Tag Archives: foolishness

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 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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The Story of Rehoboam and Jeroboam
The Kingdom Splits in Two

God wanted to punish King Solomon for worshiping other gods. But he liked Solomon’s dead father too much to do that. So he decided to wait until Solomon was dead and punish his son instead.

A prophet announced that God was going to let most of Israel be taken over by Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s officials. Solomon wisely attempted to hinder God’s plan by killing Jeroboam. But before he could, Jeroboam fled to Egypt, where he waited for Solomon to die. Solomon was succeeded by his son Rehoboam.

The people of Israel told Rehoboam they would serve him, but only if he didn’t make them work as hard as his father had. Rehoboam wasn’t sure how to answer them, so he asked for advice. The elders he asked said he should give the people what they wanted. But the young men he asked said he should make the people work even harder. While torturing them with scorpions.

To punish Rehoboam for what his dead father had done, God made Rehoboam decide to follow the bad advice of the young men. This caused most of the Israelites to turn against him. Israel made Jeroboam their king instead of Rehoboam, but the tribes of Judah and Benjamin seceded from Israel. They became the kingdom of Judah, and kept Rehoboam as their king.

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The Kingdom Splits in Two
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The Story of King Solomon
The Wisest Man in the World

When King David was old, he had trouble staying warm. His attendants solved that problem by finding a hot girl to lie next to him in bed. Her name was Abishag, but he didn’t shag her. One day, David’s wife Bathsheba came to his room with a complaint.

She said David had promised that her son Solomon would be the next king. But now another son of David, Adonijah, had made himself king. Then David had Bathsheba come to his room, and he declared Solomon to be the new king of Israel.

When Adonijah heard about that, he was afraid Solomon would kill him. Solomon decided not to kill his brother for trying to become king. But then when Adonijah tried to marry Abishag, Solomon did kill him, because he thought that meant Adonijah was trying to become king. After David died, Solomon also killed a man David had sworn would not be killed, because Solomon was a wise man.

One night, after Solomon sacrificed at an unauthorized altar, God offered to give him anything he wanted. Solomon asked for wisdom, because he was young and inexperienced and ignorant and didn’t know right from wrong. God was so pleased that Solomon hadn’t asked for money that he made Solomon the richest king of all time, and he also made him the wisest person of all time. Solomon later asked God to let him live as long as the sun and moon endured. But apparently God didn’t like that request as much.

After he became wise, Solomon suggested cutting a baby in half. Then he wisely decided not to let the baby be raised by a prostitute who thought his idea was a good one. (He gave the baby to a different prostitute instead.)

King Solomon ruled over many other kingdoms in addition to Israel. During his reign there was peace for Israel, except when there wasn’t. He wrote thousands of songs1 and proverbs, and studied plants and animals. People came from all over the world to hear his wisdom. But wisdom was beyond him.

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The Wisest Man in the World
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Logical non sequiturs in the Bible

The Bible is a very badly written book. Among many other flaws, it’s full of unintentional non sequiturs. It says things that have no logical connection to what came before, or that don’t make sense given what was just said. I’ve written about those before.

But there’s a worse kind of non sequitur in the Bible as well. Besides all those sudden little shifts in topic, the Bible also makes a lot of failed attempts at reasoning. It arrives at conclusions that are not justified by the reasons given. And it gives reasons for doing things, that aren’t actually reasons to do those things.

Pre-settlement stories

Job describes how the wicked are incredibly prosperous all their lives. And he says their prosperity is not in their own hands. So I guess he’s saying it’s God who is making them prosperous. Then Job concludes that he doesn’t want anything to do with the wicked. Which would normally make sense, but not so much after everything he just said.

Why doesn’t Job want to join them and prosper, with God’s blessing? Or even if he’s not saying God is actively rewarding the wicked, he is still saying there’s no connection between what you do and what happens to you. That is not a reason to avoid wickedness.

One of Job’s “friends” disagrees with some of the things Job said: Eliphaz claims that Job is wicked, and that the wicked don’t prosper. But then Eliphaz contradicts himself and says God makes the wicked prosper. And he too somehow concludes that he wants to stay away from those prosperous people.

