How can God be justified in the OT when ordering the Israelites to kill children?

I need to answer this. It’s a doubt that gets me.

God is the author of all life. It is his to give, and it is his to take.

  1. Then God should have taken those lives himself and not forced his people to slaughter children.

  2. God is all-powerful yet he seems incapable of coming up with a solution that wouldn’t punish innocents.

  3. This rings awfully similar to those who have slaughtered Christians (of one kind or another) because supposedly that’s the will of their god.

I read that this was to be taken metaphorically. Other than that, I don’t know.

Yes!

It could be read metaphorically - just as the Israelites were to root out each & every one of their enemies, we are to root out sin in its entirety from our lives, not just thin it out.

But if it is taken literally, I also used to have great trouble with it … until ISIS. Now we read stories of children being trained to behead people; children playing soccer with the heads of enemies slaughtered; see photos of children holding them up lie tropies.

And in a very sad way, it makes a little more sense, now.

They were like any other people only less extreme.

The story is written like that (attributing this kind of motive to God) because it was the way to write stories in those days.

The land having been previously well nigh ethnically cleansed (and made uninhabitable by disasters) there were several peoples coming into the land from all angles, at roughly the same time. In fact the Israelites could have been 38 years earlier.

Now, most history parts of the Bible are in three versions - the out and out triumphalistic, a bit less so and thirdly the realistic version.

The essential thing about the Bible is the meaning that is hung on the pictures.

We are at any rate each to suppress the following in us:

  • people-pleasing (Canaanites)
  • trying to just impress people whether by appearing “entertaining” or striking fear (Hittites)
  • playboys (Hivites)
  • believing we are too “little” for God to help (Perizzites - it means “village people” :wink: )
  • short-term material like Esau and the birthright (Girgashites and Gergesenes)
  • lording it over others (Amorites)
  • the lieutenants of the Amorites - boot lickers or cronies (Jebusites)

The clergyman who rode his hoverboard in the sermon thus appears somewhat Hittite and Hivite. Amorite and Canaanite are typical clergy pitfalls as well, unfortunately (as well as politicians :wink: )

Perizzite and Jebusite are extremely commonplace among the laity sadly!

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are counter to those. I can’t remember where I saw the details except that a genuine-hearted prophet would be opposite to Hittite.

Many pop singers have a latent prophetic aptitude but the Church often hasn’t been there for them to receive Good News to pass on through their gift. Now they are being called out of this world in large numbers.

How about ordering for babies to be killed? So what? At best, your doubts doesn’t disprove God’s existence but rather it shows that he’s not all-good or that the Bible’s description of him is misleading.

My theory is that God used foreknowledge to judge the children. This would have to also be a foreknowledge that these kids would never repent or turn to God and would live a life not following God. Based on this foreknowledge, God ordered whole civilizations to be taken out.

Another explanation is that the biblical writers were using warfare rhetoric or hype that was a product of the Canaanite culture. This explanation is advanced by philosopher Paul Copan in his book, Is God a Moral Monster?. So pretty much anywhere in the military campaigns of the OT that depict total annihilation are not to be taken as literally true. The author points to passages in the Bible where a civilization was said to be completely wiped out but then we find mention of them in later passages. The following summarizes some of his points or you can read his book…
enrichmentjournal.ag.org/201004/201004_138_Canannites.cfm (start reading at the section titled, Ancient Near East Warfare Rhetoric).

As a non-Christian, I also wanted to comment about your doubts. If your overall doubt is the problem of evil argument or moral arguments against God, then explaining this one passage may not be enough. I can bring up countless of other examples. What would’ve helped me is if I had a evidential/rational or any positive support for believing that God exists. If I had this then perhaps I would not have left Christianity and I could’ve concluded that xtianity has its problems (or maybe no current answer I could find) but I can’t dismiss all of the positive reasons. Without having a positive supporting reason to fall back on you might continue to struggle with doubts.

**There is a lesson to be learned here.
When YHWH orders war, that war is just, no matter what the circumstances.
As His creations, we are not privileged to question anything that He does.

On the other hand we, as followers of Jesus, are bound by His edicts, and those include the trust in YHWH for all things, servitude to all, and non-resistance to all.
We are not privileged order war ourselves. That act is reserved for YHWH alone.

Cardinal Turkson has questioned our current Just War Doctrine.**

catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/04/26/encyclical-on-just-war-theory-plausible-says-cardinal/

This must be the most oft asked question on the forum. The Catholic Church does not read scripture with the literalist fundamentalists.
It’s always interesting that fundamentalists have a lot in common with atheists.

The truth of scripture flows from the light of Jesus Christ.

Pope Benedict address this difficulty directly here in Verbum Domini
w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20100930_verbum-domini.html

The “dark” passages of the Bible
42. In discussing the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments, the Synod also considered those passages in the Bible which, due to the violence and immorality they occasionally contain, prove obscure and difficult. Here it must be remembered first and foremost that biblical revelation is deeply rooted in history. God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resistance. God chose a people and patiently worked to guide and educate them. Revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times and thus describes facts and customs, such as cheating and trickery, and acts of violence and massacre, without explicitly denouncing the immorality of such things. This can be explained by the historical context, yet it can cause the modern reader to be taken aback, especially if he or she fails to take account of the many “dark” deeds carried out down the centuries, and also in our own day. In the Old Testament, the preaching of the prophets vigorously challenged every kind of injustice and violence, whether collective or individual, and thus became God’s way of training his people in preparation for the Gospel. So it would be a mistake to neglect those passages of Scripture that strike us as problematic. Rather, we should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective which has as its ultimate hermeneutical key “the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal mystery”.[140] I encourage scholars and pastors to help all the faithful to approach these passages through an interpretation which enables their meaning to emerge in the light of the mystery of Christ.

