Tag Archives: morality

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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Is prostitution acceptable?

No.

The Bible doesn’t actually contain a law banning all prostitution, but it does tend to be disapproving of it.

When Judah found out that his daughter-in-law was “guilty of prostitution”, he thought she should be burned to death. And Paul thinks Christians should never be “united” with prostitutes.

What does God think of prostitution? He seems to disapprove of his people visiting the houses of prostitutes. He seems to think prostitution is a shameful practice, a horrible thing that defiles Israel. God said prostitution was leading his people astray and would cause them not to flourish. He said he was against someone because by being a prostitute, she had somehow enslaved nations and caused huge wars. The Bible implies that male shrine prostitution was one of the “detestable practices” that provoked God to try to wipe out the native inhabitants of Canaan.

Kings who expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land were doing what was right in God’s eyes. God punished Jehoram for leading the people to “prostitute themselves”, though it’s not clear whether that’s literal or a metaphor for idolatry.

God had his prophets tell several allegorical stories portraying his people as a prostitute. He describes her prostitution as a wicked act of rebellion. He doesn’t want his wife back after she becomes a prostitute. God punishes the land when she defiles it with her prostitution and wickedness, and he thinks she ought to be ashamed. He also disapproves of her killing his children, but just the prostitution would have been bad enough.

And then there’s Ezekiel 23, where Israel and Judah are both prostitutes, which God thinks is depraved, defiling, disgusting, and shameful. So he hands them over to be stripped, mutilated, and killed, in order to put a stop to their prostitution.

So it sure sounds like God hates prostitution, though it’s possible he just hates idolatry, which is what those parables are really about. That’s a problem with a lot of these passages. It’s hard to tell whether the Bible is really talking about prostitution or not, since it so often either uses it metaphorically, or conflates it with other behaviors like adultery.

Anyway, God also has a few laws on the subject of prostitution. He never completely outlaws it, but he does have some laws concerning more specific scenarios:

Yes.

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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 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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Should people be circumcised?

Yes.

God made an everlasting agreement with Abraham that required all his male descendants to be circumcised, as well as any other males who lived with them.

God doesn’t just want babies to be circumcised. Even if you’re 99 years old, you should still get circumcised. That’s what Abraham did, and he always did what God wanted him to do. God also once had Joshua circumcise all the Israelite men, all at once.

Jesus thinks circumcision laws are so important that they override Sabbath laws. In addition to mandating the circumcision of Israelite boys, God’s law says even a Gentile man can only celebrate God’s holy days if he and every male he lives with are circumcised. The Bible also says if you’re not circumcised, you can’t marry a daughter of Israel. That would be a disgrace.

Even if God’s chosen nation and other nations do practice circumcision, God isn’t satisfied. He thinks they’re not circumcised enough.

The apostles were troubled when they heard rumors that Paul was teaching Jews to give up circumcision, so they suggested a way Paul could try to disprove those rumors. Paul agreed to do so, because he actually thought circumcision was a valuable thing.

No.

Paul says he used to think it was good to be circumcised, but now he considers it a loss. He calls people who practice circumcision evildoers and mutilators of the flesh.

He even says circumcised people can’t be saved! If you’re circumcised, you’re trying to be justified by the law. To actually be justified that way, you would have to follow all of God’s laws perfectly, but no one can actually do that. So if you get circumcised, all you’re really doing is rejecting God’s gift of forgiveness. You’re alienating yourself from Jesus, who will therefore be of no value to you at all.

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Should people turn to the left or the right?

No.

Moses told the people to be careful to do what God commanded, and not to turn aside to the right or to the left. He said they also needed to do whatever the priests said, not turning aside to the right or to the left. Their king should never turn from God’s law to the right or to the left, either.

Moses’s successor Joshua said, both at the beginning and at the end of his time leading Israel, that they should not turn aside from the law of Moses to the right or to the left.

The Bible says King Josiah didn’t turn aside to the right or to the left from the ways of David, and that what he did was right in the eyes of the Lord.

Solomon advised his son to fix his gaze straight ahead, and not turn to the right or the left, in order to avoid evil.

Yes, but only to the right.

Solomon also says the hearts of the wise are inclined to the right, but the hearts of fools are inclined to the left.

Yes, either way is good.

