Q: Why Does God Seem Angry and Vengeful in the OT? Featured

Saturday, 22 August 2015 18:01


I was wondering if you can send me some material on the question that many Christians and others struggle with. Why is God so angry,violent and vengeful in the Old Testament and gracious in the New Testament? I would really appreciate if you can provide some good material on this subject.


ot ntThis is a good question.  First of all, the God of the Old Testament is absolutely the same as the God of the New Testament.  God is incredibly, amazingly loving and patient in the Old Testament.  God's patience with Israel is absolutely spectacular.  Time and time again they rebelled against him, committed idolatry, and every other kind of sin, yet he had chosen them and he continued to forgive them and to keep them as his people.  God did discipline his people, for example when Israel was destroyed by Assyria and Judah was destroyed by Babylon, but he did this with the hope that they would repent and continue to be his people.  He disciplined them because he loved them.

I suggest you consider the book of Hosea, which is an amazing metaphor for God's love and grace. Hosea loved his wife, even though she was a harlot.  God uses this as an analogy for Israel who also became a harlot spiritually.  Also, consider Jonah, which shows God's amazing grace.  The message is that God loves the Gentiles too.   There is an almost unlimited amount of material in the Old Testament about God's grace.  Consider Ezekiel chapters 34-38.  Again, we see God's plan and desire to save his people--to bring them back into the land to enjoy life in his kingdom.  He has the same desire for us.

Both the Old and the New Testament has warnings about judgment for those who will not repent.  Consider Hebrews 10:26-31 where God warns that "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."  God is angry at those who reject him, both in the Old and the New Testaments!  Hebrews 3 and 4 is full of warnings for those who do not seek God. God's love and his justice are real and we ignore his love to our peril.  This is the message of both the Old and the New Testament. Both have reward for faithfulness and obedience.  Both have judgment and punishment for those who rebel and refuse a relationship with God. Again, I see no difference here.

There is one thing in the Old Testament which certainly is not in the New Testament, which is examples of warfare in the name of God.  This is because the Old Testament is about more physical things compared to the New Testament.  The rewards and warnings are more physical in the Old Testament, whereas the rewards and warnings are more spiritual in the New Testament.

The thing in the Old Testament which typically gives the most difficulty (and I would have to say, the difficulty is legitimate!) is the warfare.  Let me share some material which might help to put this warfare in the name of God into perspective.  Also, here is a document with more material on "answering the hard questions."      

For example in  1 Samuel 15:2-3  it reads:  “This is what the Lord of Hosts says: ‘I witnessed what the Amelekites did to the Israelites when they opposed them along the way as they were coming out of Egypt.  Now, go and attach the Amelekites, and completely destroy everything they have.  Do not spare them.  Kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

That is tough stuff!

A few points on the subject:

  1. If you are not bothered by this on some level, I am worried about you!

  2. The argument assumes that physical death is bad/evil.  This is a false assumption.  Sin is evil but death is not.  Death is a transition, hopefully, to something better.

  3. This is the Creator talking here.  Like the father said to his kid:  I brought you into the world, and I can take you out!  God has every right to do as he wills.

  4. God has a perfect right to judge.

  5. There is the issue of the religion of the Amelekites.  Sacrificing of children, worshipping gods by having sex with a prostitute in the temple, etc.

  6. The situation for the children in this situation was hopeless.

  7. In the case of Amelek and other Canaanites, both God’s love and his justice demanded that something be done.

  8. Either God was going to create a nation or he was not.   If God is going to have a “people,” then such people must have a physical land and must have an army.

  9. God’s plan is to choose a man, then a nation, through whom to send a savior. God’s plan to bless humanity through Jesus trumps all else.

  10. It is sinful to take the life of another in anger, out of greed or selfishness, but it is not necessarily sinful to take a life in war.

  11. Everything God did to Israel as a nation was to limit their ability to wage war.  No authority to establish an empire.  No standing army.  No cruelty, no abuse, no rape.

On slavery:

Some of the same points apply.
  1. First, let us acknowledge that, on some level, God legislating slavery is troubling.

  2. God accommodated rather than approved slavery.

  3. All of God’s regulations with regard to slavery were to limit it. (Eph 6:9)

  4. Slaves could not be bought and sold.

  5. Humane treatment. Deuteronomy 23:15, Leviticus 25:14

  6. All slaves were eventually given their freedom at the Jubilee year.

  7. God is not concerned with physical slavery nearly so much as spiritual slavery.

  8. Nevertheless, Paul asked Philemon to free his slave Onesimus in an inspired passage.

  9. William Wilberforce.  It was Christian influence which ended the slave trade world wide.

John Oakes


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