The first book of the Bible has two of God's most famous killings: Noah's Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah. These stories are familiar to nearly everyone, and because they are so familiar they tend to be ignored -- which is a shame, since they reveal so much about the nature of the biblical God.
In the flood, God set an example for Christian parents everywhere. Don't bother teaching your children to behave well; if they misbehave, drown them all.
And in the story of Sodom we learn what it means to be "just and righteous" in the eyes of the Lord. It means to be like Lot, who was the only person in Somdom that God considered worth saving. (Lot offered his virgin daughters to a vicious mob of angel rapers and then got drunk and impregnated them.)
The other Genesis killings have important morals also. Don't look back; don't be wicked in the sight of the Lord; and, for God's sake, don't spill your seed on the ground. And if someone has sex with your sister, kill every male in town after cutting off their foreskins and then enslave their wives and children.
God's first killing is hard to beat. He killed everything. Here's how he described it:
The LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. Genesis 6:7
Behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. 6:17
Every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. 7:4
And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. 7.21-23
So the killing contest is over. God, in his very first killing, wins the prize. The guy who killed everything "on the face of the earth" is the world's top killer. He beats Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Ghengis Khan. All those guys. Maybe not in terms of the number killed, but certainly in percentage. You just can't beat 100%.
Of course, God had his reasons. God always has his reasons.
God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man. 6:5-6
The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. ... The earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 6:11-13
Humans were wicked, they had bad thoughts, and the whole earth was violent and corrupt. So what's a good God to do?
Well, you might think he'd start a school to teach people how to behave, have them go to counseling, get them interested in other stuff -- like baseball or something. Anything to get their minds off their bad thoughts.
But no. God decided to drown them all. It was the best he could think of at the time. (He was having bad thoughts.)
The whole earth was filled with violence, so God killed everything on earth. (At least he found a nonviolent solution to the problem.)
But still, I don't quite get it. Did God drown the animals because they were too violent? Didn't he make them that way in the first place -- either at creation or after the fall of Adam?
But here is the excuse that I like the best:
God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man. 6:5-6
And here's what God says after he finishes the job and smells the burning flesh of Noah's sacrifice:
The LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. 8:21
God regrets making humans because they have bad thoughts. So he kills them all. Then he regrets killing them because they (still) have bad thoughts. (At least he fixed the problem!)
The mind of God is a frightening thing.
OK, so God drowned every person on earth except for Noah and his family. How many would that be?
Not a bad start for a serial killer.
This is a story about two of God's favorite people: Abraham and Lot.
God gave Abraham (He called him "Abram" back then) pretty much everything on earth, as far as he could see.
The LORD said unto Abram ... Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward ... All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. Genesis 13:14-15Lot had lots of stuff, too -- too much, in fact, to keep it all separate from Abraham's.
Lot ... had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. 13:5-6So Lot decided to move to Sodom.
Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in ... Sodom. 13:12Soon after Lot got settled in Sodom, a war broke out between the kingdoms of Sodom and Gomorrah and some of the other local kingdoms. The Sodomites were defeated and Lot was taken prisoner.
They took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. 14:12That's when Abraham got involved. He and 318 of his slaves took off after the anti-Sodomites.
And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. 14:14And they "smote" the heck out of them, chasing them all the way to the left hand of Damascus.
He and his servants ... smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. 14:15Abraham brought back Lot, the women, and the Sodomite stuff.
And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. 14:16When Abraham returned "from the slaughter," the king of Sodom went out to greet him, with Melchizedek, "the priest of the most high God," who brought along some bread and wine.
The king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter ... And Melchizedek ... brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. 14:17-18(Melchizedek, by the way, had no father or mother, no beginning or end, just like the Son of God.)
Melchisedec ... to whom Abraham gave a tenth part of all ... without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God. Hebrews 7:1-3And Melchizedek thanked God for helping Abraham slaughter the anti-Sodomites.
Blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. Genesis 14:20aThen Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the stuff he got in the slaughter.
