How do we understand violence in the Old Testament?

People often find the violence in the Old Testament off-putting. Why is there so much violence? And why does God seem to command it sometimes? In this video we look briefly at how we should understand violence in the Old Testament.

Key points…

  • We need to distinguish between two kinds of violence in the Old Testament.
  • First, the violence which people do.
    • We often read about violence in the papers – this is because the violence is factual! The Bible often reports factual violence without condoning it.
    • Why is it included? Because shows the depth of human sin.
    • Similar to the book Lord of the Flies, where the violence there is shocking holds up a mirror to human nature.
    • The violence shows us what human nature is like.
  • Second, the violence which God does or commands, e.g. the command to drive out the Canaanites and other nations from the Promised Land.
    • This command was giving because of the sin of the Canaanites (Leviticus 20:23). The command to drive them out was actually a judgement upon them.
    • The uncomfortable truth is that God’s character remains consistent across the Old Testament and New Testament: he is loving to those who trust in him, but he punishes sin and wickedness.
    • Compare Nahum 1:2-3, 7-8 with Revelation 19:11-21.
    • God will defeat his enemies in the end because he is just and cannot leave sin unpunished.
  • BUT – Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world but save the world (John 3:16-17). The offer stands open to anyone to come to him and not receive what our sins deserve, but to find forgiveness.

Explore further

There’s a whole session of the What is Christianity? course on the Old Testament.

Your questions answered

This is part of the Your questions answered feature. See that page for more videos in the series.

If you have a question about Christianity or the Bible, please send them in or comment below.

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What is Christianity? 3 – Old Testament

Stories are not just for entertainment – they are hugely powerful in shaping and teaching us. Maybe that’s why God gave us a story, the biggest story, in the Bible. In this session we look at what happened after Genesis 3 – how does the Old Testament message lead us to Jesus?

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The Proverbs 31 Woman: The Life of Wisdom

The very last chapter of Proverbs – Proverbs 31:10-31 – contains a description of the life of a woman which looks almost superhuman. I hear that some women, particularly in American churches, have come to dread the ‘Proverbs 31 woman’ sermon: “ladies, this is what your life should look like…” How could anyone’s life look so perfect? It’s beyond intimidating!

However, I do not believe that the ‘Proverbs 31 woman’ is actually describing any individual. The question in verse 10 is right: “A wife of noble character who can find?” – well the answer surely is, ‘no-one!’ No-one has a wife like this, because this is not describing a real woman.

No. The Proverbs 31 woman is a description of a perfect ‘wise’ life to encourage us to adopt a life of wisdom. Why do I say that? Let’s look into it.

Continue reading “The Proverbs 31 Woman: The Life of Wisdom”
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Wisdom of Proverbs: Wealth and Poverty

One the best thing about Proverbs is its practical wisdom about everyday topics such as wealth and poverty. However, Proverbs is more than simply a self-help book – it is godly wisdom which seeks to put “the fear of the Lord” at the beginning. As we saw in the previous session on guidance, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Today we are going to look at how that works out with money / wealth and poverty.

This is a huge issue in our society: according to the Global Inequality website, the richest 1% of people own 44% of the world’s wealth. According to Oxfam, the wealth divide between the richest and the poorest in the world is steadily growing. Closer to home, in the UK about 20% of households are below average income. And yet, a lot of people chase after wealth – according to the Telegraph, 70% of UK adults (more than 32 million people) play the lottery on a regular basis – and 99% of winners play again, convinced they will win again.

Money and wealth play a huge role in our society. What does the the wisdom of Proverbs have to say about it?

Let me first just give a quick caveat: one of the problems with proverbial wisdom is that you can’t simply read off one verse and then ignore the other verses about wealth and poverty. Proverbs isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme! All of these things need to be taken into consideration together. With that in mind, here are seven short lessons about wealth from the wisdom of Proverbs.

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Wisdom of Proverbs: Guidance

In this article we are going to be looking at the Wisdom of Proverbs, specifically about the topic of guidance.

Everyone is looking for guidance at the moment. In our area, a number of local venues host occasional ‘psychic nights’ where people try to contact a dead relative or obtain guidance from the spiritual world. Mediums, horoscopes, and palm readings are all making a come back. Even among my own friends and acquaintances, I’ve been surprised to discover how many people seem to buy into these things.

The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about guidance, and we’re going to look at a few verses from Proverbs which help us. But first – if you’re not familiar with Proverbs, the most important thing to remember is what Proverbs calls wisdom:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

If you want to be wise, according to Proverbs, what you need first and foremost is “the fear of the Lord”: fear not in the sense of being scared, but rather an appropriate respect, reverence and awe. In other words, we need to listen to what God says first and foremost – this is God’s world, and we’ll do best when we live in his ways.

So, with that in mind, let’s dive in to what the Wisdom of Proverbs has to say about guidance.

Continue reading “Wisdom of Proverbs: Guidance”
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