Killing someone is really the worst thing you can do, but God can’t seem to get enough of it in the Old Testament. God is responsible for killing millions of people, and when he isn’t the one doing the killing, he is telling other people to kill for him. Completely contrary to how God is depicted in the New Testament as loving his enemies, in the Hebrew Scriptures, he is described as a vengeful mass-murderer. Altogether, the Old Testament is the most violent ancient document ever written.
There are many times when the Bible tells us exactly how many people that God kills, but there are times when an exact number isn’t named (i.e., the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc). When an exact number is named, God’s kill count is 2,821,364. When trying to estimate how many people God kills in total, it is around 25 million. When we compare these numbers with how many people the Bible says that Satan has killed, it gets a little silly. Satan is possibly responsible for the death of 10 people (all in the book of Job), and God allows him to do it as part of a bet. So God is really responsible for those killings as well.
Many Christians will claim that God’s violence in the Old Testament is “no big deal” or that it is “justified.” But that is, as it will be argued, is gross ignorance or rejection of one’s own humanity. All over the Old Testament, God endorses murder, genocide, rape, and slavery on a massive scale. The Old Testament is filled with stories that will make your stomach retch and your heart ache. Who would worship a God like this? Most Christians ignore the God of the Old Testament, either consciously or subconsciously, but we have to take a serious look.
Drunk with Blood
In the Old Testament, God is drunk with blood. The Old Testament itself tells us this. God’s arrows are drunk with blood (Deuteronomy 32:42), his sword is drunk with blood (Jeremiah 46:10), he makes his enemies eat their own flesh because they are drunk with blood (Isaiah 49:26), and after he kills his enemies he gives them to the beasts who are drunk with blood (Ezekiel 39:17-19). The Old Testament tells us about God killing so many people with unspeakable cruelty and blatant immorality. It takes unimaginable delusion to claim that the God who is depicted can be called “good” by any definition that we can relate to.
All the horrible things we read about God doing in the Old Testament usually either go unread by Christians or are ignored. But that uneasy feeling you get when you think about reading those murderous depictions of God in the Old Testament can only erode your faith as long as you remain ignorant of them. Real love in a healthy relationship can only happen when you wrestle through the difficult aspects of someone.
We will take a look at a summary of all the times God killed or caused great harm to human beings in the Old Testament. Take note; these are exclusively the times recorded in Scripture where God is responsible. Plenty of other killings happen that aren’t explicitly attributed to God. While reading about them, imagine if these things had happened to someone you loved; a grandparent, a neighbor, a spouse, or your child. Only after wrestling with what is written can you actually decide what you’ll do about it. So without further delay, let’s start with the first book. On with the killings!
God’s first genocide is hard to beat: he drowns every single person on the planet except one family (Genesis 6:7). The story of Noah’s flood is well known and often made into a children’s story, but the evil contained within it is unimaginable. This story makes Hitler, Stalin, Ghengis Khan, and Pol Pot look like boy scouts in comparison. The story of the flood takes place sometime around 2400 BC, meaning God killed around 20 million people. The Bible starts with a bang.
A few chapters later, God kills everyone in two cities: Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24). God decided to kill everyone in two cities because they were not “just and righteous.” The only people he saved was a man named Lot, his wife, and his two daughters. When Lot’s wife looked back at the city where God was burning everyone to death, everyone she had ever known, God killed her too (Genesis 19:26). Now a family without a wife and mother, immediately after God killed hundreds or thousands of their neighbors; they found a cave, got drunk, and had incestual sex together (Genesis 19:34). How righteous.
At this point, it seems almost inconsequential to talk about God killing just one person, but that person was precious in the eyes of Jesus. God randomly killed a person named Er because he was “wicked” (Genesis 38:7). But the story isn’t over. Because God killed Er, his wife was left without a child. To remedy this, Jacob (Er’s father) told his other son, Onan, to have sex with his dead brother’s wife. Onan did what his father said and repeatedly had sex with his dead brother’s wife, but he purposefully didn’t get her pregnant. God didn’t like this and killed Onan too (Genesis 38:9-10).