And he gave him tithes of all. 14:20b
A nice fee for such a puny prayer.
(Since this was just an ordinary slaughter, I estimated the number of victims to be 1000.)
You may have noticed that God, after his first mass murder, showed a bit of remorse for needlessly drowning pretty much everything on earth. He even promised to never "smite any more every thing living." (Genesis 8:21)
And he kept his promise, too (if you ignore the anti-Sodomite slaughter), for another ten chapters or so. But in the end, God couldn't resist the temptation to kill again.
Abraham tried to talk him out of it, though. He and God and a couple of God's friends had been hanging out all day together. But after getting their feet washed and eating a big meal, God and his friends decided it was time to go.
The LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And said ... wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree ... And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf ... And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them ... and they did eat. Genesis 18:1-8They were heading off toward Sodom and Abraham decided he'd better tag along.
The men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. 18:16As they were walking along, God said (to himself?), "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?"
The LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do? 18:17How's that for weird? God asks himself if he should tell Abraham what he is about to do (which is, of course, kill everyone in two cities). He doesn't know what to do. Is he afraid that Abe will talk him out of it? Or try to stop him? Or what? Or is he just embarrassed to be having bad thoughts again? But God finally snaps out of it and tells Abraham what he's up to. He has heard that the people in Sodom have sinned and he's decided to go to Sodom and see for himself.
The LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. 18:20-21Abraham was on to him right away. He said, "Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?"
Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 18:23God, who is in one of his moods, ignores him. So Abe starts to bargain. What if there are 50 good people in Sodom? Would you kill them, too? "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? ... Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? 18:24-25God says if he can find 50 good citizens of Sodom, he won't kill everybody.
The LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. 18:26So Abe tries 45, and God says he wouldn't kill everyone if there were 45.
Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. 18:28Abe keeps going this way (knowing that God is a tad slow). How about 40? 30? 20? 10? And each time God answers the same way: If he can find a few good men (well ten, anyway), he won't kill the whole city.
He said, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake. 18:32And then God just takes off and Abraham goes home.
The LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place. 18:33But God's two friends (they're called angels now) keep going to Sodom. Lot invites them in and gives them the usual God treatment (washes their feet and feeds them).
There came two angels to Sodom at even ... and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. 19:1-3Then a strange thing happened. (Strange things often happen in the Bible.) Every man in the city of Sodom came to Lot's house and demanded to have sex with Lot's two angel friends.
The men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. 19:4-5Man, those must have been some good-looking angels! Lot's response was to protect the angels (who you'd think could take care of themselves) by offering the sex-crazed mob his two virgin daughters instead.
Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes. 19:8
[This is a man, by the way, whom the Bible calls "just and righteous" in 2 Peter 2:7-8. A few verses later he will get drunk and impregnate both his virgin daughters (see Genesis 19:30-38), but that's another lovely Bible story.]
As it turns out, though, there is no time for Lot to make good on his kind offer because God is getting ready to commit another mass murder. The angels strike the Sodomites blind, and tell Lot, his virgin daughters (and their husbands!), and his wife to flee.
But the men ... smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness ... And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: For we will destroy this place ... the LORD hath sent us to destroy it. 19:10-13And then all hell breaks loose.
The LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven. 19:24OK, so that's it. That is God's second mass murder. But how many people did God smash and burn to death in Sodom and Gomorrah? Well, I, of course, have no idea. I don't think any of this actually happened. But I'll guess 2000, 1000 from each city.
Although this is God's fourth killing event, it is the first of God's 2,821,364 countable victims.
It's interesting that God's first countable victim is unnamed. God killed Mrs. Lot without even knowing (or at least telling us) her name.
And what was it that got God's attention? What did she do that caused him to kill her?
She looked back at the place she had lived all her life. She looked back as her family, friends, and neighbors were being smashed and burned to death by God. She looked back.
But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:26
And, of course, the angels told her not to.
The angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters ... When they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee. 19:15-17
Or did he?
