If you've already read another part of this, you can skip the introduction.
Is the God of the Bible an immoral egotistical arrogant tyrant in his prejudiced demands to be worshiped as the one true God and his condemnation of those who worship other gods? Is he an insanely angry bigot? Crueller than the cruellest earthly dictator in his bloodlust and hatred and barbaric desire for killing and violence? A ruthless baby and child killer? Bursting into enraged childish temper tantrums at the most minor provocation and inflicting deadly punishments on people for trivial offences? Is the Bible a malicious and intolerant book of hate literature which should be treated with contempt by anyone with an ounce of compassion because it incites irrational acts of barbarity? Did it directly incite the "burning times" when Christians in their supposed zeal for biblical commands tortured and killed anyone accused of being a witch? These are all charges commonly brought against the God of the Bible and the Bible itself by many sceptics, with similar vehemence as that just displayed. Are they true?
If you're feeling a bit depressed or anxious today, you may find some of the content on some of the pages here particularly upsetting. Section 1 of this website contains self-help articles that it might be best to visit first. Topics covered include depression, serious worry, panic attacks, phobias and OCD, marriage problems, raising difficult teenagers, self-harm, anorexia, grief, bullying and teasing, coping with a life-threatening illness, and recovery from rape. You can find them here: Free Self-Help to Recover From or Cope With Some Problems.
Note: This series is entirely unsuitable for children. Part of it contains passages of violence and sickening descriptions of cruelty from the news that many might find offensive and distressing. In fact, I recommend that this is only read by the most insistent Bible critics and the Christians most disturbed by the allegations!
Part of the series contains quotations from several news stories. When reading about the harsh way the Bible says God punished the people in his anger, it's easy to get a very one-sided impression of an enraged God pouring vengeance on a people who were actually living fairly decent lives. Although it's true that it indicates that the punishments were to a large extent non-discriminatory and so innocent people would undoubtedly have suffered, the impression the Bible gives is that the societies the punishments were inflicted on were corrupt to the core - societies where violence, murder, ruthless oppression of the vulnerable, sexual abuse and several other varieties of sin were rampant! And according to the Bible, these were societies that refused to police themselves! The quotations from the news stories, though discussing incidents that took place in a different era, that were of course committed by others, and perhaps often in different ways, are meant to bring home to people the kind of impact such crimes would have had on the many victims suffering such things in those societies, and the depths to which societies can stoop. The idea is that they can help people imagine the kind of thing the Bible says was going on in the biblical societies threatened with God's punishment. Thus, the punishments the Bible says were inflicted on the societies in Old Testament times that behaved in such a manner will seem less unjust to the open-minded.
It may be that some of the stories describe things which vary considerably from what was going on then and may be much worse, but apart from anything else, they will be a corrective to the assumption that certain practices must have been harmless, such as the worship of other gods and occult practices, and also a corrective to any glib refusal to take any provocation into account when declaring the God of the Bible truly unjust.
In fact, it seems it's people who persistently commit just such violent and unscrupulous acts that the Old Testament was written for. A New Testament passage claims that certain Old Testament punishments were meant as examples/warnings for future generations not to do evil things. It may be that many who won't be convinced to stop catastrophically harming others by declarations of the love of Jesus and beautiful passages meant to inspire people to do good, as can be found in the New Testament, can be scared into stopping by the descriptions of punishments being meted out to wrongdoers that fill the Old Testament.
The links to the news stories are not provided, because of the high possibility that many will soon be broken. To read the articles in full, you can put the names of the titles or a distinctive phrase from the story you'd like to read more of in quotes in Google, and if it's still somewhere on the Internet, you'll probably find it.
I found it very distasteful to put the quotations from the stories together, but felt compelled to do so because of the virulence of the accusations with which the God of the Bible is condemned by some, and the potential that this could cause Christians to lose their joy in Christianity, and to doubt or lose their faith, - although perhaps some belong to a toxic brand of Christianity that would make losing their faith a good thing. I know of people who say they were once Christians, but who lost their faith in disgust when they learned about the cruelty allegedly inflicted by God in Old Testament times. Some will go on to frequently express strong feelings of contemptuous anti-Christian hostility. A greater knowledge of the provocation that the Bible indicates led to the harsh Old Testament punishments may lead people to a greater understanding of why they were considered necessary, though they seem severe whatever the provocation!
Some food for thought can be had if one considers that every single one of the atrocities reported in the news articles quoted on these pages would not have been committed by anyone who was genuinely dedicated to following biblical Christianity. And every one of the people committing them would stop doing such things if they discovered a new beginning in becoming committed to biblical Christianity. Any atrocities committed in its name have been committed despite what the Bible says, not because of it. To prove it, here are some links to Bible quotations informing Christians on the way they should behave, which not only prohibit such atrocities as the ones described in the news articles quoted here, but indicate that Christians should abide by much higher standards of behaviour. Promoting Christianity, seen as dangerous by some, could actually be at least a partial solution to the world's problems. Whole communities have in the past turned from warlike activity when they have become Christians and started following ideals for the Christian lifestyle like the ones found in the quotations here:
Some people may have been exposed to a brand of Christianity that makes it difficult for them to believe Christianity could be a power for good. But a reading of those quotes will prove that it is benign. Any group that promotes an unhealthy doctrine may well be distorting what the Bible actually says. Here's an example of how it can be done:
Therefore, those who make it their mission to try determinedly to pull the Bible apart by rooting out as many alleged petty contradictions as they can, defaming the God of the Bible as immoral, doing their determined best to convince people that Jesus never existed, and denigrating Christians as delusional and unthinking, etc. are in effect, though probably mostly unwittingly, aiming to destroy something beautiful, something that can be a powerful force for good in the right hands. Christianity can give people a brand new vision of life, offer them a brand new start, feeling that their record of wrongdoing has been wiped clean in God's eyes so they can learn to love themselves, see themselves as worthwhile, and thus can see a point in starting again with renewed dedication to living a good life.
