The Bloodthirsty God Of The Bible II

When YHWH Ordered Humans To Kill For Him

Copyright © 2015 by Wil C. Fry. All Rights Reserved.

Published 2015.09.03

Many Christians will say that when God ordered humans to kill, it was justified. Here are a list of times in the Bible when God ordered humans to kill — not times he killed, but killings he told others to do. See if you think there is any way to justify them. Try to convince me in the comments.

Genesis 22:

This is the well-known story of God commanding Abraham to kill his second son Isaac (though God refers to him as “your only son”) and “sacrifice him there as a burnt offering”. At the last second, after Abraham showed himself willing, God called it off.

(This is supposed to be a moral lesson about not keeping anything from God. Yet clearly the most moral response would have been to refuse to kill his son.)

Numbers 31:

After the Israelites attacked the Midianites and “killed every man”, they burned all the towns and camps, and captured the women and children, animals and goods. Moses was angry that the soldiers had allowed the women to live. He ordered them: “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” It doesn’t explicitly say the Lord gave this command, but he certainly wasn’t upset by it.

Deut. 20:10-18:

God gave the Israelites instructions on how to conduct future warfare in distant cities, saying to first make an offer of peace. If the people in the city accept, they must be forced into labor. If they refuse, the Israelites are to “put to the sword all the men in it.” (The women and children are allowed to live, as “plunder”.)

For cities within the area the Lord is giving to Israel, it’s much worse. “do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them.” God’s excuse is that leaving anyone alive might tempt the Israelites to worship other gods.

Joshua 7:

A man named Achan took some of the “devoted things” (“a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels”) and hid them in the ground inside his tent. The Lord told Joshua that this theft was the reason for military failure, and “whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him.” So when Achan admitted to his crime, Joshua and “all of Israel” obeyed the Lord. They took Achan, the stolen items, “his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkey and sheep, his tent and all that he had” and stoned them all to death, burned them, and heaped up a large pile of rocks to cover the evidence. Because of this violent obedience, “the Lord turned from his fierce anger.”

Joshua 10:40:

“So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded.”

Joshua 11:14-15,20:

“The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed. As the Lord commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses. ... For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

I Sam. 15:2-3:

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ ”

Jeremiah 50:21:

“ ‘Attack the land of Merathaim and those who live in Pekod. Pursue, kill and completely destroy them’, declares the Lord.”

(The reason provided earlier in the chapter for God’s anger against Babylon is “because you rejoice and are glad... because you frolic like a heifer threshing grain and neigh like stallions”.)

Ezekiel 9:

The Lord instructs a man to go throughout Jerusalem, putting a mark on those “who grieve and lament over all the detestable things”. Then he tells others to follow the first man “through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark.”

(Note: this was apparently part of a vision that Ezekiel had, and does not purport to be about actual events. However, the vision is said to be from the Lord and so it shows his character, his willingness to slaughter children.)

Attempted Justification

One preacher (William Lane Craig) offers this justification for God’s orders to slaughter during the conquest of Canaan:
“Since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder. The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.”
The scary part of this, is that Craig admits committing such an act “would be” murder (immoral, unjustifiable killing), and then goes on to say it’s okay if God tells you to do something that is normally immoral or unjustified. He goes on to explain that God was simply carrying out his own judgment on the Canaanites, which he had promised generations earlier; the Hebrew soldiers were merely instruments of God’s judgment.

The implications of this are horrific. “Sorry, little kid, but I’m going to kill you and your parents now, since God told me to.” I wonder how many modern Christians agree with Craig’s justification here. This was one of those questions that eventually led me to begin questioning my religion. My only fault is that I didn’t see it sooner.

As for the killing of children, Craig explains:
“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.”
First, I can’t find anywhere in the Bible that says little children go to Heaven automatically. But even if we stipulate such a doctrine, this too has horrific implications. If letting a child grow to adulthood gives him an ever-increasing chance of turning away and being punished eternally in Hell, then the moral thing to do (by Craig’s reasoning) is to murder them now. God’s okay with that, he says.

I’m sure not all modern Christians agree with Craig’s defense of an immoral God. If there is some other explanation, I haven’t heard it in all my years of belief and study, including my years in Bible college.

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