That’s a seriously excessive reaction when they haven’t done anything worse than speaking.
  • What exactly does honoring your parents entail? Do you have to always agree with them, no matter how stupid their ideas are? Do you have to always obey them, making you unlikely to become an assertive and successful person, giving up your autonomy to make moral choices, and basically making you a slave? Do you have to obey your parents even if they want you to do something bad?
  • There’s no sign that this is limited to children. Apparently God thinks people have to always obey their parents all their lives, or die. There also doesn’t seem to be any exception for children too young to understand what they’re doing. Do we have to kill every toddler that ever throws a tantrum in front of their parents?
  • Jesus, who the Bible says never sinned, was rather rude to his parents. He required his followers to be disrespectful and hateful to their parents, too.

The 6th Commandment

You shall not murder.

  • After getting halfway through the list, we finally get to a reasonably good rule. Maybe it shouldn’t be an absolute rule, though. There are conceivable situations where killing someone would be the best thing to do. Like if you had to kill an attacker to save your own life, or to save other people’s lives.
  • This one is also sometimes translated as “You shall not kill”. But the Bible commands people to kill a whole lot more often than it forbids people to kill. How are people supposed to follow God’s instructions to kill animals, lawbreakers, and foreigners, if they’re not allowed to kill at all?
  • “Murder” might be a more accurate translation, and it might seem like it would make more sense or be more consistent that way… But what exactly does “murder” mean? It means unlawful killing, which means it has different meanings in different societies that have different laws. Not all killings that we would consider murder now were against the law in ancient Israelite society. So this commandment as it was originally intended was inadequate. Outlawing “murder” means making it illegal to kill in ways that are illegal. That can only be meaningful if the law also specifies which kinds of killings are to be banned. But the closest thing the Bible has to a specific definition of what should be considered murder fails to resolve the contradiction between this commandment and all the times God told people to murder people. Not only that, but most of the distinctions it makes regarding what counts as murder aren’t morally relevant at all, and are instead based on things like what kind of material the weapon is made from.
  • A lot of laws in the Bible, including laws against killing people, are punishable by death. But anyone who is involved in executing the lawbreakers is breaking the law against killing, so they have to be killed too. Or if you prefer the “murder” version of the law: Anyone who participates in the Bible’s favored execution method (stoning) is a murderer according to God’s law,9 and so must be stoned to death themselves. And then all the people who stoned them have to be stoned, too… If people actually followed these rules, everyone would be dead. That seems kind of counterproductive for a law against murder.
  • This law supposedly comes from someone who kills innocent babies. Someone who kills people just for being related to other people who did something he didn’t like. Someone who proudly commits multiple genocides. Someone who once drowned nearly everyone in the world. Someone who is planning to kill everyone again. How can he claim to be against murder?

The 7th Commandment

You shall not commit adultery.

  • The main reason adultery is considered bad is that people don’t tend to like their spouses having sex with other people. But what the Bible fails to acknowledge is that there are people who don’t mind their spouses doing that at all. In those cases, an act of “adultery” wouldn’t negatively affect anyone. So it wouldn’t actually be a bad thing to do. But the Bible ignores that fact, and says people would have to be killed for that victimless crime.
  • As for people who aren’t polyamorous or whatever, the Bible says it would be bad to have sex with their spouses because of their jealousy. But isn’t jealousy a bad thing? The Bible says it is. So if that’s the case, why is God commanding people to comply with other people’s wrong feelings? Why isn’t he commanding people not to have those wrong feelings in the first place? Or designing them not to have those wrong feelings?
  • The Bible requires that both of the people who commit an act of adultery be put to death. But if the reason adultery is bad is that you don’t want to lose your spouse, killing your spouse seems kind of counterproductive.
  • You wouldn’t know it from the way it’s translated, but this commandment wasn’t originally intended to cover all of what we would now consider to be infidelity. In the past, women were property owned by men. So adultery was defined as a man having sex with another man’s wife (using someone else’s property). Since women didn’t own men, it was perfectly legal for a man to cheat on his wife.
  • Since the Bible assumes that wives are property, this commandment is redundant. It’s already covered by the 8th commandment.
  • Jesus tries to make this into a thought crime. He claims that even just looking at a woman and feeling lust makes you guilty of adultery and can get you sent to hell. Obviously, he’s wrong about that, for a bunch of reasons. For one thing, not all women are married, and you can’t commit adultery if there are no married people involved. And it’s possible to look lustfully at your wife, but it’s not possible for you to commit adultery with her. But if Jesus was right about lust, that would basically mean heterosexual men go to hell. Also, if nobody ever wanted to have sex, humanity would go extinct. Is that what you want, Jesus?
  • Jesus also broadens this commandment when he declares that divorce is not a legitimate concept. He says anyone who gets divorced and remarried is actually committing adultery.10 The resulting lack of options for unhappily married people is one of the things that leads people to think that people should be required to regularly have sex with their spouses even if they don’t want to, for the rest of their lives. That sounds like a terrible idea to me.
  • God once got somebody else’s fiancée pregnant. That seems a lot closer to being adultery than the things Jesus calls adultery.
  • If God doesn’t like adultery, why does he keep making people commit adultery?

