Strangest and weirdest stories in the Bible?

As I am finishing up my second lectionary preaching book, tentatively titled The World is Crucifixion and under contract, for the first time in my preaching ministry I am going completely off-lectionary for a series on the strangest or weirdest stories in the Bible, beginning the last Sunday in Christmastide to the final Sunday of Epiphany, which is traditionally Transfiguration Sunday.  The final “strange story” will be the transfiguration.

Obviously, what I think are weird stories from the Bible might be different from what others think.  Here’s a list I’ve assembled from some internet searching about what people think are strange stories in the Bible:

Noah’s drunkenness (Genesis 9)

The rape of Lot (Genesis 19)

The birthing of striped cattle (Genesis 30)

Jacob and God wrestle (Genesis 32)

The story of Onan (Genesis 38)

Moses’ circumcision (Exodus 4)

Moses sees God’s backside (Exodus 33)

Balaam’s donkey (Numbers 22)

Solomon ordering the baby cut in half (1 Kings 3)

The demand of 100 foreskins (1 Kings 18)

Elijah’s curse of baldness (and bear attack) (2 Kings 2)

The death of Eglon (Judges 3)

The rape and dismemberment of the concubine (Judges 19)

That Dagonne Dagon (1 Samuel 4-5)

David encounters Saul defecating in a cave (1 Samuel)

The leviathan (Job and Psalms)

Ezekiel lays on left side (Ezekiel 4)

Transsexuality of Israel in Hosea (the whole book of Hosea)

Jesus’ curse of the fig tree (Matthew and Mark)

Imagery of the Book of Revelation

I’ve preached or given Bible studies on some of these before, but I am looking for more ideas.  What are your weirdest stories from the Bible?


19 thoughts on “Strangest and weirdest stories in the Bible?

  1. A more interesting question is why we think these stories are weird and strange while other stories seems normal. Some conceptual archaeology would be revealing.

    Many of your examples play with our moral and metaphysical expectations (drunkenness is bad and animals don’t talk, for example). With these examples you run the risk of being only cute and titillating. I don’t know you so it’s quite possible you capable are wringing great theological truths from these stories. I hope so.

    Having participated in America’s recent so called wars on terrorism, I now find avoidable violence to be weird and strange. Now when I look at God-ordained violence in the Bible it seems strange. How many towns in the Bible can you find where God ordered the killing of women and children and animals? Do you find this strange? Why or why not? Why are the moral slap-sticks usually considered more weird or strange than wholesale God-ordained slaughter? I would listen to a sermon that unpacked that question.

  2. I’ll second Adam — great list.

    In Matthew 17:24-27, Jesus tells Peter to go fishing for tax money.

    Jesus inviting Thomas (John 20) to place his hand inside his body always struck me as weird. And a little gross. The text doesn’t elaborate as to whether Thomas complied, but I get the impression that he didn’t.

  3. These are great additions.

    Jeremy, this is a good point. This list is based on some internet searching of what some bloggers and other articles qualify as “strange.” I don’t think the drunkenness of Noah is all that weird, because that detail of the Noah story is pretty pedestrian, but it would be a surprise to many people sitting in church pews. Maybe strange and obscure would be a better qualifier.

    Let me give some context.

    I think my new direction that I am testing out with preaching is to focus on Biblical literacy with my folks. I think I have been preaching on some heavy stuff in the past couple of months, and I want to keep engaging in current events, perhaps through mini-homilies or litanies, but I am feeling a need to go back to scripture. Several months ago while I was on paternity leave I watched Charles Stanley on Sunday morning, and I’ve continued to observe him on television when I can. Now, I don’t like his ideology, but his teaching is very good; and he sits at a desk with his bible open and teaches, and offers very short homilies. The homily doesn’t have to go on for 10 minutes, since the congregation has already worked through some of the interpretation, the homily gets right to the point, even if it sounds a lot like Peale in the end. I think this might play on some of my strengths as a teacher, so I’m going to try it out.

