Tag Archives: judgment

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 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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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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The Story of King Ish-Bosheth
The One Where Nearly Everybody Gets Killed, But It's Not God's Doing for a Change

After Saul and his whole family died, his dead son Ish-Bosheth succeeded him as king of Israel. But David was made king of the tribe of Judah. The commander of the army of Israel was Saul’s cousin Abner, and the commander of the army of Judah was David’s nephew Joab.

These commanders thought it would be fun to see some men stab each other to death. So they made two dozen of their soldiers stab each other to death. But Joab’s brother Asahel didn’t like that, so he chased Abner. Abner didn’t like that, so he stabbed Asahel to death. Joab didn’t like that, so he chased Abner, too. But then Abner suggested not chasing him. So Joab stopped chasing him.

King Ish-Bosheth offended his commander Abner by accusing him of sleeping with Saul’s girlfriend. So Abner decided to desert Ish-Bosheth and help David take over Israel. When Abner offered to help David become king of all Israel, David agreed to let him do that… but only if he did David a favor first.

By this time David had married at least four women. But Saul had taken back his daughter Michal, David’s first wife, and given her to somebody else. David had Abner steal Michal back for him and make her other husband go away. After doing that, Abner went off to convince the Israelites to make David their king.

But David’s commander Joab didn’t like Abner, who had killed Joab’s brother. Joab thought Abner must have only come there to spy on David for Ish-Bosheth. So Joab found Abner and stabbed him to death. David didn’t like that (even though he had previously declared that Abner must die). So David put a curse on Joab’s family, and later had his son kill Joab.

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The One Where Nearly Everybody Gets Killed, But It's Not God's Doing for a Change
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The Story of the Witch of Endor
The Fall of Tall Saul

The Philistines came to attack Israel, and King Saul was afraid. Despite what had happened the last time he had sought God’s help, he asked God for advice, but God wouldn’t answer him. (Maybe God was deep in thought, or busy, or traveling, or sleeping…)

Saul wanted to ask God’s prophet Samuel for advice, but by this time Samuel was dead. Saul decided to ask Samuel for advice anyway. So he found a witch and got her to resurrect the spirit of Samuel. He promised her that she would not be punished for what she was doing, which was against God’s law.

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The Fall of Tall Saul
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The Story of the Rejection of Saul
Not Evil Enough to Please God

King Saul attacked his enemies, the Philistines, but the Israelite army was outnumbered and had almost no weapons, so they ran and hid. Saul tried making a burnt offering so God would help him. But then Samuel told him that was a foolish thing to do, and now God had rejected Saul and would have to find a new king for his people.

Later, Samuel told King Saul that God wanted him to break God’s law and kill all the people and animals in the city of Amalek for the sins of their ancestors. So Saul ambushed the city and killed all the people except the king of the Amalekites,1 and all the animals except the best ones, which his men were planning to sacrifice to God later. Then God realized that he had made a bad decision when he made Saul king. Because Saul had failed to kill everyone and everything immediately,2 God rejected Saul as king of his people. Again.

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Not Evil Enough to Please God
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The Story of Jonathan and the Cursed Honey
Saul Tries to Starve His Own Army

During a war with the Philistines, King Saul’s son Jonathan ate some honey that he found on the ground. But then someone informed him that his father had said anyone who ate anything that day would be cursed. Jonathan thought that was dumb. By depriving them of food, Saul was making his army too weak to fight the Philistines. So Jonathan sneaked away and started killing Philistines himself. Then God made the Philistines panic and attack each other so the Israelites wouldn’t have to.

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Saul Tries to Starve His Own Army
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False prophets in the Bible

The Bible expects you to take the words of God’s prophets very seriously, because they speak for God. It doesn’t approve of all prophets, though, and it’s equally adamant that some prophets should be ignored. But even false prophets can do miracles and stuff. So how can you tell who the real prophets are?

The Bible provides a few different ways to tell which prophets you shouldn’t listen to. And it encourages us to test prophecies and reject every kind of evil. So let’s see how many of the prophets in the Bible are not actually true prophets of God, according to the Bible’s own criteria.

Some of the Bible’s prophet tests are not so useful: It suggests that if a prophet doesn’t acknowledge Jesus, his prophecies are not coming from God. But most of the prophets in the Bible lived before Jesus, so can we really expect them to acknowledge him? Well, we are talking about prophets, so maybe we should expect that of them. But still, there’s no way to know for sure that a prophet didn’t ever acknowledge Jesus. Maybe they did, but the Bible just doesn’t mention it. So that test isn’t going to be useful for evaluating prophets of the past. But don’t worry, the Bible has other methods we can use to spot false prophets.

