Genocide in the Bible


Joshua, slayer in chief

From the lands of Canaan to the people of Amalek where even animals, let alone babies and children, (1 Samuel 15:3) were to be destroyed. As god’s judgment or punishment for defying his will the Hebrew Scriptures have god sanctioning genocide.

The easiest way out of this for Christians would be to insist that it is the Old Testament – nothing to do with Jesus and his teachings. Though in the New Testament much is made of god’s judgments in killing people (Sodom and Gomorrah), and Jesus himself made much about everlasting hell being punishment after death. Unless we claim that the god of the old is replaced by Jesus the god of the new (apparently there from the beginning of creation at Jehovah’s right hand, therefore at least guilty of manslaughter by collective responsibility).

Treat Jesus as a man there seems to be a different direction that has less smiting and at least more compassion in his doctrine to the living. God being cruel and vindictive would demonstrate god being cruel and vindictive – it would not prove there was no god only that he was not sweetness and light.

Not taking the bible literally also gets you out of the knot. Either these genocides were decided by the Israelites, claiming divine legitimacy for barbaric acts or this is the work of literature. Myths that are the legends that make up a common narrative of a people.

William Lane Craig has a rather different way of allowing divine slaughter. His justification for killing babies:

Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

Selfish us not thinking that little kids being killed by a military were going to a happy place! This mind set

Holy slaughter

Holy slaughter

logically means that speed restrictions should not apply round infant schools. After all, you kill the child by going too fast there is a 100% chance they will go to heaven.

Even Thomas Aquinas rejected killing someone on the basis that the innocent go to heaven. Not Dr Craig. He goes on to suggest that waiting 400 years from Sodom and Gomorrah to the Canaanites shows that god is long suffering. That this was a message of no mixing with pagan cultures, to avoid idolatry. That the Jews being slaves gave Canaanites a chance to change their ways before the punishment.

But why take the lives of innocent children? The terrible totality of the destruction was undoubtedly related to the prohibition of assimilation to pagan nations on Israel’s part. In commanding complete destruction of the Canaanites, the Lord says, “You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons, or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods” (Deut 7.3-4).

For Dr Craig Yahweh is not one to mess with. A dictator commands obedience on the edge of a sword. This is a god that gives me free will but will see fit to kill those that use it. Much is made of the wickedness of the people. Ritual prostitution and child sacrifice. There are those that claim the modern world does the same with sex on TV and abortion. Even in my Mum’s wood work class a student has been asked to not go on about the 99.99% of people to be killed at Armageddon. A concept given weight to what the Israelites supposedly did in the cities around and in the Promised Land.

So we can kill in the name of God according to Dr Craig? Well he claims that Islamic suicide bombing, Jihad, is different because that is about forcing faith on people with violence. What happened in Canaan was god’s judgment.

The problem with Islam, then, is not that it has got the wrong moral theory; it’s that it has got the wrong God. If the Muslim thinks that our moral duties are constituted by God’s commands, then I agree with him. But Muslims and Christians differ radically over God’s nature. Christians believe that God is all-loving, while Muslims believe that God loves only Muslims. Allah has no love for unbelievers and sinners. Therefore, they can be killed indiscriminately. Moreover, in Islam God’s omnipotence trumps everything, even His own nature. He is therefore utterly arbitrary in His dealing with mankind. By contrast Christians hold that God’s holy and loving nature determines what He commands.

The question, then, is not whose moral theory is correct, but which is the true God?

God is love – and any actions that the bible says he has done he has done. These actions cannot contradict that god is love. The Bible is literally true. Ergo the acts of genocide reflect the will of a loving god. So many hoops to jump with – but a god that orders the death of babies and a theologian that says I should rejoice?

Rather I am with Dawkins assessment in The God Delusion:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

It seems bad enough thinking such an entity is real. Let alone one that is worthy of worship on the basis that Dr Craig thinks. Though he is not alone in thinking this. Another site concludes:

This is not to downplay or minimize the devastating impact of Israel’s invasion. Many people (men, women and children) were slain. In some cases even all livestock from a city were slaughtered. The Canaanite culture was evil and God wanted it removed. But he didn’t want everyone killed. He was not merciless. Gradually driving the Canaanites out of their land and into neighbouring nations where they would be the minority would force them to change their ways (Exodus 23:27-30).

Israel’s invasion demonstrated God’s justice, mercy and practicality at work. He executed justice upon the Canaanite ruling class. They tended to live in the cities, and they were most responsible for the evil Canaanite culture. God granted mercy to the Canaanites outside of the cities. They had their lives, but they would eventually have to move and give up all their sinful culture.

There are always apologists for the evil people do. Reminds me of what Obama said when talking to Rick Warren that much evil is done by people that think they are doing good.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78


Filed under Religion

19 responses to “Genocide in the Bible

  1. Joel V.

    The reason that God commanded the genocide of those different people in the Old Testament is because He was ensuring the physical and spiritual safety of His chosen people, the Israelites. God had chosen that specific land for the Israelites to call their homeland(as that was where their founding father Abraham had lived in the first place). If the Israelites did wind up living alongside these pagan nations(which they did), they would be tempted into worshiping their pagan gods(which they did) and would wind up constantly going to war with those nations(which they did).

