Letter to Ahmed Deedat in response to "Combat Kit"

Dear Mr. Deedat, 25 November 1993

A year ago you wrote a booklet called "Combat Kit" in which you accused the Bible of containing vulgarities. Unfortunately you have stooped very low in the way you have ridiculed the Bible. I dare say, if we tried to ridicule your Qur'an, taking its statements out of context, like you are doing with our Bible, you would be outraged.

We would like you to read our response to your arguments. If you plan to continue printing and using such biased and false criticisms, we expect you to give a written defence of your position in light of the specific points we have made below.

You have ridiculed the fact that the Bible contains instructions "to eat shit and drink piss" (see 3 g in Combat Kit). You should realise that it is beneath the dignity of true scholarly research to criticize any literature, much less to smear the Holy Bible, on the basis of mere appearances without giving due consideration to the context.

In Combat Kit you have ignored the fact that the disputed biblical statement, which you claim to be "absurd", is not God's instruction but is spoken by a godless commander of the Assyrian army who was besieging the city of Jerusalem. As the siege progressed the Assyrians tried to demoralize the Israelites by taunting them, saying they would eventually become so starved that they would eat their own excrement and drink their own urine (see 2 Kings 18:27 & Isaiah 36:27).

An understanding of the context makes it clear that the Bible certainly does not endorse the filthy act which you have implied that it does. If you ignore the context you could make the Bible say a lot of things. For example it could be argued that the Bible teaches "There is no God" (Ps. 14:1). Obviously a proper reading of the context shows these words to be spoken by a fool. The full sentence reads, "The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’."

Recently I had a discussion with a learned Muslim about the above-mentioned vulgar argument. After I explained who it was that spoke the words, he decided to drop the accusation because he had to admit the force of the Muslim objection had been answered and resolved. But then he raised another objection based on the same subject matter. This time, however, he claimed it was God who instructed the prophet Ezekiel "To eat cake with shit" (see 3 i of Combat Kit). In Ezekiel chapter 4 God instructed the prophet to take a meager amount of a variety of grains and beans and bake it as a cake day after day. As Ezekiel ate this starvation diet it pictured in a vivid way the suffering that the Israelites would experience under God's judgement.

Having this background and overview of the story, it will be easier to understand the details which read as follows,

(9) "And you take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt and put them into a single vessel, and make bread of them. (10) During the number of days that you lie upon your side, 390 days, you shall eat it. And the food which you eat shall be by weight, 20 shekels a day; (11) Once a day you shall eat it. And water you shall drink by measure, the sixth part of a hin; (12) Once a day you shall drink. And you shall eat it as barley cake, baking it in their sight on human dung. (13) And the Lord said, Thus shall the people of Israel eat their bread unclean, among the nation whither I will drive them. (14) Then I said, Ah! Lord God! Behold I have never defiled myself: from my youth up til now I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts nor (15) has sow's flesh come into my mouth. Then He said to me, See I will let you have cows dung instead of human dung on which you (16) may prepare your bread. Moreover he said to me, Son of man, behold i will brek the staff of bread in Jerusalem; they shall eat bread by weight and with fearfulness; and they shall drink water by measure and in dismay. (17) I will do this that they may lack bread and water, and look at one another in dismay, and waste away under their punishment. (Ezekiel 4:9-17)

Now that we've seen the whole story, we can take a closer look at some of the details, especially the statement regarding baking the cake "in their sight on human dung". In order to get to the crux of the issue we need to ask, "Does the word ‘baking’ refer to the method of cooking i.e. over a certain kind of fire, namely fire fueled by dung; or does baking imply the addition of another ingredient to the recipe?"

Verses 9 - 11 brings to conclusion the first step of preparing the cake, namely, weighing and combining the ingredients. Logically, therefore, the next step is to describe how the cake is to be baked (verse 12).

The natural flow of events supports the Christian interpretation that the dung is fuel for the fire, not an additional ingredient in the cake. If one tries to understand verse 12 as adding another ingredient to the cake, he would expect the amount to be given as well. Since there is no mention of any amount, we must assume that the purpose of the dung has to do with the method of baking. If you are still skeptical, the matter is settled by verse 15. In this verse, God substitutes the cows dung for human dung. But for what purpose? In ancient times it was not uncommon to use cow dung as fuel for fire -- as indeed it is in some societies today. This purpose is put beyond doubt by the phrase "on which you may prepare your bread". The preposition "on" (Hebrew - 'al) fits naturally with the known practice of dung being used as fuel. The alternative of dung being used as an ingredient in the cake is clearly excluded.

The only way that the alternative view can be maintained, is if someone has a strong bias against Christianity. This is true of your pamphlet "Combat Kit", the title of which says it all. It's militant spirit betrays a strong bias against the Bible. Further evidence of your bias can be seen in your attack on similar passages in the Bible, cited above, which we've shown to be unfounded. Such tactics belong to the battlefield and are ill-befitting of a so-called ‘scholar of the Christian Bible’.

The question of how to understand "baking with excrement" has been dealt with at some length, but another even more basic question still remains to be answered: Why would a pure God give instructions to use filthy human excrement as fuel? If God is pure doesn't that imply a separation from anything impure? Certainly it does, but because God is pure and holy He also feels anger towards evil and impurity. And it is this very anger that Ezekiel depicts in his dramatic story foretelling God's judgement upon the Israelites. The fact that excrement is used in the story only serves to intensify the awfulness of what the Israelites' living conditions will be in exile.

The verses we've read are part of a prophecy about a future time when Babylon would lay siege to Jerusalem and deport its people into exile. This prophesy came true in 586 BC, six years after Ezekiel's predictions (Ezekiel 1:2; 2 Kings 24 and 25). God used Ezekiel as a public sign picturing the judgement to come. During the siege food and water would become very scarce in Jerusalem (17). The people would be taken into exile where the circumstances would make it practically impossible for them to avoid eating ritually unclean food. This tragic fact was portrayed in the drama of food cooked over a filthy fire. But why would God allow such a thing? The answer lies in verse 17; they will "waste away under their punishment". Israel had persisted in sin, rejecting repeated warnings of the prophets therefore God's punishment would come with severity.

We have come to a better understanding of this unusual act of baking a cake on a defiling fire by seeing its fulfilment in the siege and deportation into Babylon. But one more aspect to the problem remains to be considered. The questions is asked, "How can a pure God require someone to do something impure?" Another way of looking at this is to draw a comparison with another prophet who was also instructed to do something which seemed to go against the very character of God. When Abraham was instructed to sacrifice his son, it must have seemed to him at first to be utterly unthinkable. Yet it was a sign and a prophecy of a supremely good act that would bring untold blessing to mankind.[1] A casual reading of both passages will produce a shallow understanding and miss their great value. However, a careful examination reveals the sovereignity of God and His ultimate good and holy purposes.

In the fear of God,
David Foster

    [1] For details, see the articles "Eid-ul-Adha: Abraham and the Sacrifice" and "The Mystery of Abraham’s Sacrifice".

This letter was personally delivered to his office on 25 November 1993. Did Ahmed Deedat respond? What happened next? Continue here.

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