The Violence of God in the OT

imagesLike many people, I have been tuning into the History Channel on Sunday nights for The Bible Miniseries. The first two parts have brought us up to the time of Solomon.

While I have enjoyed this rather faithful telling, I have also been reminded of just how violent and barbarous the OT can be, and some of the acts/commands given by God make me squirm in my seat. What about all those Egyptian babies slaughtered by the Angel of Death because of one pharaoh’s stubborn heart?  How many times do we hear the Israelite men yell out “For Israel” before plunging their sword into an enemy’s heart?  And its hard to watch the Israelites ruthlessly invade city after city as they take the Promised Land for their God.

Now, I am well aware of the many ways evangelical Christians try to soften these stories, or justify the violence. Still I can’t help but wonder how these portraits of God can be easily reconciled with the portrait of God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ who tells us to “love our enemy” and shows us a way of non-violence in dealing with our enemies.

If you share these feelings then I recommend checking out the honest ponderings of Greg Boyd on this difficult subject. No evangelical scholar is more honest and courageous in working through the complexities of this issue than Boyd (and sure to be controversial). Read this for starters. Love him or hate him, Boyd is not afraid to ask the hard questions that many of us are afraid to admit out loud. Agree or disagree with his conclusions, but don’t accuse him of not wrestling with Scripture in a vigorous and Christocentric way.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi Jeremy. As you wrestle with this issue and assist others as well, here’s a good resource:”Show Them No Mercy: God and Canaanite Genocide ithe Old Testament “. It’s a “four views ” book from Zondervan that surveys a spectrum of evangelical thinking on the issue. Boyd’s” Crucifixion of the Warrior God” view (given it’s uniqueness) isn’t exactly there but there is substantial scholarship that would be in his stream of thinking represented in the book.

  2. Jeremy Berg says:

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the resource. Boyd gave me an unpublished outline of his forthcoming book this week and invited me over to his house to join a group discussion. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend…but am intrigued by what I’ve read of his thesis so far. His new Cruciform Hermeneutic will be controversial and I doubt is represented in the Four Views book.

    I’m toying with the idea of hosting a forum discussion in early May at MainStreet following our showing of the History Channel movie — and asked Boyd to come share, but his schedule won’t allow it. Have you seen the movie so far?

    Grace and peace brother! And a blessed Holy Week to you and your congregation.


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