Introduction

This study investigates slavery and genocide as revealed in the Bible.? Does God condone slavery and genocide since we see regulations about them in Scripture?? Some believe that God committed genocide through His people and promoted slavery.? Of course, even a cursory look at the bible and how God revealed himself will show the complete opposite is true.? I have found that a big problem with people reading the Bible is that they don?t know God and they know nothing about the Bible to properly interpret what was written.? They read the Bible like a rule book or a book of recipes that show us the steps to living.? However, those are not the purpose of the Bible.

One of the most important things that is necessary when reading the Bible is to establish proper context.? It is very easy for a person today in the 21st century to apply the current culture and customs to people who lived thousands of years ago.? It is also easy if one is not careful to think that what we read in the Bible regarding ancient civilizations (e.g., the Hebrews) apply to us today.

When studying or even reading the Bible it is important that we consider the time at which the passage really applies, how those at that time period would have interpreted what was written given their culture and customs, and the techniques that were used in writing (especially history.? Ancient writers did not write history the same way we write history today).?

Therefore, this study will highlight all of these tasks so that we can more accurately interpret the Scriptures and therefore extract what the message really is.? This study will be composed of the following sections.

  • God revealed ? What is God (Yahweh) like in the first place?
  • Humans revealed ? How are we in relation to God?s creation?
  • Humans and God ? How does God interact with humans?
  • God?s will ? A look at the idea that everything that happens is God?s will
  • Slavery in antiquity versus modern slavery
  • A more accurate revelation of slavery in the Bible
  • Genocide

God Revealed

What if someone was talking to me and said that you stole a car and crashed it into a pole after robbing a store?? Let?s also assume that I know you personally and know that you are an upright honest person that would never do such a thing.? I would immediately know the person is either lying or much mistaken about who did those things.?? Why?? I know you (your character) and I know that it is very unlikely that you would do what you were accused of doing.? This concept of ?knowing? is very important when we consider what God does.? If we don?t first take the time to know who God is and what He is like then we could easily come to believe false things about him.? Unfortunately, people are very much like that.? That is, people tend to believe anything without thinking of the validity of what is being said or the reliability of the person saying it.? They think they know God because of some Scriptures that are typically taken out of context anyway.? People treat the Bible like a recipe book or a book of formulas and miss the entire point of what God was doing throughout the millennia, which is based on the relationship, not rules and laws.

The first thing we need to do therefore knows God.? If I want to know if God condones slavery then I need to know God.? If the character of God is such that he condones the oppression of people by other people then I can more likely believe that he would condone slavery.? If I find that God does not operate or promote the idea of people oppressing each other than I could say that it is unlikely that He would condone slavery because that would be the antithesis of His nature and I would, therefore, have to interpret what I read about slavery in the Bible another way.? So let?s first briefly investigate the nature of God with regards to humanity.? This foundation will help us properly interpret Scripture about slavery and genocide.

Knowing God

There is a big difference in knowing someone and knowing about someone.? To actually know someone means that a relationship is involved.? You come to know the person because you have spent time with him or her personally and observed their reactions, thoughts, etc.? To know about someone is just to know that the person exists, their name, occupation, political stance, some facts about him, etc.

This brings us to an interesting point.? How can we humans know God?? God is an infinite being with no beginning and no end.? Humans describing God would be something like a flea trying to describe humans to another flea.?

What if God reaches down to our level and told us who He is and what He is?? What if people who have interacted with God personally wrote about their experiences?? What if witnesses of events attributed to God wrote about those events?? If these were done in sufficient quantities then we could come to know a lot about God.? If God spoke to us and told us about himself then we could know still more about God.? If we discovered that God actually wanted a personal relationship with us and we took advantage of that by entering into a personal relationship according to His instructions then we could come to know God personally!

Knowing God, therefore, is like knowing anyone else.? We can enter into a personal relationship with Him and observe what He does and how He interacts with us.? We can take advantage of the writings of others who wrote about their experiences with God, etc.? Once we know about God and know Him personally we are much better able to say what He would or would not do in the same way we could say what our child would or would not do.

God’s Revelation of Himself

The agnostic says that we cannot know God.? However, evidence shows us that we can know God.? Consider the following passage of Scripture from the Apostle Paul.

