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Restroom Visits in Biblical Times
by Farrell Till

Robert "No Links" Turkel claims that he doesn't write on subjects that he is not expert in. He said this in a thread on the Theology Web, where he routinely pops off on subjects that he obviously has no expertise in. Here is his exact quotation.

I keep out of topics I am not expert in. It's a lesson many do not learn.

Turkel has made the same claim elsewhere. In "The SAB Story," subtitled "The Skeptics' Overrated Bible on Genesis," he enlisted the help of Answers in Genesis to reply to discrepancies that had been claimed in the SAB.

As the scientific aspects of Creation and Flood our [sic] outside Tekton's purview, I've asked a Ph.D. scientist from Answers in Genesis for comment. So if any SAB has any complaints on those particulars, take it [sic] up with them!

Turkel said that if any "SAB" had complaints on "those particulars," he could take "it" [sic] up with "them," i. e., AIG, but the antecedent of the singular pronoun it would have to be the plural noun complaints, a rather obvious pronoun-antecedent agreement error. Furthermore, SAB is an acronym for "Skeptics Annotated Bible," so I have to wonder how the inanimate SAB could take up a complaint with AIG. These kinds of careless grammatical mistakes, along with Turkel's use of our for are, indicate that despite the expertise that he claims to have in Hebrew idioms and "nuances," he certainly has no expertise in English grammar, a fact that I was aware of long before I had read his statement quoted above. That he would enlist the help of Answers in Genesis in scientific matters is within itself proof that he is certainly no expert in science, because AIG is a group of pseudoscientists who ignore all scientific facts and discoveries that conflict with the biblical documents that were written in prescientific, superstitious times. That aside, anyone who is familiar with Turkel's inability to write a paragraph in response to biblical skeptics without hurling insults and sarcasms will quickly see earmarks of Turkel's style all through "The SAB Story." Browsing in the AIG site will show readers that the "scientists" who write the articles posted there generally refrain from the insults and sarcasms so characteristic of Turkel's website, so the "Sob Story," linked to above, is obviously Turkel's own work, despite his claim that anyone with objections should "take it [sic] up with them" [the writers at AIG]. That disclaimer was no doubt put into his article in order to divert blame from him for any flaws in the replies to SAB, and there are many of them in the article. However, I am not writing this article to defend The Skeptics Annotated Bible, in which I have also seen and opposed several examples of a little too much zeal to find discrepancies in the Bible, but to show that if Turkel has really decided not to write on subjects in which he has no expertise, he will have to stop writing about the Bible.

I have long recognized that Turkel's biblical knowledge is appallingly limited for someone who sees himself as a first-rate apologist. His perceived "expertise" is derived from a talent for cutting and pasting from books, articles, and commentaries, and tying them together with bracketed references that give to the gullibly uninformed an appearance of scholarship. Anyone who has a broader familiarity with biblical content, however, will see in his articles comments and mistakes that betray the superficiality of his biblical knowledge. I recently encountered such an example while browsing the internet for information totally unrelated to the Bible. After watching a program on the Science Channel, I did a Google search to look for information about Tyranasaurus Rex and by accident found a link to a website maintained by an apparent history professor who calls himself "T. Rex." I learned that Turkel, who doesn't write on subjects in which he is not an expert, had written a reply to T. Rex's article "The Bible is Inconsistent with History." Turkel being Turkel, of course, filled his "reply" with insults and ridicule, referred to T. Rex as "T. Wrecks," and sarcastically entitled his reply "Closing Jurassic Park." Along the way, he made a sarcastic attempt at humor that speaks volumes about how little he actually knows about biblical content.

Did you ever notice that no one in the Bible is ever recorded as actually using a restroom? Well, does that mean we think people went through Bible times with their legs crossed? Of course not. Rex seems to think he's revealing news here, but it's only news to anyone who hasn't been asleep for 3000 years.

My immediate reaction to this was, "Say what?" because at least a dozen references to "restroom" usage in the Bible instantly came to mind, which I suppose is just the difference in someone who knows biblical content and someone who doesn't. I know biblical content well enough to recognize an erroneous statement like Turkel's reference to restroom usage--or rather nonusage--in the Bible because I have spent a lot of time in my life reading the Bible. Turkel should try doing that himself sometime; he would look less foolish than he often does. When I read his comment, I immediately thought of Saul's visit to a cave while he was in pursuit of David.

1 Samuel 24:3 And he [Saul] came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet: and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave. 4 And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which Yahweh said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul's robe privily. 6 And he said unto his men, Yahweh forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, Yahweh's anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of Yahweh. 7 So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.

Turkel often claims to have insights into the Hebrew language that enable him to see "nuances" that escaped even those who translated the various English versions of the Old Testament, so I assume that he knows that "to cover the feet" was a Hebrew idiom that meant to squat to defecate. This was an act that caused the hem of one's robe to cover his feet, so this expression came to mean what we mean in English when we speak of someone's going to the bathroom. It isn't at all uncommon to hear English speakers use this idiom in reference to acts of urinating or defecating outside, as when someone might refer to a person who stops his car along the road "to go to the bathroom" in cornfields or woods along the road. Hence, Saul is an example of a biblical character who "used a restroom."