Naturally, other interventions can give people new hope and raise their self-esteem. But Christianity is one with widespread appeal that shouldn't be dismissed.
When people feel God has forgiven them, it doesn't mean, as some would slanderously claim, that they no longer have a responsibility to try to make amends as far as possible for what they did. On the contrary, the Christian faith can often inspire people to do just that, where they had no interest in doing so before.
It can inspire people to transform their behaviour, or stop their behaviour degenerating into behaviour that would hurt others in the first place, partly because they can feel responsible to God - a higher authority they respect enough to want to obey - for the way they live, and not just accountable to themselves. The Christian faith can give them hope for the future, and security and confidence that they are loved by someone greater than themselves, God. The increase in self-worth this can bring can give people the motivation to treat others better. People who believe they are valued can be more likely to be respectful of others and thus less likely to mistreat them.
Christianity can give people a sense of belonging and identity, as a wonderful alternative to the sense of belonging and identity they may have previously sought in gangs or warlike nationalism etc.
It can give them meaning and purpose in life, in that the Bible urges Christians to spend their lives doing good. A sense of meaning and purpose in life can bring a sense of satisfaction that can strengthen people's desire to carry on what they're doing, and if they're doing productive things instead of ones that make them angry and hateful, it can be especially so. Thus, meaning and purpose derived from doing good has its own rewards, and thus can strengthen the desire people may have to continue to do so, and can replace the meaning and purpose gained from belonging to destructive causes, as well as the opposite of meaning - the sense of disillusionment with life that can lead to living selfishly and callously.
Falling in love with the character of Jesus as portrayed by the gospels can bring a desire to please him; and a belief that he loves them so much he was even willing to die so their sin could be cleansed can bring a deep gratitude which will strengthen the desire to please him. Thus, it can bring a heartfelt commitment to obeying his commands. The commands in the New Testament, such as those to live peaceful lives of non-violence and to care for others, are said to be Christ's commands. Thus, falling in love with the character of Christ as portrayed in the gospels can transform a person's attitude and lead them to lives of goodness.
Reflection on the New Testament commands can also give people cause to stop and think, and a desire to inquire into the reasons for the commands; and their reflection on the reasons for them can lead to a deeper conviction of the wisdom of many commands, which can subsequently lead to a deeper commitment to following them.
The sense of being loved by God and the Bible's imploring of people to love one another in practical ways can soften a person's attitudes, making them contemplate the way they're living and changing their mind-set from one of hatred or cruel indifference to people around them and a consequent wish to harm or use them, to a desire to do things to benefit them.
Belief that one is accountable to God for the way one lives can be a check on people's natural desire to live for themselves when they want to put their own desires above the needs or welfare of others because their desires are strong.
Belief in God's punishment can sober a person and make their commitment to obey Christ's commands to live lives of non-violence and caring more serious, since they can bring realisation that Christianity is a serious commitment, not a fashion accessory, a tradition, or something merely to be played with while in reality behaving as one wishes.
Naturally, turning to Christianity won't always have such wholesome effects, by any means; but it's more likely to do so where there is a focus on the guidelines for Christian behaviour linked to above, and a focus on making positive improvements in life rather than getting bogged down in the idea of guilt for sin, or in some minor doctrine taken out of balance with the whole.
It's true that there are passages in the Bible where it says God orders incidents of what can appear barbaric merciless violence. Some are not so abhorrent as a superficial reading without knowledge of the cultural practices of the day might suggest, but some certainly are. Most, if not all, can be matched, however, by the cruelty of many of the people the violence was inflicted on. Thus, we have the reciprocity principle in action. The violence was mostly said to be punishment for such wrongdoing, deterrents to prevent such cruelty and crime in the future, and chastisement to spur people to change their ways. Therefore, harsh though the punishments were, and though it's easy and perhaps highly reasonable to argue that they were far worse than any society could possibly have deserved, it can be argued that they were by no means wholly unjustified, and they were far more than the simple actions of a vindictive petty God having brutal temper tantrums in an insane, violently angry rage, as is so often charged.
The other parts in this series:
It's difficult to believe any society could have enough evil people in it to deserve destruction by invaders. It might be more believable if one was living in one of the more lawless societies of the world; but that's by no means certain. Still, here are several Bible passages from the Old Testament that go into detail about the sins of a society the prophets said was soon to come under God's Judgment if they didn't turn away from their hurtful behaviour.
Amos chapter 2 (TEV)
6 The Lord says, "The people of Israel have sinned again and again, and for this I will certainly punish them. They sell into slavery honest people who cannot pay their debts, the poor [just because they] cannot repay even the price of a pair of sandals."
Amos chapter 2 (NLT)
7 They trample helpless people in the dust and deny justice to those who are oppressed. Both father and son sleep with the same woman, corrupting my holy name. 8 At their religious festivals, they lounge around in clothing stolen from their debtors. In the house of their god, they present offerings of wine purchased with stolen money.
