Difficult Passages of the Old Testament

NOTE: In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, many of the monastics do not have a blessing to read the Old Testament (usually those in the noviciate). Various reasons are given from “it’s not necessary,” “the New Testament is more important,” “you hear all the most important parts read in Church,” etc. The following passages, most of which the Orthodox Church Fathers never made commentaries on, are taken from the Septuagint (LXX):

LXX Psalm 1
LXX Psalm 1


Some of the more difficult Old Testament passages for an Orthodox Christian are the ones dealing with urolagnia and coprophagia [those of a weak stomach should not google these terms].


Ezekiel 4:12-15 – God Commands Prophet Ezekiel to Eat Human and Oxen Feces!

And thou shalt eat them [as] a barley cake: thou shalt bake them before their eyes in man’s dung. And thou shalt say, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; Thus shall the children of Israel eat unclean things among the Gentiles. Then I said, Not so, Lord God of Israel: surely my soul has not been defiled with uncleanness; nor have I eaten, that which died of itself or was torn of beasts from my birth until now; neither has any corrupt flesh entered into my mouth. And he said to me, Behold, I have given thee dung of oxen instead of man’s dung, and thou shalt prepare thy loaves upon it.

[Note: some have tried to interpret “dung” as fuel here but nothing in those verses relate to anything at all about fuel and it specifically says to bake it “with” dung. Moreover the verses speak of “defiled bread” and “abominable flesh” which obliterates the fuel theory. During biblical times barley served as a poor-man’s staple. They also fed their cattle barley, which may explain the adding of dung (with its undigested barley) to the cake to increase the barely content.]

Prophet Ezekiel

4 Kings 18:27 – Eating Dung and Drinking Urine

And Rapsakes said to them, Has my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? [has he] not [sent me] to the men who sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own water together with you.

[Note: This is 2 Kings in the KJV. Any mention of eating feces and drinking urine in any secular writing would get considered obscene and sick by any righteous minded Christian. Some Protestant translations use the word “piss” instead of “water” which is interesting considering that was one of the original “seven dirty words” that were considered highly inappropriate and unsuitable for broadcast on the public airwaves in the United States, whether radio or television. As such, they were avoided in scripted material, and bleep censored in the rare cases in which they were used].

Malachi 2:2-3 – Scatology

If ye will not hearken, and if ye will not lay [it] to heart, to give glory to my name, saith the Lord Almighty, then I will send forth the curse upon you, and I will bring a curse upon your blessing: yea, I will curse it, and I will scatter your blessing, and it shall not exist among you, because ye lay not this to heart. Behold, I turn my back upon you, and I will scatter dung upon your faces, the dung of your feasts, and I will carry you away at the same time.

[Note: At Pitesti Prison, outside Bucharest, Christian prisoners were compelled to participate in blasphemous versions of Romanian Orthodox liturgical rites: a parody baptism was performed as their heads were dunked in a bucket of urine and feces. Coercion techniques used to humiliate an individual and destroy the human personality many times include the use of urine and feces].

Prophet Malachi
Prophet Malachi


Deuteronomy 23:13-15 – Commandments for Fecal Disposal

And thou shalt have a place outside of the camp, and thou shalt go out thither, and thou shalt have a trowel on thy girdle; and it shall come to pass when thou wouldest relieve thyself abroad, that thou shalt dig with it, and shalt bring back the earth and cover thy nuisance. Because the Lord thy God walks in thy camp to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemy before thy face; and thy camp shall be holy, and there shall not appear in thee a disgraceful thing and [so] he shall turn away from thee.

[Note: The commandment to dispose of feces outside of the military camp was apparently given because God personally wished to walk through the camp].

3 Kings 14:10 – Urinating on Walls

Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Roboam, and will cut off from Roboam him that pisseth against the wall.

[Note: This is 1 Kings in the KJV. The word ‘pisseth’ translates from the Hebrew word ‘shathan’ [shaw-than’] which means to make water, i.e. urinate, or piss].

Illustration of Jeroboam setting up two golden calves, Bible Historiale, 1372
Illustration of Jeroboam setting up two golden calves, Bible Historiale, 1372


Ezekiel 23:1-23 – The Sister Whores Oola and Ooliba

Though there are numerous Orthodox Patristic commentaries, unfortunately there do not seem to be any Patristic commentaries elucidating the deeper meanings of this chapter. The story of the sister whores Oola and Ooliba gives a moral lesson against the sins of the flesh, yet it describes their adventures in such pornographic detail. Verse 21 compares the size of men’s penises to donkey genitals and the sperm flow to that of horse issues. If the lustful descriptions described in chapter 23 were not biblical, but rather taken from a secular source, they would be considered corrupting.

