Violence and the Biblical God

Introduction

Many people are concerned about the widespread promotion of violence in society.  They see numerous cultural messages seeming to encourage violent responses to problems.

The messages come from television, movies, music, video games, the Internet, and other sources.  Instead of being a last resort used only in self-defense or the defense of others, violence is often portrayed as normal, favored, and entertaining conduct.

It’s understandable that people are apprehensive about possible effects of violent entertainment.  What’s unclear is why so few are similarly troubled by the widespread promotion of violent Bible teachings.  Violent religious ideas, presented as unquestionably true, are much more likely to influence people to behave violently.

The Bible’s potential to instigate violence stems, in large part, from its claims that although God committed or ordered violent acts, he is perfect,[1] righteous,[2] just,[3] gracious,[4] merciful,[5] compassionate,[6] and loving.[7]

Because God is said to possess exemplary characteristics but still commits or orders violence, his followers may decide they can behave similarly and still be good people.  They might even think they have a religious duty to follow his violent example.

The American patriot Thomas Paine referred to the development of such attitudes when he said, “The belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man.”[8]

Violence in Basic Doctrines

God’s violent tendencies are seen in some of the most fundamental and well-known Bible teachings.

The Old Testament claims that God damned the entire human race because of the acts of the first two people.[9]  It also says he caused a worldwide Flood that drowned pregnant women, innocent children, and animals.[10]  And it reports he killed Egyptian babies at the time of the Passover.[11]

The New Testament states that God required the torture and murder of his own son.[12]  And it promises he will send to eternal torture all who do not accept Christianity.[13]

God looks no better when many of the Bible’s other teachings are examined.  His various methods of tormenting and killing people, and his frequent resort to those tactics, make him appear worse than any sociopathic mass murderer.

War

The biblical God is guilty of wartime atrocities.  After bringing the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt, he ordered them to attack King Sihon of Heshbon.  So the Israelites “put to death everyone in the cities, men, women, and dependents” and “left no survivor.”[14]

God then told them to do the same to King Og of Bashan.  The Israelites therefore “slaughtered them and left no survivor.”[15]  The book of Psalms cites these massacres as proof that the Lord’s “love endures for ever.”[16]

In resettling the Israelites after the Egyptian sojourn, God instructed them to steal the land of seven nations.  And he told them to “not leave any creature alive. You shall annihilate them. . . .”[17]

As a result, the Israelites utterly wiped out various peoples.  An example is when Joshua’s army attacked Jericho and “put everyone to the sword, men and women, young and old. . . .”[18]  Later, the Lord told Joshua to do the same to the people of Ai.[19]

In obedience to the Lord’s commands, Joshua’s army did likewise to many other cities.  The Israelites “put every living soul to the sword until they had destroyed every one; they did not leave alive any one that drew breath.”[20]

If the accounts given in the Bible are accepted, there were millions of men, women, and children exterminated in this conquest of the Promised Land.[21]

All of the carnage was ordered by God.  And the Old Testament contains other stories depicting him as acting just as horribly.

At God’s command, the Israelites made war on Midian, slew all the men, and burned their cities.[22]  Moses was angry, however, because they had spared the women and children.

So he ordered the soldiers to “kill every male dependent, and kill every woman who has had intercourse with a man, but spare for yourselves every woman among them who has not had intercourse.”[23]  Shortly thereafter, God gave Moses instructions for distributing the captive virgins among the fighting men and the community.[24]

The prophet Samuel gave Saul these instructions from the Lord: “Go now and fall upon the Amalekites and destroy them. . . . Spare no one; put them all to death, men and women, children and babes in arms, herds and flocks, camels and asses.”[25]

Isaiah reports that on the day of the Lord’s anger against Babylon: “All who are found will be stabbed, all who are taken will fall by the sword; their infants will be dashed to the ground before their eyes. . . .”[26]

Ezekiel claims that God appointed men to punish Jerusalem for its “abominations.”  The Lord told them to “kill without pity; spare no one. Kill and destroy them all, old men and young, girls, little children and women. . . .”[27]

In the book of II Chronicles, there is another report of the Lord’s anger breaking out against Jerusalem.  This time he “brought against them the king of the Chaldaeans, who put their young men to the sword . . . and spared neither young man nor maiden, neither the old nor the weak. . . .”[28]

Jeremiah denounces those who won’t do the killings desired by the Almighty.  He declares: “A curse on him who is slack in doing the Lord’s work!  A curse on him who withholds his sword from bloodshed!”[29]

The New Testament’s depiction of God is hardly more favorable.  The book of Revelation states that in the end times, heavenly power and a sword will be given to a rider on a horse.  He will be allowed to make men slaughter one another.[30]

Another rider will be granted similar divine authority, including power to kill with the sword over a quarter of the earth.[31]  Later, four angels and their cavalry of 200 million will go forth to slay a third of mankind.[32]

This destruction is preliminary to Christ himself coming on a white horse, leading the armies of heaven.  A sharp sword will extend from his mouth to smite the nations, whose armies will be killed by the sword.[33]

These acts by Christ are consistent with his teaching that he came “not . . . to bring peace, but a sword.”[34]  And they show that he, like his father, supports the most extreme violence as a means of addressing problems.