Micah chapter 2 (NLT)
1 How terrible it will be for you who lie awake at night, thinking up evil plans. You rise at dawn and hurry to carry out any of the wicked schemes you have power to accomplish. 2 When you want a certain piece of land, you find a way to seize it. When you want someone's house, you take it by fraud and violence. No one's family or inheritance is safe with you around! 8 Yet to this very hour my people rise against me! You steal the shirts right off the backs of those who trusted you, making them as ragged as men who have just come home from battle. 9 You have evicted women from their homes and stripped their children of all their God-given rights. 11 Suppose a prophet full of lies were to say to you, "I'll preach to you the joys of wine and drink!" That's just the kind of prophet you would like!
Amos chapter 5 (GWT)
7 You, Israel, turn justice into poison and throw righteousness on the ground. 10 Israel, you hate anyone who speaks out against injustice. You are disgusted by anyone who speaks the truth. 11 You trample on the poor and take their wheat from them for taxes. ... 12 I know that your crimes are numerous and your sins are many. You oppress the righteous by taking bribes. You deny the needy access to the courts. 13 That is why a wise person remains silent at such times, because those times are so evil.
Isaiah Chapter 59 (NIV)
3 Your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things. 4 No one calls for justice; no one pleads his case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments and speak lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil.
7 Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways. 8 The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace. 14 So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. 15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.
The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
Isaiah chapter 5 (NIV)
7 He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.
Ezekiel chapter 23 (NLT)
37 They have committed both adultery and murder - adultery by worshiping idols and murder by burning their children as sacrifices on their altars. 38 Then after doing these terrible things, they defiled my Temple and violated my Sabbath day! 39 On the very day that they murdered their children in front of their idols, they boldly came into my Temple to worship! They came in and defiled my house!
Jeremiah chapter 7 (GWT)
30 "The people of Judah have done what I consider evil," declares the LORD. "They set up their detestable idols in the house that is called by my name. They have made it unclean. 31 They have built worship sites at Topheth in the valley of Ben Hinnom in order to burn their sons and daughters as sacrifices. I did not ask for this. It never entered my mind."
Ezekiel chapter 20 (GWT)
30 "Tell the nation of Israel, 'This is what the Almighty LORD says: Will you dishonor yourselves the way your ancestors did? Will you chase their detestable idols like a prostitute? 31 You offer your children as sacrifices by burning them alive. You dishonor yourselves with all your disgusting idols to this day. Should you be allowed to ask me for help, nation of Israel? "
Ezekiel chapter 9 (NLT)
9 Then he said to me, "The sins of the people of Israel and Judah are very great. The entire land is full of murder; the city is filled with injustice. They are saying, 'The LORD doesn't see it! The LORD has forsaken the land!'
Ezekiel chapter 24 (NLT)
6 "Now this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Destruction is certain for Jerusalem, the city of murderers! She is a pot filled with corruption. ... 7 for her wickedness is evident to all. She murders boldly, leaving blood on the rocks for all to see. She doesn't even try to cover it!"
Jeremiah chapter 7 (NLT)
8 "'Do you think that because the Temple is here you will never suffer? Don't fool yourselves! 9 Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and worship Baal and all those other new gods of yours, 10 and then come here and stand before me in my Temple and chant, "We are safe!" - only to go right back to all those evils again? 11 Do you think this Temple, which honors my name, is a den of thieves? I see all the evil going on there, says the LORD.
Amos chapter 8 (TEV)
4 Listen to this, you that trample on the needy and try to destroy the poor of the country. 5 You say to yourselves, "We can hardly wait for the holy days to be over so that we can sell our grain. When will the Sabbath end, so that we can start selling again? Then we can overcharge, use false measures, and fix the scales to cheat our customers. 6 We can sell worthless wheat at a high price. We'll find someone poor who can't pay his debts, not even the price of a pair of sandals, and we'll buy him as a slave."
Ezekiel chapter 7 (CEV)
10 Injustice and arrogance are everywhere, 11 and violent criminals run free. 23 Your whole country is in confusion! Murder and violence are everywhere in Israel.
Isaiah Chapter 9 (NIV)
16 Those who guide this people mislead them, and those who are guided are led astray. 17 Therefore the Lord will take no pleasure in the young men, nor will he pity the fatherless and widows, for everyone is ungodly and wicked, every mouth speaks vileness.
Jeremiah Chapter 6 (NIV)
13 "From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit."
Jeremiah chapter 9 (NIV)
3 "They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land. They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me," declares the LORD. 4 "Beware of your friends; do not trust your brothers. For every brother is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. 5 Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. 6 You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me," declares the LORD. 8 Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks with deceit. With his mouth each speaks cordially to his neighbor, but in his heart he sets a trap for him.
Jeremiah chapter 17 (NLT)
9 "The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? 10 But I know! I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve."
11 Like a bird that hatches eggs she has not laid, so are those who get their wealth by unjust means. Sooner or later they will lose their riches and, at the end of their lives, will become poor old fools.
Isaiah chapter 1 (TEV)
21 The city that once was faithful is behaving like a whore! At one time it was filled with righteous people, but now only murderers remain. 22 Jerusalem, you were once like silver, but now you are worthless; you were like good wine, but now you are only water. 23 Your leaders are rebels and friends of thieves; they are always accepting gifts and bribes. They never defend orphans in court or listen when widows present their case.
Jeremiah chapter 5 (NIV)
11 "The house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly unfaithful to me," declares the LORD. 26 "Among my people are wicked men who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch men. 27 Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful 28 and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor."
Habakkuk chapter 1 (NLT)
2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! "Violence!" I cry, but you do not come to save. 3 Must I forever see this sin and misery all around me? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. 4 The law has become paralyzed and useless, and there is no justice given in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, and justice is perverted with bribes and trickery.
