The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

The Wrathful God of the Old Testament Needs To Die

sodom angelsby Mark Horne

Why? Because he is fictional.

If you are afraid of wrathful, you should be running away from Jesus as much as from anyone you meet in the Old Testament.

Of course, even that comparison is fraught with falsehoods. To begin with, the Old Testament is not about “the Father” who gets supplemented by his much nicer Son in the New Testament.

(Oh, another falsehood is me using the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament,” but I don’t have the energy to include another issue in this post, so I’m just going to sin boldly.)

Quite the contrary, it was Jesus who met Moses on Mount Sinai. The New Testament is new more because it reveals the Father. Jesus declaring himself the Son doesn’t mean he’s a new character being introduced now. It means we learn more clearly that someone had sent Him from the beginning. He introduces His Father. All divisions of history that go from an age of the Father to an age of the Son are clearly backwards.

So it is Jesus who killed all those unfaithful Israelites in the wilderness.

Which comes back to that “wrathful” God. If by “Old Testament” people meant that single forty year period in the wilderness, then the idea would make more sense. But that’s a really narrow band of time. The whole point of that training ground was to prepare the nation of Israel for a long period of time (also in the Old Testament) when God would wait patiently and not intervene in sin and evil, entrusting Israel with the responsibility to do good and grow in righteousness.

Most of the time–the overwhelming majority of the years covered by the Old Testament–God sat back and did nothing while people sinned and sinned and sinned and sinned.

I thought of this while reading Psalm 106 this morning:

They did not destroy the peoples,
as the Lord commanded them,
but they mixed with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood.
Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds.

When we read about Sodom and Gomorrah, we see the wrath of God but forget that, in fact, that wickedness had continued for years, decades, and perhaps even more than a century (or more?). That bastion of rape and exploitation, every servant being abused, every child prostituted, every act of predatory violence piled up and God said nothing. He did nothing. He let it happen.

His eventual destruction of those cities in the circle of the Jordan was a picture of the future of the whole land of Canaan. When Israel returned as a great nation out of the land of Egypt, the whole culture of the Canaan was as bad as Sodom and Gomorrah. God had been patient and done nothing for more than two generations. The conquest of Canaan does show God’s wrath, but only after centuries of patience.

And Psalm 106 shows us how much God put up with before He stepped in and judged Israel. Generations of child sacrifice and false worship were tolerated by him.

Consider how easy it is for our government to claim they have the right to go overthrow a government for “attacking their own people.” The “God of the Old Testament” is obviously tolerant to a fault by American standards.

Yet, even while we are far more impatient and wrathful than God is, we have shamelessly slandered and libeled God as if he had anger management issues. The whole construct is false and blasphemous.

And, by the way, Jesus came at a point in time that was the end of another long stretch of patience. So, again, his own prophecies of judgment on his own generation are not at all inconsistent with the character he demonstrated throughout the Bible.

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24 thoughts on “The Wrathful God of the Old Testament Needs To Die

  1. A young boy was once asked by the great TV host Art Linkletter what the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament was. His reply: In the New Testament, God became a Christian.

  2. shelly on said:

    How do you know it was Jesus who met Moses on Mt Sinai? I’ve never heard that before.

    • Mark Horne on said:

      Shelly there are several lines of evidence. My preferred demonstration is found in John chapter 1. Give me a day and I’ll post a blog entry about it.

  3. Pingback: Pat Robertson Are You The Lone Haranguer? | Spiritual Lives Of Women

  4. trkunkel on said:

    Can the Father be both exceedingly patient and wrathful at the same time or must He be one or the other? Can Christ be both the extremely humble suffering servant of the Gospels and the Rider on the White horse from Revelation 19:11-16?

    If you mean the “fly off the handle capriciously” kind of wrathful God is a fiction I lend my “amen”. But I think we can agree that the “for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure so I will wait generations but when it does woe to them ” kind of wrathful God is alive and well no?

  5. If God and Jesus are one and the same, then how come they have such radically different personalities? God is all about being wrathful and angry, while Jesus is all about being accepting and loving. Either Jesus has Multiple Personality Disorder (and God is one of his multiple personalities), or else Jesus and God are not actually one and the same. Which is it?

    • Mark Horne on said:

      Hannah, with respect, I disagree with your claim. They are both patient and slow to anger. That was my argument in this blog post to which you are writing in the reply blank.

      • If God is slow to anger, then how come he killed millions of people throughout the Old Testament? And how come killing people seemed to be his solution to most problems, which just shows that he didn’t have the patience to try any other solutions? Also, I’m just curious, but have you ever actually read the Old Testament in its entirety?

