The short answer could be that it makes
for more interesting reading, a lot like
sex and violence in today's society. It
seems that in much of today's entertainment,
the story is less important than the special
effects. Graphics sell.
Nonetheless, the questioner wants to
know why the Bible is like this.
After all, is not the Bible the source
of divinely revealed truth? Isn't it sacred
history, the revelation of God's will,
and perhaps a literal rendering of his
exact words? Most would agree that the
Bible has a theological point to make.
It is rooted in history and is the result
of many authors over thousands of years.
It has offered comfort, inspiration, and
faith to millions of people. Is its value
as a religious document, then, in any
way enhanced by a myriad of graphic details?
Most modern scholars would offer an enthusiastic
"Yes." First and foremost, the
Bible accomplishes all of the above through
its hundreds of stories. These stories
have characters, motives, plots, beginnings,
and endings. The power and authority of
these stories have shaped the minds and
lives of people through the millennia.
The authors of these stories were experts
in using an economy of words and experts
in getting to the heart of the matter.
There is a whole new generation of scholars
who are looking at these literary qualities
of the stories and finding heretofore
unnoticed treasures. The details are important,
not because they're gory, but because
by comparing one battle to another, the
details might hold the key to determining
why the outcomes were different, why one
had negative consequences and the others
had positive. The details may also connect
the stories in ways that reveal something
Robert Alter gives a great example of
this in his book, The Art of Biblical
Narrative. When Jacob is given Joseph's
bloodied coat, he assumes the lad has
been killed by a wild animal. Jacob tore
his clothes, put sackcloth on his loins
and mourned his son many days -- so many
days in fact, that his other sons were
unable to console him. Sad situation,
indeed! Yet in the very next story, Judah
(Jacob's fourth son) loses two of his
three sons within the space of four verses.
He has no response other than to instruct
Tamar to wait for his third son to grow
up. Should we assume that Judah loved
his sons less because his reaction was
overlooked by the author? Not necessarily.
Alter thinks the two stories are linked,
that Judah had huge lessons to learn which
are connected to the Jacob incident and
the encounters involving Joseph that follow.
The one who helped deceive his father
is deceived by Tamar and later deceived
by Joseph (see pp. 3-13). By paying attention
to the details, additional insights are
Oftentimes the more graphic the details,
the easier they are to imagine
remember. If they are troubling, they
make us think. Maybe that's exactly what
the authors intended.