God won’t let Genesis won’t conclude without killing a few more thousand people. God starved everyone on earth with famine so that Joseph could become the most powerful person in Egypt (Genesis 41:28-32, 57). This, of course, would result in the Hebrews living in Egypt, only to be enslaved by Egypt, so that God could rescue them by killing even more people. But that is a story for Exodus.
Exodus is famous for the ten plagues that God sent on Egypt, causing pain, misery, death, and destruction. While the seventh plague definitely killed a lot of people, none more so than the tenth (Exodus 9:19, 25). The tenth and last plague was the evilest of them all: God killed every family’s firstborn child, no matter the age (Exodus 12:29). Scripture describes every home in Egypt wailing out in agony because of God’s wretched act (Exodus 12:30). Once the Israelites escaped from Egypt, God murdered the entire Egyptian army that was chasing them (Exodus 14:26-28).
Once in the wilderness, God got angry with the Israelites for making a golden calf and therefore made them kill each other by ordering some of them to kill 3,000 of their friends and family (Exodus 32:26-28). Then for good measure, as if that wasn’t enough, he sent a plague on the Israelites (Exodus 32:35).
To top it all off, God was so angry that he wanted to kill every single Israelite except Moses, every man, woman, child, and infant. Thankfully, it seems that Moses was less evil than God and was able to talk him out of it (Exodus 32:9-12). Good grief.
There were a lot of killings in Genesis and Exodus, so God slows down and takes a little bit of a break for Leviticus. He does decide to kill a few people though since it seems like that has to happen in almost all of the Old Testament books.
Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, decided they would burn some incense to God, but they didn’t do it correctly, so God burned them to death (Leviticus 10:1-2). Aaron was instructed not to mourn the death of his sons, or else God would kill him as well (Leviticus 10:6).
Since God is still taking a break from killing, he gives his people a whole lot of rules where if they are broken, you will be murdered by your community. This is exactly what happens when someone “blasphemed” God’s name. God instructed everyone to throw stones at this person until they died (Leviticus 24:10-16).
By the time we get to Numbers, God is done resting from his murders and is ready to go again, and boy is he rested up.
One thing we learn is that God absolutely hates whiners. The book of Numbers tells us just how much he hates them. God heard people complaining about their hardships in the wilderness, so he burned them alive until Moses asked him to stop (Numbers 11:1-2).
When people wanted meat to eat, they complained, so God sent some quail (Numbers 11:4-5). “Some” is probably the wrong word to use here. God sent quail up from the sea and killed them, leaving their dead bodies scattered around the Israelites camp; dead quails one meter high and around 35 miles out in every direction (Numbers 11:31). God basically says, “you want meat? Well, you’re going to eat meat, not just for a day, or two days, or a week, but for a month straight. And you’ll eat so much it will come out of your nostrils, and you hate it” (Numbers 11:19). While the Israelites were still eating, God sent a severe plague on them (Numbers 11:33). God is good, huh?
When Moses sent twelve men to explore the land of Cannan and report back, some of them felt like the Israelites were too few to take the land for themselves (Numbers 13:17-18, 32-33). God did not like this report and sent yet another plague on them (Numbers 14:36-37). Once again, God tells Moses that he wants to kill all of the Israelites, but once again, Moses talks him out of it (Numbers 14:11-16).
God buries a bunch of people alive (Numbers 16:32-34), and then he burns 250 people to death for burning incense that he told them to burn (Numbers 16:35). Needless to say, all these random murders have the Israelites quite worried (Numbers 16:41). Their worry was well placed because next, God tells Moses to get out of the way because he is about to murder everyone (Numbers 16:43-45). God sends yet another plague upon the Israelites, so Moses and Aaron scrambled to burn some more incense in the hopes of squelching God’s wrath (Numbers 16:46-47). It worked, but not before 14,700 had already died (Numbers 16:48-50).