    • Hannah, As much as you doubt Mr. Horne’s reading of the OT, I completely doubt your reading of the Old and the New. Do your own homework.

  6. Mark Horne on said:

    millions? Well, I guess since everybody dies and God brings that about, you could say that. But that is still true today.

    Hannah, on the OT, yes, more than once.

    What evidence do we have that Sodom and Gomorrah had not killed and tortured and raped as many as who died in that final judgment? What we see in the OT is precisely what we see Jesus talking about in Luke’s Gospel in the parable of the fruitless tree.

    Where do you get the idea that he never tried other solutions. He sent the prophets for centuries–that’s centuries of child sacrifice, etc–before the final invasion.

    Again, if we looked at the data, we would accuse God of tolerating evil to long, not for showing his wrath against it too often.

    • What about all of the innocent people whom God killed? (And don’t even try to use the completely pessimistic and unrealistic “everyone is innately evil, since everyone’s a sinner” argument, since, if you took a look at reality, you’d see that there are just as many (if not more) instances of people helping one another as there are of people hurting one another. Just because you choose to ignore the instances in which people help one another doesn’t mean that those instances never actually happened. ) Face it, God killed millions of innocent people for no reason other than that he wanted to punish the few people who were actually guilty of doing wrong, and he could see no way of doing that other than wiping out an entire population. You’re trying to make excuses for a mass murderer here. Can you really not see how utterly twisted that is?

    • Also, I ask you kindly to please read this long list of instances in which God commanded his followers to kill others and then tell me whether or not you think that God is wrathful:

  7. Mark Horne on said:

    So only when God sends fire or an army are the deaths at his account? What about all the innocents in Sodom who had been gang raped and killed before? What about all the Israelite houses that had the bones of a young murdered child at the foundational cornerstone? God let that go on for a long time before finally ending the civilization. Again, who dies apart from God’s curse on sin? Going back to Genesis 3, it all gets blamed on him, though he is just in his ways.

    In any case, Jesus thought all of this was righteous and right so I’m not sure what your objections have to do with positing a difference between an OT God and Jesus in the NT.

    • So, just because some people are evil, that somehow means that innocent people deserve to die? Not only is that sentiment completely lacking in any sort of compassion for the innocent people who were killed by God throughout the Old Testament, but it’s also completely illogical. Why don’t you seem to care at all about logic?

      And are you saying that you’d rather blindly believe everything that was attributed to Jesus (such as the supposed fact that he thought that God’s actions were righteous) than actually think this issue through for yourself? If so, then how is that intelligent at all? Blind belief is the same thing as willful ignorance, you know, since blind belief requires ignoring all of the facts that contradict with your beliefs. And ignoring facts makes you ignorant. There is no way around that.

      • Brenda Williams on said:

        Hannah, I think that you are forgetting or neglecting one simple principle: God’s Game, God’s rules. You don’t have to like it or respect it, but he created the world, and everything in it, and he is the one who knows what will work and what won’t. The Old Testament is full of health codes (see Exodus and Leviticus), personal property laws (again, Exodus and Leviticus), and all sorts of information about what will make for a good and healthy society. God told them how to live and they ignored him. He had every right to destroy them, although Mark is correct, most of the time he didn’t. In Jonah, he sent a prophet from Israel to tell them to change, and they listened and he did not destroy the city. His game, his rules.

      • Brenda: Thanks for proving that God is nothing but a tyrant who refuses to abide by the rules that he himself set. Why do you worship a deity like that?

  8. Hannah, I would encourage you to re-read your New Testament about Jesus. He is not perhaps the “gentle Jesus meek and mild” that you think He is. How about this description of Him…

    Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (From Revelation 19)

    Also, Jesus taught on hell far more than any other person in the Bible. Just a few thoughts.

    As to the OT, God let four generations of the Amorites commit horrors against others and even their own children before He stepped in. (Genesis 15:16) That is amazingly patient as most of us would not put up with that level of evil for four minutes let alone four generations. God let the entire earth get to where “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5) before He stepped in with the flood. God promised not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if even only ten righteous men could be found there (Genesis 18).

    • Okay, so Jesus is horrible, too. Why do you follow the Bible at all when it’s filled with such horrid characters? And why do you think that such horrid characters deserve to be worshipped?

  9. Hannah, have you considered Genesis 18:22-33? Since you want to avoid “ignoring facts,” it is worthwhile to note that in that place, we learn that it is utterly foreign to the nature of God to punish the innocent along with the wicked. “Far be it from you!” says Abraham, and God accepts Abraham’s argument, as the rhetoric of the exchange shows. This information implies, logically (since you are interested in logic), that since God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah anyway, there were no innocent people left, apart from Lot and his family. This may be difficult to imagine, but that is the logic of the passage. If you are concerned with “facts,” you must take account of this.