Romans 1:18-21 (NLT) – {18} But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. {19} They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. {20} For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities?his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. {21} Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn?t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.

Consider another passage from King David.

Psalm 19:1-2 (NLT) – {1} For the choir director: A psalm of David. The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. {2} Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.

What the Apostle Paul and King David said from their experiences and revelation from God is that God?s creation tells us a lot about Him.
Science shows us that there must be a creator.? Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate.? This gave the notion of a big bang at the beginning of the universe.? Whether there was a big bang or not (no one was there) evidence shows that the universe is indeed expanding.? This means that there was a point in time when everything was closer to each other and perhaps a time when everything was together.? The data suggests that there was a beginning to the universe, which implies someone or something created it.? The universe must have had a creator.? This doesn?t tell us who God is, but it gives us information about the creator through what he created just like the Apostle Paul and King David noted.

In theology, the revelation about God through nature is called general revelation.? Nature can only reveal some attributes of God such as Him being extremely powerful, organized, a super genius, etc. ?Nature cannot tell us if God is nice, good, fair, whether or not he cares about His creation, etc.? In order for us to know things like that about God we are going to have to experience God personally or He is going to have to reveal to us his character, which he has done.

The Bible ? Special Revelation

God has revealed himself throughout the history of humans and some of these individuals recorded their experiences.? It is a lot like someone today recording their testimony of how God blessed them or what God did in a particular situation.? We have this record of the dealings of God in human history through the Bible.? We can observe through these records how God operated, what He did, what He said to people, etc.? We get a direct insight of God through the record presented to us by the Bible.? God inspired these people to write and to reveal for times to come to the nature of God, the disposition of God to His creation, the character of God, etc.

The Ultimate Revelation ? Jesus Christ

Yes.? We can learn a lot about the character of someone by reading what others have written about their experience with that person and things that people wrote about that person.? However, the best way to really get to know someone is by a personal interaction/relationship.?

But how can a mere human see God in order to have a personal experience with Him? How can we truly know if our experience with God is actually that?? The answer to those questions is Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ben Yosef or Yeshua son of Yosel or Joshua son of Joseph).? Consider what the writer of Hebrews wrote.

Hebrews 1:1-3 (HCSB) – {1} Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. {2} In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things and through whom He made the universe. {3} He is the radiance of His glory, the exact expression of His nature, and He sustains all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Jesus also said something about this.

John 10:30 (HCSB) – {30} The Father and I are one.?

John 14:9 (HCSB) – {9} Jesus said to him, ?Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ?Show us the Father??

This is amazing to us.? This basically means that if I want to know what God is like then all I need do is see what Jesus is like.? God himself came to us as a human as Jesus Christ.? Yes.? That sounds amazing, but it is what is revealed to us through prophecy and in the Bible.? Investigating this particular subject is beyond the scope of this study, however.? Suffice it for me to say that Jesus is how we can know what God is like, His disposition about things (e.g., sickness), etc.

Now, of course, we weren?t living when Jesus physically walked the earth.? So again we rely on the testimony and writings of others who came into direct contact with Jesus.? This means that the Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are extremely valuable for us to know God.

What is God Like?

I said all of that to get to this one point, namely what God is like.? I cannot completely describe God because He is an infinite being and I am very finite and extremely limited in knowledge and understanding compared to Him.? However, the Bible does reveal a lot of the nature and character of God.? Below are some of the characteristics of God revealed to us in Scripture.

God is love

1 John 4:8 (HCSB) – {8} The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Note that God is defined as being love.? It isn?t as though there is a concept outside of God that He is compared with.? He is love.? If you want to know what love is then looking at God because He is love.

God loves us

John 3:16 (HCSB) – {16} ?For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 5:8 (HCSB) – {8} But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!

God loves us so much that Jesus died for us.? Jesus didn?t die for the good people.? He died for all of us even while we were still living a life of sin.? God isn?t waiting for us to get our lives right before he saves us.? He has already provided salvation and the only thing we need do is believe in Jesus Christ.