When the Israelites thought that they would die in the wilderness from lack of food and water, God sent fiery serpents to bite them to death (Numbers 21:5-6). Later God told Moses to kill all their leaders (Numbers 25:3-4). Then God sent yet another plague onto the Israelites until someone named Phinehas drove a spear through two people having sex, then God stopped, but not before 24,000 had died (Numbers 25:8).
Oh man, we aren’t done yet, almost. We’re about to see how truly depraved God is portrayed in the Old Testament. God tells Moses to go to war against the Midianites and take vengeance on them (Numbers 31:1-3). So Moses sends 12,000 men off to war led by Phinehas, the man who stopped the last plague by killing to people having sex (Numbers 31:4-6). The Israelite army killed everyone except the women and the children (Numbers 31:9). When Moses heard this, he was outraged and told them to kill all the children and women who weren’t virgins (Numbers 31:14-15, 17). The virgin women, of whom there were 32,000, shared the special fate of becoming sex slaves for the Israelite men (Numbers 31:18, 32-35).
Israel had an army, mentioned back in Numbers that consisted of 603,550 soldiers (Numbers 1:45-46). In Deuteronomy, God decides to kill them all slowly (Deuteronomy 2:14-16). God also murders a bunch of other people too, like the Zamzummites, the Avvites, the Caphtorites, and more (Deuteronomy 2:20-23).
When the Israelites needed to pass through King Sihon’s kingdom, God hardened the king’s heart so that he wouldn’t let them (Deuteronomy 2:30). This is, of course, so the Israelites could slaughter the king, his family, and every man, woman, and child in his kingdom for not letting them pass (Deuteronomy 2:33-36). This was just the beginning of their terrorist campaign.
Like a sort of ISIS on steroids, the ancient Israelites paraded their terror through the land (Deuteronomy 2:25), slaughtering every human being in a total of sixty cities (Deuteronomy 3:3-6). Yes, you read that correctly. They murdered every man, woman, child, and baby in 60 cities.
The time eventually came for Moses to pass the terror torch to Joshua. Moses boasts that God will help Joshua murder many people, just like he helped him (Deuteronomy 3:21-24). And boy did he; Joshua would become one of God’s most notorious genocidal maniacs.
There are some small killings in Joshua, like when the Israelites killed an entire family by stoning them and setting them on fire in order to make God happy (Joshua 7:24-25). But the real meat of Joshua’s murders is in his conquering of cities. The book of Joshua can be summed up with these words: “Joshua left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded” (Joshua 10:40).
The most famous city that Joshua massacred is Jericho (Joshua 6:21). For some reason, this atrocity is turned into a children’s song. Jericho wasn’t the only city to suffer evil at God’s hands; many others would share the same fate, including, Ai (Joshua 8:25-27), Makkedah (Joshua 10:28), Lachish (Joshua 10:32), Libnah (Joshua 10:29-30), Eglon (Joshua 10:37), Hebron (Joshua 10:36-37), Debir (Joshua 10:39), and 20 other cities (Joshua 11:12, 16-17). Thirty-one kings are listed as being conquered by Joshua and their kingdoms were taken from them (Joshua 12:9-24). And of course, in Christ-like fashion, Joshua displayed dead kings on poles to rot in the sunlight (Joshua 8:29).
Speaking of sunlight, one time God even froze the sun in the sky for 24 hours so the Israelites would have enough time to slaughter all the Amorites before the end of the day (Joshua 10:12-14). This wasn’t the only way God helped kill everyone; he sent down large hailstones, killing more than the Israelites were able to with swords (Joshua 10:11). During the battle, some of the kings ran away, so Joshua hunted them down, killed them, and displayed their naked bodies on poles, claiming that God had done this (Joshua 10:24-26). Joshua was kind enough to spare the inhabitants of Gibeon. Instead, he enslaved them all, generation after generation, never to be released (Joshua 9:21-27).
The Bible tells us that, in all these cases, God hardened everyone’s hearts so that the Israelites would have an excuse to slaughter every man, woman, child, and baby, without mercy, as he commanded (Joshua 11:20).
