Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Maybe the Old Testament God isn't the Worst God Ever?

So here's a question: What if the violence God did in the Old Testament was to punish people for doing bad things to other people, instead of being the wrong religion?

As Psalm 79:6-7 says,
"Pour out your wrath on the nations
    that do not acknowledge you,
on the kingdoms
    that do not call on your name;
for they have devoured Jacob
    and devastated his homeland."

Not "for they follow the wrong gods" or anything like that. No, it's because of the war crimes committed against Israel.

Another example: Amos 1. Judgment is prophesied against many of the nearby nations, and the reasons given are all massive human-rights violations: killing civilians, forcing people into slavery.

(However, Amos 2 gets around to condemning the nation of Judah- God's people- for not keeping God's law. Seems like they're held to a different/higher standard?)

When Israel's God commanded his people not to follow other gods, perhaps it was because of what other religions did, not because "hey if you refer to God by the wrong name then you make him very angry." The Old Testament mentions two incredibly shady aspects of the other religions at the time: temple prostitution and human sacrifice.

Temple prostitution:

Passages explicitly mentioning temple prostitutes: Deuteronomy 23:17 ,1 Kings 14:24, 2 Kings 23:7 (why are all of these about male prostitutes? I'm assuming it's because female prostitutes were normal, so they didn't bother to write that part down?)

Passages which used terms related to prostitution as a metaphor for following other gods: Exodus 34:15-16 plus commentary, 2 Chronicles 21:13, Isaiah 57:5 plus commentary, Jeremiah 2:20, etc, this theme comes up a lot. So, I'm going with the assumption that talk of lust and adultery was not just a metaphor for God's people chasing other gods, but that their religious practices actually involved having sex.

(Wait a minute... I'm starting to think this is totally not a metaphor at all... wow I've been reading the bible completely wrong.)

I'm not sure how exactly the temple prostitution worked, but given the patriarchal culture of the time, I'm going to go out on a limb and say it was not very nice to women.

(see also the wikipedia page on sacred prostitution)

Human sacrifice:

Worship of the god Molech involved sacrificing children. That is MESSED-UP, dude.

See this list for biblical mentions of Molek.

Also this list of references about sacrificing sons and daughters.

This is not really the best thing to be googling late at night. Image source.

So, if this were true, if the people God killed in the Old Testament were all guilty of horrific human-rights violations, that would make the God of the Old Testament kind of reasonable and not the worst God ever.


But this can't account for everything. Sure, crimes like this were occurring- but do you really think every single man, woman, and child killed by God's punishments was personally involved in these crimes?

Why was God's response just about killing and punishment? What about trying to help the victims?

Does it make any sense to say, "Some of the people in [place] are mistreating other people in [place], so we should punish this crime by killing everyone in [place]"?

It's like God/ the biblical authors see it as "well these things are happening so that society is totally messed up- gotta totally get rid of it."

And the religion that Israel's God established still commanded genocide and horrible stuff like that. This theory doesn't make it all better.

But I really do think the problem was that different religions were actually different, and had religious practices that hurt other people, and that's what made God angry. Not worshiping in a temple that's a different shape or whatever.


This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 79. To read other people's posts, click here: Where is Jesus?

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