CT series on "genocidal God"


3870 reads

There are 15 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture


There are some good thoughts in these articles.

What bugs me about them: "genocidal God" and "God of genocide" are oxymorons. The term "genocide" assumes a crime, an evil committed by one party against another. It also assumes the destruction of an entire ethnicity is a greater crime than the destruction of half of two ethnicities--in every case. So there is an "ethnic sacredness" ethic built into the term. These are assumptions that ought to be examined rather than assumed.

But in the case of God, every breath of every living being is His. He gives life and takes life away. This is essential to the definition of God. "Genocidal God" is the equivalent of saying "Being who has the right to give and take life but doesn't have the right give and take life." It's nonsense.

(For those inclined toward polarized thinking, no, I'm not in favor of wiping out ethnic groups. I just wonder why we should assume that going after an ethnic group w/the intention of destroying it is worse than old fashioned unprovoked conquest of land with no people-group/ethnic goal. Is the premise that all cultures are sacred? Why? )


Darrell Post's picture

God always has the right to judge sin. His mercy may withhold judgment for a long time, but that doesn't negate its validity when judgment finally comes.

jimcarwest's picture

All are sinners -- Jews and Gentiles.  As such, all deserve eternal destruction.  That God spares some and destroys others is not so much a deserved criticism as it is an expression of His grace.  And why grace to some and not to others?  Two reasons: first, God's eternal purposes which defy human understanding or explanation, certainly not deserving of condemnation.  That would be the criminal standing in judgment of the Judge; and second, some are spared because they repent before God and place their faith in Him to save them from certain and deserved doom.  That seems to be the testimony of Scripture.  If carnal man does not understand or accept this testimony, it reflects more on his desire to justify himself than upon God's holiness.

As to where Israel fits into this scheme, for God's own purposes he chose a certain people to be the conduit of His message of redemption to all mankind.  His purposes might require Him to protect this conduit from utter and absolute failure, and thus it might be necessary to wipe out any and all obstacles that would obstruct this plan.  Shall God then be made to be un-Just by unrighteous man in order to gain that same unrighteous man's respect?  I think not!  Especially, when God's ultimate purpose is to save all who come unto Him in repentance and faith. 

Aaron Blumer's picture


It's also true that though Israel was not "righteous," they were not guilty of the same offenses as the Canaanites--at least not at that time. I'm referring to human sacrifice in particular. Even later on, when the nation sunk to its lowest ebb of idolotary, making sons "pass through the fire" appears to have been a noteworthy--and so somewhat exceptional--event.

God denies that Israel was better than all the rest. But He also does not say they were "just the same" as those He brought them into the land to replace.

All cultures are not equal in wickedness or in virtue.

Charlie's picture

I think what makes genocide, particularly in the modern world, so horrifying is the senselessness of it, the pure hatred in motivation. People generally fight wars FOR something - more and better land, access to natural resources, a distorted sense of personal prestige, revenge. In these wars, people die in the pursuit of goals. But genocide is killing simply for the sake of killing. It is a declaration that a person's heritage makes him or her unworthy to live. That is a whole new level of evil. Also, genocides are often perpetrated on minority populations that pose no real threat to the majority. 

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

ChrisC's picture

I'm surprised that several thing genocide is an inappropriate name for what was an indiscriminate killing based on ethnicity. even Zondervan has a book called Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views on God and Canaanite Genocide. I actually found that to be a helpful book, not because any one of the four views actually solved the question for me without opening more questions, but because the nature of the book recognized it as a legitimate problem that deserves serious thought.

I'm no expert on the subject, but "setting our eyes on the Cross of Christ" seems like too pat of an answer. To some we cannot help but be the "aroma of death" (II Cor 2:16). And the harsh judgment of the Old Testament seems to repeat in Revelation as Jesus himself judges the world.

And, Aaron, it seems to me that one of Ezekiel's points is that Israel was worse than her heathen neighbors. The puzzle of the genocide is the question of how can God be just while choosing the unfaithful for his people and wiping out the heathen who were in some cases more righteous.

Aaron Blumer's picture


I've already explained the problems w/"genocide"  

  • assumes a moral evil, which we know God is not capable of
  • assumes that destroying a people group is worse than destroying half of two people groups

I would add that God is the one who gets to tell us what is right and wrong, not vice versa. So there is a total moral inversion in attributing a crime to God.

As for "indiscriminate killing based on ethnicity," this is clearly not what happened if you read the OT and believe what it says. The cleansing of Canaan was an act of judgment.

It may well be that Israel was eventually worse than Canaan (though where Ezekiel says so would be of interest). By then, Israel and Judah also suffered God's judgment. He did not choose the same judgment, but the nation was indeed scattered and sidelined as the focal point of God's agenda for the duration of the times of the Gentiles.

