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Big Dummies of the Bible: And How You Can Avoid Being A Dummy Too

Big Dummies of the Bible: And How You Can Avoid Being A Dummy Too

4.9 8
by Stephen M. Miller

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Have you ever done something so dumb you wince at the thought of it? Well, you're not alone. The Bible is full of characters who made some shockingly dumb moves. Here are a few examples:

  • A guy who sold his right to his family's estate for a bowl of soup.
  • The couple who had the pleasure of having no rules, no boundaries--except one . . . a rule


Have you ever done something so dumb you wince at the thought of it? Well, you're not alone. The Bible is full of characters who made some shockingly dumb moves. Here are a few examples:

  • A guy who sold his right to his family's estate for a bowl of soup.
  • The couple who had the pleasure of having no rules, no boundaries--except one . . . a rule they decided to break anyway.
  • The guy who fell in love with a woman who clearly was doing her best to have him killed.

In Big Dummies of the Bible, bestselling author Stephen Miller shows readers some shockingly dumb moves by men and women of the Bible. Yet thousands of years later, we're still making the same mistakes, and the results often turn out to be as grievous now as they were for these biblical characters. Miller teaches us how to avoid these mistakes and the inevitable accompanying pain and heartache.

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By Stephen M. Miller

W Publishing Group

Copyright © 2007 Stephen M. Miller
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8499-0770-8

Chapter One


God gave this couple only one law to obey, but it was one law too many.

Humanity's first couple made just one dumb decision, as far as the Bible says. But it was a paradise show-stopper.

No other dumb decision in human history can match it for the trouble it caused. In fact, the Bible in a nutshell is the story of God working his plan to undo the damage.

"You may eat the fruit from any tree in the garden," God had told Adam and Eve, who were basking in Eden's perfect glory. "But you must not eat the fruit from the tree which gives the knowledge of good and evil. If you ever eat fruit from that tree, you will die!" (Genesis 2:16-17). There you have it-before the Ten Commandments there was only one, and this was it.

As it turns out, it was one commandment too many.

A Sin to Chew on

Creation's story is full of mystery. There are many more questions than answers. And one of a landslide of questions is why God didn't want Adam and Eve eating fruit that gives the knowledge of good and evil. Scholars don't know, but they love to guess.

One theory is that "good and evil" represents wisdom that comes with maturity, which prepares us for independence and our emerging sexual awareness. Adam and Eve were like children who weren't ready for any of that. In time, God would have let them eat the fruit of that tree, but this wasn't the time. They weren't ready. In the same way that eight-year-old girls shouldn't be having babies and eight-year-old boys shouldn't be driving Saabs down the boulevard, Adam and Eve had no right eating the forbidden fruit. That's one theory.

For whatever reason God prohibited the fruit, humanity's first couple got duped into eating it. A talking snake-identified in Revelation 20:2 as the devil-assured Eve, "You will not die. God knows that if you eat the fruit from that tree, you will learn about good and evil and you will be like God!" (Genesis 3:4-5).

Eve took a long, hard look at the fruit. It certainly seemed like it would be tasty. So she ate some, and then she gave some to Adam, who also ate it.

Insight of some sort poured into them, because they suddenly realized they were naked. So they made themselves some clothes out of leaves.

It's too bad most of us don't read Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament. We miss a lot of subtle symbolism and some entertaining wordplay. Readers in ancient times might have laughed out loud at the wordplay here. Adam and Eve wanted to get as smart as God-they desired to be "shrewd" but they ended up "nude." From smarty pants to no pants at all.

Some of us have nightmares like that. We're standing front and center before a crowd of lofty dignitaries in a place of great honor, only to discover to our horror that we're as naked as a plucked jaybird. If we're lucky we have a briefcase, because we know how to use it.

Adam and Eve had fig leaves-nearly footlong fans that were among the largest tree leaves in the Middle East. In God's eyes, though, they were overdressed because wearing anything at all meant they had more to hide than body parts.

Good-Bye Eden, Good-Bye God

"The Fall" is what many call the sin of Adam and Eve. Their world collapsed.

Some politicians and high-profile business execs caught in scandals manage to ruin their careers, dishonor their families, and devastate their health. But they produce only a tiny ripple in a pond compared to the Kilimanjaro-high tidal wave that Adam and Eve unleashed on the planet.

In the beginning, God created. Sometime thereafter, Adam and Eve redecorated. What they did, however, was no more an improvement than slicing a tattoo into the flesh of God's finest masterpiece or spray-painting graffiti onto the towering walls of the Grand Canyon. Adam and Eve not only uglied up their own lives, but they uglied up the entire world.

