Blue Ollie’s Good Questions


“And all Israel stoned [Achan and his family] with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.”

Questions from blogger Blue Ollie:

Many still claim to get their morals from the Bible. Well, what does the Bible actually say?

The following is a very incomplete list but is nevertheless a valid list.

1. How do you determine if someone is guilty? Answer: gamble.

We read from the Book of Joshua, Chapter 7 [Achan's family is eventually singled out by lot.]

“…Finally he had that family come forward one by one, and Achan, son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah of the tribe of Judah, was designated.”

“Designated”? This sounds a bit like The Lottery to me. Read from Exodus 28:

“In this breastpiece of decision you shall put the Urim and Thummim, that they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the LORD. Thus he shall always bear the decisions for the Israelites over his heart in the LORD’S presence.”

Wow! CSI would have been a boring show. But just think: we could do away with all of that DNA evidence and just throw “sacred dice”! So what happened?

2. You kill the whole family for the transgression of one.

“…Then Joshua and all Israel took Achan, son of Zerah, with the silver, the mantle, and the bar of gold, and with his sons and daughters, his ox, his ass and his sheep, his tent, and all his possessions, and led them off to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, “The LORD bring upon you today the misery with which you have afflicted us!” And all Israel stoned him to death.”

“Him”? The KJV says “them”. A Jewish version has it:

And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the mantle, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had; and they brought them up unto the valley of Achor. And Joshua said: ‘Why hast thou troubled us? The LORD shall trouble thee this day.’ And all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire, and stoned them with stones.

In short, the whole family was killed. We have better justice now-a-days. What happened next?

3. Murder a whole town if they are on land that you want.

Read on [Joshua, Chapter 8]

“…Joshua kept the javelin in his hand stretched out until he had fulfilled the doom on all the inhabitants of Ai.”

You can read about the routine ethnic cleansings in later chapters [such as] Chapter 11…

“They struck them all down, leaving no survivors. Joshua did to them as the LORD had commanded: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots. At that time Joshua, turning back, captured Hazor and slew its king with the sword; for Hazor formerly was the chief of all those kingdoms. ;He also fulfilled the doom by putting every person there to the sword, till none was left alive. Hazor itself he burned. Joshua thus captured all those kings with their cities and put them to the sword, fulfilling the doom on them, as Moses, the servant of the LORD, had commanded. However, Israel did not destroy by fire any of the cities built on raised sites, except Hazor, which Joshua burned. The Israelites took all the spoil and livestock of these cities as their booty; but the people they put to the sword, until they had exterminated the last of them, leaving none alive.”

So there you have it: guilt by dice throwing, execution of an entire family, and mass murder. But wait, there is more.

4. It is acceptable to offer your daughters up to be gang raped.

What happens when men come to your door and want to rape your male house guest? See Genesis 19:

“Before they went to bed, all the townsmen of Sodom, both young and old–all the people to the last man–closed in on the house. They called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to your house tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have intimacies with them.” Lot went out to meet them at the entrance. When he had shut the door behind him, he said, “I beg you, my brothers, not to do this wicked thing. I have two daughters who have never had intercourse with men. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you please. But don’t do anything to these men, for you know they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

Offer to let the men rape your daughters! But wait, there is more: What happens when you make a bet that you can’t cover? Let’s see what the Biblical hero Samson does (chapter 14).

5. Murder and stealing are an acceptable way to settle up gambling debts.

I agree; those who were stumped threatened the wife. But what happened when Samson had to pay up? How did he do it?

“On the seventh day, before the sun set, the men of the city said to him, “What is sweeter than honey, and what is stronger than a lion?” He replied to them, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, ;you would not have solved my riddle.” The spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, where he killed thirty of their men and despoiled them; he gave their garments to those who had answered the riddle. Then he went off to his own family in anger…”

So murder some people, steal their stuff, and pay off your debts!

Finally, what do you do with people who have “wrong” conceptions of God?