Aholah and Aholibah
Aholah and Aholibah

And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Son of man, there were two women, daughters of one mother: and they went a-whoring in Egypt in their youth: there their breasts fell, there they lost their virginity. And their names were Oola the elder, and Ooliba her sister: and they were mine, and bore sons and daughters: and [as for] their names, Samaria was Oola, and Jerusalem was Ooliba. And Oola went a-whoring from me, and doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians that were her neighbors, clothed with purple, princes and captains; [they were] young men and choice, all horseman riding on horses. And she bestowed her fornication upon them; all were choice sons of the Assyrians: and on whomsoever she doted herself, with them she defiled herself in all [their] devices. And she forsook not her fornication with the Egyptians: for in her youth they committed fornication with her, and they deflowered her, and poured out their fornication upon her. Therefore I delivered her into the hands of her lovers, into the hands of the children of the Assyrians, on whom she doted. They uncovered her shame: they took her sons and daughters, and slew her with the sword: and she became a byword among women: and they wrought vengeance in her for the sake of the daughters. And her sister Ooliba saw [it], and she indulged in her fondness more corruptly than she, and in her fornication more than the fornication of her sister. She doted upon the sons of the Assyrian, princes and captains, her neighbours, clothed with fine linen, horsemen riding on horses; [they were] all choice young men. And I saw that they were defiled, [that] the two [had] one way. And she increased her fornication, and she saw men painted on the wall, likenesses of the Chaldeans painted with a pencil, having variegated girdles on their loins, having also richly dyed [attire] upon their heads; all had a princely appearance, the likeness of the children of the Chaldeans, of their native land. And she doted upon them as soon as she saw them, and sent forth messengers to them into the land of the Chaldeans. And the sons of Babylon came to her, into the bed of rest, and they defiled her in her fornication, and she was defiled by them, and her soul was alienated from them. And she exposed her fornication, and exposed her shame: and my soul was alienated from her, even as my soul was alienated from her sister. And thou didst multiply thy fornication, so as to call to remembrance the days of thy youth, wherein thou didst commit whoredom in Egypt, and thou didst dote upon the Chaldeans, whose flesh is as the flesh of the asses, and their members [as] the members of horses. And thou didst look upon the iniquity of thy youth, [the things] which thou wroughtest in Egypt in thy lodgings, where were the breasts of thy youth. Therefore, Ooliba, thus saith the Lord; Behold, I [will] stir up thy lovers against thee, from whom thy soul is alienated, and I will bring them upon thee round about, the children of Babylon, and all the Chaldeans, Phacuc, and Sue, and Hychue, and all the sons of the Assyrians with them; choice young men, governors and captains, all princes and renowned, riding on horses.



II Kings 6:14-16, 20 – David Uncovers Himself

And David sounded with well-tuned instruments before the Lord, and David [was] clothed with a fine long robe. And David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of a trumpet. And it came to pass as the ark arrived at the city of David, that Melchol the daughter of Saul looked through the window, and saw king David dancing and playing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.

And David returned to bless his house. And Melchol the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and saluted him, and said, How was the king of Israel glorified to-day, who was to-day uncovered in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the dancers wantonly uncovers himself!

[Note: King David was dancing and leaping vigorously while uncovering himself to the crowd].

King David dancing

Isaiah 20:2-3 – Prophecy in the Nude

Then the Lord spoke to Esaias the son of Amos, saying, Go and take the sackcloth off thy loins, and loose thy sandals from off thy feet, and do thus, going naked and barefoot. And the Lord said, As my servant Esaias has walked naked and barefoot three years, there shall be three years for signs and wonders to the Egyptians and Ethiopians; for thus shall the king of the Assyrians lead the captivity of Egypt and the Ethiopians, young men and old, naked and barefoot, having the shame of Egypt exposed.

[Note: Although Saul acted on his own, God gave Isaiah a direct injunction to prophesy in the nude, and that it should continue for three years. The Fathers don’t really focus on Isaiah’s nudity. St. Jerome states, “Isaiah goes naked without blushing as a type of captivity to come.” (Letter XL, to Marcella). Also see Micah 1:8].



Genesis 4:17 – Cain’s Wife

And Cain knew his wife, and having conceived she bore Enoch; and he built a city; and he named the city after the name of his son, Enoch.

[Note: What wife? At that time only Adam & Eve, Cain and Abel existed on the Earth. The only possibility comes from, either a grave omission from the Bible, or his mother Eve served as his wife. The second possibility would mean incest. Though, St. Ephraim the Syrian states, “Cain, therefore, separated himself from his parents and his kin because he saw that they would not intermarry with him.” Commentary on Genesis, 3.11.1

After Cain killed his brother, God protected him by setting “a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” (v.14). Considering the earth supposedly had only Adam’s family, who should kill him? And what kind of mark could have protected Cain? In Syriac Christianity, early exegesis of the “curse” and the “mark”, associated the curse of Cain with black skin—though later Orthodox teaching would evolve to Noah’s curse changing Canaan/Ham’s skin black. Certain Baptist sects, as well as the Mormons, also teach that Cain’s mark is black skin.

As for the incest of Lot and his daughters, see Righteous Lot and His Daughters by St. Ephraim the Syrian.

Cain & Abel


Song of Songs 7:11-13

Come, my kinsman, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages. Let us go early into the vineyards; let us see if the vine has flowered, [if] the blossoms have appeared, if the pomegranates have blossomed; there will I give thee my breasts. The mandrakes have given a smell, and at our doors [are] all kinds of choice fruits, new and old. O my kinsman, I have kept [them] for thee.

[Note: Though the Fathers try to give a spiritual and allegorical interpretation of Solomon’s Song, this poetry gives Scriptural testimony for love, sex and the beauty of the female body, a rare and usually ignored portion of the Bible by many fundamentalist Christians.

The mandrakes mentioned here describe a Mediterranean herb of the nightshade family of plants. To this day in the Middle East, people believe it overcomes impotence in men and acts as a powerful aphrodisiac. Even the roots have a decidedly phallic appearance. Ancient physician, Galen, wrote that pomegranate possessed antifertility properties. Many women in ancient days used pomegranate, (as well as other plants) for birth control, with little interference from religious or political authorities. Studies in the 1930s showed that pomegranate reduced fertility in laboratory animals, much as modern contraceptive pills do. [Archaeology, March/April 1994]