6 Reasons Old Testament Portrayals Of God As Genocidal And Violent Are False!

Done with Religion
6 min readFeb 10, 2024

By Mike Edwards

Biblical passages portray God as sanctioning genocide or drowning practically an entire human race including children and infant. Many form their view of God according to the Bible. Our views of God impact the way we imitate or relate to God. I will site much of Eric Seibert scholarship, who has written a mind-blowing book on disturbing divine behaviors in the OT. God seems so unlike the God that Jesus portrayed. When we read “God said” in the Bible, did the writers record what God actually said aloud or what they believed God would say? We must question if there are differences between biblical portrayals of God and God’s true character.

We can’t prove God approved of the biblical writers’ thoughts about God

Few believe God dictated the writers’ recordings. You certainly can’t prove God controlled the writers’ thoughts that were written down. We can’t prove the writers understood God perfectly other than taking their word by claiming they are inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16–17). That is circular reasoning. The truth is we don’t know God’s role. We were surely created to love the way the Creator loves. We must challenge if the writers’ thoughts or our interpretations are contradictory of a loving God according to our moral intuitions.

Controlling love is an oxymoron. A loving God can no more control than they can manipulate. God obviously doesn’t control one’s actions or thoughts with so much evil in the world contrary to God’s desires. And if God can raise the dead, God can obviously control transmissions of words supposedly given to the biblical writers — but God didn’t! We don’t have the original manuscripts but copies of copies of the original. The NT is gathered from over 5000 manuscripts. Over time the variations became more substantial. The Catholic Bible has more books than the Protestant Bible. Which books did God supposedly inspire (pp. 267–268)? Maybe God wasn’t in control of what was written or transmitted.

The first reasons to doubt OT portrayals is a moral God can’t command horrific evils

Many may not realize there are hundreds of passages in the OT that speak of God taking revenge or threatening destruction or punishment by death including genocide of an entire nation. Please see Eric Seibert. I will cite only a few instances that require explanation. God commanded the genocide of all Amalekites, including women, children, infants, and animals (I Sam 15:2–3). God ends up killing over 70,000 people for David taking a census that was authorized by God (2 Sam 24:15). God drowned the entire human race except Noah and family, including children and infants (Gen. 7:23). God causes or at least permits dozens of people to die to simply win a divine wager with Satan (Job). Such actions are highly questionable of a loving God.

A moral God couldn’t possibly have authorized many of the Israelite laws

When it comes to many of the laws, the OT claims God spoke these words (Exodus 20:1). Biblical writers rarely claimed audible God-speak. “God said” recorded hundreds of times in the Bible is most likely a figure of speech expressing inner impressions or understandings about God — right or wrong. Anyway, did God really authorize the following laws (pp. 17–18):

  • Did God really mandate whoever curses their parents be put to death (Ex. 21:17)?
  • Did God really mandate to death a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath (Num 15:32–36)?
  • Did God really require death for adultery (Lev 20:10)? They would be lot of bodies today
  • Did God really command whoever does work on the Sabbath be put to death (Ex 31:15)?
  • Did God really command death for those who blaspheme the name of the Lord (Lev 24:16)?

A moral God can’t control one’s worldview

God can’t control the worldviews of the writers either. The Israelites though God controlled the natural world such as causing famines to punish. It was thought God gave victory or defeat in battle. Today we don’t think that way, that God was the direct cause of planes flying into building on 9/11. Most don’t blame tsunamis and other natural disasters on God. Jesus didn’t blame tragedies by God as rewarding the righteous and punishing the unfaithful (Lk 13:1–5). Biblical writers were likely trying to explain the unexplainable. Even today, many claim “everything happens for a reason” as if God is in control.

Archaeological findings don’t always support OT historical events reported

Seibert points out that assuming OT historical narratives were written to record what actually happened is a modern but not past historiographic assumption (p.105). Archaeological evidence doesn’t suggest the wall of Jericho miraculously crumbling down, and Jericho was completely destroyed by the Israelites despite the Bible claiming so (Joshua 6:20, 24). So, it is possible the violence contributed to God in these passages (Joshua 6–11) might not have happened as well. OT narratives were often written decades if not centuries later when the supposed events happened.

Was Jonah really shallowed by a whale? Certain evidence suggests otherwise. The gullet of a whale is too small to swallow an adult. The gastric juices and lack of oxygen would not sustain human life for days such as Jonah writing a poem while inside the whale (p.95). Jonah walked through Ninevah requiring 3 days (Jonah 3:3). Archaeology has discovered Ninevah to be 7.5 miles in diameter. Walking end to end could have been done in less than half a day. Ninevah was a real city but this story wasn’t meant to be taken literally. The story illustrates God had a right to show compassion. Our enthusiasm for the destruction of enemies is misguided.

A moral God can’t apply justice unfairly

God kills Uzzah for putting his hand out to balance the Ark from falling (S Sam 6:7), yet God is silent when David committed adultery and had Bathsheba’s husband killed (2 Sam 11:14).

God is so unlike the God Jesus portrays in the NT

Jesus said: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). Jesus referring to stories in the OT doesn’t mean he approved of all views expressed about God. Jesus never referred to passages that speak of God commanding genocide or a warrior who fights physical battles for his chosen. (pp.191–207). Jesus referred to the global flood but didn’t identify God as the cause of the Flood as the OT does. Jesus instead often refers to a God who is kind to the wicked. Jesus was so unlike the God of the OT that perhaps God was not like how often portrayed by OT writers.

Why should I bother to read the OT?

The Bible is God’s story beginning with Israel and culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other document. God may have inspired the writers to write but didn’t necessarily approve of everything written about God. When reading the Bible, question and contemplate what a loving God is really like. Enjoy what God is trying to reveal to you about your Creator and how to treat others. Imagine if extremists had to consider that God didn’t inspire every word in their Book, and we had to openly discuss what a loving God is like. Interpretations about God’s love toward others, that don’t match how you and most know you ought to love your neighbor, may be amiss. A Book must not replace our relationship with God and common moral sense.

https://6 Reasons Old Testament Portrayals Of God As Genocidal And Violent Are False!

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. He couldn’t find enough people to discuss God openly so he started blogging years ago. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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Done with Religion

Done with religion does not mean done with God, but done with religious traditions. We post articles weekly about living for God outside the walls of religion.