Sure, the Bible has the classics that most Christians have heard since they were young—David and Goliath, Noah and the ark, Jesus healing the blind man. But within the pages of Scripture are many stories that are obscure, dramatic, and just plain bizarre. Here are the ones your Sunday School teacher didn’t tell you.
10. Long Sermon Turns Deadly
What Happened: Paul was preaching in Troas, and a teenager name Eutychus decided it would be a great idea to sit on the sill of an open third-story window. Once the sermon ran long, Eutychus fell asleep… and fell out of the window, breaking his neck. Before his family could even start planning the funeral, Paul raised him to life again. Is it a cautionary tale about staying awake in church? You decide.
Less Weird When You Remember: Teen boys in the first century apparently had just as little common sense as modern teens—and attention spans of similar length too.
Read the Story: Acts 20:7-13
9. Construction Site Miracle
What Happened: Elisha and his band of friends were chopping down trees to build a house, when one of the axes broke and sank in the nearby Jordan River. One of the men shouted the ancient equivalent of, “Oh no! That’s wasn’t even mine—I borrowed it.” So Elisha just whipped out a stick, set it on the surface of the water, and the axe head miraculously floated to the top.
Less Weird When You Remember: God even cares about the little things in our lives and can use them to show His power.
Read the Story: 2 Kings 6:1-7
8. One Messed-Up Family Tree
What Happened: Tamar, a young widow, was in a tricky place. The law required that she marry her deceased husband’s brother so she could have children to provide for her and carry on the family name… but her father-in-law Judah absolutely forbid it, basically condemning her to poverty. So she took matters into her own hands, and dressed up like a prostitute, seduced her father-in-law, and had twin sons by him (yes, really). When she was about to be stoned for adultery, she produced proof that Judah was the father. He admitted his guilt, and Tamar was spared.
Less Weird When You Remember: The law requiring a man to marry his brother’s widow was intended to protect childless widows, who were vulnerable to poverty and abuse. Yes, it was totally misused in this case… but even with that, Tamar is mentioned in the line of Jesus, one of three foreign women of questionable past included there to point to God’s grace.
Read the Story: Genesis 38
7. Worst Hair Day Ever
What Happened: King David’s pretty boy son staged a coup and drove his father out of Jerusalem. I say “pretty boy” because he had lovely locks of hair that he actually weighed when he got a yearly haircut (2 Samuel 14:26). Later, when David had gathered his loyal supporters to take the kingdom back, Absalom fled the battle on his horse… until his long hair got tangled in a tree and left him hanging there until he was captured and killed. Should’ve gotten a trim before the battle, clearly.
Less Weird When You Remember: The little detail about Absalom's long locks was mentioned four chapters before the story of his death. The Bible doesn't typically mention a person's physical appearance unless it has something to do with the story, kind of like foreshadowing. (But does that make the method of Absalom's death less weird? Not really.)
Read the Story: 2 Samuel 18:6-33
6. Wanted: Dead or Alive
What Happened: Deborah the prophetess and the Israelite army drove Sisera, the Canaanite general, to a frantic retreat. He took refuge with a desert-dwelling tribe that was an ally of his nation. Unfortunately for him, he chose Jael’s tent, and she was a double agent. She fed Sisera, promised to stand guard, and told him to go to sleep… and then she drove a tent peg through his head. Ouch.
Less Weird When You Remember: God has a history of using people who society sees as weak and unimportant—in this case, a foreign woman—to do mighty things. (Also, Deborah had prophesied earlier in the chapter that a woman would get the glory for Sisera’s defeat.)
Read the Story: Judges 4:14-23
5. The Plot to Kill a Guy Who Already Died
What Happened: Most Christians know that Jesus was #1 on the Pharisees’ list of Israel’s Most Wanted to get rid of. But do you know who #2 was? Lazarus. After Jesus raised his friend from the dead, Lazarus became a local celebrity, telling people about Jesus’ miraculous power over life and death. The religious leaders couldn’t have that, so they schemed to kill him too. Or re-kill him, as the case might be.
Less Weird When You Remember: The reason Lazarus was a threat was because his testimony of what God had done in his life changed the people around him. What a great example for us!
Read the Story: John 12:9-11
4. Action Hero Lights Foxes on Fire
What Happened: Basically, Samson took out his rage on some Philistines when they gave away his wife to another man (this is after he killed 30 people to cap off his wedding celebration, so he kind of had it coming). I skipped a lot—the riddle, the crocodile tears and manipulations, the general escalation of revenge—but that’s the highlight. This might be the only recorded case of fox arson.
Less Weird When You Remember: This story foreshadows what’s going to happen in the rest of Samson’s life: his deep anger at the Philistines, ability to be manipulated by women, total inability to control his emotions, and willingness to break God’s rules when there’s something in it for him. And that’s where the people of Israel were too—in complete rebellion against God.
Read the Story: Judges 14-15
3. Teens Get Mauled by Bears
What Happened: Elisha the prophet was traveling, going about his message-from-God business, when a gang of teenagers surrounded him and started harassing him, yelling insults and calling him “baldy.” Proving that the Lord doesn’t take mockery lightly, he answered Elisha’s prayer for justice with two angry bears who attacked the group and mauled over 40 of the young men. Hopefully, the other ones learned their lesson.
Less Weird When You Remember: If people don’t respect the prophet, they won’t respect the message he brings… and that’s a serious, life-or-death matter.
Read the Story: 2 Kings 2:23-25
2. Man Talks to Donkey; Donkey Talks Back
What Happened: The Israelites were marching into the Promised Land, conquering cities and winning battles, and the Moabite king got nervous. So he summoned a guy named Balaam to come and put a curse on the Israelites. Baalam started to leave for his curse-making assignment, but his donkey started acting really strangely, first running away, then smashing his leg against the canyon, and finally talking. He told Baalam, basically, “Quit beating me up! I’m just trying to keep you from being cut to pieces by the angel with the giant sword blocking our path.” Then the angel revealed himself, informed Baalam that the cursing would not work, and let him pass. (Spoiler alert: When he finally gets to his destination, Baalam is only able to bless Israel and prophesy good things about them, to no one’s surprise.)
Less Weird When You Remember: God was good at getting people’s attention in ways that made sense to their culture. Prophecies, plagues, stars, burning bushes, fingers writing words on a wall, talking animals—he can use anything to convey his message.
Read the Story: Numbers 22-23
1. The Ultimate Assassin Mode
What Happened: Ehud, left-handed judge smuggled a weapon into an evil king’s palace because they only frisked his left side, where most men would draw their sword. (Also, the king was really fat. That’s important later.) He convinced the king he had an important private message, and when the king dismissed the court, Ehud stabbed him, pushing the sword in so deep that his guts fell out and the sword actually disappeared inside his belly, swallowed up by fat. And it gets better. No one wanted to go back inside because they were too worried that the king was using the privacy to the bathroom. When they finally checked in, they found their dead king and sounded the alarm, but Ehud had already made his escape.
Less Weird When You Remember: This one is pretty much just weird from any angle. Kind of like a spy story, but with middle-school-boy gross factor, which is why it gets the number one place on this list.
Read the Story: Judges 3:12-30
Amy Green loves to talk about religion, politics, and other controversial subjects from her home in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She blogs about issues of faith, culture, and ordinary life at themondayheretic.wordpress.com.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: January 30, 2017