Then some guy named Elihu comes out of nowhere and talks quite a lot. But nobody ever acknowledges he’s there, and even he can’t remember what point he’s trying to make. Elihu says God is perfectly just and never does anything wrong. Then for some reason he starts questioning how God got put in charge of the world. And bringing up the possibility that God could kill everyone. I’m not sure how any of that is supposed to support what he was saying about God being good.

God tells Abraham that four generations later, his descendants will come and live where he is now. And he says that will happen because… the Amorites aren’t yet as sinful as they’re going to be? What does that have to do with anything?

God tells Laban not to say anything to Jacob, and that’s why Laban TELLS Jacob he won’t harm him.

When Rachel gives birth to her last son, the midwife tells her she has a son now. Therefore, Rachel shouldn’t care that she’s dying.

Joseph needs a way to convince the Pharaoh to let Joseph’s family live in Egypt even though Egyptians hate shepherds. So Joseph advises his brothers to tell Pharaoh that they tend livestock for a living. How is that supposed to help? If anything, bringing up livestock should make Pharaoh want to know just what kind of livestock they intend to bring into his country…

Another Pharaoh apparently objects to Moses stopping the Israelites from working because… they’re numerous? So if there weren’t so many of them, then would this Pharaoh be okay with his slaves not working? Why is he bringing up the fact that they’re numerous?

Moses agrees to get God to remove a plague he had sent, and to do it on the day Pharaoh chooses. Because Moses thinks that will prove that there is no one like God. It won’t. At best, that might prove something about God, but it wouldn’t prove anything about anyone else. God being able to do that is perfectly compatible with other people being able to do it too.

God thinks he can teach people that “man does not live on bread alone”… by feeding them bread. (And then when Jesus quotes what God said about that, he acts like it was a command not to eat bread, or something.)

God makes sure his people understand that he thinks they’re evil. And he says he doesn’t want those other evil people living in the land, because they’re evil! Evil people don’t deserve to live in that land. And that’s why God is going to get rid of them, and give the land to these evil people instead.

Moses expects the other nations to rejoice because God is going to take vengeance on behalf of his own people. That is not a reason for the other nations to rejoice.

The Bible says the Israelites were able to kill 12,000 men and women because Joshua was holding out his javelin the whole time. There is absolutely no attempt to explain how holding out a javelin is supposed to have caused that. Or how the position of Moses’s hands is supposed to have influenced who was winning in an earlier battle.

Post-settlement stories

When his people are accused of stealing land from the Ammonites, Jephthah tries to refute that by talking about the Amorites instead of the Ammonites.

Later, Jephthah informed his daughter of his plans to murder her for God. So she went out into the hills to mourn with her friends for two months. And then she returned to her father to let him murder her. And it says that’s the reason the young women of Israel have a tradition of going out for four days each year. Why four days? If Jephthah’s daughter is the reason they’re doing this, why don’t they go out for two months?

A Levite became like a son to Micah, because they agreed that the Levite would be his father. Another Levite explained that some men had raped and killed his girlfriend, and that’s why he chopped her up and sent the pieces all over the country.

David tries to convince Abiathar to stay with him, by pointing out that David knowingly got Abiathar’s whole family killed. And that the man who wants to kill Abiathar is also trying to kill David. Therefore, Abiathar will definitely be safe with David.

David speculates that one possible reason Saul is trying to kill him could be that some people convinced him to. And then David somehow concludes that those hypothetical people must have told someone to serve other gods.

The Jebusites were confident that even the blind and lame among them could keep David out of their city. David heard that, and started talking about the Jebusites like they were all blind and lame. And that’s how “The blind and lame will not enter the palace” became a saying, somehow. Even though nobody was talking about the Jebusites entering anything.

King David decides that everyone in his household except for ten of his girlfriends has to flee immediately, or else his son Absalom will slaughter the whole city. And then he starts talking about “King Absalom“. Where did he get these ideas about Absalom? Just from somebody telling him that “The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom.” As far as I can tell, David had no reason at this point to think Absalom was plotting anything against him.

