Made in the Image of God? Let us hope not Section 4/4
Updated: Jan 18
A closer look at that image according to the Bible
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. ~ Genesis 1:26-27
“… in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
~ 2 Corinthians 4:4
“Kill a man, and you are an assassin. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror.
Kill everyone and you are a God”. ~ Jean Rostand. French biologist and philosopher
According to Christianity, and probably much of the other Abrahamic religions, what we know about God is detailed in their various scriptures. We are often told He is perfect, good, all wise, all knowing, all powerful and the epitome of love. For Christians, this God as detailed in the OT is the same as the NT God. Bible Study Tools lists 15 attributes of God that give us a glimpse of His character as believers see Him and that probably all Christians and nearly all theists would accept.
So it was surprising to me as I actually read and studied the Bible that God’s actions actually involved repeated instances of killing innocent children and adults and sometimes torturing them first. It’s not an isolated few examples but a pattern. The Bible convicts itself through multiple narratives where humans are admonished to fear God; it’s for a very good reason. Minds don’t need to be blinded; the narratives are there for anyone to read. It will be important to also read how apologists attempt to explain these stories and how these explanations give us insight into apologist motivations and often desperate attempts.
What does the Bible itself show about the character of God through His actions? Not just what it claims, but what supposedly He does? Made in the image of God, of Yahweh? I certainly hope not.
1. The innocents that die in Job. In the story of Job, God allows Satan to inflict suffering upon Job in order to disprove that Job is only righteous because God has favored him generously. So Satan begins to take away Job’s health, wealth and things are are dear to Job. As part of testing Job, and with full permission by God, Job’s oxen, sheep, camels, donkeys all are killed. Can we agree that the animals are innocent collateral damage? The narrative speaks about thousands of his livestock being killed. Worse, all of Job’s servants are killed taking care of his flocks except a few who must tell him of the catastrophes. What did Job’s servants do to deserve to be killed? But God via Satan is not through killing innocents. Turns out all 10 of Job’s children are killed. How? By having a building fall and crushing them. In the end, God restores all to Job and more in terms of his wealth. He has Job’s wife give birth to 10 “replacement” children, of course 7 sons and 3 daughters as if they can just be replaced like auto parts? God is responsible for all the killing, just like a group of robbers who rob a bank and kill some customers will see the get-a-way driver also prosecuted even though he did not enter the bank and actually pull the triggers on the guns. Job 42:11 “… and comfort him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him”. (See below for other verses that detail God indeed can create evil). What about all the innocent servants, his children, and the animals? They were just expendable and mere collateral damage that could be later replaced, like a part on a car? Instead of snapping His celestial fingers to remove the children, He allows a building to crush them.
2. In the 10th plague in Exodus, innocent first borns are killed. Were the children innocent or not? What did they do to deserve to die? Are they not just collateral damage, the ultimate collateral damage in God’s method of showing who’s boss to Egypt? “Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well.” Exodus 11:5 (NIV). Before any plagues were sent by God to the Egyptians, God assured that all the plagues would play out even if Pharaoh wanted to let the Israelites leave before the 10th plague. God would “harden his heart” so that Pharaoh would stubbornly refuse despite the calamities, thus insuring that all those innocent children would be killed at the end. This is one way for the writer to neutralize any skeptic and rational person raising the objection that anyone would have let them go much earlier. But that work around just produces another problem; so much for Pharaoh’s free will. ”But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you.” - Exodus 7:3-4. Notice that after each plague 1-9 the reader is reminded that God continued to harden Pharaoh’s heart so the 10th plaque was necessary to kill the innocent first borns, which could be any child from newborn to adulthood and do we think in the narrative that the Hebrews were the only slaves in Egypt? So surely other peoples in the narrative besides the Egyptians were also affected with the innocent killing of their first borns. What did they do to deserve this? They weren’t Egyptians. For example:
Exodus 9:7 - [5th plague]“…Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.”
Exodus 9:12 [6th plague]- “But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses.”
Exodus 10:20 [8th plague]- “But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses.”
Exodus 10:27 [9th plague] - “But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go.”
And to be sure we know that God was purposely prolonging the plagues and why, we have this verse from the writer in Exodus 11:9: “The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” So the first born children will definitely be killed. It is clear that God’s direct intervention insured that innocent children by the thousands were going to be killed.
God’s plan all along. He had to show He was greater than the Egyptian gods - at the expense of innocent children. I encourage you to read the excuses and explanations by apologists. Some are very lengthy. Several mentioned that it was not God actually doing the killing but “the destroyer”. Again, driving the get-a-way car in a bank robbery where innocent people are killed absolves you of the murders also? Some apologist writings trying to excuse God are very, very long and involved. In my experience this is what I notice when someone is lying and trying to cover something up - the explanations become very long and involved rationalizations.
