Did God Condone Old Testament Slaughter?

Question: How do you, as an apologist, handle objections by non-Christians who use parts of the OT dealing with God condoning massive slaughter, incest, the destruction of entire cities, or any of the other various moral objections we would have to some of the occurrences in the OT?


God is the author of life. When he says that someone should be killed, it is his right to do so. Besides, the usual slaughters that are brought up are when the Hebrews returned to Canaan. If you read Deuteronomy 9, it says:

Deuteronomy 9: 1 “Hear, O Israel; you are to pass over the Jordan this day, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves, cities great and fortified up to heaven, 2 a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, `Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ 3 Know therefore this day that he who goes over before you as a devouring fire is the LORD your God; he will destroy them and subdue them before you; so you shall drive them out, and make them perish quickly, as the LORD has promised you. 4 “Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, `It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’; whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. 5 Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land; but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 6 “Know therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people. 7 Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness; from the day you came out of the land of Egypt, until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD.

God was clearly telling them that their slaughter was a punishment inflicted on the Canaanites for sin. He was also letting the Hebrews know subtly that this too would be their fate it they sinned. In fact it was.

As to incest, that is a relative term. There was nothing wrong with Adam’s sons marrying their sisters when they were the only women on the whole planet! As to some of the other incest stories (e.g., Lot and his daughters) these are reported as matters of fact by the Bible, and not praised. In fact the children who descended from those unions were not part of the covenant promise and became enemies of the Jews.

In general, Man is fallen and much of his history documents his moral turpitude. In the OT, the Law merely pointed out the moral problems but did not give the people any power to overcome it. What it did do was teach Man that he needed to repent! It is as Jesus taught:

Luke 13: 1 There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? 3 I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

After all, the wages of sin is death, not purgatory. Purgatory is an indulgence of God the Father towards his wayward children.

By Art Sippo

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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