David is thirsty, so some of his best warriors risk their lives to get him some water. Then David refuses to drink it. Because those guys risked their lives to get it for him, and that somehow means he can’t drink it.

A psalmist thinks if God fulfilled his promises to people, that would be a good way to make people fear him. What’s so scary about someone keeping promises they made to you? And then there’s Solomon, who thinks you should fear God because dreaming and talking too much is meaningless.

Solomon’s brother wants to marry the girl who used to platonically share a bed with his father. And Solomon thinks that’s the same as wanting to rule the kingdom. Solomon also thinks that by building a temple for God, he’s fulfilling what God said when God said he never asked for a temple.

Solomon says officials have a hierarchy among themselves. So he thinks you shouldn’t be surprised if they unjustly oppress the poor. He says God is the cause of both good times and bad times. And he thinks that’s why you can’t know the future. He tells about a wise man who was forgotten, and he concludes that wisdom is better than strength. And he thinks youth is meaningless, and that’s why you shouldn’t be anxious or troubled.

Elijah asks God to kill him, because Elijah isn’t better than his ancestors. I didn’t know being superior to all your ancestors was a requirement for getting to live, did you?

The people of Judah were afraid of the Babylonians, because an Ammonite sent a Hebrew to kill the leader that the king of Babylon had appointed for them. That might be a reason to be afraid of the Ammonites, but it’s certainly not a reason to be afraid of the Babylonians.

Post-exile stories

Nebuchadnezzar sees that the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego has rescued them. And he concludes that no other god can do the same thing. Even though he hasn’t actually tried executing followers of all the other gods to see if their gods rescue them too. He also concludes that he should kill anyone who says anything bad about this God. That doesn’t in any way logically follow from either of those things.

Daniel’s enemies convince King Darius to make a law against praying to anyone but Darius. Then they report that they saw Daniel praying. So they tell the king that Daniel is breaking the law. Even though Daniel could have been praying to Darius, for all they know.

If you get persecuted the way the prophets were persecuted, Jesus expects you to be happy about it. Because that somehow means you’re going to be greatly rewarded. Even though you didn’t necessarily do anything good.

If God knows how to give you a good gift, Jesus thinks that’s a reason to follow the Golden Rule. Jesus also tells people to be good and loving and generous to their enemies. But he says the reason to do that is because God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. That is not a reason to do that. It’s a reason to be ungrateful and wicked.

Jesus gets mad at towns because they don’t repent when they see him do miracles. I’m not sure why he expected them to. How is seeing miracles a reason to repent?

Jesus’s disciples ask him why he talks to people in parables. His non-answer is that it’s because the people don’t understand what they see and hear. Unclear messages are not going to help with that problem. Jesus also implies that he doesn’t really want all those people to know “the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” for some reason. If that’s the case, that’s still not a reason to speak in confusing parables. If you don’t want them to know, why talk to them at all?

Jesus makes a terrible analogy about fish and afterlives. And he says that’s why teachers of the law who become disciples are like an owner of a house who brings out new and old treasures. Then he tells Peter that 77 is how many times Peter should forgive his sibling. And that’s why the kingdom of heaven is like a king who makes slaves of the families of people who can’t pay their debt.

Jesus thinks the least of his disciples is the greatest. And that’s why if they welcome some kid, they’re welcoming Jesus and God. I’m not sure what those things have to do with each other. Is he trying to get them to welcome that little kid to be a disciple, so the kid can be the least and the greatest disciple? That would mean Jesus and God would also become disciples of Jesus… This isn’t making any sense.

Jesus attempts to convince people that they should give up everything they have… using stories about people who clearly would be even worse off if they did that. The people in the stories need more of what they have, not less. So Jesus is saying you should give up everything you have “in the same way” that these people… shouldn’t??

A man thinks it’s remarkable that the Pharisees don’t know where Jesus came from, “yet” Jesus was able to cure the man’s blindness. How would the Pharisees knowing where Jesus was from make it any easier for him to cure blindness?

Jesus thinks hired hands, unlike their employers who actually own the sheep, have no reason to care about the sheep’s survival. But why wouldn’t a hired hand care? If he fails to care for the sheep, he’ll be a fired hand.

