How can I "justify" the violence in the Old Testament?

As you know there are passages in the Old Testament where God, directly or through his prophets, orders his people to kill men, women, children and even animals. Can you refer me to an article or book that can help me understand, for lack of a better word, the “morality” or “justice” of those actions?

The way my father explained it was that God revealed himself gradually to his people, culminating in Jesus, who is Love. The conduct of the Jews in the Old Testament was therefore moral at any given time given their evolving degree of understanding the nature of God. I get that to some extent, but I’d like to go deeper. Thank you!


First of all God, as the creator of human life, has the right to take human life at any time and in any way He chooses. He is God, after all. When He calls people home as He does continually, we don’t consider it murder. And if individuals suffer here on earth, their reward is in heaven. In His human nature, Jesus, God the Son, Himself suffered great torture at the hands of His creatures and was put to death. When we deal with God, we are dealing with the greatest of all mysteries and we realize how little we are able to wrap of finite minds around the Infinite.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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