The Sin That Damaged Creation

Theories don't get very far in trying to make sense of how the sin of Adam and Eve changed God's good creation for the worse and how their sinful tendency seems to pass along so effectively from one generation to the next-perpetuating the damage.

Perhaps there's something genetic about this "original sin" or "sinful nature," some theologians have speculated. Others declare this is nonsense, arguing that if the problem is physical, we'll someday be able to fix it ourselves. But it's a spiritual problem, they insist, that intrudes into the physical world, and that only God can fix.

This much is clear: the utopian world that the Bible says existed before the feast on forbidden fruit is nothing like the harsh world described afterward-the world we know. And whether or not Adam and Eve passed along some mystical sin nature that connects us to their original sin, we've each sinned on our own. Plenty.

The Bible's main storyline is about God working to restore his good creation and to defeat sin. He washed the sinful world with a flood, saving the family of one righteous man, Noah. From Noah's ancestors, God chose righteous Abraham to become father of a nation devoted to him-a nation intended to serve as a model of goodness to the rest of the world. From that nation came his own son, Jesus, "who takes away the sin of the world"-at least for those who believe in him (John 1:29; 16:8-9). In the end, God promises, we will see "a new heaven and a new earth.... God's presence is with people, and he will live with them, and they will be his people ... and there will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain, because all the old ways are gone" (Revelation 21:1, 3-4).

Just as God once walked with Adam and Eve in a paradise, the time is coming when he will walk with his people again-creation restored, sin and its painful side effects gone.

Booted from Eden

Before deporting Adam and Eve from the Eden paradise, God arranged for the couple to trade in their fig leaves for clothes he made from animal skins. This is the first time the Bible speaks of animals dying because of the sins of humans-perhaps a predecessor of animal sacrifices yet to come.

"The man has become like one of us," God said. "He knows good and evil. We must keep him from eating some of the fruit from the tree of life, or he will live forever" (Genesis 3:22). Adam and Eve had apparently been allowed to eat fruit from this tree-until now. But to keep them from living forever, "The LORD God forced the man out of the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken" (v. 23).

Losing Their Relationship with God

Worse than losing Eden, Adam and Eve lose God.

Nowhere else in Israel's ancient story preserved in the Bible does anyone seek Eden on a quest for the perfect place to live. But throughout Israel's history, God's people never stopped seeking him. They sought him at the national worship center. They searched for guidance from him through prophets, priests, and sacred writings. They called on him in prayer.

Even today, God's people still seek him. But now they do it with a promise from his son, Jesus: "Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you" (Matthew 7:7). Relationship restored. Next up: walking in paradise. Before walking in paradise, however, we must live with the resulting consequences of the first couple's sin.

Women's Sentence

God imposes the consequences that the couple brought on themselves, starting with Eve. "I will cause you to have much trouble when you are pregnant, and when you give birth to children, you will have great pain. You will greatly desire your husband, but he will rule over you" (Genesis 3:16).

The word translated "pain" is a rare one in the Bible, and it seems to mean more than physical pain. Other words from the same root are often translated as worry, agony, and grief. Even in our modern world of drug-laced, high-tech medical care, pregnancy is all of that-along with physical pain.

God's added sentence that women will be ruled by their husbands is debated hotly enough to bake bricks that you could throw later. Some argue that women should obey their husbands, much like a slave obeys a master. "Just do it."

But in the context of childbirth, God's provision for continuing the species after death enters the landscape, others argue that male dominance refers to a woman's desire to have children. This powerful desire puts her in a position to be dominated by her husband, who may not share the same compelling desire for a family.

But this wasn't God's original plan-the plan that got distorted by sin. God created Eve as Adam's "helper" (Genesis 2:18). The Hebrew word also means partner or companion. It's a word used to describe God: "Our hope is in the Lord. He is our help, our shield to protect us" (Psalm 33:20).

Eve was no more a gofer for Adam than God was for Israel. They worked together in a healthy relationship until sin got in the way.

Men's Sentence

"You listened to what your wife said, and you ate fruit from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat," God told Adam. "So I will put a curse on the ground, and you will have to work very hard for your food" (Genesis 3:17).

Farmers know all too well that thorns and weeds grow much better than most crops. You almost have to coax up a crop, against its better judgment. But weeds need no encouragement. They come to watch the coaxing and to entertain themselves by strangling the crops when farmers' backs are turned.

Return to the Dust

"You must not eat the fruit from the tree which gives the knowledge of good and evil. If you ever eat fruit from that tree, you will die!" (Genesis 2:17).

