Any Christian assessment of violence in any other religion must face the violence in our own sacred texts.

It may be difficult to unearth much justification for the practice of violence in the New Testament. However, the Christian Bible is not confined to the New Testament. Our Bible includes the Old Testament. The Old Testament is every bit as much Scripture for Christians as is the New Testament.

Christians cannot call upon the parts of the Old Testament we appreciate to support the roots of our tradition in Judaism, without giving some account of how we confront the horrific violence that runs throughout the most ancient sacred texts to which our church has always appealed.

Below is a selection of a few of the violent biblical texts that any honest affirmation of Christian faith needs to address. There are a lot of words here; these are painful verses to read. But all of these words  appear in a book Christians read and to which, upon hearing read in worship, we respond declaring,

This is the word of the Lord.

Honesty demands that the presence of these passages which are certainly challenging if not distasteful, must be read and faced. Some understanding of how these texts fit into a religion of peace must be offered.

If I call myself a Christian, even more if I fashion myself as a “Bible-believing Christian,” I must wrestle with these challenging verses and be prepared to give an account of how they fit with my experience of Christian faith. At the very least, these verses need to cause me to move cautiously before accusing other belief systems of being inherently violent.

It may not make for a warm cozy morning devotional, but do read and ponder these texts:

Genesis 6:5-7 The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’

Genesis 38:7-10 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her; raise up offspring for your brother.’ But since Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, he spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went in to his brother’s wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother. What he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also.

Exodus 12:12,29 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgements: I am the Lord. … At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock.

Exodus 31:14 You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; everyone who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it shall be cut off from among the people.

Exodus 32:26,27 Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. He said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbour.” ’

Leviticus 10:1,2 Now Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his censer, put fire in it, and laid incense on it; and they offered unholy fire before the Lord, such as he had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

Leviticus 20:9-16, 27 All who curse father or mother shall be put to death; having cursed father or mother, their blood is upon them.  If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbour, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death. The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them. If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. If a man takes a wife and her mother also, it is depravity; they shall be burned to death, both he and they, that there may be no depravity among you. If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he shall be put to death; and you shall kill the animal. If a woman approaches any animal and has sexual relations with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them. … A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall be put to death; they shall be stoned to death, their blood is upon them.

Numbers 23:23,24 Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob,
no divination against Israel;
now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,
“See what God has done!”
Look, a people rising up like a lioness,
and rousing itself like a lion!
It does not lie down until it has eaten the prey
and drunk the blood of the slain.’

Numbers 25:3-5 the Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel. The Lord said to Moses, ‘Take all the chiefs of the people, and impale them in the sun before the Lord, in order that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.’ And Moses said to the judges of Israel, ‘Each of you shall kill any of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.’

Numbers 31:15-18 Moses said to them, ‘Have you allowed all the women to live? These women here, on Balaam’s advice, made the Israelites act treacherously against the Lord in the affair of Peor, so that the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him. But all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves.

Deuteronomy 2:31-34  The Lord said to me, ‘See, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over to you. Begin now to take possession of his land.’ So when Sihon came out against us, he and all his people for battle at Jahaz, the Lord our God gave him over to us; and we struck him down, along with his offspring and all his people. At that time we captured all his towns, and in each town we utterly destroyed men, women, and children. We left not a single survivor.

Deuteronomy 3:3-6 So the Lord our God also handed over to us King Og of Bashan and all his people. We struck him down until not a single survivor was left. At that time we captured all his towns; there was no citadel that we did not take from them—sixty towns, the whole region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. All these were fortress towns with high walls, double gates, and bars, besides a great many villages. And we utterly destroyed them, as we had done to King Sihon of Heshbon, in each city utterly destroying men, women, and children.

Deuteronomy 7:16 You shall devour all the peoples that the Lord your God is giving over to you, showing them no pity.

Deuteronomy 13:6-10 If anyone secretly entices you—even if it is your brother, your father’s son or your mother’s son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend—saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’, whom neither you nor your ancestors have known, any of the gods of the peoples that are around you, whether near you or far away from you, from one end of the earth to the other, you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Show them no pity or compassion and do not shield them. But you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them, and afterwards the hand of all the people. Stone them to death for trying to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

Deuteronomy 20:10-18  When you draw near to a town to fight against it, offer it terms of peace. If it accepts your terms of peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in it shall serve you in forced labour. If it does not submit to you peacefully, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; and when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword. You may, however, take as your booty the women, the children, livestock, and everything else in the town, all its spoil. You may enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you. Thus you shall treat all the towns that are very far from you, which are not towns of the nations here. But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded, so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the Lord your God.

Deuteronomy 22:20-24 If, however, this charge is true, that evidence of the young woman’s virginity was not found, then they shall bring the young woman out to the entrance of her father’s house and the men of her town shall stone her to death.  If a man is caught lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman as well as the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. If there is a young woman, a virgin already engaged to be married, and a man meets her in the town and lies with her, you shall bring both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death, the young woman because she did not cry for help in the town and the man because he violated his neighbour’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Joshua 6:21 Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys.

Joshua 10:40 So Joshua defeated the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings; he left no one remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded.

Judges 14:19 Then the spirit of the Lord rushed on Samson, and he went down to Ashkelon. He killed thirty men of the town

I Samuel 15:2,3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” ’

I Kings 15:29 As soon as Baasha was king, he killed all the house of Jeroboam; he left to the house of Jeroboam not one that breathed, until he had destroyed it, according to the word of the Lord

II Kings 2:23, 24 Elisha went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, ‘Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!’ When he turned round and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

II Kings 10:17 When Jehu came to Samaria, he killed all who were left to Ahab in Samaria, until he had wiped them out, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke to Elijah.