After Joshua died, the Israelites were concerned over who would help them kill people (Judges 1:1). God told them not to worry because he would help them kill the Canaanites and steal their land (Judges 1:2). Immediately after, God helped them kill ten thousand men (Judges 1:4), and because God apparently really believes in his “eye for an eye” law, he has the Israelites cut off their enemy’s fingers and toes (Judges 1:6-7). Next up would be Jerusalem, yep, they stole that city too, and killed everyone in it (Judges 1:8). Many more cities are destroyed and ethnically cleansed in this genocidal campaign (Judges 1:10, 17, 22-25).
Random Murder Time: Ehud and God killed 10,000 Moabites (Judges 3:28-29), Shamgar killed 600 Philistines (Judges 3:31), God killed an entire army (Judges 4:15-16), God caused more people “than sand on the seashore” to kill each other (Judges 7:12, 22), God helped the Israelites slaughter the remaining 120,000 men (Judges 1:2, 8:10). God caused 1,000 men and women to be burned to death (Judges 9:23-24, 49, 56-57). God helped devastate twenty towns (Judges 11:32-33). Just a lot of God-ordained murder going on in Judges.
The most famous of all the judges was Samson. Samson was a great guy, just kidding, he was absolutely terrible. One time he held a party and told a riddle to his guests. If they couldn’t figure out the riddle, they all had to give Samson thirty sets of clothes, and if they did figure it out, Samson had to give them thirty sets of clothes (Judges 14:12-13). Well, they guessed correctly. Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson, and he did whatever anyone would do when the Spirit of the Lord comes upon you: he murdered thirty men and took their clothes to pay off his bet (Judges 14:19). Later God would help Samson again, only this time in murdering 1,000 people (Judges 15:14-15). Lastly, God helped Samson kill 3,000 civilians in the Bible’s first suicide terrorist attack (Judges 16:27-30). Nice assists, God.
Then there is that one time that God incited a civil war between the Israelites that resulted in over 65,000 people dead (Judges 20:18, 20-21, 23-28, 35, 46-48). The book of Judges is just bizarre, grotesque, God-inspired carnage from beginning to end.
This book starts off with a nice story about an old priest named Eli, who had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. They were priests too, but they were bad priests because they stole meat from the burnt offerings, which made God very angry (1 Samuel 2:17). God tells Eli that he and his sons and all their descendants will die young (1 Samuel 2:27-33). God also says that he will kill Hophni and Phinehas in his own special way: which includes causing 34,000 other people to die as well (1 Samuel 2:25, 3:11-13, 3:18, 4:2, 4:10-11). Naturally.
In the midst of all that killing, the Philistines stole the Ark of the Covenant, so God killed tons of them and afflicted the rest with tumors on their genitals (1 Samuel 5:1-6, 9, 11-12). The Philistines are, of course, freaking out about this, so they devise a plan to send the Ark back with a gift in order for the world to know they were bested. The gift was golden tumors and golden rats to represent the afflictions that God placed on them (1 Samuel 6:2-9). It sounds like a happy ending, but unfortunately, some of the men looked inside the Ark, so God killed 50,070 of them (1 Samuel 6:19).
Israel’s first king, Saul, was ordered by God to kill all the Amalekites; every man, woman, child, and baby, oh also all cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys (1 Samuel 15:2-3). Why you may ask? Because the Amalekites defended themselves against the Israelites, hundreds of years ago. Hmm, okay. So Saul killed all the old men, the pregnant women, the children, and babies (1 Samuel 15:7-8). But he spared the king and some animals (1 Samuel 15:9). This was something that God could simply not forgive (1 Samuel 15:10-11). God wanted a complete genocide, not a partial genocide.
Because Saul failed to completely kill all of the Amalekites, God gave the kingdom of Israel to David. See, David is willing to slaughter people for God (1 Samuel 23:2-5). But before that, God sent an evil spirit on Saul so that he would try to kill David (1 Samuel 18:10-11). This made David run for his life, leave Israel, and become a mercenary for the Philistines, committing random acts of genocide on a daily basis for them (1 Samuel 27:8-12). Granted, God didn’t tell David to do this, but he didn’t have a problem with it (1 Kings 15:5).
