When most people think of the Bible they think in terms of it being a moral guidebook, but is it really? The Bible does not teach morality per say, it teaches obedience. Starting with its first book, the Bible declares the most important law is obedience, and shows that it was solely because of disobedience that Adam and Eve were banished from their garden paradise, cursed by Yahweh, and the cause of mankind’s sin. No lesson of morality is contained in this story, or taught in either their disobedience or the curses that were decreed upon them, just the actions of a vengeful god and his demand for obedience. Adam was told by Yahweh that death would be the outcome of eating from the Tree, yet death did not happen…rather curses were decreed upon them from an angry god for their disobedience. Eve was cursed for desiring to be wise, because she didn’t obey Yahweh’s command, yet Solomon was praised for desiring to be wise and given abundant wisdom…the only difference was obedience.


Gen.3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.


1King 4:29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.


Throughout the Bible obedience is taught as the number one virtue to gain right-standing (righteousness) with God, which in most cases has nothing to do with morality. Even the Ten Commandments which are viewed as ten moral laws, for the most part have nothing to do with morality. Only three of the Ten Commandments have anything to do with morality…murder, stealing, and adultery.


1Sam. 15:22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.


Jer.7:23 But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.


Even in the New Testament we find that obedience is held in highest regard and used as the standard to gain God’s love. The obedience Jesus learned through his suffering is the reason Paul gives for our righteousness, if we obey his words. Adams disobedience on the other hand is the reason for our sin. So, because of Adams disobedience all of mankind were made sinners and considered wicked, thus being wicked is directly connected with disobedience.


Rom. 5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.


Heb. 5:8-9 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;


The theme of God loving his creation based solely on obedience is one that I think has been largely overlooked in favor of focusing on the unconditional aspect of salvation. The problem is that the gift of salvation is not really unconditional, because in order to participate in the benefits of salvation one must obey the command of belief, without the belief factor no salvation is acquired.


John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.


When something is truly given unconditionally – like how we love our children – it doesn’t matter if they believe certain things about us as parents, we still love them. The above verse poses a very important question in this regard, which is…if God loved the whole world why did he not spread the knowledge of himself equally to all humans, instead of to just one particular group of people? When truths are discovered in science about the world and how it functions they don’t just pertain to one race of people, they apply to all. The same should hold true for God if he does exist…there would be no reason for his presence to remain a secret, or a mystery revealed only to a select few, who then are responsible for spreading it abroad. The reality of God’s existence shouldn’t depend on the validity of ancient texts, or the mindsets of primitive people, yet this is exactly what has happened with religious doctrines that convince the believer of their special or magical qualities that are acquired only through belief and obedience to those doctrines.


Exo.19:5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:


Our moral intuitions seem to be hardwired into our brains and developed through our culture, which is why there is a continual cognitive dissonance between many of the seemingly immoral passages we read about in the Bible and our own internal sense of what is moral. I know for me it was an ongoing struggle to try and resolve the gross immoralities found in the Bible with my innate values of right and wrong. Another point of importance is the ever-changing moral values of biblical laws, while always giving merit to obedience no matter what the command.


2Cor. 10:6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.


The trap the faithful become locked into is that of obedience to authority, which supersedes the content of the orders in favor of obedience. The New Testament promotes the idea of strict obedience to those in authority, no matter what the nature of that authority. Slaves are to obey their masters in all things and women are to obey their husbands, because obedience is the ultimate measure by which we are judged. One is not taught to be guided by moral intuitions, but solely by the rules that are meted out from those in positions of authority that have been arbitrarily given to them by their god. It is not because they earned their positions through merit, but for reasons such as being born male. A father must be given honor by his children no matter how abusive he is, merely because he is their father.


Col.3:18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord…20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord…22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:


In all areas of life biblical rules give the utmost value and importance to obedience, which is why throughout history the Church has been able to inflict so much damage upon people, especially women. It matters not the nature of the rules they decree, only that they are obeyed.  The Bible declares that God will take vengeance upon those who do not obey the Gospel (the good news of Jesus) and will punish them with everlasting destruction…this is the message that is reiterated over and over again in the New Testament – obedience trumps everything!


 2Thess.1:8-10 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.


1Pet.4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?


The conclusion that must be drawn from the opening question, “Is the Bible a Moral Guidebook?” is that it is flawed in that regard…one is indeed hard pressed to find much related to morality within the pages of the Bible. Obedience is the key focus, and all benefits come from being obedient, while on the other hand moral values are occasionally found as bi-products of the many laws and rules given by Yahweh. So, what it really comes down to is either being obedient to Yahweh’s commands, or following your own innate sense of morality…and let me tell you there will be many times that the two will conflict, because what your conscience tells you is right will go against what the Bible tells you is right.


