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Did God condone and order mass killings? October 1, 2005

Posted by roopster in Bible, Christianity, church, faith, God, Religion, spirituality, Theology.
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In a previous blog “Will the real god please stand up?” I explored the different portrayals of God within the Hebrew Bible a.k.a. Old Testament. Today, I would like to discuss the contrast between the God we, as Christians, serve and the God of the Hebrew Bible. I previously explored this point in another blog entry, however, my focus centered around the question, “Is the Bible THE Word of God?

What many Christians ignore is the fact that the God described in the Hebrew Bible is NOT the God they believe in. We believe God is a loving Father who cares for his children. God is merciful, kind, compassionate, and a protector. While those types of images are portrayed in the Hebrew Bible, the exact opposite is also displayed. How can this be reconciled?

Let’s look at a small sampling of these images of God. God killed the enemies of his chosen people, the Children of Israel. He even killed those among his chosen people who dared defy him.

1 Sam.15:2-3 This is what the LORD Almighty says: `I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation–men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys.’ ”

Ezek.9:5-7 Then I heard the LORD say to the other men, “Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all–old and young, girls and women and little children. But do not touch anyone with the mark. Begin your task right here at the Temple.” So they began by killing the seventy leaders. “Defile the Temple!” the LORD commanded. “Fill its courtyards with the bodies of those you kill! Go!” So they went throughout the city and did as they were told.

Jer.13:14 I will smash them one against the other, even parents against children, says the LORD. I will not let my pity or mercy or compassion keep me from destroying them.’ ”

Lam.2:2 Without mercy the Lord has destroyed every home in Israel. In his anger he has broken down the fortress walls of Jerusalem. He has brought to dust the kingdom and all its rulers.

Num.25:4 The LORD issued the following command to Moses: “Seize all the ringleaders and execute them before the LORD in broad daylight, so his fierce anger will turn away from the people of Israel.”

God killed children for calling his prophet “baldy.” He even killed someone for trying to keep the Ark from falling and killed 70 or more men for simply being too curious and looking into the Ark.

1 Sam.6:19 But the LORD killed seventy men from Beth-shemesh because they looked into the Ark of the LORD. And the people mourned greatly because of what the LORD had done.

(Note: NKJV says 50,070 men).

These images of God cannot be reconciled with how we view God. Yes, we have our “covenant” explanations, but we do also believe that God cannot and does not ever change. He is the “same yesterday, today, and forever.” How can these radically different portrayals of God be reconciled?

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1. Denes de Sainte-Claire (Baron Del) - September 17, 2005

No one on the face of the planet Earth has a god that is perfectly explained, perfectly represented, or perfectly manifest. Therefore, perfect reasoning leads me to believe that there is no god.

2. MMM - September 17, 2005

Not sure whether God condones mass killing. In reality, just don’t want to be killed, me. 🙂

As far as the death and destruction that was caused in the texts you mention, aren’t they all before Jesus came and put us all under grace? The people that died violated the law, and ignorance apparently was no excuse, but Jesus came to fix all that.

And yes, it’s true that God doesn’t change, but isn’t it also true that He can do as he pleases? Maybe it pleased Him to send Jesus exactly when He did, exactly where He did, and for His own purposes. He’s God, after all. And He says, “My counsel shall stand, and I shall do all my pleasure.” It’s in Isaiah. So if He never changes, then you have to place His love for us that made Him send Jesus in the same context as His wrath. They can exist side by side. And have, since the foundation of the world, and long before, if His word is to be believed.

3. BruceA - September 18, 2005

From reading the Bible, I think it is clear that the Bible is a reflection of the authors’ understanding of God, and it is equally clear that the various authors did not understand God the same way.

Most of the Hebrew prophets had a portrayal of God that is compatible with Christianity, a God of compassion:

“I will heal their disloyalty;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them. … They shall again live beneath my shadow,
they shall flourish as a garden;
they shall blossom like the vine,
their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.” – Hosea 14:4,7

“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…” – Isaiah 40:1

Even God’s anger is portrayed, among the prophets, as a reaction to injustice:

“Thus says the LORD:
For three transgressions of Israel,
and for four, I will not revoke punishment;
because they sell the righteous for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals.” – Amos 2:6-7

“Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” – Amos 5:23-24

On the other hand, we see things in the New Testament that are incompatible with Christianity:

“Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.” – 1 Peter 2:18

“I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. …I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!” – Galatians 5:10,12

And don’t forget the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, or Jesus calling a Gentile woman a dog, Mark 7:27.

