I know a lot of people (myself included, once upon a time) sometimes read the stories of wrath and violence in the OT, and wonder how if God is so good, can He just smite people for not adhering to a law, or obeying Him in some respect.
The OT can sometimes make God seem vengeful or unjust, because after all… what about all those innocent people that weren’t doing anything wrong? The kids that were killed when entire populations were wiped out? Except we forget we are reading these things with our very limited and human POV, without a true and complete understanding of God’s holy and just nature, and also without a true understanding of the original context the accounts were written in. The below is something I ran across while surfing that I think breaks the context of things down very well.
God in the Old Testament (by Allendra)Many non-Christians take issue with God’s actions in the Old Testament. But I’ve noticed a pattern in their arguments. They say “God killed those people so He’s evil” and say nothing else about the incident. This leads me to believe they don’t know the context of what they’re upset about, nor have they done the research to see the pattern of God’s actions. Below, I have broken down 5 instances of God’s judgment. 1. The Global Flood
a. The world was full of evil people, sin, and corruption. (Gen. 6:5), (Gen. 6:1-2)
b. God warns that He will flood the world to destroy the evil (Gen. 6:13)
c. Noah preached to the people of the world for about 100 years to repent from their evil, warning them what was to come (2 Peter 2:5)
d. Only Noah’s family remained loyal to God, so God’s forewarned judgment falls (Gen. 7:17)
e. Conclusion: God used His messenger Noah to warn a corrupt culture to repent but they didn’t even after 100 years. And we find God’s mercy being displayed on the one family who followed and obeyed what God had commanded. 2. Sodom and Gomorrah
a. Many don’t realize Sodom and Gomorrah are described back in Genesis 13 as a sin-filled city. Genesis 14 talks about how Abraham and Melchizedek both spoke to the king of Sodom. So it’s a likely conclusion that Sodom had been exposed to God’s teachings for about 25 years. (Gen. 13:10-13), (Gen. 14: 18-24)
b. But the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were exceedingly great. (Gen. 13:13), (Gen. 18:20)
c. God talks to Abraham about His plan to destroy this evil, and promises Abraham that He will spare the cities if there were at least ten innocent, good people in them. (Gen. 19: 20-33)
d. God sent two angels down to try and find good people. But they couldn’t. In fact, they were threatened to be raped. (Gen. 19: 1-11)
e. Lot and his family, loyal to God, are allowed to escape before the cities are destroyed (Gen. 19: 12-13)
f. God’s judgment falls. (Gen. 19:29)
g. Conclusion: God used His messengers and angels to warn the cities, but they weren’t heeded. Good people were saved. 3. Killing the Amalekites
a. The Amalekites were wicked, warlike people and the first to oppose Israel after she was freed from Egypt. They deliberately murdered the weak and elderly rather than attack the Israelite warriors. They often allied themselves with other nations to commit genocide in Israel. As descendents of Esau, they were most likely aware of God’s promise to Israel, but instead of honoring God’s choice they opposed it. (Exodus 17:8), (Deut. 25: 17-19), (Judges 6:3-5)
b. God left them alone for 400 years, a sign of His patience with sinners.
c. God warned that He would have Saul destroy all the Amalekites, and warned the Kenites – people who lived among the Amalekites – to leave and be safe from this. (1 Sam. 15:1-6)
d. Saul did as God asked, but he did not kill every Amalekite. This resulted in another attempt at genocide on Israel in the future. The book of Esther talks about Haman, descendent of the Amalekites, who tried to have all Jews in Persia killed and was only stopped by Queen Esther herself.
e. Conclusion: God ordered the destruction of a murderous, cowardly, and sinful group of people. Good people – the Kenites – were warned to leave. Saul’s disobedience resulted in a future threat to Israel, a sign that God’s order was also to protect the nation from future threat. 4. Destruction of Jericho
a. The Canaanites who occupied Jericho were incredibly sinful. Even some of the Israelites who went into their land took up their sinful practices against God’s warning. This included extreme cruelty, incest, idolatry, bestiality, homosexuality, cultic prostitution, and child sacrifice. (Deut. 18: 9-10),(Psalm 106: 36-39)
b. God ordered the Israelites to destroy everyone and everything in Jericho. And they did. (Joshua 6:21)
c. The prostitute Rahab and her family were the only ones saved because she helped Israel during the attack. (Joshua 6:17)
d. Rahab knew of God’s blessing on Israel, so a logical conclusion is that most of Jericho must have also known but continued to fight Israel. (Joshua 2:8-11)
e. Conclusion: God orders the execution of an extremely sinful group of people who were forewarned and had foreknowledge of God’s law. Good people are saved. 5. The Almost-Destruction of Nineveh
a. The people in Nineveh were sinful and did evil. (Jonah 3: 10)
b. God had Jonah go into the city and tell them to repent and change their ways, or they would be destroyed. (Jonah 3: 1-4)
c. The people of Nineveh did repent and change their ways. (Jonah 3: 5-9)
d. God saw this and spared them. (Jonah 3:10)
e. Conclusion: Yet another group of sinful people is warned of their coming destruction. But these people heed God’s warning and change. They are spared. You can visit Allendra’s website here for more reading on Christian Apologetics.
Humanity is Sinful
In addition to failing to understand God’s holy and just nature and the context the OT was written in, we also fail to realize that in God’s sight there is no one numbered among us that is without sin. We are a broken and fallen race from the get go.
Christ was the only sinless one to walk this Earth, and so very often, we fail to fully comprehend how utterly detestable and offensive sin is to God.
Along with those failures, we also fail to fully appreciate the weight of the fact that He is God… our creator. There is no one else above Him.
And at the end of the day, we are His creations. We might be human, and evolved further than monkeys, and be blessed with the ability to think and feel and make choices… but that is only because God created us that way.
We didn’t just poof out of thin air or some primordial ooze or “evolve” that way. We were created, with precision, and love and passion, by a God who the Bible says is a jealous God.
A jealous God that created us to worship and glorify Him in the things we do here on Earth.
So when I think about these things, I often relate them to being a Mother (or a Father). If you have ever parented a teenager, and found yourself uttering words or thinking something along the lines of “I brought you INTO this world, I can take you OUT of it, don’t TEST me child!”
Then you should be able to correlate that perfectly back to God and how He must feel about us when we behave willfully, or disobey Him, and rush to embrace sin instead of Him, or in many cases outright reject Him.
He brought us into this world… He can take us out. Whenever, wherever, and however He pleases.
Regardless of how that may or may not offend our human sensibilities and our sinful flesh.
And if we woke up this morning with breath in our lungs and life in our veins… we should be getting on our knees and thanking God for that gift, and using it in the best way we possibly can, all to the glory of Him. My 2 cents.
Over to You
What are your thoughts on the stories of the Old Testament? Feel free to share in the comments below. Please mind your manners.