Wednesday-Weird-Bible-Verse: 200 foreskins as a wedding price for a bride

(Image of 1 Samuel 18:27 used with the kind permission of Brendan Powell Smith, from his book The Brick Bible, available on

Dan Kimball is one of my oldest friends. We went to college together, moved to London, and played in a band in the 1980s. He's an excellent cartoonist, an amazing drummer, and one of the funniest people I've ever met. He runs the Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz and has written a number of books on Christianity.

Last week, Dan launched Wednesday-Weird-Bible-Verse on his blog, in which he discusses one of the "hundreds of very strange sounding, weird, sex descriptive, bizarre and even violent verses in the Bible."

The first weird Bible verse he tackles is 1 Samuel 18:27: "David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage."

In reading this story straight from the Bible, it even states how after David brought the forsekins back to Saul that they counted them to show how many there were. What an incredibly weird image of David standing there counting out 200 foreskins. I have beeen fascinated with the life of David lately having studied through the his story in the Hebrew Bible/First Testament (I try not to say "Old Testament" as that can subtly indicate it isn't valid or important. So I use the term "First Testament" or "Hebrew Bible" instead).

Read the rest on Dan's blog.


    1. According to Google, in the KJV:

      27 Wherefore David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be the king’s son in law. And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife.

      So it’s 200.  One has to wonder if he would have been really embarrassed if it came up to just 197 or something.

    2. 100 was the official price, which was supposed to get the boy killed, but David got zealous and went for 200.  (i’m pretty sure.  i’ve read the bible 29 times)

  1. Michael Smith – Once you get up above one or two, does it really matter? It could as easily say “a fucking lot of foreskins”!

    1. I choose to believe that this story (or something like it) is what inspired Louis C.K. to come up with his phrase “suck a bag full of dicks.”

      1. Mya,

        Could you please not attach a picture to every comment? That’s what the avatar is for.

  2. All kinds of shenanigans in David’s life, according to the books.
    In 2 Samuel, Saul chastises his son Jonathan because of a notorious, heavy-duty bromance with David, stating:

    “I know you have chosen the son of Jesse – which is a disgrace to yourself and the nakedness of your mother!”

  3. So, uh, what’s the collective noun for a group of foreskins?

    A flop of foreskins?

    A puddle of foreskins?

    1. Sure they are, but you can also study and enjoy the weird parts as a more serious intellectual exercise, which is what Dan is doing.

  4. Are we just discovering the bible is filled with crazy stuff?  1 samual …oh around 6 (if i recall correctly):  golden hemorrhoids! 

  5. There was one particularly risque one I came across recently (maybe it was on AutoCoWrecks?) that struck me as odd because it wasn’t from Song of Songs.  Does that ring a bell with anyone?

  6. Concerning the foreskins fiasco, it’s worth noting that Saul was trying to get David killed.  Again.

  7. Once, a bunch of kids mocked Elisha for being bald.  Elisha cursed them in the name of the Lord and two bears came out of the woods and mauled 42 of the kids. Because 42.

    Unfortunately, there’s no consensus on whether or not the bears ripped off the kids’ foreskins.

    1. Because 42.

      It’s gematria. Numbers correspond to Hebrew letters. Change the numbers to the letters to get a secret message. The bible’s full of easter eggs.

  8. Goliath was a Philistine; his giant foreskin must’ve equaled more than a normal sized model.

    1. Since penis size does not correlate directly with height, it’s quite possible that the physically giant Goliath had a tiny penis. This may be the impetus for his becoming a champion at slaying people.

  9. I wonder if in a moment of frivolity and fun, one of the soldiers slipped one on and pranced about saying, “Hey look at me!  I’m a Philistine!”  I bet everyone laughed.

  10. They later got converted to the first manufactured meat product.

    Yes David was the inventor of “e-Mohel Spam”.

  11. And yea, the Queen sewed together the foreskins, and made thereof a wallet, and gave it unto the King. And the King said, “All those foreskins madest only one wallet?” And the Queen replied “Strokest thou the wallet and it shall become as a matching set of luggage.”

    – Samsonite 5:15

    1. This raises a good point — just what *does* a king do with 200 foreskins??? Will we be reading news someday of an archaeologist running out of a cave screaming, “Eeeeeeeewwwww!” after finding a clay jar full of dried foreskins?

  12. So according to the fundamentalists, homosexuality is a sin, but David depantsing 200 strangers and getting a good grip on their rods and staffs is totally OK?  And exactly what would one call Saul’s fetish for foreskins?  Did they have to be fresh, or could they be dried?  What did they do about counterfeits?

    1. Toff – That is a great question. In the Bible we see God reprimanding David for his violence and did not allow him to build the Temple in Jerusalem as he shares when speaking to his son in this passage:“My son, I had it in my heart to build a house to the name of the LORD my God. But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth’” (1 Chronicles 22:7–8).Because people did things in the Bible like David did, doesn’t mean that God would approve of it. 

