Silly Laws Attributed to God

Silly Laws Attributed to God
by Dave E. Matson

A sure reason for rejecting the Bible as "God's inerrant word" is on account of the silly laws it contains, laws that God supposedly made for his people. Silly laws are one of the clearest signs of a manmade work.

One may quibble endlessly over whether a law is really silly, just as one may quibble over what constitutes a contradiction. It may be that absolute certainty (and agreement) can only be had in some abstract area such as mathematics.

A branch of mathematics is a self-contained, logically deductive system built on various axioms. Such axioms are "givens" in that they are accepted as starting points. It is meaningless to speak of axioms as being true or false just as it is meaningless to speak of a knight's move in chess as being true or false. If you play chess, the knight moves a certain way and that's that. If you use Euclidian geometry, two points define a straight line, and that's that. Thus, the absolute truth of a mathematical claim can often be worked out via deductive logic.

The axioms define an abstract system even as the rules for chess define chess. However, when we try to understand truth in the world of atoms and energy, we begin with the truth (facts) of that world. We work backward to grasp the great principles (axioms) that govern the real world. Deductive logic is of little help in that situation. We can only look at the basic facts and propose a model to explain them. Unfortunately, an infinite number of possible models can explain any set of observable facts. Thus, the real task is to find the most likely, the most convincing models. In principle, certainty is lost, but we can be very nearly certain. The success of the sciences show that we can expand our knowledge without being 100% certain. Thus, only in terms of probabilities do we reach for truth in the world of atoms and energy. The thought may unnerve some people, but if you stop to think about it, everything we have learned about our physical world is based on some uncertainty, however small. We just haven't given it much thought, because in our practical, workaday world there is no real difference between being nearly certain and being 100% certain.

The working brain is not interested in whether a claim can be defended, since every claim about the physical world can be defended at some level of improbability. Rather, it attempts to make an unbiased, educated judgment as to the likelihood of that claim. If the silliness of a law surpasses any reasonable defense, the working brain does not hesitate to call it a silly law. Exotic, improbable defenses do not interest the working brain, which understands that there will always be loopholes to even the best cases. As indicated above, one must seek arguments that are probable and not just possible. "Possible" is a fisherman who goes after a fish with a spoon; "probable" is a fisherman who uses a good rod and reel, or maybe a net. Whom are you going to depend on for dinner?

With the above understanding, I will now point out a few of the silly laws that may be found in the Bible. That many of these laws belong to the Old Testament in no way excuses the Bible, for they are still laws supposedly laid down by God for humanity.

1. God's Test for a Wife's Fidelity

Here is how biblical law handles the case where a man suspects that his wife has been unfaithful. The full account may be read in Numbers 5:11-30.

The husband brings his wife (and an offering of barley) to the priest, who has the woman stand in front of the altar. He pours some holy water into a bowl and takes some of the dirt from the floor of the Tent of the Lord's presence and mixes it in with the water. Then he loosens the woman's hair and puts the barley flour in her hands while he holds the bowl of bitter water that has the power to curse. The woman recites an oath attesting to her innocence. This same oath (containing a curse) is written down by the priest who washes the ink into the bowl of bitter water. The priest then takes the barley flour from the woman's hands and dedicates it to the Lord, burning a small portion on the altar. The poor woman then gets to drink the water with the ink and dirt in it. If she is guilty, the water will cause bitter pain, her genital organs will shrink away, and her stomach will bloat out! She will become barren.

Honestly now, is this the kind of law an enlightened being might dream up? Is there anything about it that does not reek of primitive society and superstition? I've heard of "tests" from the depths of Africa that sound more intelligent! (One such test, for minor matters as even the natives didn't consider it foolproof, involved a medicine man who ceremoniously placed a straw into a termite nest. After a time it was withdrawn. If it was eaten on by the termites, that meant, I think, the suspect was guilty.)

