The Bible – it’s one of the most popular and best-selling books in the world. Spanning a couple thousand years of history, it touches upon a wide range of subject matters. In it we find stories about origins, human nature, kingdoms, salvation, and the end of the world. Life and death, happiness and despair, good and evil. All of this, and more.
There’s plenty of inspiration to be found in the Bible, but sometimes the narratives can make you cringe. What follows below are a few stories that might have made the characters involved feel a little (or a lot) on the awkward side of things.
10. Adam and Eve introduce awkwardness to the human race (Genesis 3)
To kick this list off, let’s begin with the story about how Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, discovered what feeling awkward was like.
In the middle of the entire Garden of Eden God had created for them, only one tree was off-limits. They could eat any fruit they wanted, so long as they stayed away from that one tree. Thanks to the crafty serpent, however, they chose to ignore God’s command. As a result, they became aware of their own nakedness (yes, there were other consequences, but let’s just focus on this one).
Think of how uncomfortable you would feel if, after having lived in oblivious nudity without any feelings of shame, you took a bite of contraband fruit and suddenly realized, “Whoa – I’m naked!”
Bonus awkward points: In addition to their new-found sense of shame, the prospect of facing God and explaining why they couldn’t follow one little rule must have been equally awkward (and terrifying) for the two partners in crime.
9. Talking to a donkey (Numbers 22)
Most people would agree that receiving correction can be a humbling and awkward ordeal, but then again most people don’t receive correction from their donkeys. And that’s apparently what happened to a prophet named Balaam.
In Numbers 22, King Balak of the Moabites, worried about Israel’s military advantage, decided to request Balaam’s services, which consisted mainly of blessing and/or cursing people depending on God’s instruction.
Having received divine permission to visit the Moabite king, Balaam saddled up his donkey and hit the road. However, God became angry and dispatched an angel with a sword to block Balaam’s path and force the donkey to stop. For some reason, Balaam couldn’t see the angel and kept beating the frightened beast, until finally it complained about the abuse by talking to him.
Awkward, yes, but apparently getting owned by a donkey wasn’t awkward enough for Balaam, who carried on a conversation with it until he finally saw the angel. Whoops.
Bonus: King Balak, who was hoping for some juicy curses against Israel, ended up with his own serving of awkward – he got four oracles that blessed Israel instead!
8. One hundred Philistine foreskins (1 Samuel 18)
Before the handsome, successful, and wildly popular David became Israel’s king, he had to put up with a rather jealous King Saul, who hated his guts and wanted him dead. Chucking spears at David wasn’t working out very well for Saul, so when he discovered that his daughter Michal was in love with David, he had an idea – put David in a situation that would result in his death at the hands of Israel’s enemies, the Philistines.
In order to win Michal’s hand, Saul declared, David would need to bring in the foreskins of one hundred Philistines. In other words, if David wanted to marry Michal, he had to go slaughter a hundred enemy soldiers and bring back the proof.
Technically, the task was a suicide mission, so when David and his men actually returned (with a surplus), Saul was understandably shocked and had to hand over his daughter.
“What, you’re still alive? And you’ve got 100 – no, 200!? – Philistine trophies with you, too? This is awkward…”
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7. Noah gets naked (Genesis 9)
You’ve just survived a worldwide flood. Life has been almost completely annihilated. You and your immediate family members are now responsible for repopulating the face of the earth. So what do you do about it? Plant yourself a vineyard, brew some wine, get sloshed, and then pass out naked in your tent.
This isn’t such a bad thing by itself, but while Noah was still unconscious his son Ham walked in. Instead of honoring his old man by covering him up, Ham made a joke about it to his brothers Shem and Japheth, who responded by walking backwards into Noah’s tent and improving his modesty without observing their father’s nakedness.
Those who understand the effects alcohol has on one’s behavior can probably relate to the awkwardness Noah might have felt when he awoke (“I did what!?”).
Bonus: Ham had it coming, too. Noah was pretty upset to hear that his youngest son had been disrespectful, and Ham ended up with a curse of slavery on his family line. Explain that one to your kids!
6. Haman forced to honor Mordecai (Esther 6)
As a high-ranking official in the court of the Persian King Xerxes, Haman was offended one day when a Jew named Mordecai refused to show him the courtesy of a respectful bow. To get revenge for his injured ego, Haman convinced King Xerxes to let him issue a decree that would legalize the extermination of all Jews throughout the kingdom (overreaction, anyone?).
What Haman didn’t realize was that the recently instated Queen Esther happened to be a Jew – and Mordecai’s cousin. In addition, Mordecai was directly responsible for supplying information to Esther which exposed a plot to assassinate the king. Since Esther was able to put in a good word for Mordecai, the king decided to honor him.