Who was the angel talking to here? To Lot alone or to him and his family? And if it was to Lot alone, did Lot tell his wife? Would it matter to God if no one bothered to tell her? Would he kill her anyway?
Who knows? Or cares? A God who would kill a woman for looking back as everyone she has ever known is being burned to death is a monster God. An arbitrary, random killer.
I have met Christians who ignore this story, as they ignore pretty much everything in the Old Testament. They sometimes call themselves "Red Letter Christians," meaning that they base their beliefs on the words of Jesus.
But Jesus believed in the story about Sodom and Gomorrah; he believed in the story about Lot's wife. He saw nothing wrong with any of it. In fact, he said that when he returns at the end of the world it will be just like that. You can check for yourself in your Red Letter Bible.
As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. ... Remember Lot's wife. Luke 17:26-32
Jesus had no problem with God's first two mass murders (the Flood of Noah and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah), or with God's killing of Lot's wife. It'll be just like that at the end of the world, if Jesus has anything to say about it. He is just as nasty as the Old Testament God. Maybe nastier.
So remember Lot's wife. And forget Jesus.
The story begins when Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, goes out to meet her Hivite neighbors.
Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. Genesis 34:1
While she was visiting, a young Hivite man named Shechem saw her and immediately fell in love with her. (Well, maybe not immediately, but after he had sex with her, anyway. The Bible doesn't say whether it was consensual or not.)
And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. And his soul clave unto Dinah ... and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel. 34:2-3
Shechem told his father that he'd like to marry Dinah.
Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife. 34:4
So Hamor went to talk to Jacob about it.
And Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him ... saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife. 34:6-8
Hamor suggested that the Hivites and the Israelites live together in peace, trading and intermarrying with one other.
And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein. 34:9-10
Jacob didn't seem to care much about it, one way or another. But his sons did. It was all about the Hivite's penises.
The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, ... We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised. 34:13-14
The problem was that little flap of skin at the tip of the Hivite's penises. If they'd just cut that off, then they could all happily live together in peace.
But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised; Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. 34:15-16
Hamor agrees to this. He, along with his son and all the male Hivites, will cut off that little flap of skin at the end of their penises as a sacrifice for peace. (Greater love hath no father than this, that he cut off his own foreskin for his son.)
And Hamor and Shechem his son ... communed with the men of their city, saying, These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only herein will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised. ... Let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us. 34:20-21
So Hamor, Shechem and every male Hivite cut off that little flap of skin that offends God so much.
And every male was circumcised. 34:24
And Dinah and Shechem were married and everyone lived happily ever after.
Here's what really happened.
And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob ... took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. ... And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house. 34:25-29
Jacob's sons slaughtered Shechem, Hamor, and all the Hivite males while they were recovering from their circumcisions, and then stole their possessions and enslaved their wives.
But at least Hamor died for something worthwhile -- the happiness of his son and peace in the world.
It's a nasty story, of course, but it isn't entirely clear, from Genesis 34 anyway, what God had to do with it. And for that reason, I originally left it off the list of God's killings. However the deuterocanonical book of Judith clears all that up very nicely.
Here's what it says.
O Lord God of my father Simeon, who gavest him a sword to execute vengeance against strangers, who had defiled by their uncleanness, and uncovered the virgin unto confusion: And who gavest their wives to be made a prey, and their daughters into captivity ... who were zealous with thy zeal. Judith 9:2-3
So God not only approved of the Shechem massacre, he gave Simeon the sword to do it with.
Thank God for the Catholic Bible.
Since the Bible doesn't say how many Hivites were killed in this massacre, I just gave it the usual 1000 for a standard biblical massacre. But two victims were known by name (Shechem and Hamor), so I added 2 to the "biblical number" for God's killings.
This is the first of God's named murder victims.
We know his name (Er), his father's name (Judah), his mother's name (Shuah), and his wife's name (Tamar).
Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her. And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er. ... And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. Genesis 38:2-6
And we know that "he was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him." But that's it.
Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. 38:7
God killed Er for doing something, but the Bible doesn't say what it was.
So what did Er do?
