Is the God of the Bible a Genocidal Maniac?

by Michael J Kruger

Armenia. Cambodia. Rawanda. Bosnia. Darfur. All well-known modern examples of genocide where entire people groups were wiped out (or almost wiped out).  These are awful tragedies, worthy of our sorrow and grief.

And yet, ask the critics, is the God of the Bible really any different? When the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, was it not God that commanded them to wipe out all the indigenous people (Deut 20:17)? Is God not guilty of genocide? It makes me think of the famous bumper-sticker quote, “The only difference between God and Adolf Hitler is that God is more proficient at genocide.”

Admittedly, this is a difficult, complex issue. We feel obligated, understandably, to find a way to get God “off the hook” for the deaths of so many people. Many possibilities come to mind for how that might be done. Maybe we’ve misread the passage. Maybe it’s just symbolic. Maybe the Israelites misunderstood God’s command. And so on.

But, in the end, I don’t think we need to get God off the hook. I don’t think he wants off the hook.  As painful as this issue is, it highlights what we, and our culture, need to hear more than ever: God is holy, people are sinful, the world is broken, and his judgment is just.

If we are going to rightly understand the destruction of the Canaanites, several principles must be remembered…
 

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Is the God of the Bible a Genocidal Maniac?