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Glen T. Winstein

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Basics  Page 2


  Page 2

  Applying these stances about God and cruelty to the Bible and related issues
       that came up in my research

  Phobias about Jews and Christians and the Tanakh/OT

       1. Two perspectives on OT cruelty--
                 orthodox/conservative and liberal/reform/progressive stances
                 which I may refer to as simply conservative and liberal

                 a. Creation, great flood, ancient Near East cosmology, etc.--
                 b. Mosaic law of the land and cruelties not continued in the NT
                          Mosaic law
                          Eye for an eye
                 c. Cherem
                          First appearance of "cherem"
                          Numbers 21:2
                     Seven Caananite nations
                          Deut.7:1-6,16, 20:10-18
                          1 Sam.15:3
                 d. Cruelty to concubine
                          Judges 19:25-28
                 e. Cruelty to children
                          Child sacrifice
                              Gen.22, Ex.22:29, Judges 11:30-39, 2 Sam.21:5,6,8,9 (also 10-14)
                          Disobedient son put to death
                               Deut. 21:18-21
                          Children put to death for ridiculing Elisha
                               2 Kings 2:23
                          Children bashed against rocks
                               Psalm 137:9
                          Children put to death for the sins of their fathers
                                Isaiah 14:21-23

  For some basics on God and cruelty, see p.1 (God's prerogative, analogy with
belief in life, heaven, etc.).

  I've given my reasons why belief in a possible God isn't substantiation to
hurt or kill over it and it's important not to misinform for it.  As in a later
part, section 8c, which explains why we should avoid Islamophobia (all Muslims
approve of terrorism, etc.) regarding believers in the Qur'an, I'll use this
section to cover some of the phobias about believers in the Tanakh/OT/NT/Bible.

  The Bible God isn't what I mean by a basic God concept--it comes with a boat-
load of specifics.  Think Henny Youngman: "I went to the doctor, I told him, 'It
hurts when I go like that,' he said, 'Don't go like that.'"  If a specific is
harmful or outdated (ANE cosmology), don't add it.  There's nothing about not
wanting harm or misinformation that means you have to not believe in God, just
to not believe in a harmful or outdated added specifics.

  There are some perspectives to add or consider besides just approval or disap-
proval of the most critical literalist reading of parts of old scripts.

  Conservative response: it happened (although see apologetics)
  Liberal response: some may have happened but the rest is theology

  CARM--conservative response to the accusation that the OT God is a monster.

  If the liberal stance is taken it may be applied to OT accounts of tribal con-
flicts as well.  There may have been such conflicts but the accounts may have
been romanticized (Exodus, etc.).

  1. Two perspectives on OT cruelty--
            orthodox/conservative and liberal/reform/progressive stances
            which I may refer to as simply conservative and liberal

  Some critics of belief in God may make a case for God being too cruel to be
believed in, criticize a misinformed or harmful idea even conservative believers
don't use, or discount a conservative interpretation of the Bible as though the
only interpretation, intending a criticism of everyone who believes in God.
(This led Peter Higgs, an atheist, in 2012 to criticize Chris Hitchens as some-
times having used the criticisms of a fundamentalist atheist.)  This creates the
same problems in demonstrating no better interpretive ability, or ability to
keep faith understood as such in perspective, than that of the conservative be-
liever, it's just that one rejects the idea and the other believes in it.  So
many of my following suggestions apply to either.

  At the least, such an approach has led to propaganda and prejudice, and at
worst torture and death, of believers and non-believers.

  Another mistake such criticism may show is to add that, at the least, the
cruelties of the world beyond old texts should preclude the existance of an all-
loving God.  This works the other way, though--it makes the mistake of proposing
a God that would have us all live in heavenly circumstances forever, which
doesn't even demonstrate the interpretive ability of conservatives who reconcile
the concept, old texts aside, to the real world to the degree they do.

  And the stronger the argument against belief in God is based on the bad things
in life, the stronger it becomes a case against believing in life at all, which
is a counterproductive misanthropic argument.

  Just as section 8c below explains why criticism of Islam should avoid Islamo-
phobia (Muslims all support terrorism, etc.), this section explains why criti-
cism of Bible believers should avoid some hamhanded broadside swings against
them (the Bible encourages you to rape, to bash disobedient children against
rocks, etc.).

  Instead of making sure a basic God concept is up to date such criticism may
take an old concept weith outdated specifics as the basic model, complete with
outdated interpretive specifics, and broaden into Godophobia, which seems most
like the 'centric conservative and leads to the phrase "fundamentalist atheist."

  Some seem mainly meant to provoke, so I'll bring up some more moderate possi-
bilities for balance.

  Evolution, cosmology, great flood

  a. creation, great flood, ancient Near East cosmology, etc.--

  Again, a credible concept of a God beyond the known facts has to keep up with
the known facts that have grown since old texts were written.  In this report, I
define that as liberal (and progressive/reform) and more respectful of the God
concept.  The other end of the scale is conservative (and orthodox)--defending
the perceived integrity of an outdated interpretation of an old text writer in-

  Evolution, cosmology

  An alternative to taking Genesis literally, when that interpretation is at
odds with science, is to interpret it allegorically without intending theologi-
cal damage to the scriptures. (See the articles at the next links.)

  This alternative goes back farther than some people realize:

  An example from 115, or 130-140, AD by Papias: "Taking occasion from Papias of
Hierapolis, the illustrious, a disciple of the apostle who leaned on the bosom
of Christ, and Clemens, and Pantaenus the priest of [the Church] of the Alexan-
drians, and the wise Ammonius, the ancient and first expositors, who agreed with
each other, who understood the work of the six days as referring to Christ and
the whole Church."

