Did God tolerate the violence discovered within the Outdated Testomony?
Massacres all over the city. Murder, rape and dismemberment. Fire rains down from the sky at a single command.
No, it's not the latest action film, but real events depicted in God's holy word, the Bible.
Christians often wonder how God felt about it. Did God tolerate violence in the Old Testament? How could our good Father – the God of life, creation, compassion and mercy – not only allow part of the depicted brutality, but encourage it?
What kind of violence is depicted in the Old Testament?
From Cain's jealous slaughter of his brother Abel (Genesis 4) to a massive flood that wiped out almost all living things on the planet (Genesis 6-7), the Bible begins with a violent bang.
In fact, almost every book in the Old Testament shows some form of violence. God rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 for their blatant and wanton sins.
In Exodus, God covered Egypt with widespread plagues, including the killing of all firstborn children (Exodus 12:29).
In Leviticus, God lays down strict laws, including the execution of sins that he describes as "despicable" (Leviticus 20).
Violence against women is widespread in all judges, from the victim of Jephthah's daughter (Judges 11) to the sexual abuse and dismemberment of the nameless concubine in Judges 19: 23-30 (for whom a call to justice and action was given) to the indiscriminate Slaughter of all non-virgin women in Judges 21, except for the 400 young virgins who are forced to marry their kidnappers. (It's worth reading all of these instances in context as well.)
God's prophet Elijah called down fire from heaven to consume two separate groups of men who came to speak to him on behalf of King Ahaziah and would have set a third on fire had they not asked for their lives ( 2 Kings 1).
One of the more bizarre acts of violence is found at 2 Kings 2: 23-25, which tells how the prophet Elisha, a man of God, cursed a group of boys who mocked him and called him "Baldy" when he was at Bethel received. Two bears suddenly came out of the forest and hit 42 of the cubs to fulfill the curse.
Did God Require Violence in the Old Testament?
While some of the violence in the Old Testament was exercised by God's people, some seems to have been claimed by God Himself. For example, in Joshua 8, God commanded the leader of the Israelite tribes to raid and destroy the city of Ai, and throughout the book of Joshua, God seems to both mandate and approve of the bloody conquest of Canaan, which included the slaughter of Canaan and animals.
Judges 1 describes how God helped Judah triumph against the Canaanites and Perizzites, the hill country people, and the entire city of Bethel that was "drawn by the sword" (Judges 1:25). This is fully in line with what God commanded through Moses in Deuteronomy 7: 1-2 that God's people, when they entered the promised land, “should completely destroy it. Do not make a contract with them or show them mercy. "And as stated in Deuteronomy 20:16:" Do not leave anything alive that breathes. "
It is not just enemies who have experienced such anger. In 2 Samuel 6, when King David and his men were carrying God's holy ark in a cart from Baalah to the city of David, one of the oxen stumbled and an Israelite named Uzzah reached out to stabilize the ark. Scripture tells us, "The Lord's wrath burned against Uzzah" because Uzzah touched his sacred ark, which was viewed as a disrespectful, disrespectful and disobedient act. God struck Ussa and died (2 Samuel 6: 7).
Why should a loving God tolerate violence?
Some people have a big problem with the fact that our loving, good God not only accepts violence, he even authorizes it. Some scholars have concluded that the violence described was far less brutal than the text suggests. For example, "destroy" or "lay with the sword" could be a metaphor for just driving enemies out of the country. The fighting language can be extreme, after all.
Other scholars remind us that God, who is holy and omniscient, recognized the souls of all destroyed people, and these were not innocent but evil enemies of the Lord in a great holy war. After all, the Canaanites were an evil people (Deuteronomy 9: 4), who regularly sacrificed their sons and daughters in fire to false gods (Deuteronomy 12: 31). Other enemies were known tyrants who viciously oppressed and exploited people.
In essence, God did not glorify violence, but destroyed unbearable evil, a necessity, and perhaps a last resort.
For example, the Bible tells us that God, being struck by the rampant injustice and wickedness that fills the hearts of every human being on earth, was "deeply troubled" (Genesis 6: 6) and determined to annihilate humanity. But one man, Noah, God saw that he was righteous, and so he decided to restart the world with the one salvable human family.
God's anger is not a rash, but a sacred response to the evil that invades the world. Sometimes he allows this evil to happen until the right time, for example when he told Abram that the sins of the Amorites had not yet reached their “full measure” (Genesis 15:16).
Does God rejoice at his anger?
God does not enjoy his anger. He prefers his people to repent and live.
He is a God with many opportunities who offers grace and mercy to even great evildoers. He told Jonah to preach his word to the city of Nineveh and warn the people that God would overthrow their city because of their terrible wrongdoings. However, the danger of impending doom woke people from their evil ways and repented of their sins. God offered them grace and did not destroy Nineveh (Jonah 3:10).
In 1 Kings 21 – after his prophet Elijah told the bloodthirsty King Ahab that God would bring him disaster and wipe out his descendants whose remains would be devoured by dogs and birds – Ahab ripped off his clothes and fasted in penance. Despite Ahab's evil heart, God softened his humility and said to Elijah, “Have you noticed how Ahab humbled himself before me? Because he humbled himself, I will not bring this calamity in his time, but I will bring it to his house in the day of his son. ”- 1 Kings 21:29.
Years later, God expressed similar understanding and compassion when He told the prophet Ezekiel, “But when an evil person turns away from all the sins he has committed, keeps all my ordinances, and does what is right and right, that person will go with you Live security ;; You will not die.… Do I rejoice in the death of the wicked? declares the sovereign lord. Am I rather not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? “(Ezekiel 18:21, 23).
It is the same kind of grace that God offered in sending His Son Jesus Christ to show us the way to eternal life and to pay the debt of our relentless sin once and for all.
Indeed, reading the Old Testament with a view to the New Testament and God's ultimate plan through our Savior Jesus shows a different perspective on the violence in the earth's earlier days. After all, we know that God's complete plan is to teach and ultimately save his people from evil through His Son, Jesus Christ.
While the violence throughout the Old Testament can be unsettling and confusing for believers, we need to reassure ourselves and know that God loves us. He hates evil and will punish it if necessary.
But as Jesus said, do not be afraid: “In this world you will have difficulties. But take courage! I have overcome the world ”(John 16:33).
Photo credit: © iStock / Getty Images Plus / RomoloTavani
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian writer, journalist, editor, blogger and writing coach and received the Genesis Award from the American Christian Fiction Writers for her novel The Memory Garden in 2018. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team. Learn more at http://jessicabrodie.com.