Taken as a collection of books describing how its writers understood God, the Bible can be valuable to our faith. Taken as the very words of God, the Bible doesn’t cut it.

4. Denes de Sainte-Claire (Baron Del) - September 18, 2005

brucea,

I’m sorry but “Taken as a collection of books describing how its writers understood God” I see it somewhat the opposite. But I don’t try to fit it all into a nice, neat package of Judeo-Christian monotheism. It would appear to me that some writings/teachings were pass along, reformed and reinterpreted, and embelished upon. Each author manufactures a god that fits the needs and theme of the story.

5. Denes de Sainte-Claire (Baron Del) - September 18, 2005

Did God condone and order mass killings?

Yes and no.

If (and I mean IF)there is a personified supreme, all-powerful creator, who gets pissed off at his pets, and orders other pets to commit acts of savagry for his pleasure, then yes God does condone it.

But, I tend to believe (without further evidence to my satisfaction…and I don’t ask for much) that no, God does not condone it. Why? Because there is no god!

6. BruceA - September 19, 2005

Baron Del –

Each author manufactures a god that fits the needs and theme of the story.

No doubt each of the biblical writers had his own theology. A comparison of the same story in two or more gospels shows beyond doubt that each writer could use the same story to make a different point.

As a Christian, and as a person with a limited understanding of God, I want to learn from others if I can. That’s what I meant by, “Taken as a collection of books describing how its writers understood God, the Bible can be valuable to our faith.” Maybe I can learn from the Bible writers’ insights; maybe I can learn from their mistakes. And it’s not just the Bible, or even just Christian writings. I’ve learned a lot from the Tao Te Ching, and incorporated it into my faith.

Clearly, if you are an atheist, religious writings are not going to help you grow in faith. I’m just describing my own experience.

7. Denes de Sainte-Claire (Baron Del) - September 19, 2005

brucea,

I’m beginning to appreciate your point-of-view more, or rather, the premise for your POV. I guess I do come across as an Atheist. To be completely honest I used to be a “rock-solid” Christian (pseudo-WOF’er) that has since, and with much, much thought, become more of an Agnostic with Atheist tendancies. Sounds pretty screwed up, doesn’t it? I’m searching for truth…my truth. Without some one-on-one, miraculous manifestation of the Lord Almighty for my benefit, I’m fairly certain that Christianity has been scratched off the list. I find it difficult to believe in (or the existence of) any person of God. I’m open to an all-powerful force of creation. Maybe one that is, in fact, intelligent. But not anything of the like of the world’s mainstream religions. Christianity pretty much ruined my ability to trust or commit to any such organization.

However, I do appreciate your posts. I hope that we can interact on the boards further. Take care.

8. BruceA - September 21, 2005

Baron Del –

You and I are probably not very different. I believe because of an experience that I had when I was 17 years old. It’s too complex to describe here, but it is something that has stuck with me ever since.

None of the proofs anyone has concocted sound convincing to me, and if it weren’t for my experiences, I would probably be an agnostic too.

I’m not surprised about your background. Most of the agnostics I know were raised as conservative Christians. There’s something about that brand of Christianity that drives a lot of people away.

9. Denes de Sainte-Claire (Baron Del) - September 21, 2005

Okay, back to “Did God condone and order mass killings?”

I wonder what Job would have said. Anyway, read the following taken from the site http://www.religioustolerance.org/imm_bibl1.htm#ifr

Murder of the Midianite children:
Numbers 31:1-18: “…And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded moses, and they slew all the [adult] males. And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones…And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses…And Moses was angry with the officers of the host And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Ba’laam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the female children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”

On God’s instructions, Moses sent 12,000 soldiers against the Midianites. The army killed every adult Midianite male. This is in response to some of the Israelite men having had sex with some of the Midianite women. Moses then ordered them to slaughter in cold blood each captive, including all of the boys, saving only female virgins. The latter were apparently to be retained for purposes of rape. The Midianite mothers were thus punished by having to watch their male children murdered in front of them. Then, they were themselves killed. Verse 35 talks about 32,000 virgin captives; this implies that there were probably about 32,000 boys killed.