Pestilence

Another punishment God frequently employs is to inflict diseases on people.  After the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites complained about having no meat to eat while wandering in the wilderness.  Then the “Lord’s anger broke out against the people and he struck them with a deadly plague.”[35]

Not having learned their lesson, the people later complained about the leadership of Moses and Aaron.  So God sent a plague that killed 14,700 more of them.[36]

In another instance, God used a plague to kill 24,000 Israelites because they had worshiped the gods of the Midianites.  This plague was stopped only when Phinehas, after seeing an Israelite man take a Midianite woman into the man’s family, put his spear through both of them together.[37]  God praised Phinehas and rewarded him for the act.[38]

God used the same punishment on subsequent generations.  He sent a pestilence that killed 70,000 men because King David took a census.[39]

After King Uzziah of Judah offended the Lord by burning incense in the temple, God struck him with leprosy so that “he remained a leper till the day of his death. . . .”[40]

God forewarned his prophets of similar divine retribution.  He revealed to Jeremiah his intent to “strike down those who live in this city, men and cattle alike; they shall die of a great pestilence.”[41]

The prophet Ezekiel said that because Jerusalem had not followed God’s ways, it would be consumed “without pity” and a third of the people “shall die by pestilence.”[42]

This form of punishment, however, proved to be ineffective.  Through the prophet Amos, the Lord complained to his people that although he had “sent plague upon you like the plagues of Egypt,” they still did not return to him.[43]

Nevertheless, the New Testament shows that God will continue the same behavior.  The book of Revelation states that one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse will be given power over a quarter of the earth, including power to kill by pestilence.[44]

And the same book reveals part of the doom God announced for Rome: the city will be struck with pestilence.[45]

Famine

God uses famines to torment and kill people.  After David angered him by taking the census, God said one of the punishments David could choose was three years of famine.[46]

But David wisely chose pestilence, thinking it would be a milder punishment from God.[47]  He thereby limited the Lord to killing a mere 70,000 men.[48]

On other occasions, God’s people didn’t get off so easy.  Isaiah announces that Jerusalem has “drunk from the Lord’s hand the cup of his wrath,” including “havoc and ruin, famine and the sword.”[49]

Jeremiah says God promised to make an end to the people of Judah by “sword, with famine and pestilence.”[50]  And the Lord pledged to do the same to any nation that would not submit to his “servant” Nebuchadrezzar, the Babylonian king.[51]

According to Ezekiel, God vowed to spend his anger on Israel by causing men to fall by sword, famine, and pestilence.[52]  An annotation in The New English Bible explains that those are the three traditional scourges by which God punishes his people.[53]

Ezekiel quotes the Lord as saying about Jerusalem: “When I shoot the deadly arrows of famine against you, arrows of destruction, I will shoot to destroy you.”[54]

The book of Lamentations shows that this was no idle threat.  It describes one of God’s famines by saying “children and infants faint in the streets . . . and cry to their mothers.”  We are also told “they faint like wounded things . . . gasping out their lives. . . .”[55]

Lamentations goes on to observe: “My virgins and my young men have fallen by sword and by famine; thou hast slain them in the day of thy anger, slaughtered them without pity.”[56]

But famine proved no more effective than pestilence in changing people’s behavior.  Amos reports that God complained: “It was I who kept teeth idle in all your cities, who brought famine on all your settlements; yet you did not come back to me. This is the very word of the Lord.”[57]

As was true with pestilence, though, the God of the New Testament intends to continue using this punishment.  The book of Revelation claims that the third of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse will be given divine authority to cause famine on earth.[58]

Likewise, the fourth rider will have power to inflict famine over a quarter of the world.[59]  And the book says famine is another punishment God has in store for Rome.[60]

Fire

God likes to burn people.  There is the story of him raining fire and brimstone on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  By this means, he “destroyed all the Plain, with everything living there.”[61]

Similar punishment was dealt to two of Aaron’s sons, who presented “illicit fire” before the Lord.  In response: “Fire came out from before the Lord and destroyed them; and so they died in the presence of the Lord.”[62]

After several Israelites led 250 men in rebellion against Moses’ authority, “fire [went] out from the Lord and burnt up the two hundred and fifty men.”[63]

At Elijah’s request, fire came down from heaven and consumed two companies of the king of Samaria’s men.[64]  And the Lord promised to use fire to punish Jerusalem,[65] Babylon,[66] Egypt,[67] and various other places.[68]

In speaking of a king favored by the Lord, the book of Psalms says God will have fire consume the king’s enemies and exterminate their offspring from the earth.[69]  As for the wicked in general, the same book claims that the Almighty “shall rain down red-hot coals upon the wicked; brimstone and scorching winds shall be the cup they drink. For the Lord is just. . . .”[70]