This fidelity law may have been good psychology, designed to scare the be-jesus out of a guilty, superstitious woman, who might then confess, but it can hardly be considered a civilized law, let alone a law that God might have created. The law has "primitive" written all over it. The working brain immediately recognizes the silliness of such a law that depends on magic water and curses.

2. God's Ignorance Concerning Leprosy

Leviticus 13:47-59 and 14:1-57 discuss various forms of physical corruption (read leprosy) and what to do about it. Mold on clothing or on leather goods, moldy growths or algae in or on the walls of houses, and certain forms of skin diseases were all regarded as manifestations of that dreaded disease, leprosy! (The same Hebrew word applies to all despite the tendency of modern translations to use such words as "mold" or "mildew" in the cases of leather goods and houses.)

Thus, the Bible shows its profound ignorance of leprosy by treating these cases as though they were different forms of that dreaded disease! Might not that greenish growth in the wall of your house or on poorly stored clothing and leather goods be just another manifestation of that dreaded skin disease? Some of the "inspired" authors of the Bible thought so! Consequently, such matters are treated as extremely important; extreme remedies are required by God's law.

I would think that if God created mold and leprosy he should know the difference between them. Since the Bible doesn't, it is plain to see that it is not God's word. If there ever was an account of a people terrorized by a lack of modern knowledge, it is to be found here in Leviticus 13 and 14. They have no idea as to what leprosy is or where it comes from. They are terrified by mold on their clothing or in their houses, which they view as another form of that dreaded skin disease.

The final proof of the above is evident in the way they handled each of these cases. Let's see for ourselves how God's law handles these cases.

In the case of clothing or leather goods, if the growth is greenish or reddish it must be shown to the priest. The priest examines it and then puts the object away for seven days. On the seventh day, if the mold is still growing, the object must be burned. If the growth appeared to have stopped, the object was put away for another seven days. It is then examined again by the priest. If there is further growth, or even if the original growth retained its color, the object must be burned.

As for houses, the Lord gave Moses and Aaron the following regulations. Anyone who discovered leprosy (mold or algae) growing in their house must tell the priest about it. The priest then ordered everything to be moved out of that house before he inspected the growth. If he found greenish or reddish spots that appeared to be eating into the wall, the priest must lock the house up for (you guessed it) seven days.

On the seventh day the priest examined the spot again, and if the growth has spread he ordered that portion of the wall (the affected stones) to be dug out and discarded in a dump for unclean things. He also ordered the plaster on the interior walls to be scrapped. New stones are then supplied and the walls covered with fresh plaster. If that didn't work, the house must be torn down and its materials hauled to a dumping ground for unclean things.

If the house appeared to have recovered from the dreaded skin disease, the priest performed the purification ritual:

To purify the house, he shall take two birds, some cedar wood, a red cord, and a sprig of hyssop. He shall kill one of the birds over a clay bowl containing fresh spring water. Then he shall take the cedar wood, the hyssop, the red cord, and the live bird and shall dip them in the blood of the bird that was killed and in the fresh water. And he shall sprinkle the house seven times.
(Leviticus 14:49-51, Today's English Version)

The remaining bird is released, to fly away outside the city. This is supposed to be God's law. Have you ever heard of anything so perfectly absurd? The most bizarre incantations and ceremonies of Africa's witch doctors must surly compare favorably. That's a lot of ceremony just to deal with a little mold!

The same, silly ritual (and more) was performed for someone who appeared to be healed of the dreaded skin disease. How would you feel if your city had such a law on its books? Would we find you praising the law as so wonderful and deep that only God, Almighty, could have thought of it, or would you be thinking to yourself that the city council had gone bonkers?

The working brain can only laugh (groan?) at such silliness, which is clearly the work of primitive man. There is not a hint of modern knowledge, let alone divine knowledge, in any of this.

Do we really need to list more of these silly biblical laws? The above make it crystal clear that the Bible is the work of man.

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