Question about violence in the OT

My father was baptized Catholic but not raised in the faith. For years my mom has prayed for him to take RCIA. This summer he signed up for his first ever Bible Study at their parish. He is SO disturbed by all the violence God seems to enact (the flood in Noah’s time, the plagues in Egypt, battles God told His people to initiate, etc.) He came to me last week genuinely confused. HOW could God not just permit but encourage and initiate these things??! I did not know what to say. Do ya’ll??

My recommendation: read the New Testament. Read the Old Testament in light of the New Testament.

God specifically gives his reasons in there as well, he was administering justice. The Canaanites were committing child sacrifice, so he punished them violently, to give an example.

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God neither encouraged nor initiated. Ask your Dad if he encouraged or initiated you being grounded or losing your allowance when you misbehaved. No - we encouraged and initiated our Father punishing us based on our own voluntary decisions to disobey.

Noah flood because man continuously disobeyed God to the point God had to hit the reset button but promised man he’d never do it again

Plagues 100% caused by Pharohs stubbornness and refusal to free slaves. Even though he knew a new plague would come he still would hold onto the slaves. Just pure stubbornness

Same w battles, as someone said they were waged against people continuously disobeying God.

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Yes and a lot of times in the OT, God was using war to eliminate idolatry from the land and to protect Jews from the idolatry practiced by the surrounding tribes.

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God never acted maliciously, and He was very clear each time why He did what He did.

Well… my dad is about the gentlest man you can imagine. I don’t remember ever being grounded. Just the sort-of shocked, sad look on his face. For me, that was far worse than a grounding. I couldn’t handle disappointing him. The most awful “punishment” I remember way him saying sadly, “I thought you were smarter than that.” I died inside.

I think my dad thought of God as equally gentle. Problem is not all God’s children take such subtle hints I guess!!

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I need to read Genesis and Exodus again myself so I can find these “very clear” indications & share them with him. I think it would help him.

By the way, would ya’ll pray for him?? I feel like he’s finally opening a tiny door to the faith & I pray for him to have a personal experience with God during this time.


Of course we can! :slight_smile:

One thing, when you read it, while it is clear, you will need to be paying attention. Sometimes you can get caught up and miss details, and his explanations are sometimes short.

For example:
Leviticus 18:
24Do not defile yourselves by any of these things, because by them the nations whom I am driving out of your way have defiled themselves.25And so the land has become defiled, and I have punished it for its wickedness, and the land has vomited out its inhabitants.q26You, however, must keep my statutes and decrees, avoiding all these abominations, both the natives and the aliens resident among you—27because the previous inhabitants did all these abominations and the land became defiled;28otherwise the land will vomit you out also for having defiled it, just as it vomited out the nations before you.29For whoever does any of these abominations shall be cut off from the people.30Heed my charge, then, not to observe the abominable customs that have been observed before your time, and thus become impure by them.r I, the LORD, am your God.


Critical point.

OT = God getting sick and tired of humans unable to obey his laws

NT = God lovingly offering his only son so that man can have a decent chance to get to heaven. God didn’t have to do it. Remember in Genesis it was fall of Adam/Eve that inclined man to sin , thus so many couldn’t abide Gods law in OT


Here is another example from Deut 9
4After the LORD, your God, has driven them out of your way, do not say in your heart, “It is because of my justice the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,d and because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD is dispossessing them before me.”


God through the prophets gave plenty of warnings to the Israelites to repent and avoid punishment. They sinned, were punished, repented and forgiven.This cycle repeated itself. Each time they sinned God never abandoned them. He forgave them and welcomed them back like Hosea welcomed back his wife.

God even warned non Israelites such as Assyrians in the book of Jonah. They repented and were spared. It didn’t last though. They went back to their evil idolatrous ways and were eventually crushed.

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Read the Gospels with your Dad, Start there.
Then the rest of the New Testament. Then go back into the Old Testament later, after understanding Jesus and His Ministry more.

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We are not in a position to judge God’s actions.

I agree with what your father sees as terrible violence in the Old Testament, so hopefully I can be a sounding board as to some of the advice others have been giving you.

@ThomasBall recommended having your dad to read the Old Testament in light of the New Testament. To someone who doesn’t believe that method doesn’t negate the violence in the OT. It just makes the doubter wonder why God the Father seems utterly capable of any kind of compassion that his son seems to show. If anything it would push your father into Marcionism.

@Aquinas11 said that God never encouraged or initiated these things. In Exodus 34 God tells Moses “I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory”. Regarding the plagues in Egypt not only did God harden Pharaoh’s heart to prevent him from releasing the Hebrews, but since the fault lied with Pharaoh then justice should have been applied just to him. There’s no reason to set a series of plagues which would kill many. God initiated having a man killed for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. God set forth a detailed set of instructions as to how his people could obtain and abuse slaves, even though they were in the desert at the time and had spent over 400 years prior as slaves themselves.

@Zach said God gave many warnings about the punishments that he handed down, but much of that is highly disproportionate to what was done. A good analogy would be a mugging victim getting shot because he took too long handing over his wallet. Sure, the victim was warned, but it certainly wasn’t warranted. We can look at the story with the census where a monetary tribute wasn’t given as prescribed which caused thousands to die.

Finally, @lil_user says we are not in a position to judge God’s actions. I think we certainly are. Your father absolutely does. To try and brush it off by saying God’s morality is not our own or we simply don’t understand is not an explanation but a way to excuse great evil.


Thank you for understanding, Mike. I can at least let my dad know he’s not alone in his feelings. I think that will mean a lot to him.

Does anyone know good books that might explain the violence?

I mean it worked for me.

Speak for yourself, it answered it for me.

And if you actually read it you’ll find God has compassion on them all the time in the Old Testament. Also, the Son and Holy Spirit are both actively engaged in the Old Testament as well. God doesn’t change.

I can tell you selectively read scripture from this point. The Egyptians themselves chose to enslave the Hebrews because they were afraid of them the Pharaoh then personally chose to kill the children of the Hebrews.
As justice for these acts God hardened the pharaohs heart and punished them by also killing their children.

Not if you read scripture. Everything is actually perfectly proportionate.

Again, this makes it clear you haven’t read it.

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Do NOT take advice from an Atheist on God.

Read scripture, fully and completely, and don’t skim through it. You have to read and pay attention.

And anytime someone gives you advice like this:

Just remember what Satan said to Eve. Do not be like Eve who decided she could become like God and judge for herself what is good or evil.

Tell the serpent to get behind you and eat of his own poison.


Now, now, don’t you think this is just a bit rude? I’m sure he’s read it, just not the same way you have. I appreciate both ya’ll’s perspectives & appreciate you BOTH for posting here. No need to jump down someone’s throat for not seeing what you see in scripture. We are here to learn from one another, right?

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No, he’s done what atheists have done (as he is one, it makes sense) where they selectively pick out verses, say, “IVE READ IT!” and then leave off the context.

You can tell by the claims he didn’t read it because he’s leaving off important details.

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For goodness sakes! Who is an atheist? And regardless… atheists can think, too! They can also read the Bible. How else are they supposed to stop being atheists?! :wink: I’m happy for anyone with an opinion to chime in here. Someone who struggles in the same way as my dad, is consoling to hear from, as is everyone else.

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