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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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Discrimination by occupation

Here’s what the Bible has to say about how people were, or should be, treated based on their occupation:

Isaac’s favorite son was the one who was a hunter, because Isaac liked to eat wild animals. But his wife preferred the son who wasn’t a hunter. The Egyptians thought all shepherds were detestable. And Paul said gardeners are nothing.

Jacob’s son Judah thought prostitutes should be burned to death. But God only said you need to do that if the prostitute is a priest’s daughter. God doesn’t allow prostitutes to marry priests, either. He hates shrine prostitutes, and doesn’t want their money.

God does seem to think prostitution in general is wicked. Rahab was considered righteous despite being a prostitute. God told a story where he hated two sisters because they were prostitutes. But he married them both anyway, for some reason. And then he killed them, because he hated them. Jesus says prostitutes can enter God’s kingdom, though.

God said all mediums and spiritists had to be executed. So Saul got rid of all the mediums and spiritists in the land. Or at least he tried to. And he only tried to until he felt the need to consult one himself. He chose to leave that one alone.

High priests are only allowed to marry virgins. And other priests can only marry Israelite virgins or widows of priests.

The Israelites were required to continually give the best part of everything they had to God… but “the Lord’s portion” actually went to the priests. There are things God won’t let you eat unless you’re a priest, a member of a priest’s family, or a priest’s slave. Nobody but priests are allowed to burn incense for God, either.

The Bible tells how many people returned from the Babylonian exile. Then it tells how many slaves they brought with them, who were not counted among the people. And then it also tells how many singers they had, suggesting that singers weren’t counted as people either??

In the gospels, everyone takes it for granted that tax collectors are evil. Jesus also thinks waiters are inferior to the people they serve.

Paul says God seems to give evangelists the most brutal treatment of all. He makes a cosmic spectacle of those poor, starving, weak, dishonored fools.

Slaves vs free people

When Jacob saw hundreds of seemingly unfriendly men approaching, he made his servant-wives travel toward them in the lead, while his favorite wife got the safest spot in the back.

According to the laws of the Bible, if someone is bedridden because you injured them, normally you have to pay them for their time and make sure they recover. And you’ll be punished more if they can’t walk at all. But if the person you injure is your slave, you don’t have to be punished at all, unless the slave dies or takes too long to recover. And if you do get punished for injuring a slave, it won’t be as severe a punishment as if you had injured a free person. (Runaway slaves aren’t to be treated badly, though.)

If a man has consensual sex with a woman who is engaged to someone else, they both have to die… unless the woman is a slave. There’s still a punishment then, but it’s not death.

Hebrew indentured servants apparently have to work twice as much as hired hands. And if they happen to start a family during their servitude, God’s law forces them to either leave their family or be enslaved for life.

Wise Solomon thinks it would be terribly unfitting for a slave to rule over princes. Or even to get a horse to ride. He thinks it’s a terrible thing for a land to have a king who used to be a servant. And foolish Agur agrees that the world can’t stand servants gaining authority.

Royalty vs commoners

Moses was raised as a prince, but once he grew up, he chose not to live as one, because that would be sinful somehow. (Or at least that’s what the author of Hebrews says, who also seems to think Moses was a Christian.)

God says the king of Israel isn’t allowed to collect a lot of gold, silver, horses, or wives. But there’s no rule against anyone else doing that.

King Lemuel was taught that it’s fine for poor, suffering people to drink wine and beer. But kings should never drink wine or beer, because of how much worse the consequences of combining drunkenness with power could be.

When Saul defeated the Amalekites, he killed almost all of them, but kept their king alive. Apparently God didn’t approve of him making that exception, though.

David killed tens of thousands of people, but he thought it was unacceptable for anyone to ever kill God’s chosen king (no matter how much God’s chosen king wanted them to).

Solomon (who happened to be the king) said nobody should ever even think anything bad about their king. He said if you’re a king, lots of people will naturally want to get on your good side. And he said it was evil for princes to have to walk on foot.

Paul thinks authorities can do no wrong, because they were all put there by God. He thinks rulers are never a threat to anyone but evildoers. And anyone who rebels against any authority is rebelling against God.

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Should husbands love or hate their wives?

Love them.

Paul instructed the husbands among his followers to love their wives and not be harsh with them. He said they should love their wives as much as they love and care for their own bodies. They should love them as much as Jesus loved and cared for the church. And Peter seemed to agree. He at least thought husbands should be considerate of their wives and treat them with respect.

Hate them.

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

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

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

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David Joins Israel's Enemies
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