God ordered his people to use fire as a punishment.  The Law of Moses states that if the daughter of a priest becomes a prostitute, she must be burnt to death.[71]

The New Testament also favors incineration.  According to the book of Luke, Jesus said he came “to set fire to the earth.”[72]  And the book of Hebrews asserts: “our God is a devouring fire.”[73]

In describing the end times, the book of Revelation reports that after an angel blows a trumpet, fire mingled with blood will be cast upon the earth.  This will result in a third of the earth being burnt.[74]

The same book tells us that other angels will lead 200 million mounted troops, whose horses will spew fire, smoke, and sulfur from their mouths to kill a third of humankind.[75]  Shortly thereafter, power will be given to two of the Lord’s witnesses, enabling them to pour fire from their mouths and consume their enemies.[76]

Further, the book of Revelation says an angel will pour one of the “bowls of God’s wrath” on the sun, and the sun will then “burn men with its flames.”[77]  Near the end of the book, we are informed that God will cause Rome to be burned.[78]  And the book claims that when Satan’s followers battle against the Lord, fire will come down from heaven and consume them.[79]

Torture

God carries his ruthlessness to infinite extremes in the New Testament by inflicting eternal torture on people.  Being the firebug that he is, his preferred method of torture is to burn them.

The book of Matthew tells us that when Jesus returns to earth, he will send his angels to gather people and cast them into a furnace of fire, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.[80]  And he will order people to “go from my sight to the eternal fire that is ready for the devil and his angels.”[81]

The book of Revelation describes this everlasting inferno as a place where people are tortured forever.[82]  There, the “smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever, and there will be no respite day or night. . . .”[83]

The book of Jude claims that Sodom, Gomorrah, and the neighboring towns are already being punished in eternal fire as an example for all to see.[84]

These horrible punishments are illustrated in Jesus’ story of the beggar Lazarus who went to heaven, and the rich man who was consigned to Hades.  Jesus described the rich man as suffering torment in the flames.[85]  Elsewhere, he indicated the same fate will befall everyone who does not accept his message.[86]  This will include the vast majority of humankind.[87]

Jesus also spoke approvingly of torture in one of his parables.  The story involves a king who forgave a servant’s debt, but later found the same servant treating harshly a debtor of the servant.  The king became angry with the servant and “condemned the man to torture until he should pay the debt in full.” Jesus explained that God will do the same to people who do not forgive others.[88]

Because eternal torture is the most horrible punishment imaginable, God and Jesus have succeeded in reaching the pinnacle of viciousness and mercilessness.

Wild Animals

The Lord kills and injures people by causing wild animals to attack them.  He warned the Israelites that if they disobey him, he will “send wild beasts among you; they shall tear your children from you, destroy your cattle and bring your numbers low. . . .”[89]

After the Israelites were disobedient, God vowed: “I will harry them with the fangs of wild beasts and the poison of creatures that crawl in the dust.”[90]  And this all-loving Heavenly Father “sent poisonous snakes among the people, and they bit the Israelites so that many of them died.”[91]

God also caused a lion to kill a prophet.  This unfortunate man had been tricked by another prophet into disobeying a command of the Lord.[92]

Moreover, in one of the most cruel and nonsensical stories in the Bible, God sent two bears that killed 42 children because they were making fun of the prophet Elisha’s bald head.[93]

Ezekiel quotes God as telling the people of Jerusalem: “I will unleash famine and beasts of prey upon you, and they will leave you childless.”[94]

Jeremiah gives the following message from the Lord: “Beware, I am sending snakes against you, vipers, such as no man can charm, and they shall bite you. This is the very word of the Lord.”[95]

The Israelites were not the only victims of this treatment.  Because an Assyrian king brought people into Samaria who did not pay homage to Jehovah, “the Lord sent lions among them, and the lions preyed upon them.”[96]

The God of the New Testament likewise uses animals to destroy people.  The book of Revelation states that one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse will be given power over a quarter of the earth to kill with wild beasts.[97]

The same book says the Lord will cause locusts, having the power of scorpions, to come over the earth.  For five months, the locusts will torment men who did not receive the seal of God on their foreheads.  The torment will be like a scorpion’s sting, and the pain will be so bad that the men will long for death but not find it.[98]

Shortly thereafter, God will send riders whose horses will kill a third of mankind with fire, smoke, and sulfur coming from their mouths.  The horses’ tails will be like snakes and inflict injuries.[99]

Infanticide

Killing babies is another method God uses to express his anger.  As already noted, babies were drowned in the worldwide Flood,[100] Egyptian babies were among the firstborn killed at the Passover,[101] and babies were killed in the wars of extermination.[102]

This divine punishment was also used after King David succeeded in having a loyal Israeli soldier, Uriah, killed in battle.  David selfishly took this act in order to steal Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba.

