The Bloodthirsty God Of The Bible

There Is No Good Explanation For These Parts

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

Published 2015.09.03, Updated 2016.05.28

Many Christians will say that when God killed someone, it was justified. Here are a list of God’s killings in the Bible — not ones he ordered, but ones he performed himself, or threatened to. See if you think there is any way to justify them. Try to convince me in the comments.

Gen. 6:7, 8:21:

“So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created — and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground.’ ... Never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”

Exodus 9:13-35:

With a hailstorm, the Lord killed “both people and animals”, “slaves and livestock”. The only difference between the ones who lived and the ones who died? Their masters either feared or ignored the word of the Lord. (And the only reason for any of the plagues was because the Lord “hardened Pharaoh’s heart”.)

Exodus 11-12:

After the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart again, so that he would not let the Israelites leave, the Lord got revenge on himself by killing the firstborn son of every Egyptian, from the highest to the lowest, including the animals. History says Egypt’s population at this time was around 3 million; even assuming large families, God’s murder toll this time was at least 300,000, his second-biggest genocide (next to The Great Flood).

Exodus 14:

Despite every single family in Egypt mourning the losses of their firstborn, the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart again, inspiring him to take his entire army after the escaping Israelites, where God made sure every single one of them drowned in the sea — “Not one of them survived.”

Exodus 32:

Because they made a statue in the shape of a calf and bowed down to it, the Lord decided to kill all the Israelites. Moses appealed to God’s vanity and calmed him down a bit, but God still ordered the Levites to get their swords and “go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.” The Levites killed 3,000 people in that funfest. On top of it, God sent a plague, though it’s not clear whether this plague killed anyone.

Lev. 10:1-2:

“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.”

Lev. 26:14-39:

For the sin of disobedience (for “all these commands”), God promises to bring sudden terror, wasting diseases, and “fever that will destroy your sight”, cause crops to fail, and punish his followers “seven times over”, including sending wild animals to steal children, sending plagues, cutting off food supplies, and forcing cannibalism (v.29). He will lay waste to the cities and land. For anyone who survives, he promises they will “perish”.

Num. 11:32-34:

Because they “craved other food”, the Lord “struck them with a severe plague” and killed an unspecified number of people.

Num. 16:

For the crime of being “insolent” (insisting that “the whole community is holy”), the Lord killed an unknown number of men along “with their wives, children and little ones” by splitting open the ground under them “and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households... They went down alive into the realm of the dead... the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.” Another 250 men who were offering incense (at Moses’ command) were “consumed” by fire that “came out from the Lord”. When, the next day, the entire Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron (for the previous deaths), the Lord started a plague among the people, but Aaron “ran into the midst of the assembly” with incense and burning coals, which magically caused the plague to stop. But not before another 14,700 people had died.

Num. 21:4-9:

When the Israelites grew impatient, asked questions, and complained, “the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.” When the people repented, the Lord told Moses to hold up a bronze snake on a pole: “anyone who is bitten can look at it and live”.

Num. 25:1-19:

After an unspecified number of men indulged in “sexual immorality with Moabite women” and bowed down before Baal of Peor, the Lord sent another plague into the camp. This time it killed 24,000 people and was only stopped because a grandson of Aaron shoved a spear through an Israelite man’s body into a Midianite woman’s stomach. It is not made clear that the 24,000 people who died of the plague were the same people guilty of immorality.

(This plague is mentioned in I Corinthians 10:8, where it says 23,000 died.)

(Related: After that last plaque, another census was taken, showing that the number of men in Israel had dropped by about 2,000 since the previous census. Even assuming that some boys had aged and were included in the census for the first time, it indicates that many of the victims in the above plagues were women and children.)

Joshua 10:9-11:

When Israel attacked the five armies of the Amorites, the Lord helped the Israelites by throwing the Amorites “into confusion”. As the Amorites fled, “the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.”

Judges 1:6-7:

“Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. Then Adoni-Bezek said, ‘Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.’ They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.”

(Of course, this is the enemy king ascribing the torture/dismemberment to God, but neither the Bible nor the Israelites attempts to correct this, leaving the impression that it’s correct.)

Judges 7:22:

“When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords.”

I Sam. 6:19:

“But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the Lord.”

I Sam. 25:38:

“About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.” The reason? Nabal was rude to David, refusing to offer hospitality. David had intended to kill Nabal himself, but Nabal’s wife Abigail (“an intelligent and beautiful woman”) had convinced David to spare Nabal, saying how nice it would be to not have on his conscience “the staggering burden of needless bloodshed”. Oddly enough, when David heard that the Lord had killed Nabal, David took Abigail to be his wife.

II Sam. 6:6-8 (and I Chronicles 10:9-10):

“When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God. Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah...”

II Sam. 12:13-18:

In order to punish David for the double-crime of committing adultery and having the woman’s husband killed, the Lord “struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill.” After seven days, the child died.