God wants us to be saved

1 Timothy 2:4 (HCSB) – {4} who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

God wants everyone to be saved not just a select few as some believe.? What is even more amazing is that this salvation is obtained not through performing deeds, but through believing in Jesus Christ?That Jesus died for your sins, rose from the dead on the third day, and is even now with the Father (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-8).? Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote.

Ephesians 2:8 (HCSB) – {8} For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God?s gift?
Some other things that are revealed to us through the Bible are listed below.

  • God demands loyalty
  • God cares for the poor
  • God is just and demands justice
  • Merciful
  • Patient
  • The Healer
  • The provider
  • Righteous
  • Peace
  • Lord of hosts, i.e., ruler of the heavenly armies
  • Responds with wrath against sin, disobedience, and injustices
  • Forgiving

These and other things we learn about God from the testimonies of others.? Of important note is the fact that God is love and that God loves all people and so much so that He sent Jesus to die for all of us so that we could be in right relations with Him and escape from the impending doom of His wrath on all sin and unrighteousness.

Humans Revealed

What is human relationship and interaction supposed to be like according to what God originally intended and is our relationship with each other consistent with that original design?? Let?s look at what the Bible teaches us about God?s original design for humans.

Genesis 1:26-31 (HCSB) – {26} Then God said, ?Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.? {27} So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. {28} God blessed them, and God said to them, ?Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.? {29} God also said, ?Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth, and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This food will be for you, {30} for all the wildlife of the earth, for every bird of the sky, and for every creature that crawls on the earth?everything having the breath of life in it. I have given every green plant for food.? And it was so. {31} God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Evening came, and then morning: the sixth day.

And

Genesis 5:1-2 (HCSB) – {1} These are the family records of the descendants of Adam. On the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God; {2} He created them male and female. When they were created, He blessed them and called them man.

Note the following points from what the Bible reveals about God?s creation of the human.

  • He created a male and a female and called them ?Adam? (translated to man)
  • God gave both the male and female dominion over the creation
  • God did NOT give man dominion over man, which also implies males did not have dominion over female (they were one flesh/unit)
  • God provided food for man from what He had already created
  • These first humans were blessed and in right relations with God.? All was good, i.e., the way God wanted it to be.

The important point relevant to this study is that humans did not originally have dominion over other humans.? Humans had dominion over the animals that God created and the plants that they had for food.

The Corrupted Design

Shortly after God created man something very bad happen.? Not to get into details, which is beyond the scope of this study anyway, suffice it for me to say that the woman was deceived by a serpent while her husband was standing right there watching the whole thing unfold.? Already the human race is messed up because of sin?even the sin-induced by inaction.

Genesis 3:6 (HCSB) – {6} Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Of course, it goes on that their disobedience (sin) resulted in their spiritual demise and subsequent separation from God because of the darkness that they imposed on themselves (because of their God-given free will) by their disobedience.

What God originally created was now corrupted.? We see the consequences of this right away.

Genesis 3:16-17 (HCSB) – {16} He said to the woman: I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children in anguish. Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will dominate you. {17} And He said to Adam, ?Because you listened to your wife?s voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ?Do not eat from it?: The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life.

Let me point out that the word ?desire? in verse 16 comes from a Hebrew word that means a very strong emotion or feeling to have or do something.? This strong desire may refer to sexual urges or desires, or a desire to dominate, or just be independent of the man.

We see that the woman wants to dominate her husband or have strong desires for him and the husband will dominate her.? Already they are outside of the original design of God because of sin.? This brings up a very important point.? The world at the time of this passage and the world as it is today is far removed from what God originally designed.? Sin has corrupted God?s design and has put man against man, woman against woman, and male against female. ?It has even made man/humans estranged from God so to speak. God never intended for humans to dominate each other.? Consider cultures and religions where women are oppressed, children are abused, people are oppressed, etc.? These are all far removed from what God designed.

Humans are a corrupted version of what God originally created.? Our thoughts, actions, desires, goodness, etc. are all corrupted.? Even how we think and calculate are skewed by the corruption that entered man (mankind, humans) because of disobedience to God in the beginning and now.

From what we have discovered thus far we can say that God does not condone slavery or genocide.? Those are the antithesis of His nature and design for humans.? We can say that these, as well as other human behaviors, are the result of the corruption brought on by the original sin and even our continued disobedience to the ways of God.