    But beyond this, thinking about preaching and homiletics, clergy preach using hermeneutics, but we don’t necessarily teach biblical interpretation. We might demonstrate close readings, but not necessarily bring people in to interpretation–perhaps this happens more often in church Bible studies. Sure, if people listen long enough they will get the hang of a pastor’s interpretive methods, I suppose, but I’m not sure it invites Biblical or theological thinking. The weird and strange angle is, I hope, a hook for my congregation. I’m hoping that there can be a talkback portion for people to ask questions and make it a more active experience for a Sunday worship service.

  4. How about Judas’ falling down and having his intestines spill out (Acts 1:18)?
    And maybe not a weird story per se, but the whole Song of Solomon is pretty weird: why is a series of erotic poems that apparently doesn’t have anything to do with religion or the history of Israel included in the Bible?
    The (apocryphal) story of Bel and the Dragon is also great.

  5. Maybe it’s not weird or strange, but maybe 1 Kings 22/2 Chron 18: Micaiah reveals to Ahab and Jehoshaphat a scene in heaven: the Lord invites the “host in heaven” to mislead Ahab, and one volunteers to be a lying spirit in the mouths of the prophets.

    Zedekiah son of Chenaanah, previously demonstrating with his own visual aids how Ahab will gore the Arameans like a bull, goes up to Micaiah and strikes him across the face, asking how the Spirit of the Lord went from himself to Micaiah. Micaiah responds by saying Zedekiah will learn how when he goes and hides himself.

    I wonder sometimes what it means for God to be comfortable, solicitous even, using liars and deceivers, having them on his staff or his retinue ready to roll out and deceive. I guess it’s okay for God to lie to the people he doesn’t like, and to mislead his own prophets so long as they serve his ends to mislead others. He’s a sovereign, after all, and I’m just talking mud.

    But when those employed prophets who think they have the authority to say the Spirit of God speaks through them, when they strike down the real prophets, when they afterwards sit alone in their rooms having learned things worked out just like the lone prophet said, do they really come to learn the truth of how God used them? Or do they keep reporting the news as it’s written and collect the check?

    And should God’s people worry about the prophets who tell them exactly what they want to hear, about their victory in the Lord, about their success God will provide, knowing that God will lie to his own people to sift the faithful from the careful? There’s a precedent, after all.

  6. I would add a couple of stories that were omitted from the excellent list.

    The Nephilim (Genesis 6)
    Sodom & Gomorrah (Genesis 19)
    Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22)
    The Rape of Dinah (Genesis 34)
    The Sacrifice of Jephthah’s Daughter (Judges 11)

  7. A number of Jesus’s parables would qualify as strange. The rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16) comes to mind, but that is hardly the only weird story Jesus told.

  8. God telling Isaiah to walk naked and barefoot for three years as “a sign and portent” against Egypt and Cush- Is. 20:1-5:

    1 In the year that the commander in chief, who was sent by Sargon the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and captured it– 2 at that time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot. 3 Then the LORD said, “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush, 4 so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, the nakedness of Egypt. 5 Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and of Egypt their boast. 6 And the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ‘Behold, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria! And we, how shall we escape?'”

  9. 1:The competing stories of creation in Genesis
    2: The oft-overlooked reason for the expulsion from eden- not just that the fruit of the tree of knowledge had been eaten but more so that if the fruit of the tree of eternal life had also been eaten there would no difference between humanity and the divine court- the fall is a fall into knowledge

  10. The three wife-sister stories in Genesis. You’d think Abraham would have figured out the first time that trying to pass off his wife as his sister was a mistake, but no, he had to go and do it again. And then it happened a third time to his son.

  11. Some others:

    Cain knowing his wife.
    Rachel agreeing to ask Jacob to have sex with Leah in exchange for mandrakes.
    Moses being criticized for marrying a Cushite (Ethiopian?) woman.
    The riddle told by Samson.

    I agree about Solomon and the baby. The more I think about that story the less sense it makes.

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