Isaiah chapter 28 (NLT)
7 Now, however, Israel is being led by drunks! The priests and prophets reel and stagger from beer and wine. They make stupid mistakes as they carry out their responsibilities. 8 Their tables are covered with vomit; filth is everywhere.
Isaiah Chapter 10 (NIV)
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.
22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks, 23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent.
Isaiah chapter 5 (NIV)
11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. 12 They have harps ... at their banquets, tambourines and flutes and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD, no respect for the work of his hands.
Hosea chapter 4 (TEV)
1 The Lord has an accusation to bring against the people who live in this land. Listen, Israel, to what he says: "There is no faithfulness or love in the land, and the people do not acknowledge me as God. 2 They make promises and break them; they lie, murder, steal, and commit adultery. Crimes increase, and there is one murder after another.
11 The Lord says, "Wine, both old and new, is robbing my people of their senses!"
Isaiah Chapter 10 (NIV)
1 Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, 2 to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.
Hosea chapter 12 (TEV)
1 Everything that the people of Israel do from morning to night is useless and destructive. Treachery and acts of violence increase among them.
7 The Lord says, "The people of Israel are as dishonest as the Canaanites; they love to cheat their customers with false scales.
Isaiah chapter 3 (TEV)
12 Moneylenders oppress my people, and their creditors cheat them.
My people, your leaders are misleading you, so that you do not know which way to turn. 13 The Lord is ready to state his case; he is ready to judge his people. 14 The Lord is bringing the elders and leaders of his people to judgment. He makes this accusation: "You have plundered vineyards, and your houses are full of what you have taken from the poor. 15 You have no right to crush my people and take advantage of the poor. I, the Sovereign Lord Almighty, have spoken."
Amos chapter 4 (TEV)
1 Listen to this, you women of Samaria, who grow fat like the well-fed cows of Bashan, who mistreat the weak, oppress the poor, and demand that your husbands keep you supplied with liquor!
Ezekiel chapter 13 (CEV)
16 The LORD said:
17 Ezekiel, son of man, now condemn the women of Israel who preach messages that come from their own imagination. 18 Tell them they're doomed! They wear magic charms on their wrists and scarves on their heads, then trick others into believing they can predict the future. They won't get away with telling those lies. 19 They charge my people a few handfuls of barley and a couple pieces of bread, and then give messages that are insulting to me. They use lies to sentence the innocent to death and to help the guilty go free. And my people believe them! 20 I hate the magic charms they use to trick people into believing their lies. ... 22 They do things I would never do. They lie to good people and encourage them to do wrong, and they convince the wicked to keep sinning and ruin their lives.
Jeremiah chapter 23 (TEV)
10 The land is full of people unfaithful to the Lord; they live wicked lives and misuse their power. ... 13 I have seen the sin of Samaria's prophets: they have spoken in the name of Baal and have led my people astray. 14 But I have seen the prophets in Jerusalem do even worse: they commit adultery and tell lies; they help people to do wrong, so that no one stops doing what is evil.
Jeremiah chapter 8 (CEV)
8 You say, "We are wise
because we have the teachings
and laws of the LORD."
But I say that your teachers
have turned my words
Everyone is greedy and dishonest,
whether poor or rich.
Even the prophets and priests
cannot be trusted.
Jeremiah chapter 2 (NLT)
26 "Like a thief, Israel feels shame only when she gets caught. Kings, officials, priests, and prophets - all are alike in this. 27 To an image carved from a piece of wood they say, 'You are my father.' To an idol chiseled out of stone they say, 'You are my mother.' They turn their backs on me, but in times of trouble they cry out for me to save them!
34 Your clothing is stained with the blood of the innocent and the poor. You killed them even though they didn't break into your houses! 35 And yet you say, 'I haven't done anything wrong. Surely he isn't angry with me!'"
Jeremiah chapter 6 (TEV)
7 As a well keeps its water fresh, so Jerusalem keeps its evil fresh. I hear violence and destruction in the city; sickness and wounds are all I see.
Hosea chapter 4 (NLT)
12 They are asking a piece of wood to tell them what to do! They think a stick can tell them the future! Longing after idols has made them foolish. They have played the prostitute, serving other gods and deserting their God. 13 They offer sacrifices to idols on the tops of mountains. They go up into the hills to burn incense in the pleasant shade of oaks, poplars, and other trees. That is why your daughters turn to prostitution, and your daughters-in-law commit adultery. 14 Why should I punish them? For you men are doing the same thing, sinning with whores and shrine prostitutes. O foolish people! ... 15 Their worship is mere pretense as they take oaths in the LORD's name. 18 The men of Israel finish up their drinking bouts and off they go to find some prostitutes. Their love for shame is greater than their love for honor.
Isaiah chapter 57 (TEV)
4 Who are you making fun of? Who are you liars jeering at?
5 You worship the fertility gods by having sex under those sacred trees of yours.
You offer your children as sacrifices in the rocky caves near stream beds.
6 You take smooth stones from there and worship them as gods.
You pour out wine as offerings to them and bring them grain offerings.
Do you think I am pleased with all this?
7 You go to the high mountains to offer sacrifices and have sex.
8 You set up your obscene idols just inside your front doors. You forsake me; ...
9 You put on your perfumes and ointments and go to worship the god Molech.
To find gods to worship, you send messengers far and wide, even to the world of the dead.
Hosea chapter 7 (NLT)
3 The people make the king glad with their wickedness. The princes laugh about the people's many lies. 4 They are all adulterers, always aflame with lust. They are like an oven that is kept hot even while the baker is still kneading the dough.