Jesus says he’s going to kill himself, but only temporarily, and that’s why his father loves him. How is that a reason to love someone?

Jesus loves his friend Lazarus. So when he hears that Lazarus is sick, Jesus stays right where he is for two more days and lets Lazarus die.

Jesus talks to God, and he points out that he really didn’t need to say what he just said to God. And he explains to God (needlessly) that he was actually saying it so the people watching him would believe that God had sent him. How are they supposed to conclude that? Nothing he just said gives them a good reason to think that.

Pilate says Jesus hasn’t broken any Roman laws, and he tells the Jews to crucify Jesus themselves. Then instead of reminding Pilate that the Roman law doesn’t allow Jews to do that, Jesus’s Jewish enemies agree that Jesus broke a Jewish law, not a Roman law… and that’s why they’re insisting that the Romans have to punish him??

The centurion is described as praising God when he declares that Jesus was a righteous man, after watching him get tortured and killed. Why is he praising God for letting a righteous man be tortured and killed?

Peter acknowledges that the money Ananias has earned belongs to Ananias. But he thinks that somehow supports his idea that Ananias has done something wrong by keeping a little of his own money for himself.

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The Story of David’s Census
Morning by Morning He Dispenses With Justice

God was feeling angry at his people, and needed an excuse to punish them. So he told David to take a census of Israel.1 David’s commander Joab thought God’s idea was repulsive for some reason, but he helped David count the Israelites anyway.

After taking the census, David decided that Joab was right, that what he had done was foolish and sinful, and God agreed. God sent a prophet to ask David how he would like to be punished for obeying God. David didn’t fear God as much as he feared men, so he said he would prefer God to punish him himself, rather than sending David’s enemies to punish him.

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Morning by Morning He Dispenses With Justice
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Bad analogies in the Bible

When the Bible attempts to make analogies, they tend to be impressively badly done.

A prophet tells David an allegory about a rich man stealing a poor man’s beloved sheep. Then David (who isn’t in on the metaphor) declares that the rich man must die, and also must repay the poor man four times over. Since the prophet’s story was really about what David did to Uriah, this would mean that David has to kill himself and then give dead Uriah four new wives.

It’s the prophet’s fault that David had that nonsensical idea about repaying a dead person. The prophet had the sheep die in the story instead of the poor man, which doesn’t match what had really happened.

When Amaziah challenges Jehoash to battle, Jehoash responds with a bizarre and seemingly pointless story about a thistle that tries to arrange a marriage with a cedar and then gets squashed by a passing wild animal. After over 20 years of reading the Bible daily, I think I’ve just now finally found a coherent point in that story. Let me know whether you can figure it out too.

Isaiah says a man’s work will become a spark, and it will be burned along with him, with no one to rescue it. Oh no, the spark is on fire! And there’s no one to save the spark from burning up! That would have made a lot more sense if he’d just left out the spark metaphor.

God tells Ezekiel a story where he calls Sodom Jerusalem’s younger sister, even though Sodom is probably supposed to have been destroyed before Jerusalem became a city. And certainly long before Jerusalem became an Israelite city.

And in that allegory, God constantly calls Jerusalem a prostitute… one who pays others for sex, and doesn’t get paid herself. So… not a prostitute, then. But even after basically admitting that he chose the wrong metaphor, God insists on continuing to use that wrong metaphor.

God wants to try to justify destroying a certain nation (he can’t decide which one). So he tells Ezekiel a story about punishing a tree for being tall and beautiful, as if that was a bad thing. The story ends with all the other trees dying too, for some reason.

God tells the prophet Zechariah about people slaughtering sheep that they own. Which was a totally normal thing to do, and was something that God’s own law required people to do… And God acts like they’re doing something wrong. If this was a metaphor, it was a poorly-chosen one.

Then Zechariah claims that he became a shepherd of those sheep, and “got rid of” the other shepherds who were supposed to be tending them. And then he got tired of the sheep and decided to leave them to eat each other’s flesh and die. Is this supposed to be some kind of metaphor? If it is, it’s making a lot less sense than it would have if he had just said what he meant.

