The joy and challenge of Scripture is that all of it is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” says Timothy (2 Tim. 3:16), but you might not know that Timothy became the leader of the church in Ephesus by the request of Paul. And, Ephesus is likely the last place that Mary, Jesus’ mother, lived. We put together some of these kinds of tidbits in the following list of “Bible Things You Never Knew”. We hope it’s both refreshing and inspiring.
Bible Things You Never Knew
Don’t eat eagle!
That’s right, Leviticus11:13-19 clearly states it in a surprising list of specific birds: “These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.”
Moses had horns
Not really, but this is why some thought so: When Moses comes down from Mount Sinai in Exodus 34, verses 29 and 35 say his face is “shining.” The Vulgate says “his face had horns” instead of the “shine”. Perhaps this reading of the text is based on Egyptian and Babylonian gods with horns. It’s a complete misreading, but it did inspire Michaelangelo’s “Moses”.
Zombies in Matthew
You probably haven’t heard a sermon focused on Matthew 27: 52-53. It records tombs breaking open and holy people from the past came knocking on doors in the city. It seems a very strange occurrence, but it suggests that Jesus is in control of both life and death, that nothing is impossible with God, and it certainly hints at Jesus’ second coming. It’s also great fodder for a Christian horror film.
What does Bethel mean?
We know Bethel to be the place where Jacob had his dream (Gen 28), but did you know that Bethel means “House of El” or “House of God” which might make sense that in Judges 20:26-27 we read that the Ark of the Covenant was kept at Bethel. Today, Bethel is said to be the Israeli settlement of Beit El.
Don’t preach too long
If you preach too long, you might put some of your audience to sleep. If you put your audience to sleep, someone might fall from the balcony. If someone falls from the balcony, he might die. If he dies, you’ll need to resurrect him. That’s what happens to Paul in Troas when Eutychus sunk into a deep sleep after Paul kept preaching past midnight. Thankfully, Paul was able to perform the needed miracle. (Acts 20:7-12)
God works through the barren
Taking a birds-eye view of Scripture helps form patterns of God’s providence. That’s true with the women who were barren. Sarah, Rebekah, Hazzelelponi, Hannah, and Elizabeth, or, Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Samson, Samuel and John the Baptizer, their respective offspring. What an impressive list! Anything is possible with God. (Genesis 18:11; 25:21-26; Judges 13:3 [I Chronicles 4:3]; 1 Samuel 1:20; Luke 1:7, 13)
Did Mary ride on a donkey?
We looked in all for gospels. It’s not there. The text of the journey is Luke 2:1-5 and there’s no mention of a donkey. If there were, it would be interesting as you might compare stories of Balaam and Jesus’ triumphal entry with it. Though not mentioned, we might assume it. The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 100 miles which may have taken them as many as 10 days to walk.
The profound journey of Philip
An angel tells Philip in Acts 8:26-40 to get on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza. He’s then instructed to get in close to an Ethiopian eunuch in a chariot who is reading Isaiah. Philip does so and is able to explain Isaiah’s prophecies being fulfilled in Jesus. The eunuch believes and Philip baptizes him. Then, in verse 39 we have his sudden disappearance as, “the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away.” How? It’s peculiar and sudden. Perhaps the angel miraculously transports him away?
Hezekiah is one of the last kings of the southern tribes of Judah. The northern tribes of Israel have been taken into exile by Assyria, and to this day, those tribes of considered lost. But, Judah has been spared for the moment. Now, Assyria is back to take the prize of Jerusalem and Hezekiah’s crown. All appears hopeless Assyria’s massive army surrounding Jerusalem’s walls. Then, one night, an angel, “went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!” (2 Kings 19:35). The deaths force the Assyrians to flee in embarrassment and disbelief.
Satan’s first named appearance
“Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel,” says I Chronicles 21:1. It’s the first named appearance of Satan. Yes, we infer him to be present in Eden, but he goes unnamed in the story. Why did God allow Satan to tempt David with a census? Since a census would show David his might, perhaps God is concerned about the king’s pride and sense of independence.
The sword that disappeared
Judges is full of stories about God’s harsh dealing with the wickedness of his people and the tyranny of kings and overlords in the Promised Land. In Judges 3, Eglon king of Moab is ruling over Israel. Eglon is mean and very, very fat. Ehud is sent to kill Eglon. He sneaks into the king’s house and hides in the bathroom. The king comes in to relieve himself and Ehud stabs him with a sword and kills him. Trouble is, Ehud can’t get the sword out because the blubber rolls over it. Thankfully, Ehud escapes because the guard thinks the long wait at the bathroom chamber is usual.
Refrain from yelling “Hey, baldy!”
2 Kings 2:23-24 is just after Elijah goes to heaven in a fiery chariot, leaving Elisha as his successor. Elisha is on a road to Bethel and g0t ridiculed by a bunch of boys (42, to be exact) who yell at him, “Get out of here, baldy!” over and over again. Elisha cursed them and two bears came out of the forest and mauled the boys.
Jesus’ one destructive miracle
There is only one destructive miracle in the Gospels. When Jesus passes by a fig tree on his way to Jerusalem (Matt. 21:18-22) one morning, he thought figs would make a nice breakfast. There weren’t any on the tree, so Jesus cursed it, saying, “May you never bear fruit again!” and the tree withered immediately.
Who was Lazarus?
There are several ideas about Lazarus’ identity and legends to his whereabouts after Jesus resurrects him. Some have concluded that Lazarus is in the last line of high priests and Jesus’ tears are not only due to his friendship but also his mourning over the priesthood in Israel.
You must sleep on your left side
In Ezekiel 4, the prophet receives word from God that he is to sleep on his left side for 390 days and, “You are to bear their sin [Israel] for the number of days you lie on your side.” Then, for 40 days he sleeps on his right side for Judah. God then assigns a dietary restriction on him which Ezekiel asks to be revised so he doesn’t defile himself. The Lord then says, “I will let you bake your bread over cow dung instead of human excrement.”
Isaiah needs clothes
The Lord says in Isaiah 20:3 that Isaiah, “has gone stripped and barefoot for three years.” There’s nothing modest about it. The verse before it is very specific, saying, “Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet.” The text says Isaiah’s actions are a “sign” that Assyria will defeat Egypt. It does seem like a strange way to relay the message, but at every turn Isaiah is living out obedience in his plea to God, “Here am I, send me.”
Strange packages in the mail
There was a Levite who had a girlfriend. It’s a long story in Judges 19, but in the end, the girlfriend winds up abused and dead because of the sinful desires in the Israeli city of Gibeah. The Levite, “When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, ‘Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!'” (vs. 29-30).
The healing shadow
The Acts of the Apostles holds incredible stories of faith. Apparently, it was even assumed that Peter’s shadow had healing powers. “As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed” (Acts 5:15-16).
The angelic wrestling match
Moses death is recorded in Deuteronomy 34. He is looking from Mt. Nebo into the Promised Land he’ll never enter. When he dies, God buries him. He’s the only human God buries. According to Jude 9, Moses’ relics are so important to Satan, “… even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!'”
Building with zero noise pollution
Solomon is given the incredible responsibility of building the Temple in Jerusalem, one that will be destroyed, rebuilt, added onto, and destroyed again. I Kings 6:7 says, “In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.”