Hang on a Minute; what happened to the God of the Jews?

Another snippet from The Bible Delusion.


God Goes Dark.

Where did the Israelite God go? The final books of the Old Testament all start with each prophet declaring that God spoke directly to him:

Zephaniah 1:1. “The word of the Lord which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi…”

Haggai 1:1. “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet…”

       Zechariah 1:1. In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, The Lord hath been sore displeased with your fathers.” As ever, God is still very unhappy; there is nothing new here.

       Malachi 1:1. “The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.”

Incidentally, Malachi’s message is to the priests. “And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces…” (2-3).

Can you imagine a real God actually saying that if they won’t give glory to him, he will spread dung on their faces? Think about it – very carefully. The measure of this God has been well established throughout the OT. He has never said or done anything actually nice. I really had hoped there would at least be something of merit – but no, there is absolutely nothing.

After thirty-nine books, covering thousands of years, suddenly and without warning, God goes dark. We hear no more from him at all after 397 BCE.

A number of the High Priests at Jerusalem are known. For example, John (373 BCE); Onias (321 BCE); Simon (217 BCE); Jason (175 BCE); Hyrcanus (136 BCE); yet God didn’t say anything to any of them – or anyone else for that matter. The next we hear about God is from followers of Jesus, who wrote about him and God long after Jesus lived – not one of whom ever knew or even met Jesus.

After thousands of years of berating the Israelites with constant threats and recriminations, often killing thousands of them off and constantly sending them into captivity, in 397 BCE their God seemed to forget the Jews and leave them to their own devices. God went dark and he hasn’t spoken to the Jews since.

What happened to the God of the Jews?



Another ‘hang on a minute’ (HOAM) moment from The Bible Delusion


Get it Wrong – and You Die.

In Leviticus 10, two of Aaron’s sons get things very wrong indeed; so much for all the chapters on ‘training’ God had given them. Nadab and Abihu take their ‘censers’ (pots, into which live coals from the sacred fire were placed, and on which incense was thrown to make a cloud of fragrant smoke once they had been taken inside the sanctuary), but unfortunately, they “offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not.” (10:1). God didn’t like that, so he murdered them. “And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” (10:2). What kind of God would do that?


The Bible Delusion


‘Hang On A Minute’ Moment 37

You Don’t Have to Go into Battle if…

The beginning of Deuteronomy 20 reads very much like one of my favourite Monty Python sketches, ‘Marching up and down the square’, where a Sergeant Major (Michael Palin), addresses his troops and excuses them from the parade ground in turn if they would rather be doing other things, such as being at home with the wife and kids, reading a book, or going to a movie; until there are none of them left. I wonder if this is where the Pythons got the idea from.

It starts off by saying not to be afraid if they see lots of horses and chariots and more people than they have, because God is with them. “For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” (v.4). So far, so good, I suppose. But then, when they are out there, ready to do battle, the officers are to first speak to the people. Instead of fighting, any man who has built a house but not yet dedicated it, can go home and do so, in case he should die in battle and another man dedicate it. Next, if any man has planted a vineyard and not yet eaten of it, he can go home, lest he die in battle and another man eat of it. Any man who is engaged, but not yet married, he can go home, lest he die in battle and another man take his betrothed. If anyone is too scared to fight, they can also go home, in case they would make others fainthearted. I wonder if there would be anyone left after that. And, why wait until they are out on the battlefield instead of addressing such issues beforehand? What nonsense is this?

The Bible Delusion


Appendix E

 The Mormon ‘Ezekiel 37’ Claim

 “The Book of Mormon and the Bible Support Each Other.”

“The LDS English edition of the King James Version of the Bible and the Book of Mormon have cross-references and study aids that make the stick of Judah (the Bible) and the stick of Joseph (the Book of Mormon) one in our hands (see Ezekiel 37:15–17; also 1 Nephi 13:34–41; 2 Nephi 3:12; 29:8). Give priority to Book of Mormon passages when you teach, but also show how the Book of Mormon and the Bible teach the same principles.” (Emphasis added) (‘Preach my Gospel: a Guide To Missionary Service’ – Mormon Missionary Lesson Manual. p.105. Available online).

