I think Geoffrey, you are kind of mixing some things as apples and kumquats there. I mean, there could have been a world-wide scarcity of food, due to say- an unusual solar event or volcanic event. Perhaps not -but perhaps. A person would ot be a madman for thinking such possible.
To compare that with Christ’s obvious metaphor about gouging one’s eyes out is a not quite equal weights in the balance. It would of course take a madman to take that literally. It is a clear metaphor.
As far as OT events are concerned, histories are histories and people ascribe to God the source code for every event, but the situation with Jehu is a good example. Elijah anoints Jehu in the SPirit of the Lord and sends him off to deal with Ahab and Jezebel. Jehu does so, as the Lord instructed, even as had been previously prophesied, and Jezebel’s bones get licked by dogs in the street.
But Jehu adds a twist. He “tricks” all the priests and worshippers of Baal in town into the temple of Baal and then burns down the temple with them in it. God judges him for this in Hosea 1:4
But the original command concerning Ahab’s house, and his son’s, was still pretty stern, and I dont believe it was all hyperbole. So I maintain that as “with the froward God will show Himself froward”, He dealt(and deals) with primitive men in primitive ways, and that God does not see death as we do, being as that everyone is going to die, and everyone is going to live eternal life. “All flesh is as grass”.
The fact for instance that God left Amalekites alive, does not negate the fact there was quite a slaughter and that either Samuel received a word from the Lord, that Saul had sinned by keeping Agag as a trophy, or Samuel made it up out of his own peevishness.
But no, God calls Saul’s action rebellion/witchcraft and stubborness/idolatry and Samuel executes Agag. I think the defenses put up for God with arguments about simile and hyperbole are legitimate to a point, but also kind of thin in the light of the fact that God either did some of these things or didnt. Hermeneutics requires that we apply the same rule to all the questions in the paradigm, not just highlight a few we can manipulate easily within a structure of our own creation.
Did God really burn Sodom and Gomorah entirely? If the flood did not cover the whole earth, wasnt it still pretty horrific over the part of the earth where it killed every living thing? Is God somehow more merciful because he only destroyed a large swath of the planet? Is God using hyperbole when He speaks through the prophets? Men women and children died in Jericho, most likely, by God’s hand, or at least by His instruction (if you believe that Jericho was siesmically destroyed by two million stomping Israelites and a sonic blast )
Either God killed losta folks in judgments or He didnt. If He didnt, He stands by silently for a lot of things done in His name in books where He is always speaking through prophets.
David numbers the people. God judges David for it by killing a bunch of people, but God incited David to do it in the first place. Seems entirely arbitrary and unjust to me and presents a very simple problem.
Either it is history or it is allegory, and if it is an allegory, what is the moral lesson? None that i can see. Joab, who was pretty cold guy himself, abhored the command to number the people. It was obviously sin to him, but not to David, the man after God’s own heart- and not so obvious to us.
Reasonings abound. God was angry at Israel for something so He used David to judge them. Maybe. Still seems cruel and arbitrary to me. Like beating your daughter because of an argument with her mother.
But then God, who sees all things and causes all things to work according to the counsel of His will is either allowing, or causing, horrible mass death events all over the world all the time- in even greater numbers than in the OT, and remember, these events we read of in the OT had many years between them, we read of several in a half hour or so, but they covered a span of hundreds, even thousands of years.
The history of the Roman Empire for instance, is rife with tremendous upheavals and slaughters of epic proportion, and God has presided over them all. Whole cities, tribes and nations starved in sieges, executed on crosses, burned, tortured and quartered by horses.
So for me the defense of God by hyperbole and simile falls short of explaining the elephant in the room, which is, “Why does God allow so much violence and oppression?” And if we are so intolerant of His exercise of violence in the OT, why are we so tolerant of it in our world today, a world even more primitive, if measured by slaughters of innocents, frequency of wars and genocides, and the hovering clouds of worldwide nuclear, chemical and biological destruction. Mankind now entertains itself with stylilized violence and terror, and then wonders why he must suffer it with gaping mouth, aghast at the violation of some invisible law he was laughing at a half hour ago.
Sometimes I look at Christians who take this “I am abhored that God would kill” attitude, and I get it, I would like to believe it- but I wonder if they ever really look at the world we live in and wonder if God is even slightly in charge of it. I mean really, He is just standing back and allowing all this chaos to erupt on people everywhere but here (for a bit) and yet we still think God abhors violence? God is not in control then I guess. He is certainly not sovereign, If He is sovereign He must hold us in contempt- if we ascribe to Him the motives and means we ascribe to ourselves. Perhaps we are stewards, and must be dealt with as the evil steward who would not yield the fruit of the land to the landowner(so the landowner killed him).
It is no wonder the whole creation is writhing in the anguish of child-birth, anxiously awaiting its deliverance from this futility to which the Creator subjected it. It sometimes seems as if Jesus is delivering us from God Himself.