the Bible

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Ghosts, witches, and giants—it's all in there.

The Bible is usually considered a boring book full of commandments about what you shouldn’t do—all the fun things, like getting drunk on wine, coveting your neighbor’s oxen or dropping the Ark of the Covenant in mud.

But the Bible actually holds many fascinating stories about ghosts, witches, giants, and impalings by tent peg. Here are 10 of the craziest Bible verses you have to read.

1) 1 Samuel 28:7 

“Then Saul told his officers, ‘Find me a woman who can talk to the spirits of the dead. I’ll go to her and find out what’s going to happen.’”

In this chapter, King Saul is without his prophet Samuel and is about to go into a big battle. He’s scared and wants guidance, so he asks his men to find a witch to conjure up the ghost of Samuel. Saul had previously tried to kill off everyone who spoke to the dead, so he goes to the witch in disguise. When she brings Samuel up, he looks at Saul and says, “Why are you bothering me like this?" The ghost chat is successful, although most churches take a “Do not try this at home” approach to this particular chapter of the Bible.

Before the Deluge by Cornelius van Haarlem

Before the Deluge by Cornelius van Haarlem Photo via Wikimedia Commons

2) Genesis 6:4 

“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”

In some translations of the Bible, the word “giant” is used instead of Nephilim. The Nephilim are believed to be a cross between humans and angels—the half-breed children of the sons of God and the daughters of men. Some denominations believe this literally, viewing them as fallen angels, and other more conservative Christians interpret the Nephilim as a metaphor for marrying outside the faith. The verse comes at a point in the Bible when the author of Genesis is describing how evil the Earth is and why God wanted to bring about a big flood. This famous verse is also the inspiration for the title of O.E Rølvaag’s classic novel, Giants in the Earth.  

3) Proverbs 31:6 

“Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish!”

Well, I think that is pretty self-explanatory. Pass the wine.

4) John 21:25 

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

This verse comes toward the end of the gospel of John, which recounts the story of the life of Jesus. If taken literally, the verse rips a hole in the idea of the inerrancy of the Bible. In his short story “The Jesus Stories,” Kevin Brockmeier uses this verse as the catalyst to imagine a land where every person writes a story about Jesus desperately hoping that if they can write them all down, Jesus will return to Earth.

Jael and Sisera by Domenico Guidobono

Jael and Sisera by Domenico Guidobono Photo via Wikimedia Commons

5) Judges 4:21 

“But Jael, Heber's wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.”

In the book of Judges, the kingdom of Israel is being ruled by elected judges. During the time of this story, the judge is Deborah, who, under orders from God, starts a war with the Caananites. The leader of the Caananite army is a man named Sisera, and during the battle, he runs away. Sisera tries to take cover in a tent owned by Herber, who was friendly with the Caananites. But Herber’s wife, Jael, has a mind of her own, and she murders Sisera by driving a tent peg through his head.

6) Judges 3:22 

“Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.”

Immediately after the tent peg story, the book of Judges gives us another graphic death. Ehud, another Israelite judge, goes to the King of the Moabites to pay annual tribute. Instead, he approaches the king while he is bathing and pulls out a dagger from his right side and stabs the king, causing the literal shit to flow and the dagger to disappear in the folds of the king’s skin. Biblical commentary argues that Ehud was able to hide his dagger because he was left-handed, which was so rare the guards wouldn’t have bothered to check his right side.

7) 2 Kings 2:23-24 

“From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’ they said. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’ He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.”

Elisha is a prophet of God—and apparently not a man you want to mess with. When some boys call him bald, he curses them and two bears come and maul 42 of them. This seems a little excessive, but I can think of a bald man or two to whom this would seem perfectly reasonable.

8) Joshua 10:12-14 

“On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: 'Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.' So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar.”

Joshua, another leader of the Israelites, was leading a long battle against their enemies the Amorites. He asks the sun to stop moving so he can buy some extra time in the battle. According the the Bible, the sun stood still until the Israelites were avenged. A lot of Biblical commentary writes this section off as hyperbole, while others argue that it happened, because Joshua seems to make a scientifically correct request (the sun doesn’t move, after all; the Earth does). And many other cultures also have legends of the longest day that echo this story.

Lot's Daughters by Giovanni Battista Lama

Lot's Daughters by Giovanni Battista Lama Photo via Wikimedia Commons

9) Genesis 19: 31-32 

“One day the older daughter said to the younger, ‘Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.’”

Lot is the nephew of Abraham and kind of a screwup, Biblically speaking. He offers his daughters up to get gangraped by strangers, his town is destroyed, his wife turns to a pillar of salt, and finally, his daughters get him drunk, sleep with him, and bear his children.

10) Exodus 4:24–26 

“At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. ‘Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,’ she said. So the Lord let him alone.”

Zipporah is Moses’ wife, and Moses is the guy who told Pharaoh to “Let my people go,” triggering an onslaught of plagues. In this chapter, Moses decides to go back to Egypt and on his way back he stops at an inn. Apparently, God tries to kill Moses, but Zipporah stops him by circumcising her son with a sharp rock (ouch!) and throwing it at the feet of Moses, calling him a bloody bridegroom. This verse and its manifold mysteries are a well of contention among Biblical scholars. You can read a summary of them on Wikipedia, but the tl;dr version is this: No one knows.

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