How God interacts with humans

How does God interact with us now that we are spiritually separated from Him because of sin? ??God still loves us and has instituted a way so that we can return to right relations with Him.? God didn?t abandon us, but rather sought to save us from our sins.

When reviewing the many testimonies and writings of the biblical authors I find something very interesting happening with regards to how God operates with regards to the affairs of people.? God works through people.? When the love of God is to manifest to feed a hungry person then someone will come and meet the needs of that hungry person.? God?s love and care is expressed through the love and care of people and through their corresponding actions.? Likewise, the wrath of God may come through people as well as we see in the Old Testament.? We see time and time again in the Old Testament that when people disobeyed God they suffered the consequences by coming from under His protection and subsequently being conquered and oppressed by another nation.

God interacts with us through us.? He does speak to us spiritually, but that in most cases is to prompt us to do something.? The revelation that we have of God is that He does not supersede the affairs of men by magically causing His will to be done.? He works through people. Satan also works through people.? People are responsible for what they do on this earth and the subsequent consequences.? God gave humans dominion over His creation (not over other humans), but that dominion is now tainted by sin and we do not operate in the full righteous capacity that God intended and therefore the will of God is not fully demonstrated throughout human history even to this day.

God?s will

Another misconception is that all that happens in the world is the will of God.? Such is definitely not the case.? Was it God?s will for the original humans to sin and cause death on themselves and all of creation? No. Was it God?s will for the Hebrews to come out of Egypt and wonder 40 years in the wilderness? ?No. Is it God?s will for people to die and go to hell so to speak? No.? We suffer all of those things because of our own decision.? Adam and Eve chose to sin even though they knew what God had commanded them.? The Hebrews wandered 40 years in the wilderness because they refused to trust God and therefore did not do what He told them to do.? It is God?s will for everyone to be saved, but some reject His salvation.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 (HCSB) – {3} This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, {4} who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

It is not God?s will for people to get sick and die.? It is not God?s will for people to be in poverty.? It is not God?s will for people to oppress other people.? It is not God?s will for the husband to beat the wife.? I could go on and on.? It is God?s will for us to love each other and have that love manifest itself in a plethora of ways.? We are unfortunately too spiritually sick to allow God?s love to flow through our lives like that and then we blame God for what happens to us.? Oy Vey.

The Real Enemy

What if there were an honest police officer and a criminal standing outside of your home.? What if you went into your home and realized that several items were missing.? Who would you suspect the thief to be?? Most people would suspect the police officer if they use the same reasoning that some use with respect to God and what happens to us in our lives.? They fail to realize that there is a thief or that he even exists.

John 10:10 (HCSB) – {10} A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.

1 Peter 5:8 (HCSB) – {8} Be sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.

Acts 10:38 (HCSB) – {38} how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and curing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him.

There is a cunning stealthy enemy out there and many fail to realize that or admit it.? The thief steals.? The murderer murders.? The liar lies.? Yet we blame God for killing us with cancer, taking our stuff, and lying to us from the Bible. We forget that we are corrupt in thinking, spirit, and in deed and that there is a real enemy causing all of our grief.

The real enemy is Satan and we let him off the hook all the time.? Instead of standing against him and his devices when we are sick, poor, stuff got stolen, lied to, etc. we with great boldness and utter ignorance say, ?God did it!?

In the same way that God works through people by His Spirit to do His will the enemy works through people to do his will too.? People look for the good guys to win in the movies recognizing that there is a struggle between good and evil, but fail to interpolate that same concept to real life.

God is Not a Puppet Master

Psalm 32:8-9 (HCSB) – {8} I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with My eye on you, I will give counsel. {9} Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding, that must be controlled with bit and bridle, or else it will not come near you.

God does not control the affairs of humans like a puppet master controls his puppet. Time and time again we see God?s will being carried out by obedient men and women.? God instructs us so that we would do the right thing, but many times we don?t. ?He doesn?t control us like someone would control a horse who has no understanding of where it is going. Then there are those who look at the evils of men and complain that God didn?t pull the puppet strings.

