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Genocide in the Bible: When has it Ever Been Okay?

Updated on January 16, 2012

I love how something this horrendous in modern culture gets a pass when it's brought up within the context of god and the bible. I think everyone can agree, unless perhaps you are a Neo-nazi, that genocide is about the most atrocious act any person or group can participate in. Ethnic cleansing, for any reason, is wrong. Why, then, is the genocide in the bible seen as not as serious, or seen as a reasonable act at the time? Perhaps it is because we are so removed from the time and act that we can objectify it. That might even be a reasonable argument, except that we aren't so removed from it. It continues to happen even today. Pretending it doesn't exist now is just as bad as pretending it wasn't as bad back then.

But what really gets me is the reaction of Christians when this little stain on their impeccable god and book is brought up. The slavery issue is bad enough, as you can see in the comments here (I can't wait to see the comments I will get for this one!) What is truly astounding is that most Christians rushing to defend this and other atrocious acts in the bible would rather give their consent to such acts, rather than admit that it was wrong. Well, I intend to shed some light on this topic, and I hope that any Christians reading this will take off their "god is great" shades and look at this through a more objective lens.

Books by Richard Dawkins

God is not Great

No, god is not great, to quote the title of a book by one of my favorite authors and atheists who just recently passed, Christopher Hitchens. Allowing slavery is a bad enough stain on any deity's credentials, but genocide is just monstrous. One has to ask him or herself, when is an act such as genocide ever permissible? Is there ever really a good reason for such a heinous crime? Perhaps citing examples from the more recent past and present could help to put it in a better perspective.

I'll start with the biggie, the Jewish Holocaust. This was absolute devastation for the Jews at the hands of one man, a Christian man, by the way, Adolf Hitler. I'm sure at the time he and those around him felt they were doing what was necessary and possibly even a good thing. We know now, and we even knew then, that it was not. The Nazi's and Germans and others who participated in this vile act knew almost immediately that it was wrong, but they did it anyway. Looking back now is there even one good reason that we as rational and moral humans could accept for this act and perhaps even dismiss it as necessary? Is there one aspect of this holocaust that we maybe have missed and without it, a perfectly plausible reaction to the problems Germany was facing has been demonized? Hmm...I think not.

What about Rwanda? Here is a true case of ethnic cleansing among the Tutsi and Hutus in the East African nation of Rwanda. Almost one million Tutsis were wiped out by the Hutu government in 1994, over the clash of ideologies between two different forms of government. Is this a good reason? I'll let you think about that.

I'll cite one more example, the most recent one I can think of is Darfur. In 2003 the Sudanese government used rape, starvation, violence, disease and displacement to eradicate some 2.5 million people. I also cite this as an example because I've heard so many Christian Apologists claim that the genocide in the bible was not really genocide, but was a mutual agreement among the people of a certain population to leave the country. Right, because being forced to leave your home isn't as bad as being killed and using violence, starvation, disease and rape to get them to leave is just par for the course.

When is Genocide Okay?

If it is not okay now, then the answer has to be never. Why would it be? There are so many alternate solutions to any of the "problems" that induced genocide to begin with in the examples I cited that for a god of any magnitude genocide should not even be an option. Wouldn't a scenario where genocide is introduced as a possible solution be an opportunity for god to showcase his awesome powers and his supposed loving and merciful qualities? Instead, however, just like with the slavery issue, he decides to follow business as usual. Surely the genocides in the bible were not the first cases, so why should god do anything different?

So, in the following example, god tells Saul to smite the Amalekites because of something he remembers that they did hundreds of years ago.

1 Samuel

15: 2-3 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

Really?Does this sound like a reasonable reaction to a people that did something hundreds of years ago, so in essence, the people he is punishing are not even the same people that offended him centuries ago. Not only is this a grave overreaction to his paranoia, it was not enough that Saul slew everyone except the king.

1 Samuel

15:8 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.

15: 10-11 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.

Poor Samuel. Rejected for incomplete genocide. How could he ever recover? But I am sure there are no end to defenses for this vile action. The most popular being one shouldn't question the will of god and who are we to judge?

Let's look at another example.


31: 17-18 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

Not only is this monster guilty of genocide, he is guilty of pedophilia and rape. How is this a defensible action? Oh, let me guess, who are we to judge?

Who Are We to Judge?

What a stupid question and an even stupider defense. Hopefully, we are rational, moral people with the use of common sense and empathy. I don't have to qualify an atrocity for it to be an atrocity. There is no, "This qualifies as permissible genocide because of A but this does not because of B." And, yes, I can question the will of god just like I can question the actions of anyone. Is there even a lesson to be learned from genocide, other than it is wrong and blatantly evil and no one should do it...ever? There is no reason for god to have wiped out the Amalekites or Midianites or any of the other peoples he massacred. There is nothing that they could have done that was deserving of such a reaction. We are perfectly capable of making this judgment. If this happened now we would be disgusted and there would be no god from any religion or belief mighty enough to justify it.


Well, once again, there is only one conclusion here. The Christian god is a moral monster. He is selfish and manipulative and jealous--just like any human in power or seeking power would be. There are no redeeming qualities here. And if your defense is that the god of the Old Testament is different from the god of the New Testament, or that god sent his son, Jesus to renew a covenant with us and that's why he died for us--wake up! That is such nonsense. Surely if Hitler tried to "renew" some sort of covenant with the Jews they would have thought him a sadistic bastard, even more so than he already was perceived as. Why then is it acceptable that this monster, who committed such heinous crimes, be given a pass on all the injustices he perpetrated? There is no excuse for it. And somehow dismissing the atrocities of the Old Testament only reflects on your ability to deny obvious truths. As I stated before in my article on slavery in the bible, defending this monster is shameful and immoral. The act of justifying genocide, simply based on the fact that your unquestionable god was the one orchestrating it, is sick and more of a reflection on you as a person than on the act of genocide itself.

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      Mat 3 years ago

      What about the fire descending from heaven destroying the city of Sodom and Gomorrah?

      Genesis 13:13 says : "But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly."

      But after Abraham's plea God said in Gen 18:32 : "He answered, “For the sake of ten (righteous), I will not destroy it.” "

      Not even 10 righteous people was found in the city (who are we to argue against God who is righteous and who is not?) All living soul (men, women, children) were destroyed except Lot and his family. Was it a genocide? or was it divine judgement?

      God doesn't always intervene in human affairs (he made us with free will to do good or evil until judgement day) but sometimes he does like in Daniel 5:27-31 :

      " This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians....30 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old."

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      thatboii 4 years ago

      i don't like genocide

    • emmaspeaks profile image

      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      Yes, I've already seen his book, and there is no explanation necessary, sir. God IS a moral monster. He is sick and so are those who defend him. There is NEVER a reason for genocide. Period.

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      Marshall A Fant 5 years ago

      These kind of questions have been thoughtfully and carefully addressed in the scholarly work, "Is God a Moral Monster" by Paul Copan. If you would like a serious discussion of these kind of questions, I encourage you to look into this book. There are many assumptions that you (and those who make arguments like you have posted) are making that you might not realize. Hopefully, if you read Copan's book you will have a little better understanding of where Christians are coming from on these issues and how they address these problems of interpretation.

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      IslamicWallpapers 6 years ago

      Well,Its according to Christianity....Christians abuse all prophets just to make Jesus God..

      from islamic view all prophets were special.... they were not like general peoples... !