A Bible Portion I Question

Posted on January 5, 2022

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By David Ettinger

This Mind of Mine!
Curses on this journalistic, cynical mind of mine!

I was a “secular media” journalist for just under 20 years and was trained to question everything. But even without this training, I am a natural skeptic and therefore question everything anyway. At least, I question everything that doesn’t seem to jibe with straight-down-the-line logic.

This has served me well for the most part as my skepticism and resulting questioning prevents me from following the crowd. Whenever I read a news story to which most people say, “Yeah, that makes sense,” I tend to say, “Now, wait a minute. Let’s examine this.”

The same holds true for Bible teaching. There are many times – whether in church or watching on TV – I see a pastor make some questionable claim and the congregation is shaking its head in agreement. Not me, however. I say to myself, “Huh? That makes no sense at all.”

It’s good to not buy into everything one reads and hears, and questioning the questionable is a good thing. Unfortunately, this extends to my Bible reading, and I really hate when this happens.

Case in Point
This happens to me every time I read Judges Chapter 20, the account of a civil war between Benjamin and the other 11 tribes of Israel.

This battle comes on the heels of the notorious Chapter 19, where a Levite thrusts his concubine into the clutches of a mob of deviants in the city of Gibeah. They rape the concubine throughout the night, and she eventually dies.  

This is the event which leads to the civil war, and is the Bible portion my cynical mind questions.

In Chapter 20, we read:

  • “Then the sons of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and struck to the ground on that day twenty-two thousand men of Israel” (v. 21). 22,000 deaths!
  • “And Benjamin went out against them from Gibeah the second day and struck to the ground again eighteen thousand men of the sons of Israel” (v. 25). 18,000 deaths!
  • “And the LORD struck Benjamin before Israel, so that the sons of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day” (v. 35). 25,100 deaths!

In all, in a very short time, 65,000 Israelite deaths!

Questions, Questions!
And this staggering number is what has me asking questions, and – I dread to say it – doubting!

Remember, during the Vietnam War, 58,000 Americans died – and that over the course of about 15 years. And this to a nation with a population of over 200 million at the time. And a geographically huge nation!

Israel, on the other hand, suffered a loss of 65,000 in a population just a fraction of that of 1975 America, and not even comparable geography-wise. And they all fell in such a short period of time.

How long would it have taken to bury all those bodies? Wouldn’t the decay of so many corpses have caused disease and sickness to become rampant, leading to many more deaths? Wouldn’t the creature world – both on the ground and in the air – have descended upon this multitude of dead bodies and wreak even more havoc?

And what about the “balance” of the population? Those who died were men; where would the single women of such a small country find husbands? And wouldn’t this lack of husbands greatly reduce the birth rate and further shrink the population?

And what about the human suffering? Thousands upon thousands of wives and children lost their husbands and fathers. Oh the unimaginable nationwide grief!

I mean, am I permitted to question the Bible on this? Did 65,000 Israelites really die in such a short period of time?

The Answer
Alas, the answer is “yes, I believe it.” Though there are “clerical” errors in the Bible as result of transmission into many languages over many centuries, I do believe this account.

I also trust in the brilliance of Bible scholars throughout the ages who, too, have examined this portion of Scripture and accept it.

Yet, I’m still stuck with my questioning, cynical mind, and things like this really bother me.

I suppose there’s not much of a point here to be made, but I’m just wondering if any of you have certain Bible passages you wonder about in like fashion, and even question?

I’d appreciate your feedback!