6. Kill people who worship other gods.

Let’s let Elijah answer… [Kings 18]

“… Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Let none of them escape!” They were seized, and Elijah had them brought down to the brook Kishon and there he slit their throats.”

Note: in this account, “God” was causing a drought because Israel was worshiping this other God.

Now what do you do with indolent kids who make fun of older people? You send bears to tear them limb from limb!

7. Death is appropriate for someone who makes fun of a religious figure.

See 2 Kings, Chapter 2:

“And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.”

Update: So, is it a surprise when this happens:

I’ve been hiding from the horrible news in the Middle East, but this story induced me to poke my head out of my tortoise shell…so I can puke. A rabbi consulted his holy books to see what God had to say about the vicious violence going on right now, and you can guess what God’s word might be:

Eliyahu ruled that there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings.

My comment:

These are good questions, and most Christians can’t give you good answers. Very briefly, we need to do more study. A little look further would show that these killings were judicial, ie. a judgment that would stop a spreading evil in its tracks.

If we’re going to criticise a religion, the least we can do is understand it. According to the Bible, we are made in God’s image, and we are all mediators for those under our authority, particularly as parents. The consequences for judgments upon our families – our children – can be laid squarely at our own feet.

But God is merciful. These people were given, in most cases, hundreds of years of warnings. Read the account of God’s promise of the land of Canaan to Abraham. The Canaanites were given more time.

We also overlook the Covenant context of these passages. See my comments on 2 Kings 2 for instance, here.

I do understand where you are coming from, having had many of these questions myself. But it stems from the victim mentality that misunderstands the gravity of sin.

Interestingly, many of these judgments were typological prequels of the destruction of Judaism in AD70. Revelation presents the destruction of Jerusalem as a victory over Jericho (and Babylon) for the fledgling Christian church. Like Ezekiel, it alludes to previous scriptures as symbols for near events. Jesus came in judgment as He said He would, and was vindicated. God has a long fuse, but it is a fuse nonetheless.

The slaughter of the innocent is always dealt with eventually. And God’s law is perfectly just: eye-for-eye. The Canaanites who sacrificed their children forconvenience (good crops, etc.) were cut off as a nation. When Israel began committing the same sins, God brought in the Babylonians to bring her death and resurrection – a new Israel. When first century Judah slaughtered Christians, God brought in the Romans – and again there was a new Israel, the Christian church.

We are prone to thinking of justice as individuals, but the Bible also deals with nations, corporately.

I find this fascinating and would be pleased to answer any sincere questions (to the best of my ability). But this short-sighted questioning above is not only ignorant of the Bible, but usually based on a worldview that has no objective basis for moral standards whatsoever. If you believe in natural selection, these events are merely a religious interpretation of the survival of the fittest. Historically, athiests who are consistent with their view on origins and get to ‘operate’ on their assumptions are often mass murderers – a law unto themselves. So any charge against the Bible and Christianity cuts both ways. You are obviously a thinker and should not find this challenge offensive.

Finally, two points: Regarding ‘gambling’, the idea was that God acted through the lot (or the Urim and Thummim), which were a ‘miniature Ark’ worn by the High Priest). The best example would be the goat chosen by lot on the Day of Covering. The last supper follows the same pattern, only it is Jesus who “chooses” Judas (Judah) and send him to destruction. Judas’s replacement was also chosen by lot. The practice was ‘internalised’ after Pentecost with the arrival of the Spirit. The law was written on “tablets of flesh” with all God’s people as priests.

Lot’s failure to protect his daughters is not commended in the Bible. He also failed to protect them from the ‘thinking’ of Sodom, which was demonstrated in their later actions. The structure of the passage (and we are also ignorant of Hebrew literary structure – including most Christians) aligns them with the ‘daughters of men’ in Genesis 6.

I have found that nothing is in the Bible for no reason, whether or not we agree with it. It is the most highly integrated literature ever written, and every passage must be read in the context of what has gone before. Sadly, this also results in some misinterpretation of the New Testament by Christians.

Kind regards, Mike Bull

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