This is a summary post from much of what I have been writing over the past two weeks or so about the violence of God in the Old Testament. The reason I am summarizing it is because I want to begin looking at some of the key biblical passages which are affected by my proposal to see how we can read and understand these texts.
I know that most of your questions and objections to this view have not been answered, but hopefully as we look at some the key texts of Scripture, what I am proposing will make more sense.
So here is the summary…
Violence of God in Light of the Love of Jesus
When we read about God telling Israel to go slaughter men and women, the natural, right, and godly response is to read such depictions with revulsion, loathing, and disgust. Neither Jesus nor God ever wanted such things to occur. Jesus never laid a hand on anyone to harm or hurt them, nor did He ever command His disciples to do anything of the sort. To the contrary, Jesus always helped, healed, comforted, restored, fed, loved, and forgave, and He always commanded His disciples to do the same.
In previous posts (see the list below), I have argued that since Jesus fully reveals God to us, we can also be certain that God never actually commanded the Israelites to kill and destroy, or to go to war with their enemies. But when Israel set out to do these things, God took the blame for their actions by inspiring the biblical authors to lay the guilt fully in His hands. The violent things that God commanded the Israelites to do in the Old Testament were not actually His will or His commands. The Israelites set out to do such things because this is how nations and countries behaved at that time (and still sometimes today). When God saw that their heart was set on doing these things, God issued the command for it to happen so that later generations could lay the blame for these bloody deeds directly on God Himself.
Though God is not directly guilty for these actions, He knows that He is indirectly responsible, for He created a world where these sorts of actions are possible. So He takes the blame by commanding human agents to carry out the violent actions which they had already set their hearts and minds to doing.
Just like Jesus, God became sin for them. He bore the guilt and the shame.
Biblical Passages on the Violence of God
Right about now, a whole string of biblical passages are dancing through your head. It is one thing to make a proposal such as I have, but it is quite another to apply it to biblical texts.
Furthermore, even if this proposal explains things like the Canaanite conquest, it does not explain things like the flood, or the death of all the first-born sons of Egypt. No human agent was involved in these events, but seemed to be carried out solely at the command of God. The flood killed millions—possibly billions—of people. Didn’t God directly cause that horrible event?
Similarly, no human being lifted a finger during the 10th Plague in Egypt. The text indicates that God sent a destroying angel to kill all the firstborn sons in Egypt.
Or what about the drowning of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea, the earthquake the swallowed up all those who followed Korah in rebellion against Moses, or the things that God allows Satan to do to Job, or even some passages in the New Testament such as the death of Ananias and Sapphira, or the bloodbath that takes place in the book of Revelation?
Or what about the greatest horror of all, the decision of God to condemn some people to eternal suffering in hell? Don’t all these passages show a dark side to God, a side of God that was not fully revealed in Jesus Christ, but will be revealed at the end times? Don’t these passages (and many others like them) contradict everything proposed in this chapter?
How so? In future posts we will look at each one of these passages, reading them for what they say about God and His involvement within the world.
As we do this, I believe we will see a picture of God emerge from the Old Testament that looks more and more like Jesus Christ with every passing page.
Are you ready?