Mormon missionaries are firmly instructed to “give priority to Book of Mormon passages when you teach.” The idea that the Book of Mormon and the Bible support each other is somewhat short lived in many ways when you discover that the Book of Mormon claims Jesus Christ was known in Old Testament times and all the prophets prayed to God in the name of Jesus. Naturally, the Bible does not support that idea, or indeed many other Mormon concepts, at all. Nevertheless, the Mormon Church continues to maintain each book supports the other. Members do not see through the many obvious contradictions.

Not least of the liberties taken with the Bible by the Mormon Church is the concept that the Bible is the ‘stick of Judah’ and the Book of Mormon is the ‘stick of Joseph’ in Ezekiel 37:15-17. Thus the Bible and Book of Mormon can be one in our hands. I just accepted this as a member and found great comfort in my ‘quad’ when the Church started to produce them. That is, a quadruple combination of all the ‘scriptures’, including the King James Bible, The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, all in one handy volume – ‘one in our hands’.

Let’s look at what Ezekiel says and what it really means.

Ezekiel 37:15. The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying,

  1. Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
  2. And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. (Emphasis added). (See also: NIV below).

The above is from the KJV which Joseph Smith had access to. He used the idea to justify the existence of the Book of Mormon in an 1830 Doctrine and Covenants revelation (D&C 27:5).

Only now do I begin to understand the real meaning of Ezekiel and what nonsense the Mormon claim is. Ezekiel was not speaking about books at all in the way the Mormon Church claims. It is actually quite clear when you read more of Chapter 37, even in the KJV, but as Mormons, we just don’t put it all together. Ironically, v. 18 actually asks what the previous verses really mean and then an explanation is provided. The truth is right there in black and white.

Ezekiel 37:18. And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?

  1. Say unto them, Thus saith the LordGod; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.
  2. And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.
  3. And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
  4. And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: (Emphasis added).

So, we see that rather than remotely speaking about two ‘books’ (one not published until 1830), it relates to two kingdoms being brought together under one king. So, what was the writing all about? A clearer translation gives a much better idea. The New International Version of the Bible helps with this:

New International Version (NIV). Ezekiel 37.

One Nation Under One King.

  1. The word of the Lord came to me:
  2. “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, ‘Ephraim’s stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him.’
  3. Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.
  4. “When your countrymen ask you, ‘Won’t you tell us what you mean by this?’
  5. say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph—which is in Ephraim’s hand—and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick, making them a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’
  6. Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on
  7. and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land.
  8. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms.

The Mormon Church would have it that the two ‘sticks’ were scrolls or books; one being the Bible and the other, the Book of Mormon. However, the scripture clearly states that it was Ezekiel who was to do the writing in both cases. (See emphasised text in KJV Ezekiel 37:15-17 on p. 337 above). He was also told exactly what to write on each stick and the above NIV translation tells it all really.

One stick of wood was to have written on it the words:

“For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions.”

The other stick of wood was to say:

“For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions.”

In each case, in the KJV of Ezekiel 37:16, the letter ‘F’ in the word ‘For’ is capitalised, signifying the start of what to actually write on each stick of wood. It is not an indication of what is to be written ‘for’, or on behalf of, the tribes in books, as is the Mormon claim.

There are forty writers and sixty-six scrolls forming the Bible, and many authors supposedly contributed to the Book of Mormon. It is Ezekiel who is to write on both sticks in Ezekiel 37. It is only the Mormon Church that disagrees.

The Mormon Church claims ‘stick’ means ‘scroll’ in Ezekiel. Never mind that the Book of Mormon was supposedly written on gold plates and not scrolls. In any event, Ezekiel clearly identifies that he knows the difference between a stick of wood and a scroll. In an entirely different context, Ezekiel writes:

Ezekiel 2:9. And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein;

From what I now understand, following some research, the Hebrew word translated as ‘stick’ in Ezekiel is pronounced ‘ets’. There are quite a variety of English words appearing in the Old Testament translated from ‘ets’, depending on the context. Alphabetically, these are: gallows, helve, plank, staff, stalk, stick, stock, timber, tree and wood. It is never translated as: book, roll, scroll, parchment or papyri, let alone metal plates of gold, brass or any other material.

