Tag Archives: deception

The Story of Jonah and the Fish
It was This Big!

God told a prophet named Jonah to go to the Assyrian city of Nineveh and announce that it would be destroyed soon. But Jonah knew God well enough to know that he wouldn’t actually do what he said he would do. Jonah didn’t think it would be right to deliver a false prophecy, so he ran away from God and hid on a ship that was going somewhere else.1

But God sent a storm, which nearly wrecked the ship. The sailors found out that Jonah had angered his God and brought a storm on their ship. So Jonah suggested they throw him overboard, to divert God’s wrath away from the ship. But the sailors didn’t want to kill him. They tried to sail back and return him to land, so he could resume his mission.

But God liked Jonah’s idea better, so he made the storm worse and prevented them from getting back to land. So the sailors reluctantly threw Jonah overboard, and the storm stopped. God sent a huge fish, which swallowed Jonah and then threw him up on land three days later.

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It was This Big!
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The Story of the Two Prophets
An Expensive Meal

During the reign of Jeroboam, God sent a prophet to deliver a message to the king. After ignoring the prophecy, the king invited the prophet to his home for a meal. But the prophet refused Jeroboam’s offer, because God had told him not to eat or drink until he got back to his own home.

On the way home, the prophet met an old prophet. The old prophet also invited him to have a meal, and the younger prophet explained again that he had to wait till he got home to eat. But the old prophet lied and told him that God wanted him to eat and drink with him. So the younger prophet went to the old prophet’s house and ate and drank. Then the old prophet declared that the younger prophet had disobeyed God and would be punished. The younger prophet tried to go home, but God sent a lion after him, and it killed him.

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An Expensive Meal
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The Story of Ahab and Micaiah
God Admits to Inspiring False Prophecy

God decided to get King Ahab killed by sending him to war with Aram. He sent a spirit to deceive Ahab’s prophets so they would give him bad advice. Evil Ahab was considering retaking some territory that he had lost to Aram. But his ally, Jehoshaphat the good king of Judah, convinced him to seek advice from God first.

Ahab’s 400 prophets, under the influence of the deceiving spirit from God, told him that he should go fight Aram, and he would be successful. But there was one prophet, Micaiah, who had always prophesied bad things about Ahab, so Ahab hadn’t consulted him this time. But Jehoshaphat said he should.

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God Admits to Inspiring False Prophecy
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What was the name of the king who thought David was insane?

In the story where David acts like a madman in front of a Philistine king because David is so evil that he’s actually less threatening that way, it says the king in question was Achish of Gath. But in the note at the beginning of a psalm that David supposedly wrote at that time, it says the king’s name was Abimelek.

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The Story of Mephibosheth and Ziba
A Lame Deal

Mephibosheth was the son of David’s best friend Jonathan, so David was good to him and let him live in his palace. When David fled from Absalom, Mephibosheth stayed at the palace, rather than going with David. Mephibosheth’s steward Ziba told David that the reason Mephibosheth had stayed behind was that Mephibosheth was planning to take over the kingdom. So David decided to take away everything he had given to Mephibosheth and give it to Ziba. But Ziba was lying.

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A Lame Deal
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The Story of King Absalom
A Man’s Enemies Are the Members of His Own Household

David’s son Amnon was obsessed with his beautiful sister Tamar. Amnon’s nephew advised him to pretend to be sick. Then he could request a meal to be served to him in bed by his sister. So he did. When Tamar went to Amnon’s bedroom and tried to give him some food, he wouldn’t eat it. Instead, he told her to get in bed with him.

Tamar said she couldn’t do that right now, because that would be foolish and wicked and disgraceful. They should get married first! She was sure their righteous father David would allow his children to marry each other. But Amnon ignored her proposal, raped her, and sent her away. Absalom, another son of David, saw Tamar crying, and he told her to shut up. He said she should stop taking Amnon’s actions so seriously, because he was just her brother.

King David was not happy with what Amnon had done. Two years later, Absalom had Amnon killed. David heard that all his sons had been killed, and he wasn’t happy about that, either. When he found out that only Amnon was dead, he was just slightly more happy. Absalom wasn’t allowed to see his father for two years. Then Absalom set Joab’s barley field on fire, which convinced him to let Absalom visit David.