5 "On royal holidays, the princes get drunk. The king makes a fool of himself and drinks with those who are making fun of him. 6 Their hearts blaze like a furnace with intrigue. Their plot smolders through the night, and in the morning it flames forth like a raging fire. 7 They kill their kings one after another, and no one cries out to me for help."
Micah chapter 3 (TEV)
1 Listen, you rulers of Israel! You are supposed to be concerned about justice, 2 yet you hate what is good and you love what is evil. 8 But as for me, the Lord fills me with his spirit and power, and gives me a sense of justice and the courage to tell the people of Israel what their sins are. 9 Listen to me, you rulers of Israel, you that hate justice and turn right into wrong. 10 You are building God's city, Jerusalem, on a foundation of murder and injustice. 11 The city's rulers govern for bribes, the priests interpret the Law for pay, the prophets give their revelations for money-and they all claim that the Lord is with them. "No harm will come to us," they say. "The Lord is with us."
Ezekiel chapter 18 (CEV)
1 The LORD said: 2 Ezekiel, I hear the people of Israel using the old saying, "Sour grapes eaten by parents leave a sour taste in the mouths of their children." 3 Now tell them that I am the LORD God, and as surely as I live, that saying will no longer be used in Israel. 4 The lives of all people belong to me--parents as well as children. Only those who sin will be put to death.
5 Suppose there is a truly good man who always does what is fair and right. 6 He refuses to eat meat sacrificed to foreign gods at local shrines or to worship Israel's idols. He doesn't have sex with someone else's wife or with a woman having her monthly period. 7 He never cheats or robs anyone and always returns anything taken as security for a loan; he gives food and clothes to the poor 8 and doesn't charge interest when lending money. He refuses to do anything evil; he is fair to everyone 9 and faithfully obeys my laws and teachings. This man is good, and I promise he will live.
10 But suppose this good man has an evil son who is violent and commits sins 11 his father never did. He eats meat at local shrines, has sex with someone else's wife, 12 cheats the poor, and robs people. He keeps what is given to him as security for a loan. He worships idols, does disgusting things, 13 and charges high interest when lending money. An evil man like that will certainly not live. He is the one who has done these horrible sins, so it's his own fault that he will be put to death.
14 But suppose this evil man has a son who sees his father do these things and refuses to act like him. 15 He doesn't eat meat at local shrines or worship Israel's idols, and he doesn't have sex with someone else's wife. 16 He never cheats or robs anyone and doesn't even demand security for a loan. He gives food and clothes to the poor 17 and refuses to do anything evil or to charge interest. And he obeys all my laws and teachings. Such a man will live. His own father sinned, but this good man will not be put to death for the sins of his father. 18 It is his father who will die for cheating and robbing and doing evil.
19 You may wonder why a son isn't punished for the sins of his father. It is because the son does what is right and obeys my laws. 20 Only those who sin will be put to death. Children won't suffer for the sins of their parents, and parents won't suffer for the sins of their children. Good people will be rewarded for what they do, and evil people will be punished for what they do.
21 Suppose wicked people stop sinning and start obeying my laws and doing right. They won't be put to death. 22 All their sins will be forgiven, and they will live because they did right. 23 I, the LORD God, don't like to see wicked people die. I enjoy seeing them turn from their sins and live. 24 But when good people start sinning and doing disgusting things, will they live? No! All their good deeds will be forgotten, and they will be put to death because of their sins.
25 You people of Israel accuse me of being unfair! But listen--I'm not unfair; you are! 26 If good people start doing evil, they must be put to death, because they have sinned. 27 And if wicked people start doing right, they will save themselves from punishment. 28 They will think about what they've done and stop sinning, and so they won't be put to death. 29 But you still say that I am unfair. You are the ones who have done wrong and are unfair! 30 I will judge each of you for what you've done. So stop sinning, or else you will certainly be punished. 31 Give up your evil ways and start thinking pure thoughts. And be faithful to me! Do you really want to be put to death for your sins? 32 I, the LORD God, don't want to see that happen to anyone. So stop sinning and live!
Micah chapter 6 (TEV)
6 What shall I bring to the Lord, the God of heaven, when I come to worship him?
Shall I bring the best calves to burn as offerings to him?
7 Will the Lord be pleased if I bring him thousands of sheep or endless streams of olive oil?
Shall I offer him my first-born child to pay for my sins?
8 No, the Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.
9 It is wise to fear the Lord. He calls to the city, "Listen, you people who assemble in the city! 10 In the houses of evil people are treasures which they got dishonestly. They use false measures, a thing that I hate. 11 How can I forgive those who use false scales and weights? 12 Your rich people exploit the poor, and all of you are liars."
Hosea chapter 6 (TEV)
8 Gilead is a city full of evil people and murderers. 9 The priests are like a gang of robbers who wait in ambush for someone. Even on the road to the holy place at Shechem they commit murder. And they do all this evil deliberately!
Jeremiah chapter 19 (NLT)
4 "'For Israel has forsaken me and turned this valley into a place of wickedness. The people burn incense to foreign gods - idols never before worshiped by this generation, by their ancestors, or by the kings of Judah. And they have filled this place with the blood of innocent children. 5 They have built pagan shrines to Baal, and there they burn their sons as sacrifices to Baal. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing!
Ezekiel chapter 8 (NLT)
5 Then the LORD said to me, ... 6 ... "do you see what they are doing? Do you see the great sins the people of Israel are doing to drive me from my Temple? But come, and you will see even greater sins than these!"
