This is the second post of the weekly series on immoral passages in the Bible. You can find the collection page here, with links to every post in the series.
This week we are looking at murder in the Bible. Not only do many of God’s chosen commit murder in the pages of the Bible, but God himself condones, orders, and even commits murder throughout many passages. Obviously there is the tale of the flood, where God drowns and kills everyone except for those that Noah saves on his boat. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Now, because of the length of the Bible and the many, many violent passages within it, I will not be covering all the passages that are related to murder. This will just be a sampling. So to start with, we can look at proclamations for when God’s faithful should commit murder on his behalf; to satisfy God’s ego, or his (extremely warped) sense of decency. These are some of the instances that God has decided call for the death penalty.
As an atheist, I should be put to death according to 2 Chronicles: “They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.” (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NIV)
Many of the devoutly religious today are vocally opposed to homosexuality because of this passage from Leviticus: “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” (Leviticus 20:13 NIV)
In Exodus we find a verse that gave the Puritans all the justification they needed during the Salem witch trials: “Do not allow a sorceress to live.” (Exodus 22:18 NIV)
And then we have Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is full of such lovely orders from God as these:
You should kill people who do not listen to priests. (Deuteronomy 17:12 NIV)
If a woman is not a virgin on her wedding night then she is to be taken to her father’s doorstep and stoned to death by the men of the town. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21 NIV)
If you find a town where someone is not worshipping the God of Israel then you need to BURN THE WHOLE TOWN TO THE GROUND AND MURDER EVERY INHABITANT. Holy shit, God! What the hell? (Deuteronomy 13:12-19 NIV)
Those are some examples of when God, or his prophet, give a standing order to commit murder whenever someone does something God does not like. But there are also specific instances of murder in various Bible stories that, while not ongoing orders, are still either heinous, or outright insane. Take the following examples:
In 2 Kings, Elisha goes to Bethel and on his way some young boys start making fun of him for his bald head. In retaliation for these children calling him names, Elisha curses them and then two bears appear and maul 42 of the children. God uses two bears to kill 42 children for making fun of a bald man. (2 Kings 2:23-24 NIV)
God himself promises to slaughter all the people on and around Mount Seir, even saying that the mountains, valleys, and streams will be filled with corpses of all those he has slain. He will do all this to prove that he is the Lord. (Ezekiel 35:7-9 NIV)
God sends the Angel of Death to kill 185,000 Assyrians in the book of 2 Kings. (2 Kings 19:35 NIV)
God gives his blessing to Micah and the people of Dan to slaughter everyone in the town of Laish. We are specifically told that all the people of the town of Laish were peaceful. Despite being a peaceful people, God approves of their destruction, and the destruction of their town. Laish is burned to the ground so that the tribe of Dan can build their own town, named Dan, where Laish had previously stood. (God gives his blessing in Judges 18:6, while the slaughter itself happens in Judges 18:27-29 NIV)
You may or may not have noticed at this point that I have only used examples from the Old Testament so far. Well, just like last week, I saved the New Testament for last. While it is true that the Old Testament is, in general, more barbaric and brutal than the New Testament, there is still plenty to be appalled at.
In his Epistle to the Romans, Paul talks at length about those who have abandoned God. These people, as he describes them, are worshipping the things God made, but not God himself. He condemns these people for not believing in God and for engaging in homosexual relationships. He then goes on to say that they are engaging in all sorts of hedonistic and evil behaviors, such as being greedy, murderous, and deceitful. But then Paul reminds us that God’s penalty for such behavior is death. Yes, once again, we are reminded that God will kill the non-believers and homosexuals. (Romans 1:18-32 NIV)
In the Book of Acts, the Apostle Peter straight up murders a man and woman for lying. Ananias and his wife sell their property. They keep a little bit of the money for themselves, and then bring the rest to Peter as a gift to the apostles and the church. As Ananias gives Peter the money, he tells him he is giving him the full amount from the sale. Peter immediately knows (somehow) that Ananias is lying and accuses him of allowing Satan into his heart, and of trying to deceive God. Ananias then suddenly drops dead. Peter has some men bury Ananias outside. Later, Ananias’ wife, Sapphira, enters and Peter asks her if the amount Ananias gave him was the full amount from the sale. When Sapphira tells him that, yes, it was the full amount, Peter again talks about deceiving the Lord. He also lets her know that the men who buried her husband hours before are waiting outside. Sapphira then drops to the floor dead, just like her husband. After that, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” (Acts 5:1-11 NIV)
So what do you think? Does that all sound like the moral teaching of an all-loving, and all-knowing God? Or does it sound more like the stories written by dozens of men over the course of several centuries, who lived in brutal, harsh desert conditions and had a poor understanding of how the world around them really worked?
My money is on the latter. When religious people claim to have the moral high ground because their holy book is a source of morality, these people are lying to themselves and to others. The reason that so many of the laws we find in the Bible are now ignored in most Western countries is because we do not get our morality from the Bible. As Christopher Hitchens said, “Human decency is not derived from religion, it precedes it.”