ChrisC's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
It may well be that Israel was eventually worse than Canaan (though where Ezekiel says so would be of interest). By then, Israel and Judah also suffered God's judgment. He did not choose the same judgment, but the nation was indeed scattered and sidelined as the focal point of God's agenda for the duration of the times of the Gentiles.
just a few passages that highlight Israel being worse: Ezekiel 5:5-6, Ezekiel 14:21 (killing the animals even seems similar to I Sam 15:3), Ezekiel 16:47-48 & Ezekiel 16:56-58.

Aaron Blumer's picture


You have two passages there that actually characterize Israel as behaving in some way worse than the nations around them. Ezek. 5:5-6 and Ezek. 16:47-48. But note that these are much later than the conquest and refer to the nations around them in Ezekiel's day.

The others refer to judgments coming upon them (Ezek. 14:21 is not about killing animals but rather animals that kill people--edit: I see now the reference to animals dying as well at the end of the passage), which underscores my point: God judged the evils of Canaan. Later He judged the evils of Israel. There is no "genocide" in either case.

TylerR's picture


Deut 9:4-5 makes it very clear these people were sinners who deserved punishment from God:

4 “Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you.

5 Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Lev 18:24-25 makes the same point:

24 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean,

25 and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 

Gen 15:13-16 makes it clear that God would not give Abraham the promised land and people at that time. He would wait; "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." Talk about longsuffering! Talk about common grace! He would have been justified in not even waiting for a moment to destroy these people. He chose to wait. 

At the heart of matter is (1) an ignorance of what Scripture says on the point, (2) a low view of God, in that we question His justice in bringing wrath upon these pagan nations, and finally (3) a high view of man, because unbelievers typically frame the matter as that of "innocent people" being destroyed by an "angry God." 

This was certainly not an indiscriminate killing. It was justified. We deserve the same punishment. Abraham deserved the same punishment; he was an idolater himself until God, in His grace, chose to work through him to accomplish His purposes for Israel (Josh 24:2). Praise God that He provided salvation. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

ChrisC's picture

It seems like we're working from different ideas of what "genocide" means. so here's something a little more authoritative:

the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group —Merriam-Webster

So it has nothing to do with potential accompanying attitudes like hate or whether the killing was "justified".

Certainly one way of answering the question about the Canaanite genocide is that it was consistent with God's holiness, mercy, patience, love, right to rule, etc. But just saying that it wasn't really a genocide is a cop-out. And it's also worth noting that plenty of evangelical scholars answer the question differently.


TylerR's picture


I briefly presented an orthodox, Scriptural argument based on God's righteousness, His justification in doing what He did, and His grace in salvation.

Please present your own Scriptural argument. In posts above, you labeled God's judgment as "harsh." You refer to "indiscriminate killing." Words have meaning, and you know "genocide" is only used in a negative, condemnatory context in our language. You want to impose that term on God's actions in the OT, and are wrong to do so. 

I honestly want to hear your own argument. I don't think you can Scripturally present one. I don't think the scholars you reference can do so either. 


Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

ChrisC's picture

I'm not going to try to summarize in a paragraph or two a whole book I linked above, especially since I don't have the book in front of me since I lent it out. But for "harsh", see the master in the parable of the minas. He doesn't really hide from that label. And "indiscriminate" seems to describe the plan for the Amalekites in I Samuel 15 pretty well. Saul's army wasn't supposed to interview each man, woman, child, cow, etc and decide whether they bore any responsibility for something that happened centuries earlier.

Aaron Blumer's picture


In popular usage, genocide is always a crime and just about the worst thing any government or nation can do. The connotations resemble "weapons of mass destruction."

But the very existence of multiple articles on the "problem" of a "genocidal God" assume that definition. We have to grapple with this problem, because God or Israel did something terrible. So I'm just objecting to the assumptions being made as a starting point. And given the usual usage of the term genocide, it simply does not apply to God or anyone truly directed by Him.

JNoël's picture

CAWatson wrote:

I don't disagree with your theological statements here. However, I don't think that you have fairly represented Enns. Enns believes in God, and believes that God has spoken to people in a way that they understand. As Christ is both human and divine, Scripture is human and divine - and it is much more human than we actually understand it. So the Bible was written as God influenced man by errant and sinful men who wrote from their perspective - from their point of view. Hence, the Canaanite genocide is an evil, not a good - and was written by sinful men who desired to cleanse the land - it doesn't match with the ethic of Jesus. So the Bible is true in that it is a confusing reflection of both God and sinful humanity - all bundled up together. 


Christopher got me thinking about this topic again. Just a couple thoughts:

  • "Genocide" is a man-made concept. God is not a respecter of persons. There is only one specific people group, the Jews, who do have a special place in scripture, but, as humans, he still sees them as equal to all other humans.
  • To our human eyes, which appears to be more ghastly: physical death or spiritual death? I submit the latter. Yet our holy God will send many into a place of eternal damnation while a few will enjoy eternity in his presence. In my human eyes, that seems far worse than physically killing an entire people group. The thought of even one person being sent to the lake of fire where there will be eternal, indescribable suffering is horrifying.

God is holy. We are his creation. He is free to do with us as he pleases - and he will still always be holy, even if we don't think he is.


Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)