Bible stories; religious violence;
"Show them no mercy" 1
"When the Lord your God brings you into the land
you are entering to possess and drives out before you may nations...then
you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no
mercy." Deuteronomy 7:1-2, NIV. 1
"...do not leave alive anything that breaths.
Completely destroy them...as the Lord your God has commanded you..."
Deuteronomy 20:16, NIV. 1
Overview of violence in the Hebrew Bible:
Biblical scholar Raymond Schwager:
"... has found 600 passages of explicit violence in the Hebrew Bible
[a.k.a. Old Testament], 1000 verses where God's own violent actions of
punishment are described, 100 passages where God expressly commands others
to kill people, and several stories where God irrationally kills or tries to
kill for no apparent reason. Violence ... is easily the most often mentioned
activity in the Hebrew Bible." 6
Of the many passages in the Hebrew Scriptures that describe major
loss of life, most were conventional wars. Four of these events would probably qualify as
genocides under most current definitions of the term. They were:
The worldwide flood at the time of Noah as described in Genesis,
chapters 6 to 8. From
the description, it almost completely wiped out
the human race, with the exception of Noah, his wife and sons and their
The Passover incident described in Exodus chapters 11 and 12, in which all of the firstborn of all Egypt
were slaughtered. This included newborns, children, youths, adults, the elderly
-- both human and animal.
The conquest of Canaan, in which God ordered the Hebrews to completely
Canaanite people -- again from the elderly to newborns and fetuses. This is
described throughout the book of Joshua as occurring in Jericho and other
The near extermination of the entire tribe of Benjamin by the remaining
11 tribes, triggered by the serial rape and murder of a priest's concubine by a
See Judges, chapter 20.
The first three of the above genocides have at least three factors
The Bible explains that God was primarily responsible.
Many liberal Christians, liberal Jews, historians and biblical
archaeologists believe that all three are religious myths -- stories of
great spiritual significance about events that never actually happened.
Jewish and Christian conservatives generally believe in that the
authors of the Bible were inspired by God and
thus their writings are inerrant. They believe that the
genocides happened exactly as described in the Bible.
In addition, the book of Revelation, as interpreted by Christian
Dispensationalists, predicts that
a massive genocide will occur at some time in our future, in association
with the war of Armageddon and the end of the world
as we know it (TEOTWAWKI). If it were to happen in the near future, on the
order of two billion people will die.
In modern times, genocide is generally regarded as the most serious,
reprehensible, horrifying and disgusting crime of which humans are capable.
Those responsible are considered to be sub-human pariahs. At first glance,
there seems to be a conflict between concept of God as a loving, caring,
beneficent deity, and his responsibility in causing or ordering these
Theologians have attempted to resolve this apparent conflict for millennia.
It is part of a larger conflict called theodicy: Why
doesn't an all-good God prevent evil?