Book Review – The Bible – Genesis to Joshua

As many of you know, I’m reading the entirety of the Bible and blogging about it as I go. I’ve now read my way through Genesis up to Joshua and before I start reading Judges I thought it was time to do a sort of book review on what I’ve read so far.

What a horrible book. There’s no way any publisher would touch this in modern times. If it came out now, with no background to it, any publisher worth their salt would laugh at it.

To begin with, it’s extremely poorly written with grammar that’s mangled beyond all sanity. Now some of that may be due to translation errors; I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that it really, really needs an editor. A good editor could’ve made this thing at least readable.

Second, none of the major characters are especially sympathetic. Consider the three big ones so far (Abraham, Moses and Joshua). One’s a puppet of God (more on his role later), who is such a tool he’s willing to murder his son because God told him to. Sure, he stands up to God at a couple points, but on other points just meekly accepts what ever God tells him to do.

As for Moses? Here’s a man who is, at best, an accessory to the genocide of the Egyptian kingdom. He plays a direct role in the mass-murder of all the first-born males in the kingdom, in addition to all the other evil things he participates in. And this guy is a hero? I don’t think so.

Though he is rather heroic compared to the next protagonist, one Joshua. Wow, this guy is completely evil. He is directly responsible for several mass-murders and genocides throughout the Levant, including the most famous; the Massacre at Jericho, where he rounded up and slaughtered every single man, woman and child for the “crime” of worshiping the wrong god. But, hey, God told him to, right? He was just following orders. Mind you, like the other two, he’s presented as a hero!

So, three heroes, at least one of which is clearly psychotic, and we’re expected- told– to believe that these are the good guys. Yeah, that’s not good writing.

The villains in this book are, so far, largely inoffensive. Most of them are guilty of nothing but worshiping the wrong god. There’s some mention of them doing vaguely evil things, but the writer(s) of the book never bothered to really clarify what these are or why we should hate these bad guys so, especially when compared to the “heroes”.

Then there’s God. There’s always God. He’s the ever-present driving force behind this book and, boy, is he ever an unpleasant character. Evil, capricious, insecure, jealous, given to murderous rage at the smallest slights. This is not a being worthy of worship, as the book contends; it’s a being worthy of destruction.

The writers of the book throw in a few sops to morality in the first few books. You get things like “thou shalt not murder” and “thou shalt not steal” and such, but then you get pages and pages and pages of God urging his people to murder and steal (pillaging after sacking a city counts as theft).

To make matters worse, the narrative flow of the book is almost non-existent. You get portions of interesting stories that are interrupted with a massive list of names, then you get pages of a census, then you get rules on sacrifice, and then you get a tiny bit of narrative again. All this is sleep-inducing reading of the finest order.

This isn’t the good book. It’s not even a good book. From a literary standpoint, it’s practically unreadable, and I’m only part-way through it. I really, really hope it becomes a bit more bearable, but from what I’ve seen in Judges and what I know the later content, I doubt it.

Oh, and one last thing on the content: if you’re a parent, you might want to keep this one from your kids. Rape, murder, incest, theft, genocide, adultery, prostitution, slavery, all these things will be found herein. Many of them are presented as acceptable. This is perhaps not a moral message you want for your kids.

In a word: avoid. This isn’t a good book for anyone to read.


8 Responses to “Book Review – The Bible – Genesis to Joshua”

  1. rushhumble Says:

    Chris, Nice post. Don’t think you missed anything worth gacking about. When you get a chance, take a look at my brief synopsis I think you’ll get a kick out of it.
    BTW, I see you’re out as an atheist. I’d be curious to know your take on my latest: The Siren Song of Certitude.
    Sincerely, Rushhumble

  2. hepfat Says:

    What version of the Bible are you reading? If you’re reading the King James version, you kind of have to put the grammar in perspective, as at that time, there was no standard way to spell. I’ve always kind of thought of the Bible as an epic poem, so the lists in that context make sense – I forget exactly what it’s called (I’m thinking epic catalogue is the correct term?), but lists are characteristic of epic poetry and you see it pretty much across the board. In Spenser’s “The Faery Queene,” for instance, there’s a pretty big section that just lists off different types of trees.

    I’m an atheist myself, but I’m also a lit geek. I kind of think of the Bible as a literary mine. Biblical references are EVERYWHERE in literature, and it’s kind of cool (at least to me) to peel back layers and make connections when I’m reading something.

    • Chris Says:

      I’m reading the New King James Version, if I remember right.

      I understand the idea of viewing it as an epic poem, and I’ve read one of those before (The Odyssey), but that it something that was actually designed to be enjoyed by the reader/listener, not something that was designed to terrify them and make them obey the Beard in the Sky.

  3. arthurthepanther Says:

    Okay, so maybe the King James is Chaucer in disguise, but that doesn’t make up for the horrid sloggery of getting through Numbers. I tried to read the Bible all the way through several times and the only book I never managed to even speed-read my way through was Numbers. That’s actually why I tend to doubt anyone who says they know the Bible verse for verse. If they say that, I ask them what Numbers 20:13 says, and generally, they concede defeat. Lol.
    In response to your post, Badger, Thanks for the work, good article, and keep up the good fight. We who cannot abide reading the damned thing salute you.
    Senatus Populusque Romanus!

  4. Bill Sheehan Says:

    The Bible might not be a good book, but it’s one of the primary foundation documents of Western civilization. It’s required reading for any educated person, if for no other reason than that given by Hepfat above: quite a lot of the literary canon assumes familiarity with it.
    It’s also an interesting book from many other academic disciplines: anthropology, sociology, psychology, etc. About the only place where it fails miserably is as a divinely inspired message to humanity. If the god it portrays actually existed, it would be a moral imperative to oppose the genocidal pestilential inhuman monster.

    Have you gotten to the bit where God and Joshua are frustrated by high tech?

    • Chris Says:

      I’d say the main point where it fails, at least from a book perspective, is in being readable. 😉

      And I assume the high tech bit is Judges 1:19 where the armies of God are defeated by an enemy because the enemy had chariots of iron?

  5. Drey Says:

    You forgot to mention it also includes the evils of homosexuality. The groups that had done no obvious evil besides worshiping other gods as you might say were basically worshiping gods that encouraged prostitution, probably homosexuality and who knows what else. I highly doubt anyone bothered to write them all down as most people understand what categories are defined as evil. Or at least they used to. And I suppose ur definition of a good book is one with simple understandable lines. If u honestly can’t find the resemblances from words like thy and your. Then I advise u to get a diffrent version of the bible. Perhaps a teen study version in which it is much much simpler to read.

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