II Sam. 21:1-14:

The Lord withheld rain from the land for three years “because [Saul] put the Gibeonites to death” (Saul had been dead for years by the time of this drought). God continued to withhold rain until King David handed over to the surviving Gibeonites seven descendants of Saul, and the Gibeonites “killed them and exposesd their bodies on a hill before the Lord... After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land.”

II Sam. 24:

For David’s sin of taking a census of the fighting men of Israel and Judah, “the Lord sent a plague on Israel... and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.” Jerusalem was only saved when the Lord told his angel of death to spare it. The plague itself didn’t stop until David bought oxen and burned them. Even David questioned the Lord’s judgment on this one (in I Chron. 21:17), noting that it was he who was at fault, not the innocent “sheep” that God was slaughtering.

(I Chron. 21:1 clarifies that “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David” to take the census. This is odd since the earlier account in II Samuel says it was the Lord who caused David to take the census. This one of many unexplained contradictions in the Bible.)

I Kings 13:7-26:

For the crime of eating bread and drinking water (at the invitation of a prophet), an unidentified “man of God” was mauled and killed by a lion.

I Kings 14:1-18:

Because King Jeroboam worshipped other gods, the Lord killed his ill son Abijah.

I Kings 20:35-36:

“By the word of the Lord one of the company of the prophets said to his companion, ‘Strike me with your weapon,’ but he refused. So the prophet said, ‘Because you have not obeyed the Lord, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you.’ And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him.”

II Kings 1:9-12:

King Ahaziah sent two captains and a hundred men to get Elijah. For the crime of obeying their king, Elijah had the 102 soldiers murdered by “the fire of God”, which “fell from heaven”.

II Kings 2:23-24:

“From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’ they said. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’ He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.”

II Kings 7:

For the sin of not believing a stupendous claim, an officer “on whose arm the king leaned” was sentenced to death by the Lord, via trampling.

II Kings 17:24-28:

When the king of Assyria (whom the Lord had allowed to take over Israel) resettled Samaria with foreigners, the new residents didn’t “know what the god of the land requires”, so the Lord “sent lions among them and they killed some of the people.” God quit sending lions to kill people after the Assyrian king found a captured priest to teach the new residents “how to worship the Lord.”

II Kings 19:35:

“That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!” (Their crime was being born in the wrong country. It was their king who had “ridiculed and blasphemed” God. This story is also in II Chronicles 32 and in Isaiah 37:36.)

I Chronicles 2:3:

“Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.”

I Chronicles 10:13-14:

“Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.”

II Chronicles 36:11-17:

Because King Zedekiah of Judah did evil and hardened his heart, and because other leaders “became more and more unfaithful”, and because they mocked God’s messengers who warned them, “the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword... and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm.” Again, it was the king and the leaders who disobeyed, so God killed young people, old people, and infirm people.

Job 1:

In order to prove a point to Satan, the Lord gave Satan his permission to kill and destroy “everything he [Job] has”, including Job’s servants (by sword and “fire from God”), animals (“fire from God”), and children (collapsing house). Job attributed this to the Lord (v.21), but did not consider it “wrongdoing”. Satan was further allowed to afflict Job with “painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head”.

Jeremiah 13:13-14:

“This is what the Lord says: I am going to fill with drunkenness all who live in this land, including the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets and all those living in Jerusalem. I will smash them one against the other, parents and children alike, declares the Lord. I will allow no pity or mercy or compassion to keep me from destroying them.”

Jeremiah 23:34:

“If a prophet or a priest or anyone else claims, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ I will punish them and their household.”

Ezekiel 5:8-17:

“Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations. Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again. Therefore in your midst parents will eat their children, and children will eat their parents. I will inflict punishment on you and will scatter all your survivors to the winds. Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will shave you; I will not look on you with pity or spare you. A third of your people will die of the plague or perish by famine inside you; a third will fall by the sword outside your walls; and a third I will scatter to the winds and pursue with drawn sword. Then my anger will cease and my wrath against them will subside, and I will be avenged. And when I have spent my wrath on them, they will know that I the Lord have spoken in my zeal. I will make you a ruin and a reproach among the nations around you, in the sight of all who pass by. You will be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and an object of horror to the nations around you when I inflict punishment on you in anger and in wrath and with stinging rebuke. I the Lord have spoken. When I shoot at you with my deadly and destructive arrows of famine, I will shoot to destroy you. I will bring more and more famine upon you and cut off your supply of food. I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will leave you childless. Plague and bloodshed will sweep through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I the Lord have spoken.”

