10 Bible Verses Almost Nobody Notices

Last week, I posted about 5 interesting, fun things about the Bible. You know how sometimes you’ll be reading the Bible and completely miss something really shocking or interesting? Next up in our semi-gnostic quest for secretive scriptural stuff: 10 Bible verses almost nobody notices. These are the verses (or short clusters of verses) people tend to gloss over when reading the Bible. They miss all the good stuff, but you won’t! Enjoy!

  1. Numbers 12:1, 10 – God’s not a fan of racism. Let’s take a look at what happened when Miriam and Aaron mouthed off to Moses. Numbers 12:1 tells us that they used Moses’s marriage as a pretext for attacking his authority. What was it they objected to about his marriage? He was married to a Cushite, that is, an Ethiopian. What you need to know about this story is that Ethiopians tend to be very dark-skinned. How did God punish Miriam? God came down to give everybody a talkin’-to, then He left: “The cloud also that was over the tabernacle departed: and behold Mariam appeared white as snow with a leprosy” (Numbers 12:10). It’s like God was saying, “Oh, you don’t like black, Miriam? Hey, is this white enough for ya?”
  2. Genesis 11:4 – Stealing the blessing. Noah’s son Shem was post-modern almost 5000 years before it was popular. An introduction to Noah’s family: “Here’s the cat. We call him Cat. Here’s the dog. We call him Dog. Here’s my eldest son. His name is Name.” Yep, that’s right. Shem means name. It does have significance, though: the builders of the Tower of Babel, descendents of Noah’s accursed son, Ham, were said to be making a name for themselves, a line which has been interpreted to mean that the Hammites were trying to steal the blessing Noah passed on to Shem.
  3. Genesis 29:16 – Meet Laban’s daughters, Cash and Commodity. In the ancient world, a huge part of the economic system was trade. What would you trade? All sorts of things, including livestock. What was probably less common was naming your kids after your valuable livestock. Laban named his daughters Leah (Cow) and Rachel (Ewe). Why? Let’s keep in mind this is the same guy who ran out to meet the matchmaker of his sister’s future husband after he saw that the man had given her gold jewelry (Genesis 24:30). It’s also the guy who cheated years of free labor out of his own son-in-law, Jacob. Laban was a greedy man and just couldn’t help naming his daughters after the thing he loved the most.
  4. 1 Samuel 6:5 – Golden hemorrhoids. Yep. Seriously. 1 Samuel 6:5 tells us that the Philistines, as reparation to God for taking the Ark of the Covenant, made golden replicas of hemorrhoids. It seems that they didn’t have an exact word for hemorrhoids in ancient languages. The Hebrew word translates as something like “heaping piles” while the Greek word translates as “sitting place.” St. Jerome’s translation – I’ll spare you, this is a family-friendly blog – makes it clear he’s talking about hemorrhoids. It gets better, the golden growths are meant to symbolize the plague the Philistines had been punished with. Ouch.
  5. 2 Kings 6:28-29 – Where’s Solomon when you need him? Remember that story about how wise King Solomon settled a dispute between two women over a baby? Over the years, things got pretty bad. A similar but darker story greets us during a siege in the time of Elisha the prophet. The King of Israel was walking by when he heard a call for help. Two women were arguing over a boy. Apparently, the siege was so bad and food so scarce that the women had agreed to boil their sons and eat them. After eating one, though, the mother of the other child had second thoughts. Talk about a twisted argument.
  6. Genesis 32:24 – Midnight wrestling match. So there he was, about to run into his estranged brother Esau, terrified enough to send his family away to safety, when Jacob “remained alone; and behold, a man wrestled with him till morning.” Wait, what?! In the middle of the story, out of nowhere, an angel wrestles with Jacob until dawn. As if he’s fighting a leprechaun, Jacob refuses to let go until he gets a blessing. It’s a strange scene, but ends with Jacob’s new identity, Israel, he who contends with God. Too bad Esau sold his birthright to Jacob; he coulda been a contender.
  7. Judges 6:11-12 – God’s sense of sarcasm. When Israel was being oppressed over and over again before they had a king, God used to call individuals to judge the nation. One of them was Gideon, the lowest member of the weakest family in the half-tribe of Manasseh. Gideon was a coward; Judges 6:11 tells us he was threshing wheat, far from the threshing floor being stomped by his oppressors, in his father’s winepress. You can just imagine him crouching down, hiding behind the vat walls, quietly going about his business in secret. Just then, an angel appears to him proclaiming, “The Lord is with you, O most valiant of men!” Who, me?!
  8. Numbers 22:28-30 – Dr. Dolittle talks to his … donkey. The enemies of Israel were freaked out when they came out of Egypt. One of them, Balak, tried to get a man named Balaam to curse the Israelites. When Balaam was on his way to meet Balak, an angel stopped him. What happened next is most surprising. Balaam didn’t notice the angel, but his donkey did. The animal avoided the angel a few times, so Balaam beat her. Then, out of nowhere, by the power of God, the donkey spoke asked why he kept striking her. More perplexingly, Balaam started reasoning with her.
  9. Exodus 4:24 – God plots to kill Moses. Hard to believe, I know, but when Moses was going back into Egypt from his exile in the desert, he wasn’t terribly excited about circumcising his son. For failing to keep the covenant, God was about to strike Moses down when his wife, Zipporah, did some quick thinking and carried out the task on her own with a flint knife. Poor kid must’ve been terrified.
  10. Acts 2:37 – A more painful kind of circumcision. Just after receiving the Holy Spirit, the apostles went out on Pentecost to preach the Gospel. Recounting to the Jews all that had happened to Jesus, he gave them a sense of compunction, so much so that they were “cut to the heart.” It wasn’t just their sorrow for sin, though. In Deuteronomy 30:6, Moses told the Israelites that after the blessing and the curse, God would restore them back to their old land and circumcise their hearts. Thank goodness it was spiritual.