The word stick did not mean ‘scroll’ in Ezekiel 37 as the Mormon Church claims. As a Mormon, a cursory glance at Ezekiel leaves one feeling warm and fuzzy due to the trust placed in church leaders; that the Lord has revealed the truth to them. In fact, it can bolster a testimony. Likewise, an investigator may be convinced by a Mormon missionary ‘explanation’ of Ezekiel 37, much in the same way that someone investigating Jehovah’s Witnesses may be influenced by their unconvincing ‘circle of the earth’ explanation. (See Appendix C).

However, an objective review of the real meaning, correct translation and explanation provides, once again, quite an opposite conclusion to the Mormon claim. If you read the whole book of Ezekiel, it is about God and his tortured relationship with Israel. Ezekiel 37 confirms how he would eventually bring them together – in that era; and it had nothing to do with books at all.

The Bible Delusion. Pp. 194-196.

Hang on a Minute (HOAM) Moment 99

God and His Father.

Revelation 1:6 is a curious verse. “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Does that not state that God has a father? Well, yes, it does, but – is it a correct translation of the intended message?

Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) confirms the KJV contains a translation error. It should read “and did make us kings and priests to his God and Father, to him [is] the glory and the power to the ages of the ages! Amen.” That’s more like it. Christians generally accept God as eternal – and certainly not in need of a father. The American Standard Version, the New English Bible, and several other versions of the Bible also follow the YLT correctly interpreted wording.

Hang on and consider this. Sometimes, a particular sect will jump on an obscure verse, and without any knowledge or understanding of the underlying facts, invent their own take on things. Jehovah’s Witness leaders have managed it; completely misunderstanding (or perhaps deliberately misconstruing?) the simplest of two dimensional geometric concepts, ‘circle’, making themselves look very foolish indeed. (See HOAM 53 and Appendix C for details).

This is another such instance and the charlatan who pounced on the idea of God having a dad was none other than the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith. Unfortunately for him, and subsequently for the Mormon Church today, Smith left a very telling and irrefutable trail of truth relating to his inconsistent use (or complete misuse) of Revelation 1:6 that unequivocally confirms him to have been a complete and utter fraud.

In Smith’s infamous King Follett sermon (at the funeral of a man of that name who was killed by a bucket of bricks falling on his head during a well construction) Smith starts on about plural Gods for the very first time in public. It was on 7 April 1844, a couple of months or so before Smith’s death. Several thousand people were there and following the disclosures in Smith’s talk, many Mormons left the fold as they considered it to be heresy. Considering what he came out with, that is perfectly understandable. Smith’s sermon was faithfully recorded in the Mormon ‘History of the Church’, Volume VI, Chapter 14.

Taking as his text Revelation 1:6, Smith starts off with a statement that shocked many of his followers: “God… is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. …He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth… and I will show it from the Bible.”

A recent Mormon prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, at least twice, publicly declared that he did not know they taught that and he didn’t know much about it. (See: San Francisco Chronicle, 13 Apr 1997:3/Z1 Don Lattin, religion editor; also Time Magazine, 4 Aug 1997).

Yet Hinckley knew Smith had declared “It is plain beyond disputation…” Smith quoted Revelation 1:6 directly from the KJV: “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Regarding the phrase, “God and His Father” Smith then declared “It is altogether correct in the translation.” This was because he wanted to propound his new concept that God had a father and there are many Gods, supporting his teaching that human men can also become Gods; something the Mormon Church is somewhat quieter about these days. However, when I was a member (1960-2003) that is exactly what we were taught. Even today, whatever the Church may claim, it is a fundamental doctrine still taught in Mormon temples.

However, Smith either forgot, or more likely he simply ignored, the fact that between eleven and fourteen years earlier he had produced an ‘Inspired Revision’ of the Bible, at which time he still held a singularly monotheistic view. When he had been ‘inspired’ to correct the Bible, he altered that very verse in order to clarify the tradition that God of course does not have a father. Yet here, in 1844, he completely ignored his own earlier ‘Inspired Revision’ and claimed the KJV was ‘altogether correct’ – just to suit his newly developed theology.