Prophets the Bible specifically calls false

The most obvious way to tell that someone is a false prophet according to the Bible is when the Bible specifically says so:

Now that you have a good idea of what the God of the Bible thinks of false prophets, let’s see who else God’s law says should have been treated the same way…

Prophets of other gods

The Bible says if a prophet tells you to worship other gods, God did send that prophet… but he has to be executed anyway. So does anyone who claims to speak for other gods. That means these people should have been killed and not listened to:

  • Aaron was “Moses’s prophet“, but he made idols and encouraged the people to worship them.1
  • Balaam got the Israelites to worship the gods of Moab.2
  • Micah’s priest, who was also a prophet, served a guy who made his own household gods. And then when some other people convinced him to go with them and be their priest instead, he took those idols with him, so those people could worship them too.
  • The prophets of Asherah were brought along with the prophets of Baal when Elijah challenged them to prove that their gods were real. But for some reason it doesn’t say what the outcome was for the prophets of Asherah. If they had failed as well, you’d think the author would have been eager to report it… But even if their gods were real, the Bible still says prophets who speak in the name of other gods have to be killed.

Prophets who made false predictions

There are a ton of false predictions in the Bible, so that’s another easy way to spot false prophets. The Bible says if what a prophet predicts turns out to be false, God has not actually sent that prophet or spoken through him, and that false prophet must be killed. That makes all these people false prophets:

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Everything wrong with heaven and hell

Perverse incentives

  • The expectation of being rewarded or punished in the afterlife is supposed to be a reason to be good in this life. But rewards and punishments are not good reasons to be good. Focusing on personal repayment distracts from the real reasons to be good, which leads to selfishness and moral apathy. Especially in this case, where no one can even confirm that the rewards and punishments are actually being carried out.
  • If you do reward or punish people, they should be able to learn from the experience and know how to behave going forward. That doesn’t work if the reward or punishment never ends.
  • Expecting to be infinitely rewarded or punished depending on what you believe is arguably the worst possible obstacle to true belief.
  • Expecting to be infinitely rewarded or punished depending on what you do, combined with the belief you’ll be sent to hell for doubting its existence or doubting the authority of whoever’s telling you what you have to do to avoid being sent there, can make people do anything their religious authorities say, no matter how evil it might actually be.
  • A lot of religious people say it’s very important to God that we have free will. And they say it’s particularly important for us to be able to freely choose whether to accept him. So what’s up with all the threats and coercion? It’s hardly a free choice if you’re threatening to torture people forever if they don’t make the choice you want them to make.
  • The knowledge that life is short is an incentive to stop wasting time, focus on the things that matter most, and enjoy your life as much as you can while it lasts. If you think you’re going to live forever, you have no reason to do any of that. Scarcity makes things more valuable, including life. The belief in an everlasting afterlife devalues this life.
  • If you were really going to go to heaven when you died, the logical thing to do would be to kill yourself as soon as possible, after encouraging everyone you care about to do the same. Or maybe you wouldn’t do that, since having all those deaths on your hands might prevent you from going to the right place. But still, it wouldn’t make any sense to fear death, to try to avoid it, and to be sad when people die. A rational believer in heaven would live recklessly. Who cares if you die if you’re just going to keep living? Death would be a good thing if it meant you were going to a better world. And you would be anxious for it to happen as soon as possible, before you had a chance to do anything that might prevent you from getting there. (Of course, death is not actually a good thing, and not caring about death is a terrible idea, since heaven isn’t real. But many people think it is real, which is quite a dangerous belief.)
  • Having children is a terrible idea if it means there will be more people who have a good chance of ending up in hell. The existence of hell would mean that by reproducing, you risk causing infinitely more suffering than you would cause by doing any other bad thing you can imagine. Even if most people weren’t going to hell, as the Bible says they are, allowing any risk of even one person going to hell when you could have avoided it is unacceptable, and makes you an infinitely worse person than every childless criminal in history combined. The risk of causing your children to suffer forever is especially bad if people who die very young go to hell by default.
  • On the other hand, if you believe that people who die very young go to heaven by default, the logical thing to do would be to reproduce as often as possible and then kill all your children as soon as possible, to maximize the number of people who go to heaven.1 There certainly wouldn’t be any reason to oppose abortion if you believed that. In any case, if people who believed in heaven and hell acted logically on their misguided beliefs, believers would be extinct by now.
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