Someone must have informed Turkel of the boo-boo that he had made here, because he revised his article to include parenthetically the very example that I cited above.

Did you ever notice that no one in the Bible is ever recorded as actually using a restroom (OK, it says Saul went to relieve himself, but does it say he succeeded?) Well, does that mean we think people went through Bible times with their legs crossed? Of course not. Rex seems to think he's revealing news here, but it's only news to anyone who hasn't been asleep for 3000 years.

Turkel just can't say, "Boy, did I make a mistake here!" No, he had to insert a parenthetical statement later to give the impression that he had known about Saul's "cave stop" all along. How do I know that Turkel's parenthetical reference was a face-saving insertion that he added later? Well, in T. Rex's reply to Turkel, he quoted the statement without Turkel's parenthetical reference to Saul, and then when Turkel replied to T. Rex's reply, which can be found by scrolling down where Turkel later tacked on a Part 2, he left the statement as T. Rex had originally quoted it. Why would Turkel have done that if he had originally included Saul's cave stop in his restroom reference?

Even in his face-saving parenthetical reference to Saul, Turkel's personality apparently wouldn't let him admit that he was wrong about restroom visits in biblical times, because he went on to ask if the reference to Saul's "reliev[ing] himself" says that he "succeeded." I think anyone who reads the full context of this event in Saul's life would have to agree that he did succeed, because if he had been so lost in thought while squatting that he was unaware of David's sneaking up behind him to cut off the hem of his robe and afterwards verbally restraining his men from attacking Saul, then surely Saul had succeeded in completing the task that had taken him into the cave.

This example, however, is not really needed to show just how biblically ignorant Turkel was when he made this reference to restroom usage in biblical times. There are a couple of other direct references, but before I cite them, let's look first at some indirect references. In biblical times, males urinating outside against walls was so commonplace that it came to be an idiom for male. Although most modern English versions translated the idiom as male, a literal translation of the idom occurred several times in the KJV.

1 Samuel 25:21 Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow [Nabal] hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath requited me evil for good. 22 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.

1 Kings 14:10 Therefore, behold, I [Yahweh] 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 16:10 And Zimri went in and smote him [Baasha], and killed him, in the twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his stead. 11 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 21:21 Behold, I will bring evil upon thee [Ahab], 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....

2 Kings 9:8 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.

Obviously, then, people didn't go through biblical times with their legs crossed, or at least the males didn't. When the urge hit them, they would go outside and cut loose against a wall, a practice that spawned a Hebrew idiom, which Turkel, who knows all about Hebrew idioms and "nuances," should be familiar with. In addition to this idiom that was based upon the way that men in biblical times "used the restroom," there are also references to urine and feces.

2 Kings 18:27 But Rabshakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?

Even though biblical writers had to contend with a serious shortage of writing materials, which Turkel claims required them to be ambiguously brief at times, the verse just quoted, along with the broader context it was in, was repeated almost verbatim in Isaiah 36. In referring to human urine and dung, these passages necessarily imply that "restroom" habits in biblical times were no different from ours, because no one could eat his own dung and drink his own piss until they had been expelled from the body. Nehemiah 2:13, 3:13-14, and 12:31 referred to the "dung gate" in Jerusalem, so named because it gave access to the dump where refuse, including human dung, was disposed of. Job 20:5-7 says that the godless man will eventually perish like "his own dung." There are too many references to dung to quote them all. The examples above are sufficient to show that by necessary implication, the Bible did indeed make references to "restroom" usage in biblical times.

Even Jesus made a reference to what Turkel said was not to be found in the Bible.

Matthew 15:17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?

The word translated draught in the KJV was aphedron in Greek, which meant "latrine," so here is another indirect reference to "restroom" usage that was made by none other than Jesus himself, but there are biblical references to this "activity" that were far more direct.

Deuteronomy 23:12 Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad: 13 And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee.

Turkel asked if "you had ever notice[d] that no one in the Bible is ever recorded as actually using a restroom," so I assume that he had never read the text just quoted from Deuteronomy, but if he had never read this, he needs to increase the amount of time that he spends reading the Bible, which I have long suspected is not much time. Having spent a considerable part of my life studying the Bible, I quickly thought of Ehud's assassination of King Eglon when I read Turkel's attempt at bathroom humor.

Judges 3:15 But when the children of Israel cried unto Yahweh, Yahweh raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab. 16 But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh. 17 And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man. 18 And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present. 19 But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him. 20 And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat. 21 And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly: 22 And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out. 23 Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them. 24 When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber. 25 And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth. 26 And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath.

