Observations About the Bible
Brian Gongol

Some observations from reading the Bible:

Location Passage Why it's interesting
Exodus 17 God allows the Israelites to win in battle so long as Moses holds up his arms over them. It's as though God is amusing himself by playing with the humans below.
Exodus 23 "You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk." This would appear to prohibit putting cheese on a hamburger or feta cheese in an gyro. If this prohibition is not in force today, by what was it revoked?
Exodus 32 God threatens to destroy the Israelites, but Moses intercedes on their behalf. Moses negotiates with God. God is omnipotent, but he wants Man to show a little spunk.
Leviticus 7:26-27 "You shall not partake of any blood, be it of bird or of animal. Every person who partakes of any blood shall be cut off from his people." This appears to strictly prohibit the consumption of rare, medium-rare, and medium steaks.
Leviticus 18:22 "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination." The passage probably most-often cited as the Bible's prohibition against homosexuality. Yet it is sandwiched between Leviticus 17, which mandates that a man "shall be cut off from among his people" if he slaughters a sheep without first "bringing it to the entrance of the meeting tent", and Leviticus 19, which specifies the rules for having sex with a female slave -- which, of course, implies that slavery itself is somehow acceptable. The anachronistic nature of selecting some rules from neighboring passages and ignoring others makes it difficult to assume that all such passages are eternally and absolutely true.
Leviticus 19:19 "Do not breed any of your domestic animals with others of a different species; do not sow a field of yours with two different kinds of seed; and do not put on a garment woven with two different kinds of thread." No mules, no crop rotation, and no poly-cotton blends
Leviticus 19:31 "Do not go to mediums or consult fortune-tellers, for you will be defiled by them." Good advice. Horoscopes should be ignored, too.
Leviticus 19:34 "You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself." Immigrants have always existed and always will.
Tobit 3:7-8 "Raguel's daughter Sarah also had to listen to abuse, from one of her father's maids. For she had been married to seven husbands, but the wicked demon Asmodeus killed them off before they could have intercourse with her, as it is prescribed for wives." One of the kinds of readings one doesn't often hear in church
Tobit 4:5-6 "Perform good works all the days of your life, and do not tread the paths of wrongdoing. For if you are steadfast in your service, your good works will bring success, not only to you, but also to all those who live uprightly."
Tobit 4:12 "Be on your guard, son, against every form of immorality, and above all, marry a woman of the lineage of your forefathers. Do not marry a stranger who is not of your father's tribe." The rules of tribal living certainly sound odd today, when we know that marrying someone from within one's own family is exactly what not to do to produce healthy offspring
Tobit 4:15 "Do to no one what you yourself dislike."
Tobit 4:18 "Seek counsel from every wise man, and do not think lightly of any advice that can be useful."
Tobit 6:12 "Since you are Sarah's closest relative, you before all other men have the right to marry her. Also, her father's estate is rightfully yours to inherit. Now the girl is sensible, courageous, and very beautiful; and her father loves her dearly."
Tobit 10:10 "Raguel then promptly handed over to Tobiah Sarah his wife, together with half of all his property: male and female slaves, oxen and sheep, asses and camels, clothing, money, and household goods." It's hard to say which ancient concept is more unsettling: That a father owned his daughter like property until she could be deeded to her husband, or that the notion of human chattel slavery was just shrugged off as a matter of happenstance.
Tobit 12:8 "Prayer and fasting are good, but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than abundance with wickedness."
Tobit 14:1 "Tobit died peacefully at the age of a hundred and twelve" That seems curiously long for someone who lived thousands of years ago
Judith 5:17-18 "As long as the Israelites did not sin in the sight of their God, they prospered, for their God, who hates wickedness, was with them. But when they abandoned the way he had prescribed for them, they were utterly destroyed by frequent wars, and finally taken as captives into foreign lands." The relationship between God and the Israelites seems quite distantly removed from the concept of God today. Faithfulness to God's law seems to be very directly rewarded and unfaithfulness very directly punished in the older books of the Bible.
Judith 7:20-21 "The whole Assyrian army, infantry, chariots, and cavalry, kept them thus surrounded for thirty-four days. All the reservoirs of water failed the inhabitants of Bethulia, and the cisterns ran dry, so that on no day did they have enough water to drink, for their drinking water was rationed." An interesting case of water being used as a weapon of war -- a tactic still in use today
Judith 13:8-10 "Then with all her might she struck his neck twice and cut off his head. She rolled his body off the bed and took the canopy from its posts. Soon afterward, she came out and handed over the head of Holofernes to her maid, who put it into her food bag. Then the two went out together for prayer as they were accustomed to do." Judith beheads the chief general of the Assyrian army in order to defend her people. It's worth noting that beheadings are considered so grotesque today that only the most brutal and barbaric people even consider it.
Judith 16:23 "Her fame continued to increase, and she lived in the house of her husband, reaching the advanced age of one hundred and five. She set her maid free." Two things: First, it is claimed that Judith lived to the age of 105; that is hardly likely to withstand literal scrutiny. Second, this marks another instance of slave-keeping by a supposedly righteous person.