Ezekiel chapter 8 (GWT)
10 I saw that the walls were covered with drawings of every kind of crawling creature, every kind of disgusting animal, and all the idols in the nation of Israel. 11 In front of these drawings stood 70 of Israel's leaders. Jaazaniah, son of Shaphan, was standing with the leaders. Each of them was holding an incense burner in his hand, and a cloud of incense went up. 12 God asked me, "Son of man, do you see what the leaders of the nation of Israel are doing in secret? Each of them is in the room where his god is, and each one of them is thinking, 'The LORD doesn't see me. The LORD has abandoned this land.'"
16 Then he brought me into the inner courtyard of the LORD's temple. There at the entrance to the LORD's temple, between the entrance and the altar, were about 25 men who had their backs turned to the LORD's temple. They were facing east and worshiping the rising sun. 17 He asked me, "Son of man, do you see this? Isn't it bad enough that the people of Judah have done these disgusting things that you have seen here? Yet, they also fill the land with violence and continue to provoke me even more."
Hosea chapter 7 (TEV)
1 "Whenever I want to heal my people Israel and make them prosperous again, all I can see is their wickedness and the evil they do. They cheat one another; they break into houses and steal; they rob people in the streets. 2 It never enters their heads that I will remember all this evil; but their sins surround them, and I cannot avoid seeing them."
Ezekiel chapter 22 (GWT)
1 The LORD spoke his word to me. He said, 2 "Will you judge, son of man? Will you judge the city of murderers? Then tell it about all the disgusting things that it has done. 3 Tell it, 'This is what the Almighty LORD says: [Jerusalem,] you are the city that murders people who live in you. Your time has come. You dishonor yourself with disgusting idols. 4 You are guilty because of the people you have killed. You are dishonored because of the disgusting idols you have made.
6 "'See how all the princes of Israel who live in you have used their power to murder people. 7 People in you hate their fathers and mothers. They oppress foreigners in you. They oppress orphans and widows in you. 8 You have despised my holy things and dishonored the day to worship me. 9 Some of your people slander. They want to kill people. People who live in you eat food sacrificed to idols at the worship sites on the hills, and they sin sexually. 10 Men have sex with their father's wives. 11 Men do disgusting things with their neighbors' wives. Some men sexually dishonor their daughters-in-law. Other men who live in you have sex with their sisters, their father's daughters. 12 Other people take bribes to murder people. You collect interest and make excessive profits. You make profits by mistreating your neighbors. You have forgotten me, declares the Almighty LORD.
13 "'I will use my power against you because of the excessive profits you have made and the murders you have committed. 14 Will you still be brave? Will you remain strong when I deal with you? I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will do it.
23 The LORD spoke his word to me. He said, ... 25 Your princes are like roaring lions who tear their prey into pieces. They eat people and take their treasures and precious belongings. They turn many women into widows. 26 Your priests violate my teachings and dishonor my holy things. ... So I am dishonored among the people. 27 Your leaders are like wolves that tear their prey into pieces. They murder and destroy people to make excessive profits. 28 Your prophets cover up these things by seeing false visions and by prophesying lies. They say, "This is what the Almighty LORD says." Yet, the LORD hasn't spoken. 29 The common people oppress and rob others. They do wrong to humble people and to poor people. They oppress foreigners for no reason.
Amos chapter 3 (NLT)
"My people have forgotten what it means to do right," says the LORD.
Jeremiah chapter 5 (TEV)
7 The Lord asked, "Why should I forgive the sins of my people? They have abandoned me and have worshiped gods that are not real. I fed my people until they were full, but they committed adultery and spent their time with prostitutes. 8 They were like well-fed stallions wild with desire, each lusting for his neighbor's wife.
Isaiah chapter 58 (NLT)
1 "Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Tell my people Israel of their sins! 2 Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to hear my laws. You would almost think this was a righteous nation that would never abandon its God. They love to make a show of coming to me and asking me to take action on their behalf.
3 'We have fasted before you!' they say. 'Why aren't you impressed? We have done much penance, and you don't even notice it!'
"I will tell you why! It's because you are living for yourselves even while you are fasting. You keep right on oppressing your workers. 4 What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. 5 You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like a blade of grass in the wind. You dress in sackcloth and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD?
6 "No, the kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn. 7 I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
8 "If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your healing will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. 9 Then when you call, the LORD will answer. 'Yes, I am here,' he will quickly reply.
"Stop oppressing the helpless and stop making false accusations and spreading vicious rumors! 10 Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as day. 11 The LORD will guide you continually, watering your life when you are dry and keeping you healthy, too. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. 12 Your children will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as the people who rebuild their walls and cities."
Doubtless the Canaanites would have been involved in many of the same behaviours the Israelites were condemned for - they're common to all societies to a greater or lesser extent. But the Bible says there were things going on in Canaan that are rather unusual today. This could, naturally, have just been evil propaganda designed to excuse evil behaviour. It would be impossible to be sure. It's possible these practices were common though. Here's what the Bible says:
Deuteronomy chapter 9 (NLT)
4 "... don't say to yourselves, 'The LORD has given us this land because we are so righteous!' No, it is because of the wickedness of the other nations that he is doing it. 5 It is not at all because you are such righteous, upright people that you are about to occupy their land. The LORD your God will drive these nations out ahead of you only because of their wickedness, and to fulfill the oath he had sworn to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 6 I will say it again: The LORD your God is not giving you this good land because you are righteous, for you are not - you are a stubborn people.
Deuteronomy chapter 12 (TEV)
30 After the Lord destroys those nations, make sure that you don't follow their religious practices, because that would be fatal. Don't try to find out how they worship their gods, so that you can worship in the same way. 31 Do not worship the Lord your God in the way they worship their gods, for in the worship of their gods they do all the disgusting things that the Lord hates. They even sacrifice their children in the fires on their altars.
