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Top 10 Fieriest Books in the Bible
The Bible causes fire wherever it is mentioned. It is clearly one of the most controversial books in modern times – though perhaps not so much for its content as the actions of some who interpret it. This list does not preach at all, but is simply a brief examination of the stories from the Bible that make it a well known and talked-about book in world literature. You do not need to believe in God in order to enjoy this list.
There is a lot of overlap in the first five Books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch or Torah. Much of what transpires in Exodus is repeated for good measure in #8. This is one of the most fun Books, and tells the life story of Moses, who sets God’s people free from hard bondage in Egypt. God seems to trample all over free will throughout the Book.
Here we get the legendary Ten Plagues of Egypt, and they are: blood, frogs, lice, flies, the death of all livestock save the Israelites’, boils and sores, hail, locusts, darkness and the death of all firstborn male Egyptian children. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart after each plague, which begs the question, how much punishment would he have stomached otherwise? Not until his own firstborn son dies does Pharaoh let the Israelites go.
God Himself leads them through the desert by day as a cloud, and by night as a pillar of fire for light. They reach Yam Suph, or Sea of Reeds, a marshy place where the water is not particularly deep, but where their livestock and carts cannot enter. God blocks the pursuing Egyptians from the Israelites by means of a cloud on the Egyptian side, and a pillar of fire on the Israelite side. Then he blows the water back all night and into the morning with a strong east wind, until the ground is dry dirt. The Israelites flee, “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them. And I will be honored upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.” This is a difficult place to pinpoint in the modern world. Most say it was somewhere along the modern-day Suez Canal. Others say it was at modern Nuweiba, on the Gulf of Aqaba. Wherever it was, Moses is clear on the water being deep enough to drown Pharaoh’s entire army, all the men and horses.
After this, the Israelites still don’t believe in God and anger him over and over, and every time, Moses saves everyone from annihilation by arguing with God (brave man). God even considers reneging on his Covenant with Abraham, by destroying all the Israelites and making of Moses a great nation of descendants. Moses implores God for forgiveness and to remember his Covenant, “and the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” Even so, at the end, God refuses to let Moses go into the Promised Land, for the offense of striking water from the rock twice, instead of once, as God commanded. Moses had been mad with power.
Daniel is by far the most difficult and bizarre Book of the Bible to translate. The first chapter is in Hebrew. The second through the seventh are in Aramaic, and the first chapters tell stories of Daniel, an exiled Jew in the court of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon (Iraq). Nebuchadnezzar has conquered Judea and sacked Jerusalem, exiling all the Jews. He keeps Daniel safe as an expert on the Hebrew God, sort of as entertainment for the court, but now and then, portents occur that frighten Nebuchadnezzar, whose name is no fun to type, who then enlists the help of resident guru Daniel, and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
One of the most famous of Daniel’s stories recounts how the king demands that Daniel’s three friends bow down and worship a 90 foot high gold idol. The three men refuse, explaining that this would infuriate their God, and they are afraid of him, not of Nebuchadnezzar. The king immediately has them thrown into a fiery furnace, heated seven times hotter than any other furnace in human history to that point. But when the king looks in, he does not see them burning. He sees four men walking around unharmed, “and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” This is considered by some to be one of the few appearances Jesus makes in the Old Testament.
Later, Daniel becomes the envy of all the other wisemen, who trick the king, Darius I, father of Xerxes who fought the Spartans at Thermopylae, into throwing Daniel into a den of lions, for the crime of praying to another God besides those of Babylon. God shuts the mouths of the lions that they are not hungry, and Daniel is saved.
These are all fun, creepy stories. And with Chapter 5, the Book becomes very strange and scarier: Belshazzar, the last king of Babylon, offends God by throwing a lavish party for thousands, during which everyone drinks from the holy cups stolen from Solomon’s Temple, in Jerusalem. An eerie, dismembered hand appears out of nowhere and writes Aramaic words on the wall in full view of everyone. No one can read them but Daniel, who translates ominously, “God has numbered the days of thy kingdom and finished it. Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting. Thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.” Belshazzar is murdered in his sleep that night, and Darius the Mede takes over Babylon.
