Why did God tell people to kill others in the Old Testament but not in the New?

Just the other day, I walked with two friends (both call themselves atheists) and discussed the possibility of God in this world.  One exclaimed, “If your God created all this, then he must be one mean s* o* b*.”  How could I respond to that statement?

  • I could get mad and rant back at him.
  • I could pretend I didn’t hear it.
  • I could try to give him logical reasons to try to make sense out of it.
  • I could listen to why he made that conclusion.

I believe my response was somewhere between trying to make sense out of it and trying to let him talk.  The question of God’s judgment is always spoken about with great passion.  It only makes sense that the topic often brings similar judgments against God.  This statement is not too different from when my preteen son ran from the room screaming, “I hate you!!”  Although my actions had been meant in love, he only saw them as spiteful and mean.  Look at the on-line discussions of great coaches.  Many of them reference a similar phrases to my friend above; yet the players who became great under their tutelage will only hold great respect.  This is where the cross and resurrection speaks volumes.  It is the only message that a god could send that makes sense of the suffering and trials that this life presents.

However, I have not yet addressed the differences between the old and new testament.  First, we must acknowledge that it would be inconsistent for a God that sees eternity to treat this physical life with as much treasure as we do.  That does not answer the question, but it sets the context to begin searching.  This blog will not deal with the questions of hell, that is a future blog.  A previous blog has laid the groundwork for this discussion in showing that the Biblical narrative follows the various stages of parenting as defined by Wayne Rice, a family counselor and author.  For a more thorough discussion see this blog.  God’s interactions with mankind fit into the parenting stages.

  1. Catering: Newborn to toddler parallels the Garden of Eden experience.
  2. Controlling: Toddler through Pre-K parallels being cast from the garden up to the exodus from Egypt.
  3. Coaching: Kindergarten through middle school parallels the Exodus through the Judges.
  4. Consulting: Middle school through high school or college parallels the time of the kings and prophets.
  5. Caring: Adult life parallels the mature message of Jesus.

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.  The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.  So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Gal 4:1-7)

A good parent does not treat their adult child the same as when they were a toddler.  Neither does God treat mankind the same as he works toward his final purpose, “To create man in his image.”  To see the progression from controlling parent to loving grandparent is precisely what should be seen.  I’ll leave that for you to ponder.

I really want to spend our time in two case studies that are frequently cited against God: 1) the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and 2) the commanded destruction of the nations that lived in the promised land.

The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah begin with one of the most interesting statements in the whole Bible.

And the Lord said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” (Gen 18:20-21)

God has heard many people crying out to him against this city; it is no wonder.  When the two angels visited the town, all the men of the town, young and old, surrounded the house to rape the guests.  They were an insatiable crowd with no remorse and incapable of feeling sorrow or being reasoned with.  They would not take “No” for an answer and were forcing their way into the house. (Gen 19:4-10)

Imagine raising a young child in that city.  Any child would immediately be used for whatever pleasure other’s could dream up.  They would be abused in every imaginable way.  A child could only survive by becoming like the rest of the town.

God’s act of destruction is merciful in two ways.  It ends the misery of those suffering at the hands of evil men, and it prevents more children from being born into that environment.  God did not rush to pronounce this judgment.  He sent angels to find out if it was truly as bad as he was hearing.  He was willing to save the whole city if only ten righteous souls were found there. (Gen 18:33)  Perhaps one could fault God for allowing this situation to get so bad, but, as a father of three boys, I find it difficult to fault him for destroying the city.

Now we turn to the events that happened as the nation of Israel went into the promised land.  They were instructed to destroy “with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. (Jos 6:21)”  Indeed this is quite brutal; however, this was not quick.   God waited four hundred years, allowing the descendants of Abraham to be slaves in Egypt “for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure. (Gen 15:16)”  Even as Israel entered the promised land, God reminded them that He would drive these nations out not because Israel is righteous but “on account of the wickedness of these nations. (Deut 9:5).”  These too were a people who burned their children to idols and did many perverse and abusive acts.  Again, some may find fault that God allows these abuses to occur, but He cannot be faulted for being to hasty.

Perhaps you know the rest of the story.  Israel did not heed God’s direction and, quickly, began practicing the same evil that these nations did.  Israel suffered far more over the following 1500 years by not obeying.  The poor were enslaved.  The widows were stripped of their land.  The orphans were sold and brutalized.  Their children were burned at the alter.  Ultimately, God sent the same destruction on Israel that they had been instructed to follow.

You should ask yourself…  What would you have God do if your own child were the victim of repeated abuse and torment?  What would you have Him do if young minds are being corrupted without the chance to choose a better path?  Remember that God sees eternity, and is consistent in valuing it above physical life.  Can you see eternity in these stories?

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