God Behaving Badly

The God of the Old Testament has a bad reputation, but is he really angry, sexist and racist?

On May 18 (2011), Scot McKnight (Jesus Creed) began a series blogs devoted to God Behaving Badly.
1) Scot’s first post 
2) Scot on chapter 2: Angry or Loving?
3) Scot on chapter 3: Sexist or Affirming?
4) Scot on chapter 4: Racist or Welcoming?
5) Scot on chapter 5: Violent or Peaceful?
6) Scot on chapter 6: Legalistic or Gracious?
7) Scot on chapter 7: Rigid or Flexible?
8) Scot on chapter 8: Distant or Near?

Here’s a positive review from Publishers Weekly.

God Behaving Badly has now been translated into:

Der missverstandene GottGerman (click here), Der missverstandene Gott?: Ist der Gott des Alten Testaments zornig, sexistisch und rassistisch?  The Misunderstood God: Is the God of the Old Testament angry, sexist and racist?

Korean God Behaving Badly cover

Korean (click here).  내겐 여전히 불편한 하나님: 구약의 하나님을 사랑의 하나님이라 할 수 있을까? The God who still disturbs me.  Can we call the God of the Old Testament a God of Love?

Frank Viola
interviewed me on his blog, Beyond Evangelical, in 2 parts about God Behaving Badly:

Part 1 of Interview (including a question about the woman who grabs the testicles of her opponent during a fight-never been asked about that before).
Part 2 of Interview (Rachel Held Evans called this 2 part interview the best interview of the week).

The July 2011 issue of Christianity Today includes an excerpt from GBB (the “wedgie for a wedgie” story).  Link here.

I’ve written an article for the Sept-Oct 2011 issue of Relevant Magazine on the Canaanite genocide, using material from GBB (to read the full-article you’ll need to register, and you get free content for 5 articles).

An interview with me on GBB appeared in The Washington Post (click here) and The Huffington Post (click here).

Other links to check out:
God Behaving Badly (on Amazon)
InterVarsity Press
God Behaving Badly on Facebook 

David Lamb – Is God Loving or Angry? from Swarthmore Christian Fellowship on Vimeo.


  1. Dear Dr. Lamb, I just finished reading GBB and overall thought it was a good read. I minister in a congregation that reads the Torah and the Prophets every week so over time we have seen the goodness and greatness of Yhvh in the Hebrew Scripture. Your book was a breath of fresh air in an evangelical world that seems confused and bewildered over what to believe about “the G-d of the OT”. After reading your book I am even more convinced that evangelicals think Yhvh and Yeshua are completely separate. shalom u’vrecha

  2. Dear Dr. Lamb,
    I heard you at Vintage Faith Church and really appreciated your teaching. I have grown up in the church and have been bothered by the death of the “helpful” young man concerning the touching of the “box”. I have told several friends about the facts since Sunday. I have put a link to your site from Vintage Faith, so that others can follow you if they want. Thanks again, Kahleen

  3. A great book for great conversations. Thank you so much David for this amazing book. My students at SMCM are loving it!

    1. one added point on vnloeice and God. most scriptural narratives are conveyed hopefully from God to man (who interprets with own biases at times and writes) which is then conveyed to us who interpret as well. in my mind the only clear example of God’s attitudes towards vnloeice is that of Jesus Christ and frankly he’s not the posterboy for vnloeice but love, forgiveness, and peace. not to mention he is giving the higher law, the law God would have us live.IMHO, even if I accept the OT stories entirely I still reject them because the sermon on the mount is my text on vnloeice.

  4. Dr. Lamb, I have very much enjoyed your book “God Behaving Badly.” I especially like your win-some and humorous way of addressing topics that have been challenging. Could you respond to Deuteronomy 21:18-21 … executing a rebellious son? This has been one of the most troubling aspects of the Old Testament for me. Even politicians have used this particular passage to discount the Old Testament, and the entire Bible.

