Why is the Bible, the story of salvation & love, filled with violence? (Violence in the OT – part 2)

July 31, 2017

Why is the Bible, the story of salvation & love, filled with violence? (Violence in the OT – part 2)

Today we continue our series about the violence in the Old Testament. We saw a summary of the answer in our previous video that demonstrated that God did not change from the Old to the New Testament. Humanity is the one that changed after choosing to be separated from God. As a consequence, humanity sank to a deep level of sin. Throughout the Old Testament, as humanity was growing, God dealt with us differently based on our respective state. Today, we need to reaffirm these thoughts because they are very foundational for us to answer these seemingly big questions about the violence in the Old Testament. Therefore, today, we will demonstrate three points:

1- We will look at supporting evidence from outside the Bible that demonstrates that mankind truly was different at the time of the Old Testament.

2- We will look at some very quick examples of God’s mercy in the Old Testament.

3- We will answer the question: “why is the story of love and salvation in the Old Testament full of violence?”

First, is there supporting or collaborating evidence that demonstrates the level of violence humanity was in at that time of the Old Testament? Absolutely! From the eight century BC going forward, we find a series of empires: the Assyrians, Babylonians, Medo-Persians, Greeks, and Romans that extended even to the New Testament. The purpose of these empires was one: take over the world through wars and violence. For instance, the Greek author and historian Herodotus; says the following about king Darius: “Thus as Babylon [was] taken for the second time. Darius having become master of the place, destroyed the wall, and tore down all the gates; for Cyrus had done neither the one nor the other when he took Babylon. He then chose out near three thousand of the leading citizens, and caused them to be crucified.” Darius crucified over three thousand people in one event! Again, history speaks about Alexander the Great. The first century historian Curtius Rufus says that Alexander the Great took over two thousand people and crucified them in one single event as well. We have to understand that the history of humanity is full of violence. This violence isn’t specific to Christianity or Judaism, but it is general to humanity at that time.

Nevertheless, in the midst of the violence and the disobedience of God’s commandments, we find many situations in the Old Testament where God demonstrated His Mercy. We previously discussed how God saved the Gentiles of Nineveh through Jonah. Another example is when God showed mercy to Cain. After he had killed his brother Abel, Cain was afraid that others would kill him so God showed mercy, protected him and put a mark on him. Another beautiful example, that many people are unaware of, is in Ezekiel 16. In this chapter, God expresses His sadness because the Jews had chosen the devil over God. This is expressed when God tells them your father is an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. Then, God uses imagery to describe the state of the Jews. Since the devil is a horrible father, he left the Jews in their blood, naked, the navel cord uncut, etc. Then, God says in verse 8: “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord GOD..” God, out of mercy, took them once more under His wings. He washed them, give them silk as clothes, give them a crown, bracelets and more. So, this is imagery from the Old Testament discusses the story of salvation and mercy of God where He saves humanity from their corrupted state.

Finally, why are there so many violent stories in the Old Testament? The answer is quite simple and is found in our understanding of the compilation of the Bible. For our brothers, the Muslims, the Quran is a directed revelation from God to humanity, where you cannot change a syllable, or even translate it. But, for us Christians, we do not treat the Bible in this same manner at all. The Bible is a shared work between God and humanity, where God allows men and women of God to write down what He wills. However, what they write down, especially in the historical section of the Old Testament, is according to the reality they lived in. Unfortunately, that was a very ugly and violent reality! That’s why the Old Testament is full of violence! Because humanity lived in such a fallen state of sin.

In addition, we should understand that not everything was written in the Old Testament (the New Testament either). Let’s look at some numbers. Abraham is dated 2,000 years BC; Malachi, the last prophet, is approx. 400 years BC. Therefore, we have a span of 1,600 years. Now, if we take the 929 chapters of the Old Testament, which exclude the second canonical books for the sake of simplicity, and remove the first 11 chapters prior to Abraham, we have 918 chapters. These 918 chapters divided by 1,600 years gives us 0.57 chapters per year; which is very little. Now we can easily tell that this is relatively nothing. Most of the events that occurred in the Old Testament were not written. The events that were written were the ones that really affected the Jews at that time. The events that made their history. We are all familiar with the concept: “No news is good news”; which means that I would rather receive no news because news is usually bad. This concept is applicable to the Old Testament. Although the Old Testament is not all about violence, the many events that were written where the ones that really impacted the history of the Jews. And these events were often violent because of the fallen reality they lived in. The other events, the ones related to God’s mercy and love weren’t all written down simply because it was the day-to-day events. It was nothing abnormal.

Remember: know your faith, live your faith, and teach your faith!

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