3. David’s baby. 2 Samuel 11-12. In the story, David sees Bathsheba bathing on a rooftop. Despite her being married he called her to his palace and they slept together. Later, she discovered she was pregnant. David summoned her husband Uriah from the battlefield hoping he would sleep with his wife and provide cover for the pregnancy. Uriah however slept in the palace servant’s quarters while his men on the battlefield were still in harm’s way. Since this first scheme did not work, David then commanded Joab, his military commander, to place Uriah on the front lines of battle and then fall back from him insuring that Uriah would be killed in battle, which he was. To punish David (?), God killed his son but the child suffered for a week before it died. What did the child do to deserve this? And Bathsheba? She was basically forced to sleep with David and yet she saw her son killed also? What did she do wrong? But this is just fine - David and Bathsheba’s next child Solomon became heir to the throne. But the baby? Just collateral damage. God, the innocent child killer and in this case the child suffered for a week before it died. God could have snapped his celestial fingers and killed it instantly but it had to suffer for a week first. The loving, Great God.
4. In the Flood narrative, probably millions of innocent children are supposedly killed. How many innocent children and infants were living supposedly at the time of the Flood? What did they do to warrant dying and being killed? Worse, God drowned them (a type of torture if done deliberately). He could have snapped His celestial fingers but he drowned them. Is not water boarding considered torture to elicit information? Since He’s all knowing and knows the future, He knew this would not solve anything and the human race would go back to being….. human. Failed reboot. Of course we know from DNA genomics that the human race never went below 10,000 and certainly not 8 disembarking from a boat nor 2 in a garden. Even more ironic, how many women were pregnant at the time? Thousands, millions? How does this not make God the greatest abortionist ever conceived? The world was SO evil that God (who must have known the future at the time of Adam and that the Flood did not really solve anything) had to commit near genocide?
“Genocide - the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular group or nation. Genocide can be considered a subset of ethnic cleansing, in this case through murder.” ~ Wikipedia
5a. Attempted genocide of the Canaanites. This is another example of God ordering or actually performing genocide in an OT narrative. Remember, these populations must have had thousands of innocent children and pregnant women in the narrative (which is myth and never happened). Fortunately for theists, this is all mythology but we can obtain an understanding of what the Bible says about God’s character. Recall that the Bible claims at least all scripture is good for teaching. What do we take away about God’s character? One major defense is an appeal to hyperbole; it didn’t really happen as the Bible says it did. Book of Joshua: > Jericho - “And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction (Joshua 6:17)… “Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.”(v. 21). Note that most of these city dwellers would have had a sword used to kill them - think of killing women and children this way. Hundreds of them.
>Cit of Ai (Joshua 8). “You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.” (v.2). “When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai. For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed all who lived in Ai.” (v. 24-26).
> City of Makkedah (Joshua 10). “That day Joshua took Makkedah. He put the city and its king to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it. He left no survivors. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho.”(v. 28)
> City after city suffers the same fate in this mythological tale. Libnah, Lachish, Gezer (“… left non remaining”), Eglon, Hebron (…“he left none remaining…”), Debir, Hazor (“And they struck with the sword all who were in it, devoting them to destruction; there was none left that breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire”), etc.
5b. Common apologist answers or as I would assert, rationalizations. * a) God commanded it. [Is this not the Nazi defense - I was under orders?] b) Yahweh owns the land and created every person and has a right to do whatever He pleases. [killing children and infants is ever defensible? And He could have snapped those Celestial Fingers and taken the innocents immediately but He had the Israelites chop them up with swords. Really, this is a good excuse? Drowning infants to kill them so they suffer before they die is defensible?] c. The civilizations were so evil, better to kill the children and infants rather than have them grow up in an evil society [Really? Death is preferable to giving them a chance to grow up? Secondly, why torture them first by being chopped and stabbed or drowned? Only in Hollywood do people drop dead instantly from a stab wound or having parts chopped off. Pregnant women? Third, there is no extra Biblical evidence that the Canaanites were incredibly “evil” as the Bible portrays them.] d. Israel is a theocracy. Allowing the Canaanites to remain would contaminate the nation [Totally justified to murder innocent children and infants? How does this not sound ironic as in the Nazi’s attempted to purify their country of Jews?] e. It’s a hagiographic hyperbolic interpretation (Wolterstorff).** It’s figurative boasting, not to be taken literally. [So what are we to learn about God’s character then from the narrative like Greek and Roman myths tell us about their gods and humans?] f. It’s been mistranslated (Hess). “Ir” can mean fort, “king” can mean commander, “army” can be only 100 in a small fort, and “destruction of women, children” can mean just warriors as in destroy “all”.*** [Wait - dozens of religious scholars with their PhDs and ThDs with decades of expertise in translation got it wrong?]
