The Bible repeats itself too much—Part 4: Recounting what already happened

This is the fourth in a series of posts about unnecessary repetition in the Bible. Last time, I wrote about how often it redundantly describes events that are going to happen before describing them as they happen. As if that wasn’t enough, the Bible also has to redundantly describe the same things it already described happening, after they happen.

The Bible says Job was blameless and upright, and he feared God and shunned evil. Then it says God told Satan that Job was blameless and upright, and that he feared God and shunned evil. When God spoke to Job, he asked who was obscuring his plans without knowledge. He said he would question Job, and Job would answer him. Later, he said it again. Job never did answer any of God’s questions, but he did inform God that God had asked who was obscuring his plans without knowledge, and that he had said he would question Job, and that Job would answer him.

Abraham sent a servant to find a cousin for his son Isaac to marry. The Bible tells all about how the servant managed to find one, and then it tells what he said when he told the girl’s brother all about how he managed to find her. Later, it says Isaac told his son Jacob to marry one of his cousins from Paddan Aram, rather than marrying a Canaanite, and it says Jacob went to Paddan Aram. Then it says Isaac’s other son Esau learned that Isaac had told Jacob to marry one of his cousins from Paddan Aram, rather than marrying a Canaanite, and that Jacob had gone to Paddan Aram.

Jacob had a dream where he saw that all the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled, or spotted, and then an angel pointed out to him that all the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled, or spotted. Later on, when most of Jacob’s sons were grazing his flocks near Shechem, he told his son Joseph that his brothers were grazing the flocks near Shechem.

The Bible describes two similar weird dreams that a Pharaoh had, and then it has him describe those dreams to Joseph. It tells all about Joseph’s brothers’ dilemma when he made them think their father would have to give up his favorite remaining son, and then it has them tell Joseph about it. Then it says Joseph told his brothers that God had put him in charge of Egypt, and to tell their father that he said God had put him in charge of Egypt.

The story of the exodus is told in the book of Exodus, and then recounted in Nehemiah. In Exodus, God gives Moses the Ten Commandments, and the people tell him not to have God talk to them directly. Then in Deuteronomy, Moses’s retelling of those events is longer than when the story was told in the first place.

Same when Moses retells the golden calf story. And when he recounts the time they killed all the Amorites because God had made their king “stubborn”. And the time they killed all the men, women, and children in Bashan. He retells the story of the twelve explorers, too. The Bible tells what God told Moses about the men he chose to work on the tabernacle, and then it tells it again when Moses is reporting that to the people.

It says God refused to let Balaam go with Balak’s officials, and then Balaam told Balak’s officials that God had refused to let him go with them, and then Balak’s officials told Balak that Balaam had refused to go with them. Moses told the people that they had told him not to let God talk to them, and he said God had heard them when they talked to Moses, and he said God told him that he had heard what they had said to Moses. It says five kings hid in a cave at Makkedah, and then Joshua was told that the five kings were hiding in the cave at Makkedah.

Post-settlement

An angel told Samson’s mother how to raise her boy. She told her husband how the angel had said they should raise the boy. Her husband asked for the angel to come back and tell them how to raise their boy. The angel returned, only to say that they should do what he had already told her.

It says a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, who had been living in Judah, went looking for another place to stay. Then when someone asked him where he was from, he said he was a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and he was looking for a place to stay.

It says Saul’s armor-bearer David wasn’t used to Saul’s armor, and he told Saul he wasn’t used to his armor. It says Joab fled to the tent of the Lord and held onto the altar, and that Solomon was told that Joab had fled to the tent of the Lord and was beside the altar.

The people told Rehoboam that his father had put a heavy yolk on them, and they wanted him to make it lighter. Rehoboam asked his friends how he should answer the people who had said his father had put a heavy yolk on them. And his friends began their reply by telling Rehoboam that those people had told him that his father had put a heavy yolk on them, but they wanted him to make it lighter.

When Jezebel was killing off God’s prophets, Obadiah hid a hundred of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water. Then Obadiah informed God that when Jezebel was killing off God’s prophets, Obadiah had hidden a hundred of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water.