Now let’s get back to the part about Saul failing to commit a complete genocide. Because of this, God killed a bunch of Israelites and Saul’s sons (1 Samuel 28:18-19, 31:1-2). God, of course, would also kill Saul. Well, kind of. It gets complicated. Saul killed himself (1 Samuel 31:4), or maybe an Amalekite killed him (2 Samuel 1:8-10), or maybe the Philistines killed him (2 Samuel 21:12), or maybe God killed him (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). The Bible names four different, contradicting, ways that Saul died. It doesn’t matter, God can kill anyone for any reason, or for no reason at all, and you have to be okay with it.
So with Saul dead, David became king of Judah, and Ish-Bosheth, Saul’s son, became king of Israel. David’s men killed Ish-Bosheth in his sleep and cut off his head (2 Samuel 4:7-8). David didn’t like that though, so he cut their hands and feet off, killed them, and hung them over a pool (2 Samuel 4:12). Now David was king of both Judah and Israel. Now he could get back to killing Philistines as God commands (2 Samuel 5:19, 23-25).
Remember the Ark of the Covenant? While transporting it, an ox stumbled, and a man named Uzzah reached out to steady the cart and touched the ark. Bad move. God straight up struck him dead for that offense (2 Samuel 6:2-7).
Okay, back to battles. Because “the Lord gave David victory wherever he went,” he was able to kill 66,850 people for God (2 Samuel 8:1-6, 10:18). With God’s help, David murdered 18,000 people in Edom (2 Samuel 8:13). In the spring, David sent his army out to destroy the Ammonites and enslave them all (2 Samuel 11:1, 12:31). God helped David’s war campaigns kill a whole lot of people (2 Samuel 23:8-12, 18, 20-21).
One time, when his soldiers were out fighting, David stayed home and watched a married woman bathing. Unable to control himself, he sent his men to bring her to him so he could rape her (2 Samuel 11:2-5). She got pregnant, so David had her husband killed (2 Samuel 11:14-17). God was not pleased with all this, so he decides to punish David (2 Samuel 11:27).
God’s punishment for David involved two very wholesome things. God is good. First, God caused David’s wives to be raped by his neighbor while everyone else watches (2 Samuel 12:11). Second, God caused David’s newborn son to die slowly over the course of seven days (2 Samuel 12:15-18). After the baby died, David put himself together and had a nice meal, after worshiping the God who killed his child (2 Samuel 12:20). Oh, one last thing, then David comforted his wife by having sex with her—which caused her to conceive Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24). God decided not to kill this baby, and he would end up becoming king, which brings us to the next book of the Bible…
But wait, one more mass murder before we move on. There is that one time that God told David to take a census but got mad because he did (2 Samuel 24:1). In response to David doing what God told him to do, God sent a plague that killed 70,000 people (2 Samuel 24:12-15). Lovely.
God’s first murder in 1 Kings is quite a strange one. God got angry at a man for eating and drinking in a place that he told him not to, so he made a lion come and eat him (1 Kings 13:20-24). God appointed Jeroboam to be king next, but he turned out pretty evil, so God killed his entire extended family, making sure that dogs and birds ate their dead bodies (1 Kings 14:7-12, 17). Jeroboam’s successor was Baasha. God decided to murder Baasha’s entire family as well and feed them to the dogs too (1 Kings 16:1-4).
The book is called Kings so there are lots of kings, like Ahab for instance. God wanted to show Ahab how powerful he was, so he helped him slaughter tons of Arameans (1 Kings 20:13, 20-21). Then the Arameans called God a “god of the hills, not of the valleys” and whatever that means really pissed God off (1 Kings 20:13). So God helped the Israelites kill 100,000 Arameans in one day (1 Kings 20-21). Some of the Arameans escaped, but a wall fell on them, killing 27,000 (1 Kings 20:30). The text doesn’t say that God did that last bit, but interesting nonetheless.
