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The Great Bible Read: Struggling Already

Travis Griffith

It's been a while since my last update, for which I apologize to the people reading along with me. I am still making progress on my reading and my only excuse for not getting another post up here in the last two weeks isn't really an excuse: life got in the way.

For many people, reading the Bible IS a part of life, but I'm not there. I'm struggling just to make sense and comprehend the parts I have read. One theme, especially, keeps rattling around my head even though I try to just accept it and move on. I can't stop thinking about it, no seem to make any sense out of it.

Why all the sacrifice?

I understand that that theme will hit a climax with the ultimate in human sacrifice by the time I close the back cover on this book, but I'm having a hard time with the sheer volume of human and animal sacrifice just in the Old Testament.

I know I've visited this topic already, but it keeps coming up and it keeps bothering me.

"Thou Shalt Not Kill."

Of all the commandments, that's the one that actually makes the most sense to me. Yet people kill each other. A lot. Even more surprising, they kill each other at God's direction. For example, in Deuteronomy, Chapter 20, God says,

As you approach a town to attack it, first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all people inside will serve you in forcer labor. But if they refuse to make peace, prepare to fight, you must attack the town. When the Lord your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town.

I can give example after example of cases in the Bible so far where humans deserve to be killed. Kill townspeople who don't believe, kill people who do believe but commit certain sins, then kill rams and sheep and goats to absolve those sins. Why all the senseless killing!?

If I try to answer this myself, I tell myself that God's chosen people deserve the land God has chosen for them and the killing is a type of sacrifice  to make sure that happens.

But that answer doesn't fly. Why would one group be worthy of God's love but not another? Why would pagans be worthy of death at the hands of "God's chosen people?"

Aren't we ALL God's chosen people?

I feel like the words I'm reading now have set a terrible precedent of killing and war that has spanned millennia; all of it justified because it's being done in God's name.

God is love. God is peace. I hear those phrases all the time. I read them in greeting cards and hear them in snippets of Christian conversation. But I wonder: is it true? What if you're on the wrong side of God?

Maybe, if back in the time of Deuteronomy, someone had stood up to God when he ordered the mass killing of a town's people, and said, "No, I believe you are a loving God and I will not kill these people. I will embrace them and love them and learn of their beliefs as I discuss with them the wonder that is you."

Maybe God would have been so pleased he would have blessed Earth with an eternity of peace rather than let the consequences of hate corrupt our history.

How do you justify the killing in the Bible? Help me here... I'm struggling.


Travis Griffith, Relief’s Blog Manager, is a former atheist now exploring what a spiritual life really means. His children’s book, Your Father Forever, was published in 2005 by Illumination Arts Publishing Company, Inc. Travis works from his home in Spokane, WA as a professional writer.