II Kings 19:35 That very night the angel of the Lord set out and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies.

I Chronicles 13:9-10 When they came to the threshing-floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen shook it. The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark; and he died there before God.

I Chronicles 21:14 So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel; and seventy thousand persons fell in Israel.

Psalms 58:10 The righteous will rejoice when they see vengeance done;
they will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.

Psalms 68:21-23 But God will shatter the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crown of those who walk in their guilty ways.
The Lord said,
‘I will bring them back from Bashan,
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
so that you may bathe your feet in blood,
so that the tongues of your dogs may have their share from the foe.’

Psalm 137:9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!

Isaiah 9:19-21 Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts
the land was burned,
and the people became like fuel for the fire;
no one spared another.
They gorged on the right, but still were hungry,
and they devoured on the left, but were not satisfied;
they devoured the flesh of their own kindred;
Manasseh devoured Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh,
and together they were against Judah.
For all this, his anger has not turned away;
his hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 13: 1, 9, 15, 16 The oracle concerning Babylon that Isaiah son of Amoz saw….
See, the day of the Lord comes,
cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the earth a desolation,
and to destroy its sinners from it….
Whoever is found will be thrust through,
and whoever is caught will fall by the sword.
Their infants will be dashed to pieces
before their eyes;
their houses will be plundered,
and their wives ravished.

Isaiah 34:1-3 Draw near, O nations, to hear;
O peoples, give heed!
Let the earth hear, and all that fills it;
the world, and all that comes from it.
For the Lord is enraged against all the nations,
and furious against all their hordes;
he has doomed them, has given them over for slaughter.
Their slain shall be cast out,
and the stench of their corpses shall rise;
the mountains shall flow with their blood.

Isaiah 37:36 Then the angel of the Lord set out and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies.

Isaiah 49:22,26 Thus says the Lord God:…I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,
and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine.

Jeremiah 11:21-23 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the people of Anathoth, who seek your life, and say, ‘You shall not prophesy in the name of the Lord, or you will die by our hand’— therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: I am going to punish them; the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; and not even a remnant shall be left of them. For I will bring disaster upon the people of Anathoth, the year of their punishment.

Jeremiah 13:13,14 Thus says the Lord: I am about to fill all the inhabitants of this land—the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—with drunkenness. And I will dash them one against another, parents and children together, says the Lord. I will not pity or spare or have compassion when I destroy them.

Jeremiah 14:1,2, 10-12 The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought:
Judah mourns
and her gates languish;
they lie in gloom on the ground,
and the cry of Jerusalem goes up….
Thus says the Lord concerning this people:
Truly they have loved to wander,
they have not restrained their feet;
therefore the Lord does not accept them,
now he will remember their iniquity
and punish their sins.
The Lord said to me: Do not pray for the welfare of this people. Although they fast, I do not hear their cry, and although they offer burnt-offering and grain-offering, I do not accept them; but by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence I consume them.

Jeremiah 18:20,21 Is evil a recompense for good?
Yet they have dug a pit for my life.
Remember how I stood before you
to speak good for them,
to turn away your wrath from them.
Therefore give their children over to famine;
hurl them out to the power of the sword,
let their wives become childless and widowed.
May their men meet death by pestilence,
their youths be slain by the sword in battle.

Jeremiah 19:1,7-9 Thus said the Lord:… in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will make them fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth. And I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed at; everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its disasters. And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and all shall eat the flesh of their neighbours in the siege, and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them.

Jeremiah 48:1, 10 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel:… Accursed is the one who is slack in doing the work of the Lord; and accursed is the one who keeps back the sword from bloodshed.

Ezekiel 4:8-10 thus says the Lord God: I, I myself, am coming against you; I will execute judgements among you in the sight of the nations. And because of all your abominations, I will do to you what I have never yet done, and the like of which I will never do again. Surely, parents shall eat their children in your midst, and children shall eat their parents; I will execute judgements on you, and any of you who survive I will scatter to every wind.

Ezekiel 9:3-7 The Lord called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing-case at his side, and said to him, ‘Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of those who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.’ To the others he said in my hearing, ‘Pass through the city after him, and kill; your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. Cut down old men, young men and young women, little children and women, but touch no one who has the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.’ So they began with the elders who were in front of the house. Then he said to them, ‘Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain. Go!’ So they went out and killed in the city.

Ezekiel 21:3 Thus says the Lord: I am coming against you, and will draw my sword out of its sheath, and will cut off from you both righteous and wicked.

Ezekiel 38:21 I will summon the sword against Gog in all my mountains, says the Lord God; the swords of all will be against their comrades.

Ezekiel 39:17,18 As for you, mortal, thus says the Lord God: Speak to the birds of every kind and to all the wild animals: Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth

Hosea 9:16 Ephraim is stricken,
their root is dried up,
they shall bear no fruit.
Even though they give birth,
I will kill the cherished offspring of their womb.

Hosea 13:15,16  the east wind shall come, a blast from the Lord,
rising from the wilderness;
and his fountain shall dry up,
his spring shall be parched.
It shall strip his treasury
of every precious thing.
Samaria shall bear her guilt,
because she has rebelled against her God;
they shall fall by the sword,
their little ones shall be dashed in pieces,
and their pregnant women ripped open.

Amos 9:1 I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and he said:
Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake,
and shatter them on the heads of all the people;
and those who are left I will kill with the sword;
not one of them shall flee away,
not one of them shall escape.

 

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