When Samuel was getting old, his evil sons were next in line to take over the nation. The people of Israel suggested appointing a king to lead them instead. But Samuel didn’t think that was a good idea, so he asked God about it. God didn’t like the idea either, because he thought that meant his people wouldn’t consider him their king. But he told Samuel to do it anyway.
So Samuel warned Israel that their king would steal their property and enslave them. And he said God would never save them by putting an end to the king’s reign. The people said they wanted a king anyway, because all the other nations had kings. When God heard this, he said Samuel should go ahead and give them a king.
A tall, handsome young man named Saul came to Samuel to see if the prophet could tell him where his father’s lost donkeys were. Before he could ask him, Samuel told Saul that the donkeys had already been found while he was away looking for them.
Then Samuel took Saul home with him and kissed him and oiled him and told him God had made him the ruler of his people. Saul hid, but when the people of Israel found out that he was to be their king, they got God to find him for them. And they dragged him out and made him their king.
Continue reading The Story of the Inauguration of Saul—
Your Cattle or Your Eyes
The Israelites (the descendants of Jacob) were getting so numerous that the new Pharaoh was afraid of them. So he decided to enslave them and have all their baby boys thrown into the Nile River.
Jacob’s great-grandson Amram and his aunt Jochebed had a baby boy, so they put the baby in the Nile… inside a waterproof basket, with their daughter watching over it. Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby in the basket while she was bathing in the Nile. She adopted the baby, named him Moses, and hired his mother to nurse him for her.
After Moses grew up, he was watching his fellow Hebrews working, when he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. So Moses killed the Egyptian. When Pharaoh heard about that, he tried to kill Moses. The other Hebrews weren’t happy with what Moses had done, either. So Moses ran away from Egypt and lived in Midian until that Pharaoh died.
The Israelites were still slaves under the next Pharaoh. So when Moses was 80, God spoke to him from a burning bush and told him to go tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. On the way back to Egypt, the all-good God tried to murder Moses for some reason. But Moses’s wife touched his feet with their son’s foreskin, which convinced the never-changing God not to kill him.
Moses and his brother Aaron told Pharaoh that the God of Israel wanted his people to go out into the wilderness for a festival. But Pharaoh didn’t know that god, so he refused to let them do that.
God could have instantly overcome that obstacle in a peaceful way, like by making Pharaoh no longer want to keep his slaves, or by teleporting the people out of Egypt. But God cared more about showing off than about the freedom of his people and the wellbeing of all the innocent people of Egypt. So instead, God decided to cause a lot of unnecessary death and suffering, and to let his people continue to be mistreated in the meantime.
Continue reading The Story of the Ten Plagues—
The Exodus from Egypt
How God got Joseph into Egypt
Jacob made a fancy robe for his favorite son, Joseph. This made Joseph’s brothers jealous. Then Joseph started having dreams about his family bowing down to him. This made his brothers hate him. So Joseph’s brothers stole his robe and dipped it in goat blood, so their father would think Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. They sold Joseph to some merchants, who took him away to Egypt and sold him as a slave to Potiphar, the captain of the guard.
Inmate interprets increasingly insane imaginings
Potiphar’s wife kept trying to get Joseph to sleep with her, but he refused. Then she accused him of trying to rape her, so Potiphar put him in prison. Two other prisoners, who had been Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, got Joseph to interpret their dreams for them. Pharaoh’s cupbearer had dreamed about bearing Pharaoh’s cup, which Joseph said meant he would become Pharaoh’s cupbearer again. And it was so. Pharaoh’s baker had dreamed about birds eating Pharaoh’s bread out of a basket on the baker’s head, which Joseph said meant the baker would be executed. And it was so.
Later, Pharaoh had a dream about seven skinny cows eating seven fat cows, and a dream about seven thin heads of grain eating seven full heads of grain. None of his magicians and wise men could tell him what his dreams meant, so his cupbearer suggested asking Joseph. Joseph said both dreams meant that there would be seven years of abundance, and then seven years of famine. Pharaoh was so impressed by this claim that he put Joseph in charge of all of Egypt, without even bothering to wait and see if Joseph’s prediction was accurate.