The Bible would be better classified as a “military handbook” instead of a moral guidebook, because what it teaches is to obey orders, and not question the morality of those orders. The mindset of the men who authored the Bible was that of military leaders where obedience to authority was of prime importance. All the sacrifices, all the killing of pagans was only about obedience, it had nothing to do with morality. In fact many times it was quite the contrary, much of the killing and raping of women that God commanded was horribly immoral, yet the Hebrew’s were told to OBEY!


4 Responses to “Is the Bible a Moral Guidebook?”

  • David:

    The way I see the Bible is as an instruction book, telling us of the do’s and don’ts. It is like the manufacturer of a machine. Some of us read the instructions and some do not. Those who think they know it all and do not read the instructions, might or might not succeed in operating the machine the correct way.

    This revelation about man does not come until we read Jeremiah 10:23 which says;O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
    It is necessary for man to be guided. If man does not listen to instruction, he goes the way of all flesh to self-destruction. When left without a leader (an instructor) then men and women do as it is recorded in Judges 17:6; In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

    God knows what is best for men and women and therefore has given us instruction. The word of God is our instruction manual and is as for (2 Tim 3:16) “instruction in righteousness”:
    Righteousness is linked with morality. The Bible is a book that instructs us about what is morally right. Jesus summed up all the law and the prophets with two commandments. Jesus was not telling us anything new that had not been told before. For example, the second commandment about loving thy neighbor and doing unto others… is found in the Old Testament scriptures which Jesus read often and knew thoroughly. Even the Son of God had to be instructed and took instruction from the inspired word of God. (Leviticus 19:18) Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. (19) Ye shall keep my statutes.

    Obedience is simply following instruction. A parent instructs their child for its own benefit. The child that adheres to the instruction benefits and this pleases the parent. A child does not know all the ramifications resulting from not following instruction and it is the same from our point of view in following God’s instruction; we do not know all the ramifications which God knows. It is better to follow God’s instruction than to ignore the instruction and do that which we think is right in our own eyes. The Bible contains numerous examples of the lives of people (good and bad) from which to learn the lessons and heed the warnings.

    Is it moral to ignore instructions from our maker and do our own thing at the expense of pain and suffering this will cause others? Whatever theories man wants to come up with in this age, the Bible has already given the answer. The Bible might not be fashionable, but it has wisdom that does not come from man. The instruction from the Book of Wisdom is (Proverbs 4:6); Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

  • alive:

    hello Rose…
    what If Eve had of eaten from the Tree of Life firs rather than the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and evil.

    Jesus always ate from the Tree of Life – so the Tree of the knowledge of Good and evil consisting of the law of Moses never STUMBLED HIM, as He knew it contains FLAWED KNOWLEDGE.

    here is the difference = the tree of Life is WISDOM
    THE Tree of knowledge of good and evil – is knowledge is not wisdom.

    Jesus lived in the realm of wisdom – humans live in the realm of knowledge.
    The God of the OT allowed knowledge to rule, but a Saviour was needed to set the captives free.

    The God of the OT worked with them in the realm of knowledge – this God was the same as they were but after the Advent, the order changed i.e. good and evil ceased and wisdom was able to flow back in.
    why 70 ad – wisdom had returned – knowledge had ceased.
    wisdom makes the new creation not knowledge.

    the OT teaches knowledge does not pay.

  • Rose:

    Hello Alive,

    According to the Garden story the Tree of Life was in the midst of the Garden available for Adam and Eve to partake of at any time, no more information is given. Now, whether or not the author of this mythological story thought about the possibility of Adam and Eve eating of the Tree of Life will never be known, nor does it matter since the story is made up anyway.

    The Bible uses wisdom and knowledge interchangeably, if you will notice in the Garden story, Eve understood that the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge would make her wise. When one acquires knowledge one becomes wise, trying to separate the two is just making a false distinction.

    Gen.3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

  • Rose:

    Hi David,

    You are correct in calling the Bible an instruction book, but it certainly is not a “moral” instruction book. There are many commands and instructions given throughout the Bible that have nothing to do with morality and everything to do with obedience. A parent instructs their children to teach them right from wrong, whereas in the Bible one finds God instructing and commanding the Hebrews merely to teach them obedience.

    We read over and over again in the Bible that God commands the Hebrews to worship and praise him…why? Because they are supposed to obey his commands that’s why. It’s all about obedience. All the sacrifices, all the killing of pagans was only about obedience, it had nothing to do with morality. In fact many times it was quite the contrary, much of the killing and raping of women that God commanded was horribly immoral, yet the Hebrews were told to OBEY! The Bible is better classified as a “military handbook” which teaches soldiers to obey the orders of their superiors, and not question the morality of what they are doing. If armies did not have the complete obedience of their soldiers there would be chaos, so this was the mindset of the men who authored the Bible…obedience to authority.

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