  Belief in God doesn't require a conservative literalist interpretation of all
accounts of divine intervention.  If it's imaginable with some examples, it
doesn't require a literal great flood any more than Ancient Near East cosmology
(the sky as a hard dome, etc.), etc.

  This outlook sees scriptures as useful for faith matters if not all matters
otherwise--belief in an infallible (regarding faith) but not inerrant (totally
free of error) Bible.

  Belief in God can be understood as a choice to have faith in a possible God
beyond the same see-able, touchable things non-believers know.

  Jesus referred to the creation of the world and the murder of Abel (Luke 11:50-
51), Abel (Matt.23:35), and "But in the beginning, at the time of creation, it
was said, 'God made them male and female'" (Mark 10:6, also see Matt. 19:4) al-
though the phrasing would be the same if he referred to allegorical stories.

  (On September 27, 2012, Rep. Congressman Paul Broun, who serves on the House
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, said embryology, evolution, and the
Big Bang were "lies straight from the pit of Hell," that the Earth is only 9,000
years old, and that it "was created in six days as we know them."   Some of you
may mock, may make sport, but I learned something from this.  The pit part--the
pit portion--of hell has a really good science department.  And Paul needs to
brush up on his science.  But he won't go.  Well, it's a conundrum.  No, no,

  Great Flood

  It's faith-related allegory.  It doesn't need to be rejected as a cruel matter
of literal people dying since it didn't literally happen.

  Common human selfishness can have people do things even when they know it's
wrong.  In the story, not only is common human selfishness appropriately named,
but most all the ones in the story have made the world a Scorsese violent crime

  Gen.6:5--people mainly wicked, evil
  Gen.6:11--earth corrupt and full of violence

  People were commonly overindulging the self at others' needless hurt and ex-
pense, unfair regard or treatment, as by lying, stealing, murdering, etc..  As
with another pre-flood Gen. story in which Cain is punished for the violence of
murdering Abel, this would have been apparent by interpersonal ethics without
messages from God or religious law defining these things (also noted at Rom.2:14-

  Interpersonal ethics were to no avail.  God may give life, but it's a gift He
doesn't have to give.  He owns it all so has the prerogative do what he wants
with it with impunity, could see how criminals would fill the world if allowed to
grow unchecked, and got rid of them.

  One imaginable moral for life with God or just life: be more respectful to the
gift of life you're given.  To keep the world largely disgusting but not impossi-
ble, keep common human selfishness in check.  Even more simply: violent crime is

  Did Noah warn the general population about the flood?  Matthew 24:36-39 says,
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My
Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of
Man be.  For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, mar-
rying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did
not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of
the Son of Man be.”

  Did he tell them and they didn't believe?  God knew they resolutely turned from
Him so he didn't have Noah tell them figuring it would fall on deaf ears?  Dunno.
Mungo only pawn in game of life.

  Jesus referred to the flood (Matt.24:38-39, Luke 17:27) although the phrasing
would be the same if he referred to an aspect of an allegorical story.

  Basically, violent crime is bad is the most simplified relevant version, not
dependant on finding a literal ark on a mountain, and a nice message whether you
believe in God or not.

  b. Mosaic law of the land and cruelties not continued in the NT

  Civil rights for women, LGBT people, abolition of slavery--see p.3

  It's generally understood that God in the OT is at times represented as using
His prerogative in ways some think are cruel.  I'll suggest some perspectives on
that in this section.

  Followers: no one should be hurt for God for someone's definition of apostasy
or such without proof of God, but these are supposed to be stories of people liv-
ing with divine intervention.  It's a matter of faith that it happened, so it
doesn't justify anyone being hurt or killed over it in the present.

  God: one thing any analysis of it should include is God's prerogative (see

  A reform/progresssive stance defers to that prerogative but may interpret cer-
tain accounts as more representative of the culture of early followers, or even a
later romanticized account, than representative of actual interventions of God.

  Mosaic law

  Might as well get the worst over with first.  The Jews invented Abrahamic
religion as law of the land with the death penalty for religious things like
picking up sticks on the Sabbath, recommended methods of slavery, death penalty
for homosexuals, secondary roles for women, the racial stipulation of parents
or at least a mother being Jewish in determining who is Jewish, and holy war
against the men, women, and children of a group (Amalekites, etc.).  Ouch.

  The Ark of the Covenant, alleged to have been where God could be consulted and
required for Mosaic law to be law of the land, is believed to have disappeared
by 587 BC.

  First century Jews made capital punishment rhetorical, about impossible to
enact.  "Forty years before the destruction" of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70
CE, i.e. in 30 CE, the Sanhedrin effectively abolished capital punishment, mak-
ing it a hypothetical upper limit on the severity of punishment, fitting in
finality for God alone to use, not fallible humans."

  The Jews and Christians drifted apart pver the first couple centuries AD, but
it wasn't violent ("Would you like a fish?"  "How 'bout a knish?"), it was main-
ly over each having their own Messiah qualifications.

  Christians in the NT didn't ask for religion to be law of the land.  Capital
punishment didn't gain favor with Christians till after Christianity was made
the state religion of the Roman Empire by Theodosius I on Feb.27, 380 AD, which
is well beyond the time of the source material.

