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Why is there violence in the Old Testament? (Violence in the OT – Part 1)

February 14, 2017

Why is there violence in the Old Testament? (Violence in the OT – part 1)

When we look at the New Testament, we see such a loving and caring God. All we have to imagine is the cross, all His miracles, and how God cared, loved, and healed the people. We also have to look at his commandments. He says, “Be perfect, love, give, and forgive.” However, when we look at the Old Testament, we see a very different God: a violent God that seems to like wars. In the Old Testament, he said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” In other words, if someone hits us, we hit them back. Nevertheless, in the New Testament, He says to give the other cheek. Therefore, we tend to ask ourselves: is the God of the Old Testament the same as today’s?

Let us look at it from the perspective of time. Time is a factor that affects everybody. Anyone under time is affected by it. We know when we were born; when we were a certain age. However, is God under time? No, He isn’t. He is above time. He created time. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He has no beginning and no end. He is timeless, unchangeable, and everlasting. This is what Saint Gregory the Theologian wrote in his liturgy: “it is fitting indeed, and right, that we praise You, serve You, worship You, and glorify You, the one, only, true God, the lover of mankind, ineffable, invisible, infinite, without beginning, everlasting, timeless, immeasurable, incomprehensible, unchangeable, Creator of all, saviour of everyone.” God is therefore the same in both testaments.

So, is God love in the Old Testament? Yes, He is. There are many examples that show His love in the Old Testament. Nonetheless, in this video, we will focus on one example: Jonah and the Ninevites. The Ninevites were living in sin. God sent Jonah to save them from sin and to lead them to repentance. After they repented, Jonah was upset and told God, “I knew that You are loving and merciful and gracious, that is why I fled in the beginning.” (Jonah 4) So God told him, these are 120,000 people who cannot discern their right-hand from there left, am I not supposed to save them Jonah?” Looking further, in Matthew 22:37-40, when God was talking to a lawyer, He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” These two commandments are founded on love. Consequently, love is the foundation of the Old Testament.

 Therefore, if God does not change, what changed? Let us look at the example of Samson in the book of Judges, chapter 14. Samson married a Philistine woman, of non-Jewish descent. In their marriage feast that lasted seven days, Samson, in the beginning, asked a riddle to the Philistines, who were about 30 people. He challenged them and announced that if they didn’t get the answer, each and one of them will give him a garment of clothes, but if they discover the answer, he would give them a new garment. On the seventh day, as they couldn’t figure out the answer, they urged Samson’s wife to get it from him. They threatened her by saying, “If you don’t get the answer from him, we will burn you and your father’s house.” She did get the answer and didn’t get burned, but we know that they were serious about burning her because in the next chapter, they really did burn her and her father’s house but for a different reason. Who does that? Who would burn someone just to avoid losing a piece of garment? Is this humane? Absolutely not! Humanity, in the Old Testament, was at a very, very low level, but it was growing. And as it was growing, God changed His laws to adapt to His people. We can see this in Matthew 5:38-39: “You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” In other words, what God is saying is: “I have told you an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth in the Old Testament because you were crazy, so I gave you a commandment to your level. But now, in the New Testament, I am giving you the Holy Spirit to help you live this new law, which will bring you to a much higher level.”

In conclusion, God did not change, but humanity did. By God’s grace, we are planning a series of videos on this topic of violence in the Old Testament for us to deepen our knowledge concerning the violence, the wars, and the plagues.

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

 

 

 

 

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