Tag Archives: morality

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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Age discrimination in the Bible

Here’s what the Bible has to say about how people should be treated (or how they were treated) based on their age.

God told his people to consecrate every firstborn male to him, whether they were humans or animals, and they would belong to him. I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing for the firstborn. It could mean they’re declared sacred, and therefore entitled to respect. It could also mean they have to be dedicated to the service of God, which sounds a lot like forced labor.

It could even mean that God wants his people to make sacrifices of their firstborn sons. God says to do the same thing with your firstborn sons that you would do with firstborn animals, which are to be killed when they’re given to God. But it also says some animals and sons can be redeemed, and don’t have to be killed.

Whatever it means, God apparently decided the Levites would replace the firstborn males in that role. So it doesn’t even really matter what would have happened to the firstborn. Or does it? A thousand years later, the Jews still thought they needed to bring the firstborn of their sons and livestock to the house of God…

There’s a passage where God tells exactly how much he thinks different kinds of people are worth. For instance, he thinks males are always worth more than females of the same age. As for age differences in value, God says 20-60-year-olds are worth the most. People between five and twenty are less valuable, and people over 60 are worth less than that. Children one month to five years old are valued even less. And babies under a month old aren’t even worth mentioning.

God assigned duties at the tent of meeting to male Levites who were 25 or older. But he didn’t allow them to work anymore after they reached 50.

The psalmist who wrote the longest chapter in the Bible claimed to have more understanding than the elders.

God mentioned that when Babylon attacked his people, they showed no mercy even to the aged. I can’t tell if he approves of that, though. That chapter is generally disapproving of Babylon, but punishing his people is exactly what God wanted Babylon to do…

Paul says you shouldn’t be harsh when you tell older men what to do.

Against younger people

The law of Moses demands that people show respect for the elderly and stand up in their presence. Paul also said younger people need to submit to their elders.

Elihu was afraid to speak up at first, thinking it was best to listen to older and wiser people. But after Job and his three friends had been arguing for 29 chapters and had gotten nowhere, Elihu decided he could be at least as wise as them. So he gave his own six-chapter-long speech, but everyone completely ignored him.

When God had Moses count the Levites, he specifically had him exclude anyone less than a month old.

God’s law says a man has to give his firstborn son twice the inheritance a younger son would get, whether he wants to or not.

The law says it’s okay to take young birds out of a nest, but it’s not okay to take the mother.

Saul didn’t think David would be able to fight Goliath, because David was “only a young man“.1 Goliath didn’t think much of him either.

Solomon thought beating your children with a rod was a loving thing to do, and would make them wiser. He thought not beating children was a disgrace, and the only possible reason anyone would refuse to do it was that they hated their children. Proverbs insists that if you beat children, they definitely won’t die.

King Rehoboam consulted both old and young people to help him decide whether he should give the people what they were asking for. The Bible says he ended up following the advice of the young people, and he lost most of his kingdom as a result.

Hezekiah had his people donate heaps of food “to the Lord”, which actually all went to the priests and Levites. Even though the priests and Levites had more than they needed, they didn’t distribute food among themselves to anyone below a certain minimum age.

Isaiah thought children weren’t good at counting. Paul said underage people are no different from slaves. When “Matthew” estimates how many people Jesus fed, he says how many men there were, and only mentions as an afterthought that there were also women and children. Jesus thought people didn’t have enough respect for children. But even he equated being the youngest with not being so great.

Paul told his followers not to care for any widows who were under 60.

Against older people

Joseph thought his firstborn son should be blessed the most. But his father Jacob insisted on giving the better blessing to Joseph’s younger son. Similarly, Hosah the Merarite treated one of his own younger sons as if he was the firstborn.

To convince Pharaoh to let his people go, God killed every firstborn in Egypt.

There’s an oddly specific biblical law that says you can’t cook a young goat in its mother’s milk. There’s no rule against cooking an older goat in its mother’s milk,2 but don’t do it to a young goat!

When Moses told the Israelites to attack nations that weren’t even anywhere near the land they were trying to take over, he said they should offer to enslave everyone in those nations. If a nation refused this “offer of peace”, then the Israelites would kill all the men, and only enslave all the women and children.

Boaz was surprised that Ruth showed interest in a man as old as him. He expected young women like her to run after the younger men.

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Should people be perfect?

Nobody’s perfect, but it would be good if they were… right?

Yes.

God seems to think so. He tells people they need to be blameless. Eliphaz claimed that it wouldn’t make any difference to God whether someone was blameless, but Eliphaz did not speak the truth about God.

God’s ways are perfect, so we should follow his example and be perfect ourselves. Jesus said so.

Paul told his followers how they could become blameless and pure, and he encouraged them to perfect their holiness. He prayed for them to be pure and blameless, because that’s how he wanted them to be when Jesus returned. Peter, too, told his followers to make every effort to be found spotless and blameless.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus says he’s unhappy with a certain church because those people are neither very good nor very bad. Jesus would prefer it if they were either one of those, but they’re just… in between. Jesus can’t stand that.

No.

Solomon, on the other hand, wisely advises you to be neither very good nor very bad. He says it’s best to avoid any extremes, and to stay in between the two, right where Jesus can’t stand you. And don’t bother trying to avoid doing things you know God won’t like. Solomon wisely says you should just follow your heart and your eyes wherever they take you, even though you know you’ll be bringing judgment on yourself.

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