More on OT Violence
Someone told me off today for reading blogs too much and not reading my Bible enough. “You ought to be reading your Bible one hour for every hour that you spend reading blogs,” she said. “The only way you’ll know to identify counterfeit messages on the web is if you study the real deal,” she said.
What she doesn’t know is that reading Scripture terrifies me. Back in August, I resolved to read through the entire Bible. I’d never done it before, and I thought it was about time I knew this religious text that is treasured so highly by my Christian tradition. So I started in Genesis, and started rolling through. No surprises in that book. I grew up in the church; I know all about Adam and Eve, Cain, the Tower of Babel, Noah and the ark, Abraham and his descendents down through Joseph.
I knew the beginning of Exodus pretty well too. I know about Moses, and the Ten Plagues, and the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. I know about the parting of the Red Sea, and Moses’ acquiring of the Ten Commandments in the midst of the Israelites’ rebellious worship of the golden calf.
After that, though, things started spiraling out of control. Much of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are chock-full of stories and laws that are absolutely senseless. There are pages and pages—almost the entire book of Leviticus!—devoted to the specific requirements for how the tabernacle should be built. There are stories like this one, which I wrote about in a whirlwind of fury and betrayal. There are stories in which Israelites rebel, again and again, and God decimates them again and again. We see a petty, vengeful God in these early books of the Old Testament.
Reading those stories—reading about the rebellion of Korah, the mass murders at Sodom and Gomorrah, random lashings of violence in Numbers 11 as well as other bouts of plagues and even being bitten to death by fiery serpents (What?!?!! You say? Look it up – Numbers 21:6!) freaked me out so much. I don’t understand how people like the one I mentioned at the beginning of this post can read through the Bible cover-to-cover multiple times and not be absolutely terrified of the Old Testament God. I mean, I read it once, and that was all it took for me to fling my Bible away like it had scorched me and then dissolve into a puddle of tears!
So, that is that. That is why I just can’t read the Bible. Maybe that make me weak in spirit and unable to handle the truth of who God is, but I’d rather live in denial of the murderous, vengeful, sporadically violent God of the OT than embrace that God as one I am meant to worship and give my whole life to.
Here is another point I’d like to make that perhaps might be better reserved for a separate blog post, but I’m going to write it here anyway because it’s my blog and why not?
I think that even the staunchest fundamentalist cannot come to grips with the kind of god I described above. That is why, in the Answers in Genesis curriculum (and, I might add, every single Sunday school class I’ve ever been a part of), they skip from Moses to Joshua and ignore all the terrible stuff that goes on in between. And why is that? I think it’s because we human beings are created in the image of God, and our hearts reflect a dim, warped, but real expression of the nature of God. I think stories of God sending fiery serpents to bite Israelites to death makes us more uncomfortable that we’re willing to admit, and we don’t talk about verses like that because we intrinsically know that the violent God of the Old Testament is just irreconcilable with the merciful, violence-condemning Jesus that we see in the New Testament.
So yeah. I am done trying to jump through hoops and talking about how God is just, so He mass-murders sinners. I’m done talking about how Israelite rebellion deserves death, and I’m done talking about how the firstborn of Egypt are all just collateral damage in God’s divine plan to deliver the Israelites.
That God is not my God. And I’m not going to pretend He is, and neither should you.