But the scariest part by far begins with Chapter 7: Daniel dreams of four beasts, a lion, a bear, a leopard, and something horrible with iron teeth. These are four kingdoms that will rise in the future. Thousands of theologians and historians have attempted to decipher these, but what we can be sure of is that they appear to concern the End Times. God judges everyone who ever lived, and everyone goes to Heaven or Hell. The beasts are destroyed in fire, and the book ends with a cryptic warning that the end of the world is coming, when something evil shall make the whole world desolate for 1,290 days, before God destroys that evil.
Written by Moses himself, according to tradition, this book consists largely of God’s Law to the Israelites as they are about to enter the Promised Land. Before that, Moses has led the Israelites for 40 years through the Sinai, Saudi and Jordanian deserts, which is God’s punishment for their wickedness. Upon entering the inhabited lands to the south and west of Canaan, God tells Moses that these peoples have to be driven out of his chosen people’s land. This evident ethnic cleansing is generally interpreted as God’s punishment against all peoples that do not accept him as the one and only God, which means that the Israelites had to demand from every hostile encampment that they convert to Judaism.
Very few ever did, and all those who refused paid the ultimate price in spectacular fashion. Moses leads his people into battle against no less than 60 cities of one kingdom, Bashan, led by Og. This is after Moses and company defeat Sihon of Heshbon. God evidently overrides free will, itself, in this passage, as well as others throughout the Bible: “But Sihon king of Heshbon refused to let us pass through. For the LORD your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done.”
This is all done somewhere in the Sinai Peninsula, or Saudi Arabia’s and Jordan’s coast along the Gulf of Aqaba. Then the Israelites reach Mount Sinai, and God gives Moses the Ten Commandments, which Moses relays to the people. The people have degenerated into sin by building and worshiping a golden calf. Moses is none too pleased. He holds up the Tablets, and dashes them to pieces at the foot of the mountain, then orders those who desire to do the will of the Lord to come to him. All those of the tribe of Levi do so, and he orders them to take up swords and go through the whole body of people murdering about three thousand. Then Moses burns and grinds the calf into dust, scatters it on a body of water, and forces the Israelites to drink it. He does this to punish and protect them, since the Lord is intent on destroying every single one of them for their impudent offences. Moses prays to him for mercy, which he gives out of respect for Moses and love for his people. God wants discipline above all, and that is the most common defense for his vehemently destructive acts throughout the Bible.
The titular people are Judges of Israel, not of Israel’s many enemies. Again and again throughout the Bible, God’s chosen people turn away from him to sin, and he punishes them accordingly, usually by allowing some enemy to overpower them. Once this happens, a Judge arises who leads the Israelites back to God, and success. There are 12 Judges, as they are typically numbered: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon and Samson.
Their judgments result in hundreds or thousands of enemy casualties. Othniel, whose name means Lion of the Almighty (it doesn’t get any better than this), defeats Cushan-Rishathaim and his Aramites. Ehud famously assassinates Eglon, whose fat covers the dagger. Shamgar stands his ground against the Philistines, and singlehandedly kills 600 of them with an ox driver, which is just a long, sturdy staff with a sharp, fire-hardened point. This may have been as long as 10 feet, and a skilled user could wield it like a spear or cudgel.
Then there’s Samson. He isn’t too bright, but you wouldn’t say it to his face. He rises against the Philistines and “the Spirit of the Lord [comes] mightily upon him,” and he kills 1,000 of them in a mountain pass with the jawbone of an ass. Spartans: what is your profession?
Then Delilah tricks him into letting her cut his hair, without which he has no superhuman strength, and the Philistines capture and blind him, then force him into slavery. He is brought out to be ridiculed at their feast in honor of their god, Dagon. Ask yourself how you might most offend the Hebrew God. This does the trick. Samson prays for his strength to return, and God seems to reply, “You got it.” Samson shouts, “Let me die with the Philistines!” and pulls the temple pillars down, collapsing the entire building onto himself and everyone in and on it, killing many more in death than he killed in life.