  This reminds me a little of Grand Theft Auto.  In such OT stories as the flood
account, perhaps Mosaic accounts, God can kill with impunity with His preroga-
tive, nobody actually gets killed because it's allegory or a romanticised ac-
count of the origin of monotheism, and you don't want to be too lawyer Jack
Thompson about it.  For the flood, I'd take away the message that violent crime
is bad and leave it at that.

  There aren't any countries run by Mosaic law anymore, and it's an awfully old
first draft of monotheism, but some critics of belief in God focus on the parti-
culars added to the OT God concept, notably accusations of cruelty, as if inte-
gral to anyone's Bible God concept.  That's not necessary, and where accusations
of cruelty are debatable, I'll cover some of the alternate stances.  And remem-
ber, whatever I come up with here, I don't want harm between people over any of

  Eye for an eye

  Example: Deut.25:11-12

  A wife, in helping her husband fend off an attacker, seizes the attacker by
the genitals--the husband must cut off her hand.  As in Deut.19:21 you shall not
have pity: "And thine eye shall not pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for
tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

  We expect the phrase to have similar meanings in both places.  Commentator
Rashi notes this about Deut.25:12.  Rabbinic tradition understands it to call
for financial compensation.  Rashi cites Sifrei and the Babylonian Talmud, Bava
Kamma 87a.  The latter, a few pages earlier (83b), explains how we know that
"eye for eye," etc., isn't literal and means payment instead:

    Why [pay compensation]? Does the Divine Law not say ‘Eye for eye’? Why not
  take this literally to mean [putting out] the eye [of the offender]? — Let
  not this enter your mind, since it has been taught: You might think that
  where he put out his eye, the offender's eye should be put out, or where he
  cut off his arm, the offender's arm should be cut off, or again where he
  broke his leg, the offender's leg should be broken. [Not so; for] it is laid
  down, ‘He that smiteth any man...’ ‘And he that smiteth a beast...’ (Lev 24
  various) just as in the case of smiting a beast compensation is to be paid,
  so also in the case of smiting a man compensation is to be paid. And should
  this [reason] not satisfy you, note that it is stated, ‘Moreover ye shall
  take no ransom for the life of a murderer, that is guilty of death’ (Num
  35:31), implying that it is only for the life of a murderer that you may not
  take ‘satisfaction’ (i.e. ransom), whereas you may take ‘satisfaction’ [even]
  for the principal limbs, though these cannot be restored.’ (Soncino transla-

  The Talmud makes further parallels between killing and animals and injuring
people making the argument that if financial compensation applies to one (as
stated in the Torah) it applies to the other.

    "In the Hebrew Bible God establishes the Mosaic Covenant with the Israel-
  ites after he has saved them from slavery in Egypt in the events of The
  Exodus. It is legally linked with the 613 commandments. Because Judaism
  views the Mosaic covenant as applying only to Jews, it advocates the much
  easier to observe pre-Mosaic Seven Laws of Noah for non-Jews. "Unlike Chris-
  tianity, Judaism does not deny salvation to those outside of its fold, for,
  according to Jewish law, all non-Jews who observe the Noahide laws will par-
  ticipate in salvation and in the rewards of the world to come".
    "The Mosaic Covenant played a role in defining the Israelite kingdom (c.
  1220-c.930 BCE), and subsequently the southern Kingdom of Judah (c.930-c.
  587 BCE) and northern Kingdom of Israel (c.930-c.720 BCE), and Yehud Med-
  inata (c.539-c.333 BCE), and the Hasmonean Kingdom (140-37 BCE), and the
  Bar Kokhba revolt (132-136 CE), and Rabbinic Judaism c.2nd century to the


  One reason the progressive stance may not see a requirement for a current
stance about God to extend back through all the OT is that there are a number of
big changes in the NT: Mosaic law is ended by the crucifixion of Jesus and vari-
ous things are given as sins or punished in the OT that aren't continued in the
NT.  There's no need for religion as law of the land with the death penalty for
religious rules, tribal wars in the name of God, slavery except to relent to Ro-
man laws for slavery, regard for outsiders and certain foods as unclean, the con-
servative interpretation of death for homosexuals etc.

  Jesus says OT divorce rules show God only took the followers so far and
changed them so much considering they were set in their ways (Mark 10:5).  This
also seems indicated in that the Canaanite belief in multiple gods doesn't seem
to have been effectively replaced with monotheism in the culture until the days
of Isaiah.  As mentioned on p.6b of "Glenster's Guide to GTJ Brooklyn":

  "Current models among scholars see the emergence of Israelite monotheism as a
gradual process which began with the normal beliefs and practices of the ancient

  "The Early History of God: Yahweh and the other deities in ancient Israel,"
1990, by Mark S, Smith, especially ch.6: "The Origins and Development of Israel-
ite Monotheism",+%E2%80%98The+Origins+and+Development+of+Israelite+Monotheism%E2%80%99&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=w1iSTJ-UG8O78gb3xeCGBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CCkQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q&f=false

  It could also could be taken to explain all the other differences in the NT
approach.  Where the OT has more rules, harsh penalties, etc., a progressive
stance could attribute it to God only leading followers so far from their own
habits (and even then couldn't be perfect by works).  Some think that the story
of Moses, the Exodus, and Mosaic law may be a romanticised version of the rise of
monotheism--possibly that something like the account of Moses actually happened
but something got changed in the telling by J,E,P, and D that represents them and
not God.