Prophets in the Old Testament sometimes spoke on behalf of the Lord. Like this one time that a prophet wanted his companion to strike him with his weapon, but when his companion refused, he had God send a lion to eat him (1 Kings 20:35-36). Don’t worry; the prophet found another man to strike him with a weapon (1 Kings 20:37). But remember, this book is about kings and murder… so this crazy prophet tells king Ahab that he and his whole family will die because God is very angry that he let someone live (1 Kings 20:41-42). The main theme of 1 Kings is God killing people and feeding them to animals.
This book of the Bible starts with a story about a king sending his men to fetch a prophet named Elijah. This was because Elijah said that God was going to kill the king, which of course, he does (2 Kings 1:17). When the men called out to Elijah to come with them, Elijah called fire down from the heavens and burned all 51 of them alive (2 Kings 1:10). Fifty-one more men came after that, and Elijah, with God’s help, killed those men too (2 Kings 1:11-12). Interestingly, many hundreds of years later, when Jesus’ disciples asked him if they should mimic what Elijah did in this story, Jesus claimed they were of the devil.
Elijah had a disciple named Elisha, who also had a knack for using God’s power to murder people. One day, while Elisha was traveling, some little children mocked him, calling him bald (2 Kings 2:23). Wrong move, kids. Elisha cursed the children in the name of the Lord, and two bears came out of nowhere and mauled all 42 of them (2 Kings 2:24). Doesn’t God have a sense of humor?
Don’t worry, 2 Kings has some epic battle too. God helped the Israelites slaughter thousands of Moabites in five different cities (2 Kings 3:18-19, 24-25). Israel didn’t stop their slaughter until the king of Moab sacrificed his firstborn son, then they stopped and went home (2 Kings 3:27). God in the Old Testament kinda likes child sacrifice.
Random Murder Time: God caused a man to be trampled to death (2 Kings 7:19-20). God caused a seven-year famine (2 Kings 8:1). God sent lions to kill a ton of people for not following God’s rules even though they had never heard of them before (2 Kings 17:25-26). Finally, because God is merciful, he murdered 185,000 people in their sleep (2 Kings 19:35).
Remember that prophesy about king Ahab and his entire family dying because God wanted them dead? Well, in 2 Kings we get to see God’s will done (2 Kings 9:6-7). First up is one of his sons, Joram; in accordance with the word of the Lord, he got shot with a bow (2 Kings 9:24-26). Next up is Ahab’s wife, Jezebel; they threw her out a window and she splattered on the ground and her body was trampled by horses (2 Kings 9:33). Lastly are the rest of Ahab’s sons, all 70 of them; they were all slaughtered and their heads cut off (2 Kings 10:6-7). Just kidding, we aren’t finished. Also, all of Ahab’s chief men, close friends, and priests were murdered as well (2 Kings 10:11), and also tons of extended family (2 Kings 10:17). All of these acts of murder were accomplished according to the will of God (2 Kings 10:10, 30).
1 & 2 Chronicles
Chronicles has some of the largest genocides that God ever committed, besides Genesis, of course. The first mass killing event is a holy war where God helps kill a bunch of people (1 Chronicles 5:19-20). It must have been a pretty huge slaughter because they were able to take 50,000 camels, 250,000 sheep, 2,000 donkeys, and 100,000 slaves (1 Chronicles 5:21-22). See, God just loves war (at least in the Old Testament). He loves war so much that he helps his own people kill each other just to have another war. With God’s help, 500,000 Israelites died at the hands of the Jews (2 Chronicles 13:14-17). Then, for good measure, God struck the Israelite king dead (2 Chronicles 13:20). The Lord works in monstrous ways.
Killing a half-million people is pretty impressive, if you’re into that sort of thing, but God can do better than that. How about a whole million people? God helped kill one million Ethiopians (2 Chronicles 14:9-13). Most interestingly, the death count was five times higher than the entire Ethiopian population at the time, so that means God must have cloned a bunch of Ethiopians just to have enough to kill one million of them. God is amazing, isn’t he?
