God of the old testament?

Hi, everyone, ever since my junior year of high school, the reality and importance of Christianity has been weighing on me more and more. Ever since this, I have been reading and studying Christian philosophy. My relationship with Jesus has also drastically changed ever since junior year. I have found myself praying more and reflecting more and praying the rosary.

But I have also become more frustrated by the lack of answers, especially when it comes to the God of the Old Testament. When I started reading the OT, I had to put it down after three minutes because I felt so betrayed by the cruelty of God. I felt as if I had been duped this whole time into thinking that he was kind and loving, when here he was killing innocent people. I was shocked that he caused the earth to swallow up women and children along with various sinners, (Numbers Chapter 16, around verse 20) As a result, I have felt more distant from Jesus, he feels more like a stranger to me now.

Can anyone explain to me how this cruelty in the OT can possibly be justified?

Your question is invalid. God never uses us against the purpose for which he created us.

– Nicole

Ok then, this is the one of the stories of God in the OT that gave me trouble.

“Moses said, “This is how you shall know that the LORD sent me to do all I have done, and that it was not of my own devising: if these die an ordinary death, merely suffering the fate common to all humanity, the LORD has not sent me.But if the LORD makes a chasm, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them with all belonging to them, and they go down alive to Sheol,* then you will know that these men have spurned the LORD.” No sooner had he finished saying all this than the ground beneath them split open, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them **and their families *and all of Korah’s people with all their possessions. They went down alive to Sheol with all belonging to them; the earth closed over them, and they disappeared from the assembly.But all the Israelites near them fled at their shrieks, saying, “The earth might swallow us too!” And fire from the LORD came forth which consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.” Numbers chapter 16, verses 28-35

OK… I’m looking at Ch. 16. As with many stories of the Old Testament, there’s a serious case of The Stupid running amuk among the Israelites… if the effects weren’t so sad, it would almost be a script for a sitcom.

Korah: Hey, Moses! You’re so stuck-up! What makes you special? God’s with all of us. Look at this mob I have with me! We’re revolting against you.

Moses: Oh yeah? Well, tomorrow, we’ll let God choose who he thinks is leader, so bring your incense. Look, you Levites are already special, right? Isn’t that enough for you, getting to work near the tabernacle? You guys aren’t revolting against Aaron and myself; you’re revolting against God. Hey, Dathan and Abiram-- c’mere.

Dathan & Abiram: Uh, how about no? You took us out of a fabulous country and are making us wander the desert until we die. Sob, sob, sob, poor us. You think we’re your slaves or something? Whatever.

Moses: Grrr! I haven’t done anything wrong to them. I’ve never taken anything from them. God, please ignore their sacrifices. Grrr.

next day

Moses: Aaron and Korah, offer your incense. And Korah’s followers, you offer your incense, too.

God: Hey, Moses and Aaron, step aside so I can get rid of these people.

Moses & Aaron: Eep! No, God! Are you going to kill everyone just because of one man?

God: OK. Moses, tell the audience to get away from Korah, Dathan & Abiram.

Moses: Everyone needs to get away from their tents, and don’t touch anything that belongs to them, or else they’ll be swept away because of their sins!

(Dathan & Abiram hang around with their families next to them, and their families ignore a clear warning that uh, that’s not the best place to be standing.)

Moses: OK! If these guys die like regular humans, then God doesn’t have anything to do with me. But if something totally improbable happens in the next few moments, uh, yeah, these guys are treating God with contempt.

(Cue something totally improbable happening.)

The Crowd: Eeep! We’re all going to DIE!

(And God smites Korah’s fellow rebels while he’s at it.)

God: Hey, don’t waste the censers. Why don’t you recycle them for the altar, so they can remind people not to mess around, okay?

next day

The Crowd: Hey, uh, Moses, you dork, what about all those people who died yesterday? You really shouldn’t be leader if stuff like that’s going to happen. You think you’re special or something? Hey, let’s form a mob and start a rebellion! This will end well…

God: Hey, Moses, step aside so I can smite these idiots…

Moses: Eep! Aaron, quick, go make a sacrifice! God’s not impressed and he’s about to unleash a plague.

Aaron appeases God, but not before the plague kills more people

It really shouldn’t be any cause of concern for you, bless your heart. Those innocent of personal sin would have merely waited in Limbo in Abraham’s bosom, as St. Francis de Sales puts it, for the time that Christ would descend into hell after his death to free those there waiting for them (those innocent of personal sin who died and waited in Limbo rose again with Christ in a similar fashion to how we die and rise with Christ in baptism). It doesn’t mean that all who fell alive into hell (or sheol, the abode of the dead) or were burned alive that day were damned everlastingly.

– Nicole

In my point of view (Correct me if I’m wrong), the Jewish people really looked up to strength and power. Being a merciful and loving God, He had to display His power in order that the Jewish people would listen (Many of the psalms have an aspect of the Lord being a mighty conqueror and saving them and giving them strength). God loves the Jewish race and He had to punish them sometimes as any good father would and to correct them. Also, just because the people He killed seemed to end horribly, we can only see their death, but we can’t see the paradise He brought them into (The people who were in limbo were with God). God had to take a few lives so that He could eternally save the rest of the Jewish people, and though it might seem cruel, God, does everything out of love (Just like how we might have thought our parents were cruel when they spanked us for being bad:D)

If you really think about it, wouldn’t we be kind of lucky to die right now and be in God’s embrace faster???..I think people who die before I do are lucky.