Although David was the one who committed premeditated murder, the son Bathsheba bore to him received the brunt of God’s punishment.  God, in his infinite wisdom and justice, punished David by killing the baby.[103]

Isaiah says a similar punishment would be used against the Babylonians.  He quotes the Lord as vowing that “infants will be dashed to the ground before their eyes. . . . I will stir up against them the Medes, . . . who have no pity on little children and spare no mother’s son. . . .”[104]

The book of Psalms indicates that those inflicting this punishment can enjoy it.  The book says about Babylon: “Happy is he who shall seize your children and dash them against the rock.”[105]

Hosea prophesizes that Samaria will receive the same treatment.  He explains: “Samaria will become desolate because she has rebelled against her God; her babes will fall by the sword and be dashed to the ground, her women with child shall be ripped up.”[106]

The Bible also teaches that God is willing to test people by having their offspring slaughtered.  The Lord allowed Satan to kill Job’s sons and daughters to see if Job would then curse God.[107]

The New Testament also contains a murderous attitude toward the young.  The book of Hebrews attests to the Lord’s horrible acts at the time of the Passover, but does not disapprove of them.[108]

And the book of Revelation indicates that Christ will behave similarly.  As for a certain false prophetess who will lead his servants astray, the book quotes Jesus as promising to throw her on a bed of pain and strike her children dead.[109]

Then he explains: “This will teach all the churches that I am the searcher of men’s hearts and thoughts, and that I will reward each one of you according to his deeds.”[110]  It would not have been difficult to find a humane way to convey those lessons.

Cannibalism

God causes cannibalism.  According to the book of Leviticus, he promises that if the Israelites disobey him: “I myself will punish you seven times over for your sins. Instead of meat you shall eat your sons and your daughters.”[111]

The Lord was true to his word.  Isaiah describes a punishment of Israel: “On the right, one man eats his fill but yet is hungry; on the left, another devours but is not satisfied; each feeds on his own children’s flesh, and neither spares his own brother.”[112]

Jeremiah says the Lord promised to punish Jerusalem by making it “a scene of horror and contempt. . . . I will compel men to eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters; they shall devour one another’s flesh in the dire straits to which their enemies and those who would kill them will reduce them in the siege.”[113]

Ezekiel quotes God as saying that because of Jerusalem’s disobedience: “I will execute judgment in your midst for the nations to see. . . . Therefore, O Jerusalem, fathers will eat their children and children their fathers in your midst. . . .”[114]

The author of Lamentations mourns the results of the Lord’s punishment: “Those who died by the sword were more fortunate than those who died of hunger; these wasted away, deprived of the produce of the field. Tender-hearted women with their own hands boiled their own children; their children became their food in the day of my people’s wounding. The Lord glutted his rage and poured forth his anger. . . .”[115]

In the New Testament, cannibalism is an integral part of Christian ritual.  At the Last Supper, Jesus gave his disciples bread to eat and told them it was his body.  And he said the wine they were to drink was his blood.[116]  On another occasion, he explained: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood possesses eternal life. . . . Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells continually in me and I dwell in him.”[117]

Many say the worst pain a parent can suffer is the death of a child.  But the Lord was not satisfied with producing that degree of hurt, and added to it by forcing parents to cook and eat their children.  Then he required Christians to eat his own son.  It’s all very sick.

Executions

God is a big proponent of capital punishment.  He likes it so much that he required it for trivial offenses.  And he directed that the killings be done brutally.

After the Israelites found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath, the Lord said, “The man must be put to death; he must be stoned by all the community. . . .”[118]  God also ordered the death penalty for anyone else who works on the Sabbath.[119]

People were not to spare even their children from these barbaric slayings.  God prescribed capital punishment for reviling one’s father and mother.[120]  And as for a son who is disobedient and out of control, the Lord directed that “all the men of the town shall stone him to death, and you will thereby rid yourselves of this wickedness.”[121]

Comparable instructions were given for dealing with a person’s brother, son, daughter, wife, or best friend who tries to convince the person to worship other gods.  God said the person’s “own hand shall be the first to be raised against him and then all the people shall follow. You shall stone him to death. . . .”[122]

God rewarded the people of Judah for vowing to put to death all who would not seek the Lord, including “young and old, men and women alike.”[123]

The Law of Moses requires the death penalty for other acts, too.  They include blasphemy,[124] adultery,[125] homosexuality,[126] worshipping other gods,[127] being a witch[128] or medium,[129] being a false prophet,[130] and not being a virgin on one’s wedding night.[131]

Besides stoning, the Lord approved of executing people by burning,[132] hanging them on a gibbet[133] or a tree,[134] and hurling them off a mountain.[135]

Jesus supported the Old Testament’s death-penalty provisions when he said he came not to abolish the Mosaic Law but to complete it.[136]  He warned that anyone who sets aside even the least of the Law’s demands, and teaches others to do so, will be lowest in the kingdom of heaven.[137]

According to the New Testament, Jesus was executed even though he was perfectly innocent.  He and his followers should therefore have protested against capital punishment to prevent others from being subjected to the same injustice.

Mutilation

God ordered people to use mutilation in their legal system.  And he sanctioned its use against a prisoner of war.