Absalom became popular (despite his disgracefully long hair) by kissing all the men who came to see King David. Then Absalom was able to get the people to declare him king of Israel. When David heard that his son was trying to overthrow him, he and most of his household ran away. But he made ten of his girlfriends stay behind to take care of his palace.

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A Man’s Enemies Are the Members of His Own Household
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The Story of David and Bathsheba
The Only Thing David Ever Did That God Didn't Approve of

King David heard that Nahash, the Ammonite king who had wanted to gouge out the eyes of all the Israelites, had died. So David sent diplomats to tell Nahash’s successor how sorry David was that such a kind man had died. But the Ammonites assumed that David’s men must be spies plotting to overthrow them. So they sent the diplomats away half naked, and started a war with Israel. David stayed home while he had his commander Joab go out and lead Israel in fighting the Ammonites (which God had commanded them not to do).

David was walking around on the roof of his palace one night, when he saw a beautiful woman taking a bath. He learned that her name was Bathsheba, and that she was the wife of Uriah, one of David’s chief warriors, who was away fighting in the war. David had Bathsheba brought to the palace, had sex with her, and sent her back home.

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The Only Thing David Ever Did That God Didn't Approve of
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Mistranslations in the Bible

A lot of things you’ll see in English translations of the Bible are translated to say what the translators thought the Bible should say (or what the people buying Bibles think it should say), rather than what it actually says in the text they’re translating from.1

Usually when I write about the Bible, I just go by what it says in the version that’s the default option on Bible Gateway. That’s not a particularly accurate translation, but even after they’ve mistranslated away a lot of the things that would make it too obvious how flawed the Bible is, it’s still full of outrageous and absurd things. But now let’s look at some of the things the Bible really says…

The English word “heart”, when used metaphorically, refers to a person’s emotions, in contrast to rational thought. But the Hebrew and Greek words for “heart” were used to mean the entire mind, not just emotions, so translating them as the metaphorical English “heart” is misleading.

The Bible isn’t exactly using “heart” metaphorically, though. Like most people in ancient times, the writers of the Bible believed that people literally thought with their hearts. And their kidneys. Seriously, the Bible talks about the kidneys as if that’s where the mind was located, just like it does with the heart. Have you read the Bible and never noticed that? That’s because English versions of the Bible always either mistranslate the word for kidneys as something like “mind”, or use “reins” (an obscure word for kidneys), so it won’t sound so silly.

Some translations change the lists of Shem’s sons and Eliphaz’s sons in 1 Chronicles to say that not all of them were the sons of those guys, so you’ll think those parts don’t contradict Genesis.

In the Hebrew text, Abraham clearly says that gods have caused him to wander, and Laban clearly says the gods of Abraham as well as the gods of Nahor can judge between Laban and Jacob. But almost all English translations, being made by monotheists, change it so they say those things about God instead.

A lot of translations change Laban from being Nahor’s son to being his grandson, so you won’t notice the contradiction between that and the part that says he was Bethuel’s son.

The Bible says the Passover sacrifice should be made when the sun goes down, at the same time of day the Israelites left Egypt. But since the Bible also says they left Egypt after midnight, some versions hide the contradiction by just saying the sacrifice should be made at the same time of year.

The Hebrew text has the Israelites singing about how they’ve conquered the peoples of Canaan and settled in their land… before that has even happened. A lot of versions of the Bible mistranslate away this anachronism, and have them instead sing about what will happen.

The Bible says the punishment for causing a miscarriage is merely to pay a fine, as opposed to the death penalty that it requires for killing a person. That doesn’t fit very well with pro-life beliefs, so after the abortion controversy got started, some versions of the Bible started saying this was about making a woman “give birth prematurely” instead.

Moses said God taught his people that you can live on whatever God says you can live on (which in that case was manna). But this is almost always mistranslated to make it sound like he’s saying you can live on God’s words themselves, instead of living on what God’s words are referring to.

Why did the translators change this statement into something that makes less sense than what it really says? Probably because the only other way to make it match the way Jesus quoted it would be to pretend that Jesus had quoted it correctly, which would make what Jesus says make even less sense than what Jesus actually said.

Most English translations change the verse that tells the gods to praise God’s people, pretending it’s just telling the nations to rejoice with God’s people.