1 and 2 Samuel were originally known as 1 and 2 Kings, while what are commonly found in modern Bibles as 1 and 2 Kings were referred to as 3 and 4 Kings. This lister has grouped these two Books together to make the list more varied, and the same goes for the next entry. Traditionally, Samuel the prophet wrote these, and they tell first of God’s choice of Saul for king of Israel, then how terrible a leader Saul is, and God’s sorrow at having chosen him (which doesn’t seem to fit with omniscience), and his replacement, David, arguably Israel’s greatest ruler. David is a sinner, though, and cheats on his wife with another man’s wife, Bathsheba. When he discovers that Bathseba is pregnant, he decides to conceal the sin by entreating her husband, Uriah, to sleep with her. When that doesn’t work, David orders him into the thickest part of the fighting, and to be abandoned. Sure enough, Uriah is killed, and when God finally tells Nathan, the king’s personal prophet, Nathan reads David the riot act, and David repents. God punishes him by killing his child with Bathsheba. David prays for forgiveness to spare the child, but to no avail.
This is the most famous story of the Books of Samuel, but the whole Book is full of the battles into which David led the Israelites: full-scale war against all the hostile tribes surrounding Israel. David sacks Jerusalem, routs the Philistines, determines to destroy the Jebusites, who swore against him that their blind and lame people must be spared. He invades Jerusalem via their water system. This is the Book with the famous moment of poor Uzzah, a nobody who is carrying the Ark of the Covenant, when the Ark falls off its poles. He reaches up to stop it and when he touches, he falls dead. At times it seems as if all the mercy is gone out of God, and those who break the rules, one of which is “Don’t Touch the Ark,” must suffer horribly.
One of the best moments of this Book comes near the end, in Chapter 23 of the second part, with the listing of David’s Mighty Men, divided into Three greater and Thirty lesser warriors as captains. The first is Josheb Bashebeth, who has no less than three possible names: the others Ishbaal and, as per the King James, Adino the Eznite. He killed 800 men singlehandedly. And Eleazar and Shammah, just as able. Then of the Thirty, Abishai is listed with equal respect as the Three, for he lifted up his spear against 300 men and slew them all. Remember that every murder in the Bible is done in defiance, whether direct or indirect, against God, or it is done because God has commanded or ordained it.
There is no consensus on who wrote this Book, but it is probably a compilation of several authors, including Samuel, David, Solomon and Ezra. It would not have made it so high up this list were it not for the stories of two non-writing prophets, Elijah and Elisha. They have no backstory at all. Samuel is given the origin of lying in bed as a child and hearing the voice of the Lord, and mistaking it for his father. Moses has his backstory, as does Jesus. But Elijah’s story begins in Chapter 17, “And Elijan the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, ‘As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.’”
What follows next is very well known among the fun stories of the Bible. Ahab and his strumpet of a wife, Jezebel, worship Hadad, the thunder god of Akkadia. Akkadia is an area of Babylon (Iraq) and Assyria (Syria). Elijah has some choice words for them, and indeed, it does not rain for three years, and the severe drought and famine kills many. Elijah personally resurrects a widow’s son by praying to God. Then God sends Elijah to deal with Ahab and his people’s worship of a god who isn’t there. Elijah and Ahab insult each other, and then Elijah proposes a contest. Let’s all go up to Mount Carmel, he says, and sacrifice bulls to our gods. The one who answers will be God. Ahab and his priests agree, but after they howl and scream and cut themselves to entice Hadad to answer, he does not.
Elijah mocks them the entire time, one of the Bible’s few funny passages, “And it came to pass at noon that Elijah mocked them and said, ‘Cry aloud! For he is a god. Either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked.’” The Hebrew for “pursuing” is a common verb that can be translated many different ways. Some versions read “or he is relieving himself.”
When Hadad does not answer, Elijah has the priests soak the whole altar and dig a moat for the water, then prays to God, who immediately descends in a pillar of fire that consumes the bull, the altar rock, the wood and the water and the ground. Then Elijah says, “‘Take the prophets of Baal. Let not one of them escape.’” He has all the priests of Hadad (or Baal, which means “lord”) rounded up and slain at the banks of Kishon. He personally executes some of them. There were about 850 prophets of Baal Hadad.
