Tag Archives: jews

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.

Continue reading The Story of Rehoboam and Jeroboam
The Kingdom Splits in Two
Share this post:

Hebrew population history according to the Bible

How many Israelites were there when Jacob (AKA Israel) was born? Well, I don’t think he counts. Let’s define Israelites as descendants of Israel (AKA Jacob). So then the answer would be zero.

The Bible doesn’t say exactly when Jacob had children. But by the time his father died, he had 13 of them. And the Bible calls them Israelites.

When Jacob’s family moved to Egypt when he was 130 years old, there were about 70 descendants of Israel. (The exact number given varies between different parts of the Bible. It could be anywhere from 66 to 75.)

One Pharaoh later, it says the Israelites multiplied greatly and filled the land so much that the Egyptians felt threatened. By the time of the exodus, they had about 600,000 men, plus women and children. So they went from less than a hundred to over a million people during the time they lived in Egypt, which the Bible says was no more than 430 years.

And how many generations did that take, to get from 70 to over a million? About two? Kohath was one of the 70 who moved to Egypt, Amram was his son, and Moses was his son. (Moses was 80 by the time the exodus happened, but if they were in Egypt 430 years then these generations would have to be like 175 years apart. So Moses’s age doesn’t make much difference. It’s still just two generations.)

For the population to grow that much in just two generations, each woman would have to have around 300 children. I suppose that could happen… if, say, they all kept getting pregnant nonstop from age 5 to age 73, and each pregnancy only lasted 21 weeks, and they all had twins every time, and no one died. Does that seem likely? At that rate, it would only take two more generations before there would be more Israelites than there are people in the world today. No wonder the Egyptians were nervous. But that wasn’t too much for just two midwives to handle, apparently.

Shortly after the exodus, Moses describes the Israelites as being as numerous as the stars in the sky. How many is that? Well, the number of stars in the observable universe is like a trillion times more than the number of humans who will ever exist. But the number of stars visible to the naked eye from Earth in the absence of light pollution is less than 50,000. I’m gonna say the second interpretation is way closer to a reasonable number of people. Plus, that’s what it sounds like the Bible meant the first time it compared people to stars. So… the number of Israelites suddenly fell from over a million to less than 50,000?

Then just a year after the exodus, Moses takes a census and counts over 600,000 non-Levite men at least 20 years old, and at least 22,000 Levite males at least a month old. So now they’re back over 1.2 million people. And that’s not counting most of the people under 20.

About 40 years later, Moses took another census. Almost all the Israelites from the first one had already died by this time, but the numbers weren’t much different. There were still over 600,000 Israelite men who were 20 or older, and 23,000 male Levites at least a month old.

When Moses died, not long after that, he said again that the Israelites were as numerous as the stars in the sky. So I guess they’re back below 50,000 again.

Post-settlement population

In the days of the judges, it says there were 25,600 fighting men in the tribe of Benjamin. Multiplying that by 12 tribes, it seems like there would have only been about 300,000 fighting men in all of Israel then, instead of 600,000. Except Benjamin was a particularly small tribe, so I guess there could have still been around the same total number of men there had been… At least until the other Israelites murdered most of the Benjamites, which would reduce the number of Israelites by more than 50,000.

Wait, is that why Benjamin was a small tribe? Maybe it is; maybe 25,000 men was typical for an Israelite tribe before that happened. In which case we can go with the estimate of 300,000 Israelite men. So the total number of Israelites would be over 600,000, but after the Benjamite genocide it would be less than 600,000, maybe. It’s hard to tell exactly, when the Bible keeps leaving so many people out of the count because they’re the wrong age, sex, tribe, etc. for fighting.

When Saul became king, it says there were indeed only 300,000 fighting men of Israel, plus 30,000 fighting men of Judah. (Who they’re counting separately for some reason, even though Judah was supposedly part of the kingdom of Israel at that time.) When David became king of all Israel, just 50 years later, Israel only had 30,000 fighting men. What happened?

Then during Absalom’s brief reign, it says the people of Israel “and Judah” were “as numerous as the sand on the seashore“. How numerous is that? Well, there are about 372,000 miles of coastline in the world, and about 31% of those are sandy. So that’s about 115,000 miles of sandy shores. The coastline of Israel is 170 miles, but ancient Israel had different borders. Their coastline was maybe 2/3 of that, which is around 115 miles.

So Israel’s seashore was about a thousandth of all the world’s beaches. The number of grains of sand on all the beaches in the world has been estimated to be in the quintillions. So the grains of sand on the seashore of ancient Israel would probably be in the quadrillions.

When God told David to take a census and then got mad that David took a census, there were either 1.1 million fighting men in Israel (including Judah), or 1.3 million in Israel “and” Judah, depending on which part of the Bible you believe. Either way, their total population would now be more than 2 million.

And then during Solomon’s reign, one part of the Bible says they were as numerous as the sand on the seashore again, which is a thoroughly unreasonable number of people. And another part says they were as numerous as the dust of the earth, which is several orders of magnitude worse. I’m making a graph of these wild population swings, but I’m going to have to leave out these sand and dust numbers. At that scale, you wouldn’t be able to see anything else.