* ESV Commentary mostly - Introduction to Joshua
*** Critical Issues in Israelite History, 2008. The Jericho and Ai of the Book of Joshua, pages: 33-46.
The apologist Paul Copan wrote a book called “Is God a Moral Monster?”
God the Moral Compromiser:
Stark’s pdf: http://www.thomstark.net/copan/stark_copan-review.pdf
Dr. Hector Avalos and his response to Copan: https://www.debunking-christianity.com/2008/07/paul-copans-moral-relativism-response.html
The Christian Dr. Wesley Morriston. Did God Command Genocide? 2009. Department of Philosophy, University of Colorado-Boulder. “Thoughtful Christians who hold the Old Testament in high regard must at some point come to terms with those passages in which God is said to command what appear (to us) to be moral atrocities. In the present paper, I argue that the genocide passages in the Old Testament provide us with a strong prima facie reason to reject biblical inerrancy—that in the absence of better reasons for thinking that the Bible is inerrant, a Christian should conclude that God did not in fact command genocide. I shall also consider and reject the attempts of two prominent Christian philosophers to show that God had morally sufficient reasons for commanding the Israelites to engage in genocidal attacks against foreign peoples.”
Grasping at Straws: Evangelicals Defend Genocide http://formerfundy.blogspot.com/2010/03/grasping-at-straws-part-eleven.html
6. Destroy the Amalekites. Innocent infants and children were not to be spared. “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (v. 3)… And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.” (vs. 7 - 8).
God thus ordered the slaughter of an entire society of people and their animals. It included babies, children and any pregnant women. This by definition is genocide. That the Israelites were not totally successful is not the point. That this is myth is not the point - it’s about how God’s character is portrayed in the Bible.
7. Eve and the forbidden fruit. In the Genesis story, Eve is punished by not only having her husband rule over her, but also that she would suffer in childbirth. “To the woman he said, I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children…” Gen 3:16. This is part of the supposed Fall, where suffering and death entered the world for mankind according to fundamentalist Abrahamic theologians. Before this, supposedly childbirth was not painful and not a major problem. Of course we know this is not true; women have death and pain in childbirth due to the evolution of bipedalism, the change in the pelvis of hominins. It had nothing to do with a mythological curse caused by a talking snake (serpent). The result of this curse in the Bible is that women and infants often died in childbirth throughout history? What is the justification in this story of bringing death and suffering to innocent newborns? And for thousands of years, millions of infants have died and/or suffered during or shortly after birth due to a supposed curse? What did they do to deserve this? Just collateral damage? Actually, the entire subjects of original sin and the Fall are horrible false narratives to try and save Genesis from science and common sense but sounded logical thousands of years ago.
8. Shion King of Heshbon and all his people killed. Deut. 2:30 - 35
“But Sihon king of Heshbon refused to let us pass through. For the Lord your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done…the Lord our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army. At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed[a] them—men, women and children. We left no survivors. But the livestock and the plunder from the towns we had captured we carried off for ourselves.” So, not only did they kill everyone including women and innocent children but as we saw in Exodus God hardened Shion’s heart insuring that no one would be spared including the innocent children.
9. Achan’s entire family, including his innocent children stoned to death.
Joshua 8:24-25. Because the dad took spoils from Jericho. The children. What about his innocent children?
10. Because David ordered a census against God’s will He killed 70,000 people.
II Samuel 24:1-15.
11. For what Saul did to the Gibeonites, the Israelites were punished with three years of famine. Samuel 21:1
12. Adultery was punishable by death. Leviticus 20:10
13. Homosexuals were to be executed. Leviticus 20:13
14. God endorses slavery. Non Hebrews were property often forever and could be passed down.
"As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.” Leviticus 25:44-46
“When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.” Exodus 21:20-21. “When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.” Exodus 21:2-6
“When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.” Exodus 21:7-11
15. Certain prostitutes were to be burned alive. Leviticus 21:9. Not just killed but tortured to death. Any daughters of priests. Along with #12, 13 and 14, this shows how modernity and the Enlightenment has improved religious beliefs and not the opposite. And as usual it takes two to tango, but nothing is said about the men.
16. Consider the emotional moods of God. How can a God who is all wise and knows the future get upset at outcomes He surely knew would occur, were part of His divine plan - unless He was a lesser god of the Canaanite pantheon initially and had emotional issues like all the other gods? The Bible describes God as a jealous deity often having remorse and regrets over outcomes. The Flood narrative? He was sorry He had made mankind? Sorry? How could He be mad, jealous, disappointed or regretful over events He knew were in the future? This makes no sense. He can change His mind - when the future is planned by Him? We are to fear Him indeed.
