Spooky Tales from the Bible: The Necromancer of Endor

The ghost of Caesar hath appear’d to me
Two several times by night: at Sardis, once;
And, this last night, here in Philippi fields.
I know, my hour is come.
(William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, act 5, scene 5)

It’s several days late, but one of my readers suggested a Halloween-themed article, so I decided to put the other one I was working on aside and take a look at the story of Saul and his visit to the so-called “Witch” of Endor in 1 Samuel 28 in order to summon the spirit of the prophet Samuel from the grave. There is no other story in the Bible like it, and the text poses one or two enigmas that scholars fail to agree on. Let’s take a look. Continue reading “Spooky Tales from the Bible: The Necromancer of Endor”

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Moses and the Amazing Technicolor Water Fountain

Anyone who has been to Sunday school is familiar with the stories of the Wilderness wanderings — how the Israelites were made to spend forty years wandering in the parched desert between Egypt and Palestine after their escape from Pharaoh, forbidden to enter the lush and bountiful lands of Canaan. In one often-told story found in Exodus 16, the Israelites find themselves going hungry and yearning for their days in Egypt when they could eat their fill of meat and bread. God hears their complaints and promises the Israelites he will provide them their fill of meat in the evening and bread in the morning. Sure enough, from that point on, the camp is overrun with quail every evening, and in the morning, the dew deposits flaky “bread” — manna — for the people to gather and eat. Exodus 16:35 reads:

 The sons of Israel ate manna for forty years, up to the time they reached inhabited country: they ate manna up to the time they reached the frontier of the land of Canaan. (JB)

In an alternate version of the story found in Numbers 11, we read that the Israelites are given just manna at first, but that they soon tire of it, and complain that they want some meat. That really rustles God’s jimmies, so he decides that not only will they get their meat, he’ll make them eat it till they get sick of it. And so it happens, that a stiff wind blows in so much quail (“from the sea”), the ground around the camp is covered with them two cubits deep! (It’s just like “The Trouble with Tribbles”, but set in Bible times.) And then, for good measure, God strikes the Israelites with a plague while they are still eating the quail, killing a whole bunch of them. (Why don’t I remember that part from Sunday school?)

Tribbles

Imagine this, but with quails.

Of course, the people needed water too. In Exodus 17, immediately following the quail-and-manna story, we find the Israelites in the Wilderness of Sin without any water. (However, they do have livestock. Why didn’t they eat that while they were complaining about having no meat? But I digress…) God commands Moses to strike a rock, and when he does, it produces a spring of water. Incidentally, this account is etiological in purpose, as it is used to explain how a place called Massah or Meribah¹ got its name.

Continue reading “Moses and the Amazing Technicolor Water Fountain”

Introductory Post

After several years of delving into higher criticism and biblical studies, I constantly find myself drawn to the stranger aspects of the Bible. Its weird traditions and cultural depictions, its foreign viewpoints, and its curious contradictions. I plan to use this blog to discuss some of these passages in detail, just to show people how interesting the Bible can be once you actually see what it says. It is my hope that both lay readers and scholars alike will find this site worthwhile and make useful contributions whenever my own ignorance becomes too apparent.

From time to time, I may also post book reviews and original research. Books donated by publishers for review purposes will be gladly accepted.