Tag Archives: injustice

The Story of King Abimelek
The King Who Wasn't Killed by a Woman

Gideon was another judge of Israel. He destroyed a pagan object of worship that his father had made, and then he made his people a new one. He also tortured or killed anyone who wouldn’t give his men free food. The Israelites liked Gideon so much, they wanted him to become their king. But he refused. After Gideon died, his son Abimelek murdered his 70 brothers, and then he was made the first king of Israel.

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The King Who Wasn't Killed by a Woman
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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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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.

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The Most Pointlessly Evil Story in the Bible
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The Story of Jephthah’s Sacrifice
The Stupidest Story in the Bible

The people of Israel angered their God again by serving other gods. So God let the Ammonites take over Israel, and he said he would never save his people again. But his people insisted on being saved, so the never-changing God, who never listens to sinners, changed his mind and appointed a new judge to save Israel: Jephthah, the leader of a gang of scoundrels.

Jephthah asked the Ammonite king why he was attacking Israel. The king explained that the Israelites had stolen the Ammonites’ land, and the Ammonites wanted it back. Jephthah was like, that never happened, what would you know about that? The king ignored him.

So Jephthah went to attack the Ammonites, which God had forbidden the Israelites to do. He promised that if God helped him disobey God in this way, he would give God whatever met him at the door when he came home, as a burnt offering. The all-knowing God knew what would happen if he did this, but he wanted that burnt offering. So he helped Jephthah destroy twenty Ammonite towns, and he didn’t warn Jephthah’s family to stay indoors.

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The Stupidest Story in the Bible
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The Story of the Moabite/Midianite Clusterfuck
The Origin of the Priesthood

The women of Moab and Midian, following the advice of God through his prophet Balaam, invited the Israelite men to have sex with them and worship the gods of Moab. This made God angry, so he decided to kill all the Israelites yet again, and he told Moses, the leader of Israel, to kill all the leaders of Israel. So Moses told the judges of Israel to kill all the Israelites who had worshipped a Moabite god.

God had already killed tens of thousands of Israelites himself, when an Israelite leader brought a Midianite woman into his tent. When Aaron’s grandson Phinehas saw this, he followed them into the tent and killed them with a spear. This somehow turned away God’s anger and convinced him not to kill all the Israelites. God was so pleased with Phinehas that he made a covenant of peace with him and said the descendants of Phinehas would always be God’s priests.

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The Origin of the Priesthood
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The Story of Balaam’s Ass
God Can't Make Up His Mind

The Israelites wanted to peacefully pass through the country of the Amorites on the way to Canaan. But the king of the Amorites wouldn’t let them, because God made him stubborn. So to punish the king for what God had made him do, the Israelites murdered all the Amorites, stole all their possessions, and took over their land. When Balak king of Moab found out about this, he was terrified of Israel. So he decided to hire Balaam, a prophet of God, to curse God’s chosen people. Great idea, Balak. /s

Balak sent messengers to Balaam to ask him to come and weaken the Israelites so Moab could defeat them, but God told Balaam not to do that, so the messengers returned to Balak without him. Then Balak sent more messengers to Balaam and offered him a large reward for cursing Israel. For some reason, “God” changed his mind and said Balaam should go with them this time.

So Balaam got on his donkey and started to go with the messengers to see Balak. But when God saw that Balaam was going with them after he had told Balaam he should go with them, God was very angry. So God tried to get Balaam to stop by putting an invisible angel in his way. Balaam’s donkey could see the angel standing in the road with a sword, so the donkey turned away from the road. Balaam beat his donkey to get it to get back on the road.

Then while Balaam was on a narrow path between two walls, the donkey saw the angel again, and it crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. Balaam beat his donkey again, but there was nowhere the donkey could go, so it lay down, and Balaam kept beating it with his staff.

Then God enabled the donkey to talk, so it could tell him that it had a good reason not to keep walking, and that he had no good reason to beat it. God also enabled Balaam to see the angel. The angel told Balaam that he was being reckless by going down the straight and narrow path to meet Balak, and that if his donkey hadn’t turned away, the angel would have killed Balaam, but spared the donkey.

Balaam said he had sinned by going with Balak’s men when God had told him to go with Balak’s men. He was going to go back home, but the angel that had been sent to stop him from going to meet Balak told him to keep going and meet Balak.

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God Can't Make Up His Mind
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The Story of the Water from the Rock
Why Moses was Banned from the Promised Land

Moses brought the Israelites to a place called Meribah. They couldn’t find any water to drink there, because it was a desert, so they complained to Moses. The Israelites had been in the same situation here in Meribah before, and God had told Moses to hit a rock with his staff. When he did, water had come out of it.