In the legal code given to the Israelites, the Lord prescribed mutilation as the punishment for a man who disfigures a fellow countryman.  God said: “It shall be done to him as he has done; fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; the injury and disfigurement that he has inflicted upon another shall in turn be inflicted upon him.”[138]  And the Lord specified that in administering this punishment, “You shall show no mercy. . . .”[139]

He likewise required mutilation as the penalty for a woman who tries to stop a fight between her husband and another man by dragging her husband away.  God said that if this peacemaking endeavor results in the wife grabbing the other man’s genitals, “you shall cut off her hand and show her no mercy.”[140]

For people who might speak out against these absurd commandments, God endorsed a type of mutilation that would silence them.  The book of Proverbs says “the subversive tongue will be rooted out.”[141]

Support for mutilating prisoners of war is contained in the book of Judges.  After the Israelites made war on the Canaanites and Perizzites, they captured one of their opponents’ leaders and cut off his thumbs and great toes.  God did not condemn their act, and the victim attributed his fate to the punishment of the Lord.[142]

Such disfiguring and crippling are brutal and irrational.  By mutilating a person as punishment for inflicting an injury on another, society can end up with two disabled persons to support instead of one.  It makes more sense to keep the wrongdoer healthy and require that person to work to provide restitution for the victim.  Most societies eventually learn this, but not the biblical God.

In the New Testament, Jesus supported mutilation.  To avoid lusting after women, he recommended that men pluck out their own eyes.[143]  To prevent masturbation, he advocated that people cut off their hands.[144]  And he endorsed castration for “the sake of the kingdom of Heaven,” and said to let “those accept it who can.”[145]

All this chopping up of body parts is worse than in many slasher films, which some Christians denounce for violent content.

Beatings and Floggings

Under the Law of Moses, judges can sentence a wrongdoer to be flogged.  The number of strokes corresponds to the gravity of the offense and can be as high as 40.[146]

In the book of Proverbs, advice is given to beat with rods one who is a “fool.”[147]  And the book says the same treatment should be given to children: “Do not withhold discipline from a boy; take the stick to him, and save him from death.”[148]  It further admonishes: “Folly is deep-rooted in the heart of a boy; a good beating will drive it right out of him.”[149]

Proverbs advocates severe beatings of adults and children alike by stating: “A good beating purges the mind, and blows chasten the inmost being.”[150]  The book of Psalms claims that the Lord promised to set an example of this conduct by visiting his children with rod and lashes for their disobedience.[151]

The New Testament also endorses beatings.  In a parable involving servants waiting for their lord to return from a wedding, Jesus taught that the servant who knew his lord’s will but failed to do it “will be flogged severely.”  And he explained that the servant who didn’t know his lord’s will but “earned a beating will be flogged less severely.”[152]

Moreover, the New Testament says the governing authorities (Romans or Jews) inflicted beatings on Jesus,[153] Paul,[154] Silas,[155] all the apostles,[156] and some of the other great persons of faith.[157]  Jesus predicted that his followers would be flogged in synagogues.[158]  Indeed, Paul reports that five times the Jews gave him the 39 lashes and three times beat him with rods.[159]

Despite numerous opportunities to denounce the wrongfulness of beatings and floggings, the New Testament does not.  The writers of the Bible didn’t know, as modern science does, that beatings and floggings are counterproductive.

Those methods cause the inflictors of the punishment, and persons witnessing it, to become callous toward the suffering of others.  Moreover, the victims and witnesses learn to use violence in dealing with problems.  The victims also become resentful, bitter, unwilling to cooperate, and eager for revenge.

Plundering

The Lord punishes people by having marauding bands loot them.  Isaiah reports that God will send the Assyrians to “march against a people who rouse my wrath, to spoil and plunder at will and trample them down like mud in the streets.”[160]

According to II Kings, after the Israelites disobeyed God’s commandments and worshipped other gods, the “Lord rejected the whole race of Israel and punished them and gave them over to plunderers and finally flung them out of his sight.”[161]  Later in the book, God said about Judah: “They shall be plundered and fall a prey to all their enemies; for they have done what is wrong in my eyes and provoked my anger. . . .”[162]

Jeremiah says the Almighty will hand the people of Judah to the king of Babylon, who will take their wealth, deport them to Babylon, and put them to the sword.[163]  In the same book, the Lord gloats that he “brought upon them a horde of raiders, to plunder. . . . I made the terror of invasion fall upon them all in a moment.”[164]

Such actions led the Psalmist to complain: “Thou hast hurled us back before the enemy, and our foes plunder us as they will. Thou hast given us up to be butchered like sheep and hast scattered us among the nations.”[165]

The Israelites weren’t the only ones to receive this punishment.  Jeremiah reports that the Lord ordered the Babylonians to “attack Kedar, despoil the Arabs of the east. Carry off their tents and their flocks, their tent-hangings and all their vessels, drive off their camels too, and a cry shall go up: ‘Terror let loose!'”[166]

Additionally, Zephaniah claims that because Moab and Ammon insulted the Lord’s people, God decreed that the “survivors of my people shall plunder them, the remnant of my nation shall possess their land.”[167]

The New Testament vouches for the divine approval of plundering.  It says Jesus spoke approvingly of David.[168]  And it tells us God described David as “a man after my own heart.”[169]

David, whom God and Jesus thought so highly of, was a plunderer and worse.  The Old Testament recounts that while living in Philistine country to avoid King Saul, David raided various villages, slaughtered all the inhabitants, stole their property, and then lied to the Philistine king about what he had done.[170]

Miscellaneous Violence

The Lord supports various other forms of violence.  He’s quite creative in finding ways to kill and hurt people.

