The Big Question 15: Is There Genocide in the Bible?
Aug 14, 2018 1983
Is there genocide in the Bible?
My daughter loves babies. After all, she is a midwife!
She’s a follower of Jesus, however the other day she came to me and said, “Dad, how is it that God told people to kill babies in the Bible?” Naturally, she couldn’t put together in her head the idea that God is loving, and that he would actually ask people to kill innocent babies.
The idea that God ordered genocide is a popular idea, but without any real basis in the reality of the Bible story.
What we do find in the Bible is God trying to defend his people, so that the knowledge of the true God wouldn’t die out in the earth, so that the promised Messiah could be born at the right time and in the right place and from the right people. And in the part of the Bible called the Old Testament, we see God trying to do this in a barbaric time when everything seems to be working against his plan.
But what most people don’t realise is that a lot of the language used in the Old Testament referring to warfare is just the usual metaphors and war propaganda that was commonly used in those ancient cultures. What I mean is this. Let’s say you follow Premier League Football, and you see the headline “Manchester United Annihilate Liverpool.”
No-one would think that this means that every member of the Liverpool football team was killed on the pitch during the match. Everybody knows that it’s a sporting metaphor – an exaggeration.
So, when the Bible talks about things like “killing every man, woman, and child,” these are simply the metaphors that were used to refer to warfare at that time. It simply means that they were meant to win a decisive victory, that’s all.
However, it’s true that there is a lot of killing in the Bible. And there’s a lot of sex too, by the way. The Bible reflects the reality of life here on earth, with all of its ups and downs, including all its suffering and pain.
The question is, how does God work in a world like this, with all of its mess? And the answer is that God works through it, and not apart from it. And if God works through it, through human choices, then despite how loving he may be, it’s gonna be messy.
So I’d be faking it if I were to give you easy answers, and I didn’t give my daughter easy answers either.
But here’s some key points I told my daughter:
- Firstly, God is God, and we are not; that means that he knows stuff that we cannot know, about what to us are seemingly impossible situations.
- Secondly, God has promised to make all things right; and by that he means everything.
- Thirdly, God has proved his love absolutely and ultimately through what Jesus did at the Cross.
- Fourth, God has promised that in the end, when we understand everything that went on behind the scenes, we will all agree that God was right and loving after all, in every situation that we can question today.
All of this tells me that I can trust in God’s goodness, no matter how chaotic everything around me might seem. So, when I see things I don’t fully understand, even in the Bible, I’m reserving my judgment, and I’m trusting God.