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Why Moses was Banned from the Promised Land
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The Story of the Twelve Explorers
You Didn't Tell Us There Would Be Giants

Moses sent twelve men to explore the land of Canaan, which God had promised to give to the Israelites, to see what the land and the people there were like. The men found that the land was very good, but it was inhabited by Anakites. To show how good the land was, they brought back a cluster of grapes too big for one person to carry.

The men reported that the land was very good, but it was inhabited by big, strong Anakites in big, strong cities.1 Two of the explorers, Joshua and Caleb, thought the Israelites should go and take that good land for themselves. But the rest of the explorers said they couldn’t do that, because the people there were too big and strong.

When the Israelites heard this, they said it would be better to die in the wilderness than to try to take over that land. They decided to try to kill Moses and go back to Egypt. When the untemptable God heard their plans, he was tempted to kill all the Israelites except Moses and his descendants.

But Moses reminded God, again, that killing all his people would be bad for his reputation. Everyone would think God was incapable of bringing his people to the promised land. When the all-knowing, never-changing, all-good God heard this, he changed his mind and decided not to kill everybody, again.

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You Didn't Tell Us There Would Be Giants
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The Bible is unbelievably sexist

The Bible makes it easy to see how little its writers valued women. It says women are nothing but trouble, and good ones are very rare. It even has a list showing exactly how much God supposedly thinks various kinds of people are worth. So how much is a woman worth? It varies with age, but generally a woman is worth about half as much as a man according to the Bible. Two-thirds as much, at best.

Maybe that has something to do with why having sons was considered more desirable than having daughters. And why it says giving birth to a girl makes a woman “unclean” for twice as long as when she gives birth to a boy. Speaking of reproductive uncleanness, the Bible says everyone has to shun women and treat them as “unclean” about half the time (during and after their periods). Menstruation apparently makes God angry. (So why did he design women that way?)

Judah thought his daughter-in-law should be executed when he heard that she had engaged in prostitution, even though he had just had sex with a prostitute1 himself, and he didn’t seem to think he had done anything wrong.2 In the Gospel of John, a woman is caught in the act of adultery and brought out to be stoned to death, as the law commanded. But for some reason they didn’t bring out her partner in crime to be stoned too, even though the law also said the man had to be stoned to death.

Biblical gender roles

The Bible claims that women were made for the purpose of serving men. It also says they were then cursed so that men would always rule over them. And it uses the Eve origin story to justify subjugating women. It says women aren’t allowed to speak at church, or to teach, or to be in any position of authority. It suggests that women don’t make good leaders, any more than children do. Only one queen ever reigned over the kingdom of Israel, and she’s portrayed as a bad one.

The Bible says men and women always have to wear different kinds of clothing. It’s disgraceful for a woman not to dress or wear her hair in the same way that would be disgraceful for a man. But women shouldn’t dress too fancy, either.

God says daughters can inherit their parents’ property, but only if there are no sons.3 Some people who hear this then object to having even that much equality. They argue that if those women marry men from other tribes, that could lead to one tribe losing its wealth to another tribe (due to the male-focused nature of how their society worked). But when “God” responds, he doesn’t have a problem with that last part. Instead, he says they’ve got it right, that’s exactly how it works. And he solves their little tribe problem by telling them to be more discriminatory, not less.

A lot of the time, the Bible just ignores women, because the activities that were considered important were also considered to be for men only. Approved female occupations were mostly limited to things like sewing, cooking, fetching water, having children,4 taking care of people, crying, and other things women could do at home.

Whenever they take a census in the Bible, they only count the males, because women weren’t considered to be capable of fighting. Even when a woman did conquer the enemy, they tried to erase her achievement and attribute it to a man. The genealogies are patrilineal, and only mention the occasional woman as an afterthought. Saying “Let my people go” was considered to be the same as saying “Let just the men go.” When the Bible writers were talking about both men and women, they felt the need to clarify it by mentioning the people “and their women“.

A lot of rules in the Bible, particularly the ones about sex, are for some reason written with only male readers in mind, as if women are never going to be reading the Bible or deciding who to have sex with.5 This leads to some strange implications if you take what’s written literally. Some rules, like the ones against having sex with certain people if they’re engaged to somebody else, don’t appear to apply if you’re a woman. And what about that rule that says nobody can have sex with a man?? Most women aren’t going to like that rule. For that matter, most men aren’t going to like nobody ever being able to have sex with them, either. They did not think this through.