    1. Well if what you say is true for discounting the Bible friend you need to get saved, that is repent of your sins to the God of the bible accept Jesus Christ as savior and allow the holy spirit guide you to the true meaning of scripture not a educated guess of David Lamb, God has never behaved badly, he has always had a purpose to benifit man not harm him, plus I can understand completely about our politicians there approval rating is now at 13% and our country is on the fast track to hell because of the simple fact that we have left our Christian roots that this Country was built on, we have been the most blessed nation in history bar none because the foundation was built on God being in charge not Govt, so you need to get your mind on Jesus Christ and the cross and you will begin to see God almighty’s way.

  5. Deat Dr. Lamb, I just have finished your book GBB, and well, even I have a good time reading it, many questions arisen from the lecture. The first one, and more deepen to me, is the way you present sex. I’m a bachelor, and I don’t want to marry. As you propose, and sex seems to be the first commandment (but the most important), I found that deeply insulting, insensitive and moreover, legalistic (ironically as the purpose you are committed to present otherwise; also you mention that you doesn’t want ). The reason for this, would imply that God has a specific soul mate for everyone (because, as you mention, God wants us to be happy and blessed) and that assertion is nowhere found in the Bible. Thus, your comment seems to be a God who is trolling us, cause he wants us to have orgasms but we can’t because we don’t have a spouse to achieve that purpose! (Obviously you can seek another method to have that “happiness”, but the consequences aren’t “happy” at all; also God doesn’t like much the idea of getting orgasms if it isn’t with someone).

    Secondly, you presuppose that God is good in his intentions. Actually you insists on we must have that assumption from the beginning. This seems to be very biased, due the fact that your reader is assuming actually the opposite (that’s why I read the book, though). And by that, I feel that the arguments could be improved a lot more.

    Third, it’ll be great if you would have wrote about the incident with Ezekiel and the dung. He changed God’s mind, but not at all. Therefore, the seemingly in unbalanced paradox that you present as God immutable and flexible at the same time can have a validity, but that doesn’t mean the God is condescending to us by His goodness. Actually seems that real goodness from God steams from is stubborn attitude towards us, not the other way around. (See the first paragraph, maybe God wants me to stay single for my life, and then, I must have some happiness in that, rather than following His first commandment, but therefore that feels kind unjust and unloving).

    And Fourth; although the books is great and I love many passages that personally I found interesting rather than problematic, is the fact you are avoiding the problem with continue validity of the Torah in the Christian life. While you mention the progressive nature of the law, to me, personally, I can say that Jesus didn’t say nothing new to listeners, and he just changed the words of the same topic. But, that doesn’t means that is progressive. And by that, I sense that you do it in the same of the argument, and for the probable reason it was written.

    But overall, your book is amazing. But those where points to me that could actually can be improved and better tackled in the future. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I’m really sorry my comments about sex felt insulting to you. I certainly didn’t intend them to be. When I teach on sex, and as I wrote about it in my next book (Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love Old Testament Style), I say we need to not idolize marriage. After all Jesus was never married, and Paul probably wasn’t either. I certainly don’t think every one has a soul mate, and I would never teach that. When I talk about it not being good that the man was alone from Gen 2, I say, but that doesn’t necessarily mean marriage. My point about sex is that God created it and therefore it is very good. But it’s not for everyone. For most of my 20’s I seriously considered a celibate life, and intentionally took a break from dating and romance for 7.5 years (age 20-28)–I talk more about this in my next book (P&P). I’m glad you found part of the book helpful. Thanks for your feedback. – Dave

      1. Thank you for your reply! I appreciate it! And sorry if I sounded very mean while writing it. I know that I’m need to not be offended when someone touch a nerve of mine, but I couldn’t but feel it so personal.

        Anyways, your response has a lot of beams for response, ranging from that “sex isn’t for everyone” can be a (may be) honest, sincere counter for rapists or stalkers (someone can argue that they do what they do because women reject them, and because God created us with sexual drive and He doesn’t seems to be very interested in bless them in a godly way with a spouse), or to say the even that some couples suffer for having sex that gives them frustration, or to say that premarital sex can actually be more glorious than that of martial sex. I think that this can clarify more my previous comment.

        In your book about Polygamy, do you address this kind of issues or topics? I’m very interested and deeply disturbed for this, because is an area of my life that to me is crucial and can crumble all my Christian beliefs. Thanks a lot, and God bless you!

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