Mark says the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus “like a dove“. Is that something doves normally do? Do they descend on people?

Jesus told his disciples to watch out for “the yeast of the Pharisees”. Why yeast? How can he expect anyone to understand him when he talks like that and doesn’t explain himself?

In the parable of the fig tree, is the character who doesn’t want to be too hasty about getting rid of a fruitless fig tree supposed to be God/Jesus? If so, it seems kind of unrealistic, considering Jesus’s behavior in this other fig tree story.

In the parable of the lost son, the father, who presumably represents God, keeps insisting that his son was dead. Even if he doesn’t mean it literally, that shows that he didn’t know what had happened to his son. The whole point of the parable depends on the father not knowing he was going to get his son back. So either God doesn’t know everything, or this parable is pointless.

The parable of the scary widow portrays as a good example someone who uses harassment and threats. That’s not good advice whether you’re dealing with God or humans.

Paul says Jesus appeared to him “as to one abnormally born“. How does Jesus normally appear to “abnormally born” people? I don’t know, so this comparison tells me nothing.

Paul says underage heirs are no different from slaves. But then he makes an analogy about people going from being underage slaves to being children and heirs. Which, according to what he had just said, should make no difference. (Unless by “children” he means adult offspring, which he didn’t specify.)

Peter tries to make a parallel between Noah’s flood and baptism, but those really aren’t alike at all. Noah wasn’t saved by being immersed in water; he was saved from being immersed in water.

Weak arguments by analogy

Most of the analogies in the Bible are so bad, they don’t even qualify as weak analogies. But here are some of the Bible’s weak attempts at reasoning by analogy:

Isaiah says people shouldn’t be proud, and they should give God all the credit for their achievements, because people should act more like tools and weapons do. Tools and weapons know their place. You can tell, because tools and weapons don’t pick people up and boast that they’re better than the people who want to use them. Because tools and weapons are humble. Yeah, that’s why tools and weapons don’t do those things.

God says he poured out his wrath on his people for shedding blood, because he thought what they were doing was “like a woman’s monthly uncleanness”. This implies that God gets angry at women for “shedding blood” each month.

Jesus claims that if salt “loses its saltiness“, which is not a thing that happens, then it can’t become salty again. What he doesn’t mention is that salt can’t become un-salty in the first place. What’s his point, anyway? That people can change, but they can’t change back, for some reason? And why choose a metaphor based on a made-up phenomenon that no one has ever actually experienced?

Jesus can’t understand why anyone would ever worry about getting food. God gives birds food whenever they need it, doesn’t he? So God is definitely going to always make sure all humans always have all the food they need. So why would anyone ever worry about food? Why would anyone think they have to work for food?1 Birds don’t do that. Don’t people know that birds exist?

Jesus can’t understand why anyone would worry about getting clothes, either. God gives grass fancy clothes, doesn’t he? Or at least he makes it look kinda like the grass has fancy clothes. That’s just as good, right? So God is definitely going to always make sure all humans always have all the clothes they need. So why would anyone ever worry about clothes? Don’t they know that flowers exist?

Jesus says you should take the plank out of your own eye first. Then you can try to get the speck out of your brother’s eye. But I don’t think you’d be able to see clearly enough to do that, after having a plank in your eye.

Jesus claims that if you clean only the inside of a cup or dish, then the outside will magically be clean too. Maybe that’s true of whatever he was really talking about, but it’s not true of cups and dishes. So that was a stupid metaphor to use.

The parable of the cancelled debts involves forgiveness leading to love, but what Jesus was trying to make a point about involved love leading to forgiveness. So that’s not a good illustration of what he was trying to say.

Jesus tells a parable where one man goes to heaven and another goes to hell. Jesus seems to think that with this story he’s warning people to repent and obey God. But the story doesn’t actually say the fate of these men was determined by anything they did. It says it was determined by what happened to them throughout their lives, by whether they experienced good lives or bad lives, which wasn’t really in their control.

Paul tries to convince his followers not to hate their wives, using an analogy based on the false premise that no one has ever hated their own body.

