The amount of violence recorded as commanded by God is undeniable such as ordering the death of women, children, infants and animals in war (I Sam. 15:3). Many assume a Book supposedly inspired by God means God approved what was written about God. Who is to say the writers weren’t on the same spiritual journey we all are on – discovering what God is really like! Violent views of God can often lead to justifying wars and killing infidels in God’s name.
It is best to admit we can’t prove God inspired (aka approved) all recorded in the Bible.
Let’s be honest. We can’t prove God took over the biblical writers’ minds to control what’s written. Writers rarely claimed audible God-speak. “God said” written hundreds of times could be a figure of speech expressing an inner impression about God – right or wrong. Writers/editors of the Bible didn’t intentionally lie but were honest about their understandings of God at the time. This may explain violence wrongly contributed to God. I think best to not use the word “inspired” as most associate that with God agreeing with every thought or belief the writers had about God.
Did God approve certain violence to bring the Israelites freely along to the truth?
It is argued Israel’s laws were a step up from other ancient near eastern laws. At times maybe they were, but it is rational to question many laws set forth. God surely didn’t approve a woman being required to marry her rapist (Deut. 22: 28-29) or killing boys and non-virgins but sparing virgins for the warriors (Num. 31:18). Did God accommodate because the Israelites couldn’t handle the truth that requiring a woman to marry their rapist or family murderer is further victimization? I doubt it!
Is violence by God simply warfare exaggeration or hyperbole?
Warfare rhetoric was common in ancient literature to induce fear and victory. But, even if God didn’t mean to be taken literally, why would God inspire violent metaphors like I Sam. 15 to include women, children, infants, and animals? Imperfect, human leaders don’t even use such language. I question if the writers heard God correctly to command such language even metaphorically.
Maybe the violence commanded by God didn’t take place?
Archaeology can suggest biblical events never happened and were recorded centuries later to convey spiritual truths. The creation account in Genesis may not be an actual historical event. It is also pointed out many of the genocide-like commands supposedly from God were not carried out as survivors are listed later in the story. Maybe extermination passages are meant to be understood within the context of initially driving out the enemy. The problem though is that God supposedly said these violent commands – not if commands were obeyed, didn’t take place, or were hyperbole.
Is violence explained because God can do whatever the Hell God wants?
It is normal to feel compelled to justify passages above because God’s actions in the OT aren’t always moral from a human perspective. So, it is suggested God’s ways don’t have to be fair because God is God. Yet, the Bible encourages us to be perfect like God or imitate God (Mt. 5:48, Eph. 5:1). If human and God’s morals are different, how can we know how to be perfect like God? We don’t always know what perfect love is, but I doubt God is the parent that says “do as I say not what I do.” God’s morals are not some mystery. God’s good isn’t sometimes evil.
Objections when claiming the Bible doesn’t always depict God perfectly.
- We can’t know God if we can’t trust the Bible. See here.
- God wouldn’t allow so much uncertainty. See here.
God’s uncontrolling rather than controlling love can explain much of the OT.
Many practices in the OT such as animal sacrifices and other behaviors supposedly desired and commanded by God were humans’ understanding of God during those times. God’s love never controls one’s beliefs but seeks to influence for good. Freedom is necessary for authentic, lasting relationships. I have no doubt that the Bible has God’s blessing. So much wisdom has been gained by reading and reflecting. But, God never intended a Book to not be questioned or to take the place of a relationship with God and others. God seeks to influence so we might make choices in the interest of ourselves and others in the long-run.
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