God’s troublesome emotions if He is all knowing and all wise. But surprised by events?:
Anger - Psalm 7:11, Deut. 9:22, Roman 1:18
Grief - Gen. 6:5-6, Psalm 78:40
Hate - Proverbs 6:16, Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5
Jealousy - Exodus 20:5m, Exodus 34:14, Joshua 24:19
Regret - Gen. 6:6, 1 Samuel 15:11, 1 Samuel 15:35, Gen. 6:7
Changes his mind/Relents - Exodus 32:14, 1 Chronicles 21:15
A God with a Divine plan for everyone can have regrets, become angry and jealous over human behavior that He certainly knew would occur? Can relent and change His plans with new entreaties or information? Does that make sense?
Other things just don’t make sense for a loving, all knowing and wise God:
“If there is a God who watches everything, he has watched every child molestation in history. Without intervening.” ~ Faithless Vagabond
Humans were not made in the image of God. We invented him along with thousands of other gods to have human qualities like anger, jealously, regret, hate, and to fear him. He condemns shellfish and supports slavery. Homosexuals and divorcees are to be killed. In order to produce fear and obedience he kills innocent children to prove His points, and sometimes tortures them first. He is exactly what we would predict of an ancient near east created deity, with all the emotional baggage, limitations, and temperament that we find in ourselves and the pagan gods.
“You either have a God who sends rapists to rape children or have a God who simply watches it and says ‘When you’re done, I’m going to punish you’. If I could stop a person from raping a child, I would. That’s the difference between me and your God”. ~ Tracie Harris
There is a Masterpiece movie made about Jews who put their God on trial for breaking His Mosaic Covenant, the night before most of them were to be killed by the Nazis at Auschwitz. All sides are presented fairly in the reenactment and I have found Christians endorsing the film as good for discussion. It is based on a true event. It’s easy to access online (God On Trial: The Movie) and I encourage everyone to take advantage of this or obtain the DVD. For a view of the film near the end, here is a short 10 minute vignette.
God On Trial: The Verdict. (Near the end of the movie)
Obtain this small book, written by Jonah David Conner, PhD. All That’s Wrong with The Bible. 122 pages. Chapter 2.1 lists many moral absurdities. At the time of this writing the paperback was only $6.00 and $2.50 on Kindle. Dr. Jonah David Conner is an ex-Christian fundamentalist with a life-long passion for researching and debating religious issues. Raised in a conservative Protestant home, he attended private Christian schools from kindergarten to college, graduating with a B.A. from Liberty University. He has devoted many years to studying the Bible and related fields such as Biblical Languages, Textual Criticism, Church History, and Theology. He is now openly secular and promotes free inquiry and critical analysis of religious teachings. Dr. Conner earned his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Wisconsin, specializing in Spanish and Classical Greek. All feedback on his writing is welcome: email@example.com. https://www.amazon.com/All-Thats-Wrong-Bible-Contradictions/dp/1976427096
If one looks at God's commandments to kill in the Bible, it becomes clear that this not a deity of the universe, a loving and wise God. If so, he's a horrible immoral monster. Contrast some of the Bible edicts versus what modernity and The Enlightenment has brought us. Recall that these reflect on the character of the Abrahamic God, even if we are "no longer under The Law".
God, the originator of all - including evil
Lastly, Yahweh does indeed create and cause suffering and evil according to the Bible. Can apologists try and explain them away? Sure - they’ve had 2,000 years of practice. But are the explanations acceptable? And why the need for so much damage control to begin with? We are to worship an immoral God, a lesser storm God of the Canaanite Pantheon as known from history and the Bible itself? America and much of the world is in love with a collection of books they’ve never read or studied but rather have projected their hopes of an always loving God of the Bible that does not exist. “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” - Isaiah 45:7 “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?” - Amos 3:6. “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” - Exodus 4:11. “Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?” - Ecclesiastes 7:13 [science and medicine can…] “… and comfort him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him”. - Job 42:11
“For the inhabitants of Maroth wait anxiously for good, because disaster has come down from the Lord to the gate of Jerusalem” - Micah 1:12
“Therefore thus says the Lord: behold, against this family I am devising disaster, from which you cannot remove your necks, and you shall not walk haughtily, for it will be a time of disaster” - Micah 2:3
“This is what the Lord says: Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight.” - 2 Samuel 12:11.
“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.” - Ecclesiastes 7:6
“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
- John 1:3
“… yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we exist…” - 1 Corinthians 8:6