Leviticus chapter 18 (GWT)
1 The LORD spoke to Moses, 2 "Tell the Israelites: I am the LORD your God. 3 You used to live in Egypt. Don't live the way the Egyptians do. I am bringing you to Canaan. Don't live the way the Canaanites do. Never live by their standards. 4 Follow my rules, and live by my standards. I am the LORD your God. 5 Live by my standards, and obey my rules. You will have life through them. I am the LORD.
"never have sexual intercourse with anyone related to you by blood. I am the LORD.
7 "Never have sexual intercourse with your mother. She is your own mother. Never have sexual intercourse with her.
8 "Never have sexual intercourse with your stepmother. She is related to you through your father.
9 "Never have sexual intercourse with your stepsister, whether she is your father's daughter or your mother's daughter. It makes no difference whether or not she was born in your house.
10 "Never have sexual intercourse with your granddaughter, whether she is your son's daughter or your daughter's daughter, because she is related to you.
11 "Never have sexual intercourse with a daughter of your father and his wife. She is your own sister.
12 "Never have sexual intercourse with your father's sister. She is your paternal aunt.
13 "Never have sexual intercourse with your mother's sister. She is your maternal aunt.
14 "Never have sexual intercourse with the wife of your father's brother. She, too, is your aunt.
15 "Never have sexual intercourse with your daughter-in-law. She is your son's wife. Never have sexual intercourse with her.
16 "Never have sexual intercourse with your sister-in-law. She is your brother's wife.
17 "Never have sexual intercourse with a woman and her daughter or a woman and her granddaughter. They are related. Doing this is perverted.
18 "While your wife is living, never marry her sister as a rival wife and have sexual intercourse with her.
20 "Never have sexual intercourse with your neighbor's wife and become unclean with her.
22 "Never have sexual intercourse with a man as with a woman. It is disgusting.
23 "Never have sexual intercourse with any animal and become unclean with it. A woman must never offer herself to an animal for sexual intercourse. It is unnatural. "
24 "Do not become unclean in any of these ways. By these practices all the nations which I am forcing out of your way have become unclean. 25 The land has become unclean. I will punish it for its sins. The land will vomit out those who live in it.
26 Live by my standards, and obey my rules. Neither you nor any foreigner should ever do any of these disgusting things. 27 The people of the land who were there before you did all these disgusting things. As a result, the land has become unclean. 28 If you make the land unclean, it will vomit you out as it has vomited out the people who were there before you. 29 Whoever does any of these disgusting things must be excluded from the people. 30 So you must follow my instructions. Don't live by the standards of the people who lived there before you. What they do is disgusting. Never become unclean that way. I am the LORD your God."
Deuteronomy chapter 18 (GWT)
9 When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, never learn the disgusting practices of those nations.
12 Whoever does these things is disgusting to the LORD. The LORD your God is forcing these nations out of your way because of their disgusting practices. 13 You must have integrity [in dealing] with the LORD your God. 14 These nations you are forcing out listen to fortunetellers and to those who practice black magic. But the LORD your God won't let you do anything like that.
The Old Testament's full of examples of where it says the people of Israel did great evil so God let them be conquered by enemies, and when they turned away from their evil deeds, he let them break free of enemy oppression. In fact, this seems to be the main theme of the Old Testament - a kind of very crude object lesson that people are supposed to behave decently.
But there are several Bible verses that claim God was willing not to bring the destruction in the first place if only they'd turn away from their cruelty.
The Bible says this happened to Israel, but also to other nations.
The most striking example is in the Book of Jonah:
Jonah chapter 1 (TEV)
1 One day the Lord spoke to Jonah son of Amittai. 2 He said, "Go to Nineveh, that great city, and speak out against it; I am aware of how wicked its people are."
Jonah chapter 3 (NIV)
1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you."
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh.
Now Nineveh was a very important city-a visit required three days. 4 On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned."
5 The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh:
"By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.
9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish."
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
Jonah chapter 4 (TEV)
1 Jonah was very unhappy about this and became angry. 2 So he prayed,
"Lord, didn't I say before I left home that this is just what you would do? That's why I did my best to run away to Spain! I knew that you are a loving and merciful God, always patient, always kind, and always ready to change your mind and not punish. 3 Now then, Lord, let me die. I am better off dead than alive."
4 The Lord answered, "What right do you have to be angry?"
5 Jonah went out east of the city and sat down. He made a shelter for himself and sat in its shade, waiting to see what would happen to Nineveh.
6 Then the Lord God made a plant grow up over Jonah to give him some shade, so that he would be more comfortable. Jonah was extremely pleased with the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day, at God's command, a worm attacked the plant, and it died.
8 After the sun had risen, God sent a hot east wind, and Jonah was about to faint from the heat of the sun beating down on his head. So he wished he were dead. "I am better off dead than alive," he said.
9 But God said to him, "What right do you have to be angry about the plant?"
Jonah replied, "I have every right to be angry-angry enough to die!"
10 The Lord said to him, "This plant grew up in one night and disappeared the next; you didn't do anything for it and you didn't make it grow-yet you feel sorry for it! 11 How much more, then, should I have pity on Nineveh, that great city. After all, it has more than 120,000 innocent children in it, as well as many animals!"
Here are other examples of where the Bible says God would be willing to change his mind about a punishment he'd decreed if the people turned away from evil behaviour:
Jeremiah chapter 18 (TEV)
5 The Lord said to me, 7 If at any time I say that I am going to uproot, break down, or destroy any nation or kingdom, 8 but then that nation turns from its evil, I will not do what I said I would. 9 On the other hand, if I say that I am going to plant or build up any nation or kingdom, 10 but then that nation disobeys me and does evil, I will not do what I said I would.