17 Comments

  1. Tim Shaughnessy /

    #6 was always weird to me.

    I also like 1 Sam 6:12–”The cows went straight for the route to Beth-shemesh and continued along this road, mooing as they went.”

    For some reason, the fact that the Bible makes sure to note that the cows mooed all the way makes me laugh.

    • Jay Everett /

      I would not be so bold as to use modern language when I say what I think God mean’t when he wrote the Bible through others that he hand picked. May God forgive you…….

      • enness /

        And may He forgive that bit of fussbudgetry.

        “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.” – Charles Schulz

  2. Xander /

    I always enjoy God’s comment to Job, after sparing the Ninevites, they don’t know their left hands from their right. A real insult in that part of the world

    • You mean Jonah?

    • Actually, this is a reference to the children i.e. those who were “innocents” – and not to the intelligence level of the adults :) :) :)

      • Howard /

        Maybe. I always thought it referred not to their intelligence or to their age, but that it was a reference to the fact that the Law was not given to Assyria, but only to Israel. To a Jew, not knowing the Law would be like not knowing one hand from another.

      • William Wheatley /

        In that part of the world, it has been important since Biblical times to “know your left hand from your right.” By convention, people greet each other only with the right hand and eat only with the right hand, because the left is used to clean themselves after going to the bathroom. For someone to not know his right hand from his left is to be un-cultured, boorish, and “unclean.”

  3. I’ve noticed all these before. I attended a Fundamentalist school until 9th grade, and we really did pretty well cover the whole Bible, although the understanding was often faulty.

    The argument you make in point 1 is valid and often overlooked, but it is not as bulletproof as you imply. Aaron and Miriam were doing basically the same thing that Korah, Dathan, and Abiram had done: asserting the essential Protestant principle that I’m just as good as the hierarchy and so should not be subject to them. Who are they to get between us and God? Also, the text says, “And Mary and Aaron spoke against Moses, because of his wife the Ethiopian …”, not “because his wife was an Ethiopian”; their objection may have been racist, but it may have been nationalistic, or it may have been simply a clash of personalities that led to name-calling. (This may have been a different wife than Zipporah, who was a Midianite and not an Ethiopian, but I have also seen it suggested that “Ethiopian” may have been an exaggeration meant to insult her. In the movie “The Ten Commandments”, Nefretiri does much the same thing, pointing out that she had been sheltered from the elements and perfumed, but Zipporah had had to endure the elements and herd livestock.)

    That’s not to say that your conclusion that God hates racism is wrong; it’s just to say that this passage, standing alone, is not enough to establish the fact.

    • Doug /

      Right. Acts 10:34 does it for today’s Christians, though.

  4. Rich T /

    My favorites involve Jesus leaving Andrew out of the inner circle. Andrew is the broither of Peter and some may argue the first apostle. Why then does Jesus take Peter, John and James to Mt Tabor for the Transfigutation. Where’s Andrew?
    And for the scene with Jairus….where’s Andrew. And to pray with him after the Last Suppoer in the Garden of Gethsemane? He brings Peter, John and James….but not Andrew? WHY???

    • Why did God favor Jacob over Esau?

      One way or the other, the theme of “the last will be first” runs consistently through both Testaments.

  5. The late protestant minister, Dr. James Vernon McGee, had a hilarious comment about Numbers 22:28-30 (Balaam’s donkey talking to him): “In ancient times, God gave the jackass the power to speak. These days you can’t get the jackass to shut up.”

    • poetcomic1 /

      My favorite variation on this joke: “The love that ‘dare not speak its name’ has become the love that won’t shut up.”

  6. Marius /

    And the least known miracle of Jesus is almost certainly Matthew 17:27: “”But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” I am yet to see its pictorial representation anywhere…

  7. Lk 2:49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

    It’s good Joseph didn’t start doubting Mary again…

  8. Brad /

    Or the passage in which Jesus is walking on the water (Mk 6: 48-51): “He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw him, and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” And he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased.”

    Jesus was just out for a stroll in the storm and happened to pass the Apostles. Where would he have gone if they hadn’t cried out? To get new Apostles?

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