I am no an expert on the Bible, and do not quote it.
If you are indeed a Catholic, I am surprised at your question, because it shows that although you may read the Bible, you do not have a solid grounding in our faith.
I strongly suggest that you discuss this matter with your parish priest. Simply go to your local rectory and ask to see a priest instead of wasting your time on the internet. You cannot get a difinative answer to spiritual questions such as yours from a lay person.
For what its worth, The Gd of the old testament was a Gd of vengance and might, as was necessary to deal with a contentuous people (the Hebrews). In all cases, when Gd wreaked punishment on groups of people, it was in retaliation for one sin or another. By sending his Son, Jesus Christ to earth, Gd the Father became a G*d of love, mercy, and forgiveness. Thus is the basic teaching of Holy Mother the Church.

C’mon Catholics! You can do better than this! The question is invalid? Ask a priest? They waited in limbo? The Church says G*d is good so he must be? Answer the OP’s question!!

That was brilliant.

Just as an added note, we have to remember that death is not just lights out. We don’t just cease to exist. Humans must refrain from indiscriminately killing one another, true. But if God causes a death, it’s simply a matter of Him sending people to their eternal place a bit earlier than they might have expected. Any who qualify are now in heaven, those who don’t are in hell, and that’s where they should be.

It is best to find your answer from a scripture scholar - someone like Scott Hahn. I have a CD on How Catholics Read the Bible and it identifies 3 (if I remember correctly) rules - 1 - must read it as a totality - cannot take things out of context, 2 - must read it in light of Sacred Tradition - the oral teaching of Jesus and I think 3 was must read it in light of the teaching of the Magisterium. I hope I’m getting these right (I have to go listen to the CD again). My point is, there are things we must know before we start reading the bible. And remember, there is no personal interpretation of sacred scripture.

Hmm. This has always been a tough question for Christians. So much so that in the early days of Christianity a heresy developed called Donatism which claimed that the Old Testament God was a fallen god and is distinct from the New Testament God.

These actions of God are justifiable, it was deduced, because they are the will of God - the font of all morality.

But it is important for Christians to read these passages in light of the sacrificed Lamb of God. When the OT talks about putting the ban on cities, it isn’t an exhortation for Catholics today to put the ban on cities. Rather, it should be interpreted as an exhortation to put the ban on sin and those things harmful to God’s people Israel and to God’s will.

WK,

Your questions are great. Not that I can add much to the conversation, but I’ll give it a shot. Children being sucked into the face of the earth for what their parents did (Numbers 16:25-35 ) is the kind of stuff that seems to give atheists fodder and make Christians want to discreetly change the subject.

I too, love the Jesus that befriends prostittutes, heals the blind and feeds thousands of hungry bodies and souls. But how do we balance it all? Or should we try? IMHO we serve a God who sees a lot more than we can, and sometimes confronts our sin in a very “in yo face” style. Our sins will have an affect on our children (you can see this in dysfunctional families and communities). The Lord was clear in the giving of the 10 commandments (Ex 20:5-6), he would inflict punishment for the sins of the fathers down to the 3rd and 4th generations, but blessings to the thousands for those who keep his commandments.

WK, as weak as it may sounds, our sins have serious ramifications. The Numbers example you brought up is chilling, but it also brings us to face off with the holiness of God. You mentioned it is hard to read through the Old Testament, but l encourage you to read all of it. In Numbers, we see Moses and the Israelites getting tested during tough times. They were sick, hot, tired and mad. Were they going to have faith in a God who not less than a month back showed His ferocious love for them through the 10 plagues? Will we, the Israelites follow God when times get tough? Will they, we, worship Him for who He really is? Do they, we, have the right to brazenly challenge His authority, and will we have faith even when times are tough and He seems distant, even cruel?

As other posters mentioned, we don’t know what happened to those who were swallowed up, particularly the children. But check it out: In Numbers 26:11, it is clear, although God could have totally wiped the memory of them from the earth, it states: “The descendants of Korah did not die out…” He sticks it out with us and our grandchildren even when we act like idiots…

My guess, is that you will see the children who died in the event in heaven. And maybe even the adults. Just as I think you will also see the Egyptian kids who died due to Pharoah’s stubborn heart, the baby boys who died at Herod’s hand in Matthew chapter 2:16-19, and a whole host of others you can list off yourself if you think about it.

What is also pretty cruel yet merciful, is a God who allows His Son to be sacrificed for sinners like me. Sinners like me who may not openly challenge God and His priests, but who do sin silently in our hearts and, in one way or another challenge Him.
But the same God who rescued the Israelites, let them and their children get defeated in war after war, allowed saints to be eaten by lions, boiled and even quartered. And we do believe, He will make all things right in the end. Hebrews chapter 11 gives us all a little hope when we just can’t understand.

