The Bible chronicles some of the world’s most violent times. There were people getting mutilated, strangled, set on fire, defenestrated, and beheaded. But there were just some ways to die which were downright embarrassing. Getting killed by jawbone wielded by an Israelite superman named Samson … that ain’t so bad. Crushed by the engulfing waves of the Sea of Reeds? Kinda epic really. So which were the most embarrassing ways to die in the Bible?
10 – Hung on your own gallows (Esther 7:6-10). Jewish readers familiar with Purim, the least depressing of the major Jewish holidays, know what this one’s about. The villain Haman is set to have the hated Jew Mordecai executed on some pretty tall gallows. What he didn’t count on, though, was that Mordecai was related to the ruling queen, Esther. Esther calls him out, Haman tries to cozy up with her to spare his life, and then King Xerxes walks in and totally misreads the situation. Just like in a sitcom! And I think we can all agree that most sitcoms can be vastly improved when the romantic rival is hung on his own gallows.
9 – Foiled by your own fabulous hair (2 Samuel 18:9-14). Absalom rebels against his own father, King David, but as he’s riding, his head gets stuck in a tree. And he just sorta hangs there, stuck. One of King David’s main generals, Joab, sorta takes the opportunity to kill the guy and put an end to the insurgency, despite an edict from the king that Absalom should not be harmed. But one has to wonder … how in the world did Absalom get his head stuck in the branches of a tree? Well, earlier (2 Samuel 14:25-26), the Bible helpfully informs us that Absalom, a handsome stud who was a hit with the ladies (and the men, oddly enough), had some seriously luxurious hair. It says that when he went and got a haircut, the cut hair would weight about 5 lbs. Man, I can’t even score 1 lb. of hair when I go to Fantastic Sam’s. Curse you, you handsome devil… CURSE YOU!
8. – Random shot (2 Chronicles 18:28-34). During an invasion by the Arameans, King Ahab of Israel chickens out. He gets his pal, Jehoshaphat of Judah, to dress up as him, while Ahab put on the outfit of a regular grunt. That’s because the Arameans were out for Ahab, and Ahab alone (going as far as to say they wouldn’t kill anyone except the King of Israel). Well, the Arameans were fooled at first, but I guess they got a close look at Jehoshaphat and figured out they’d been snookered. But … it ends up they do manage to off Ahab. How? One of the Aramean soldiers fires a completely random shot and it strikes Ahab down. Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!
7. – Mauled by bears for calling someone a “baldhead” (2 Kings 2:23-25). This is one of those examples that critics of Christianity love to point out. Elisha’s walking along, some “youths” (or teens as we would call them nowadays) call him a baldy, and God sends some bears to maul them. Why in the world would a just God do something as petty as that? Well, some context: 1.) This was the time of King Ahab and his descendants, and the prevailing religion was Baal worship. Anyone practicing Judaism, in fact, was considered the enemy of the state. Prophets, few that there were, had to hide out in the mountains. 2.) The Bible says there were at least 42 youths doing the taunting. There’s a good chance they were planning to do something a lot more to a known political fugitive. There’s another point: if I remember my Bible study correctly, the leader mentioned that the youths were mauled, not killed. If they were killed, the Bible would not hesitate to says so. I guess that might make this item exempt from this list … but I really can’t pass up on an “attacked by bears” bulletpoint, so there you go.
6. – Touching the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chronicles 13:9-10). This is the other example that critics use to slam the Biblical God. The Israelites, led by King David, are transporting the Ark of the Covenant. The oxen stumble, and Uzzah tries to steady the Ark. For his trouble, God kills him. Now, I’ve heard many reasons why this happened. Maybe God was using Uzzah as an example that the Ark was not just an inert piece of metal like you’d find in the other regional religions. Or maybe Uzzah died of a heart attack from the shock that he’d laid his hand on the Ark of the Covenant. Anyway, King David gave Uzzah his due by naming the place after him (“Perez Uzzah”). I know it means “outbreak against Uzzah,” but if you had to die in the service of the Lord for simply touching something, you gotta take anything you can get, y’know?
5. – Stabbed in the belly (Judges 3:24-25). I mentioned this incident in a previous list, where morbidly obese King Eglon is stabbed by Hebrew assassin Ehud the Left-Handed. That’s not the embarrassing part. The embarrassing part is after Ehud leaves and locks the doors behind him. The king’s servants would have loved to check up on their master, but they just assume the big guy’s relieving hiself. And why would they assume that? You … don’t really want to know what the main chamber of Eglon’s room smelled like that day.
4. – Struck down for embezzlement (Acts 5:1-11). In the early days of Christianity, members were required to sell their property and live in a commune. (Proceeds went to the needy) A couple, by the name of Ananias and Sapphira, sold their land but kept some hidden away. Peter first calls out Ananias, who dies on the spot. Three hours later, Peter calls out the wife, who dies likewise. (The men who buried the husband were just coming back and find the dead body of the wife.) But honestly, if you think that’s harsh, remember what happened to some of the officials after the Enron scandal (imprisonments and two deaths, one whose cause is still a mystery).
3. – Eaten by worms (Acts 12:21-23). Ah, hubris. King Herod’s feeling good about himself after his loyal subjects think that he’s a god. Unfortunately, God’s not so happy and strikes him down. The Bible’s pretty clear on this … he’s eaten by worms AND THEN he dies. The worst part about this incident is that I remember a very creepy children’s song we had to learn in Sunday School about this. The verse goes: “And worms came to nibble on his fingers/yum yum yum/nibble on his eyes, nibble on his nose/yum yum yum/nibble on his head/yum yum yum/Nibble ’til he’s dead/blech!” I mean … Come on! Traumatize me some more, whydontcha?
2. – Killed by a woman with a millstone to the head (Judges 9:46-54). During an invasion on the city of Thebez, Abimelech, a judge (e.g., warlord) of Israel, gets to the tower to set it on fire and kill the last survivors. What he did not figure on, though, was that an unnamed woman had a nice heavy millstone. Before he knew it, Abimelech had his skull cracked open. Now, Israel had already seen its share of tough ladies: the warlord Deborah and her assassin, Jael. Abimelech, though, was way too embarrassed to be killed by a chick. With his dying breath, he tells his armor-bearer to run him through, “So that they can’t say, ‘A woman killed him.'” Tough noogies, Abimelech: a woman totally killed you.
1. – Falling asleep during a sermon (Acts 20:7-12). Ah, a death we can all relate to! Paul’s having church with some Christians at Troas. Thing is, the guy doesn’t know when to stop and he keeps prattling on until midnight. A young fellow named Eutychus, does what you or I would do: he falls asleep. Unfortunately, he’s sitting at a window on the third story or a building. Not smart, dude! Eutychus falls out and pretty much dies. Paul gets down there and tells everyone that the kid’s alive … then continues church until daylight. I’m pretty sure no one else fell asleep from that point on. Anyway, some folks come by to pick up Eutychus, and he goes home alive. No word in the Bible whether he was healed from his broken teeth or his cracked ribs or anything.