Not long after this Elijah is more or less left alone. Jezebel puts out a hit on him in revenge, so he vacates the area. He befriends Elisha, another man of God, and passes the torch to him, so to speak, then leaves Earth for heaven in a fiery chariot, while Elisha watches. Elijah and Enoch (from Genesis) are the only two people named in the Bible who do not die. Elisha, in the Spirit of the Lord, is able to do anything. He parts the Jordan River, makes an iron axe-head float, and requests from God that a woman bear a son. God grants it. Then the son dies, and Elisha requests that he be resurrected. God grants it. Elisha is seen walking up to Bethel, when a gang of children follow him, teasing him for being bald. He turns and calls the wrath of God upon them, and two bears instantly pounce on them from the woods and rip 42 of them to pieces. Don’t trash talk an Old Testament prophet.
Elisha anoints Jehu as king of Israel, and while Jehu is traveling through Jezreel (near Har-Megiddo), Jezebel looks out a window and ridicules him and his God. Jehu immediately calls for the eunuchs inside to defenestrate her, and they throw her to her death. Then she is devoured by dogs until only her skull, hands and feet are left. This entire Book is the most detailed account of the most intense religious war in the history of Israel, told from the biased point of view of the Hebrews and their God.
Genesis makes it so high onto this list because it is the only Book of the Bible the events of which have transpired, which depicts God actually destroying every single living organism on the entire planet: plants, animals, humans, everything, except for Noah and his family. This Flood Myth is present in nearly every culture’s history around the world, from the Jews to the Sumerians to the Aztecs and Mayans and Chinese, even Native American tribes. So something happened thousands of years ago, it happened all at once, and it was horrible beyond imagination.
The Bible states quite frankly that God is sorry he has made man. “And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” He loves Noah, who is blameless, and so he spares him and his family, and 7 pairs of every clean animal and bird, 1 pair of every unclean animal, and every creeping thing. Noah is 600 years old when the Great Flood begins. The common idea that they were all in the ark for 40 days and 40 nights is not true. That’s just how long it rains. He actually stays in the ark with his family and all the animals for 1 year, 1 month and 27 days. That’s how long the water lasted above every thing. Absolutely every single living thing on the planet is drowned, except for the fishes, and those few who save themselves and other animals and plants in boats around the world.
Even God Himself feels bad at having done this, and when it is all over, he swears to Noah and his descendants that he will never again wipe out all life on Earth for man’s sake, “for man’s heart is evil from his youth,” which is to say, we can’t help it. His Covenant with Noah is the rainbow. God will never again curse the ground and destroy every living thing. With water.
This is also the Book most violently opposed to homosexuality, when God utterly incinerates Sodom and Gomorrah by fire and brimstone out of Heaven. The detonation is so severe that Lot’s wife turns to see and is seared to death into a pillar of salt. Some scholars have suggested that God’s fire and brimstone created a conflagration of the nature and intensity of a hydrogen bomb explosion, but without the radiation.
Joshua was Moses’s chief captain, and when Moses dies at the end of Deuteronomy, the Israelites have just entered Canaan, the Promised Land. He appoints Joshua as the new leader, and Joshua famously declares, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Well, that’s easier said than done. Especially given the service the Lord requires: Canaan isn’t exactly uninhabited. The reason the Jews and Muslims are so at odds with each other today stems from the Jews’ absolute destruction of most, or all, of the indigenous peoples of Canaaan. The Lord orders the Israelites to wipe out all those before them, and Joshua tells his men, “Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death.”
What happens next is nearly non-stop violence: 24 chapters of pitched battles, sieges and the policy of total war. Every single man, woman, child and animal that the Israelites encounter is slaughtered without hesitation, in every city, town, village and hut. There are only a very few exceptions, the first being Rahab the prostitute and her family. Rahab has heard who the Lord is, and fears him, so she helps the Israelite spies and tells them about Jericho’s defenses. With the Ark before them, the Israelites raze Jericho to the ground, charge in and annihilate every single living thing, even the cattle, except Rahab and her family, who convert to Judaism.
