Shit My Bible Says: Chariots of Iron

The book of Judges starts out with Judah finishing the job of conquering the promised land and wiping out its current inhabitants. At first, all goes well (“When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek.”).

But then (Judges 1:19):

19 The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron.

Stupid iron chariots, with their stupid stronger-than-God-ness! They’re always foiling God’s plans!

Maybe this is why we don’t see miracles like the parting of the Red Sea or the sun standing still anymore: there are too many iron chariots around, in the form of cars and trucks, so God can’t do his stuff anymore.

Anyway, this verse is the namesake of a wiki, a podcast, and I don’t know what all else.

Shit My Bible Says: Pharaoh’s Hard Heart

You remember the story of the Exodus, right? How the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and Moses asked the Pharaoh to “Let my people go”, but the Pharaoh was like “Nuh-uh!” and Moses had to unleash ten increasingly-horrible plagues on Egypt before the Israelites could pack up their stuff and escape?

So yeah, there are a couple of bits that don’t get mentioned very often.

Exodus 9:11-12 (the plague of boils):

11 The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians. 12 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.

Well, okay, maybe that was just a figure of speech. Maybe in the original Hebrew, the phrase “The LORD did X” is akin to “inshallah” in Arabic, and would have been understood by the people at the time as meaning something closer to “and it came to pass that X“.

So let’s look at another example, like Exodus 10:1-2:

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them 2 that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD.”

Okay, so the “figure of speech” explanation doesn’t really work. Here we have God explicitly saying that he’s messing with people’s brains so that he can show off properly.

By the time the plague of darkness comes along, the Pharaoh is ready throw in the towel (Exodus 10:16-20)…

16 Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. 17 Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the LORD your God to take this deadly plague away from me.”

18 Moses then left Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD. 19 And the LORD changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea. Not a locust was left anywhere in Egypt. 20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.

…but God won’t allow a peaceful, if delayed, resolution, because he’s not done showing off yet.

The Plague of Darkness, comes along, and once again, the Pharaoh’s ready to give up: Exodus 10:24-28:

24 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, “Go, worship the LORD. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind.”

25 But Moses said, “You must allow us to have sacrifices and burnt offerings to present to the LORD our God. 26 Our livestock too must go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to use some of them in worshiping the LORD our God, and until we get there we will not know what we are to use to worship the LORD.”

27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go. 28 Pharaoh said to Moses, “Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.”

Finally, we get to the plague on the firstborn: Exodus 11:1-3:

1 Now the LORD had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. 2 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” 3 (The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)

Moses then tells the Pharaoh what God told him about how he’ll murder the firstborn sons of Egypt, from the Pharaoh’s son to that of the most menial slave, and of all the cattle as well. (Is it just me, or is it funny that God can’t be bothered to tell the Pharaoh himself, even though the whole point of this exercise is to say, “Hey, look at me! I’m badass!”, but has to go through a human intermediary?)

At any rate, Exodus 11:9-10 then says:

9 The LORD had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.

If anyone ever gives you that clichéd line about God not providing proof of his existence because that would violate people’s free will, point them at the story of the ten plagues. If there’s a more insidious violation of people’s free will than reaching into their heads and making them want different things, I don’t know what it is.

And I think this post just ensured that I will never, ever be invited to a Seder.

Shit My Bible Says: Girl Cooties

Leviticus 12:2-5:

2[…] A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. […] 4 Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. […] 5 If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding.

So ladies, the next time some guy treats you as inferior or compares you to livestock or something, don’t blame him. God himself says that you have cooties.

Shit My Bible Says: By the Rivers of Babylon

Psalm 137:

1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
   when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars
   we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
   our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
   they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD
   while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, Jerusalem,
   may my right hand forget its skill.
6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
   if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
   my highest joy.

7 Remember, LORD, what the Edomites did
   on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
   “tear it down to its foundations!”

Huh. Actually, that’s quite beautiful. A song of grief and loss, and trying to carry on in desperate circumstances.

Some of you may be old enough to remember Boney M’s version. Admit it, you started singing along with the text, above:

(And for those who aren’t old enough to remember: um, there once was this thing called disco and, er, we’re not terribly proud of that.)

Update: Hold on. Alert reader me has just pointed out that I left off a bit off at the end:

8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
   happy is the one who repays you
   according to what you have done to us.
9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants
   and dashes them against the rocks.