In Joseph Smith’s ‘Inspired Revision’ of the Bible, Revelation 1:6 reads “…and hath made us kings and priests unto God his Father. To him be glory and dominion, forever and ever. Amen.” This is broadly in line with Young’s Literal Translation and probably the only thing Smith actually ever got right – and that was a fluke!

If Smith’s claim that the KJV is “altogether correct in the translation” is accepted by the Church in order to justify their plural Gods theology; then they must also accept that he lied in his Inspired Revision, proving that it was not inspired after all. If his Inspired Revision was inspired, then he lied about plural Gods in 1844. Either way, he is caught in his duplicity and his lies – and that is the true mark of a false prophet. It is also something the Mormon Church can neither deny, nor remotely ever explain. So much for religion – and supposed ‘prophets’ who make things up as they go along.

The Bible Delusion. Pp. 81-83.

In March, I posted the story about Balaam’s talking donkey. What supposedly happened next is much less known and just as bizarre. This is the follow up story.

Hang On A Minute Moment 34

Seven Altars, Seven Oxen and Seven Rams – Times Three.

This HOAM moment simply begs to begin with: “If you believe this, you will believe anything.” It will soon become clear as to why. This is the story of Balaam; not the part you may be familiar with, where he has a conversation with his donkey (see Chapter 17, ‘God’s Talking Animals’); but what happened after Balaam continued on his journey. We are in Numbers 22-24.

Balak (king of the Moabites) had sent for Balaam in order to have him curse Israel. When Balaam finally showed up, Balak took Balaam “into the high places of Baal” (22:41), from where they could see the Israelites. Balaam instructed Balak to build seven altars and prepare seven oxen and seven rams for sacrifice. Presumably, the sacrifices were to be made to Baal. Balak was not of Israel and Balaam was there to curse the people of the very God he supposedly worshiped. Would Balak have offered sacrifices to Balaam’s God?

Equally, would Balaam sacrifice to Balak’s chosen deity? Sacrifices make no sense here, unless Balaam felt they were needed to get God to actually speak to him; in which case, would Balak really go along with such an idea? They both then offer a bullock and a ram on each altar, so who knows? Balaam tells Balak to stand by the burnt offerings while he goes off to talk to God. Whatever God shows him, he will relay to Balak.

Balaam duly meets with God in a “high place” and tells him all about the sacrifices (which God should already have been aware of – as he is God). The Lord “put a word in Balaam’s mouth” (v.5). Balaam goes back to Balak and all the princes of Moab who are patiently waiting for him. Balaam’s message from God is in v.8: “How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied?” Balaam realises he is dicing with death and appears to want to die at this point. Balak asks what Balaam has done to him; he had invited him to curse the Israelites and yet it appears he has blessed them. Balaam pleads that he is only relaying what God told him.

If you think this is an unbelievable story – there is more to come. Balak persuades Balaam to go with him to another high place (the top of Pisgah) to curse the Israelites from there. They build another seven altars and sacrifice a further seven bullocks and seven rams.

Once again, Balaam instructs Balak to wait by the burning offerings while he goes off to talk with God. Once again, God puts a word in Balaam’s mouth. Once again, Balak and all the princes are waiting to hear what Balaam has to say. Balaam has received a commandment to bless rather than curse Israel; which he has done; and there is nothing more he can do about it. He tries to explain, in effect, that they are the Lord’s chosen people and cannot be cursed.

Balak doesn’t seem to take any of it in. Perhaps he suffered from cognitive dissonance? Not that any of this is real. In the Bible, many stories have two, or even three, repeats of the same plotline. This one is no exception. Believe it or not, the Bible claims Balak made a third attempt to get Balaam to curse Israel; he was nothing if not persistent.

Off they go, to yet another high place (Peor); they build yet another seven altars and burn yet another seven bullocks and rams on Balaam’s instruction. During Balaam’s visit with God, this time there is a lengthy description of how wonderful Israel looks from the mountain and how God is with them. Balaam relays all this to Balak who is beside himself with anger. He complains that he had sent for Balaam to curse Israel and yet he has blessed them three times. He tells Balaam to go away.