Fortunately, other passages in the Bible imply that the above genocide and mass murder are just a myth. They not actually happen. If it did, then the entire Midian tribe would have been wiped out. All the males and many of the woman had been killed. Any children that the female captives later had would not be regarded as Midianites. Yet, Judges 6:1 implies that in the course of a single lifetime, the Midianites went from being totally wiped out to becoming a nation once more. Further, they were strong enough to take the Israelite nation captive for 7 years.

Interpreting hard passages from different Biblical viewpoints:
Protestant Christianity is deeply divided into conservative, mainline, and liberal wings. A great gulf also exists between Protestant and Roman Catholic/Orthodox beliefs. Many of these differences can be traced to the ways in which different Christian faith groups interpret the Bible:

Conservative Christians tend to believe that the Bible is inspired by God, inerrant and infallible. This includes the “hard passages.” One of the main Biblical verses supporting this belief is:
2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (King James Version) The Christian Scriptures (New Testament) did not exist when 2 Timothy was written. So, the passage must have referred to the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) only. However, the verse is commonly used today to refer to the entire Bible.

Religious conservatives believe that much of the apparent immorality in the Hebrew Scriptures’ hard passages are human misunderstanding because Jehovah is both a God of love and of justice. God, as a wholly just being, must sometimes punish rebellious individuals and groups for their sins in ways that we find difficult to understand.
Liberal Christians tend to regard the Bible as a series of somewhat imperfect documents, which individual authors (and later forgers) used to introduce and promote their own competing religious beliefs. Religious thought is seen as evolving during the period from about 900 BCE to 150 CE when the various books of the Bible were written. Liberals feel that some “hard passages” and other Biblical passages reflect an earlier, lower standard of morality and should be ignored. They are dangerous to the religious belief, spirituality and ethics of today’s readers. These passages include verses which condone and regulate slavery, which advocate discrimination against women, which promote religious hatred and intolerance, which denigrate homosexuals, which describe the killing of innocent people, genocide, etc.

Both conservatives and liberals agree on one factor: these “hard passages” are rarely cited in church or religious writings. They appear to teach a system of ethics that is profoundly evil by today’s religious and secular standards.

10. Denes de Sainte-Claire (Baron Del) - September 21, 2005

brucea,

Thanks for your thoughts. It does seem like alot of “searching” people come (away) from the WOF movement. I can’t say that was a full fledge “member,” but I was heavily influenced for a time. However, I wasn’t raised that way. I sort of stumbled into it on my own. Fortunately, I purposely and thoughtfully walked away from it.

By the way, nice webpage of your own. I like the Aristotle quote, and you have a cute family.

Here’s a quote for you (one of my favorites):

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” –Lin Yutang

11. BruceA - September 22, 2005

I would say that the views listed in the “Liberal Christians” section from religioustolerance.org is a pretty accurate reflection of my own beliefs.

Baron Del –

Thanks for the quote. I’ve added it to my database.

12. SteveJ - October 5, 2005

People sometimes say that God formerly acted one way but now acts another because of what Jesus did. That bothers me. First, it makes Jesus appear to be a more lovely being than God and suggests that the former can change the latter’s character. Second, it short-shrifts the fact that the New Testament scriptures also contain descriptions of divine severity.

Clearly, there is a development in the Bible concerning God’s nature and character. In Genesis, He walks with humans in the garden, doesn’t know certain things and seems to require ethical conduct only toward kin. By the time of the prophets, a different picture emerges.

Our theology should leave room for an evolution of ideas concerning the Sacred.

13. Denes de Sainte-Claire (Baron Del) - October 6, 2005

stevej,

Is it possible that the “God” story was [originally] a fabrication that has been built upon, and used over the years?

14. Denes de Sainte-Claire (Baron Del) - October 8, 2005

”If what he [Jesus Christ] said was good and so much of it is absolutely beautiful, what can it matter if he was God or not?”–Kurt Vonnegut

15. dosnlinux - June 17, 2007

These are images of the same God. God demands obidiance. He has always demanded obediance. From the Ark’s beginning God said “touch it and die” (with the exception of certain priests)

As for the bald prophet, prophets speak for God. Would you tease a king’s messenger and show contempt for their position and what the king has to say? Would you not expect reprecusion for that?

