24 February 2013

Poop in the Bible

Years of studying the Bible have left me with some fascinating skills. Being the first in a group to be able to name all the references to poop in the Bible, however, is not exactly one of the most important skill I've learned, even if it does illustrate how well I know the Bible. I come from a family that is not above talking about bodily functions at the dinner table, but there's still something mildly disconcerting about poop being mentioned in the Bible. I think my feeling is that even though we know everyone poops, even Jesus and the prophets, we still don't have to read about it.

I think that might be part of the reason why I like the poop story in Ezekiel (Ezek 4). God tells Ezekiel that he'll be cooking his bread dough on his own poop for the next year. Ezekiel pretty much freaked out, and God allowed him to make the bread on animal dung instead.

On the other hand, some poop stories do make me smile. Daniel 5 is one of those - on account of a rather tongue-in-cheek article that a former professor of mine wrote (Al Wolters, "Untying the King's Knots," JBL 110.1). When King Balshazzar sees the writing on the wall, he panics: "his limbs give away, and his knees knock together." Wolters proves that this actually means he pooped his pants, which is known to happen when people are terrified.

But today, I discovered another poop story: that of Saul. 1 Sam 24 mentions that Saul went into a cave to relieve himself (literally it's cover his feet). In English, one does not immediately thinking of pooping when relieving oneself. So it's only now that I finally understand how David could have had enough time and gotten so close to cut off some of Saul's robe without him ever noticing. Yet, it also makes the story more vivid: this king, the chosen one of Israel, squats down, takes his time, produces a nasty smell, and leaves a small heap behind, all in the presence of his enemies. Talking about pooping makes the story more potent. We can better understand why David was so ashamed of what he did but also why Saul so quickly recognized his own vulnerability and thanked David for choosing to save his life.

1 comment:

Brenda said...

A friend of mine, Richard (who also went to Seminary at the same time as me), reminded me of another references: Judges 3. Ehud escapes after killing the king because everyone thought the king was just taking some extra time in the loo. No one wanted to interrupt the king, so Ehud was long gone before they started to panic.