      1. But doesn’t it say: “And the LORD helped David wherever he went”, in reference to the violence that David is now being penalized for?

      2. aren’t you publishing some sort of book on rockabilly/jesus?”
        my friend JR mentioned something about it some time back but i can’t remember the subject/title. I’d like to purchase it.

    2. Getting a good grip is only the first step – ritualistic circumcision flirts with homosexuality and pedophilia even more than this.  Jewish law requires the mohel performing a circumcision to suck the blood from the child’s penis.  This is called metzitzeh, and is still practiced by some.  Others use a straw and a glass to be, you know, not weird or anything while mutilating a child’s genitalia.

  13. “Christianity is not a modern man-made “organized religion”, but one that is organic, community-oriented and deeply rooted in history. At Vintage Faith Church, we have gone back into the New Testament and looked at church history to see what the “vintage” early-church was like, and are attempting to translate those values of the early church vision into a church for today’s culture in Santa Cruz.”

    oh man christian hipsters

    1.  Maybe it’s a gnostic thing. You probably haven’t heart of it. They were into Christianity before the Council of Nicea sold out.

    2. It’s been a few years since I’ve been in  Santa Cruz, but I thought it still had more aging hippies than modern hipsters.

  14. You know, at least in this instance the Bible is recognising that having your foreskin removed against your will is an act of violence. It’s a shame that’s not more widely recognised, really.

    1. Having experienced this personally when I was 6 days old, all I can say is thank goodness I can’t remember it. I have a Turkish friend at work who told me about their equivalent of a Bar Mitzvah: at age 13 (years! not days) they throw a big party, and there in front of all your friends and family you get the Big Snip. Oy Vey!

  15. I’ve spent 2011 reading the Bible, and trust me… this doesn’t scratch the surface of weirdness.
    I’m an atheist and of the opinion that MORE people should read the Bible… and not just the sanitized bits they quote in church. The Torah (except the law in Leviticus and Numbers, which you can skip) and the Deuteronomic Histories (Joshua->Kings) are amazing works of literature/historical fiction and should be properly enjoyed, neither taken too seriously or sarcastically dismissed.

    1. I agree that any document that has survived over 2600 years deserves attention.  It is a record of bronze-age man groping for a universal set of ethics. but, and I’ll check my watch, we’re no longer in the bronze age.  It should be respected for what it is, not what it purports to be.

  16. For centuries, up until the 1980s, theologians puzzled at what the hidden message in the book of Job, “up, down, left, right, a, b, select, start” meant.

  17. I could use some more of these quotes … just to have some fun with these loud church people here in Ethiopia.

  18. I feel like the key parts of these stories always get left out of the official version.

    David:  “Here’s the calamari you ordered, Sir!”

  19. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just whack off the whole wiener? Here’s your 200 foreskins, with lagniappe.

  20. When Saul moved house, I’m guessing he left the 200 foreskins in his kitchen – thus spawning the millennia-old tradition of leaving a drawer full of rubber bands for the next tenant.

  21. I always enjoyed the bit in Genesis (34:13-29 or so… earlier if you want the backstory) where the Israelites agree to peace terms, which meant that all the other guys had their foreskins removed so as to be one big happy family.  Then, on the third day, “when they were sore” (best line), Jacob, Simeon, and Levi sneak in and kill them all.  Because, you know, they’re sore and can’t fight well.  Hahaha, suckers!  got yer foreskins AND you’re dead!  

    No wonder there are so many Christians.

  22. Getting a kick… oh never mind. Too obvious.

    My favorite aspect of the story, though, is the reason Gawd turned against Saul.

    It was because Saul was insufficiently thorough in his gawd-ordered genocide.

    “Now go and strike Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

    “But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but everything that was despised and worthless, that they destroyed utterly.”

    “Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying, It grieves me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he has turned back from following me, and has not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.”

  23. An amusing book that goes into this sort of stuff in loving detail is “Ken’s Guide to the Bible” by Ken Smith.

  24. The Old Testament is written by barbarians for barbarians.  I don’t see how any decent human being could believe that it’s the inspired word of a kind and loving god when it contains verses like,

    “8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us- 9 he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”
    –Psalm 137, verses 8 & 9 by god’s favorite foreskin harvister King David.

    1. I totally understand what you are saying and why. If you are ever interested in looking into the cultural context and some ways of trying to make sense of this, there are some good books by a professor of ethics Paul Copan “Is God A Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament God” and also a Hebrew and Old Testament Professor named David Lamb (who didn’t grow up in a Christian home and later became a Christian) who wrote a book called “God Behaving Badly: Is The God of the Old Testament Angry, Racist and Sexist?”  They were helpful to me with the very thing you are very understandably raising up here. So your thoughts are very valid and do need to be addressed. I appreciate your response and I had the same response too. That is why I ended up studying a lot to see what was happening there and how was the Old Testament written etc. I do appreciate your comments as it is exactly how I felt as well. 

