The Bible says a lot of odd things. I have been fascinated by these odd things ever since I was a child. Partly for my own edification, partly out of curiosity, and partly out of humor I am going to post a short series of entries exploring some strange things that the Bible says. I will use the following format in all posts:
- SAY WHAT?!? – the odd thing that the Bible says and where it says it.
- What? – Ideas for what it means and how it has been interpreted
- Now What? – What might we do with this passage as believers today?
I pray this little experiment in humor and holy scripture is a blessing to you. May you laugh and love more because of it. Amen.
So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall……For in very deed, as the Lord God of Israel liveth, which hath kept me back from hurting thee, except thou hadst hasted and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall. (1 Samuel 25:22, 34 KJV)
Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone. (1 Kings 14:10 KJV)
And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he slew all the house of Baasha: he left him not one that pisseth against a wall, neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends. (1 Kings 16:11 KJV)
Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, (1 Kings 21:21 KJV)
For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel: (2 Kings 9:8 KJV)
I know. It’s just a funny little quirk of the obsolete language of the King James Version. Still.
Many people still use the KJV. They probably didn’t know that was in there though!
Basically, the phrase here is a Hebrew idiomatic way of saying “male.” This is why many modern translations will translate it as such. The logic is that only a male could pee standing up and facing a wall so this phrase is just a colorful way of saying it. Notice that the context of each of these verses is a judgment or humiliation of some kind. This phrase served as a way to verbally humiliate and taunt one’s enemies. This is one of those rare instances where the KJV might just be pretty close to what the force of the Hebrew idiom is.
Isn’t it amazing that God inspired the recording of a cultural idiom like this one? As one of my favorite preachers/teachers Will Willimon says, “we serve a talkative God!” God talks in a language we can understand. Our God is not afraid of slang, idiom, or contextual. Jesus is the ultimate example of God speaking in idiom. Basically, God put God in a language man could understand: man. God wants so much to be in relationship with us that he is willing to accommodate to our way of communicating.
Scripture was written in the midst of cultures very different form our own. God spoke through the written words of humans because He was unafraid to speak the local language. God is always a speaker of the local language… even when its a partly-crude idiom from ancient Israel.
- “Why Does the King James Bible Say ‘Pisseth Against The Wall?'”
- Here is an article I found while I was studying for this. It’s about outdated words the KJV uses. I had a good laugh from it. Maybe you will too.
- “Talkative God” – A Sermon by Will Willimon