Did he get drunk and lie around naked in his tent and then curse his unborn grandson (and all of his descendants) with slavery because his son saw him drunk and naked? No that was Noah, "a preacher of righteousness." (Genesis 9:20-25, 2 Peter 2:5)
Did he abandon his first son to die in the desert and then show his willingness to murder his second son for God as a human sacrifice? No, that was Abraham, "the Friend of God." (Genesis 21:10-14, 22:2-12, James 2:23)
So what was it that pissed off God so much that he just had to kill him?
You'd think if it was important enough to kill him, it would be important enough to tell us why.
In his last killing, God killed Er for being wicked.
Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. Genesis 38:7
So Judah told Er's brother, Onan, to have sex with his dead brother's wife.
Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife. 38:8
And Onan "went in unto" her all right, but in the process he "spilled it on the ground."
Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground. 38:9
Then God, who was watching the whole thing, killed Onan for ejaculating outside the vagina of his dead brother's wife.
And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also. 38:10
This story is used by believers to justify their condemnation of everything from masturbation (which is sometimes called "Onanism") to birth control.
But I think it's just another nasty, amoral Bible story. If there is a moral to the story, though, I guess it is this: Be careful where you ejaculate.
This one is all about Joseph. There's a whole series of stupid Joseph stories in Genesis: Jacob loved Joseph more than his other children (Genesis 37:3); Joseph's brothers throw him in a well (37:24); Joseph is rescued from the well and sold to the Ishmaelites (37:28); Joseph goes to prison after being falsely accused of rape (39:20); Joseph interprets the dreams of his cellmates (40:8-19); Joseph interprets the Pharaoh's dreams (41:25-32); the Pharaoh makes Joseph the overseer of all of Egypt (41:33).
The Bible isn't too clear on this, but as near as I can tell, God starved everyone on earth so that Joseph could become the most powerful person in Egypt by interpreting the Pharaoh's dream so that God could get the Israelites enslaved by Pharaoh and then rescue them by sending plagues on the Egyptians. Or something like that.
OK. That all makes perfect sense. But what was the Pharaoh's dream?
Well, there were these seven fat, good-looking cows that came out of the Nile, followed by seven skinny, ugly cows. The skinny cows ate the fat ones.
And it came to pass ... that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river. And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow. And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river. And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke. Genesis 41:1-4
Then Pharaoh had another dream. This time seven skinny heads of grain ate seven fat ones.
And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good. And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them. And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream. 41:5-7
Nobody could interpret Pharaoh's dream. So they called Joseph. Joseph said it was simple. God was going to send seven good years followed by seven years of famine. And the famine would be world-wide and "very grievous."
This is the thing which ... God is about to do.... There come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt: And there shall arise after them seven years of famine. ... It shall be very grievous. ... The thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass. 41:28-32
Joseph said the Pharaoh should have the Egyptians store up food during the seven good years so they wouldn't starve (like everyone else) during the bad.
And it all happened just like Joseph said it would. The Pharaoh did what Joseph suggested and had Joseph oversee it all. And Joseph became the most powerful person in Egypt.
So things worked out well for Joseph, but not so well for everyone else.
When the famine struck, everyone on earth (including the Egyptians) had to buy their food from Joseph. If they couldn't make it to Egypt or didn't have enough money, they starved. It was all part of God's plan.
The seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands ... And the famine was over all the face of the earth ... And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands. 41:54-57
But how many people starved to death during God's seven year famine? I have no idea. But since the Bible says it was "over all the face of the earth" and was a "very grievous famine," I figure it must have been at least 70,000 or so, 10,000 each year.
- From the list of begats in Genesis 5, along with Noah's age at the time of the flood (600, Genesis 7:6), it's easy to compute the number of years from creation to the flood (1656). Using this value and Bishop Ussher's date of creation (4004 BCE), Answers in Genesis comes up with 2348 BCE as the date of the flood. Timeline for the Flood.
- Colin McEvedy and Richard M. Jones, Atlas of World Population History (Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1978), 344.