Is the Bible as Simple Book? And Difficulties That Say We Need More Than ‘Pat Answers’

If we follow a simplistic, Biblicist-literalist approach, using the Bible as a magical rulebook, without paying attention to the context, Paul’s command to “imitate God” can seem to imply we should imitate God by doing what he does? Right? Because God is the perfect example to follow and if we could just follow his every move, we would be perfect as well? This is where the problem arises. As we review the totality of the Biblical texts and see the different things that God is described doing, we run into a moral quagmire and require more than simple commands to “obey everything literally.” We are forced to ask deep and meaningful questions like “what does that mean? How do we imitate? Why?”

Below is a small sampling of things, written in the Bible, that strongly appear to describe Gods actions and commands. Yet many of these things are really difficult to comprehend; they are not something you learned in Sunday school. As you read these, ask yourself, does Ephesians 5:1 command to “Imitate God” really mean you should imitate the descriptions of God below? Or think of general ideas often derived from snippets of Scripture that tell us to be “more like God,” do they apply to these things? Why not? I must warn you, this list is not lighthearted.

KILLING

  • Commanded his people to kill other civilizations with their children and babies included. (Exodus 32:27-29, Deuteronomy 2:34, Deuteronomy 3:6, Deuteronomy 7:2, Deuteronomy 7:16, Deuteronomy 13:15, Deuteronomy 20:16-17, Joshua 6:21, 10:40, 1 Samuel 15:2-3)
  • Without warning, killed a man who ejaculated on the floor instead of impregnating his brother’s wife. (Genesis 38:9-10)
  • Killed 14,700 of his people because they questioned a leader about other recent deaths. (Numbers 16:41-49)
  • Commanded some of his people to stone another for breaking one rule, one time. (Numbers 15:32-36)
  • Set poisonous snakes to kill his children as retribution for their complaining. (Numbers 21:5-6)
  • Commanded his people to kill men, women, and boys, allowing them to keep little virgin girls as slaves. (Numbers 31:17-18)
  • Killed 50,070 or 70 people (depending on translation) for looking at a sacred object. (1 Samuel 6:19)
  • Encouraged his people into many wars and conquests, killing millions of soldiers and civilians. (Exodus 15:3, Exodus 32:27-28, Joshua 8:24-26, Judges 20:43-48, 2 Samuel 8:5, 8:16, 8:15, 1 Kings 20:28-30, 2 Chronicles 13:16-18, 2 Chronicles 14:9-14, 2 Chronicles 28:6)
  • Annihilated 70,000 men solely because their leader sinned, even though he repented. (2 Samuel 24:15)
  • Sent lions to kill people, one person for ignoring an order about dinner. (1 Kings 13:15-24; 2 Kings 17:25; Jeremiah 15:3)
  • Slaughtered 185,000 sleeping soldiers who were obeying their king. (2 Kings 19:35)
  • Encouraged vengeance and the washing of righteous feet in the blood of enemies. (Psalms 58:10, Psalms 68:21-23)

KILLING CHILDREN

  • Sent a flood to drown the entire population of earth, including children & babies. (Genesis 7:21-23)
  • Executed all the firstborn children and infants in a whole nation because of their kings sin. (Exodus 12:29)
  • Slaughtered children with plagues and other horrible methods for insubordination. (Numbers 11:33, Ezekiel 23:47, Hosea 9:11-12)
  • Allowed and commanded his people  to kill the children and babies of other nations with their parents. (Deuteronomy 2:34, Deuteronomy 3:6, Deuteronomy 7:2, Deuteronomy 7:16, Deuteronomy 13:15, Deuteronomy 20:16-17, Joshua 6:21, Joshua 10:40, 1 Samuel 15:2-3)
  • Send bears to tear apart 42 youths for mocking a prophets baldness. (2 Kings 2:23-24)
  • Massacred the enemies children by dashing them to pieces (Hosea 13:16, Psalm 137:9, Isaiah 13:16, Nahum 3:5-6,10)
  • Commanded people to kill their friends, relatives, even children for disobedience. (Ezekiel 9:4-6)
  • Gave permission for Satan murder a whole family to prove a point. (Job 1)

REDIRECTED PUNISHMENT

  • Threatened to punish children for parents sins. (Exodus 20:5-6, Exodus 34:7, Deuteronomy 5:9, Leviticus 26:22, Jeremiah 15:7-8)
  • Commanded children to be killed for their parents sins (Isaiah 14:21, Isaiah 13:16, 1 Samuel 15:3, Ezekiel 9:6)
  • Killed children and infants because of their parents sins. (Genesis 7:4,21; Genesis 19:24, Exodus 11:4-5, 2 Chronicles 21:14, 2 Samuel 12:14-15, Jeremiah 2:30, Nahum 3:10, Hosea 10:14, Jeremiah 9:21-22)
  • Allowed it or himself punished children for the sins of their parents. (Deuteronomy 23:2, Deuteronomy 28:18, 1 Kings 11:11-12, 2 Samuel 21:6-9, 1 Kings 2:33, 1 Kings 21:29, 2 Kings 5:27, Jeremiah 16:10-11, Jeremiah 29:32)

ABORTION

  • Promised to “abort” unborn babies by causing them to be ripped apart in their mothers’ wombs. (Hosea 13:16)