The book of Hebrews says a will can only be in effect when the person who made it has died, and that’s why God’s covenant could only be put into effect if Moses killed some calves. The calves would have to be the ones who wrote the covenant for that reasoning to even begin to make sense.

Ignoring relevant differences

God kept watch when his people needed him to help them get out of Egypt… therefore his people should keep watch, when no one actually needs them to, and they’re not helping anyone by keeping watch.

A woman makes up a story, claiming that one of her sons killed the other, and now everyone wants her to hand over her only remaining son to be killed. When King David agrees with her that her murderer son should be protected, she accuses David of hypocrisy, just because he’s banished his own son. Which is nothing like the situation in the woman’s story.

For David to actually be hypocritical here, there would have to be people trying to kill David’s murderer son, which no one was at that time. And that son would have to be the only one David had left, which he wasn’t.

God says a potter’s clay never criticizes the potter’s work, therefore humans shouldn’t criticize their maker, either. Because humans are inanimate objects that lack the sapience to realize how badly designed they are, and lack the sentience to be affected by that poor design in any way that matters, just like clay pots! God says there’s no reason he shouldn’t just destroy humans when he accidentally makes them wrong. Because humans are morally irrelevant objects just like clay, and God is a fallible human being just like a potter!

God points out that Jonah didn’t want God to destroy a helpful shade plant, therefore Jonah should also not want God to destroy a wicked city.

A centurion, based on the fact that there are people who do what he tells them, comes to the conclusion that somebody else is capable of telekinesis.

The parable of the weeds seems like it’s trying to explain why God doesn’t deal with all the evil people immediately. But the explanation given in the story doesn’t apply if you’re all-knowing and all-powerful. And Jesus says the harvest represents “the end of the age”, but what’s different about that time that makes it okay for him to kill everyone then, but not now?

The parables of the buried treasure and the pearl make the point that it’s worth giving up a lot to get into the kingdom… Except you don’t actually have to do that, given what Jesus said about how easy it is to be his follower. So why is Jesus making it sound like you do have to give up a lot? And the Bible says you can’t buy the gift of God with money. So why is Jesus making it sound like you can buy the gift of God with money?

In the parable of the unmerciful servant, the king points out that he forgave the servant’s debt, therefore there’s no reason the servant shouldn’t have forgiven the other guy’s debt. But the debt the servant had owed was a hopelessly huge one. The debt the servant was owed was way smaller. I would think that should make a difference. Or does this king think everybody should always be required to forgive every debt they’re owed? That would amount to legalizing theft.

Jesus says people can tell that summer is near by looking at what’s happening to the trees, which is based on patterns that we’ve repeatedly observed before. Therefore people should also be just as confident that the end of the world is near when they see certain things that he claims are signs of the end. Even though we don’t have any empirical data on whether those things are actually correlated with worlds ending. Jesus thinks if you can predict today’s weather, but you can’t predict the end of the world, that somehow makes you a hypocrite.

The point of the parable of the unmerciful servant seems to be that if you don’t forgive people who wrong you, you can’t expect God to ever forgive you for the things you do. But that’s not really comparable, since nothing you do has any effect on God.

Paul thinks God’s law no longer has any authority over someone once that person dies. He tries to convince his followers of this by giving an example scenario where someone dies, and then someone else is no longer bound by certain restrictions that the law had previously required of her. This is not an example of what he was saying at all.

The release from certain restrictions is part of what the law says, so this is all within the law, not a case of being released from the law. The law is saying one person’s death makes another person free from certain requirements, not the person who died. And this is a real death, while what Paul really had in mind was a figurative “death”, which the law says nothing about. You can’t get out of obeying the law just by calling yourself dead.

James tells his followers they should wait patiently for Jesus to return and set everything right, the way a farmer patiently waits for the rain to come and his crops to grow. But nothing like what the Christians are waiting for has ever been known to happen, so that’s a little different.

Backfiring analogies

At one point in the book of Judges, God doesn’t even realize he’s comparing things that are alike. He attempts to make a contrast, apparently not realizing that he’s actually doing the opposite, and refuting his own point. He says the reason he’s not going to rescue his people this time, as opposed to all those other times they were oppressed, is that this time, they have abandoned him and served other gods… just like they did all the other times. So no, he has no excuse for reacting differently this time.