    The Bible affirms our revulsion at punishing innocent people, and it teaches that God shares that revulsion. The Bible may not answer every question we will have, but it answers the most important ones. The world is a complicated place, though, and a simplistic “God is all about being wrathful and angry, while Jesus is all about being accepting and loving,” does not do justice to the Bible or to the world we live in.

    • So basically, I should take into account Bible verses that make zero logical sense at all (even you admit that it’s “difficult to imagine” that there were no innocent people in Sodom and Gomorrah), and I should consider those Bible verses to be factual? Are you actually paying any attention to just how nonsensical that suggestion is? Also, since when were Sodom and Gomorrah the only instances of God committing a mass murder? Seems to me like there are plenty of other instances of that happening in the Old Testament. Why are you ignoring them?

      And exactly, the world is a complicated place. So why do you expect a single book, especially one that’s as archaic and outdated as the Bible, to be able to accurately describe the world as we know it, and to be able to accurately depict history, science, or any other non-theological topic? Face it, limiting your knowledge of the world to what the Bible says is incredibly foolish.

  10. Campbell on said:

    When we approach spiritual assessments, is it not conceivable that our presuppositions frame an interpretive grid through which we perceive the nature and intent of the object of our deliberation? The Bible is an historical record. But Christianity argues it is more than that. In any assessment of what seems to be God’s injustice, one must claim the ground of God’s being. In other words, we say, “God is not just,” but we first must agree that God is. And if God is, the rational question is then to identify which record accurately reflects who he is? His nature? His character? His purpose? Mankind certainly cannot navel gaze to find God (we are challenged to efficiently procure the items on a grocery list). Thus, in our search for the true God of creation, we eventually come to the bible, but our interpretive grid is set, and we only see what we want to see. We wear, if you will, rose-colored glasses. So, we merely see God as just a big meanie, but in doing so we miss the spiritual universe for those few weighty, rose-colored trees. May I commend CS Lewis’s book Mere Christianity to you? He too had an awful opinion of God at one time. But the Oxford don is eminently (and imminently) logical in his assessments. Having even more imminence, I also commend the material (and debates) of current Oxford mathematician Dr. John Lennox.

    • quietdove on said:

      Why must we agree that God is just, especially seeing as the Bible portrays him as being anything but just? Are you trying to say that Christians should believe in non-Biblical concepts (such as the concept of God being just) when the Bible is too horrible to stomach? Why not just accept that the Bible has some really disturbing stuff in it, and that God plays a part in a lot of that disturbing stuff? I mean, that’d sure be a lot smarter than trying to delude yourself into thinking that God is just.

  11. Hannah, if you want to have fruitful and meaningful dialogue you’ve got to stop being so antagonistic. Just because it’s the internet doesn’t mean that the basics of politeness, deference, not assuming things about others, not impugning motives, etc. are not still important to having good conversation. Would you engage people you didn’t know this way in person? In a classroom discussion group? At a coffee shop? The people you are engaging with have answers to some of your questions, and most of them have thought about these things, wrestled with them, etc. Evangelical Christians are people too, and we wrestle with the big questions of authority and faith like anyone else, even if we have come to different conclusions. You may not ultimately agree, but it does little to advance the conversation to come out of the gates with such hostility, assuming people are just illogical, unthoughtful, unconcerned with the values that you care deeply about, or just outright ignorant or malicious. Internet conversations are hard, because most of us don’t know each other. It’s hard to answer a theological question from a stranger because one doesn’t know what the other person’s level of familiarity with Scripture, Christian tradition, philosophy, etc. are. We don’t know what frameworks and assumptions we have in common and which ones we don’t. So, it’s a balancing act between not being patronizing but also trying to answer questions put to us in a way that will be understood. Doing that is made harder however, when the person we are trying to dialogue with is openly hostile from the beginning, implies that we are speaking from ignorance (i.e. doubting whether a Christian pastor who writes a blog about the character of God has read the Old Testament), or interprets every statement in the least charitable way possible (i.e. someone cites a Scripture passage and you suggest that they are just blindly/ignorantly believing without questioning… no one can say everything all the time, but many of us have thought a great deal about why and how we trust or understand the testimony of Christian Scripture). By all means, please feel free to challenge and ask questions, but understand that doing so with the same level of charity, politeness, and even humility that most of us would exercise in face to face conversation is far more likely to lead to a fruitful conversation between those with differing beliefs about such fundamental issues.

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