Before he leaves, Balaam explains Israel will “smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth… Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly… Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever… the Kenite shall be wasted, until Asshur shall carry thee away captive… ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish for ever.” (24:16-24).

Believe it or not, after all that, “Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place: and Balak also went his way.” (v.25). You would have thought that Balak would have throttled Balaam rather than just let him go.

Still, in a bizarre twist of fate, when God later commands the Israelites go to war against the Midianites, they kill every single one of the men – and they also kill Balaam. “Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.” (Numbers 31:8). Balaam had apparently encouraged Israelite men to bed Midianite women and God was more than unhappy about that.

The Bible Delusion. Pp.266-267.

Let’s talk about donkeys – or rather, let one speak for itself…

Numbers 22 tells the story of Balaam chatting with an ass. As with a snake, the vocal system of an ass is not remotely capable of human speech and of course their brains are not capable of processing thoughts in the way humans do. The only advantage the ass has over a snake is that it can hear – which doesn’t actually help.

Balak, king of the Moabites, sent messengers to Balaam, asking him to come and curse Israel as he was afraid there were so many of them that he would be overrun. God “came unto Balaam” (v.8) and asked who the men were (as if God wouldn’t already know). God tells Balaam not to go with them – or to curse the Israelites. God is God – so what would it have mattered if Balaam had cursed Israel; it would have been of no effect whatsoever.

Balaam duly says he won’t go, so Balak sends princes to persuade him, but he still refuses, saying God won’t let him. Balak sends even ‘more honourable’ princes, who promise Balaam promotion to great honour. Balaam dutifully says they could promise him a house full of silver and gold but God still says he can’t go.

The messengers stay overnight; meanwhile God again comes to Balaam and now says he can go with the men after all (what had changed?) and God will tell him what to do. Next morning, off they go to Moab; Balaam on his ass.

Now, God’s anger is ‘kindled’ because Balaam went – yet God had said he could go – Balaam simply can’t win, and God is contradicting himself.

An angel of the Lord stands in the way. The ass sees the angel who has a drawn sword in his hand. Why can’t Balaam see the angel at this point? Isn’t it so human to imagine angels with swords? The ass turns into a field to avoid the angel and Balaam hits the ass to turn it back. Now the angel stands between two walls that they must pass through and the ass turns into a wall crushing Balaam’s foot, so he hits the ass again. Next, the angel stands in a ‘narrow place’ so there is nowhere to go, so the ass just falls to the ground. Balaam hits it with his staff. Notice, as is often the case, that there are three events here.

Now, God opens the mouth of the ass. God could have just spoken himself, like he did during the previous nights. He didn’t even need to send an angel. But God’s ever mysterious ways are being played out for the sake of a good fairy tale.

The ass asks Balaam what he has done to deserve being hit three times. (v.28). Now the ass can count! Balaam replies, because she mocked him and if he had a sword in his hand he would kill her. Balaam does not for a moment wonder why, let alone how, the ass can actually be speaking. He just has a conversation with her in which the ass says “Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee?” (v.30). Balaam says “Nay.” Then Balaam’s eyes are opened and he can see the angel (and the sword) and he falls flat on his face. Why God had let the ass see the angel previously, yet not let Balaam see him, is not explained.

It becomes even more comical when the angel asks Balaam why he had been hitting his ass, recounting all the events that had just taken place. Balaam admits he sinned and offers to go back, but the angel says he should go forward with the men. That was just what God had told Balaam to do the previous night only later to get angry about him going. God and his weird ways are making absolutely no sense whatsoever. The angel claims, had the ass not turned away, he would have slain Balaam – and saved the ass. What an utterly ridiculous statement.

It is a pointless story with no purpose and clearly just a fable. Balaam is told to go with the men, but only to say what God tells him. If that was to be the outcome, what need was there for an angel or talking donkey? There was never a reason for them at all.

The story pans out in a bizarre and unbelievable sequence of events which are so far beyond implausible that they leave you completely bemused – they are nonsensical and absolutely impossible, not to mention preposterous ideas. (See The Bible Delusion – Hang on a Minute Moment No.34 for details).