    Overall the entire reason for the bloodshed was to ensure the survival of the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people descended from Abraham, to eventually be the bloodline of Jesus Christ who would free mankind from the penalty of sin.

    If you look at the Old Testament you will find that it all happened to pave the way for Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection.

  2. The end justifies the means; wonder if that would work in the International Criminal Court?

    By the way that sort of reasoning for genocide (about other people) is part of the process that allows it to happen

  3. barty snartfart

    The bible is a book of stories collected together for various purposes. The genocide stories and other atrocities are there to frighten people into obedience to a terrifying god. They’re only problematic if you think of the bible as literally showing the mind of god, or “god’s word”. They’re simply bad examples of how people treat others, and pretend they know how a divine being thinks. We might also consider that wholesale slaughter was the way of war and conquest in antiquity, right up to modern times. Human beings are capable of terrible things and then invent ways to justify what they’ve done.

  4. Superior post.Follow up the oustanding work,You must definitely have to keep updating your site

  5. Joel, just wait till some Theocracy decides you’re a threat to its religious beliefs based solely on the location of your home. Then get back to me.

  6. wordsandtheword

    Joel, if genocide can be justified, then anything can be justified. Talk about “slippery slopes” and “moral relativism”!

  7. This is good stuff – “God’s word” can be an excuse to do just about anything. Too often people justify whatever they’re doing as “God’s will” – then why aren’t they leaving it up to God? Hitler said “God is on our side, else we wouldn’t be victorious” (in the beginning, when taking over other countries), and the Nazi soldiers had “God Is With Us” on their belt buckles.
    I’m still looking for this passage in the Bible if anyone knows where it is:
    “and they slew every Philistine, every man, woman, and child – and there was rejoicing in the streets.”

    Yes, the great god of WAR has given Israel another gory victory, in the name of Jehovah.

  8. cris villahermosa

    Much of the “bible” was written or re-edited (with much additions) during the Babylonian exile when the Hebrew ruling classes were a captive nation of slaves. I believe they wrote about their “choseness” with God making them victorious over Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines and other peoples to buff up their image. In the process they slandered these great cultures. While I believe the didactic portions of the bible were inspired, the appallingly evil portions of it are obviously the product of human frailty and perversion. In sum, those bloody victories of the Hebrews may be interpreted as psychological warfare or just plain PR propaganda.

  9. Exodus
    3 The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name.

    Exodus 32
    26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put every man his sword on his side, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.'” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses; and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

    Psalms 144

    1 A Psalm of David. Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;

    Deuteronomy 20
    16 But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, 17 but you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Per’izzites, the Hivites and the Jeb’usites, as the LORD your God has commanded;

    Numeri 31.
    17 Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. 18 But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

    Matth. 5. (Jesus)
    17 “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

    Atheist 100%

  10. Dolf

    The fact is…THERE IS NO GOD. We are working towards a common humanity. ALL that is radical should have been or should be destroyed. The Jews failed to eradicate those their God said should be eradicated, now they are haunted for all time. I believe the Nazi’s were more obsessed with this ‘failing’ than we are led to believe. They punished the Jews by succeeding in what the Jews themselves wrote was ‘Gods’ command. There will be no peace on this Earth while religion exists. I really hate to say it but Islam needs to be eradicated, so dose Christianity and Judaism. More tolerant forms of thought exist if one feels the need to transcend human. I for one am happy just being alive.

    • Dolf

      OK I don;t hate to say it.

    • The insider outsider distinction humans make can be taken to lethal extremes. However, rather than exterminating ideas pluralism is the answer where extreme ideas can be kept in check by an active citizenship with a sense of justice. Religion and ideology go against this when they make distinctions with life and death consequences (this life or the supposed next) on how society should be run – which is why I am for a secular state. My latest blog on 24 November and ones on secularism cover this.

    • there is a god a true god if u wont listen to me [… prophesising do on your blog cheers – H ec]

  11. Jay

    The first truth is genocide has and will always happen … no where after the fall of Eden does it say life is beautiful, wonderful, peaceful and bliss. What it does say is that there is and will be suffering, and death and destruction all very inherent of human nature. The second truth is that we are all evil murdering, lying, steeling, jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freaks; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bullies but we are self-righteous to boot (by the way I added a couple of descriptive adjectives for flavor)and guess what – nobody cares if you are cause its expected. Lastly, there is the fact that regardless of whether you believe the Bible or in God you believe, either you choose NOT to believe which is a belief or you do. The fact is irrelevant, but the truth remains that our justification for our atrocities no matter how slight – are what they are and the guy who straps a bomb to his chest or the girl who decides to abort her child are just as evil as you and me.

  12. Pingback: Genocide in the Bible part 2 « Homo economicus’ Weblog

  13. Pingback: Douglas Murray Confuses Atheists With Vulcans | Homo economicus' Weblog

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