Joshua recounts the time Balak king of Moab fought against Israel… Except according to other parts of the Bible, he never actually did that. So some versions of the Bible change it so Joshua just says Balak prepared to fight against Israel.

The book of Judges mentions Hobab being Moses’s father-in-law, but some versions change it to say he’s his brother-in-law. I guess they thought Moses already had enough fathers-in-law.

All the earliest manuscripts that have been found say Goliath was less than seven feet tall, but almost all English versions of the Bible continue the tradition of saying he was over nine feet tall. Even versions that were made recently enough that the translators should have known better.

There’s a verse in 2 Samuel about how many enemy men David captured that’s translated several quite different ways in different versions. It doesn’t seem to agree with what 1 Chronicles says about the same thing, so some versions just replace it with what 1 Chronicles says.

Some versions of 2 Samuel call someone an Ishmaelite to make it agree with 1 Chronicles, rather than making it agree with any of the Hebrew manuscripts of Samuel that they’re supposed to be translating from, which say he was an Israelite.

There’s a passage that, in almost all the manuscripts it’s translated from, says David killed his own stepchildren, the sons of his wife Michal. But the translators of the majority of the English versions apparently found that too inconsistent or otherwise objectionable, so they decided to say David killed the sons of Merab, Michal’s sister who David didn’t marry.

Some versions of the Bible say Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath, even though the actual source texts don’t say anything about a brother. All it really says is that Elhanan killed Goliath. But everybody knows it was somebody else that did that, so the translators had to make it say something else.

The Hebrew text of 2 Samuel says one of the punishment options David was offered was seven years of famine, but some translations change it to three years, so it won’t contradict 1 Chronicles.

Psalm 8 says humans are just a little lower than God, but some translations instead say we’re a little lower than the angels. They’ve changed it to make it match what the New Testament says when it quotes a mistranslation of the Old Testament, rather than making it match the original Hebrew.

Some Christians say Psalm 22 contains a prediction of Jesus’s hands and feet being pierced when he was crucified, but that’s a mistranslation. It doesn’t even say “pierce” in the Hebrew Bible, but that’s how the early Christians happened to interpret it at one point when they made a translation of a translation of that psalm. And since that came out looking so much like a prediction of Jesus, Christians have always opted to translate it that way since then.

In Psalm 51, David says he was conceived, formed, and/or born in sin, which is ambiguous. It could mean his parents sinned in some way when they conceived him. But some English versions of the Bible, versions that want to promote the nonsensical and unjust idea of inherited original sin, translate it to say that David was a sinner all the way back then. And other versions leave it ambiguous.

Some versions have 1 Kings say Solomon had 4000 stalls for his chariot horses, just so it will match what 2 Chronicles says, even though 1 Kings actually says he had 40,000. Most English translations also change the amount of wheat he gave Hiram, for the same reason.

The Bible says humans are animals, but some translators didn’t like that idea for some reason, so they changed it to just say humans are like animals.

There’s a verse where Solomon is obviously talking about his lover’s vulva, but almost all English translations change it so he instead says the same things about her navel, her hips, her belly, her thighs, her waist, or her body in general, which doesn’t make much sense that way. Only a few versions even get close to what it should say.

A lot of translations change the part that says Maakah daughter of Abishalom was Asa’s mother, and instead make it say she was his grandmother. Which she was, apparently, but that’s not what it’s supposed to say. I guess the translators just didn’t like the fact that the Bible seems to be saying Asa’s father had sex with his own mother, so they changed it.

All the Hebrew manuscripts say in 2 Chronicles that Ahaziah became king at age 42, making him older than his own father. But most English versions change it to 22, to make it match 2 Kings, even though it doesn’t.

Most English versions mistranslate away (in one way or another) the absurd part where Isaiah says that after an angel slaughtered thousands of Assyrian men, those men woke up in the morning and noticed they were dead.

Even though almost all existing Hebrew manuscripts say in 2 Chronicles that Jehoiachin became king at age 8, some English versions say he was 18, just because the translators didn’t want 2 Chronicles to contradict 2 Kings, even though it in fact does.

2 Chronicles says Zedekiah was Jehoiachin’s brother, but some translations change it to say he was his uncle, because that’s what it says in 2 Kings.