Naboth told Ahab he wouldn’t give him his vineyard. Then Ahab was angry because Naboth had told him he wouldn’t give him his vineyard. And when Jezebel asked him what was wrong, Ahab said Naboth had told him he wouldn’t give him his vineyard. So Jezebel got Naboth stoned to death. Jezebel was informed that Naboth had been stoned to death. And when Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she told Ahab that Naboth was dead, and no longer alive.

An angel gave Elijah a message to tell the messengers of King Ahaziah. He did, and they gave the king the message. Then when the king summoned Elijah, he gave the king the same message again.

Hezekiah showed the envoys from Babylon all his treasures and everything in his palace. Then Isaiah asked him what those men saw, and Hezekiah said they saw everything in his palace and all his treasures.

A priest found the book of the law in the temple. He told a secretary he had found the book of the law in the temple, and he gave it to him. Then the secretary told King Josiah that the priest had given him a book.

Nebuchadnezzar describes one of his dreams to Daniel. Then for no reason at all, Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar what Nebuchadnezzar dreamed, telling the king the same thing the king had just told him.1 Nebuchadnezzar wants to know what the dream means, even though it contained a pretty straightforward statement of what was going to happen to him. That same description of what would happen to him is then repeated by Daniel when he’s interpreting the dream, by God just before it happens, and by the narrator when it happens. And it’s later recounted by Daniel.

Jeremiah tells about two baskets of figs he saw in a vision. Then God asks him what he sees, so he tells God about it too. Similarly, Amos tells about a basket of fruit he saw in a vision. Then God asks him what he sees, so he tells God about it too.

God told Ezekiel to tell the Egyptians to go down and be laid among the uncircumcised, and said they would fall among those killed by the sword. And then he said some dead people would say that the Egyptians would come down and that they were lying with the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword.

New Testament

Once when Jesus was talking to a crowd of people, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Then someone told him “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.

Herod heard baffling rumors that Jesus was a reincarnation of John the Baptist, Elijah, or some other prophet from the past. Then the disciples told Jesus that people were saying he was a reincarnation of John the Baptist, Elijah, or some other prophet from the past.

Jesus made mud, put it on a blind man’s eyes, and told him to go to Siloam and wash, and he went and washed and could see. Then the man told some people that Jesus had made mud, put it on his eyes, and told him to go to Siloam and wash, and he went and washed and could see. Then he told the Pharisees that Jesus had put mud on his eyes, and he had washed, and now he could see.

When Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he told his disciples that they were going up to Jerusalem. He said he was going to the Father, where they could see him no longer, and a little later he told them that in a little while they would see him no more, and that after another little while they would see him. Then his disciples asked each other what he meant by saying that in a little while they would see him no more, and then after a little while they would see him, because he was going to the Father. Then Jesus asked his disciples if they were asking each other what he meant by saying in a little while they would see him no more, and then after a little while they would see him.

In the book of Acts, Stephen recites the biblical history of Israel from Abraham to Solomon for no apparent reason.

It says at three in the afternoon, Cornelius had a vision of an angel who told him that God acknowledged his prayers and gifts to the poor, and told him to send men to bring him Simon Peter from the home of Simon the tanner by the sea in Joppa. So Cornelius sent for Peter. Meanwhile, Peter was praying, and he had a vision where God lowered a large sheet full of unclean animals from heaven and insisted three times that Peter should kill them and eat them even though it was against God’s law, but then he took the sheet back before he could actually do it. When Peter woke up, Cornelius’s men arrived and the Spirit told him to go with them, and he went with them. Then it repeats all those details about the vision Cornelius had, when he tells Peter about it. And then it repeats all those details about the vision Peter had, when he tells his fellow Jewish Christians about it.

The Bible tells the story of Paul’s conversion, where he was blinded by God’s light and sent to a disciple to be healed. Then it tells that story again when Paul tells it to an angry mob, and again when Paul tells it to King Agrippa.

In between those retellings, some of Paul’s enemies took an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed him. They told the Jewish leaders how they wanted them to help them, saying they had taken an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed him. Paul’s nephew found out about the plot, and Paul asked a centurion to take his nephew to the commander because he had something to tell him. The centurion took Paul’s nephew to the commander and told him that Paul had asked him to bring him because he had something to tell him. And then Paul’s nephew told the commander that people were plotting to kill Paul, and that they had taken an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed him.

To be continued…

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