Stories

. One of the problems is that it is not obvious when metaphors rather than facts are being used. An interesting example is how the Bible views the cosmos. For example, 1 Samuel 2:8 talks about the earth supported on pillars while Job 26:7 says that God hangs the earth on nothing. In Isaiah 40:22 we read about the “circle of the earth” in some translations, but this verse is highly controversial and is capable of other interpretations. The verse also refers to stretching and spreading that could be related to modern cosmology, but the main image here is that of God’s tent. However clearer verses about God stretching out the heavens are available. The Bible also speaks about innumerable stars when people believed they could count the stars, which we cannot do today.

 

What is particularly interesting are the hygiene laws spelt out in the Old Testament as they are so forward looking in many ways and different from beliefs in the ancient world. For example, the Israelites were forbidden to eat the flesh of any animal that had died a natural death, those with contagious diseases had to be quarantined, and sewage had to be be disposed of outside the camp of Israel. Also the Israelites were forbidden to drink water from small or stagnant pools or from water that had been contaminated by coming into contact with animals or meat. Rabbit and pork were off the menu, which makes sense as both are susceptible to infectious parasites, though we can eat them today when properly prepared.

 

Two animals, the rock hyrax and the rabbit are described as chewing the cud, although technically this is not the case, but they have a chewing action that resembles chewing the cud. Anything in the waters that doesn’t have scales or fins was not allowed, and certain insects were forbidden as well as certain birds, particularly birds of prey. We note that pest control was also introduced. Moses commanded Israel to set aside one year in seven when no crops were raised. God promised sufficient harvest in the sixth year to provide for this period.