Some scholars say God wasn't talking about physical death, since Adam lived to the ripe old age of 930. They argue that God was talking about spiritual death-separation from God, a bit like the isolation that King Saul later experienced after God rejected him. Prophet Samuel refused to meet with Saul anymore. As far as Samuel was concerned, Saul was dead (1 Samuel 15:35).

Most scholars, however, see physical death in God's threat, and certainly in the sentence that God later imposed on Adam and Eve: "You will return to the ground, because you were taken from it. You are dust, and when you die, you will return to the dust" (Genesis 3:19).

It's quite possible, these scholars say, that God intended humanity to live forever, enjoying fruit from the tree of life. But sin changed all that. The apostle Paul later wrote, "Sin came into the world because of what one man did, and with sin came death. This is why everyone must die-because everyone sinned" (Romans 5:12).

But God began working his plan. "As one sin of Adam brought the punishment of death to all people, one good act that Christ did makes all people right with God. And that brings true life for all" (v. 18).

What's "true life"? Jesus makes this as obvious as a hunk of fruit dangling from a tree never again forbidden: "Whoever hears what I say and believes in the One who sent me has eternal life"(John 5:24).

Adam and Eve made the dumbest mistake in human history. But it's nothing God can't fix.

No Question Is a Dumb Question

1. Bible experts can only guess about why God didn't want Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Some think the couple wasn't mature enough and that God would have let them eat it when they were ready. What do you think?

2. Adam and Eve knew it was wrong to eat the fruit, but they did it anyhow. Humans ever since have been doing the same: they know something is wrong, but they do it anyhow. Why do you think people do that? Did the sin of Adam and Eve somehow reprogram humanity, tilting them so they lean into sin? If so, how do some people manage to get reprogrammed, so they lean toward God and goodness?

3. If you could talk to the boy in the feature "Knowing When to Say No," what would you say to him? What would you say to the girl? From what you know about Christian teenagers today, whose action better reflects the typical Christian: the boy or the girl? Do you agree that the boy's response is one piece of evidence that God's plan to reclaim creation and overpower sin is working?

4. One of the fallouts of the Fall is that women became dominated by men. Is that adequate reason for a husband to impose his will on a wife and to insist that he's the leader of the household? Or is that fallout's connection to sin a reason to do the opposite and to treat a wife as an equal? Paul advised husbands and wives to submit to each other (Ephesians 5:21). At what point does submission have to end-when a man or a woman has to put a foot down?

5. "Living Forever" talks about people having an innate sense of immortality. Do you have a sense at the level of your instincts that assures you that you're built to live forever? What about the story of Dr. Paul Brand's dying friend, who had a deathbed vision of Jesus? What do you think of stories like that?

Learning from Adam's and Eve's Mistake

Knowing When to Say No

As a father of teenagers, I know many of my children's teenage friends quite well, some of them for years. When one of those boys stopped dating a girl he had been seeing for several weeks, I asked him why. The boy, a sixteen-year-old Christian, paused. I imagine he was trying to decide whether or not to tell me. Finally he said, "She doesn't have any boundaries." "How so?" I asked. He said that when they were sitting alone together at her house, watching TV, she took the arm he rested on her shoulder and pulled it down, placing his hand on her breast. He said he pulled his hand away and put it in his pocket. The young man said he broke off the dating because he didn't think the relationship could be the same after that. He didn't think he could handle the temptation, knowing that she was OK with that level of intimacy. I was stunned. When I was a kid, most of the boys I knew considered hand on breast as a goal, not a foul. Had this teenage boy been Adam, I can't imagine him biting into the forbidden fruit. This boy, it seems to me, is one solid piece of evidence that God's plan to reclaim creation and overpower sin is actually working.

Learning from Adam and Eve's Mistake

Mr. and Mrs. Who's Boss?

When I was in a young adult Sunday school class back in my college days, I remember one particular class session. A young married woman with one of the best singing voices in the church began to cry. She said she believed the Bible was telling her to let her husband be lord of the house. And this lord didn't like her going to church. I saw her much less after that day. My mom, however, was a different bird. After she got saved in the Pilgrim Holiness Church, she told Dad that God would always be first in her life but that Dad would be right there in second place. "I can live with that," Dad said. But Dad didn't like Mom's going to church every Sunday. Some Sundays, Mom and the four small kids she had at the time (another came later) walked about a mile to church, even in the Northeastern Ohio winter. She didn't have her Ohio driver's license yet, and Dad thought that by refusing to drive her to church she wouldn't go. Dad still had a few things to learn about Mom. The Bible's teaching about husband-wife relationships gets argued a lot-sometimes with loud voices. Some readers say that wives should defer to their husbands. Others say that advice like that was more culturally appropriate for ancient patriarchal times, when men were the leaders and women weren't even allowed to own property. God made man and woman partners, to help each other. Yet in Paul's famous advice to husbands and wives, he tells women to submit to their husbands and he tells husbands to love their wives. All of his advice, however, follows this introduction: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21 NLT). The lord of the house is the Lord.