Huh. I wonder why this part never made it into the Boney M song.

Shit My Bible Says: The Multiple Deaths of Judas

In case you don’t remember how Judas dies, here’s Matthew 27:3-10:

3When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4“I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

5So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

6The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

Or, if that’s not how you remember it, it’s understandable, since Acts 1:18-19 says:

18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

The most obvious difference is that in Matthew, Judas hangs himself, while in Acts, he falls into a field and bursts. But there are other differences: in Matthew, Judas throws the money into the temple; in Acts, he uses it to buy a field. And in Matthew, the Field of Blood is called that because it was bought with blood money — payment for Jesus’ blood — while in Acts, the name “Field of Blood” comes from the fact that it was soaked with Judas’ blood.

Now, if you were desperate to prop up the dogma that the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, and wanted to reconcile these two passages at all costs, you might note that Acts doesn’t explicitly say that Judas didn’t hang himself, and Matthew doesn’t explicitly say that he didn’t burst open, so hey, maybe both of those things happened.

You know, just like how if some conspiracy site says that Obama is a lizard-headed alien who gave instructions on the best way to invade Earth at his last State of the Union address, and the CNN article doesn’t explicitly say that that didn’t happen, then hey, the two are perfectly compatible, right?

But of course that would be silly. So let’s see what earnest apologetics site CARM has to say on this subject:

So, what happened here is that Judas went and hung himself and then his body later fell down and split open. In other words, the rope or branch of the tree probably broke due to the weight and his body fell down and his bowels spilled out.

Or the Restored Church of God:

Acts 1:18 describes what occurred after Judas hanged himself in Matthew 27:5. His body began to decay as it hung from the rope. Eventually, his corpse fell, and “burst asunder” when it hit the ground—he literally burst apart.


since suicide by hanging was usually accomplished (at least by poorer people) by jumping out of a tree with a rope around one’s neck, it was not unusual (nor is it uncommon in India today) for the body to be ripped open in the process. I hesitate to say that this was exactly what happened, but it is certainly a plausible explanation.”

Never let it be said that apologists aren’t an inventive bunch.

And if you enjoyed that, as a reward for making it all the way through to here, I present you Trektonics Apologetics Ministries’ definitive proof of the absence of any contradictions in Star Trek.

Shit My Bible Says: Deuteronomy 22

From Deuteronomy 22:

5 A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.

I guess this means God hates Martin Lawrence for the Big Momma films… okay, bad example. But apparently God also hates Eddie Izzard and Tim Curry. To say nothing of every woman who ever wore pants or borrowed her boyfriend’s shirt.

And speaking of clothes:

11 Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.

(Leviticus 19:19 is actually broader, and forbids all mixed-fabric clothing (I’m looking at you, cotton-polyester wearers!):

19 “‘Keep my decrees.
“‘Do not mate different kinds of animals.
“‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
“‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.


And near the end, we find:

28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[c] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

Yeah, you read that right: the Bible says a woman has to marry her rapist.

Anyway, the reason for bringing up these examples, particularly the one about mixed-fabric clothing, is partly to point out just how detailed the Bible gets at times (if you’re a glutton for punishment, you can read God’s instructions to his interior decorator, aka Exodus 26).

And also to point out a contrast: when he was putting together his books of law, God allegedly found time to talk about agriculture and clothing; these things were worthy of his attention, and not something he could trust mere humans to work out for themselves. But he couldn’t be bothered to mention, even once, that owning people is bad; that raping children is bad; that genocide is bad (but why would he, when he commits and orders it so often?), that democracy is better than monarchy, and so on, and so forth.

I’m pretty sure that if I were composing a list of the Top 613 Most Important Things People Should and Shouldn’t Do, I’m pretty sure I’d include those in there. But that’s just me. I know it sounds hubristic to say my morality is better than God’s, but what other conclusion can I draw?

(Updated, Feb. 23, 10:32: typos. Thanks, alert reader!)

Shit My Bible Says: Lilies of the Field

It’s easy to dismiss the previous two episodes in this series as “Oh, but that’s the Old Testament!” So let’s pick on the New Testament for a change:

Matthew 6:25-34:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

And also Luke 12:22-31:

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[a]? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

(emphasis added)

Here we have Jesus saying not to worry about what’ll happen tomorrow. Don’t worry about where your next meal is coming from or whether you can get clothes. And he’s not saying “make sure you’ve made adequate preparation for your future, but don’t give yourself an ulcer.” He’s saying not to worry about the future, because it’ll all work out somehow.

