How long has THAT been there?
They might not come up in Sunday school, but they’re in there.
You’ve probably heard of Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark, and of course Jesus. But the Bible is a big book, and there’s lot more in there than just those popular stories. There’s also magic fish, giants, and a prophet who was apparently really sensitive about being bald.
But then again, the Bible is the inspired Word of the almighty and ineffable God, so maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised that things seem a bit strange at times.
Here are 7 of the weirdest stories from Scripture:
1) Giants and angel-human crossbreeds?
If you’ve seen the recent movie Noah starring Russell Crowe, you might have been confused by the giant rock monsters. While there was a lot about those characters that was made up for the movie, they weren’t entire without a basis in Scripture:
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. (Genesis 6.1-4)
If you’re wondering what’s going on here, join the club. Who are the “sons of God” and who are the “daughters of men”? Are the “sons of God” angels, making their children angel-human crossbreeds? Or are they descendants of the righteous son of Adam and Eve, Seth?
The word Nephilim means “giants” – who are they? Are they the children of the “sons of God” and the “daughter of men,” or something else? And who are the “mighty men…of old, the men of renown”? Are they the people who inspired ancient myths found in other cultures (e.g. ancient Greek myths)?
2) Money doesn’t grow on trees, but it can be found in fishes’ mouths
If anyone doesn’t think God has a sense of humor, just show them this passage.
Various leaders and officials were always trying to trip Jesus up. When some tax-collectors checked to see if Jesus and his disciples had been paying a certain tax, Jesus told his disciples that he was of course exempt (being God and all), but that to avoid offense, they would pay anyway. But then Jesus tells Simon Peter where to get the money:
“[N]ot to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” (Matthew 17.27)
Whaaa? Jesus could have just snapped his fingers and made the money appear. But I guess he likes to keep things interesting.
3) Make fun of a prophet’s bald head, get mauled to death by a bear
Here’s a great story for scaring young people into showing respect for their elders.
[The prophet Elisha] went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria. (2 Kings 2.23-25)
Yeah, you don’t want to mess with God’s prophets.
4) A prophet gets into an argument with a donkey – and loses
Ever wondered what your pet was staring at or running away from? It might be an angel.
The prophet Balaam was riding on his donkey when the donkey suddenly turned off the road into a field. After hitting the donkey to get back to the road, the donkey started pushing Balaam’s leg up against a wall. After hitting his donkey again to move, the donkey just laid down. So Balaam, angry that his donkey wasn’t cooperating, struck it again. The Bible tells us what happened next:
Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” (Numbers 22.28-29)
Apparently Balaam is too angry to realize that his donkey is talking to him.
And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.” (Numbers 22.30)
Amazingly, the donkey wins the argument!
Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.” (Numbers 22.31-33)
So the next time your pet isn’t cooperating, he might just trying to save you from being killed by an angel of death.
5) An enemy with so much fat, the hero loses his sword in it
It’s a recurring pattern in the history of ancient Israel: the Israelites are living comfortably, they turn away from God, God sends calamity on them to force them to turn back to God, and then God raises up a hero to save them once they return to the faith.
In this case, Eglon the king of Moab has taken over Israel, and God has raised up the hero Ehud, whom the Scriptures say was “a left-handed man.” (Judges 3.15) After helping to deliver a tribute to King Eglon, who Scripture notes was a “very fat man,” (Judges 3.17) Ehud tells the king “I have a secret message for you, O king.” (Judges 3.19) So the king sends everyone else out of the room.
And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat. And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out. (Judges 3.20-22)
Needless to say, I don’t think Ehud got his sword back.
6) DIE, fig tree!
One of the surest signs that Jesus is the Son of God is that he did strange things. For example:
In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. (Matthew 21.18-19)
Remember this story next time someone asks you “What would Jesus do?”
7) God tries to kill Moses, but his wife saves him with his son’s foreskin
Everyone knows the story: the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, God spoke to Moses in a burning bush, and then Moses asked Pharaoh to “let my people go.”
That’s all true, except for a short, 3-verse interlude that never seems to make it into the movies. After being commissioned by God from the burning bush, Moses is on his way back to Egypt when this suddenly happens:
At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. Then [Moses’ wife] Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision. (Exodus 4.24-26)
There’s no immediate context or explanation as to why God is suddenly trying to kill Moses, why Zipporah thinks to circumcise their son to save Moses, or why touching the child’s foreskin to Moses’ feet assuages God intent to kill Moses.
But it all worked out (close call!), Moses was able to continue on with his mission, and the rest is history.