There are plenty of "restroom" references here. First of all, when Ehud rammed his dagger into Eglon's belly, the force was so hard that the hilt went in too, and the dirt came out. The translation of the Jewish Publication Society says, "And the filth came out." The text of this story implies that the "dirt" or "filth" that came out of Eglon's wound was fecal matter, because the guards outside the "parlor doors" assumed that the king was "covering his feet," which as we noticed above was a Hebrew idiom for defecating. The odor from the fecal matter that came out of Eglon's belly wound would have given them cause to assume this.

There is also a scholarly recognition that Ehud escaped after the assassination of Eglon by locking the parlor doors and escaping through the toilet opening where Eglon would go "to cover his feet." The quotation below from Paul Cook's "Lessons from a Lefty" gives a reasonable account of how Ehud managed to escape from a room whose doors had been locked from the inside.

Even though Ehud’s masterful plan had been met with success thus far, he still needed to escape the scene of the crime. In order to understand what is being described in the biblical text, it might be helpful to consider the architecture of Eglon’s palace. The palace consisted of two floors: a lower audience hall where the throne was, and a private upper chamber. Most royal visitors were seen downstairs in the main hall, but when Ehud announces that he has a secret word for the king, Eglon retreated to this private upstairs chamber, and ordered all the servants out. However, this private upstairs chamber also included a toilet—the other “throne”—which emptied through a hole accessed by a separate closet on the lower level. After he kills the king, Ehud locks the doors of the upper chamber from the inside, barring the only exit, unless... he escapes through the toilet. Ehud (carefully!) lowers himself through the latrine, and walks out of the closet on the lower level. He then casually strolls by the royal servants, leaving the dead king upstairs in the private chamber with the door locked from the inside.

Some speculation is apparent in this quotation from Cook's article. I don't see, for example, where Cook determined that Eglon "retreated to his private upstairs chamber" when Ehud announced that he had a message from God. It seems to me that Eglon was in the upper chamber and just ordered his royal entourage to leave. Nevertheless, Cook's comments are basically consistent with the biblical text quoted above. Hence, we see that the Bible not only tells of "restroom usage" but it also revealed that indoor toilets even existed in those days.

I realize that Turkel was trying to be funny when he said that we don't read about restroom uses in the Bible. He often resorts to phallic and bathroom metaphors and similes to insult his opponents.

So there too, nanny nanny boo boo, stick your head in doo doo. In short, you have no answer, so you instead switcheroo to this non-answer [sic] of non-details [sic], which is a signal that you are aware of your defeat and have only pride to salvage. Suit yourself, but you look funny standing in a pile of doo doo (TheologyWeb, post #103).

My dog made a better agrument [sic] in the yard this morning! I'll skip all the repeated doggy doo... ("Decontextualized Quotes").

Do us a favor: Go back and scrub your toilet. You’re not useful by any othermeans [sic] ("Bumbling Twits Ministries").

And you? You’re nothing but a sanctimonious ant with delusions of your own grandeur; you’re nothing but a modern day Priapus waving your swollen member around and knocking people over with it or else disgusting everyone by pointing to it and shouting to everyone to look at it ("Bumbling Twits Ministries").

Priapus continues to spin his wheels with the same stale arguments, responded to and never answered in turn; and he continues to wave his giant pee-pee around ("Bumbling Twits Ministries").

In your arrogance you missed it; you were so busy waving your giant pee-pee around that you bonked yourself on the head with it and didn’t even notice ("Decontextualized Quotes").

Priapus was a derogatory name that Turkel repeatedly used in reference to Brooks Trubee, one of his opponents on the TheologyWeb. [Readers have pointed out to me that this derogatory name was actually used in reference to Hugh McBryde rather than Brooks Trubee.] Priapus was the Roman God of fertility, who was always displayed with an enormous, erect penis.

This god is mainly known for his huge virile member, and the size of it is so enormous that it has been called "column," "twelve-inch pole," "cypress," "spear," "pyramid," and many other names of the same kind referring to the dimensions of his penis. And just as Zeus shows his thunderbolt, Poseidon his trident, Athena her spear, Apollo his golden arrows, Hermes his caduceus, Dionysus his thyrsus, Heracles his club, so Priapus cannot but proudly exhibit his penis, which best represents him, and without which he is weaponless. This is the reason why his privy parts are always shamelessly displayed in erection.

Some believe that the size of the male sexual organ has little or no relevance, but this lustful god has been assumed to think that the greatest advantage with his enormous penis is that no female can be too roomy for him.

When a certain ass once had a contest with Priapus on the matter of the size of their sexual organs, the beast was defeated by the god, and killed by him.

The website just linked to has a depiction of Priapus with his penis prominently displayed, and another representation can be seen here. The fact that Turkel would select this mythological being as a way of insulting an opponent is an indication that his mind spends entirely too much time dwelling on rather un-Christian thoughts.

As I said above, I realize that Turkel was trying to be funny when he made his comment about restroom usage in biblical times, but his failed attempt at humor revealed that his biblical knowledge is quite deficient, because anyone who has really studied the Bible would surely have known that the Bible made many references to the call of nature that all humans experience.

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