  Supporting the liberal/progressive interpretation is that the OT gets some
things wrong--birds appear (day 5) before land animals (day 6), several verses
are informed by ancient Near East cosmology with the sky a hard dome, the con-
servative interpretation that homosexuality is a crime to be punished by death,

  The justification for killing for God via proof of God in a Mosaic Law theo-
cracy would be gone by NT times since the belief has it that God communicated to
followers via the Ark of the Covenant which had been taken by the time of the
Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 587-586 BC.

  One of the improvements in Christianity is that the religion isn't proposed as
law of the land.  Christians were to go among Jews and Gentiles of any land
without giving offense, sacrificing of themselves to gain people to God (1 Cor.
10:32-11:1).  It didn't teach followers to acquire a Christian land or brand
outsiders as unclean for association.

  Though NT Christianity didn't ask to be religion as the law of the land with a
military to defend it, in 380 AD Theodosius made it law of the land without
providing proof of God.  Christians were glad not to be persecuted for being
Christians, even put to death for not worshipping the emperor, but when either
belief or non-belief in God is made law of the land people can get hurt or
killed over something nobody should be hurt or killed over, and neither should
be that way.

  Believing in a particular religion doesn't have to mean being too 'centric and
intolerant as to hurt others any more than believing in certain songs and not
other ones means you have to be that way.  It's when the person gets too 'cen-
tric and intolerant of others about either one that the trouble starts.

  Some give examples of OT cruelty as reasons for deciding against belief in God
but they're all matters of interpretation concerns you might look at if you have
faith in a God or not.  As described earlier, some orthodox believers and
critics of such faith alike give the orthodox stance (notably regarding unwill-
ingness to accept the known world regarding evolution, homosexuality, or even
punishments for non-believers, etc.) as defining belief in God.

  Some points about cruelty and God's prerogative, believers keeping faith in
perspective as such, etc. have been made above.  I'll take a whack at inter-
preting some of the more commonly criticized OT examples, allegorical and liber-
al alternatives to orthodox and literal interpretations, etc., in the next sev-
eral sections.

  You can go too far in either direction in describing God as becoming nicer in
the NT.  Whatever your stance, the concept would be of a God that presides over
a world in which everyone dies and cruel things happen through all of human
existence.  Make too strong a case against God due to the cruelties of life and
you argue against being glad for life.  Make God all-beneficent and it's not
credible since we don't all live in heavenly circumstances forever.  In the
analogy of God's prerogative over humans and humans' prerogative over animals,
it's more like God became more of a vegan and decided to have more (all--Univer-
salism) of His pets live in His house.

  Some of the examples of cruelty in the OT:

  c. Cherem
            First appearance of "cherem"
                Numbers 21:2
           Seven Caananite nations
                Deut.7:1-6,16, 20:10-18
                1 Sam.15:3
   d. Cruelty to concubine
                Judges 19:25-28


    "Herem or used in the Hebrew Bible, means ‘devote’ or ‘de-
  stroy’.  It is also referred to as the ban.  The term has been explained in
  different ways by scholars.  It has been defined as 'a mode of secluding,
  and rendering harmless, anything imperilling the religious life of the na-
  tion,' or 'the total destruction of the enemy and his goods at the conclu-
  sion of a campaign,' or 'uncompromising consecration of property and dedi-
  cation of the property to God without possibility of recall or redemption.'
  J. A. Thompson suggests that herem meant that in the hour of victory all
  that would normally be regarded as booty, including the inhabitants of the
  land, was to be devoted to God. Thus would every harmful thing be burned out
  and the land purified.

    "Most scholars conclude that the biblical accounts of extermination are
  exaggerated, fictional, or metaphorical.  In the archaeological community,
  the Battle of Jericho is very thoroughly studied, and the consensus of
  modern scholars is that the story of battle and the associated extermina-
  tion are a pious fiction and did not happen as described in the Book of
  Joshua.  For example, the Book of Joshua describes the extermination of the
  Canaanite tribes, yet at a later time, Judges 1:1-2:5 suggests that the ex-
  termination was not complete.

    "Wars of extermination are of historical interest only, and do not serve
  as a model within Judaism.  A formal declaration that the 'seven nations'
  are no longer identifiable was made by Joshua ben Hananiah, around the year
  100 CE."
    "Likewise, it is not clear if the historical Amalekites were exterminated
  or not. 1 Samuel 15:7-8 implies ("He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive,
  and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword.") that - after Agag
  was also killed - the Amalekites were extinct, but in a later story in the
  time of Hezekiah, the Simeonites annihilated some Amalekites on Mount Seir,
  and settled in their place: 'And five hundred of these Simeonites, led by
  Pelatiah, Neariah, Rephaiah and Uzziel, the sons of Ishi, invaded the hill
  country of Seir. They killed the remaining Amalekites who had escaped, and
  they have lived there to this day.' (1 Chr 4:42-43)."

  First appearance of "cherem"

  Numbers 21:2 "So Israel made a vow to the Lord and said, 'If You will indeed
deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities."

  Seven Caananite nations

  Deut.7:1-6,16  Moses' followers are to enter the promised land and found a na-
tion where there are currently seven Canaanite nations which are greater--the
Hittites, the Gir'gashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Per'izzites, the
Hivites, and the Jeb'usites.  "You shall consume all the peoples whom the Lord
your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, nor shall you serve
their gods, for that would be a snare to you." (NASB)

  Deuteronomy 20:10-18 10 "When you approach a city to fight against it, you
shall offer it terms of peace. 11 If it agrees to make peace with you and opens
to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor
and shall serve you. 12 However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes
war against you, then you shall besiege it. 13 When the Lord your God gives it
into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.
14 Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city,
all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil
of your enemies which the Lord your God has given you. 15 Thus you shall do to
all the cities that are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these
nations nearby.

