Bible · Christianity · God · Israel · Old Testament

Why is there so much violence in the Old Testament?

This is a question I’ve heard quite a bit from those who don’t understand how Yahweh can be the same God in both the Old and New Testaments.  In their minds, it seems that God condones violence in the Old Testament while in the New Testament violence under any circumstances is condemned.

First of all, it is important to understand that violence came into the earth because of man’s sin.  Violence is not God’s fault.  As a matter of fact, I will go so far as to say violence started with Satan.  Things were peaceful in heaven until Satan became puffed up with pride and decided he was going to take God’s throne.  So he rounded up a third of the angels in heaven and started a war with the righteous angels who defended God’s honor.  The rebellion was put down in a New York minute (see Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:11-19; Revelation 12:3-4, 7-9).

But back to the question at hand.  God states clearly in his word that he hates for men to shed blood in Genesis 9:6 when he instituted the death penalty.  From the context of scripture, it is understood that he was talking about murder.  This is also what he meant by “Thou shalt not kill.”  Otherwise, why would he then tell Israel to destroy all of the inhabitants of Canaan?  There are times when violence is justified even by God.  For instance, in Genesis 14 when the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were taken captive by neighboring kingdoms, Abram got an army of his servants together to go save them because his beloved nephew Lot and Lot’s family were among the captives.  Abram was victorious and was even blessed by Melchizedek, God’s priest, for his victory.  So we see here a principle that it is okay to use violence to protect our loved ones if they are needlessly attacked.

Now back to the question of why God told Israel to kill all of the Canaanites.  Here’s what Yahweh tells the Israelites:

“Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.  Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people.”  (Deuteronomy 9:4-6)

So God is using Israel as a tool for his punishment against the Canaanites because of their many sins and because he wants to hold up his agreement with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He also states in Deuteronomy 7 that he wants Israel to be a holy nation without having the evil influences of the inhabitants of Canaan.  God gave them one shot to get it right but they failed so just as God predicted, those Canaanites became pricks and thorns to Israel.  Therefore, God justifies violence if it is to punish an evil nation.

At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.  And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.” (Jeremiah 18:7-10)

We must also keep in mind that in the Old Testament, God was establishing a physical kingdom in honor of an everlasting covenant to the three patriarchs.  If Israel was attacked during their righteous periods, God condoned violence for their preservation.  If Israel was attacked during periods of ungodliness, God condoned violence to punish them.  In the New Testament, he was ushering in a spiritual kingdom that included all of mankind, so the violence for the preservation of a physical kingdom is unnecessary.  “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36).

 

This video discusses the arguments about religion & violence, morality & the natural universe, and God’s command to destroy Canaanites.

–Harry A. Gaylord–

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29 thoughts on “Why is there so much violence in the Old Testament?

  1. Thanks for the teaching on this. It seems to be one of the things that gets thrown into our faces while witnessing to others, as if to imply hypocrisy in the Bible.

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    1. The reason there is so much murder, killing and
      violence in the Old Testament? Is because the God
      in the Old Testament is the Devil!!

      DONT YOU KNOW GOD?
      God is Love: read 1Cor 13:4-8
      That is what God is ans does?

      Read Galatians 5:19-21 and this is what the Devil
      is and does?

      God is Spirit: You can’t see a spirit?
      A Spirit DOES NOT HAVE WORKS OF THE FLESH?

      THE DEVIL HAS THE WORKS OF THE FLESH BECAUSE
      HE IS CREATED BY GOD!

      READ GALATIANS 5:22-25 The Fruit of the Spirit
      which is of God (The One True God)

      Now Jesus said: You will know a tree by its fruit

      The Old Testament is the fruit bearing of the
      Devil: A bad tree can never bear good fruit?

      The New Testament is the fruit bearing of Love
      Jesus is God: John 10:30 I and My Father are One
      Jesus is the ONE True God.
      A Good Tree can never bear bad fruit?

      Jesus warned us about the teaching in the Old
      Testament: New wine must be put into new wine
      skins. This is about the New Testament and Old
      Testamemt. When you mix the teaching they break
      and the wine is spilt?

      Jesus said; in John 8:44 that the Jews were the
      children of the Devil? Why did He say this?
      Because in John 5:37 He said to the Jews: You have
      never heard my voice nor seen my form?

      Jesus is saying Moses and everyone who says they
      saw and talked to God is a liar?
      Let God be true and everyman a liar!

      Again Jesus said; John 8:54 to the Jews:
      Jesus answed, ” If I honor Myself, My honor is
      nothing. It is My Father who honors Me,
      of Whom You say that He is your God

      When Jesus was saying what is in the New Testment
      The New Testament Had not been written?
      So the Jews were claiming things from the
      Old testament.

      Now when you check up on the time when the
      Old Testament was written: read Jer 8:8

      The devil is the god of this world and wanted to
      be like God? Now is has the right to call himself
      god but he is not the God of the New TESTament

      bless you brothers and sisters

      when you believe what I have told you:

      the contradictions of the bible fade away like
      the glory was fading on Moses face

      Moses and the Jews were deceived by the Devil

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      1. The same God who spoke to the men in the Old Testament is the same God who has saved us under the New Testament. His name is Yahweh and he manifested himself as a human in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The rebellious Jews of the Old Testament turned their back on God (Yahweh) and dismissed his laws to worship Baal, Molech, and other false gods. For this God punished them. And because of their being stiffnecked, God sent them prophet after prophet to warn them against their ungodly violence.

        You have lumped the unbelievers in with believers in the Bible and you are in error. The unbelievers of the New Testament continued the violent, ungodly practices of those in the Old Testament. The believers of the New Testament believed the prophets of the Old Testament and this is how they recognized the Messiah and their belief in Jesus was accounted to them for righteousness, just like it was for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and others in the Old Testament.

        Jesus was not warning about the teaching of the Old Testament, he was warning about man-made traditions that twisted God’s words and made men misunderstand what God was truly saying. He even said “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” [Matthew 5:17]. Jesus also verified Moses’ trustworthiness when he said “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me,” [Luke 24:44].

        You also imply that since no one heard God in the OT, Abraham did not hear him. But Jesus said “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad,” [John 8:56]. So Jesus testifies positively about Abraham’s genuine faith in the one true God and that Abraham heard from God.

        So it becomes clear that the men who wrote the OT heard from God. It also becomes clear that you haven’t on this matter. “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.”

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  2. Harry,

    Actually there were a lot more killings than just the Canaanites. See http://literalbible.blogspot.com/search/label/Killings for some more examples.

    If you do a study of the Bible, Satan is only credited with killing 10 people (Job’s kids) and that is with permission from God vs. the millions God killed including wiping out the world with a flood.

    This will continue to be an issue for Christians because the Bible clearly documents these atrocities. One could say it was an O.T. thing but we have that little incident of killing Ananias and Sapphira for lying about how much money they made on the sale of a property. That one incident totally messed up a very good argument on Old and New Covenant differences.

    aA

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  3. The majority of the people killed were Canaanites because they inhabited the majority of the land. The other people who were killed died because they attacked Israel without provocation. Contrary to what you say, these were not atrocities considering all the evil that the people inhabiting the land committed.

    Satan killed way more than 10 people. If you had knowledge of the truth, which you obviously don’t, you would know that Satan influences the minds of murderers and rapists to work their evil. Since they refuse to listen to God and cling to their sinful nature instead, they allow their hatred to take over. “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.”

    Lying is a sin and God hates sin. Ananias and Sapphira chose to sin to try to exalt themselves in the church. Since God was trying to keep the church pure, he took their lives to show all believers how serious he is about holiness. It was their own fault they died. Do you enjoy it when people lie to you? Oh, I forgot, you’re agnosticatheist so believing lies and spreading them is part of your lifestyle.

    “But the natural [sinful] man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

    “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

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  4. it upsets me when i hear people like you CONDONING the old testament for it’s admited non stop violence which were NOT all provoced.When we are so fast in condeming the likes of the QURAN who eqally give the same excuse.

    In the old test Moses odered the killng of KIDS and BABEIS (31st chapter of numbers ) +racism, child abuse ( sanhedrin 55b , 54 b ) ( kethuboth 11b ), HATRED of JESUS + MARY ( sanherdin 106 a) also read footnote # 2 to shabbath 104 of soncino edition ), NON jewsh children (GENTILES – CHRISTIAN ) are ANIMALS ( yebamoth 98 a ) + pollygamy.+++
    ++
    For reasons like this i think we best keep our mouth shut concerning ISLAM .Just need to look at Jewih website like wwwdeism.com of thomas paine, plus many more who denny jesus as the MESSIAH as he is not of line of David(as it has to be on FATHER’S side.

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  5. Lisa,

    You need to do your homework. Your sins and hatred of God’s word are blinding you to the truth.

    First off, those who follow Muhammad are out for world domination. Their goal is to make all people everywhere bow down to their false god Allah by any means necessary, including violence. The ancient Israelites were not after world domination, true Christians are not out for world domination either. The Israelites were commanded to establish a holy nation, but they failed.

    The people occupying the land before the Jews had committed so many heinous acts that God wanted to punish them after he gave them plenty of time to turn from their wicked ways (Deuteronomy 7:9-10). They were by no means innocent and God gave Israel commandments to follow that were to counteract what the heathens did.

    Here are some of their wicked actions–they worshipped false gods (those who worship false gods worship the devil), they murdered their children as sacrifices to false gods (Leviticus 18:21), they were incestuous (Leviticus 18:6-18), they were sodomites (Leviticus 18:22), they were adulterous (Leviticus 18:20), they committed bestiality (Leviticus 18:23), they were robbers (Leviticus 19:11, 13), they promoted prostitution (Leviticus 19:29; Deuteronomy 23:17), they practiced witchcraft (Leviticus 19:31), and they dishonored their parents (Leviticus 20:9), . This is why God took the land away from them (Leviticus 18:24-30; 20:23) and this is why they were referred to as dogs.

    The one true God rewards righteousness and punishes sin. Muhammad and his followers, on the other hand, love evil and hate what is righteous. Jesus Christ was from David’s lineage as explained in both Matthew and Luke. Whatever sources you checked that say otherwise are lying and since you believe them, you are deceived.

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  6. “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, ‘My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.’ There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And God saw that the wickendness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it rpenteth me that I made them.” (Genesis 6: 1-7 KJV)

    When I first read these scriptures a while back, there was something subtle that I missed. In my mind, I had somehow replaced the phrase “sons of God” with “sons of man”. I tend to do this when I read a bit too fast. However, when I later read it, it stuck out to me. I had not realized that “sons of God” was meaning angels! (Fallen Angels of course) Never in my mind did I think it was actually possible that a fallen angel could even lust after a human being. Upon further studying these scriptures, one realizes that there were children that were being born who had demonic blood running through their veins. This explains the occurance of Giants, and other strange beings we would probably call “mutants” in today’s world. It makes sense as to how these tainted children could have evil thoughts continously as well. Anyways, Noah and his family, whom were not tainted by demonic blood, “found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Of course we know about the flood and the ark. Anyways, afterwards, it’s possible to conclude that the fallen angels began starting all over again, tainting the blood of humankind (Example: The existence of the giant, Goliath, that David had to face shows that this process could of started over again. I doubt the giants from the past were like the so-called giants in today’s society, who have genetic problems to account for their size).

    What could the purpose of the fallen angels knowing the daughters of men be? There is an apparent reason that becomes clear in the New Testament. Satan possibly wanted all the human race to be tainted with demonic blood, so that there would not be a pure family line for Jesus to be born into. It could be safe to suffice that many of the peoples, such as the Caananites, had these Giants and other beings who had demonic blood in them. Therefore, there would be another good reason God told the Isrealites to take out these people.

    This was just something interesting I thought I’d point out to you guys. I wouldn’t say that it’s 100% possible that the “sons of God” knew the women after the flood, but it is plausible since the existence of giants rose again. If this was going on, it just adds to the reason of why God allowed his people to wipe out the other groups.

    I agree with you Harry. I do believe God wanted to punish the evil nations because of their profound sins. Also, most Biblical scholars like to call the days of Moses, including the days all the way up to Jesus’ death on the cross, the “Age of Law”. It was apparent that mankind could never keep all of God’s commandments, and the blood of animal sacrafices was not sufficient enough to cover the sins. After Jesus’ death on the cross, and ressurection, Biblical scholars like to call the time all the way up to the Rapture, the “Church Age”, or “Age of Grace”. Hmm, seems to me that the “Age of Grace” fits nicely… because I don’t see God’s wrath fully being poored out on sinners.

    God Bless you guys! And keep up the great work Harry! God’s definatly blessed you with wisdom and knowledge of the Bible.

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  7. Well that’s all neat and tidy of an answer, but what about the innocent babies? I can just imagine what their eyes looked like right before they were slaughtered by an Israeli soldier. Or the mother’s eyes, when she say the baby, or child ripped from her hands or arms, about ready to be stuck with a sword.
    It was a bloody mess, that I cannot even imagine.
    But God condoned it and even commanded it. That’s why I cannot accept the Bible God.

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  8. No, that’s not the real reason you can’t accept the biblical God. The real reason you won’t accept God is because you don’t believe the sins you commit are wrong. You consider yourself a good person who doesn’t need God’s salvation.

    Please be honest. Your excuse for not accepting God is nothing more than a smoke screen you’ve thrown up to hide the real reason. This is the same tactic used by the Samaritan woman who talked to Jesus at the well in John 4. She wanted to have a general conversation about religion when Jesus tried to point out her need for God’s salvation. She tried to steer the conversation toward which place was the correct place to worship God in an attempt to say her people were OK with the way they worshiped God in comparison to how the Jews worshiped.

    She tried to throw up a smoke screen to try to justify her own sins, but Jesus stayed on point by highlighting the fact that one’s spiritual state was more important than the outward religious stuff she brought up.

    I’ve heard your feeble argument time and again from people complaining about the innocent babies who were killed and then they turn around and argue in favor of abortion, the murder of babies still in the womb. For some reason, they conveniently turn a blind eye to their own hypocrisy.

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  9. Well that’s all neat and tidy of an answer, but what about the innocent babies? I can just imagine what their eyes looked like right before they were slaughtered by an Israeli soldier. Or the mother’s eyes, when she say the baby, or child ripped from her hands or arms, about ready to be stuck with a sword.
    It was a bloody mess, that I cannot even imagine.
    But God condoned it and even commanded it. That’s why I cannot accept the Bible God.

    ——-

    I always encountered this issue on atheists and muslims.

    but my argument is:

    If a court of men can convict and hang the convicted criminal then why not God who knows our heart and mind?

    Isn’t war also a calamity?

    If the soldiers are the butchers and those people and its fruit are convicted criminals then who are we to question God in terms history?

    could we be sure that we still exist tommorrow so that we can argue with God that his historical decision is wrong?

    sometimes we are blind because of our boasful thnking and we forget that our life existence is good for 100 years only.

    God has already answered this situation:

    “Who are you to question my wisdom?” – job 38:2

    “Were you there when I made the world?”

    “and who decided how large it would be?”

    Are we trying to prove that God is unjust and wrong and we put ourselves right? – Job 40:8

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  10. [If you do a study of the Bible, Satan is only credited with killing 10 people (Job’s kids) and that is with permission from God vs. the millions God killed including wiping out the world with a flood.]

    —–

    Our Lord Jesus Christ answered this situation already as he said:

    “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? ” – Matthew 20:15

    “Does a clay pot dare argue with its maker, a pot that is like all others?” -Isaiah 45:9

    “Does the clay ask the potter what he is doing?”

    “Does the pot complain that its maker has no skill?”

    The LORD, the holy God of israel the one who shapes the future, says:

    “You have no right to question me about my children or to tell me what I ought to do”” – Isaiah 45:11

    “I am the one who made the earth and created human beings to live there.”

    “By my power I expand the universe”

    ‘I control the sun, the moon and the stars.”

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      1. We are freewill beings and God gave us the freedom to choose to do good or evil. But since God is the one who created us, he also has the freedom to do with us as he wishes. When we do good, he has the freedom to bless us and when we do evil, he exercises the freedom to punish us. As he said in Ezekiel 18, “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

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  11. wow why do u lump all bible evil doubters as being 4 abortion? God is Love and only Love. do not buy any of this evil bull. it was all about control by the Priest.

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    1. I didn’t lump all doubters of the Bible as being 4 abortion. I said that I know of people who question the killing of babies by the Israelites in the Bible, but then turn around and argue 4 abortion.

      God is not only love. He is also a God of righteousness, truth, and judgment against evil.

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  12. Remember that Matthew 24, Mark 13 & Luke 21 all forecast the destruction of Jerusalem which of course happened in 70 A.D. by Titus emperor of Rome thus fulfilling Daniel 9’s prophecy. The proof evidence that Jesus was the true messiah was the temple being destroyed.
    see Matt 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION spoken of by Daniel the prophet stand in the holy place.
    see also Luke 21:20-22 & especially 22: For these be the days of vengeance that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
    Also-Mark 23:27 And there followed him a great company of people and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.
    23:28 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me but weep for yourselves and your children.
    In short, God knew that Jerusalem would be leveled years ahead of time.

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  13. Harry,

    Your zealous tongue does you no favours. Your response to @agnosticatheist included an unjustifiable personal attack.

    I am a Christian and have not yet reached an understanding full enough to describe the actions of God in the Old Testament. I believe the answer will lie in two areas – the historical context and the covenant differences (covenant of immediate justice vs covenant of peace).

    You have scratched the surface. All the best with digging deeper.

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  14. Favours? Matt, looking for favours is not my intent for this blog or for the posts on it. My main goal is to spread the truth as found in God’s word and to tear down strongholds with God’s word. Those strongholds being the lies that people buy into.

    My response to agnosticatheist was befitting her comment. Atheists seek to do people harm although they wear a cloak of innocence or being harmless. They have no moral compass and therefore are capable of anything. I’m really not concerned if an atheist is offended by the truth. I’m concerned about my sharing the truth to counteract their lies that the Lord may be glorified.

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  15. Harry, I have so much respect for you. Not only did you write an enlightening article, but took the time to respectfully and logically answer and research on the accusations being thrown at you. God bless you.

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  16. The bible is NOT God’s world. It’s a concoction of make believe stories written by regular people just like you and me. Stop being so gullible.

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    1. Realist, your comment shows you don’t know history. The Bible has a proven, factual track record. It was written by regular people who were God’s spokesmen who spoke the truth as God relayed it to them and as they witnessed with their own eyes what he did. When you look at the fact that hundreds of its prophecies came true, that it speaks of the fall of Babylon exactly how it happened, that Samson caused a Philistine building to collapse by destroying two pillars that held it up when archaeology has proven Philistine buildings were held up on two pillars, that the Bible said the earth was circular before scientists figured it out centuries later, and that it says there was a Roman ruler in Judea named Pontius Pilate as archaeology has proven, then you will realize that Christians aren’t gullible and the Bible is 100% true.

      And why are you so down on what regular people accomplish? Isn’t it regular people that write the laws you abide by? Isn’t it regular people whose news broadcasts you believe? Well the laws in the Bible are the basis for the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as well as many of the laws we live under. Are you going to haul it over to your state capital or Washington DC to tell our legislators our laws against stealing or murder are make believe concoctions? The Bible’s laws are even more reliable than our laws and the good news it shares far surpasses the reliability of the news broadcast over the radio, TV, or internet. So hate all you want, but God’s word will stand forever. People greater than you have tried to stop it by burning Bibles, killing Christians, and outlawing the preaching of the gospel, but still God’s word continues to be spread all over the world and lives continue to be changed for the better by those words. You think much too highly of yourself if you believe that you or any atheist or agnostic you idolize can ever stop what God has done and continues to do.

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  17. Harry,

    Thank you so much for a great blog! I’ve been a Christian for 30+ years and love my Lord dearly. For the past several weeks I have been lovingly, boldly, sometimes with wit and humor, but always without apology talking with atheists online. It seems that as soon as you hit a hot button with them, they break out in to all caps, with blasphemous, vile and profane messages. It grieves my spirit when they curse God with such vile hatred. They attack Christians as people of ignorance and haters of peace, yet they don’t see that in themselves.

    Anyway, the two biggest obstacles that I have run in to is why God condoned the killing of babies and the taking of women from the enemy (the virgins) as brides. I know that just because I lack understanding with these passages, does not make God any less holy. But I would like to have some understanding so that I know how to respond when assaulted with these verses.

    God bless you for your work in the blogosphere!

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    1. Sorry it took awhile to answer you Janine. One good way to fend off attacks from atheists when they ask why God did this or that is to use Jesus’ tactic when the Jewish leaders asked him by what authority he kicked out the money changers. He told them he would answer them if they answered his question about the origin of John the Baptist’s ministry. So if an atheist asks you why God condoned something, just ask them why is it that when atheists come to power that they end up killing thousands and millions of people? Then use Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Adolph Hitler, Mao Tse-Tung, and Kim Jong-Il as examples. And don’t let them try to make excuses for the atrocities that atheists commit. Go on the offensive. Then refuse to answer their questions unless they can answer why atheists in power hate innocent people so much that they have killed them in the millions. You can even point out how serial killers like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Geoffrey Dahmer were atheists.

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  18. The OT warfare could be symbolic of Ephesians 6. In the NT, the holy spirit was imparted. This allows God’s people to put on the armor for the fight not against flesh and blood. They did not have this access in the OT. Jesus provided a less physically violent way to fight the REAL fight.

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  19. We have become used to the idea that violence is an evil in itself, and that other forms of violence, like slavery, are also evils in themselves. But the Spirit of God came on Samson, and he killed many. David, too, was anointed with the Spirit, and David was a fantastic and talented killer. This man after God’s own heart was a veritable specialist in bloodletting.

    Now we can come up with reasons, if we like, to give a justification for specific incidents of violence in the Bible. Many of these justifications seem convincing–after all, the ones killed usually “had it coming” for some reason or another. But what of the little babies whose heads were dashed against the rocks? What about the innocent firstborn of Egypt, who were visited by a terrible angel of God? It seems difficult to justify these. But I am not sure that they need to be justified.

    What I mean to say, is that we should be careful in distinguishing between what is distasteful to us, and what is absolutely wrong. Violence is much more distasteful to modern sensibilities than it was to people in the past, whose strange and alien practices we call “barbaric.” The modern person, on finding violence in the Bible, is offended. He then takes this offense, this gut-level revulsion, as indicating that something is inherently “wrong.” But God is always in the right–how then can He do or sanction what is “wrong”? Let us summon reasons to explain the apparent contradiction away–for contradiction, after all, is also quite displeasing to us.

    But God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His reason is not our reason. Is He then limited by our finite reason–that is, by our bodily discomfort with contradiction? Is it necessary to call up excuses for Him? Is there not a time and a season for all things–including violence? Everything is permitted, but not everything is good. If everything is permitted to us, then how much more to God? And can we, with our limited earthbound vision, see what is good? Is the law written on the heart–the whole of God’s law? If so, then why were explicit commandments ever necessary?

    We are stuck in the unenviable position of trying to explain much while knowing little. If we can accept that we know little, then we should also accept that our knowledge of what is good is also little. Because a thing seems good, does not mean that it is good. And because a thing may seem, deep down in our gut, to be morally wrong–does not mean that it is morally wrong. After all, what seems wrong to one people seems right to another.

    What the objections to the objectionable bits of the Bible boil down to is something like this: “What seems right to me is what is right for everyone and for all time. My morality is the absolute universal morality. My human, earthly, finite, bodily thoughts–are really in accord with eternally preexisting truths. Now then, since I have this incredible access to knowledge, let me judge all things according to it.”

    Far from engaging seriously with such people–these ants who consider themselves moral giants–we should be laughing at them!

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