Solomon tries to make an analogy to make adultery seem undesirable, and ends up sounding like he’s trying to promote selfishness as a virtue. If anything, he’s inadvertently making a more convincing case that opposing adultery is selfish and wrong. Then he goes on to compare one’s own wife to an animal, and to draw attention to another married woman’s breasts, and to ask what’s so desirable about those. This guy is unbelievably unconvincing.

When an army is coming to attack Egypt, Jeremiah warns that there’s a gadfly coming to attack Egypt. That’s probably not the best choice of metaphor if you want to sound threatening.

God tries to comfort his people with a very poorly-chosen simile: He says they’re going to be as numerous as the flocks of sheep that they bring to God’s festivals to be slaughtered as offerings to God. Another time, he tries to describe a coming punishment by using metaphorical food imagery that could just as easily be taken as an encouraging promise of abundance.

God tells Ezekiel to take two sticks and somehow make them become one stick. That doesn’t even sound like something you’d be able to do for real. So what does that say about what it represents? At best, that was another very poorly-chosen analogy.

In Matthew’s version of the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus concludes that God isn’t willing to let any of his people perish. So why did he try to illustrate that by portraying God as a shepherd who abandons his whole flock after finding out that they’re not securely contained?

The message of the parable of the selectively generous employer seems to be that if you want God to reward you, you don’t need to put any more than the minimal effort into it. You’ll get the exact same reward regardless of how many good things you do.

Jesus tries to convince people to always be ready for his return… using an analogy that makes that seem like a completely unreasonable thing to expect people to do. It’s like staying up all night, every night, for the rest of your life, so no thieves can sneak up on you while you sleep.

The parable of the tardy bridegroom portrays Jesus’s character as a hypocrite, arriving late and then locking other people out for arriving late. Jesus claims the point is that you should keep watch, yet nothing bad happens to half the people in the story who failed to keep watch.

Jesus tries to justify not helping foreigners, using a metaphor comparing them to dogs. His analogy is so weak, even he is easily convinced that he was wrong.

The parable of the cancelled debts implies that people who love Jesus are evil. The more you love Jesus, the more evil you must be, according to this analogy.

Jesus attempts to convince people that they should give up everything they have… using stories about people who clearly would be even worse off if they did that. The people in the stories need more of what they have, not less. So Jesus is saying you should give up everything you have “in the same way” that these people shouldn’t??

The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector gives the impression that God doesn’t actually care whether people sin or not.

Jesus “threatens” to spit the Christians of Laodicea out of his mouth. But why would you want to be in his mouth anyway?

Unflattering divine comparisons

God tells Isaiah an allegory about a failed attempt to grow a vineyard, in order to try to justify destroying his chosen nation. But he just makes himself look incompetent and unreasonable, on top of being genocidal. God can’t figure out what he did wrong, so he decides it must be the grapes’ fault. Nothing about that story is consistent with the attributes God supposedly has.

Then he tells Ezekiel a nonsensical story about two eagles gardening. God seems to want the second eagle to be the bad guy, but he forgot to say anything that would actually make that eagle look bad. Instead, it seems like the real villain in this story is whoever came and uprooted the vine at the end. Which would be… God?

Ezekiel 23 is a metaphorical story where God marries two sisters who are prostitutes. Even though he hates prostitutes, and thinks no one should be married to two sisters at the same time. Eventually he gets both of his wives killed, on purpose. This whole parable is meant to make his people look bad, but God mostly just ends up making himself look bad.

God still wants to try to justify destroying his chosen nation, so he also tells Ezekiel an allegory about a failed attempt to clean a pot. (He even tries setting it on fire!) As with the vineyard story, God only succeeds in making himself look incompetent. And since he admits he knows that even using fire isn’t going to work, this story doesn’t actually justify his actions at all.

In Ezekiel 33, God makes an analogy to unconvincingly try to make it look like it’s Ezekiel’s fault if somebody sins and dies. But the analogy he chooses only makes God look even more responsible for those deaths than he already is. He compares Ezekiel to a watchman who has to warn people that the enemy is coming to kill them. If the watchman fails to warn people, God says it’s the watchman’s fault that they died.