  16 "Only in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you
as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 But you
shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the
Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the Lord your God has commanded you,
18 so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things
which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the Lord your
God." (NASB)


   1 Sam.15:3  "Go, now, attack Amalek, and deal with him and all that he has
under the ban. Do not spare him, but kill men and women, children and infants,
oxen and sheep, camels and asses."

  Other verses with children killed in battle
  Deut.2:33-34, Joshua 6:19, 10:40, Is.13:15-18, Jer.18:11,21; 19:9

  A similar passage is Isaiah 14:21-23 (scroll down to the last passage cov-

  Deut.2:33-34--Num.21:18b-25: King Sihon attacked, Israel defended.

  Conservative: the God concept has Him own and preside over all life with the
prerogative to do with it as He pleases with impunity.  In life, everybody of
all ages, including children, dies--a lot more of them in the last year alone
than in all the OT stories put together.

  Consider the analogy of God's prerogative over human life like human preroga-
tive over animal life (assuming you allow people can kill animals, such as for
food, with impunity).  You  don't think of someone enjoying a hamburger as need-
ing to be put in jail for murder, especially if the hamburger came from an inno-
cent and not a guilty cow.  The cow was innocent but the person has the preroga-
tive to kill it with impunity.

  As you can believe in life, despite the cruelties, for your chance at life and
to find love, you can believe in a God for providing it with afterlife as sweet-
ner on the deal.  Harm for God isn't substantiated by only faith in a possible
God, only with proof of God, and these stories claim there were interventions via
the Ark of the Covenant, etc., which raises the bar of responsiblity (a matter of
faith for us in our regard of the stories).

  God has the prerogative to take everyone's life, and does, but people don't
have the right to do that for God except with proof of God which the old texts
allege for OT accounts and is a matter of faith about them.

  Conservative: it happened as the writers claim.

  Liberal: various options--it happened as claimed but God only took the early
followers so far (Jesus regarding marriage, monotheism only took hold in the
time of Isaiah, ANE cosmology, etc.), it's a romanticized rendering of the rise
of monotheism from Canaanite culture, some scriptures indicate it wasn't a total
herem (see the links), etc.

  The real problem isn't any of those things as much as if current followers see
those scriptures as meant as guidance currently, which they generally don't.
Exceptions typically politicized/bigoted extremists--Christians who wanted to
eliminate Jews, Jews seeing the Palestinians as Canaanites, Islamist terrorists
regarding non-Muslims esp. Jews, etc.

  Christians may also regard OT stories as indicating a more cruel relationship
with God due to mankind having fallen from God's good nature before God reconcil-
ing with mankind on the cross, some things representing the culture of the time
(ANE cosmology, etc.) God only drew them so far from, some things (Mosaic law
such as religion as law of the land with laws and punishments and armies) dropped
in the Christian covenant, etc.

  Jesus and Paul, who wanted their faith spread regardless of country, etc.,
came from a culture of Mosaic law followers who could be pretty 'centric about
outsiders being unclean--many wanted the religious law to be law of the land
again.  I don't think people should hurt or kill each other over belief or non-
belief choices, so neither should be law of the land or it will happen.  One
exception could be divine intervention, which is what those stories claim.

  The believer may take some such OT accounts involving cruelty literally.  If
they do, they believe the followers obeyed divine intervention by God, which
transcends interpersonal ethics with God's prerogative as owner of it all to
handle it all as He will.  Reform/progresssive/liberal choices include taking
them figuratively and theologically but not literally (see the example below of
a response to some people's allegations about Isaiah 14:21-23), and a progres-
sive stance even sees some examples (like Ancient Near East cosmology, homosex-
uality if interpreted as a general crime and not just a restriction for priests,
etc.) as just cases of followers adhering to their own cultural ideas and habits.

  In the earlier OT stories, there was repeated conflict with the Amalekites,
who are given as having been against the Israelites for being God's people so
Gad having the Jews wipe them out.  (It may be something like a Jewish leader
in the 1930s-40's saying God wanted an end to the Nazis.  In real life, there
wasn't a divine intervention and elimination of all Nazis and their families--
there was a brutal WWII and Holocaust and some may still claim Nazi/anti-Semitic
views.  But if you take a figurative or generalized interpretation, the Nazi
movement was effectively wiped out and the official stance in Germany is that
the Nazi movement was a horrible wrong.)

  The stories claim divine intervention with a higher quality being with prer-
ogative about life of any age, which makes a difference.  To make an analogy
with people and animals, people who eat animals of whatever age, from eggs to
adults, aren't regarded as murderers but would be if they killed other people
for food.  Prerogative makes a big difference in how God or people are charac-
terized (as a man eating a hamburger could be characterized as a murderer, God
could be characterized as Godzilla, etc.).  Basically, it means it's all God's
to do what He wants with as fair game.

  The God concept has to be reconciled with the good and bad of life and people
that God is possible beyond.  The bad has always been understood as including
that everybody of whatever age dies, some in unfortunate ways (a lot more in the
last year alone than in all such OT verses put together), and the bad things
people do.  The best you can do is find the good in life and people and be glad
you got it, and likewise it's what you're thankful for if you're going to have a
faith in God (Job, etc.).