The reason God commanded Isreal to completely wipe out surrounding nations was because first of all, they were harrassing Isreal. As Isreal’s king wouldn’t you want to protect your people from harm. The second reason is because Isreal was conquering their land. God knew that if they didn’t completely wipe out the surrounding races they would continue to harrass Isreal and claim right to the land.

Also, if there’s one thing that really gets on God’s bad side it’s rebellion and disobediance. This is what sin is, which the punishment is death. This explains why God sent various plagues/deaths to Isreal. It also explains why God killed the misc. “coups” that tried to depose Moses.

‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’ – Numbers 14:18

He’s the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and if people would get to know him better (by reading entire Bible not just parts) and stop trying to turn God into what they want him to be they could see this.

This is why Christianity is in the shape it’s in today, and why were so busy bickering with each other over stuff that’s stated quite plainly.

16. cragar - June 21, 2007

The reason God commanded Isreal to completely wipe out surrounding nations was because first of all, they were harrassing Isreal. As Isreal’s king wouldn’t you want to protect your people from harm. The second reason is because Isreal was conquering their land. God knew that if they didn’t completely wipe out the surrounding races they would continue to harrass Isreal and claim right to the land.

Or maybe it was just the Isrealites writing things down to justify conquering other lands and killing everyone except the virgin women.

Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him
But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves Num 31:17-18

17. cragar - June 28, 2007

roopster, If you are around I tagged you.

http://cragar.wordpress.com/2007/06/28/tagged/

18. roopster - June 28, 2007

cragar,

I’m around. Thanks for the tag!!!

Paul

19. Margaret Harrison - July 13, 2007

I just read Numbers 31 to 34 again. It seems to me that the priest Eleazar took part in Moses decisions to tell the Isralies to kill everyone in the lands mentioned therein, including Eleazar’s land, and all this people, including his own son that was in power.
Then half was divided: the priest got a portion of the booty of animals and people captured. Moses [acting on behalf of God’s tribute] got a portion, and the Isrelie Army got a portion of half.
The Isrelie people got the other half.
Sounds like the first financial corruption of the church to me. The Isralies killed many and then occupied Canaan. ]
Was it really and truly God’s will for all of this killing from that “beginning”.
So does “Canaan” really belong to the Isralies?
I do not believe that God would create man, and then set us to killing each other.
Why do you think that Christ came to save the souls of the NON Hebrews, and give them (today’s Christian’s) the “inheritance of Heaven”; and He was clear that in the end times, only those Hebrews that repent, will be restore their true inheritance.
I don’t hate anyone. I do believe that the Hebrews, the Muslims, and the whole world is at war because of the UNtruths that got into our Bible, and our beliefs.
Christ came to give us the truth, but even that part of the Bible has been tainted with the zeal of the times in which it was written.
The TRUE BIBLE is in your HEARTS. You KNOW what is right and what is wrong. Believe in that, and you will please the true GOD ALMIGHTY Lord of us all.

20. carlton figg - November 1, 2007

Good for you. Margaret Harrison. I am with you in the belief that the scriptures have been twisted and “tainted” to suit the people and organisations that were writing them at the time. Mostly, the Bible appears to be a history of the Jewish people — a little history and a lot of mythology. But I’m referring to the Old Testament — and by this I mean that my belief in Jesus Christ and the Gospels must not be questioned. I don’t need to listen to the clergy ( from whatever church) to believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. However, I don’t believe in the resurrection of the human body as we know it. I believe this is one area in which the scriptures have been distorted. The so-called resurrection “of the body” is a deliberate falsehood by vested interests who are keeping congregations in check by using a policy of carrot-and-stick, and who are also exploiting mankind’s fear of the unknown (after death, what ?) . St. Peter himself said that Jesus was “killed in the flesh and raised in the spirit” — meaning, obviously, that it is the spirit that rises. Even Paul was at pains to explain that the mortal body as we know it does NOT rise from the dead and that, instead, it is transformed into something more acceptable to Heaven. But despite these very clear teachings, our spiritual leaders persist with a fairy-tale version of bodily life after death. They appear to have learnt nothing from the words of Jesus on the Cross, when He commended his “Spirit” to the Lord.

I do not agree that the New Testament contains untruths. But yes, the truth has so often been distorted beyond recognition. We all know why — all except bigots. Only the truth will set us free –not a bundle of lies !

21. Gz - August 11, 2014

I think it is sick to put these thoughts into peoples minds. its not good to have these images in ones mind


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