Excerpted from BIG DUMMIES OF THE BIBLE by Stephen M. Miller Copyright © 2007 by Stephen M. Miller. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Stephen M. Miller is a best-selling author, seminary-educated journalist, and a full-time freelance writer and editor who specializes in Bible-related projects. Among his books are Who’s Who in the Bible, The Bible Through the Ages, The Illustrated Dictionary of Bible Life and Times, Complete Guide to the Bible, and How to Get Into the Bible. He also contributed to The Quest Study Bible.

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Big Dummies of the Bible: And How You Can Avoid Being A Dummy Too 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
TamraH More than 1 year ago
I am so glad that I've been able to get a hold of resources from Stephen M. Miller. Having his book, "Big Dummies the Bible" has been a great help as I learn how to make better choices in my daily life. Coupling ancient texts with modern day examples helps the reader to remember that the Bible is just as true today as it was thousands of years ago Thank you so much Stephen M. Miller for your commitment to the faith and your theological and journalistic integrity. Thank you for helping us avoid pitfalls!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It took characters from the Bible and showed the mistakes they made and the lessons that we could learn from their mistakes. It really made me think and laugh, plus it was a good review of popular Bible stories but from a different angle. It also made me realize that everyone, even people we consider heros, have flaws and make errors too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stephen Miller¿s book, Big Dummies of the Bible, is an enjoyable educational experience. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of biblical characters. As the book jacket tells us, probably the most important reason we might want to read this book is for the insight it gives us into how people respond to God. I also appreciated the personal illustrations Miller included, as well as the questions at the end of each chapter. While it¿s reassuring to know that the great men and women of the Bible have done dumb things too, this is more of a cautionary book. As I read Miller¿s retellings of these stories, I found myself reflecting on the lack of vision of some of these people--like David, who had everything anyone could have wanted, yet for all that, he still managed to misuse his power. Yet, because he was willing to take responsibility for his mistakes, God¿s mercy becomes a major part of his story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stephen Miller's Big Dummies of the Bible is the quintessential book for a discussion group. Hot topics. Great background information. Fun to read. Written with a big dollop of humor. This book deals with the 'S' word in a 21st century way that even a fellow dummy can understand. Rev. Bill Calvin
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿Big dummies of the Bible¿ is a very interesting book that describes in a humorous way some dumb people in the bible and their dumb decisions they made. Each chapter has got a part called ¿Learning from the mistake¿. So Stephen M. Miller describes what we can learn today from the mistakes people made 2000 years ago ¿ and it¿s fascinating to see how much we can learn from them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Chock full of interestingly provocative insights into the stories of God¿s people (let¿s just say that I am glad that my personally dumb stories are not told in the Bible)! Thankfully, Big Dummies of the Bible doesn¿t just reveal the dumb moves of our predecessors, it offers hope for us that by our dim moments and decisions, God is not hindered in love and hope expressed to us! Highly recommended for personal inspiration and reflection, as well as an excellent resource for group Bible study- there are wonderful insights and observations of the personal Biblical stories within their context and ours, as well as questions for each chapter helping us to think through avoiding our own dumb moments! Big Dummies of the Bible is wonderfully fun, and easy to read!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a great resource! Short and pithy insights into some of the most famous and infamous characters in the Bible. The author has sprinkled his insights with a liberal dose of humor which is very refreshing. This book would be a great one to use for discussion for Bible studies and small group gatherings. It¿s easily understandable to the believer and non-believer alike. It¿s encouraging to know that these people are the ones God chose to build His kingdom with. A great reminder that God uses the likes of you and me, as well, to build His kingdom!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Big Dummies of the Bible is another great book by best-selling author Stephen M. Miller. Not only does it tell stories from the Bible that most people don't know about, but it does it in an interesting and humerous way. It provides many examples of how everyone is human. And humans make mistakes. It is in our nature. Now, I don¿t know about you, but when someone tells me, ¿just learn from your mistake¿ or ¿take this problem and use it to make you a stronger and better person¿ I think to myself, ¿Ha, much easier said than done.¿ But, this book helped me to put some things into perspective in order for me to do just that¿to take whatever kind of mistake I make, whether big or small, and let it be a lesson for the future. It¿s also nice to know that there are people out there that do dumber things than me.