So to say God allows slavery is quite ridiculous given our previous discussion.? God allows humans to have free will and because of our own greed and pride we enslave one another in one way or another.? It is the fallen man (human) that causes the pains in the world where people inflict harm on other people or do nothing to help someone in need.? God has done much to help us and provide for all, but we just refuse to obey.

Used By God But Not All is of God

If one is careful you may notice that it is possible for a practice to be permitted by people used by God and yet that practice is not God?s desire.? Consider the following passage of Scripture.

Matthew 19:3-8 (HCSB) – {3} Some Pharisees approached Him to test Him. They asked, ?Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds?? {4} ?Haven?t you read,? He replied, ?that He who created them, in the beginning, made them male and female, {5} and He also said: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? {6} So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate.? {7} ?Why then,? they asked Him, ?did Moses command us to give divorce papers and to send her away?? {8} He told them, ?Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts. But it was not like that from the beginning.

Here we have what may appear to be a contradiction.? On the one hand, it is assumed that God permitted divorce because Moses gave the Hebrews the law purportedly from God.? However, Jesus said that what Moses did was not God?s original intent, which we discussed previously.? Moses allowed divorce regulations because the people?s hearts were hardened.? Again this is another indication of the fallen state of the human race.

What this tells us is that just because a ?man of God? institutes a particular practice does not mean that it is what God really wants.? It may be permitted because of another set of conditions.? For example, there were Apostolic Fathers of the Christian faith that accepted slavery.? They accepted slavery not because it was godly or righteous, but because in their culture slavery was accepted and a normal part of life.? Even the great Augustine of Hippo believed that slavery was wrong, but that there was no way to stop it because of the culture and that it to some extent was a necessary evil to maintain some type of harmony.

There are many things that are recorded in the Bible that are not the will of God but are permitted.? The first and probably greatest example of this was the original sin in the Garden of Eden.? We have to be careful to understand the true will of God before we credit Him for the will of men.

Slavery in antiquity versus modern slavery

When the typical American thinks of slavery he thinks of the African slave trade in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.? However, slavery has existed since ancient times.? The earliest evidence of slavery occurs in the Code of Hammurabi, which is from Babylon in the 18th century B.C.? However, the code does not show a slavery system that is brutal as in other nations including the U.S.? Slaves in Babylon could own property for one thing.

A person entered slavery by one of at least five ways.

  • Prisoner of war
  • Sentenced to slavery for a crime
  • Pay a debt by selling yourself or older children into slavery
  • Born to slaves
  • Kidnapped and sold into slavery

There were slaves in ancient Babylon, Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome.? Early Christians and Muslims had slaves and/or participated in the sale of humans as slaves.

Most slaves were acquired by war.? The Roman Empire may have had up to 20-25% of its population as slaves at one point.? As the Roman expansion slowed and eventually stopped, the number of slaves acquired through war decreased.? This severely affected the economic condition of Rome because it was heavily dependent on slave labor.

The slaves were at the mercy of their masters.? The master could in some cases allow the slave to go free.? In ancient times slaves would work for a number of years and then be let free.? However, in Greek culture, you were a slave for life unless released by your master.? In the Greek and Roman Empire, a slave could indeed save up enough money to purchase his freedom.? However, in the Greek Empire, a freed slave could never achieve citizenship.

A detailed or even cursory look at slavery in human history is well beyond the scope of this study.? We should realize that slavery is a part of the whole of human history.? It was an accepted and expected part of ancient thought and some civilizations were significantly dependent on it and without slavery could not have achieved the greatness that it did (e.g., the Greek Empire, early America).

Though slavery has existed in all of recorded human history it was not the will of God.? Recall that we said that God?s original design was for humans to rule the creation not each other.? Because of the effects of sin humans found ways to oppress each other by the influence of the true enemy–Satan.? Satan was also successful in concealing his activities and getting people to blame God for the evil that we do to each other.

Environmental and Dispensational Context

We have to be careful not to place our 21st-century mindset back in ancient times.? We in America perceive slavery to be atrocious and a great evil especially Black (African) Americans. ?However such was not necessarily the case in antiquity, especially for Hebrews.? Slavery was an accepted way of life.? Slavery didn?t quite look like the African Slave Trade.? It wasn?t until the Greek empire came along that slavery seemed to take a more vicious turn.