The 8th Commandment

You shall not steal.

  • This is certainly a good rule generally, but maybe it shouldn’t be an absolute rule. There are conceivable situations where stealing something would be the best thing to do. Like if you had an opportunity to take a weapon away from someone who was about to use it to kill a bunch of people.
  • People can’t always agree on whether something should be considered “theft” or not. For instance, some people would say tax evasion is theft, but others would say taxation itself is theft. It would have been nice if God had thought to clarify exactly what theft is.
  • God seems to think it’s fine to steal things for him, just not for yourself. And sometimes in the Bible he even tells his people to take plunder for themselves. God also apparently helped enforce the early Christian leaders’ practice of forcing their followers to give them all the money they earned.
  • The Bible says God forcibly took land from the Canaanite nations to give to his own chosen people. If God steals other people’s land, that must mean it’s a good thing to do, and we should follow his example, right?

The 9th Commandment

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

  • (This commandment was most likely only intended to be about specific crimes like false accusation and perjury. But an awful lot of religious people interpret it more generally as “You shall not lie”, so let’s go with that.) I think it’s generally good to avoid lying, but maybe it shouldn’t be an absolute rule. There are conceivable situations where telling a lie would be the best thing to do. Like if someone asked you where they could find someone they wanted to harm.
  • In fact, the Bible commends someone for doing just that! Rahab was considered righteous for saving Israel’s spies with her lies. It also says God blessed Jacob even though Jacob only got his blessing by deception. When Jehu lied to the Baal-worshippers in order to get them all in one place so he could kill them, God said Jehu had done what was right in his eyes. God even directly tells people to lie sometimes. He told Moses to tell Pharaoh he only wanted him to let his people go for three days, when he really intended for them to leave permanently. He told Samuel to say he was going to Bethlehem to make a sacrifice, to hide his real purpose for going there. And Jonah tried very hard to avoid giving a prophecy that he knew was false, but God forced him to do it anyway.
  • Even if you think lying is always wrong, having a law against it doesn’t really work. How are the fallible people enforcing such a law supposed to always know for sure that what someone said wasn’t true? And that the person knew it wasn’t true?
  • And that’s if the authorities are even trying to enforce the actual truth. More likely they would just decide for themselves what to declare to be the “truth“, and force everyone to go along with that.
  • If you were going to outlaw lying, you would need to have a rigorous definition that makes it clear exactly what is and what is not a lie. Do technically true but misleading statements count as lies? How about technically false statements that nobody takes seriously, that do not and are not intended to lead to false beliefs? Are those “lies”? The Bible doesn’t say.
  • Lying may be a bad thing to do, but it’s definitely not so bad that it should be punished with neverending torture.
  • God deceives people quite a lot in the Bible. Like the time he sent a deceiving spirit to inspire a false prophecy that would lead to somebody getting killed. If he wants us to always be honest, he’s not setting a very good example.
  • Why specify “against your neighbor”? If someone doesn’t happen to live near me, does that make it okay to testify falsely against them?

The 10th Commandment

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

  • Is this a good moral rule? It doesn’t look too promising, since it assumes that women are property. It lists wives along with cows and donkeys and slaves and other things your neighbor might own.
  • Oh, and speaking of slaves, a good law would have discouraged people from wanting to enslave people at all, not just in the specific case where the person already belongs to somebody else.
  • This law is a thought crime, which means it’s not really enforceable, among other problems. There’s no way to even know whether someone is breaking this law, so why bother making it a law?
  • Thoughts aren’t exactly voluntary and controllable, so it would be pretty hard even to enforce this rule on yourself if you wanted to. And it would potentially be psychologically unhealthy to try. If God didn’t want us to think a certain way, he should have designed us not to think that way. That seems like it would have been a lot more effective than telling people what not to think.
  • The biggest problem with a thought crime like this is that it’s just a thought. Coveting shouldn’t be illegal because it has no consequences and causes no harm. Unless you act on it by stealing or something. But if that’s what you’re worried about, this rule is yet another redundant one. Stealing was already covered in the 8th Commandment.11
  • Envy doesn’t necessarily lead to bad things like theft. It can instead inspire people to “get what others have” by emulating what others have done right. The Bible says envy is the root of all achievement. If that’s true, envy must be a very good thing!
  • Like the previous one, this commandment creates loopholes by needlessly specifying that the “victim” has to be your neighbor.
  • If God doesn’t want people to be envious, why does he keep making people envious?
  • As with nearly all of the Ten commandments, God is guilty of breaking this rule himself. The Bible says God is a jealous God.12
Continue reading Everything wrong with the Ten Commandments
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Do Gentiles have to obey the Law?