Random Murder Time: God caused “a great multitude” to kill each other (2 Chronicles 20:2, 22-24). Another plague was sent (2 Chronicles 21:14), another army destroyed (2 Chronicles 24:24). God caused King Jehoram’s sons and wives to be carried away by his enemies, and also gave his bowels an incurable disease (2 Chronicles 21:16-18). King Amaziah “did right in the eyes of the Lord” by killing 20,000 people, but God killed him anyway (2 Chronicles 25:1-2, 11-12, 15-16). God likes killing his kings, so he kills king Ahaz too (2 Chronicles 28:1, 5). He caused 120,000 of his own people to be slaughtered and 200,000 women and children to be taken as slaves (2 Chronicles 28:6-8). See, when God gets angry, he lets foreign powers come and kill his own people (2 Chronicles 36:16-17). That is the moral lesson of Chronicles.
Job, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel
Job is an interesting story where a mysterious nameless being with the title of “the adversary” asks God’s permission to do terrible things to Job and his family. God agrees to this, which shouldn’t be surprising at this point, but then it seems that God does all the killing himself. First, God rained fire down from the heavens to kill all Job’s sheep and servants (Job 1:16). Then God caused a mighty wind to blow a house down, crushing Job’s seven sons and three daughters to death (Job 1:18-19).
The book of Jeremiah just has one murder. God kills a prophet named Hananiah (Jeremiah 28:16-17).
In Ezekiel’s own book, God decides he is going to murder his wife, and when he does, he doesn’t want Ezekiel to mourn her death in any way (Ezekiel 24:15-17). So God killed Ezekiel’s wife and Ezekiel didn’t mourn her death, like the good Godly man he was (Ezekiel 24:18). Then Ezekiel explained the lesson of this event to everyone in Israel: God is going to come and kill your sons and daughters, and when he does, no one is allowed to mourn them (Ezekiel 24:20-24). Praise be the Lord.
Unfortunately, many Christians find themselves able to rationalize all the evil that God commits in the Old Testament by a number of means. Some rationalize it by saying that the people God killed were wicked and deserved it. Some rationalize it by claiming that God has the right to kill people and it is just a mystery. But by far, most Christians just try to ignore the evil they read about God doing in the Old Testament.
What all of these approaches fail to do is take these murderous accounts seriously. We must imagine what it would be like to have God destroy our towns and neighborhoods. We must imagine what it would be like to have God slaughter our families. We must imagine what it would be like for God to tell foreigners to come and kill our children and rape our wives. We must meditate on these stories we read in the Old Testament and imagine what it would be like to be on the other side of the sword that God is wielding against us and those we love. Only then will we be as horrified by this portrayal of God as we should be.
Many people find they cannot serve a God that is like the one we’ve read about, much less love him. That is really the heart of the issue. No one, no matter how much they fool themselves, can love a god so evil. Being all-powerful does not make genocide, murder, rape, and slavery good. Those things are always evil, all the time, no matter who does them. You may fear a God like this, but you will never truly trust and love him, beyond tortured lip service.
In the Old Testament, God does a lot of extremely loving and wonderful things. But as you’ve seen, he is also portrayed as a total monster that looks almost exactly like how most people imagine Satan to be. You know that genocide, murder, torture, rape, and slavery are wrong. You instinctively know to detest those actions and whoever perpetrates them. The degree to which you can live with those depictions of God is the degree to which either you have become desensitized to the value of human life or the degree to which you’ve deluded yourself with ignorance.
The reason that Christianity is the largest religion in the world isn’t because of these stories in the Old Testament. If you only have the Old Testament, you are left with Judaism, which is one of the world’s smallest religions. Christianity is the largest movement in the world because of Jesus Christ and how he revealed what God is really like. When you have Jesus, you have something that can truly change the world.
Most disciples of Jesus simply ignore these Old Testament stories; that is the easiest route. But don’t. Figure out what to do with them. That is what Jesus did. Some people hated him for it. It is difficult, at first, but if you don’t walk away from Christianity, you may just find the most faith you’ve ever had in your life.
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