Also, recall that God operates within the culture of people.? We do not see a revelation of God where He just stomps on the scene and does whatever He wants.? We see God operating within the mindset of people.? Consider when the Israelites wanted a King.? God did not want them to have a King like the surrounding nations because He knew what would happen.? However, they insisted on having a king.? God allowed them to have a King and the events that followed was as God had warned them.? See 1 Samuel Chapters 8 and 9.

Thoughts on Slavery

With all that we have said thus far how do we reconcile the revealed nature of God and the fact that the bible gives laws that included and accommodated slavery?? Here are the important points to consider.

  • People?s disposition of slavery was not the same in antiquity as it is now.? It was a normal part of life then and it wasn?t vicious as it is now and in the African Slave Trade
  • Even ancient times (e.g., Babylon, ancient Egypt, etc.) slavery was not the same as it was when the Greeks came on the scene.? Ancient civilizations were not as dependent on slaves as the Greek and Roman Empires were.
  • God does not force His will on people.
  • Because of sin humans do not operate according to the way of God.
  • God is love, but all that happens on the earth is not of love
  • We have to realize that there is another ?force? affecting the actions of men and that ?force? if you will, is Satan.

Slavery is not of God, but of the devil.? God is against slavery because at its core slavery is the antithesis of God?s plan for humans.? We should not be oppressing each other but edifying and helping each other.? Satan is the one who destroys and he has successfully concealed his activates so that we blame God for the evil that we do in Satan?s name.

IF YOU SHINE THE LIGHT ON SLAVERY AND EXPEL THE DARKNESS THEN YOU WILL FIND EVIL MEN INFLUENCED BY SATAN BEHIND THE CURTAINS. WHAT WE DON?T REALIZE IS THAT GOD HAS BEEN SHINING THE LIGHT SINCE THE BEGINNING!

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Genocide

Is God an unjust tyrant who kills and commands His people to kill nations and races of people as it appears in the Old Testament Scriptures?

Most if not all that you see in the Old Testament where God (or through His people) kills whole cities and peoples fall under two categories.

  • Judgment for sin
  • Consequences of their sin

A closer look at passages relating to genocide reveals that sin was the catalyst for the destruction.? Consider the following examples.

God drowns the whole earth.

This was in response to the evilness of men.? God deemed it necessary to destroy all of the people in the earth because everything they thought was only evil. Imagine an entire city where everyone only thought evil.

God kills half a million people.
2 Chronicles 13:15-18.

This was in response to Judah turning its back on God and waging war on Israel. They were given a chance not to fight against God, but they chose not to heed the warning.

God slaughters all Egyptian firstborn.
Exodus 12:29

God was acting on behalf of his people.? Who are we to judge what God does.? God was not arbitrarily killing the first born.? Pharaoh could have relented and let the Hebrews out of slavery.

God kills 14,000 people for complaining that God keeps killing them.
Numbers 16:41-49

This was yet another instance where God was angry at the people.? He is a God of wrath.? They were murmuring against Moses and therefore God punished them.? Obviously, this was very serious to God.? Who are we to come along and say that God is not just?

Joshua 6:20-21, God helps the Israelites destroy Jericho

This is not a case where God comes upon a group of innocent people and arbitrarily decides to kill them because He wants to give the Israelites the land.? There are some things to consider.

  • God owned the land long before the Canaanites arrived and He had promised it to the descendants of Abraham to the fourth generation (Genesis 15:16b)
  • The Canaanites were wicked and rebellious people: children sacrifices in fire, divination or sorcery, omen interpretations, witchcraft, medium, consults the dead (Deuteronomy 18:10-11)
  • In war, at this time in history, the defeated armies and their families were killed to eliminate any chance of retribution later, which would have been customary.
  • God deemed it necessary at this stage in Israelite history.

God drove the Canaanites out because of their wickedness and not because the Israelites were so righteous (See Deuteronomy 9:4-5).? This driving out did not always necessarily mean that the enemy was slaughtered.? Studies of the Canaanite religion, literature, and archeological remains reveal that they were extremely if not the most immoral and depraved culture at that time.