Now, if you have (or want) health insurance, or a retirement plan, or a college fund, or if the way you vote is influenced by what kind of world you want to leave your grandchildren, then you can recognize that the above is bullshit. You are worrying about the future instead of letting it work itself out on its own.

See, that’s the funny thing: the only people who can say “See? It all worked out after all” are the ones who weren’t killed by “it”.

Not worrying about retirement makes sense if you don’t think you’ll live long enough to retire: if you have a terminal disease that’ll kill you in six months, then yeah, you might as well cash out your IRA and enjoy trip to Tahiti before you die.

This is of a piece with some of Jesus’ other pronouncements, like Luke 6:29: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.” If the world is about to be destroyed, then yeah, this makes sense because you have better things to do than sue the guy who stole your coat. But as a long-term strategy, it’s an invitation to get beaten and robbed.

Shit My Bible Says: Numbers 15:32-36

Numbers 15:32-36:

32 While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, 34 and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. 35 Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.” 36 So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD commanded Moses.

I’ll let apologetics site CARM explain this one:

Gathering sticks in itself is not wrong. It could be for the purpose of providing a fire for warmth of cooking. The problem is that a man was deliberately and flagrantly gathering sticks in the open on the Sabbath day when God had commanded that no work be done on the Sabbath. This was a direct challenge to God’s authority.

Okay, so a guy was gathering wood instead of telling God how wonderful he is, as God had commanded, and for that he had to be executed. Not fined, not spanked, not ordered to perform community service, but killed. By having rocks thrown at him.

And this isn’t something Moses or one of his flunkies thought would be a good idea. God himself commands it. The same God who is, people tell me, the source of all morality.

Go out on the Sabbath some time (whether you think that’s Saturday or Sunday) and count the people doing work. Aside from firefighters, emergency room staff, police officers, and the like, who are doing truly important work that won’t wait until Monday, you’ll also doubtless find gas station attendants, store employees at the mall, football players, tech support line operators, IT guys doing maintenance on the weekend, ans so on and so forth. All of these people deserve to die violently, according to the word of the unchanging God.

If this doesn’t outrage you, what the hell’s wrong with you? And if you are outraged, doesn’t that mean your morals are better than God’s?

Shit My Bible Says: Numbers 5:11-28

Back in January, the Pennsylvania House passed a resolution naming 2012 “The Year of the Bible”:

WHEREAS, a bunch of pious bullshit, and

WHEREAS, a pile of revisonist history, and

WHEREAS, puppies are cute and stuff, therefore let it be

RESOLVED, something or other blah blah blah this is an easy vote-winner and I can get out of here in time for happy hour, right?


So, yeah. Year of the Bible. Huh. Presumably that means that the good people of Pennsylvania ought to read the Bible to find out what it says, that our country and values are based on. Or, if it’s anything like Black History Month, sit through a bunch of PSAs and maybe, if you’re still in school, go on a field trip to the local museum.

So, as a public service, allow me to present what I’d like to call Shit My Bible Says. For this first episode, let’s take a look at Number 5:11-28 (skip forward for the tl;dr version):

11 Then the LORD said to Moses, 12 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him 13 so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), 14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— 15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah[a] of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.

16 “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the LORD. 17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. 18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the LORD, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the LORD cause you to become a curse[b] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”

“‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”

23 “‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. 24 He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her. 25 The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the LORD and bring it to the altar. 26 The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial[c] offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. 27 If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. 28 If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.

(emphasis added, quite emphatically)

To recap: if a man thinks his wife has been cheating on him, the local priest should give her a magic potion that will induce an abortion if she was unfaithful.

Read that again: causing a miscarriage — or, as the pro-life crowd likes to call it, murdering a baby — is considered an acceptable side effect of finding out whether your wife’s been getting some action on the side.

I was going to say that this shows that the God of the Bible doesn’t consider fetuses to be human, but then I realized that he’s quite fond of killing, and ordering the killing of, people who are unambiguously human.

At any rate, I don’t see why the religious right are up in arms about abortifacients, to say nothing of contraceptives. It seems obvious that according to the Bible, killing fetuses is no big deal.

(HT Larry O’Heam, aka Almighty God.)