Xerxes went to Haman for advice about how to honor a man who had pleased the king. Haman, self-importantly assuming that he himself was the one to be honored, came up with an idea in terms of what he would have liked for himself. Unfortunately, Xerxes then ordered him to carry it out for Mordecai.
Thus, an embarrassed Haman was forced to lead Mordecai – dressed in royal robes and mounted on a royal horse – through the city streets, announcing to everyone that the king approved of Mordecai, the man he despised.
5. Jesus outs his own betrayer (John 13)
Traitors generally prefer to remain anonymous, at least until they have fulfilled their objective. However, if the person you want to betray happens to be the Messiah, you might find yourself unable to maintain typical standards of secrecy.
Judas is famous for accepting payment to lead Jesus into enemy hands. Interestingly, his plot was brought to light by Jesus himself while the disciples were eating the Passover meal one night.
After announcing that a traitor was in their midst, Jesus decided to make Judas’s secret plans obsolete by specifically pointing him out. “Want to know who’s going to betray me? Okay, I’ll give the guilty party this piece of bread,” Jesus said. “Here, Judas – have a piece of bread.” Judas, confused and surprised by this incident, headed out to gather a mob of people to arrest Jesus later that night in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Bonus: the greeting kiss by which Judas identified Jesus to the soldiers (Matthew 26) was probably a pretty awkward one, wouldn’t you agree?
4. God confirms his covenant with Abram (Genesis 17)
When the Lord appeared to the 99-year-old Abram in Genesis 17, he laid out the ground rules for how the covenant between them would be confirmed. In exchange for being the father of many nations, inheriting the land of Canaan, and becoming fruitful, Abram needed to 1) walk blamelessly before the Lord, 2) change his name to ‘Abraham’, and 3) cut off part of his penis.
Technically, since circumcision was already practiced by other Semitic people groups at that point in history, Abram was probably not too shocked by the revelation that a small part of his anatomy would be going under the knife. Still, I can imagine a brief, awkward silence at this point in the conversation as Abram let this particular aspect of the covenant sink in!
3. God tells Hosea to marry an unfaithful woman (Hosea 1, 3)
The life of an Old Testament prophet was not necessarily a pleasant one. For example, in the case of Hosea – who prophesied in Israel during the reign of the wicked King Jeroboam – God had a pretty awkward idea in mind, namely: Go marry a prostitute. And by the way, she’s going to cheat on you.
There was a point to the apparent madness, of course. Under Jeroboam’s leadership, Israel was too busy sinning to bother following God’s laws and commands. By asking Hosea to take an unfaithful wife, God was essentially comparing the sinful ways of Israel to a woman who is not faithful to her husband.
Just as God predicted, after bearing three children to Hosea, Gomer took another lover. In order to show how devoted he was to the people of Israel, God ordered Hosea to show unconditional love to Gomer by buying her back from the dude she’d been sleeping with.
In a way, this is a beautiful story of forgiveness – but at the same, it would also be pretty awkward to find yourself mixed up in that kind of situation.
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2. Jacob gets the wrong wife (Genesis 29)
What better way to deceive your hard-working nephew and future son-in-law than to promise him one daughter’s hand in marriage, and then trick him into wedding your older daughter? It’s a cold thing to do, but that’s exactly how Uncle Laban decided he would treat Jacob in the book of Genesis.
Laban had two daughters named Leah and Rachel, and the latter’s beauty captivated Jacob. In order to win her as his wife, he agreed to become Laban’s employee for seven years. But when the wedding day finally arrived, the devious Laban, in an effort to marry off his oldest daughter first, dressed up Leah as Jacob’s bride instead of Rachel. The veiled wedding outfit, combined with the darkness of the marriage chamber, prevented Jacob from noticing a problem until the next morning.
1. Lot and his daughters (Genesis 19)
The story of Lot and his two daughters provides us with yet another example of drunkenness that turned awkward. In certain cases, drinking wine should be avoided, especially if you are living alone in a secluded mountain cave with your kids. You never know when a serious case of incest could strike.
After fleeing from the smoldering wasteland that had been Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and the girls had eventually settled in a mountainous region, which must have been in the middle of nowhere considering what happens next. The two daughters, perhaps working on the assumption that most of the world had been destroyed by fire and brimstone, concluded that in order for them to preserve their family line, they would have to get their father drunk with wine and… yeah.
For two consecutive nights – one night for each daughter – they managed to get their father so completely smashed that he wasn’t aware of what his own children were doing.
I honestly can’t figure it out – would this situation have been more awkward for the daughters, or for Lot when he found out what had happened?
There are probably other examples that might have worked for this list. For instance, I’m sure it felt pretty weird for Isaiah when God told him to walk around naked (Isaiah 20), and it must have been both awkward and terrifying when Joseph’s brothers realized that the annoying brat they had sold into slavery years ago was now the governor of Egypt (Genesis 25).
But take the examples for what they’re worth. Go, and try not to do likewise.