The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is Jehovah a War God?
SOME readers of the Bible have long accused Jehovah of being a war god, and a bloodthirsty one at that. For example, George A. Dorsey, in his book The Story of Civilization—Man’s Own Show, claims that the God of the Bible, Jehovah, “is the God of plunderers, of torturers, of warriors, of conquest, of every savage passion.” Bible critic Roland H. Bainton pointedly says: “War is more humane when God is left out of it.”
Is Jehovah really a war god? Does he, as some suggest, actually enjoy slaughtering innocent people?
True, the Bible candidly relates Jehovah God’s past adverse judgments. However, they were always against ungodly people. For example, it was not until the earth of Noah’s day became “filled with violence” that Jehovah said: “Here I am bringing the deluge of waters upon the earth to bring to ruin all flesh in which the force of life is active.” (Genesis 6:11, 17) Regarding another judgment, it was only because the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had “abandoned themselves to sexual immorality and were bent on perverted sensuality” that God caused it to “rain sulphur and fire.”—Jude 7, The New Berkeley Version; Genesis 19:24.
Did God relish bringing all flesh to ruin in Noah’s day? Or did he derive some fiendish pleasure from destroying the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah? For an answer, let us look at the events surrounding the Flood of Noah’s day. After stating that God would wipe wicked mankind off the surface of the ground in order to cleanse the earth of violence, the Bible says: “Jehovah . . . felt hurt at his heart.” Yes, it grieved God that “every inclination of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only bad all the time.” Hence, to save as many as possible from the impending Deluge, God dispatched Noah, “a preacher of righteousness,” to sound a warning message and to build an ark for preservation.—Genesis 6:3-18; 2 Peter 2:5.
In like manner, before sending angels to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, God said: “I propose to go down and see whether or not they have done all that is alleged in the outcry against them . . . I am determined to know.” (Genesis 18:20-32, The Jerusalem Bible) Jehovah assured Abraham (whose nephew Lot lived in Sodom) that if His search revealed just ten righteous men, the cities would be spared. Would a God that delights in spilling blood have such merciful concern? On the contrary, could we not say that one of the dominant personality traits of Jehovah is mercy? (Exodus 34:6) He himself says: “I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living.”—Ezekiel 33:11.
Adverse judgments from God have always resulted because wicked people adamantly refuse to abandon a bad course, not because Jehovah enjoys killing people. But you may wonder, ‘Did not Jehovah encourage the Israelites to war with the Canaanites and to annihilate them?’
God’s Wars Needed for Peace
History paints a sordid picture of Canaanite life—they were exceedingly wicked. Spiritism, child sacrifice, sadistic violence, and various forms of perverted sex worship were the order of the day. As a God of justice who exacts exclusive devotion, Jehovah could not allow these disgusting practices to disrupt the peace and security of innocent people, especially Israel. (Deuteronomy 5:9) For example, imagine if the community in which you live was without a reputable police force or militia to enforce the laws of the land—would that not lead to anarchy and violence of the worst kind? Similarly, Jehovah was compelled to act against the Canaanites because of their licentiousness and the real danger they posed to pure worship. Therefore, he decreed: “The land is unclean, and I shall bring punishment for its error.”—Leviticus 18:25.
Divine justice was carried out when God’s executional forces—the Israelite armies—destroyed the Canaanites. The fact that God chose to use humans to carry out this judgment, rather than fire or flood, did not diminish the sentence. Thus, when warring with the seven nations of Canaan, the Israelite armies were instructed: “You must not preserve any breathing thing alive.”—Deuteronomy 20:16.
As a respecter of life, however, God did not sanction indiscriminate killing. For example, when the residents of one Canaanite city, Gibeon, asked for mercy, Jehovah granted it. (Joshua 9:3-27) Would a vicious war god have done this? No, but a God who loves peace and justice would.—Psalm 33:5; 37:28.
Jehovah’s Standards Promote Peace
Time and again, the Bible associates God’s blessing with peace. That is because Jehovah is a lover of peace, not war. (Numbers 6:24-26; Psalm 29:11; 147:12-14) Consequently, when King David desired to build a temple of worship to Jehovah, God told him: “You will not build a house to my name, for a great deal of blood you have spilled on the earth before me.”—1 Chronicles 22:8; Acts 13:22.
While on earth, the Greater David, Jesus Christ, spoke of a time when God’s love of justice would no longer allow him to tolerate the present-day evil we see. (Matthew 24:3, 36-39) As he did in the Flood of Noah’s day and in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God will soon take judicial action to rid the earth of selfish, wicked men, thus paving the way for peaceful conditions to exist under his heavenly Kingdom rule.—Psalm 37:10, 11, 29; Daniel 2:44.
Clearly, Jehovah is not a war god who lusts for blood. On the other hand, he does not shrink back from exacting judicial punishment when it is due. God’s love of goodness requires that he act in behalf of those who love him by destroying the wicked system that oppresses them. When he does so, true peace will flourish earth wide as the truly meek ones unitedly worship Jehovah, “the God of peace.”—Philippians 4:9.
[Picture Credit Line on page 20]
David and Goliath/The Doré Bible Illustrations/Dover Publications, Inc.