God is sovereign over human life. We are not. Full stop.

Yes that is true.
How are you applying that truth to the question at hand?

  1. What is the Church’s position on 1 Samuel 15, Hosea 13:16, and 2 Kings 15:16?
  2. If it’s not literal, what is the allegorical, moral, or anagogical sense that it should be read?
  3. If it’s not literal, why specifically should a reader choose a non-literal reading over a literal reading?
  4. Whether literal or not, does the reading reflect poorly on God? (This is one that’s often missed, since non-literal readings can show God in a bad light.)

You’re right that the question of interpreting so-called “dark” passages of the Bible is one of the most common questions on CAF. The problem is that the responses almost never go beyond telling the questioner to not worry since it’s likely not literal. That’s an insufficient answer to what are serious questions people often ask about their faith.

Simply because God is sovereign over human life and will stop everybody’s breathing, He is not to be judged or justified in the means He chooses to do it in anybody’s particular case, even if other persons are involved. He is not subject to our justifications.

We have a sentimental hierarchy in which babies >>> children > adults in value. But a human being is a human being, and human beings of all ages die every hour.

ICXC NIKA

These questions are answered ad nauseum.
You might not like the answers.
Not a problem, but let’s not pretend the Church doesn’t have answers.
That would not be true.
There’s tons and tons of discussion on this. I have participated in several exhausting threads.
You could do some research.
The usual way these end up is, the atheists insist on reading these passages in the same way as Christian fundamentalists, and the two sides have a great discussion. :rolleyes:
The conclusions about God are simply different. Neither side is well reasoned.

For the sake or brevity, I will simply point to the passage from Verbum Domini as a good starting point for the Catholic take on this.
Did you read the passage from Verbum Domini? That is really great, if you want answers. (sounds like you really do)

Jesus Christ is God’s full and final revelation of himself, in the flesh.
If something in scripture seems to contradict Jesus Christ, it is probably being read the wrong way.

This was the way of living for the ancient societies and the language of absolutes was the only language ancient Israelities understood. The unbeleievers in the OT are the synonym of evil to be uprooted.

In the OT there was no revolutionary change of the human ways introduced by God. Even the chosen nation was deep in Original sin. The only thing the Lord could do to restrain their behaviour before the Incarnation, while retaining their freedom of will, was to bring their customs to order. Exterminate the enemy, but accept anyone who wants to live oike you - a simple and effextive principle.

God also does not act contrary to his revealed nature.
“Logos”.

What do you think of the passage from Verbum Domini?
How about Benedict’s Regensburg Address?

God has logos. God is logos.

In any case, I am not going to contend over published statements by Popes.
I will simply defer to them.

One problem is, the question is somewhat of a non-starter.
As GEddie has noted, God is justice, his is not justified.
But the question is a little like asking
“was I justified in beating my wife on Mothers Day?”
It’s not in my nature frankly to beat my wife. Not to the same degree of certitude that God’s nature is reliable, but you get the point.

Better to ask, “what truth is God revealing to us in this passage?”
One of those truths is the admonition to root sin out of our lives, and to have no party with it.

Great, I’m ready for those answers!

There’s tons and tons of discussion on this. I have participated in several exhausting threads.

Including specifics like I’m asking for? I must admit being doubtful.

You could do some research.

Uh oh. I suspect I’m not going to get any specifics.

The usual way these end up is, the atheists insist on reading these passages in the same way as Christian fundamentalists, and the two sides have a great discussion. :rolleyes:
The conclusions about God are simply different. Neither side is well reasoned.

Please re-read my questions. I’m allotting for the possibility of non-literal answers. What I’m also saying is that doing so raises further questions which then aren’t answered. As a general principle, there are often more than one non-literal ways to read a passage (e.g. the debate between preterism and futurism). It’s a good idea to find why a reader should choose one over the other, or choose a literal versus a non-literal reading. And as mentioned non-literal readings of some passages don’t nullify the “darkness” of some of the “dark passages”. Nothing you’ve written or linked to answers any of my four questions.

For the sake or brevity, I will simply point to the passage from Verbum Domini as a good starting point for the Catholic take on this.
Did you read the passage from Verbum Domini? That is really great, if you want answers. (sounds like you really do)

Jesus Christ is God’s full and final revelation of himself, in the flesh.
If something in scripture seems to contradict Jesus Christ, it is probably being read the wrong way.

First it presupposes that we can’t find trouble in a passage where God the Father contradicts the peace of Jesus because doing so would… show a contradiction between God the Father and Jesus. :shrug: Second, it’s all a bunch of non-answers. Apologists will shout to the heavens that a certain passage can’t be taken literally without taking a moment to go into the whats and whys of a non-literal taking.

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