A God of Violence?

29th Sunday, OT "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness..." advises the author of 2 Timothy, setting a challenging agenda for all of us involved with God’s word. The first reading offers a mysterious and troubling scenario: When the Exodus community was struggling through the desert, pressed by the many troubles we have heard on other Sundays, they were attacked by Amalekites--a group who persists as in the biblical narrative as a primordial enemy (turning up in 1 Samuel 15, Esther and elsewhere). A similar motif occurs in the prophet Obadiah and in Psalm 137, where we learn that in the midst of being taken into exile, Israel was not assisted or pitied by a near neighbor--to the contrary. God is called upon to even the score, to avenge ancient wrongs. The widow and judge story is normally allegorized by casting the widow in the role of human plaintiff and the judge in the role of God, though the parable does not inevitably prescribe those choices. (See Megan McKenna’s work for an alternate view: God the widow, ourselves the judge.) My question: What is the impact over our lifetimes, and over the lifetime of our Christian interpretive tradition, when we insert God into roles of vengeance and retaliation? The reading from Timothy would seem to challenge us ask how these readings work salvifically. If we are existentially, experientially convinced that violence and retaliation are not God’s work, what hermeneutic can help us do better with these readings? It seems urgent to find--and use--one. Barbara Green, O.P.
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11 years 6 months ago
Modern knowledge reveals the immanence of violence in the creation of the universe. Evolutionarily, that violence endures atomically (subatomically?) in our organism - we always have the capacity. We have understood God anthropomorphically and have projected our understanding of ourselves and the actions of the created universe onto "God," if not universally, at least in Western religious thought (in Hebrew thinking, even modern, is there not some paradoxical nature to God?). In some relation, God did create violence, but it was not "God" who smote the Amelekites. It was our innate human, personal and collective, continuing capacity to enact our portion of the violence of the universe, in survival or denial, and explain or self-justify it according to our concepts. The Bible is stories written by us (inspired by God???).
11 years 6 months ago
I had the same questions, Barbara. One helpful and authentic hermeneutic I came came up wit is remembering that throughout the conquest of the promised land the emphasis continues to be on Israel's faithfulness to God and God's fulfillment of the promise. However bloody the victories in battle they are always because of Israel's faithfulness and not their military might. They are repeatedly depicted as a small, vulnerable people and they are cautioned against the reliance on their own power. Their armies are kept small for this reason. You're welcome to visit my preaching website. If you are interested I'll send an evite. It's on google entitled "journeykerygma". Sam
11 years 6 months ago
Accept that the primitive religion of the ancients did have a violent God defending them. Even Popes were warriors in the Christian era. We have moved on from that image of God and it is necessary that we understand and accept that our understanding of God can grow deeper and more spiritual as we ponder these things.
11 years 6 months ago
Territoriality is part of our animal nature. The cats in my house fight for space. The dog pees on trees when we take a walk so that other dogs will know he has been there. Competition is part of nature - even the trees outside my window compete for light and water. Fighting for space should not surprise us. Peace should surprise us. Brother Lawrence (of the Practice of the Presence of God) suggested that considering what humans are capable of, he was amazed that human life is not much worse than it is. And that is grace. I teach my freshmen of my OT course to "Think Hebrew" when we study those Scriptures - we cannot look at the old stories from a twenty-first century perspective. The post-exilic Jews believed that God had promised them a land and a people and so as they recorded their history, that was foremost in their minds. If God had promised it, so it must be. If they were faithful to God, then he would be faithful to that promise that he had made to Abraham. Competition for space was expected. I am currently working on a talk on the story of Jesus driving out the money lenders in the temple. How does the image of Jesus with a whip correlate with the image of Jesus the good shepherd? That's a little tougher than thinking Hebrew because now we're into the fullness of revelation in Jesus. Here is where the we find the paradox of God the infinite and mighty being held at the same time as God the intimate and compassionate. For high school students, where tolerance is the value held most dear, this story seems wrong. Jesus is not being tolerant. Yet when I point out that injustice should make us angry; that drowning a two-year-old in a toilet should make us see red; that God is not happy when those in the temple or church get their priorities screwed up, they nod their heads in agreement. The understanding of paradox is growing extinct in our culture. We are becoming a black or white people. Yet so much wisdom is both/and. Karla Bellinger Our Lady of the Elms Domincan High School
11 years 5 months ago
Test Comment
11 years 5 months ago
God created ALL and/or allows for all--He is omnicient. To limit Him the way He is being limited by modernists does not do His Majesty glory. We cannot understand all these things--we must realize that we are "little"... and when in His overwhelming presence, like Job... we come to see that our little questions have no meaning or value. Why do we even think He could not be violent when we see the magnificent tiger devour the antelope? Yet, the time will come when the "lion will lie down with the lamb", we have been assured of that--these promises are clear, too. The hope of them are nourishment and enough for to keep us quiet interiorly where He says, "Do not fear!" We must cling to what the scripture says, too, "God is LOVE!" It is ALL true! Let us not confound ourselves with those things that are "beyond human telling!"


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