Why is the God of the Old Testament portrayed as such a blood-thirsty
It's a question that often comes up: If God is a God of love, then why did He destroy millions of people in the flood? Why did He kill all of Egypt’s firstborn? Why did He command Israel to commit genocide?
But is this only an "Old Testament" problem? We could also ask, why did He orchestrate the death of His own Son, Jesus, the Christ?
It's a good question. And when someone I correspond with wrote me this exact same question yesterday, I didn't immediately have an answer. After all, it does seem so opposite of the God of love that is otherwise portrayed in the Bible!
In order to understand the answer, I believe it is necessary to take a God-view of the world through history.
God created this world to be a perfect place, and He created Adam and Eve, the culminating head of His creation, to be His special friends. He loved them. He walked and talked in the Garden of Eden with them (See Gen. 3:8). And He was forced to see them fall to the clutches of the enemy.
But their fall didn't just affect them personally. It was like a black cloud went out, immediately enveloping the entire earth, affecting all of creation, the plants of the fields, and all of Adam and Eve's offspring (Gen. 3:4-10). Just like that, one mistake, and it was done. The enemy had the foothold he needed to corrupt all of God’s beautiful creation in an inky, oily cloud of sin and deceit.
Nothing can cleanse us from this sin that we've all been born under. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
So why all the blood and guts in the Old Testament?
God was preparing a way for Jesus!
But wait, that sounds awfully cruel! Ordering genocide? Killing babies?
We are at war, friends. And any move forward always comes at a certain cost. And just like pieces on a chess board, sometimes you have to sacrifice a piece for the greater good.
But no! That can't be God! Sure, I get the sacrifice thing, but God loves us! He isn't willing that any should perish! Isn't it written in His Word: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV).
We also know that God never changes: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Heb 13:8-9 NKJV).
So why would He command the deaths of some, even for the greater good? It doesn't match up to the image of a loving God!
But wait. Did God ever command the death of anyone without giving them a chance to repent?
The ark took 120 years to be constructed. Was this not an extensively long grace period? No one kept all those millions of people out of the ark. They didn’t go in with Noah and his family because they choose not to!
And what about the deaths of all those first born in Egypt?
Let's remember that this was the last plague. The first few were but mere annoyances, not causing death at all, and then came ones that caused sickness but not death. During all this time, God was trying to get the attention of those Egyptians!
We are also told that God didn't immediately allow Abraham to possess the land of Canaan. Instead they stayed in Egypt for 400 years, even enduring slavery, because "...the iniquity of the Amorites [was] not yet complete." (See Gen 15 NKJV). God gave the Canaanites a 400 year grace period, folks! Does that sound like a vengeful, hateful God? Not at all! That sounds like a God of love!
In this world covered with the oily, murky darkness of sin, God prepared a way out, and God did not kill or have anyone killed without giving multiple chances for repentance. Up to 400 years of them!
Now that, my friends, is a God of love!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author -- "Aboard God's Train -- A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer", Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.