Who killed more people, God or Satan? Part 2

In Part 1 of this series we referred to an article that mentioned that God “kiled” (see comments) a lot more people than Satan in the Bible.  Thanks for sharing your wisdom in the comments to Part 1: Ben, Noah, Jeremiah, Danny, David and Fr. Gregory.

If someone asked me about God’s killing in the Bible, my answer would depend upon who is asking me.  A theist, or an atheist?  A child or an adult?  Someone who’s been a victim of violent crime or someone who hasn’t?  Context is everything.

If someone doesn’t believe the Bible is true asks about God killing in the Bible, they are being silly.  It’s like arguing who’s prettier Snow White or Cinderella.  (Spoiler…neither are real.)  The topic of God killing people is only a real problem for people who believe the Bible really records what happened.  Atheists may want to point out the ridiculousness of believing a story where God acts violently, but a better starting point for that interaction would be the reliability of God’s word.

I’ll assume I’m interacting with someone who believes God is real and the Bible records what happened.

The biggest problem with the article (even bigger than the misspelling of “kiled”) is that the author is not interested in why people are killed.  In order to tabulate divine death statistics for the Bible, the author of the article has little interest in examining the context.  There’s no time for that.  It’s a bit like a preacher who jumps around the Bible to proof-text their point.  But context is everything.

Let’s look at two examples the author of the article uses  First, the flood (Gen. 6-9).  Why does God wipe out humanity?  As punishment for their excessive violence.  The Noah narrative does not go into detail, but it gives enough: “every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:6).  A skeptic might say, the text is exaggerating the evilness of the humans.  I’ll grant that’s a possibility, but would the same skeptic say the text is exaggerating the destruction of the flood?  I doubt it.  I’m troubled by the severity of the story of the flood, but it’s clear that people are being punished for a reason.  Context is everything. 

Second, the Assyrians (2 Kings 19:35).  I discuss this incident in God Behaving Badly (p. 102-104), so I’ll be brief here.  The Assyrians were bad neighbors.  You think your neighbors are bad?  If your neighbors don’t pilage, exile and decapitate like the Assyrians did consider yourself lucky.  Most recently the Assyrian army had been destroying Judah and starving its citizens–men, women and children.  God miraculously delivered Judah by wiping out Sennacherib’s army.  I’m a pacifist, but I still think that it was good that God protected his people.  Context is everything. 

It’s fun to make a point with statistics, but as anyone who works with statistics knows, they can also deceive.

How is ignoring the context of a Bible passage deceptive? 

Image (Memberger) from http://www.wga.hu/html/m/memberge/noahark3.html

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5 comments

  1. I’m a theist, but how could God flat out make it a capital offense to commit infanticide (e.g. in the holiness & deuteronomic codes) yet command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (albeit it was a test and the killing was stopped) and command the slaughter of children in various war texts?

  2. Dr. Lamb,

    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t it true that when we read the Bible we should do so on the premise that all sinful humans are forfeit before God, that, unlike any creature, God as Creator can justly require the death of any sinner?

  3. What right has the Old Testament God to kill any innocent person? And since God killed Jesus through the Jews and Romans isn’t God actually guilty of filicide? That’s what Richard Dawkins says, and I’d never thought of that before.

  4. Then what about the children? Were they guilty too? The unborn, were they guilty too? Please explain the context, so we understand what was their guilt!

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