Deuteronomy 2:32-35, God has the Israelites kill everyone in Heshbon

The people chose their destruction.? They were given the option to let the Israelites pass through their land to possess what God had given them and they refused.

We can go on and on with scriptures that show genocide or the like in the Bible.? However, those events are a matter of human history and not necessarily the will of God.?

About History and Context

I would like to make a point that when studying Christian history that I found that history written in ancient times was not like history written in modern times.? History now is based on getting facts and figures accurate and the like.? History in antiquity was only meant to make a point.? The counts and amounts may have been an exaggeration or figure of speech like we use today (e.g., ?Millions of toys were on the floor?).? We have to consider generalizations and slangs that would have been used in the same way we use today.? Consider when someone says something like, ?We killed them in that game.?? Someone reading that text 1000 years from now may wonder who got killed when all we meant that we beat them with a very wide point spread.

Also, we have to consider the context of scripture when we read it as we do with anything else we read.? As a minister, I have found that many times people will pick a scripture or two out of the Bible and build a theology on it.? You can?t do that in the same way you couldn?t open a novel, pick a few sentences, and then say you know what the novel is about.? So we have to be aware of context, which means we have to read the whole passage to see what was going on and the like.

Jesus was killed for us

A very important thing we need to consider with regards the accusation that God commits genocide is to consider Jesus Christ.? God specifically sent Jesus Christ to die for us.? What was this about?? Consider the following points.

  • Humans are sinful at the core.? Our disposition is unrighteousness
  • The unrighteousness of humans separates them from a righteous God
  • The end result of unrighteousness is eternal death
  • We cannot save ourselves from this impending death and are therefore doomed
  • God provided a way for us to escape the end result of sin, which is through faith in Jesus Christ
  • Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our unrighteousness and all we have to do is accept that payment.

The interesting thing is that people typically do not bring up the fact that God sent Jesus Christ to the earth for the purpose of paying the penalty for our disobedience (sin).

If you consider all of the ?genocide Scriptures? and those about Jesus? death something very interesting becomes evident.? We have no basis to judge or accuse God or wrongdoing.? He created the universe and we are part of that creation.? He establishes what is right and what is wrong.? He determines what is righteous and what is not.? Furthermore, He has the right to do with His creation whatever He wants.? We are fortunate that God, the creator, is indeed a loving, patient, and understanding God.? He does not deal with us according to how we should be dealt with, but rather continuously extends love and allows us to choose to accept it or reject it.? Many reject that love.? We are mere humans and our understanding is very limited.

Consider what happened to Job when He questioned God?s actions.

Job 40:1-14 (HCSB) – {1} The Lord answered Job: {2} Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? Let him who argues with God give an answer. {3} Then Job answered the Lord: {4} I am so insignificant. How can I answer You? I place my hand over my mouth. {5} I have spoken once, and I will not reply; twice, but now I can add nothing. {6} Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: {7} Get ready to answer Me like a man; When I question you, you will inform Me. {8} Would you really challenge My justice? Would you declare Me guilty to justify yourself? {9} Do you have an arm like God?s? Can you thunder with a voice like His? {10} Adorn yourself with majesty and splendor and clothe yourself with honor and glory. {11} Unleash your raging anger; look on every proud person and humiliate him. {12} Look on every proud person and humble him; trample the wicked where they stand. {13} Hide them together in the dust; imprison them in the grave. {14} Then I will confess to you that your own right hand can deliver you.

Job realized that He could not stand up to God?s justice.? He realized that he had no place or right to accuse or even question God.? He saw how foolish he was to question God?s justice and wisdom.

So we see that Jesus Christ came to prevent the genocide of the human race with respect to eternity.? This salvation is extended to all people on the earth.? This fact also suggests that perhaps we have misinterpreted the genocide in the Old Testament and/or we misinterpret God as a whole.? I believe the former and latter are true.

The Argument of Supremacy

It is rather interesting when you consider how we accuse, blame, or otherwise challenge God.? God created everything including the earth and everything in it.? We are alive because of God.? The creator of anything has the right to do with his creation whatever he pleases.? The creator is the one who establishes the purpose. The created thing cannot argue against the creator because the creator knows all about the created thing.