Ezekiel 14:12-23:

“The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its people and their animals, even if these three men — Noah, Daniel and Job — were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord. Or if I send wild beasts through that country and they leave it childless and it becomes desolate so that no one can pass through it because of the beasts, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if these three men were in it, they could not save their own sons or daughters. They alone would be saved, but the land would be desolate. Or if I bring a sword against that country and say, “Let the sword pass throughout the land”, and I kill its people and their animals, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if these three men were in it, they could not save their own sons or daughters. They alone would be saved. Or if I send a plague into that land and pour out my wrath on it through bloodshed, killing its people and their animals, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness. For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgments — sword and famine and wild beasts and plague — to kill its men and their animals! Yet there will be some survivors — sons and daughters who will be brought out of it. They will come to you, and when you see their conduct and their actions, you will be consoled regarding the disaster I have brought on Jerusalem — every disaster I have brought on it. You will be consoled when you see their conduct and their actions, for you will know that I have done nothing in it without cause, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

Ezekiel 18:

Contrary to several passages above and below, this passage has the Lord saying “the one who sins is the one who will die”, attempting to clarify that a son will not be killed for his father’s sin. “The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.” It also details the longheld Christian doctrine that a wicked person will not be punished for a lifetime of wickedness, if they turn from their ways, and that a righteous person will not be rewarded for a lifetime of righteousness, if they later commit wicked acts. God adds near the end: “I take no pleasure in the death of anyone”.

This is almost directly contradicted by Hosea 4:6, which says: “because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.”

Ezekiel 23:46-47:

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Bring a mob against them and give them over to terror and plunder. The mob will stone them and cut them down with their swords; they will kill their sons and daughters and burn down their houses.”

Hosea 9:16:

“Ephraim is blighted, their root is withered, they yield no fruit. Even if they bear children, I will slay their cherished offspring.”

Hosea 13:7-8:

Because the people of Ephraim “became proud” and “forgot me”, the Lord said: “I will be like a lion to them, like a leopard I will lurk by the path. Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open; like a lion I will devour them — a wild animal will tear them apart.”

Hosea 13:16:

“The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.”

Zechariah 14:2:

“I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped.”

Zechariah 14:12-13:

“This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. On that day people will be stricken by the Lord with great panic. They will seize each other by the hand and attack one another.”

(It’s worth noting that these are nations that the Lord himself wanted to fight against Jerusalem. In other words, they will be punished for bending to his will.)

Acts 5:1-11:

A woman and man sold a piece of property. Much of it, they gave to the apostles; some of it, they kept for themselves. For this, they died. The passage doesn’t explicitly say that God killed them, but the implication is clear.

Acts 12:21-23:

Because Herod delivered a public address, to which the crowd responded that his was “the voice of a god, not of a man”, an “angel of the Lord” immediately “struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.”

II Thessalonians 1:7-9:

“This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God... They will be punished with everlasting destruction”

Lessons From God’s Kills

There are several takeaways from these descriptions of YHWH’s kills.

First, for the Bible-believer, is the lesson that God doesn’t kill so much anymore. The biggest genocide conducted by God — the Great Flood — was very early in the Bible. The next-largest — the murder of the first-born of every household in Egypt — was also fairly early in Israel’s history, before Israel even became a nation or had a king. By the end of the Old Testament, the Lord was pretty much finished killing people on his own. There are only a couple of attributions to God for killings in the New Testament (both in the book of Acts). However, from Revelation and other places, it looks like YHWH still has plans to kill, just not for a while.

Second is the lesson that God often misses his mark. In the hailstone plague in Egypt, slaves and animals were killed because the masters disobeyed. When the firstborn of every Egyptian was killeed, it was YHWH who caused it by hardening Pharaoh’s heart. When God listed the possible punishments for disobeying his law, he decided that wild animals eating the children of sinners would be a good punishment. When the men of Israel committed sexual acts with Moabite women, the Lord killed thousands of women and children, along with a few men. When David committed adultery and had Bathsheba’s husband killed, the most immediate result was a baby suffering a seven-day illness and then dying. This poor marksmanship on God’s part continues throughout the Old Testament, almost as if he were so far removed from events on earth that he couldn’t be bothered to kill the right people. (This is despite a few passages where God boldly asserts that he’ll never punish a child for the parents’ sin.)

A third lesson is that the punishments aren’t in any way consistent or fitting to the crimes. If you sin against God, you really don’t know what to expect. Some, like Lot, committed horrible crimes (sex with his daughters), and were punished only by being rescued from destruction and being declared righteous in the New Testament. While others, like Uzzah, were killed outright and immediately for not doing anything wrong (Uzzah’s intention was clearly to keep the Ark of the Covenant from falling to the ground). Some boys who made fun of someone were mauled to death by bears. It’s also worth keeping in mind that “Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath” (Psalm 78:38).

If the Lord (1) doesn’t kill much anymore, (2) almost always killed innocent people for someone else’s crimes, and (3) rarely made the punishment fit the crime, the overall combined lesson is this: it doesn’t really matter what you do. You’re in luck because you born at a time when God rarely kills people. If he does kill you, it’s likely that it wasn’t your fault (or if it was your fault, it’s likely that he’ll kill someone else instead). And if he does punish you for your sins, you can rest assured that you have no idea how severe the punishment will be.

This is the updated version of this page. To see the original version, click here. Known edits are listed below.

• EDIT, 2016.03.03: Added link to original version of this page. Added link to this Edits section, and a link to the Lessons section, into the More menu. Added Judges 1:6-7.

• EDIT, 2016.05.28: Added “meta” tags (hidden to the average viewer) in the HTML header of this page.

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