One of the classic arguments against the Judeo-Christian God of the bible is the apparent support of mass killings represented in numerous occasions in the Old Testament. People ask, “How could a loving God allow…?” That is always a funny question coming from people who suppose that their own estimation of “loving action” is somehow more enlightened. But I digress.
The following is one example from the O.T. that I think sheds some light on this ostensible moral conundrum. In 1 samuel chapter 11, the isolated city of Jabesh-Gilead was besieged by the Ammonites under the leadership of Nahash. The only peace offered by Nahash was that he would agree to let the men of Jabesh-Gilead live, only he would gouge out their right eyes, thus rendering the men useless in battle, subjigated, and humiliated. This, of course was not an acceptable course for the men of Jabesh-Gilead.
Under Saul, the new King of Israel, the Ammonites were defeated (read: killed) so that, according to 1 Sam. 11:11 “no two of them were left together.” Though not a lot of details were recorded, this was a brutal, bloody battle. War is ugly.
We see in the narrative, that both the skill in leadership (vs.6) and the ultimate victory, are ascribed to the power of God. (vs.13) That is the case over and over with these stories of military victory in the scriptures. The God of the bible gives victory in war.
This story gives, what is for me, the simple explanation to the skeptics’ difficulties.
What was the motive of Israel and Israel’s God? Was it simply the conquest of land? Was it the desire to subdue and subjugate a people? I think not. This was simply the only response to a brutal and barbaric pagan people. There simply was no other option for peace. Think about it. They offered to gouge out the eye of every man in Jabesh-Gilead. Would you or I subject ourselves, our sons, and our countrymen to such a brutality? I don’t think so.
The men of Jabesh-Gilead and all of Israel, under the leadership of their new king, and with the power of God, instead, executed justice. Justice is sometimes brutal, where men of sin impose no reasonable alternative. This is the case in the past, and nothing has really changed. Is God, the “God of war?” No, he is the God of love. He is the God of peace.
Peace is never free.