Atheists, skeptics anti-Christians, critics of The Bible and even some strange Christians hold that God's actions in The Old Testament paint him as a murderer and practitioner of evil. Christian apologetics has long since debunked these claims for the nonsense that they are. It's true that quickly skipping through a few books in the Old Testament can paint God in a bad light, especially you if you take verses out of context and cherry pick but when examined as they are written and as they are part of the narrative, everything makes sense and God remains the righteous, forgiving, loving and practitioner of justice that Jesus and other prophets taught about. In this article I examine some verses used by critics who have the insolence to judge God.
"God murdered many innocents."
This is a claim often made by some people. They cite 1 Chronicles 21 as the prime example here but ignore the whole narrative. David orders a census for Israel but ignores the regulations set by Moses:
Exodus 30:12 When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them.
God - who had been responsible for all of Israel's victories and even for the Israelites gaining the land they were living in - gave David three choices. There choices were to either suffer a plague, a famine or be beaten by their enemies. David chose the plague and 70,000 people died. This is cited as God murdering 70,000 innocent people but this is so far away from the truth. The truth is, is that these men were unrighteous. The critic is assuming that these men were innocent people, guilty of no crime but they ignore previous passages and verses where God proclaims that he only ever kills the guilty.
Far be it from you to do such a thing-to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" The Lord said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake."
Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?" "If I find forty-five there," he said, "I will not destroy it."
Once again he spoke to him, "What if only forty are found there? "He said, "For the sake of forty, I will not do it." Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?" He answered, "I will not do it if I find thirty there."
Abraham said, "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?" He said, "For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it." Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?" He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.
In the end, the only righteous people found in Sodom were Lot and his family. This included himself, his two daughters and his wife. God destroyed Sodom in the end because of this but Lot and his family were warned to escape because of their righteousness. God did not destroy the righteous with the wicked.
Now if 1 Chronicles 21 is drawing upon Exodus 30:12 in regards to the census, why should Genesis 18:25-33 be ignored? 1 Chronicles 21 gives us no reason to believe God killed innocents unless we're willingly to dismiss everything else from before Chronicles which reveal that God spares the righteous from the wicked. So while it's true God killed 70,000 people here, they were in no way righteous. David was the only reason God was relenting his hand from Israel and once he had sinned, these unrighteous people had no protection and the chances that God had given them were up.
God allowed murderers to repent of their sins and live - yup, even in the Old Testament - and this amazing forgiveness is mentioned many times:
Ezekiel 33:19 And if a wicked man turns away from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he will live by doing so.
Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
Isaiah 1:16-17 Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
Jonah 3:8 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.
Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
"God ordered the murdering of many people so the Israelites could have a place to live."
Deuteronomy 9:4 After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, "The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness." No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you.
Deuteronomy 9:6 You must recognize that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not--you are a stubborn people.
The nations that the Israelites came to triumph over were more unrighteous than they. Again, as with before, these people that were killed in battle against the Israelites were not righteous. They were evil.
"God supported slavery."
Another false fact.
Exodus 21:16 "Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death."
Exodus 21: 20 "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished."
Exodus 21:26 "If a man strikes his servant's eye, or his maid's eye, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for his eye's sake."
Exodus 21:27 "If he strikes out his male servant's tooth, or his female servant's tooth, he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake."
Deuteronomy 23:15 "If slaves should escape from their masters and take refuge with you, you must not hand them over to their masters."
Deuteronomy 23:16 "Let him live among you wherever he likes and in whatever town he chooses. Do not oppress him."
Deuteronomy 15:12 "If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free."
Nothing in the Old Testament condemns slavery but as these verses show, the slavery is quite different from the slavery in the medieval era. Kidnapping someone to sell them as a slave is considered evil and sending a escaped slave back to their master is considered evil. Meanwhile, people who sold themselves as slaves had to be set free after six years. People who killed their slaves had to be punished and people who disfigured their slaves had to let them go free. So while the Israelites were even allowed to buy slaves from other nations, they had to treat them right and they were to adhere to the same rules that applied to those who had sold themselves into slavery.
At this point, it becomes obvious that this is not the slavery of the medieval era. Rules and regulations were in place for slaves and they had to be treated well. The Bible supported a man selling himself into slavery and since man has free-will what's the problem with this? Most people who criticize the Bible and the "God's advocation for slavery" often support abortion with the argument "it's the woman's body, she can do what she wants" so let's apply that to this argument: It's the man's life, he can do what he wants with it, including selling himself into slavery.
"God supported human sacrifice."
Anyone who claims this proves they've not read the Old Testament. There are verses expressing God's hate and disgust for this practice, commanding people not to do it.
Deuteronomy 12:31 "Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods."
Jeremiah 7:31 "And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind."
In conclusion, all the criticisms against God are based on Biblical literary ignorance. Everything has been cleared up with Christian apologetics. God is good and I don't need to read through the Psalms which proclaim God's everlasting and steadfast love and forgiveness to know this.