Do not worry about tomorrow
During the seven years of abundance, Joseph took away all the grain that was grown in Egypt and stored it up, so the people could starve sooner rather than later. Then during the seven years of famine, he sold grain to everyone who needed it in Egypt and Canaan. Joseph gave the Egyptians food (that he had stolen from them) in exchange for all their money, all their livestock, all their land, and their slave labor. He also made them give a fifth of the food they were able to grow to Pharaoh, so that they could have food.
Continue reading The Story of Joseph and his Brothers—
The Interpreter of Dreams
The Bible describes and encourages a lot more evil behavior than you would expect from a “good book”. Not all of it is like that, of course. But even when the Bible discusses and promotes good behavior, the reasons it gives for behaving that way are usually all wrong.
There’s a Bible verse that addresses the issue of doing things for the wrong reasons. Paul says as long as you’re doing the right thing, it doesn’t really matter why you’re doing it. But that’s not entirely true. Reasons are important. Your reasons for doing things influence which things you choose to do. If you’re not doing things for the right reasons, you’re probably not going to consistently do the right things.
What would be a good reason for, say, showing hospitality? Why should you provide people with lodging and food? In the past, one good reason was that it took a long time to travel, and there weren’t a lot of commercial hotels around. So the only way travelers could get shelter at night was to rely on strangers to offer them a place to stay.
The Bible’s justification for promoting hospitality, on the other hand, doesn’t even have anything to do with helping people! Instead, the Bible says you should let people stay in your home because your guests might actually be angels. That’s a dumb reason, isn’t it? How is it in any way better to provide for angels, who don’t need your help, than to provide for humans, who do?
Continue reading Good deeds for bad reasons
God makes a deal with the devil
One day, Satan went up to see God, and they talked about a man named Job, who God said was the most righteous and godly person in the world. Satan was of the opinion that Job only seemed so good to God because God was so good to Job. He said if God would curse Job, then Job would curse God. The all-knowing God wanted to find out if Satan was right, so he gave Satan permission to do whatever he wanted to Job, as long as he didn’t physically harm him.
So Satan sent raiders to steal Job’s 500 donkeys, 1000 oxen, and 3000 camels. God helped him by sending fire from heaven to burn up Job’s 7000 sheep. Satan also sent a strong wind to knock down a house and kill Job’s ten children, and he got most of Job’s many servants killed too. Then God made everyone else Job knew shun him. Job responded by tearing his clothes off and worshiping God. Righteous Job didn’t think God had done anything wrong by letting Satan murder his children.
When Satan came to see God again, God pointed out that Job still loved him, even after Satan had convinced God to destroy nearly everything Job had for no reason. Satan explained that Job was too selfish to care about his children and servants dying. But if God attacked Job personally, that would be enough to make him curse God. The all-good God decided to see if Satan was right, so he gave Satan permission to do whatever he wanted to Job, as long as he didn’t kill him.
So Satan covered Job with painful sores. God helped him by giving Job horrible nightmares, and sending wicked people to beat him up, spit at him, and laugh at him. Job got a fever, and his skin started changing color and peeling off. His wife advised him to curse God for ruining his life, so God would put him out of his misery. Job admitted that God was the cause of his trouble, but he didn’t see why his all-good God should be expected to do only good things all the time.
Continue reading The Story of the Torture of Job—
The Truth About God
Jesus says you should do to others as you would have them do to you. This is known as the Golden Rule. Sounds like a pretty good rule, right? As long as you don’t think about what it’s actually saying. But it’s really a very bad rule. Let’s look at an example to see why.
A man would like to have sex with a certain woman. But that woman is not willing to have sex with him. What should the man do? Well, what would he want that unwilling woman to do to him? He would want her to have sex with him. So according to the Golden Rule, he should go ahead and have sex with her.
That’s right, actually following this nice-sounding rule would lead to rape. What went wrong?
Continue reading Why the Golden Rule is a bad rule