Those Troubling Scriptures

Not a feel good book

In a previous hub,The Bible - Its Own Best Defense, I wrote "This business of knowing God is not a one-time introduction, but rather a lifetime of friendship...” I received the following from someone who identified herself as a “doubter”, my kind of person. “I already doubted, before fully acknowledging the fact that I was agnostic. Then, on reading more of the Bible ~ eg. the suffering of Job, the slaughter of the Amalekite babies, the rape of David's wives, etc, etc ~ I found myself disgusted and appalled by various horrific actions or commands credited to God, who was supposed to be our loving father-creator.” To these might be added the many times we read of curses being called down on people in the imprecatory psalms, as they are called. Note Psalms 35 and 109.

Very troubling passages, indeed, to any with a caring heart and an inquiring mind. We’d like to have final definitive answers. We demand them. I have. But Bible study needs to be approached with the humble awareness that we are listening to God’s heart. Stay with me. That’s the very issue in question. How could it be God?

Awaiting their vaccinations
Awaiting their vaccinations

We can relate to this!

Not long ago a man stuck a needle in my three year old granddaughter’s arm and made her very unhappy. Her parents looked on, allowing the needle to pierce deep into the little girl’s flesh. How cruel! Except that you and I both understand that the man is a trained pediatrician and that the fluid injected into her arm prevents a horrible disease that may have killed the child. Parents routinely allow their children to be “hurt” by men they choose to trust.

I work for the largest home improvement retailer in the world. It has almost 2000 stores and many more thousands of employees. I’m one of three Bay Integrity Associates at our store. My job is to scan “outs”, places were there are price tags but no product. I also verify counts and change price labels. Fifty years ago I did the same thing for a grocery store. They called me a stock boy then. Anyway, there are times when I’m asked to do things that don’t make any sense to me at all, like change labels that I’d just changed a few days earlier, or count an item for the umpteenth time. Yes, sometimes I cop an attitude. “These folks don’t know what they’re doing!” Except that I don’t know what the people at corporate know. I have a choice. Stew in my angry juices or let it go to concentrate on that part of the Home Depot universe I’m responsible for.

Two stories; one point. Perspective makes all the difference in the world. Those passages in Scripture offend us because we don’t share God’s perspective. While I’d like to have more specific answers, I acknowledge that God knows a bit more than I. But, again why should I believe that there is such a God to trust?

Why should I believe there's a trustworthy God?

Allow we one more illustration. I know little about how my automobile works or how my air conditioner works or how my eyes work. But I’ve found a mechanic that has won my trust; a home climate control company whose technicians I love; and an optometrist I’d commend to anyone. Is there anyone out there that would fulfill the role of an expert regarding my many godquestions? Would someone who claimed to be equal with God, who did and spoke only what he received from the Father and who died but then rose to life on the third day be a reliable witness to God?

Jesus accepted the Old Testament as the Word of God. He quotes it often and defines himself by it. He even mentions God’s raining down fire on Sodom, Matthew 11:23,24. Even if you don’t buy that Jesus is God in the flesh, people the world over regard him as an upright man worthy of our respect. His resurrection sealed it for me. Frank Morison’s Who Moved the Stone? shows to my satisfaction that Jesus died and rose just as it’s reported in the gospels.

I know I’ve offered no specific answers. But I have given data that warrants a sympathetic and humble reading of the Bible. What’s needed is a perspective change. Without that, every answer can be countered with another question. That adjustment comes in the context of a loving relationship, not intellectual data.

Interesting how God respects and cares for us more than we do for ourselves. We say that we’d be satisfied with a few answers. But He knows that won’t work. He did what it takes to win our love and trust. Jesus, God in the flesh, hung on a cross, accepting upon himself the just consequences of my rebellion. That's the horrific event that blows me away. That the Father should hand his Son, the "exact imprint of his nature" (Hebrews 1:3), over to sinful men to be killed on my behalf, is an act of divine love that melts every objection to his ways that I might raise. Thus, his justice and holiness are respected and his boundless love extended. What a plan!

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Comments - I'm listening. 10 comments

liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 4 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Wakerra, thanks for stopping by. Interesting stories consistent with the thrust of the Scriptures on this matter. Appreciate learning of the Mormon perspective on suffering.


Wakerra profile image

Wakerra 4 years ago

"While I’d like to have more specific answers, I’ve got to acknowledge that God knows a bit more than I. " I might have an answer for you, as I too, with the rest of the world, have wondered how so many cruel things can happen to people. This might add a little to that Godly perspective you seek:

"And they brought their wives and children together, and whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they caused that they should be cast into the fire; and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also, that they might be burned and destroyed by fire.

And it came to pass that they took Alma and Amulek, and carried them forth to the place of martyrdom, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire.

And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.