Esther 1:19-22 "[L]et an irrevocable royal decree be issued by him and inscribed among the laws of the Persians and Medes, forbidding Vashti to come into the presence of King Ahasuerus and authorizing the king to give her royal dignity to one more worthy than she. Thus, when the decree that the king will issue is published throughout his realm, vast as it is, all wives will honor their husbands, from the greatest to the least.' This proposal pleased the king and the officials, and the king acted on the advice of Memucan. He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, to the effect that every man should be lord in his own home." An instance in which women are subjugated to men. This particular instance is a description of what a foreign king does, not one of the heroes of the Bible, but it's passed along as though such a practice was just the sort of thing that people did at the time.
Esther 2:13 "Letters were sent by couriers to all the royal provinces, to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, including women and children in one day" An unsettling reference to genocide
Esther 4:14 "Even if you now remain silent, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another source;* but you and your father’s house will perish. Who knows—perhaps it was for a time like this that you became queen?" An interesting call to action and appeal to conscience
Esther 6 Haman, an enemy of the Jews, is so wrapped up in self-adoration that when the king asks him what should be done for a great man whom the king wishes to honor that he proposes great privileges -- which he is then ordered to bestow upon a Jew An amusing story, strictly from a literary standpoint
Esther 8:11 "In these letters the king authorized the Jews in each and every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, kill, and annihilate every armed group of any nation or province that might attack them, along with their wives and children, and to seize their goods as spoil" Reads distinctly like a description of self-defense policy in the Middle East today
Esther 9:5-10 "The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them; they did to those who hated them as they pleased. [...] However, they did not engage in plundering." Interesting that the author specifically points out that they may have killed every one of their enemies, but they didn't plunder
Proverbs 12:1 "He who loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." In essence, an endorsement of the scientific method
Proverbs 12:11 "He who tills his own land has food in plenty, but he who follows idle pursuits is a fool." In essence, an endorsement of capitalism and the virtue of industry
Proverbs 12:15 "The way of the fool seems right in his own eyes, but he who listens to advice is wise." An endorsement of education
Proverbs 12:24 "The diligent hand will govern, but the slothful will be enslaved." As in Proverbs 12:11, an endorsement of industriousness
Proverbs 25:24 "It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a contentious wife" Just plain good advice. And "wife" could easily be reversed to "husband", of course.
Proverbs 28:6 "Better to be poor and walk in integrity than to be crooked in one's ways even though rich"
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 "There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build." A poetic verse that may in fact be the best wisdom in the entire Bible.
Ecclesiastes 3:16-22
Ecclesiastes 7:15-18 "I have seen all manner of things in my vain days: a just man perishing in his justice, and a wicked one surviving in his wickedness. 'Be not just to excess, and be not overwise, lest you be ruined. Be not wicked to excess, and be not foolish. Why should you die before your time?'" A truly curious passage. "Be not overwise"?
Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 "Do not give heed to every word that is spoken lest you hear your servant speaking ill of you, for you know in your heart that you have many times spoken ill of others." Sound advice
Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 "Again I saw under the sun that the race is not won by the swift, nor the battle by the valiant, nor a livelihood by the wise, nor riches by the shrewd, nor favor by the experts; for a time of calamity comes to all alike. Man no more knows his own time than fish taken in the fatal net, or birds trapped in the snare; like these the children of men are caught when the evil time falls suddenly upon them." In a sense, a deeply fatalistic passage. True, in that we really don't know when life will end. But also a little hopeless about the passage of life in general.
Ecclesiastes 11:1-10
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 "The last word, when all is heard: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man's all; because God will bring to judgment every work, with all its hidden qualities, whether good or bad." Establishes the omniscient nature of God
Isaiah 1:16-17 "Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow."
Isaiah 2:4 "He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again."
Isaiah 5:1-6 "My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; Within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he waited for the crop of grapes, but it yielded rotten grapes. Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem, people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: What more could be done for my vineyard that I did not do? Why, when I waited for the crop of grapes, did it yield rotten grapes? Now, I will let you know what I am going to do to my vineyard: Take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled! Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed, but will be overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds not to rain upon it."
Matthew 24:42-51 You shall not know the day nor the hour
1 Corinthians 2:11 "Among human beings, who knows what pertains to a person except the spirit of the person that is within?"
1 Corinthians 4:5 "[D]o not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God."
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Paul lists a batch of "unjust" classes: Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, boy prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and robbers. There is a curious specificity to this: Female prostitutes, for instance, and slaveholders are absent from the list.
1 Corinthians 7:3-5 Paul essentially admonishes married couples to have lots of sex, because they would otherwise become tempted
1 Corinthians 11:5 "[A]ny woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had had her head shaved." Virtually no Christian churches continue to observe this very clear admonition; they can't be blamed for ignoring it, since it's obviously archaic. But it does seem hypocritical for some of them to insist that everything in the Bible is literally true and to cherry-pick the rules they believe continue to apply, but to exclude others like this one.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 "[W]omen should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church." This rule rings utterly hollow today
1 Corinthians 15:33 "Bad company corrupts good morals." Good advice
2 Corinthians 3:14 "[T]heir thoughts were rendered dull, for to this present day the same veil remains unlifted when they read the old covenant, because through Christ it is taken away." Undoubtedly used by some to support their argument that the Hebrew Testament of the Bible is overridden by the Christian Testament
2 Corinthians 5:10 "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil."
2 Corinthians 12:14 "Children ought not to save for their parents, but parents for their children."
Jude 2 "[M]ay mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance" What a pleasant greeting