“It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it, and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”
That quote about the Bible is from the posthumously published essay called, “Letters from the Earth,” by Mark Twain. At the time it was written, Twain was under much duress. His wife had recently died, as had one of his daughters. He was in debt. He was near the end of his life. So was this quote a bunch of sour grapes, or is this really an accurate depiction of the Bible?
Some would say no, while others would say yes.
On a personal note, I was brought up going to church and Sunday school. I spent four years at a Christian high school, reading the Bible front to back each year. Since then I’ve read the Bible a few more times. To me, it isn’t a book of “a thousand lies,” but there are definitely some strange stories in there. Stories that no preacher would ever touch during a Sunday sermon. Fables that no Sunday school teacher would dare discuss. There are stories that quite frankly make you scratch your head and wonder why it’s even in the Bible at all.
Let’s start with 2 Kings 2:23-25. This little story is about a wise man named Elijah who is walking by the road on his way to Bethel. Along the way he is accosted by 42 children who make fun of his lack of hair, calling him “bald head.” Annoyed with their taunts and insults, he curses them in the name of the lord and instantly two female bears come out of the woods and maul all of the children to death.
Not exactly the happy ending we were looking for.
The moral of the story? Never make fun of male pattern baldness? I’m not really sure.
How about we turn to Matthew 21:19. As Jesus is walking from Bethany, he starts feeling a bit hungry. He walks over to a fig tree, expecting to score some ripe figs, but the tree is barren. Annoyed by this, Jesus curses the fig tree to death. This story is utterly strange for so many reasons, but mainly for how irrational Jesus becomes and how unimportant it is to the Jesus story. And yet, this story is repeated again in Mark 11:13-14, so what do I know?
Moral of the story: I have no idea. Can anyone out there explain it for me?
Another unusual story can be found in Numbers 22:28-30. Balaam has a very stubborn donkey and in order to get it to move, Balaam has to beat his donkey. During one of these beatings, the donkey very calmly asks Balaam why he is beating him. Balaam (not the least bit surprised that his donkey can speak) explains that the donkey was mocking him. The donkey then becomes philosophical and explains the nature of their relationship and how his feelings, not to mention his backside, were hurt. They soon make peace and all is well.
Moral: Umm . . . don’t beat animals? I honestly don’t know. Did I mention that it was a talking donkey?
Lastly, there’s 1 Kings 18:25-27. Ahh, David is young and in love. He totally has the hots for Saul’s daughter, Michal. He offers Saul anything he wants in return for the girl. So what does Saul want? Money? Land? A brand new goat skin leisure suit? No. Saul wants foreskins. One hundred foreskins to be exact. Saul tells David that if he wants to marry his daughter, he needs to bring back 100 of them by the next day. Unfazed, David goes out and kills 200 men and collects their foreskins. He then remembers that he only needed 100. Oops. He hopes that Saul will be impressed. It turns out that Saul is impressed. Doubly impressed! And he hands over his daughter to David.
Moral of the story? Sorry, I got nothing.
Did I bring up these stories to simply make fun of them? Or, what if I’m just mentioning these stories to pique someone’s interest? What if by bringing these obscure stories to light, someone goes to the top shelf of the closet, blows the dust off the cover, and starts reading the Bible?
Hmmm . . . the lord works in mysterious ways.
Reach C.W. Plunkett at firstname.lastname@example.org.