Think of this as a sort of prologue to the rest of the invasion. By the end of his Book, which Joshua is believed to have written, the Israelites have become so awesomely powerful via their God, that Adonizedek, the Amorite king of Jerusalem, resorts to forming a coalition of 5 kingdoms to halt the Israelites’ advance. This coalition is defeated at Gibeon, then fails spectacularly at Beth-horon, where Joshua leads the Israelites to yet another victory, and then God Himself sends a mighty storm of hailstones onto the fleeing Amorites and obliterates them. The five kings hide in a cave in terror, but Joshua’s men find them, and ridicule them. Joshua then has them impaled on stakes for public scorn, and then they are discarded back in their cave. In all, 31 kingdoms are deposed and slaughtered. The last is Hazor: after the Israelites roust them, Joshua is on direct orders from God to have them pursued so furiously as to cut their horses’ hindlegs so they can no longer run away, and burn their chariots. The inhabitants of the city of Hazor are murdered to the last man, woman, child, and animal, and the city is burned to the ground.
Ezekiel’s second half or so is largely made up of a very detailed description of the New Jerusalem (see next entry), which is to be constructed after all of Ezekiel’s prophecies have come true. These prophecies make up the lion’s share of the first half of the Book, and they show in terrifying vividness the horror of God’s fury, unleashed full force against almost every single nation in the Middle East. Israel is certainly not immune, for, as frequently happens in the Old Testament, the Hebrews have turned away from God, and must be punished. Along with them, God intends to punish the peoples of Tyre, Sidon, Egypt, the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Edomites, and the Philistines. The manner in which he intends to punish these nations is terrible beyond belief.
First Jerusalem, the people of which have all become worthless in God’s sight, will be melted in the heat of God’s wrath, just as the slag of silver, brass, iron, lead, and tin is gathered and refined again, melted in the fire. So will God melt the faces of all Jerusalem inside the city walls. God states quite clearly that he will use Nebuchadnezzar’s armies to effect his fury. Then God sets his fury against Tyre, which he also intends to destroy by means of Nebuchadnezzar. He will cause Nebuchadnezzar to invade and destroy Tyre, break down its walls to the ground, trample its streets to dust and burn the whole ruin to ash, slaughter all the inhabitants with the sword, stampede them with his horses and chariots, and God Himself will destroy the remnant of the sea coast. The only survivors will be the ship captains, away at sea, who come home to find that they have no home left, and no families, “and I shall cause their voice to be heard against thee, and they shall cry bitterly, cast dust upon their heads, wallow themselves in ashes, make themselves utterly bald for thee, and weep with bitterness of heart and bitter wailing. ‘What city is like Tyre?! Like the destroyed in the midst of the sea?!’”
Then Ezekiel spends three chapters railing against Egypt, which God will utterly demolish in every way, killing almost every one of its inhabitants, scattering the few remaining into all the nations, and wiping out the nation of Egypt from the face of the planet. In much the same way, all the above mentioned tribes will be conquered, slaughtered, and caused to wail in the desert, for lack of anything left. It is 25:17 of this Book, if you don’t recall, that is infamously quoted in Pulp Fiction, “And I shall execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes, and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.”
There remains, in all of world literature, from the first known writing–the Old Testament, Gilgamesh, the Iliad and the Odyssey, etc.–no more blood-curdling, hair-raising, horrifying imagery than is found in the Apocalypse according to Saint John the Divine (also known as “Revelations”). Saint John was exiled to Patmos Island in the Aegean Sea sometime in the last decade of the 1st Century, probably for preaching Christianity, and saw visions of the end of the world, as dictated by God. Here is a summary of some of the horrors contained in the book of Apocalypse.
There are three sets of seven dispensations of God’s fury, the first of seals on a scroll. The first four unleash the four horsemen, War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death. The sixth seal unleashes an earthquake that somehow darkens the sun and moon, the stars fall out of the sky to Earth, and the sky itself rolls up like a scroll. Every mountain and island is obliterated, and all those on Earth hide in the rubble of the mountains and scream for mercy. But there is no mercy to be had.
Then seven trumpets blast, and there is hail and fire mixed with blood that incinerates a third of the planet. “A great star fell from Heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers and the fountains of waters. The name of the star is Wormwood [Bitterness]. And many men died of the waters because they were made bitter.” This is thought by some to be a nuclear ICBM, which causes WWIII.
An earthquake that will make the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami look like a hiccup will erupt all over the planet, and shatter Jerusalem into three parts. Every world capital will be razed to the ground, and 100-pound hailstones will fall on Mankind. Scary visions indeed – and believed by over a billion people to be a true forecast of man’s future! You can read this book in its entirety here.