Genocide in the Old Testament

Justin Brierley’s show Unbelievable is a great podcast. I recently listened to his programFour Horsemen of Apocalypse

“Did God command ‘genocide’ in the Old Testament? with John Allister vs Justin Schieber.

Did God command ‘genocide’ in the Old Testament? John Allister vs Justin Schieber

After listening I wrote this note to Justin:


I finally caught up with your show “Did God command ‘genocide’ in the Old Testament?” with John Allister and Justin Schieber.

Their discussion centered around “micro” issues without ever raising vital macro-level questions.

There are three high-level questions that never got asked:

1) “Does God have a right to judge and punish human beings?”

2) “Is God justified in decreeing the ‘collateral damage’ that is explicitly stated in the Ten Commandments?”

-Specifically Exodus 20:5-6: “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”


3) Does God have a right to create a world where innocent children die of anything? Like mumps and measles and whooping cough and AIDS?

The conversation didn’t address any of these questions. It must before anyone can do justice to this topic.

Since #2 and #3 are givens, we’re left with #1, does God have a right to morally judge human beings?

There’s a scene in the movie Rudy where a guy says to Rudy, “I’ve learned two things: There is a God, and I am not him.”

Regardless of any individual’s specific religious beliefs, we ostensibly live in a world where children DO suffer from the sins of their parents (ask any therapist) and innocent children die every day. The bigger question is, will God judge in the end and settle all moral debts?

How about God killing the firstborn of Egypt? They suffered from Pharaoh’s sin, not their own.

Another issue that the show never brought up was that God treats Israel even worse than He treats the Amalekites! Read Lamentations 2 for example:

17 The Lord has done what he planned;

he has fulfilled his word,

which he decreed long ago.

He has overthrown you without pity,

he has let the enemy gloat over you,

he has exalted the horn of your foes.

In scripture, Israel is on the receiving end more often than its enemies are. Look at all the times they get carried into captivity, from the time of Daniel to the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD.

I believe the real reason many atheists are atheists is, they can’t stomach the idea that God lets cruel planet earth go on the way it does. This revulsion at the unfairness of the world is largely a phenomenon of the modern era. Most people who are incredulous that God would make a ‘darwinian’ world are those who’ve managed to mostly get the good end of the deal.

Whether he realizes it or not, the modern skeptic looks at these questions through a New Testament lens. Jesus brought an incalculable paradigm shift to the modern world, a new expectation of kindness and compassion. Don’t forget that back then, kings marched into war every spring and burned villages and plundered everything. That was considered completely ‘normal.’

This “loving compassionate God” whom Justin Schieber cannot reconcile with the killing of the Amalekites comes directly from Jesus. This idea doesn’t come from the Old Covenant, or any of the ancient world.

The atheist wants Jesus minus the Mosaic law. But you can’t have one without the other.

Belief that God has the right to judge human beings is an axiom of Judeo-Christian thought. We consider this self evident. The reason we believe this, is that we believe ultimate justice does exist and will be meted out; and that in the end, all those who are innocent will be vindicated.

I wished you would have asked Justin Schieber whether he was for or against legalized abortion. To a person, almost every skeptic who proclaims their compassion for Amalekite children shares no such concern for the unwanted, unborn child – now or any time.

In the end, a Skeptic is simply a person who wants the keys of life and death to remain in human hands instead of God’s.

Perry Marshall

(Image Credit: Viktor M. Vansetsov / Wikipedia Commons / Public Domain)

One Response to “Genocide in the Old Testament”

  1. barry jones says:

    Is it true that your god takes joy in hurting children? See Deuteronomy 28:63, which summarizes God’s attitude about the divine brutalities promised in vv. 15-62.

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