11 Now then, tell the people of Judah and of Jerusalem that I am making plans against them and getting ready to punish them. Tell them to stop living sinful lives-to change their ways and the things they are doing.
Jeremiah chapter 26 (TEV)
13 You must change the way you are living and the things you are doing, and must obey the Lord your God. If you do, he will change his mind about the destruction that he said he would bring on you.
Jeremiah chapter 7 (NLT)
1 The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 2 "Go to the entrance of the LORD's Temple, and give this message to the people: 'O Judah, listen to this message from the LORD! Listen to it, all of you who worship here! 3 The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says:
"Even now, if you quit your evil ways, I will let you stay in your own land. 4 But do not be fooled by those who repeatedly promise your safety because the Temple of the LORD is here. 5 I will be merciful only if you stop your wicked thoughts and deeds and are fair to others; 6 and if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows; and if you stop your murdering; and if you stop worshiping idols as you now do to your own harm. 7 Then I will let you stay in this land that I gave to your ancestors to keep forever."
Jeremiah chapter 26 (NIV)
1 Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the LORD :
2 "This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD's house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD . Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. 3 Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. 4 Say to them, 'This is what the LORD says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, 5 and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth.'"
7 The priests, the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of the LORD . 8 But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the LORD had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, "You must die! 9 Why do you prophesy in the LORD's name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted?" And all the people crowded around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.
10 When the officials of Judah heard about these things, they went up from the royal palace to the house of the LORD and took their places at the entrance of the New Gate of the LORD's house. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, "This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!"
12 Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: "The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. 13 Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the LORD your God. Then the LORD will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. 14 As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. 15 Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing."
16 Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, "This man should not be sentenced to death! He has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God." 17 Some of the elders of the land stepped forward and said to the entire assembly of people, 18 "Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. He told all the people of Judah,
'This is what the LORD Almighty says:
" 'Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.'
19 "Did Hezekiah king of Judah or anyone else in Judah put him to death? Did not Hezekiah fear the LORD and seek his favor? And did not the LORD relent, so that he did not bring the disaster he pronounced against them?"...
Isaiah chapter 1 (TEV)
15 "When you lift your hands in prayer, I will not look at you. No matter how much you pray, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with blood.
16 Wash yourselves clean. Stop all this evil that I see you doing. Yes, stop doing evil 17 and learn to do right. See that justice is done-help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows."
18 The Lord says, "Now, let's settle the matter. You are stained red with sin, but I will wash you as clean as snow. Although your stains are deep red, you will be as white as wool. 19 If you will only obey me, you will eat the good things the land produces. 20 But if you defy me, you are doomed to die. I, the Lord, have spoken."
Ezekiel chapter 33 (TEV)
10 The Lord spoke to me. "Mortal man," he said, "repeat to the Israelites what they are saying: "We are burdened with our sins and the wrongs we have done. We are wasting away. How can we live?' 11 Tell them that as surely as I, the Sovereign Lord, am the living God, I do not enjoy seeing sinners die. I would rather see them stop sinning and live. Israel, stop the evil you are doing. Why do you want to die?
12 "Now, mortal man, tell the Israelites that when someone good sins, the good he has done will not save him. If an evil person stops doing evil, he won't be punished, and if a good man starts sinning, his life will not be spared. 13 I may promise life to someone good, but if he starts thinking that his past goodness is enough and begins to sin, I will not remember any of the good he did. He will die because of his sins. 14 I may warn someone evil that he is going to die, but if he stops sinning and does what is right and good- 15 for example, if he returns the security he took for a loan or gives back what he stole-if he stops sinning and follows the laws that give life, he will not die, but live. 16 I will forgive the sins he has committed, and he will live because he has done what is right and good.
17 "And your people say that what I do isn't right! No, it's their way that isn't right. 18 When someone righteous stops doing good and starts doing evil, he will die for it. 19 When someone evil quits sinning and does what is right and good, he has saved his life. 20 But Israel, you say that what I do isn't right. I am going to judge you by what you do."
Isaiah chapter 33 (TEV)
14 The sinful people of Zion are trembling with fright. They say, "God's judgment is like a fire that burns forever. Can any of us survive a fire like that?"
15 You can survive if you say and do what is right. Don't use your power to cheat the poor and don't accept bribes. Don't join with those who plan to commit murder or to do other evil things. 16 Then you will be safe; you will be as secure as if in a strong fortress. You will have food to eat and water to drink. 17 Once again you will see a king ruling in splendor over a land that stretches in all directions. 18 Your old fears of foreign tax collectors and spies will be only a memory. 19 You will no longer see any arrogant foreigners who speak a language that you can't understand.
Hosea chapter 11 (NLT)
8 "Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah and Zeboiim? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows. 9 No, I will not punish you as much as my burning anger tells me to. I will not completely destroy Israel, for I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy.
10 "For someday the people will follow the LORD. 11 ... And I will bring them home again," says the LORD.
The other parts in this series:
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(Bible topics include the end of the world, sex and marriage, violence, anger and jealousy, whether Christians should gossip and tell dirty jokes, and some of the reasons why Christians suffer. There are also articles to help with various problem behaviours like alcoholism and anger management.)
|Bible Part 2: The Lives and Suffering of the Ancient Israelites, The Book of Revelation, And People's Religious Experiences Today|
|Bible Part 3: The Bible, Articles About Alleged Inaccuracies in it, And Stories of People who Became Christians|
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