Published by Thomas Nelson on August 25, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Humor, Theology
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This humorous book is also full of new insights into ways we’ve been missing the point of so many beloved Bible stories.
Approximately 80 percent of Americans admit they haven’t read the Bible. If they did, they’d be pleasantly surprised by its impressive quantity of sex and poop jokes.
David danced naked. Noah was basically a moonshining hillbilly. Ezekiel baked poop bread. Herod was eaten by worms. Jesus cursed a fig tree, just to prove he could. Mark went streaking. Hosea married a prostitute. Lot was date-raped by his own daughters.
It turns out, there’s a lot of weird stuff in the Bible. Murder-Bears, Moonshine, and Mayhem is a funny look at some of the stranger tales in the Bible. From Elisha, who loosed homicidal bears on some kids because they called him bald (it’s a long story), to the story of Ehud, who gets away with assassinating a tyrannical king because his servants think said king is taking a dump (also a long story), this book examines and casts new light on some of the Bible’s stranger moments.
Organized by topic (poop, genitalia, weird violence, prostitution, gratuitous nudity, seemingly pointless miracles, and other fun stuff), Murder-Bears, Moonshine, and Mayhem is a thoroughly researched (really!), reverent, and insightful look at the amazing book at the center of our faith.
If you’ve ever opened a Bible for any length of time, chances are that you’ve come across some weird stuff. Not weird stuff like this is my body, broken for you or weird like a guy coming back to life, but weird like—inappropriately so. Scripture is filled with sex, violence, and scatological humor. Prophets are commanded to do weird things, like lay out their side for a year and cook with poop. David, in the chapter immediately following his encounter with Goliath, sets off on a mission to kill two hundred Philistines and returns to Saul with their foreskins.
Luke T. Harrington’s Murder-Bears, Moonshine, and Mayhem collects these stories, emphasizes just how weird, gross, or inappropriate they are, and then tries to give you some idea of why it’s in Scripture. (Hey, sometimes it’s just because the Bible is history and when a king gets eaten by crotch worms…) The result is a unique look at Scripture that is both a little bit irreverent while also being quite informative.
Example. At the end of Genesis 24, we read about the first time that Isaac and Rebekah meet. Genesis 24:63 says that Isaac was out in the fields meditating when Rebekah came sauntering in on father Abraham’s camels. Meditating. If you’re reading any Bible translation with footnotes, you’ll find that we don’t really know the meaning of lasuah, the Hebrew word being translated. (Walking, bowing down, praying, and meditating are the common translations.) However, scholars have recently discovered an Arabic cognate of the word that is almost always about digging a pit to poop or pee in. Harrington backs all this up with a scholarly source: “Lasuah in Genesis XXIV 63,” Vetus Testamentum 45, no. 4 (1995): 558-560.
Murder-Bears, Moonshine, and Mayhem takes you beyond just the surface-level grossness and oddities (of which there are plenty), but delves into the abyss of linguistics and culture to discover all the bits of shiny corn in the poop. It’s shockingly well-researched. Enough so that I—seminary-educated, with a fondness for the weird things of the Bible—learned at least one new thing per chapter.
Harrington’s style is either love it or hate it. There are jokey asides in the footnotes, stream-of-consciousness paragraphs that eventually meander back to the main point, occasional inserts that break up the flow of the main text, and an attempt to place a zinger in every paragraph. Some jokes hit, some miss (most hit), some get beaten into the ground. It’s maybe a book I’d recommend taking a chapter a day so you don’t get oversaturated with it. And if you want to see if the style is for you, Harrington’s viral article that let to the book can be found at Cracked.com. (Ah, Cracked, how good you used to be.)
Conclusion: If you’re the type of person who would like a book like this, you’ll love this book. It’s not perfect. It never bored me, but it did wear me down at points. Written humor is a difficult medium, but Harrington pulls it off well. Murder-Bears, Moonshine, and Mayhem is an entertaining, informative, and gross look into Scripture in all its humanness, showing that the people of the past aren’t too unlike us today.