But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day." - Alma 14: 8-11


Wakerra profile image

Wakerra 4 years ago

Its true. We are often hurt by the things that will help us grow. This hub reminds me of the Currant Bush story from "I am the Gardener". A little currant bush was pruned and appeared to be crying. It asked the gardener why it had cut it down when it was making such wonderful progress? The gardener explained he knew what was best for it, and one day the bush would say "Thank you for loving me enough to hurt me"


Artin2010 profile image

Artin2010 4 years ago from Northwestern Florida, Gulfcoast

If we as yearning Christians would just bypass the Old Testament, dig in on the Ministry of Jesus, digest all of what Peter, Paul and St.John are saying, I mean really digest it and then go back to the Old writings of the Bible we would do better. It's kind of like life, we should be born very old with everything we need and as we get young we lighten up the load until we are ready to transition to the realm of spirit life. Enjoyed reading this and the comments. Thank you, Blessings, Art


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Thanks liftandsoar :)

That's really appreciated :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Trish, thanks for the data on David's wives. In future hubs I hope to address each of the incidents that you have mentioned. I don't want you to think that the change in perspective I encouraged in this hub gets me off the hook for addressing the specifics.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi liftandsoar :)

Regarding David's wives, the verses I refer to are: 2 Samuel 11-12, There are various translations. Here are some of them ...

King James Version:

11Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.

*

New International Version 1984:

11 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

*

Today's New International Version:

11 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

*

American Standard Version:

11 Thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house; and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.

*

Good News Translation:

11 I swear to you that I will cause someone from your own family to bring trouble on you. You will see it when I take your wives from you and give them to another man; and he will have intercourse with them in broad daylight.12 You sinned in secret, but I will make this happen in broad daylight for all Israel to see.

*

New Living Translation:

11 “This is what the Lord says: Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes, and he will go to bed with them in public view. 12 You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.”

*

I don't think that the word 'rape' was used in the Bible, but that is what is implied and usually understood by what was happening. The women would have had no choice in the matter and would have been publicly violated and humiliated.

This site ~ I think that it is a Christian site ~ is just one of those, which acknowledges that the women were violated:

'David’s wives would be taken from him and violated publicly.'

http://www.growingchristians.org/rfgc/2samuel/2sam...


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Thanks, Trish. Would that all of us were as "disgusted" with evil and suffering wherever it occurs as you are. Allow me a few off the cuff comments. I'll have more later.

If I were writing a document by which to commend myself to others, I'm sure I would hilight everything that makes me look good and downplay or ignore data that might be offensive to my readers. God does not.

In Genesis 15:16 we read that God delayed the entry of his people into Canaan for four generations because the "iniquity of the Amorites" was not complete. We're not told what that iniquity was, but certainly it included routine child sacrifice to their gods. One of my curious questions that God has chosen not to answer is, "why the delay?" I suspect that He'd communicated his displeasure on some way to the Canaanites and was waiting for their change of behavior.

I certainly agree that there's no comparison between an inoculation and the horrific incidents that disgust you. My point was only to show that perspective changes our judgments on the merits of an incident.

Can you give me the Scripture reference on the rape of David's wives. Can't find that one.

Once again, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to answer your questions on this to your satisfaction. The answers you've been given strike me as speculative. I'm not willing to speculate. I'd rather say, "I just don't know."


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hello Liftandsoar :)

Thanks for responding to my comment.

There was an important bit that you left out, though.

Admittedly, it is not exactly relevant to the 'evils' I perceive in the Bible, but it is relevant to your hope that Christian Bible readers will be 'joining his mission to gather a vast number of folks'.

As I asked; 'How does the Bible improve any possible relationship with God, or make readers want to worship him, or amass followers for him', when it describes God in such a negative and unpleasant manner?

You give some ideas as to how people should approach the Bible, but what about those who have already approached it, with positive intent, but who have been totally put off Christianity, because of 'those troubling scriptures'?

As I noted, before, 'surely [God] does not behave like this ~ and the Bible is actually doing 'him' a great disservice?'.

Allowing, for now, for the existence of God, it may not be that God is working in his own mysterious way, but that these ancient stories are folk tales, based on what a tribe believed, rather than actually being factual.

I have heard 'explanations' for God's slaughter of Amalekite suckling babies. These include: they would grow up to be bad people; they would suffer and die alone, anyway, because their parents had been killed, so killing them was better.

I do not accept this. Genocide is an accepted evil crime.

What about the rape of David's wives, in public, in broad daylight? Why should women have to suffer because of their husband's crime, and why such enormous misogynistic humiliation for them?

This cannot be equated with giving a child painful treatment that might save his life.

These passages are far worse than 'troubling' ~ they are disgusting, distressing and, in any civilised society, would be classed as immoral, illegal and downright evil.

Christians are entitled to their views and beliefs ~ and I respect them ~ but this sort of Bible content has to be looked at really closely.

Christians have to ask themselves why they condone horrific behaviour, when it is attributed to God ~ behaviour that they would condemn very strongly, if it were attributed to any modern leader.


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 5 years ago from upstate, NY

God's truth is often found in paradox. Scriptures that seeming contradict each other make sense it light of our personal knowledge of God. We can't know God in our natural mind using human intellect and reasoning. The bible says in 1 cor 2:14 "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." We can only truely know God if He reveals Himself to us by revelation.

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