  Critics sometimes pose the idea of an all-beneficent God, which is impossible
or we'd live in heavenly circumstances with perfectly nice people forever, leave
out God's prerogative, and fail to distinguish between conservative and progres-
sive to create a straw man God to criticize and show 'centric intolerance in
characterizing that as what all believers believe.

  If you're going to be a believer, I'd recommend reform/progresssive (regarding
a literal great flood, evolution, homosexuality, some OT things representing
ideas of the followers only brought along so far by God, etc.).  But even con-
servatives believe in a God with the prerogative who, if not all-beneficent,
provides good as we find good in life and hope for an inclusive or exclusive
version of heaven.

  d. Cruelty to concubine

  Judges 19:25-28

  "When the men would not listen to his host, the husband seized his concubine
and thrust her outside to them.  They had relations with her and abused her all
night until the following dawn, when they let her go. Then at daybreak the woman
came and collapsed at the entrance of the house in which her husband was a
guest, where she lay until the morning.  When her husband rose that day and
opened the door of the house to start out again on his journey, there lay the
woman, his concubine, at the entrance of the house with her hands on the
threshold.  He said to her, 'Come, let us go'; but there was no answer.  So the
man placed her on an ass and started out again for home."

  This is cruelty but is given as an example of lawless behavior.  Judges 19:1:
"In those days Israel had no king." (NIV)



  "You shall not allow a sorceress to live." (NASB)

  "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter
pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or
one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium,
or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.  For whoever does these things is
detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God
will drive them out before you." (Deut.18:10-12, NASB).

  This is the other side of the commandment to worship the one true God with di-
vine intervention claimed for religion as law of the land.  Followers aren't to
cast spells (Deut.18:11), try to consult with spirits (Deut.18:11), or practice
astrology (Is.47:13), magic (Gen.41:8), sorcery (Ex.22:18), witchcraft (Deut.18:
10), or spiritism (Deut.18:11).

    "Leviticus and Deuteronomy prohibit certain kinds of magic, specifically
  divination, seeking omens, mediums who commune with the dead, and spell-cast-
  ers.  These acts, as well as other rituals related to Ba?al and Canaanites,
  were specifically forbidden to the Israelites.  Christianity is based in Ju-
  daism and because of this, teachings from Judaism regarding magic were held
  as valid by early Christians.

    "Galatians includes sorcery in a list of "works of the flesh". This ban is
  repeated in the Didache, written during the mid to late first century.  The
  practice of witchcraft and sorcery were regarded as sins by Christians that
  needed to be repented of, confessed, and forsaken."

  e. Cruelty to children
           Child sacrifice
                Gen.22, Ex.22:29, Judges 11:30-39, 2 Sam.21:5,6,8,9 (also 10-14)
           Disobedient son put to death
                Deut. 21:18-21
           Children put to death for ridiculing Elisha
                2 Kings 2:23
           Children bashed against rocks
                Psalm 137:9
           Children put to death for the sins of their fathers
                Isaiah 14:21-23

  Child sacrifice

  Gen.22, Ex.22:29, Judges 11:30-39, 2 Samuel 21:8-14

  Judaism and Christianity reject infanticide.

  Gen.22 God test Abraham's faith seeing if he would sacrifice his son for Him
but has Abrahm sacrifice a ram instead.

  Ex.22:29 "For thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and
of thy liquors; the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me."  Ex.13:13
"And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem" means that the
Israelites were to give to the Lord five skekels of silver when the firstborn
son was one month old (see Num.18:16).

  Judges 11:31  Jephthah made a vow that "whatever comes out of the door of my
house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord's,
and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering." (NIV)  His only daughter was the
first thing that greeted him.

  11:39 "After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as
he had vowed. And she was a virgin." (NIV)

  Did Jephthah sacrifice his daughter as a burnt offering or devote her to vir-
ginal service to God?

  Mosaic law followers weren't to execute their children for sacrifices which is
given as something bad other cultures did (Lev.18:21; 20:2-5; Deut.12:13,14,31;
18:10; Ps.106:35-38; Is.57:5).

  A condensed version of E. W. Bullinger's explanation is given below.

  Jephthah's vow includes a choice due to the fact that the connective particle
vau "(our English v) is often used as a disjunctive, and means 'or', when there
is a second proposition."

  Examples: Gen.41:44; 20:4; 21:15; 21:17; 21:18; Num.16:14; Num.22:26; Deut.3:
24; 2 Sam.3:29; 1 Kings 18:10; 1 Kings 18:27

  This creates an "alternative....  He would either dedicate it" (whatever came
out of his door) "to Jehovah (according to Lev.27), or, if unsuitable for this,
he would offer it as a burnt offering."

  The interpretation choice is that he was either out of accord with Mosaic law
which forbid followers from sacrificing their children--he made a personal rash
choice with tragic consequences--or that he dedicated his daughter to virginal
service to God.  There would be something for the daughters of Israel to lament
about her either way (or if you use the translation "rehearse" instead of "la-
ment," the righteous acts of God were rehearsed/discussed with her if she lived)
(Judges 11:39,40).

  Jephthah is given as having strong faith (Heb.11:32).  This can be supported
by his defeat of the Ammonites and by devoting his daughter's service to God.
If the burnt offering interpretation is used, it would count as something wrong
an otherwise faithful follower did.  Others counted by the book of Hebrews as
being of strong faith who otherwise did some wrongful things include Abraham
(Gen.12:13; 16:4; 20:2 etc.).

  Further explanations are offered by Adam Clarke and Dave Miller at the sites
at the next links.