Some of the gospels claim that Jesus came from a virgin birth, and that the prophet Isaiah had predicted that would happen. But Isaiah never actually said anything about a virgin giving birth. It looks like what actually happened is that the gospel writers got that idea from a previous mistranslation of the scriptures.

If Isaiah had actually intended to predict a miraculous virgin birth, he would have made that clear by using the Hebrew word that specifically means a virgin. Instead, he used a Hebrew word for a young woman, which was later mistranslated as meaning a virgin.

This mistranslation first occurred a few hundred years after Isaiah and a few hundred years before Jesus, in the first-ever translation of the Bible. The Jews were starting to forget how to speak Hebrew, and had to translate their scriptures into Greek. Now, since the New Testament needs the Old Testament to provide a prediction of a virgin birth for Jesus to fulfill, most Christian Bibles opt to translate that part of Isaiah from the Greek mistranslation instead of from the original Hebrew.

Christian Bibles mistranslate another of Isaiah’s prophecies to make it sound like the human king he’s talking about is to be called God. It was probably originally either just saying what God would call the king, or saying a name that contains a reference to God, as plenty of other biblical names do.

Isaiah predicted that satyrs would live in the ruins of Babylon and Edom, but satyrs aren’t real, so most English translations change it so it just says goats will live there.

Isaiah said God would speak with either stammering or mocking lips. But in the New Testament, Paul misquotes that as foreign lips, so now a lot of versions mistranslate it that way in Isaiah, too, so you won’t notice Paul misquoting it.

Isaiah also predicted that the Egyptians will be “like women”. (Meaning the ones who aren’t actually women, I guess?) And then he explained how they would be like women. But a few translations skip the woman simile, and change that word so it just says the Egyptians will be weak, or weaklings. Which probably isn’t even what the simile actually meant.

Jeremiah and Nahum, though, do seem to simply use “women” to mean “weak”. So a few translations again change it so it just says the men are weak, or weaklings, so you won’t know the Bible is using “women” as an insult.

The word “Messiah”, besides meaning a specific prophesied savior of some kind, can also refer to any “anointed king”, or even to “anointed” people and things more generally. But Christian Bibles always translate the parts of the Hebrew Bible that Christians think are about Jesus as “Messiah”, and translate all the other uses of the same word in other ways.

In Esther, when the king of Persia gives the Jews permission to kill all their enemies, he says they can also kill their enemies’ women and children. Some translations completely change this to make it sound like only the Jewish women and children are in danger. And other versions make it ambiguous so you can’t tell which of those things it’s saying.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s response to being sentenced to be thrown into the furnace is ambiguous: They’re either questioning whether God is capable of rescuing them, or questioning whether God exists at all. But a lot of people disagree with the Bible’s implication here, so a lot of translations change this to make it sound like they’re not questioning God at all.

There’s a verse in the gospel of John where Jesus goes into the land of Judea, even though he he was already in the capital of Judea. That doesn’t make sense, so some versions mistranslate that verse to say he went into the countryside of Judea. Those versions translate the word for “country” correctly everywhere except that one verse.

Another verse in John is usually translated as saying the Spirit “had not been given” yet. A more accurate translation would be that there was no Spirit.

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The Story of the Hunt for David
David Joins Israel's Enemies

David went to the Philistine city of Gath to escape from Saul. But the people there thought they recognized him as a notorious Philistine slaughterer. So David pretended he was insane,1 and then he ran away and hid in a cave.

Then he went into a city and fought the Philistines who were attacking it. But God told him that Saul was coming, and that the people of the city would hand him over to Saul to keep him from destroying their city. So David left the city, and what God predicted didn’t happen.

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David Joins Israel's Enemies
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The Story of the Priests of Nob
David Gets Away with Lying, Sacrilege, and Reckless Endangerment

David went to Nob with his companions, whoever they were. Ahimelek the priest wanted to know why David had come there alone, and David claimed that Saul had sent him on a secret mission.

The priest gave David some bread that only priests were allowed to eat, and he ate it. David knew that Saul’s servant Doeg would tell Saul that the priests of Nob had helped David. So he ran away to the land of the Philistines, and left the priests to their fate.

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David Gets Away with Lying, Sacrilege, and Reckless Endangerment
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