Genocide in the Bible

Please consider the following and then my question:

In 1 Samuel 15:3, God orders:
Now therefore go, and smite Amalec, and utterly destroy all that he hath: spare him not, nor covet any thing that is his: but slay both man and woman, child and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ***.

Sirach 15:20
No one does he command to act unjustly,
to none does he give license to sin.

God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being." CCC 2258

“Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.” CCC 2314

Knowing that God is the author of both the natural law, which is unchanging (CCC 1956) and which says never to take innocent human life, how can he order human beings (the Israelites) to be agents in something which is contrary to the moral law he put in their hearts…namely the killing of innocent children? Clearly if anyone claimed such a command came from God today we would say it would be contrary to God’s goodness to order it. How can we explain this OT command then, since its the same God?

True, God can take innocent life by his own ways through circumstances, but can how can he directly order someone to commit abortion, or genocide, or the like…acts dubbed as malum in se.

Any help is greatly appreciated :slight_smile:

You’re right. If “God” told anyone today to do this, it would be considered a trick of the devil or sheer insanity…I never understood this.

Even if God were ordering this for some greater good, doesn’t the Church say that one can NEVER commit an intrinsic evil so that good may result (such as having an abortion in order to save the life of the mother)?

I was thinking about this, and perhaps the solution is this:

God is the author of all human beings’ rights to life. God thus has the right to disposes the gift of life from whomever he chooses, even of the innocent. We assume that innocent life always has this right to life, but if God were to make it explicit that a certain individual were dispossessed of it for whatever reason from the perspective Eternal Divine Providence a man would be justified in killing another innocent man.

When the catechism says…

“God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.” CCC 2258

…it implies that God could in a rare circumstance give a man the right to directly destroy an innocent human being. In the new covenant this would not happen likely, but in the old covenant, it is understandable considering the other things God allowed the Israelites to do that we would consider unacceptable without Divine exception.

Anyway…its still hard to think of myself killing an innocent person even with divine command. Nevertheless, it seems to be not impossible for God to order the death of the innocent by human hands.

How sure are you that the Amelekites were innocent? The scriptures say that they ambushed the fledgling Israelite nation after the exodus, a direct assault on a God who rescued them in captivity.

Yes God can easily wipe them off with any catastrophe but I think this is God’s way of saying to his people, “Look if you want the land, You must now tend for yourself, you must show your strength, everyone will bully you if you show yourself weak”.

In 1 Samuel 15 if you read it in context, the Lord is testing the leadership of Saul, just like He tested the faith of Abraham.

Obedience is better than sacrifice is the main point here. God desire them to obey Him. No buts.

The first act of genocide is found in Genesis, when God ‘repents’ that he created humankind and decides to drown everybody, except for Noah’s family. That must have included many innocent, certainly children and likely babies still in the womb.

We have the Amalekite story.

And what about the order God supposdly gave to Joshua to slaughter all the inhabitants of Jericho once that city was captured - except, alas, the family of a prostitute who betrayed her own people! 

The Old Testament is full of such horror stories. Check out, for example, Ex. 22, verses 18 and 20. And there is much of the same in Ex. 21, Lev. 20, Deut. 22-23.

And read Ps. 137:9! 

Sorry, but I can't consider any of this the 'word of the Lord'. It sounds more like Hitler.

We’re talking about children, as the OP said.

Yes God can easily wipe them off with any catastrophe but I think this is God’s way of saying to his people, “Look if you want the land, You must now tend for yourself, you must show your strength, everyone will bully you if you show yourself weak”.

If that were God’s message, I might have to agree with Marcion that such a God couldn’t be the Father of Jesus who died on the Cross. If God is most fully revealed in Jesus, then there’s no possible way that God could be delivering the message you describe above. Jesus clearly didn’t care about “showing himself weak.”

I do not believe that God desired the slaughter of children. Period. I believe that this is how the Hebrews understood and interpreted God’s desire for them to free themselves from the idolatrous and tyrannical ways of their neighbors.

A case has been made that the language of wholesale slaughter was idiomatic and hyperbolic–that it’s found in inscriptions from other cultures of that place and time, in contexts where it clearly cannot be taken literally.