      1. Ok.  Assuming you apologize for the O.T. god’s bloodthirstiness adequately (and I admit I haven’t read the books you refer to, though if I recall correctly, Richard Dawkins deals with at least one of them in his excellent “The God Delusion”), how do you explain the divine inspiration of 1 Kings 7, verses 23-26:
        “Now he made the sea [or cauldron, or bath, depending on the translation you’re reading] of cast metal ten cubits from brim to brim, circular in form, and its height was five cubits, and thirty cubits in circumference.”Now, I’m no math whiz, but if it’s 30 cubits around and 10 cubits across, that makes pi come out to be exactly 3, which we all know it isn’t.  I’ve read ridiculous attempts to explain this, but the fact is that the passage was written by someone whose knowledge of math was limited and who thought pi was exactly 3.  If the Bible were divinely inspired by an all-knowing god, he/she/it would know better.

        If you believe in the Old Testament as divine truth, you believe in talking snakes, talking donkeys, chariots of fire, bushes which burn without being consumed (belying the definition of “burning”), and a man surviving for days in the belly of a fish.  I prefer to have a rational view of the world where such things are relegated to fantasy books and films where they belong.

  25. Many religions have body-part stories. Buddhist folklore tells a story of Angulimala. A guy who was set on the task of collecting one thousand little fingers from the right hand as an homage to his teacher. He wore them around his neck because the crows kept stealing them from him. Angulimala means finger-garland.

  26. Dan Kimball may be one of your oldest friends, but I’m very disappointed that, faced with the immoral silliness of the bible tall-tales he’s blogging about every Wednesday, he can’t come to the logical conclusion:  The bible is not “god-breathed” but nothing more than the stories of a primitive iron-age society. Rather than thrashing-about for meaning in the bible, recognize that it is man-made, and hence holds no ultimate truth. Former fundamentalists like Bart Ehrman can do it; so can you!

    There are no gods. There is no supernatural. There is no after-life. Morality comes from man, and this is our one shot at existence.

    Deal with it.

    1. Hello DoctorD! 

      I totally understand what you are saying as I had the same original feelings. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home or ever read the Bible seriously until later in life, and then it was some of the same responses you express here is what I had. Obviously too short a space to get into a discussion here (if you ever seriously wanted to talk more, always feel free to contact me). 

      I can say that it isn’t just blind irrational faith for someone like myself to believe in the inspiration of the Bible or that God exists. You have to define (inspiration” as that does not mean every word is to be taken literally in how you interpret it). But there are rational intelligent people who do believe in God and the Bible such as Kevin Kelly who is the founder of Wired Magazine (and he is public about his faith and the church he is part of in San Francisco) or  Dr. Francis Collins who is a physician and geneticist and founder of the Human Genome Project which I imagine you have heard of. Francis has a web site based on science and faith you may find interesting   Or Peter Hitchens, who is a journalist, and was an atheist like his brother Christopher Hitchens was. But he became a Christian and is public about it. 

      Anyway, I raise up these three here as there are rational thinkers who do have reasons for belief. You can also watch debates with someone like Bart Erhman (I have a professor friend who debated him recently about his view of the Bible  and it is on DVD and I would be happy to send you a copy if you are interested). Someone like Bart Erhman has arguments that aren’t all that solid as he claims when you hear counter-arguments by other scholars. I have watched several debates with Bart Erhman and without truly being bias, Bart does not come out on top each time by any means when he is faced with scholars who know what Bart is talking about from an academic level. I have all his books too as I love reading all types of thinking out there. 

      I do totally appreciate varying viewpoints and I do understand what you are saying.  But do know there are people who hold beliefs in God and the Bible and have studied and thought through these types of issues that aren’t just taking it all at surface value or can’t intelligently wrestle with things in the Bible or have to accept things blindly at all. 

      Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts on what I wrote. I take your words very seriously and don’t just brush off people who may not agree with me as not being valid. Thank you!


      1. tl;dr you may not believe, but there are others who do.  isn’t that proof enough?

        there are many and famous intelligent people who are alcoholics; this doesn’t motivate me to go out and start a drinking regimen.

    1. DoctorD – I have heard bits of Julia’s story but just bought the DVD of her “Letting Go of God”  after listening to a little from your links. Thank you for recommending it. I look forward to hearing her story as our backgrounds and early experiences with church and Christianity often shape where we end up. I love hearing stories of why someone comes to the conclusions they do. So look forward to hearing the full Julia story on the DVD i just ordered. Thank you! 

  27. You can save some time (and avoid the weekly apologetics of “god working in mysterious ways”) by listening to Matt Dillahunty paraphrase many of the unpalatable stories from the bible:

    This is most uncomfortable stuff if your religious experience has been limited to the warm fuzzy of “god is love” and the fatalism of “god will provide.”

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