CANNIBALISM

  • Threatened to push parents into eating their children if they are disobedient. (Leviticus 26:29, Deuteronomy 28:53, Jeremiah 19:9, Ezekiel 5:8-10)
  • Forced enemies to eat their own flesh and drink their blood. (Isaiah 49:26, Jeremiah 16:4)

TORTURE

  • Commanded that women who grab men by the testicles have their hand cut off. (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)
  • Allowed physical abuse and beatings as a good thing (Exodus 21:20-21, Deuteronomy 25:2, Proverbs 19:29, , Proverbs 26:3)
  • Threatened parents with the slaughter of their children for the disobedience. (Leviticus 26:22)
  • Commanded parents to kill their whole family if they leave the Jewish faith (Deuteronomy 13:6-10)
  • Promised to make people eat food made from feces. (Ezekiel 4:12-13)
  • Promised to eternally torment anyone who dies without repentance. (Matthew 3:12, 8:12, 10:21, 13:30, 42, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30, Luke 13:28, John 5:24)

RAPE

  • Used sexual violation and rape as a form of punishment for the women of a wicked nation. (Isaiah 13:15-16)
  • Allowed the capture and seizure of women as wives, against their will. (Judges 21:20-24)
  • Commanded that unengaged young woman who are raped must be married to the man who assaulted them. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
  • Allowed men to kidnap beautiful women and forcibly marry them, so long as they were from different nations. (Deuteronomy 21:10-1)

SLAVERY

  • Allowed the possession and beating of slaves, as long as they survive a day or two. (Exodus 21:20-21)
  • Allowed men to sell their daughters into slavery. (Exodus 21:7-8)
  • Commanded his people to kill men, women, and boys, allowing them to keep little virgin girls as slaves. (Numbers 31:17-18)
  • Allowed men to kidnap beautiful women and forcibly marry them, so long as they were from different nations. (Deuteronomy 21:10-13)
  • Allowed Hebrews to take possession of women, boys, and girls as the spoils of war. (Deuteronomy 20:13-14)

THEFT

  • Permitted and encouraged theft and pillaging of the possessions during from defeated people. (Deuteronomy 20:13-14, Exodus 3:22, Numbers 31:11, Joshua 8:2, Joshua 8:27,  Joshua 22:8, Nahum 2:9, Zechariah 2:9)

FALSEHOOD

  • Put a deceiving spirit into prophets that caused them to utter false prophecies. (1 Kings 22:23, 2 Chronicles 18:22)
  • Enticing prophets into speaking falsehood and lies. (Ezekiel 14:9)
  • Purposefully deceive people on as a form of judgment or chastisement. (Jeremiah 4:10, 20:7, 2 Thessalonians 2:11)

VULGAR LANGUAGE

  • Wrote about lovers with genitals that are the size of donkeys and ejaculate like horses. (Ezekiel 23:20)
  • Wrote about creating golden sexual objects and engaging in sexual intercourse with these objects. (Ezekiel 16:17)
  • Wrote about spreading dung or feces upon people’s faces. (Malachi 2:3)
  • Wrote that legalists should cut off or circumcise their phallus (genitalia). (Galatians 5:12)
  • Wrote tons of sexually explicit references and graphic descriptions of vulgar themes. (Genesis 19:33-36, Ezekiel 16:28, Ezekiel 16:37, Ezekiel 23:3, Song of Solomon 4:5, 2 Kings 18:27, Nahum 3:5-6, Revelation 17:16, Judges 3:16-23, Deuteronomy 23:1, 1 Samuel 18:25-27)

So here is my question to the Biblical-literalist who likes simple sweeping statements such as “God said it, we believe it, that settles it, let’s obey it!”

Do we “simply imitate” all of the above things that the Biblical authors say God did himself or commanded/caused/endorsed others to do? God did it, so we should imitate? No? Is it no longer as simple?

Silence?

Do I have a simple answer for this list? I can make oversimplified sweeping statements, and so can you. Often they include “well that’s the old testament” or “God can do whatever he wants because he owns us.” Or my personal favorite, “God’s ways are higher than our ways.” Perhaps these are all somewhat true and give us part of the answer, but to be honest, simplistic statements like these don’t always help us. They are far better replaced with a thoughtful conversation on what it means to be a Christian, how to deal with all the difficulties of this cosmos, and how we can follow Christ in this broken myriad of history and life. We can dialogue about the many types of Biblical contexts, the cultural setting and mindset of the human authors, what powerful effects the human authors setting and perhaps emotions played into the authorship of the Scripture, and ponder on the reality that God is not like us.

And in the end, Biblical descriptions, like those above, show us why careful theology, asking meaningful or critical questions, and an open discourse needs to prevail over simplistic statements. Lets walk together, grow, and carefully think through these issues of faith, not simply “believe and obey” simplistic ‘pat answers.’

4 responses

    • Perhaps you have too narrow of a view of Jesus? Perhaps the biblical texts describe Jesus more broadly than you are willing to admit?

      This Jesus?
      “I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.” (Revelation 2:22-23)
      “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?” (Matt. 23:33)

      Or this Jesus?
      “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so
      that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
      “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”(Luke 23:34)

      • Yuriy thank you for putting in your personal time to be so detailed to the root of things.. i appreciate exercising my mind around the things you put out..

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