Still, that doesn’t keep me from being troubled by it.

Edwin

I don’t take stories about direct divine action the same way as stories about God commanding humans to act, both because God is the author of life (and has the right to take it away) and because I think there are theological complications to any account of God “doing” something (other than as incarnate in Jesus), especially destructive actions.

Edwin

Herem warfare (genocide) was not in the original form of the Mosaic Covenant. This was added in the last version of the Covenant, found in Deuteronomy. Israel had proven time and time again humanity’s inability to resist the temptation of idolatry and sexual immorality, so in order to protect the line of Judah, the tribe that would bring forth the Incarnation, herem warfare was required. It sounds harsh form a temporal perspective, but from an eternal perspective is it so harsh?

I too have to take a phenomenological interpretation to such things–otherwise you end up with a self-contradicting monster god, or Marcionism.

This herem warfare was abhorrent to me as a child reading my Dad’s Bible. I decided young that I didn’t like God the Father but Jesus and the Hoy Spirit were OK with me.

Jesus makes God lovable and tells us to call God the Father Abba. Ohhhh Kaaaaay.

We’re talking about children, as the OP said.

If that were God’s message, I might have to agree with Marcion that such a God couldn’t be the Father of Jesus who died on the Cross. If God is most fully revealed in Jesus, then there’s no possible way that God could be delivering the message you describe above. Jesus clearly didn’t care about “showing himself weak.”

I do not believe that God desired the slaughter of children. Period. I believe that this is how the Hebrews understood and interpreted God’s desire for them to free themselves from the idolatrous and tyrannical ways of their neighbors.

A case has been made that the language of wholesale slaughter was idiomatic and hyperbolic–that it’s found in inscriptions from other cultures of that place and time, in contexts where it clearly cannot be taken literally.

Still, that doesn’t keep me from being troubled by it.

Edwin

[size=][FONT=“Arial”]I also believe he never intended the children to be put to death. Let us ask what will happen then, if these children were left by the Israelites in the desert or taken as war booty?

Two scenarios emerge, a slow inhumane death for the children in the wilderness or Israel assimilating children with vendettas.

I think these are all mystery to us living right now. But I do hope God has one good reason for these.[/size]

[/FONT]

Exactly

The argument that God is the author of life and can therefore take it away in a horrible fashion is not a good one. Of course, He CAN do this, but does that make Him a GOOD God if this story is really true? It’s troubling.

As an analogy, I might breed pit bulls and then train and force them to fight to the death in dog fights (a la Michael Vick). Now, because they are my dogs and I am the reason they are even alive in the first place, does that make it moral for me to do this? We all know that it does not. Actually, being the reason that these dogs exist, being their owner if you will, makes me even more responsible for their welfare.

Um, isn’t this a pure example of moral relativism? Isn’t such relativism strictly condemned by the Catholic Church? Also, one may NEVER do something intrinsically evil so that good may result. I’m pretty sure killing babies is intrinsically evil (um…abortion anyone?).

\

If a cancerous tumor invades the body does the surgeon only remove part of it?

It is intrinsically evil to kill infants on our own accord. Israel was not acting on their own accord.

To the OP:

This issue has come so many times on CAF that the first thing you may want to do is a diligent search of the forum - there have been many thoughtful replies in many of those threads.

However, thoughtful as those replies have been, none of them really approached the question with the use of Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and theology. TRUST ME, this is a complex issue, and you won’t be able to find an adequate enough answer on CAF. I recommend the following resources. They are pricey, but they will answer your questions:

catholic-productions.com/store/audio/bergsma/mountains_ot.html

catholic-productions.com/store/audio/pitre/pentateuch.html

Each of the above are full semesters of education on the Old Testament alone!!! They go through issues like this with a professional eye to detail and thoroughness! I highly recommend them!

I highly recommend these as well. Dr. Bergsma is absolutely phenominal

Yeah…no.

I am barely into Dr. Bergsma’s survey of the Old Testament and am more than half-way through Dr. Pitre’s. The scholarship and exegesis they bring to the table are staggeringly outside the scope of CAF (usually), and so I recommend to the OP for this issue. I promise you will be satisfied.

I had him for OT and NT and currently am taking a class of his on the Prophets.

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