The Bible says God requires his chosen people, the Jews, to obey the laws he gave them. But what about people who aren’t Jewish? Do Gentiles need to obey God’s laws too?

Yes.

When the kingdom of Israel was overthrown, the Israelites were deported to Assyria. Then people from other nations came to live in their land. But God didn’t like how those foreigners didn’t do what he required. So he started sending in lions to kill them. Then the king of Assyria had to send an Israelite priest back there to teach the new inhabitants what God required them to do.

Ezra praised God for giving the king of Persia the idea to severely punish (sometimes with death) anyone in his kingdom (not just Jews) who didn’t obey God’s Law.

Paul required Timothy, who had a Gentile father, to be circumcised before he could go anywhere with him. Paul said Jesus wanted him to call all the Gentiles to obedience. He said God judges and punishes everyone the same way, regardless of whether they’re Jews or Gentiles. And the way he judges them upholds the Law, rather than nullifying it. Paul told his Gentile followers to put someone to death for breaking one of the Jewish sex laws. He did not think it was okay for Gentile Christians to do whatever they wanted.

No.

God’s Law itself says Jews can give Gentiles things to eat that would be forbidden for the Jews themselves to eat.

The apostles declared that Gentile Christians should not be required to keep the law of Moses, which even the Jews had been unable to fully obey. They rejected the idea that people could only be saved if they were circumcised. They said anyone could be saved by the grace of God.

Paul took this further and said that all believers, no matter if they were Jews or Gentiles, could be saved by grace and by faith apart from the Law. He said no one can be justified or saved by keeping the Law, since everyone inevitably sins. Paul didn’t think Gentiles should be forced to follow Jewish customs. And he didn’t require his Gentile companions to be circumcised.

Paul said anyone who relied on the Law was cursed, and could not be justified before God. He taught his Gentile followers that they were not under the law, because Jesus had set aside the Law and set them free from that curse. Paul’s followers tried to follow the law anyway, which he thought was foolish. He said there would have been no point in Jesus dying if following the Law was what people needed to do to be saved.

According to Paul, even if the Gentiles were under the Law, it would kill them, and then dying would release them from the Law. If Paul’s claims are true, it’s impossible for anyone to remain under the Law!

Continue reading Do Gentiles have to obey the Law?
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The Story of the Levite’s Concubine
The Most Pointlessly Evil Story in the Bible

A Levite man’s girlfriend broke up with him and went back to live with her parents. But then he followed her to her parents’ house and took her back. On the way back to the man’s home, they stopped for the night in Gibeah, a city of the tribe of Benjamin, and stayed in an old man’s house.

Some of the Benjamite men from that city came and surrounded the house. They told the old man to send the Levite man out so they could have sex with him. The old man said he couldn’t let them have sex with his guest, because that would be outrageous and vile. So he offered to let them rape his daughter and his guest’s girlfriend instead.

The Levite man thought that was a good idea, so he sent his girlfriend outside. The men of Gibeah spent the whole night gang-raping her to death. Then the man went home, and he chopped up his girlfriend into a dozen pieces and had them distributed all over the country.

Continue reading The Story of the Levite’s Concubine
The Most Pointlessly Evil Story in the Bible
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Did Jesus drink from the fruit of the vine between the last supper and the second coming?

During the last supper, Jesus was drinking wine. Then he told his disciples that he would not drink from the fruit of the vine again until the kingdom of God came.1

Later, before he was crucified, Jesus was offered some wine, and he refused it, as you would expect after what he had said. But then when he was about to die on the cross, he was offered some wine vinegar (which is made from grapes, the fruit of the vine), and he accepted that drink.

Continue reading Did Jesus drink from the fruit of the vine between the last supper and the second coming?
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