Woman turned into salt

Because two angels had warned Lot that God was going to destroy Sodom, Lot and his family fled the city.  But contrary to the instructions given by the angels, Lot’s wife looked back while the Lord was raining fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah.  For this act, she was turned into a pillar of salt.[171]

Defenestration

To enable Jehu to become king of Israel in place of Ahab’s son Jehoram, God had Jehu kill Ahab’s entire family.[172]  This included having Ahab’s widow, Jezebel, dispatched by throwing her out of a window.[173]

Hail

To convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt, God tormented the Egyptians and their animals by raining down hail more heavily than the country had ever experienced.[174]

And when Joshua and his army were pursing and slaughtering the Amorites, “the Lord hurled great hailstones at them out of the sky,” so that “more died from the hailstones than the Israelites slew by the sword.”[175]

The New Testament promises that God will be hurling more hailstones.  The book of Revelation describes God’s judgment on the wicked as including “hail and fire mingled with blood” being cast upon the earth.[176]  Later, the book says God will drop huge hailstones, weighing perhaps a hundred pounds, on men.[177]

Captivity

Deuteronomy claims that if the Lord’s people disobey him, their children will be taken into captivity.[178]

We are told in II Kings that because of the Israelites’ disobedience, God sent them into captivity in Assyria.[179]

Similarly, Jeremiah says the Lord banished his people from his presence and assigned some of them to captivity.[180]

According to II Chronicles, God’s anger fell upon Judah and Jerusalem such that “our fathers have fallen by the sword, our sons and daughters and our wives are in captivity.”[181]

Poisonings

In the Old Testament, God promised to poison certain evil prophets.[182]

And the book of Revelation tells us the Lord will be poisoning people in the end times.  After an angel blows a trumpet, a third of the earth’s rivers and springs will be turned to wormwood, and many will die from the poisoned water.[183]

Human sacrifice

God commended Abraham for being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Fortunately for Isaac, an angel stayed Abraham’s knife-wielding hand at the last second.[184]

The daughter of Jephthah was not so lucky.  Jephthah sacrificed her to fulfill a vow he had made to the Lord.[185]  In the New Testament, Jephthah is listed as one of the great men of faith.[186]

The New Testament God also showed support for human sacrifice by having it done to his son.[187]

Earthquakes

Isaiah says God’s punishment against the city of Ariel (i.e., Jerusalem) will come with an earthquake.[188]

The book of Revelation states that in the last days, God will cause an earthquake to kill 7,000 people.[189]  Later, the Almighty will produce the most violent earthquake in history, splitting the city of Rome into three parts and making other cities fall in ruin.[190]

Earth swallows people

The Old Testament reports that after certain men had rebelled against Moses’ authority, God caused the earth to open and swallow them and their families.[191]

Sexual assaults

Finally, the Heavenly Father is not above causing sexual assaults.  Isaiah quotes God as promising to send the Medes to attack the Chaldaeans and have “their houses rifled and their wives ravished.”[192]

Thus, besides all his other violent traits, the Lord reveals himself to be on the same level as a murderer/rapist.

Violent Protagonists

In addition to the aforementioned violence, God’s servants were responsible for other mayhem.

Moses murdered an Egyptian who had struck a Hebrew.[193]  The murderer Moses is described in the Bible as “the man of God”[194] and “the servant of the Lord.”[195]

After King David’s death, his son Solomon had several antagonists killed in order to secure his royal power.[196]  We are told that Solomon loved the Lord and conformed to all the precepts laid down by David.[197]

When the spirit of the Lord came upon Samson, he slaughtered 1,000 men with the jawbone of an ass.[198]  And the prophet Elijah slaughtered 450 prophets of Baal.[199]

After the cities of Succoth and Penuel refused Gideon’s request for food for his men, Gideon took the elders of Succoth and “disciplined those men of Succoth with desert thorns and briars.”  He also pulled down the castle of Penuel and put the men of the city to death.[200]  Anyone who has examined a hotel Bible knows that an international Bible society is named after Gideon.

The New Testament sanctions all those acts by speaking approvingly of Moses,[201] Solomon,[202] Samson,[203] Elijah,[204] and Gideon.[205]

Conclusion

These violent, brutal, and heartless acts approved in the Bible should completely discredit it as a moral guide.  Many other instances of cruelty and immorality can be found in the book to prove the same point.