But really, if the enemy is killing people, that would be primarily the enemy’s fault. And who’s taking the role of the enemy in this case? God. God is the killer here that Ezekiel has to warn people about. And the killer wants to put all the blame on Ezekiel for the killer’s own actions, when he could instead have just chosen not to kill people? That’s hardly reasonable.

If the parable of the sloppy farmer is supposed to be about God/Jesus, you’d think he’d be able to put all his seeds exactly where they need to be. It’s a fitting description of him, I suppose, but why is Jesus drawing attention to his incompetence?

Jesus says you shouldn’t worry, because God will keep you safe. You can tell, because even something as comparatively worthless as a sparrow never falls to the ground unless God wants it to. But are we expected to assume that nothing bad ever happens to sparrows? That’s the only way this would actually support Jesus’s conclusion. Given the fact the sparrows and humans actually do die all the time, the logical conclusion to draw from this would be that God doesn’t care about sparrows or humans, or that he wants them to die.

Jesus attempts to insult the people of his generation by comparing them to children who complain that nobody’s playing along with the different moods of their songs. But when Jesus further explains the meaning of his simile, it turns out that he and John the Baptist are actually the ones acting like children. He did not think this through.

Jesus tries again to make the people of his generation look bad. He thinks he can do that by talking about what happens to formerly demon-possessed people. It seems like it’s supposed to be some kind of analogy? I can’t tell what his point is, though. All he’s really doing is making himself look bad, since he’s the one driving demons out of people, which he says only makes them worse off in the end.

In the parable of the two sons, one son actually does what the father says to do, while the other just says he will, but doesn’t. Jesus makes it clear that God prefers people who actually obey everything he says, like the first son. Guess which of the two sons Jesus is more like…

The parable of the violent tenants makes God sending Jesus look like a stupid mistake. It makes God look like an idiot who has learned nothing from the deaths of all the people he’s sent before. So he decides to send his son next, and he’s surprised when his son gets killed too.

The parable of the greedy master portrays the character representing God/Jesus very unflatteringly, as a spoiled, unjust mass murderer. And it has him rewarding people for doing something that God says is detestable. Something God says people should be killed for doing. Yet the character representing him here punishes people for failing to do it. I have no idea what point Jesus was trying to make with that one.

Jesus uses a metaphor about someone (representing God) beating his slaves. Apparently this metaphor is supposed to convince people to be sure to obey God or whatever. But the logical conclusion to draw from what Jesus says here (besides that God is evil) is that you should remain ignorant of what God wants you to do. That way your unavoidable punishment will at least be less severe.

Jesus says everyone who sins is a slave to sin, but a slave has no permanent place in the family, unlike a son. And he refers to himself as the son here. So it sounds like Jesus is saying he’s going to be part of the family of sin forever. And he wants to free other people, so they can join him.

Anyone who climbs into the sheep pen in an unusual way, rather than entering by the gate like you’re supposed to, is a thief and a robber… says the guy who entered the world in a way no one else ever did.

Mixed metaphors

Continue reading Bad analogies in the Bible
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The Story of the Mighty Warriors
The Ungrateful Jerk

One day, while David was fighting the Philistines, he complained that he was thirsty. There was a well over near where the Philistines were encamped. So three of David’s best warriors risked their lives to bring him some water from that well. But then David refused to drink it, claiming that they had brought him blood instead of water. He poured the water out on the ground.

The end.

The moral of the story

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The Ungrateful Jerk
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The Story of the House of Saul
The Children's Teeth Are Set on Edge

During David’s reign, there was a famine in Israel. After it had gone on for three years, David asked God why there was a famine. God explained that he was punishing dead king Saul for trying to kill all the Gibeonites after Joshua had promised they wouldn’t be killed.

King David asked the remaining Gibeonites how he could make amends. They said they would like it if he helped them kill seven descendants of Saul. (Whose whole family had already been killed off.)

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The Children's Teeth Are Set on Edge
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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.

Continue reading The Story of Mephibosheth and Ziba
A Lame Deal
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