  2 Sam.21:5,6,8,9 (also 10-14)--"So they said to the king, 'The man who consumed
us and who planned to exterminate us from remaining within any border of Israel,
let seven men from his sons be given to us, and we will hang them before the Lord
in Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the Lord.'  And the king said, 'I will give
them.'  So the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, Armoni and
Mephibosheth whom she had borne to Saul, and the five sons of Merab the daughter
of Saul, whom she had borne to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite.  Then
he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the moun-
tain before the Lord, so that the seven of them fell together; and they were put
to death in the first days of harvest at the beginning of barley harvest." (NASB)

  The ones who were hanged were men (2 Sam.21:5,6) old enough to be responsible
for their moral decisions.  Saul’s wickedness is documented throughout the book of
1 Samuel, and 2 Sam.21:1 says Saul’s house/household received a famine for being
bloody indicating many of his relatives helped with his murders.  Shimei "from the
family of the house of Saul" cursed Saul and his house of followers at 2 Sam.16:5-
14.  Saul’s descendants who were hanged apparently followed the murderous ways of
many from the house of Saul and got the death penalty.

  Disobedient son put to death

  Deuteronomy 21:18-21

  Some have characterized the God of the OT as cruel for having parents put a
disobedient son to death (like a fanatical reaction to a son not wearing a dif-
ferent shirt as told or such):

  18 "If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father
or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, 19
then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of
his city at the gateway of his hometown.  20 They shall say to the elders of his
city, 'This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a
glutton and a drunkard.'  21 Then all the men of his city shall stone him to
death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of
it and fear." (NASB)

  Context indicates the son would have to have been disobedient in regard to
certain things, and the parents were commanded to be forthright about it.  The
next verse, 22, refers to "sin worthy of death."  Mosaic law had rituals to
atone for most sins, made a distinction between deliberate and accidental sin
due to ignorance (Lev.4:3,22-23,27,28; Num.15:27,28), followers weren't to work
on the Sabbath but a priest on the Sabbath offering the sacrifices as commanded
wasn't punished, etc.  It's a matter of faith to believe it or not, but the
stories refer to the followers as living with divine interventions, which would
raise the bar of responsibility to God higher than otherwise, too.

  These things would have been considered beyond just disobedience alone.
Again, these stories are of people set in their ways which may be why I don't
know of a case of the rule about unruly children being enforced in the OT or re-
newed in the NT.

  The Jewish laws made the conditions of this such that no son was executed for
it and it served to limit punishment of a son and discourage rebelliousness.  See
the article at the next link.

  Children put to death for ridiculing Elisha

  2 Kings 2:23

  This and other passages come up now and then in the way of uncommonly used in-
terpretations, in this case accusing believers of being taught that it's morally
good to murder children for making fun of a bald guy.  For such cases, put the
numbers of the verse and "apologetics" in Google search.

  It's a story of divine intervention--some believers take it, or a great flood,
etc., as allegory.
  The idea of a "loving" as in "all-beneficent" God is obviously wrong or we'd
all live in heavenly circumstances forever.  Nobody would die or suffer any bad
circumstances.  Belief in love provided by God is similar to being grateful for
whatever good is supplied by life without belief in God: that you got a chance
at life and what good you found in it.  A believer might add an exclusive or in-
clusive heaven belief.

  There's no indication that mainstream Christians and Jews think these verses
tell them to murder people who say something a little offensive.

  Interpersonal morality is misapplied to the concept of the relationship of God
and people.  The idea is God's prerogative, which is similar to the prerogative
of people to use animals for food and clothes, which is very different than in-
terpersonal prerogative.  The concept of God's prerogative is that He has even
more prerogative over people--much lesser beings.  Basically, it means it's all
His to do what He wants with--give people whatever length of life, if any, and
whatever quality of life.

  Some points picked up at these sites:

  The word ne'arim the KJV translates "boys" can refer to anything from teen-
agers to 30 yr. old men.  The same word is used in 1 Kings 20:15 about assem-
bling an army.

  More possibilities about the ne'arim:

  "Ne'arim also means 'retainers.' In the Baal poems unearthed at Ugarit after
1929, Baal has 'retainers' or 'lads' called Gapn and Ugr, Field and Vine (unless
Ugr is the patron of Ugarit; but that suggestions upsets the parallelism of the
usual identification).  Baal - the god Hadad - is a weather-god, and a leading
member of the Ugaritic pantheon; he was a very important god in the area North &
South of Israel-Judah.

  "The relevance of all this to the text is, that Elijah is constantly repre-
sented in 1 Kings 18 & the following chapters as defeating Baal at his own game;
even in taking a chariot of fire - because Baal was called 'Rider' [of the
heavens].  The ne'arim of the text seem to be a demythologised version of Baal's
heavenly retainers, called 'insignificant' to 'rub in' the weakness of their own
god, who has been defeated at every turn by Elijah, who has just gone up in a
chariot of his own."

  The event happened in Bethel.  The king of the northern nation of Israel es-
tablished two gold calves to worship--one in Bethel.  The youths were likely
against both Elisha and his God, who's displaying divine interventions to in-
dicate His prophets, which raises the bar of responsibility.

  Elisha had taken over from Elijah and probably took a Nazarite vow, shaved his
head, and was consecrated to God.

  Calling Elisha bald derisively likely meant something in the way of Isaiah
3:24: a curse, contempt.

  "Go up": at 2 Kings 2:9-11, Elijah had gone up to heaven.  The group was tell-
ing Elisha to do it--die.