No wonder Thomas Paine said: “To read the Bible without horror, we must undo everything that is tender, sympathizing and benevolent in the heart of man.”[206]

Tragically, the biblical God’s despicable behavior has been considered a model of goodness and justice.  Throughout history, innumerable Bible-believers have followed his example and teachings by committing horrendous violence – and felt good about themselves for doing so.

Such acts led Sir James Paget to say in the nineteenth century: “I know of no book which has been a source of brutality and sadistic conduct, both public and private, that can compare with the Bible.”[207]

And the Enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu observed: “No kingdom has ever suffered as many civil wars as the kingdom of Christ.”[208]

The same conduct will continue as long as a vicious and merciless monster is worshipped as the quintessence of divine love.

Civilized societies adhere to a much higher ethical standard than the biblical God’s.  They know that violence does not prove who is right but only who is stronger.

They also recognize that the validity of an argument depends on the quality of the evidence and logic supporting it – not the amount of violence its proponents can inflict.  In fact, a resort to violence usually means the proponents believe they cannot win with arguments.

Moreover, enlightened societies realize that gratuitous violence, when supported by society’s leaders and other role models, can promote more violence.  Their example sends a message to others that violence is an appropriate means of dealing with problems.

Those societies also understand that people can become desensitized to the sight of violence and thus tolerate ever-greater amounts of it.

As a result, civilized societies permit violence only for self-defense and the defense of others, and only in amounts necessary to accomplish those purposes.  In all other cases, problems are to be resolved by nonviolent methods.

A huge step toward reducing violence could occur if more people realized that the biblical God is a product of a barbaric and ignorant age.

His example and teachings should be replaced with the best ideas produced by human reason, experience, and compassion.

Endnotes:

[1] Psalm. 18:30
[2] Jeremiah 9:24
[3] Isaiah 30:18
[4] Nehemiah 9:17
[5] Deuteronomy 4:31
[6] Psalm 86:15
[7] I John 4:9,16
[8] Ingersoll, Robert G., “Vindication of Thomas Paine,” The Works of Ingersoll,
Vol. V (New York: Dresden, 1901), p. 483
[9] Genesis 3:16-23; Romans 5:18
[10] Genesis 7:20-23
[11] Exodus 12:29-30
[12] Romans 3:24-25
[13] Revelation 21:8
[14] Deuteronomy 2:31-34
[15] Deuteronomy 3:1-7
[16] Psalms 136:17-21
[17] Deuteronomy 7:1-6;20:16-17
[18] Joshua 6:20-21
[19] Joshua 8:1-2
[20] Joshua 11:14
[21] Mattill, Jr., A.J, The Seven Mighty Blows to Traditional Beliefs (Gordo, Alabama: The Flatwoods Free Press, 1995), p. 141
[22] Numbers 31:7-12
[23] Numbers 31:14-18
[24]] Numbers 31:25-47
[25] I Samuel 15:1-3
[26] Isaiah 13:13-20
[27] Ezekiel 9:1-7
[28] II Chronicles 36:16-17
[29] Jeremiah 48:10
[30] Revelation 6:3-4
[31] Revelation 6:7-8
[32] Revelation 9:14-16
[33] Revelation 19:11-21
[34] Matthew 10:34
[35] Numbers 11:4-6,33-34
[36] Numbers 16:41-50
[37] Numbers 25:1-9
[38] Numbers 25:10-15
[39] I Chronicles 21:1,7-15
[40] II Chronicles 26:16-21
[41] Jeremiah 21:3-7
[42] Ezekiel 5:11-12
[43] Amos 4:10
[44] Revelation 6:8
[45] Revelation 18:8 (Rome is called “Babylon” here and elsewhere in the book of Revelation.)
[46] I Chronicles 21:7-12
[47] I Chronicles 21:13
[48] I Chronicles 21:14-15
[49] Isaiah 51:17-19
[50] Jeremiah 14:12
[51] Jeremiah 27:6-8
[52] Ezekiel 6:11-12
[53] The New English Bible with the Apocrypha, Oxford Study Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 891, fn. 11.
[54] Ezekiel 5:16
[55] Lamentations 2:11-12
[56] Lamentations 2:21
[57] Amos 4:6
[58] Revelation 6:5-6
[59] Revelation 6:7-8
[60] Revelation 18:8
[61] Genesis 19:24-25
[62] Leviticus 10:1-2
[63] Numbers 16:1-2, 31-35
[64] II Kings 1:9-12
[65] Jeremiah 17:27
[66] Jeremiah 50:31-32
[67] Ezekiel 30:8
[68] Amos 1:3-15;2:1-5
[69] Psalms 21:7-10
[70] Psalms 11:5-7
[71] Leviticus 21:9
[72] Luke 12:49
[73] Hebrews 12:29
[74] Revelation 8:7
[75] Revelation 9:15-18
[76] Revelation 11:3-5
[77] Revelation 16:1,8-9
[78] Revelation 18:8
[79] Revelation 20:7-9
[80] Matthew 13:41-42
[81] Matthew 25:41
[82] Revelation 20:10-15
[83] Revelation 14:11
[84] Jude .7
[85] Luke 16:19-31
[86] Mark 16:16; Revelation 21:8
[87] Matthew 7:13-14
[88] Matthew 18:23-35
[89] Leviticus 26:21-22
[90] Deuteronomy 32:24
[91] Numbers 21:6
[92] I Kings 13:13-26
[93] II Kings 2:23-24
[94] Ezekiel 5:17
[95] Jeremiah 8:17
[96] II Kings 17:24-25
[97] Revelation 6:8
[98] Revelation 9:3-6
[99] Revelation 9:15-19
[100] Genesis 7:20-23
[101] Exodus 12:29-30
[102] E.g., Joshua 11:14
[103] II Samuel 12:7-18
[104] Isaiah 13:15-18
[105] Psalm 137:8-9
[106] Hosea 13:16
[107] Job 1:8-19
[108] Hebrews 11:28
[109] Revelation 2:20-23
[110] Revelation 2:23
[111] Leviticus 26:27-29
[112] Isaiah 9:20
[113] Jeremiah 19:8-9
[114] Ezekiel 5:8-10
[115] Lamentations 4:9-11
[116] Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25
[117] John 6:53-57
[118] Numbers 15:32-36
[119] Exodus 31:14-15
[120] Leviticus 20:9
[121] Deuteronomy 21:18-21
[122] Deuteronomy 13:6-11
[123] II Chronicles 15:12-15
[124] Leviticus 24:11-16
[125] Leviticus 20:10
[126] Leviticus 20:13
[127] Deuteronomy 17:2-5
[128] Exodus 22:18
[129] Leviticus 20:27
[130] Deuteronomy 18:20; Zechariah 13:3
[131] Deuteronomy 22:20-21
[132] Joshua 7:15; Leviticus 21:9
[133] Deuteronomy 21:22-23
[134] Joshua 8:29
[135] II Samuel 21:1-14
[136] Matthew 5:17
[137] Matthew 5:18-19
[138] Leviticus 24:19-20
[139] Deuteronomy 19:21
[140] Deuteronomy 25:11-12
[141] Proverbs 10:31
[142] Judges 1:1-7
[143] Matthew 5:28-29
[144] Matthew 5:30
[145] Matthew 19:12
[146] Deuteronomy 25:1-3
[147] Proverbs 10:13;26:3
[148] Proverbs 23:13-14 (Also see Proverbs 13:24.)
[149] Proverbs 22:15
[150] Proverbs 20:30
[151] Psalm 89:30-32
[152] Luke 12: 47-48
[153] Mark 15:15; Matthew 27:26; John 19:1
[154] Acts 16:22-23; II Corinthians 11:23-25
[155] Acts 16:22-23
[156] Acts 5:40
[157] Hebrews 11:36
[158] Mark 13:9
[159] II Corinthians 11:23-25
[160] Isaiah 10:5-6
[161] II Kings 17:19-20
[162] II Kings 21:14-15
[163] Jeremiah 20:4-5
[164] Jeremiah 15:8-9
[165] Psalms 44:10-11
[166] Jeremiah 49:28-29
[167] Zephaniah 2:8-9
[168] E.g., Matthew 12:3-4; Mark 12:36
[169] Acts 13:22
[170] I Samuel 27:7-12
[171] Genesis 19:15-26
[172] II Kings 9:6-9; 10:10-11
[173] II Kings 9:6-10, 33-37
[174] Exodus 9:23-26
[175] Joshua 10:3-12
[176] Revelation 8:7
[177] Revelation 16:21
[178] Deuteronomy 28:41
[179] II Kings 17:18-23
[180] Jeremiah 15:1-2
[181] II Chronicles 29:8-9
[182] Jeremiah 23:15
[183] Revelation 8:10-11
[184] Genesis 22:10-12
[185] Judges 11:29-40
[186] Hebrews 11:32
[187] Romans 3:24-25
[188] Isaiah 29:6-7
[189] Revelation 11:13
[190] Revelation 16:18-19
[191] Numbers 16:28-34
[192] Isaiah 13:15-19
[193] Exodus 2:11-14; Acts 7:23-29
[194] E.g., Deuteronomy 33:1; I Chronicles 23:14
[195] E.g., Joshua 11:12; II Kings 18:12; Revelation 15:3
[196] I Kings 2:22-46
[197] I Kings 3:3
[198] Judges 15:14-15
[199] I Kings 18:40
[200] Judges 8:4-17
[201] John 5:45-46; Hebrews 3:2-5;11:24-29
[202] Matthew 12:42
[203] Hebrews 11:32
[204] Matthew 17:1-5
[205] Hebrews 11:32
[206] Ingersoll, Robert G., “Vindication of Thomas Paine,” The Works of Ingersoll, Vol. V (New York: Dresden, 1901), p. 482
[207] Haught, James A., 2000 Years of Disbelief (Amherst, New York: Prometheus, 1996), p. 181
[208] Id., p. 50