Keep asking those questions. God loves it when we wrestle with Him. That’s faith in action. Stay close to Mama Mary and the rosary… My answer isn’t the best, but hopefully points you in the right direction.

Correction: The Israelites were in the desert for years; I’m not sure how long it was from when they were rescued from Pharaoh.

I stated “less than a month” because the journey from Egypt to Canaan would have taken a little over a month if the Israelites had just listened and obeyed intently. At least from what I have heard…

Like I said, my answer isn’t the best. Take whatever you can from it, if only a little…:o

Thank you everyone who has helped me with this topic, everyone has said something helpful, and for that I am thankful. God bless you all. I plan on asking a priest about this topic as well, but my mother also told me something that I thought was interesting. She said that the God of the OT is not a God of cruelty, but of “tough love” and that helped me put it into perspective along with everyone elses input.

You know what really struck me about that event? It was, after everything God had just done, and there was plenty of miraculous, stunning events that never will be seen again in the history of the world, that the people did something so unbelievably insane. Ok, one event, opening up the Red Sea, crossing on dry ground, all of Pharaoh’s chariots, destroyed. The mighty army of pharaoh, wiped out. God removed them from the hard burden of slavery to mold a people for himself and what do they do? Make a golden calf to worship. It’s insanity. God can take the people out of Egypt, but not Egypt out of the people. Did you wonder what it must have felt like for God to see how rebellious and hard headed they were? What more could He have done after such spectacular events?

=300WhiteKnights;8265806]Hi, everyone, ever since my junior year of high school, the reality and importance of Christianity has been weighing on me more and more. Ever since this, I have been reading and studying Christian philosophy. My relationship with Jesus has also drastically changed ever since junior year. I have found myself praying more and reflecting more and praying the rosary.

But I have also become more frustrated by the lack of answers, especially when it comes to the God of the Old Testament. When I started reading the OT, I had to put it down after three minutes because I felt so betrayed by the cruelty of God. I felt as if I had been duped this whole time into thinking that he was kind and loving, when here he was killing innocent people. I was shocked that he caused the earth to swallow up women and children along with various sinners, (Numbers Chapter 16, around verse 20) As a result, I have felt more distant from Jesus, he feels more like a stranger to me now.

Can anyone explain to me how this cruelty in the OT can possibly be justified?

***That my dear friend is a common reaction from those of us who don’t YET have a right understanding of God and God’s Perfect Nature. So allow me to give you a simple, yet very accurate and profound defination of God, as our starting point.

“GOD IS EVERY GOOD THING [and only every good thing] PERFECTED.”**

This is CRITICAL to understanding your concerns. What is means is that GOD IS CAPABLE of ONLY causing Good. BUT God does permit evil, so that humanities freewill can be exercised, and because very often, God displays His Magesty and Goodness through and from Evil.

This is easly proved by taking the WHOLE- Bible as “the complete truth.” God can NEVER change who and what God is. NEVER. Because God is a Trinity: One Divine and Perfect Nature; shared equally "Co-Equal and Co-Eternal] by Father, SON, and Holy Spirit. The God of the OT is the same God [Christ who suffered and died for us]. …[WOW, here is approiate:D]

Every violence permitted by God comes after or because of disobedience or disbelief in the One God, One Faith that both Yahweh and Christ INSIST UPON. Ten, Now, Always.

Perhaps the best way to prove this to you is too permit you to respond with specific examples of what you currently see as cruelity by God, and then allowing us to respond and explain [the rest of the story].

So my friend please provide a FEW examples [we do have space limitations to consider] and we’ll try, with God’s help, to explain these passages that concern you [and many others as well].

As a foundation for these descussions PLEASE understand that that a necessary part of God’s Love, and Goodness, ARE God’s Fairness and and Jutice.

We look froward to hearing back from you,

GOD BLESS YOU, your going about this in the RIGHT MANNER:)
Pat*

Have you studied typology? How Christ was foreshadowed in the OT?

Moses was up the mountain, speaking to God, when the Israelites fashioned the golden calf. Moses came down from the mountain, glowing with the glory of God and with the Commandments, and basically separated the sheep from the goats. Some fell into the crevice when the ground opened up and swallowed them. Some lived to continue on to be the children of God.

Now what do we know about the 2nd coming of Christ? I think we can see something of what it will be like in this event. Christ said that at the end of the age, he will come in glory and in power, and separate the sheep from the goats. Some will go to damnation, others to eternal life.

Think of the event with the Israelites as a teaching for us, to warn us that we do not know the time and place when Christ will come in glory and when the whole world will be separated into the sheep and the goats. Perhaps today we should say, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

Blessings to you.

Actually, I think I understand now. Paul Copan is a godsend. He explains it very well here. He has even written a whole book on the subject.

youtube.com/watch?v=ZavMx3gsTSE

If you want to go about this a different way… do a brief study of those who felt the same way you felt about the God of the Old testament… the gnostics. Even a quick glance at gnostic theology quickly shows you what happens when you think that the God of the old testament is less than fully good.

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