Continue reading Hebrew population history according to the Bible
Share this post:

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.


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 to 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.

Continue reading Discrimination by nation
Share this post:

Are there Jews and Gentiles?

In his letter to the Galatians (who were Gentiles), Paul (who was a Jew) states that there is neither Jew nor Gentile. Huh? Of course there are Jews and Gentiles. The Bible talks about them all the time:

It says there were Jews who were slaves to Gentiles, and that their city will be trampled by the Gentiles. Jesus became a servant of the Jews so the Gentiles would praise God with them. The Jews and the Gentiles both conspired against Jesus, who was said to be the glory of the Jews and a light for the Gentiles. The Jews and the Gentiles also both conspired against the followers of Jesus, because Jews and Gentiles alike are under the power of sin.

It says God chose Paul to preach to both Jews and Gentiles, and he will save both Jews and Gentiles. Paul taught that Jews and Gentiles should all live like Gentiles. A lot of the Jews and Gentiles thought Paul’s message was stupid and rejected it. But Paul said all the Jews and Gentiles who believed would be saved. God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles, and he will judge both Jews and Gentiles according to what they do.

So clearly it’s absurd to say Jews and Gentiles don’t exist. Or even that there are no Jews and Gentiles among the Christians. Maybe what Paul meant to say was just that there’s no significant difference between Jews and Gentiles? That’s not what he said in the first verse referenced in this post (though he does say that elsewhere). But even if that’s what he meant, he’s still wrong, according to the Bible.

Continue reading Are there Jews and Gentiles?
Share this post:

Religious discrimination in the Bible

In this post, we’ll look at passages in the Bible that express disapproval of different religious views. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that; religions are beliefs, and beliefs can be wrong, and having wrong beliefs is a bad thing. Pointing out people’s false beliefs and trying to correct them is a good thing.

But sometimes people go about combatting wrong beliefs in very wrong ways, such as trying to force people to change their beliefs or be punished.1 It’s also bad if your disagreement is actually based on false beliefs of your own. There is good religious intolerance and bad religious intolerance. Guess which kind the Bible is full of.


First, let’s look at the non-discriminatory things the Bible has to say about people of different religions. It says Jesus welcomes Jews and Gentiles alike. It says if a Christian and a non-Christian are married, that’s no problem, and they should stay together. (The Bible states that that part is not the word of God, though.) And it says that God shows mercy to people who act in unbelief, and that people should show mercy to those who doubt.

Well, that was quick. Now let’s look at the actual discriminatory passages…

Continue reading Religious discrimination in the Bible
Share this post:

The end of the world

This is a summary of what the Bible says will happen when the world ends. The predictions are scattered throughout various parts of the Bible, which makes it hard to tell how they’re all supposed to fit together. Some things just don’t fit together at all. But I’ve attempted to put everything in order and make a fairly coherent narrative out of it, using whatever chronology clues I could find in the Bible.

Fantastic beasts

In the end times, God will send many false Messiahs and false prophets. They will perform miracles, which can only be done with God’s help.1

Satan and his angels will lose a war in heaven. Then he will be thrown down to earth, where he will go to war against the Christians. A beast like a leopard with bear’s feet, a lion’s mouth, seven heads, and ten horns will come out of the sea. Satan will give the beast power over everyone for 3.5 years. All the people God arbitrarily decided not to save will worship the beast and Satan. The beast will speak against God and conquer his people.

Then a second beast with a lamb’s horns and a dragon’s voice will come out of the earth. It will perform great signs, confirming that its word is true. It will make a talking image of the first beast, and kill anyone who doesn’t worship the image. It will force all people to receive the mark of the number of the beast on their hands or foreheads.

An angel will preach the gospel to the world.2 Then Jesus will come on a cloud and harvest the earth. An angel will throw trillions of people into a winepress so Jesus can trample them to death, and a five-foot flood of blood will flow out of it. Seven more angels will bring seven plagues on the world. Festering sores will break out on the people who have the mark of the beast.3 The water will turn into blood and the Euphrates will dry up. The sun will scorch people, but the kingdom of the beast will be in darkness.

Then three frog-demons will perform signs, proving that God is on their side. They will gather the kings of the world for battle at Armageddon. God will send storms, giant hailstones, and an unprecedented, city-destroying earthquake that will split Babylon into three parts. All the islands and mountains will be removed.

The beast4 will be put in the Abyss and come back out. Then God will give power to the beast, which together with ten very briefly-reigning kings will burn down Babylon. With a sword from his mouth, Jesus will destroy the nations, the kings of the earth and their armies, and the beast and the false prophet5 will be thrown alive into hell.

God saves Jerusalem from himself

Satan will be locked in the Abyss for a thousand years, and God will resurrect Christian martyrs from every nation who have not worshiped the beast or received its mark,6 and bring them to Israel to reign alongside Jesus as priests. After the thousand years are over, God will bring unprecedented distress on everyone.

Continue reading The end of the world
Share this post: