Thursday, March 23, 2006

Murder, rape, genocide?

I used to ignore this debate. But I've read quite a few websites (e.g. this one) where its discussed recently and have had to re-think my position on it.

The issue is does God endorse murder, rape and genocide in the old testament?

The answer, if you take the bible at face value, is yes!

Numerous times throughout the early books of the old testament (Genesis through to Samuel) the text clearly says that God instructs the israelites to utterly destroy a nation, including all men, women, children and even animals sometimes. There is no other word for this than genocide. For example, Deuteronomy chapter 7v1-2 says:

"When the Lord your God brings you to the land that you are going to occupy and forces out many nations before you-Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and powerful than you - and he delivers them over to you and you attack them, you must utterly annihilate them. Make no covenant with them nor show them compassion!"

On other occasions, e.g. Deuteronomy 21v10-14, the Israelites were instructed to spare all female virgins from the genocide in order that the Israelites might have sexual relations with them and take them as their wives.

"When you engage your enemies in warfare and the Lord your God allows you to prevail and you take prisoners, if you should see among them an attractive woman whom you wish to take as a wife, you may bring her back to your house. She must shave her head, trim her nails, discard the clothing she was wearing when captured, go to your house, and lament for her father and mother for a full month. After that you may have sexual relations with her and become her husband and she your wife. If it should turn out that you are not pleased with her, then you must let her go where she pleases. You cannot in any case sell her; you must not take advantage of her, since you have already humiliated her."

This is not a consentual relationship we're talking about here, this is clearly rape and sex-slavery! And there are many instances of it in the OT.

The question is did God actually command the Israelites to do these things?

The only stance I can take on this is that the God of love would not command these things. Thus these stories, presented in the bible, cannot be the inspired word of God. Surely they must be a modified history of the Israelites, written some time after the events described - it was known what happened, so it was assumed that these actions must have been God endorsed, so it was recorded accordingly.

Or is there a way of defending these actions and maintaining that God did indeed order these things but is still the God of love that we speak of today?


Anonymous said...

Ezekiel 18:32 "For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord, repent and live"
Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in [ Or through] Christ Jesus our Lord."
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

God never wanted anyone to perish.He would rather die than let His people go.Hope you'll see it. Praise God.

Ricky Carvel said...

Interesting comment anonymous. So do you think that God ordered the Israelites to slaughter their enemies?

Anonymous said...

I noticed the lack of responses to this post, which I guess is not surprising. Although, as I'm sure you would agree, Christians should never shy away from any question because it is uncomfortable. Therefore I agree this needs to be a major point of discussion.

In Strobel's "The Case for Faith", Norman Giesler argues that the violent acts of God, whether they are murder, rape or genocide, "shows that God's character is absolutely holy, and that he has got to punish sin and rebellion."

If God is just, he must punish sin and the many peoples whom God through instruction to the Israelites did wipe out were far from innocent. They lived lives that were offensive to God and even brutally offensive by human moral standards. Further, these peoples were enemies of Israel and if they had succeeded in defeating the Israelites, God people would be no more. Consequently, there would be no nation from Jesus to come.

This leads to the question, "does God "ordain" sin to fulfill his plan?" Now you'll notice that I use the words ordain rather then endorse because I believe, as "anonymous" references God does not desire evil, he would not be good if he did, it would be contradictory. However, God does allow evil, just as he allowed Adam and Eve to sin originally, God could have stopped it, but didn't. Further, God uses evil as part of His divine plan, for example, surely God did not put his Son on the cross, but he allowed the evil of Judas and the other Jews, in fact "ordained" it, by including it in His plan of salvation.

Finally, your point that we are instructed to be more like God is I think using the idea to broadly. Surely we are referring to the character of God, not immitating his actions. As I mentioned earlier, from these passages we can conclude that God is just, so therefore we should be just. God is also merciful and so we should be merciful. However, even though this is the case, there is a fundamental difference between us and God, he is exactly that, God. Did not God create life? Therefore God has the authority to take life away. We did not create life, we cannot create life and therefore we have no right to take it.

I guess I'm coming across very one sided here, but I often do that merely to further the argument by falsifying the ideas against the objections. Personally, the killing is much more easier to take than the rape, because is that not abusing life? It seems to paint God with a sadistic side. Hmmmm...

Ricky Carvel said...

Welcome Matt!

I wondered how long before any of you lot would discover this blog.

I can't see the disticntion between the character of God and the actions of God. How do we know his character if not through his actions? Actions speak louder than words, remember. Much of Jesus's condemnation of the Pharisees is related to their hypocrisy - teaching others to do things and yet not doing the things themselves. Here we see the character of the people through what they do (or what they don't do) rather than through what they say. So we must consider the actions of God as reflecting his character.

I see your point about God needing Israel to survive, so killing the enemies could be understandable in that regard - but that only extends to the adults, there is no need to kill the children (and even the animals in some cases).

The only way I can reconcile what is written with a loving God is to consider that the biblical accounts are not strictly historical and the actions and instructions of God in these passages are assumptions or interpolations by the editors of the documents, possibly several centuries after the event.

Anonymous said...

I understand that it seems hypocritical of God to show vengence when He instructs us to be merciful. But although what is preached in churches today has a huge bias towards the love of God, I think one who reads the Bible cannot ignore the wrath of God too.

Deut 5.9, He punishes the children because of the actions of their fathers before them, not even based on their own sin!

But still, we are making a moral judgement on the God who created morals, no? Although it may seem unjust, God says, I am just and therefore I believe it. It is very very difficult to do so, but surely it is what is required if we are to submit to God's will? To accept God's sovereignty and trust His judgement.

Romans 9 discusses this, particularly v22-23, mentions His wrath and also indicates that it can be used to make His mercy even greater.

As is often said, we can't understand the love of God until we understand the the wrath of God.

Saying this, we cannot conclude that therefore we should show wrath, because as I mentioned before on what grounds can we condem others? As Jesus said, whoever is without sin cast the first stone. Now it is often overlooked, but this passage is also clearing showing, that God, who is without sin has every right to cast as many stones as he chooses.

still, it's tough!!

Anonymous said...

The OT God doesn't seem to be in step with the NT God. The bible says that God never changes so how can anyone this that the OT is the inspired word of God when it is filled with murder, rape, genocide,etc. I agree a lot of the OT is mythology thought to be what God told the Israelites to do, but in fact He did not.

Richard Becher said...

Hi there,

Just a few thoughts...

God does not change. There is no NT without the OT. Jesus Christ was prophesied, foreshadowed and anticipated for centuries before He actually came. I say this to simply affirm that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the same of God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. If the events were altered they would have had to have been altered after 50 A.D. or so. I say this because in the gospels contain the recored words of Jesus. Jesus Himself refers to the Law (commonly known as the Torah - first 5 books of the OT) and the Prophets. If Jesus is the Son of God then I personally would think that He would have clarified what part of the Torah He was referrring to when He said:

"I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." Matthew 5:18

And even after that, 2 Timothy 3:16 (All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful....) is clearly referring to the OT since the NT was not yet in existence.

This is something we need to consider before dismissing the OT as the inspired Word of God.

God is loving - in fact He is love.

God is also Just and a hater of evil. It is important to note that according to His justice there is no one righteous - not even one - this is echoed in both the OT (Psalm 143:2) and the NT (Romans 3:9-10).

There was only ONE way that God's Love can be displayed without compromising His Holiness and Justice - justice must be served on our behalf - Christ crucified. The crucifixion is God's mercy toward those who are only worthy of His judgment. Thanks be to God that we can now have an eternal hope and an abundance of His grace through Jesus Christ!

As for the genocide commanded by God that took place in the OT....I am constantly reminded WHY it happened.

Note: It is also important to distinguish the difference between evil that is allowed in the world because of sin and the commands of God to the Israelites. I am speaking to the latter point in this discussion.

The first genocide was found in Genesis - the Flood.

Further on God - in His Sovereignty - chose a people to create a nation for the purpose of being a blessing to all nations ultimately through His Son, Jesus Christ.

When He commanded the Israelites to drive out the people - remember Deut. 9:4:

"After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, 'The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.' No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you."

God is just and He - in His Wisdom - dispenses punishment according to His Righteousness. And so He did - His FULL WRATH was poured out onto His Son Jesus Christ. That is why today - we are objects of His mecy and grace. We can never look at any other person in judgment without remembering the judgment which we were spared because of HIs Son. And we can never look at any judgment of God without remembering that He is Holy - we are not. Those who know Christ personally are declared holy - but it is a work in progress in our lives.

Wow...was not intending to write that much.......

Ricky Carvel said...


Thanks for all that and welcome to Blogger.

If you delve far enough back into this blog, you'll find that I have huge issues with the flood story on many levels, so using it as one example of God doing genocide to support the other (apparently lesser) genocides doesn't really work for me.

IF God did use a flood to wipe out all the people in the days of Noah, and IF he did use plagues in Egypt to kill off every firstborn, etc. Why then, only a generation or two later does he stop doing these things for himself? Why does he put the blood of the genocide onto the hands of his people? Why didn't he just do the genocide himself?

Hmmm, I've just noticed that it is only after the 'Thou shalt not kill' commandment is given that God turns around and actually commands his people to kill. He hadn't done that before... I'll need to think about that.

Anyway, even if I do accept the God endorses genocide hypothesis, I still can't accept the one where he apparently endorses rape and sex-slavery. How is that loving or just?


Max B. said...

lets keep this talk going. seriously.

If God says to his people, do not kill, then you don't. people would want to kill out of hate, envy and so on. If God chooses to judge, or carry out his plan of bring heaven back to earth, he may do things that people themselves are not permitted to decide to do. If God told his people to do something, (according to God's desire, not their own) than they should listen to that which is above them, and would not think that they are to do things out of their own desire for hate and murder.

I have my pains over... how things were accomplished in the OT, but, that certainly must be based on a lack of my understanding and me (unworthy and imperfect) trying to decide how God should do things. God created us out of nothing, and surly he knows much more than we do.

I do think this is a really hard thing to handle or learn about.

Piko said...

Consider this question.

Is it good or bad to shoot a person in cold blood?

Your answer is wrong and right depending on what is the context as well as individual bias towards the right to defend yourself, capital punishment, etc.

When God wanted the annihilation of all the Amalekites we need to see what prompted the Lord to judge them so harshly. That the Amalekites killed the children and the weak and old of Israel when they were fleeing Egypt. They took out the vanguard and preyed on the vulnerable.
So does it justify our modern day self righteous label of genocide? Well do you know the whole story? I don’t, just this fragment that I am posting. Does this mean we judge the maker of heaven and earth evil because we just see bits of the story that dosent sound “nice” ? up to you, you are responsible for what you say, think and feel.
As for me and my household, I will serve the Lord… so what is this called? Blind faith?
If you can see everything clearly, what is faith for then? Some things I just take into my heart and believe , lest my “mind” sell me out when I try to get too clever. Some things I just trust in the goodness of the Lord and that is not based on what other people say, but the Lord has proven His goodness to me again and again. After all if you married your wife because it was a “good idea” then you are seriously working on the wrong basis. Some things don’t necessarily make sense…
We don’t have a wicked God, but don’t mistake love as a “soft” lovey dovey mushy cotton candy emotion. It is in this semi expectation that we look and view His actions; that we come up with conclusion of the Lord not being “nice/good/kind”.