I blogged about why I am going to be posting weird sounding verses from the Bible here. As often as I can on Wednesdays, I will post about an unusual sounding verse and try to offer some explanation of it. In the first one I wrote about the verse from 2 Kings 2:23-25 where Elisha gets made fun of by some youth for being bald. Elisha then calls a curse on them and two bears kill all 42 boys. So there are plenty of very weird passages from the Bible to be looking at. As I said in the first Wednesday-Weird-Bible-Verse entry that I am interested in these strange sounding verses:
- For one, they are Scripture. And if all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:15-16) then we shouldn't ignore them.
- Secondly, the internet and Twitter and Facebook are flooded with Christians posting the nice, cheery types of BIble verses already (which I love as it is encouraging to read cheery Bible verses about the truths of Scripture). But I think if we only are reading or focusing on the nice, encouraging cheery verses, then we can subtly only paint one part of the BIble to the exclusion of other parts. Or get only one understanding of God's character and the full Bible narrative and neglecting parts we don't like. It's easy to just focus on the nice, cheery understandable verses (which is needed and wonderful!). But we better not ignore God's Word and also explore the not-so-cheery-verses and not-too-easy-to-understand often weird sounding verses as well.
- Thirdly, there are a bunch of web sites and in several of the neo-atheist writings out there who are understandably pointing out the bizarre and troubling sounding Bible passages. I don't blame them for thinking how crazy the Bible allegedly sounds based on singling out these passages. But often what happens is the verses are not studied in their specific cultural context or how they fit in the whole Bible narrative. So as Christians we should be apologists in studying how to respond to when the very strange, often violent, sexist-sounding, bizarre verses are singled out and pointed to.
So there are multiple reasons for looking at these types of verses and posting most Wednesdays on one. *I'll be interacting with any comments here, but mainly posting further comments on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DanKimball
The weird verse for this week, is the story of David being asked to get 100 foreskins as a wedding price for a bride, and that is crazy enough sounding. But he didn't just get 100, he went and got 200 of them and killed the men he cut the foreskins off of. I can't comprehend this whatsoever.
The verse is 1 Samuel 18:27:
"David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage"
In reading this story straight from the Bible, it even states how after David brought the forsekins back to Saul that they counted them to show how many there were. What an incredibly weird image of David standing there counting out 200 foreskins. I have beeen fascinated with the life of David lately having studied through the his story in the Hebrew Bible/First Testament (I try not to say "Old Testament" as that can subtly indicate it isn't valid or important. So I use the term "First Testament" or "Hebrew Bible" instead). But what is fascinating to me is that David was truly a man after God's heart - Acts 13:22. We hear sermons about his life and of his great faith. We do hear sermons about David's sin with Bathsheba and that he murdered her husband. The story does tell how he did grieve and repent afterwards (2 Samuel 11-12) and he wrote one of the most beautiful songs of sorrow and repentence in Psalm 51. But at least in my experience we don't hear in sermons some of the other strange things he did as a man seeking after God's heart in his time period. Killing 200 men to give their foreskins to his future father-in-law, polygamy with over 10 wives at once, having multiple concubines and the violence he participated in is so incredibly over the top as recorded in the Scriptures.
With trying to understand the killing of 200 men and removing their foreskins as a wedding gift, I have copied and pasted below an explanation of this from the Zondervan Old Testament Bible Background Commentary. I won't comment further, and it is something I can't understand as we are not from that culture. But here is the explanation of the wedding gift of 200 foreskins:
"Price for the bride (18:25). Twice Saul offers to make David his son-in-law. This second time he seems less mindful of the promise made earlier (17:25), which he may have regarded as no longer valid, and he is more intent on David’s proving his martial skill (or dying in the attempt!). Payment of a bride price was common in the Old Testament world, as it is still in some cultures today. It was the prerogative of the bride’s father to set the price, and Saul sets it dangerously high at a hundred Philistine foreskins. Body parts (heads, hands, etc.) often served as trophies of war, and Saul’s unusual choice is designed to assure that David actually kills Philistines—other of Israel’s neighbors were likely circumcised (see comment on 14:6).
Merenptah’s Great Libyan War Inscription from Karnak repeatedly mentions that the “phalli with foreskins” were being collected from slain enemies. This shows that the request made of David is not that odd. David meets Saul’s challenge twice over, presenting two hundred foreskins (v. 27). Saul views this success as evidence that Yahweh is with David (v. 28), and his fear of him grows into full-blown enmity (v. 29).
Armies would remove body parts from the slain enemy to number the casualties. Though often heads or hands, in this relief (below) it is a pile of phalli reminiscent of David’s collection of Philistine foreskins."
I can't comprehend at all how this could have been a common practice in that culture and am very glad we don't live in that culture anymore. But I can say that I am also glad the Bible does include these stories. The Bible isn't all cleaned up and all the stories cheery and shiny. There are stories and things in the Bible which we may never understand in this lifetime. But for me, this actually brings more confidence about it's inspiration. The Bible is not all edited and superficial. The faults and sins of human beings (even Bible heroes) are kept in the Bible. I can totally understand why critics of Christianity claim the Bible sounds bizarre and crazy at times. It does sound crazy and bizarre at times. But I also know we as Christians need to be studying these weird and bizarre parts of the Bible, just as we study the cheery parts of the Bible. If we desire to be respected today, then we should students of Scripture and not just the parts we like. But it's not just knowledge or even trying to explain the BIble itself for Christians to gain respect from others. We most of all need to have lives that reflect the teachings of Jesus in how we live in this world today. And I am glad that culture has changed and we aren't in the times of David and that Jesus changed so many things for us.
So that is the Wednesday-Weird-Bible-Verse for this week. I will post another weird-sounding verse next Wednesday.