Old Testament Violence: A Concession to Our Hard Hearts
By Dr. Brad Cole
One of the reasons I am motivated to write about the book of Revelation is that many read this book and see a Jesus that is different in character than the one revealed 2,000 years ago. Jesus was not violent the first time but when he comes back, watch out!
Nick Loyd is a High School Pastor in Everett, Washington. Nick has a great vision of what the Kingdom of God looks like and I’ve really enjoyed following his blog over the last several months. Nick is writing a series on non-violence and asked me to contribute an article on all the fighting in the Old Testament. Other authors are contributing to this series as well. Below is the first portion of my article – you will need to go to Nick’s site to read the rest!
Many read the Bible and conclude that there are legitimate situations that call for a violent response. In fact, many have quoted scripture to support violent actions and we don’t need to go back to the Crusades for examples of this. Just last month it was revealed that Donald Rumsfeld extensively used Bible quotes in his daily briefings to George Bush with regards to the Iraq war. These included “rah-rah” photographs of American soldiers with captions such as “Therefore put on the full armor of God…” Another photo depicted soldiers kneeling in prayer next to the words, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Here I am Lord, Send me. ” And finally there was a picture of Saddam Hussein next to the verse, “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”
At the same time, however, it seems to me that there is a recent ground swell of individuals who believe that the Kingdom of Christ should never use violent means, even against enemies. I am not referring to a group of politically motivated individuals, or an anti-Bush, anti-Iraq war crowd. Rather, it seems to me that there is a growing movement that is seeing with greater clarity that the Kingdom of Christ is nothing like any kingdom of the world.
The verses used by Rumsfeld were so radically taken out of context. Their use to support violence of any kind was nothing short of dishonest. It seems to me that he could have made a much better case for going to war in the name of God if he had wanted to, because of course the Bible does records times when God told his people to fight. Imagine if Rumsfeld had quoted these words of God:
“Go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Don’t leave a thing; kill all the men, women, children, and babies; the cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys.” (1 Samuel 15:3)
Perhaps words like this were too strong – even for someone like Rumsfeld – and here is the real challenge for those who make the claim that Christians should advocate absolute nonviolence. If the Bible records God as commanding his people to fight and even to kill babies on occasion, how is it possible for anyone who holds the Bible to be the inspired word of God to take this position?