In honor of the premiere of season 6 of Game of Thrones, I am bringing back a post from February comparing Game of Thrones with the Bible, edited and expanded a little.
Game of Thrones and the Bible (for mature readers)
I love Game of Thrones. It’s got political and sexual intrigue, dysfunctional family relationships, shocking violence, and you know what? It’s got nothing on the Bible. It’s still a couple of months before the beginning of Season 6, but I thought I’d go ahead and post this.
WARNING: THERE ARE PLOT SPOILERS. AND THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL INCLUDES GRAPHIC GORY VIOLENCE. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
Genesis 34:1-31: Dinah and Shechem’s Red Wedding
All the fans freaked out over the Red Wedding in Season 3, Episode 9.
How’s this for a red wedding? Jacob’s large family of shepherds wanders into a city. The prince of the city (Shechem) encounters the one daughter (Dinah) of the patriarch. They have sex. The prince wants to marry the girl, but the family is offended because 1) he had sex with her before asking her parents to marry her, and 2) his people are not considered proper for marriage to one of their young girls. Shechem, however, is persistent. He really wants to marry her. He loves her.
Jacob’s family will agree on one condition: he and every male in the city must be circumcised, because as they say, they cannot allow her to marry from among the uncircumcised. He agrees. And since he is the prince, he is able to order the other men to follow suit. While the men of the city are still sore and recovering, two of her brothers sneak into the city at night, kill all the men, and take her back to her family.
So let’s see: There’s a prince who falls in love with the wrong woman. Agreements are made and then broken. Man in love apologizes sincerely to the offended party and tries to make amends. Offended party pretends to accept the apology then kills the offenders. I can almost hear The Rains of Castamere playing in the background.
2 Kings 9:30-37: Jezebel’s gruesome death
The Game of Thrones writers have given us some of the most ghastly tortures and deaths ever seen on television. However, even they have not given us a death more grisly than the infamous Jezebel.
[Jehu] looked up to the window and said, “Who is on my side? Who?” Two or three eunuchs looked out at him. He said, “Throw her down.” So they threw her down; some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, which trampled on her. Then he went in and ate and drank; he said, “See to that cursed woman and bury her; for she is a king’s daughter.” But when they went to bury her, they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. (2Ki 9:32-35 NRS)
And I thought Catelyn Stark’s corpse was treated roughly.
Judges 11:1-40: Jephthe “Snow-Baratheon”
Characters on Game of Thrones are not shy about their use of prostitutes. Prostitution was certainly part of the Biblical world, and one inevitable result of prostitution is illegitimate children, like Jephthe. He was the son of a prostitute who was rejected by his family and tribe, and yet had enough leadership skills to rise to prominence in spite of it. In the days before Israel had a king, Jephthe became one of the Judges and the head of his tribe. I wonder if Jon Snow was based on him.
Unfortunately, there is one other reason Jephthe is remembered. His greatest victory came at a dire cost. Just before a battle against a powerful enemy, Jephthe’s army was supposed to meet with a troop of Ephraimite soldiers, a neighboring tribe with whom he had formed an alliance. The Ephraimites did not show up, and the enemy was getting near. On their own, Jephthe’s men did not believe they were strong enough to defeat this enemy. Jephthe made a solemn vow to God that convinced them to follow their commander with the boldness of Viking Berserkers.
Jephthe’s army won and returned home in triumph, but now Jephthe has to fulfill his vow to the LORD [of Light?]:
“If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” (Jdg 11:30-31 ESV)
The word in Hebrew translated “whatever” is ‘asher. It could mean whatever or whoever. Jephthe may have had an animal in mind (whatever) or a slave (whoever). Instead, the first to come out to meet him is his one and only daughter. It’s obvious from his response she was not what Jephthe expected.
When he saw her, he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low; you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.” (Jdg 11:35 NRS)
When Abraham was sacrificing Isaac, an angel stopped him before he brought down the knife. Unfortunately for Jephthe’s daughter, no angel appeared.
1 Kings 1:1-43; 2:13-25 – Brothers are rivals who must die [New]
Speaking of Stannis Baratheon, he and his brother Renly were rivals to their family’s claim to the Iron Throne, so they went to war. Melisandre, a priestess of the Lord of Light, helps Stannis by conjuring up a shadow of Stannis to kill Renly, removing his most immediate rival. None of the kings of Israel would do such a thing, would they? Think again.
After David died, there was a brief dispute between factions for Solomon and Adonijah as to who should succeed him. Solomon won peacefully. But when Adonijah wanted to marry one of David’s former concubines, he asked Solomon’s mother to intercede for him. Solomon saw it as a backdoor attempt to strengthen his claim to the throne.
King Solomon answered his mother, “And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite (see 1Ki 1:1-4) for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom as well! For he is my elder brother; (1Ki 2:22 NRS).
What does Solomon do now that his elder brother has tried to undermine his rule? He sends one of his army commanders to kill his brother and rival. No shadow magic, but the result was the same. Was Adonijah really in love with Abishag? To the king, it does not matter. Just as in Westeros, a royal wedding has political consequences. Marrying for love can be dangerous, as Robb Stark found out.
Some people might say because I’m a Christian, I can’t watch a show with nudity, graphic violence, despicable rulers, ruthless power grabs, sexual deviancy, and people killing family members for power or revenge. Some might say about my novels or short stories, If you’re a Christian, how can you write sex scenes and blood and gore and scenes that show how seedy the Roman culture was? To them I say, Have you read the Bible?
I’m not saying we should read or write such scenes and stories just because we feel like it. I exercise discernment about these things when I write, and I expect readers to do the same whether they are reading about a historical world like in my novel, a fantasy world like George R. R. Martin’s, or the Bible. I don’t want to encourage the type of behavior I’ve described in this post, even if it is in the Bible. But if you tell Christian writers, you can’t write that because it’s sinful, or it might tempt some of the audience to sin, you are forcing us to ignore history and human nature. That makes for very boring stories and unbelievable characters. The Biblical authors tell the truth about human nature. Why shouldn’t we?