The Bible Says What? Boris Johnson wasn’t the first to warn against obesity
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Analysis

The Bible Says What? Boris Johnson wasn’t the first to warn against obesity

Rabbi Danny Rich takes a topical issue and offers a Liberal Jewish response

Screen grab of Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing the nation from 10 Downing Street, London, as he placed the UK on lockdown as the Government seeks to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Photo credit: PA Video/PA Wire
Screen grab of Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing the nation from 10 Downing Street, London, as he placed the UK on lockdown as the Government seeks to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Photo credit: PA Video/PA Wire

“Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.” (Judges 3:22) 

Boris Johnson has declared “war on obesity”, with measures including banning junk food discounts, supermarket promotions and ads before 9pm. 

Experts believe that, if successful, it will help people live longer, reduce deaths from coronavirus and save the NHS £100 million. But if we turn to the Book of Judges, we find an even more stark example in our own Bible. 

One of the lesser known ‘baddies’  is Eglon, the King of Moab, who
oppressed the Children of Israel for 18 years. The story starts around the 12th century BCE, soon after the entry to the Promised Land (Canaan) under the leadership of Joshua. 

In accord with Biblical theology, the Book of Judges relates that soon after the conquest, the children of Israel forgot about God and the society became both weak and corrupt. 

As a result, the Israelites were defeated and ruled over by Eglon. Realising the folly of their ways, they repented and God sent a ‘judge’ named Ehud to defeat the oppressor. 

Very unusually for a Biblical character, Eglon is described as “‘very fat: obese”. Malnutrition was very common in the ancient world, so Eglon’s obesity may imply that he was a glutton, feasting while his subjects nearly starved. 

When Ehud tells him: “I have a message from God to you” and stabs him in the stomach, it seems a fitting punishment. The Bible then recounts that because the sword was covered by the fat of his belly, it could not
be drawn out and the king then had
a slow, painful death. 

This might not be what our PM has in mind, but it’s a clear warning from an earlier time about the dangers of gluttony and obesity. 

  •  Rabbi Danny Rich is a vice president of Liberal Judaism 
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