Women as property

In the past, women were usually considered to be the property of men. And rather than providing the visionary moral insights you’d expect from the word of a perfect God, the Bible only encouraged the status quo.

Even among slaves, women were treated worse back then. The Bible’s laws state that male Hebrew “servants” usually have to be set free after seven years,6 but female servants can be kept forever.

The Bible condones taking virgin girls along with the other plunder from enemy nations and using them as sex slaves. Or wives, as it sometimes calls them.7 Not that the Bible really makes any distinction between servant girls and wives. Marriage in the past was basically a form of slavery.

The Bible describes marriage as men giving or selling their daughters to other men. Laban sold his two daughters to Jacob in exchange for 14 years of labor. Boaz bought a piece of land in order to get the woman who came with the land. Saul sold his daughter to David in exchange for 200 foreskins. And after Hosea’s wife left him, God had him buy her back from her other lover. Wives belonged to their husbands. The commandment against coveting lists wives along with cows and donkeys and other things your neighbor might own.

That explains why in ancient times, the only kind of adultery people cared about was when a man had sex with another man’s wife. That was a crime because the man would be using somebody else’s property without permission. Solomon wrote at length to discourage his son from doing that. But Solomon had 700 wives and 300 girlfriends, so he clearly didn’t think there was anything wrong with a woman having sex with another woman’s husband. Women didn’t own men, after all. The law generally allowed a man to own as many wives as he could provide for. But a woman could only belong to one husband at a time.

At one point in the Bible, the tribe of Benjamin is in need of wives, because the other Israelites have just killed all the Benjamite women, and have sworn not to “give a wife” to any Benjamite. The only way they can think to solve this problem is to have the Benjamite men kidnap a bunch of women. It never occurs to them that they could just let the women decide to marry Benjamites on their own if they want to, without their fathers having to do anything.

The Bible says if someone hits a pregnant woman, they have to compensate her owner (her husband) for the damaged property, rather than having to compensate her. It says if a man falsely accuses a woman he married of not having been a virgin, he has to compensate her manufacturer (her father) for slandering his product, rather than having to compensate her.

It says if a man rapes a virgin, he has to compensate her owner (her father) for the damaged property, rather than having to compensate her.8 And if you’re a single woman who isn’t a virgin (in which case you’d probably be considered already damaged and unsellable), “God” doesn’t seem to care if you get raped. The Bible has no laws against that, since there’s no obvious way to interpret it as a crime against a man.

Control over women

Right after he tells slaves to always submit to their masters even if they’re violently abusive, Peter says wives need to submit to their husbands in the same way. Paul agrees that wives need to submit to their husbands, treating them like they’re God. He thinks this requirement of extreme submission is fitting and will prevent people from slandering the Bible.9

When a king’s wife disobeyed him, he banished her, so all the other women wouldn’t think they could get away with disobeying their husbands, the rulers of their households. The Bible portrays women as thinking that what kind of behavior is proper is entirely determined by what their husbands think. When women try to make their own decisions, they’re often ignored and overruled by men. The Bible’s laws say a man is always fully responsible for keeping any vows he makes, but a woman’s vow can be nullified by the man who’s in charge of her (her father or husband).

It says a man whose brother dies without a son has to marry his brother’s widow and pretend that the dead man is the one having children with her. A man who chooses not to go along with that custom is to be publicly shamed. But the writers of the Bible don’t even consider the possibility that the woman might not want to marry that man. Only the man’s desires matter.

When Abraham sent a servant to get a wife for his son, her father said to go ahead and take her, without waiting to see if she was willing to marry a man she’d never met. All they needed was the consent of her owner. They didn’t bother consulting her at all until after it was already decided, and they were just sorting out the details of getting her to her new owner. The Bible says a man is allowed to divorce his wife any time he wants, but it never says a woman can divorce her husband if she wants to. Only the owner has the authority to make that decision.

The Bible has the supposedly righteous man Lot decide to send his daughters outside to appease the mob of rapists surrounding his house. The only reason he doesn’t actually do it is that the rapists don’t happen to be interested in them. And God still thinks Lot is worth saving from the doomed city after that. It says sending a man out there would have been wicked and vile and outrageous. But his daughters are his own property, so it must be okay for him to do whatever he wants with them, right?

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The Story of the Offensive Offering
The Lord is Slow to Anger

Two sons of Moses’s brother Aaron made an offering of incense to the Lord. But they did it wrong, so God killed them with fire. Moses explained that this was how God proved that he was holy and honorable. Aaron said nothing.

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The Lord is Slow to Anger
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