Rotten Cherries: Bible Magic

 

One of the unpleasant discoveries in store for intrepid theists who actually read the Bible cover-to-cover, is that the Bible is loaded with questionable magic ceremonies and spells. For example, here’s how God commands a priest create a magic potion to make a woman have an abortion and become infertile, if her husband suspects her of infidelity:

 

“If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife…”

‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”

“‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”

‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her. The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children. — Numbers 5:12-28

I hope that most readers can recognize that this kind of shamanic voodoo is more likely the product of primitive minds alone than of a truly all-knowing, all-powerful, benevolent god.

Here’s another one, for lepers:

“…the priest shall command them to take … two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop. And … kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water… take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water… sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field… And on the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil … And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering… The priest shall take some of the blood.. and… put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the Lord. And some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed…” — Leviticus 14:1-32

And so forth. It goes on like that, as you will see if you click the link.

I should note here that apologists are quick to defend this passage by pointing out that it is not supposed to be a magic spell to cure leprosy, as it might appear. Heavens, no. Rather, it’s God’s instructions for how to spiritually cleanse a recovered leper — as though that makes it any less preposterous.

Scarlet yarn… sprinkling people seven times with live birds dipped in blood … dabbing people’s big toes and earlobes with oil… Can any theist read the passage above and affirm, “My Lord commanded that,” with a straight face? A God who would create such systems for people to interact with Him would be too inane to deserve your worship, even if He did exist. If you believe the Bible is the inerrant, inspired word of God, then you owe it to yourself to read through the entire Bible and see what it actually says. You’ll be amazed … and not in a positive way.

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