Did God Command Genocide in the Old Testament?
by Ryan Leasure
Richard Dawkins’ famous quote just about sums up how skeptics view the God of the Old Testament. He retorts:
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genodical, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.1
Whew. Other than his obvious thesaurus skills, we notice that Dawkins takes great offense at God’s behavior in the Old Testament. He scorns Scripture’s portrayal of slavery and the poor treatment of women, but it’s the Canaanite invasion that attracts most of his contempt. For example, he uses words such as bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, racist, infanticidal, and genodical to make his point loud and clear.
But this raises an obvious question. Did God really command genocide? Did he really order Israel to wipe the Canaanites from the face of the earth? Some texts seem to suggest this…