  42 mauled, given how any would likely get away as it happened, may mean 42
were attacked of a bigger group that cursed Elisha and His God and threatened
Elisha with death.

  Elija cursed the group as being against God.  God defended him with 2 bears.
God's prerogative, etc.

  The range of possibilities includes that they weren't children and the bear
didn't necessarily kill them but "tore" them.

  As one scholar writes: Elisha "was set upon by a mob of mature youths (erron-
eously called 'little children' in our version) who seem to have heard of Eli-
jah's [ascension] and therefore taunted Elisha saying, 'Go up, thou bald head; go
up, thou bald head.'  Dr. Adam Clarke says the significance of this cry might be
caught in the words, 'Ascend, thou empty skull, to heaven, as it is pretended thy
master [Elijah] did.'"  He adds: "The words, 'bald head' were often used in the
old Hebrew vocabulary to imply leprosy since the disease often caused baldness.
It was a term of hatred or derision."

  Regarding the "children," the citation reads: "The word used to de-
scribe Solomon at his accession, when he was at least twenty years old. (Geikie,
Hours With the Bible, 4:127)  Dr. Clarke says the word includes "a young man, a
servant, or even a soldier, or one fit to go out to battle: and is so translated
in a multitude of places in our common English version.'  He mentions many exam-
ples. See Clarke, Bible Commentary, 2:486."

  The scripture also states that Elisha cursed them in the name of the Lord, in-
dicating that it was God, who knows the thoughts of all men, was the one ag-
grieved, not the prophet.

  Children bashed against rocks

  Psalm 137:9

  This passage is occasionally used to characterize the God of the Bible as
cruel in wanting his followers to smash the children of others against rocks.
The followers would have faced more frequent and serious opposition from neigh-
boring people if it were that simple.

  It's by a Jewish person in exile following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusa-
lem in 586 BC.  "It ends with violent fantasies of revenge, telling a 'Daughter
of Babylon' of the delight of 'he who seizes your infants and dashes them
against the rocks.' (New International Version)" (Wikipedia).  His people were
cruelly taken into captivity by Babylonians--he's wishing the same for them eye
for eye style.  God isn't given as granting his wish (there's more on that in my
next section), and Jesus later teaches you've heard it said eye for eye but I
say turn the other cheek, etc.

  Children put to death for the sins of their fathers

  Isaiah 14:21-23

  Some have characterized the God of the OT as in this passage as showing a
cruel contradiction with Deut.24:16 (God doesn't want children put to death for
the sins of their fathers--a person shall be put to death for his own sin; also
see Ezek.18:2,19-20).

  21 "Prepare for his sons a place of slaughter Because of the iniquity of their
fathers.  They must not arise and take possession of the earth And fill the face
of the world with cities."  22 "I will rise up against them," declares the LORD
of hosts, "and will cut off from Babylon name and survivors, offspring and pos-
terity," declares the LORD.  23 "I will also make it a possession for the hedge-
hog and swamps of water, and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction," de-
clares the LORD of hosts. (NASB)

  This means God intended that the rulers of Babylon, who took Israel into cruel
captivity, would fall, and the descendants of the rulers wouldn't take power,
either.  A few points about it in context:

  - Ezekiel 18 refers to God not killing a son because of the guilt of his fa-
ther's sin.

  - Ezekiel 13:10-16, 19 indicate God may want to kill sinful people who nurture
crime and kill others unjustly.

  - Isaiah 14:12-16 refers to Satan, so the following verses about his "chil-
dren" refer to the subsequent Babylonian leaders as undesirable, not that the
literal human children of fathers were guilty because of what their fathers did.

  - Isaiah 14:21-23 God judges against the "children," subsequent Babylonian
leaders, because He knew they'd intend to persist in the ways of their "fathers"
(as the leaders of many countries would continue as before despite the death of
a leader), not just for being the children of their fathers--for being subse-
quent leaders who did the same things.

  - Jer.18:7-8 NKJV: "The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a
kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 'if that nation against
whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I
thought to bring upon it.'"

  - the rulership of Babylon in Isaiah's day eventually "died," ended, but not
because God's followers literally slaughtered the leaders.  You would need to
use a broader figurative interpretation regarding the Babylonian leadership end-
ing over several generations.

  The web site at the next link explains that the God of the Bible doesn't have
children punished for the sins of their fathers:


  It's enough to show that the usual interpretations are pointed to by context
and answer some common objections which leave a few such things out, without
dictating anyone else's pro or con editorials or subjective reactions otherwise.
You don't want to force points about groups all having the same opinions if they
don't--Abrahamic religion can be orthodox, conservative, liberal, or reform/pro-

  If you're going to go Abrahamic, I'd recommend reform/progresssive as having
ground rules that cover faith understood as such therefore keep up to speed re-
garding the known things God is possible beyond.  It therefore opposes cruelty
for God short of proof of God wanting it, even in light of any OT examples, so
is mindful of separation of church and state, and any objections about evolu-
tion, homosexuality, etc.

  Most Jews are liberal/reform/progresssive, and a small percent of Muslims, and
a growing substantial batch of Christians are, too, which I think is good.  This
also shows rejection of faith isn't the only choice in rejecting interpersonal
cruelty, which would be another forced point.  Many believers would otherwise
only consider themselves mischaracterized, not correctly criticized.

  The concept of God's prerogative (see above) extends to the life and death of
everyone.  The cruelties and death of life don't have to make a case against
believing in God any more than against life itself.  You don't want to get all
Lawyer Jack Thompson on God's prerogative.