Likewise, we have to consider that we are mere creations of an almighty God and it is rather silly for us to accuse Him of anything.? We are fortunate that God is loving and not like a little boy who gets pleasure out of frying ants using his magnifying glass.? If God wants to do something then we have no bases to challenge his decision.? We couldn?t stop Him anyway.

We are fortunate that God does not impose His way upon humans on this earth.? He does constantly and continuously extend love towards us.? We form governments, some of which may not be what God desires.? We form alliances and leave God out of the equation so to speak.? If the human race operated according to the righteousness of God then the human race would look completely different.? There would be no prejudice, much less sickness, and disease, much less poverty, much more love and compassion, etc.? However, we operate according to a world system fueled by the sinful disposition of humans marked by greed and oppression.

Human Responsibility

Humans are not good.? Jesus said that there is none good except the Father (Matthew 10:10).? We would like to think we are good because you hear people ask questions like, ?Why do bad things happen to good people??? The question is comical because it assumes we are good and even if we are good it is based on our own corrupted standards of goodness.? Only one is good and that is God.

Humans are easy to judge someone else and not look at their own shortcomings.? We may say that God promotes slavery, genocide, prejudice, etc.? However, we fail to look at the evil that we carry around with us and manifest every day.? We fail to see the destruction, genocide, slavery, evil, and all kinds of unrighteousness that humans inflict on each other.? One religion or people will say that Christianity allows this and Christians will say that religion allows some other evil when both are evil by nature in that they all are composed of humans.? Religion itself is the bane of the earth in my opinion.? Religion separates us and focuses attention on us.? Christianity, which is not a religion, focuses attention outside of ourselves and instead on Jesus Christ.? Christianity says, ?You can?t do it.? Jesus did it. Accept what Jesus did.?? Religion says, ?You have to do this and that and more and God may accept or love you.?? Christianity is based on what Jesus did for us whereas religion is based on what we can do for ourselves.

Ultimately humans fail to take responsibility for their own actions but instead want to find some way to blame God.? Humans are selfish beings and the religions they create are likewise selfish because they make you look at yourself.? We are the ones who kill people.? We are the ones who discriminate against people.? It was humans who kidnapped millions of Africans and shipped them to the Americas to be sold as slaves.? We sit back and do nothing when one group oppresses another.? In this age of political correctness and ?paving the road as we go? we surely do not have a leg to stand on so to speak when we begin to accuse God of human atrocities.

Ultimately humans are responsible for the conditions of the world throughout history.? If humans had obeyed God in the first place then our history would be completely different.? We would experience the complete blessing and will of God if we walked in obedience then and even now.? However, there is a stealthy enemy prowling the earth causing people to do all kinds of evil.? What?s worse, this enemy, the devil also tricks us into blaming God for those atrocities.

Conclusion

God does not promote slavery.? People enslave other people.? God is not a God of genocide, but his actions against people may show that he is a God of wrath in the same way that his actions show that He is a God of love.? There are so many other things that God is blamed for and judged, which demonstrates the fact that people typically do not know God (even those who say they are Christian and attend church every Sunday).? Because we do not know the character of God we misinterpret things written about him or involving him. When something bad happens we are quick to say God did it.

God does not enslave anyone but instead gives us the opportunity to be free.? He also does not force us to be free but leaves our lives in our own hands.? He instructs us and shows us the way to go, but most of the time we decide to go another way and then blame God for the calamity that ensues.? Yet still, God extends love and forgiveness towards us.

There is no promise of bliss while we exist on this earth.? However, we can take refuge in the fact that the creator of the entire universe loves us and wants the best for us.? He will eliminate those who oppose him because he is a God of wrath.? He will save those who love Him and has faith in Him because He is a God of love.? Many tend to think of God as the great grandfather in the sky, but that is not the image of God painted in the Bible.? God is a strong warrior so to speak who loves those he protects.? Our task is to be on the side of the protected and not the side of the enemy.

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References

Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.) (DBLH 9592). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary: An exposition of the scriptures (1:275). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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Does God Condone Slavery and Genocide?
By William R. Cunningham
October 17, 2015

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