Making sense of God's moral character in the Old Testament

(Vlad Darius) #1

Please let me know if my question is stupid or trivial so that I would do better in the future. Thank you for the opportunity to ask questions here and I hope that this is the right place to do it. English is my second language so I apologise in advance if I misspell some words.

I have some questions about morality as reflected in the Bible, more specifically about God’s moral character as it apperas in the Old Testament. I was wondering about certain aspects of God’s law and His will regarding humanity in the early stages of history. I know this is a complex subject so I will try to be as specific as possible.

For instance the part in Genesis 1:28 - “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it …”

How exactly could only 2 people replenish the earth? Many people (especially of other religious beliefs) say that all this replenishing was done through incest - their children, grandchildren, niece, nephews, cousins etc. The “cain’s wife” thing is just a small part. More over this is also confusing because in Leviticus 18 God tells the people of Israel not to do what the Egiptians were doing regarding sexuality, child sacrifice or simply uncovering the nakedness of anyyone “near of kin to him”. It is a pretty solid list and a very important chapter in the Bible because the people of Israel were to live very different from the Egiptians and other cultures from that time(not only from this point of view of course)
My questions are:
When did all those things described in Leveticus 18 suddenly had to be forbiden and considered “wickedness”? Were they not always sin in the eyes of God? Did God just let it go until there were enough people in the world after which He said - oh, by the way, you can’t do this anymore because it is disgusting, wicked, wrong and appalling? Did all of this had to go on because there wasn’t any other way? What if Adam and Eve hadn’t fall into sin, would things have gone the same way in order to replenish the earth? I found a lot of stuff about this from christians, theologians and pastors online but I found their explanations very lacking with things like perfect dna of Adam and Eve, purity of genes etc.

Also about killing:
It seems to me that taking another human life, in the Old Testament, is only a sin when it is done for the wrong reason or when it is not aligned with the will of God. It is understandable from a theological point of view but it begs the question what sin means as an objective reality. Is the divine moral framework of God that incapsulates both New and Old Testament, described somewhere so that a nonchristian person could start to understand it? I know you need the Holly Spirit to guide you, I understand that but I am really struggling here, could only a true christian begin to understand these things in the right way(what ever that is)?

Please let me know if you need more clarifying on any of these things from my part.

Thank you and I hope my long, desperate and confusing rant doesn’t offend anyone.

Ask Logan Gates (July 9-13, 2018)
(SeanO) #2

@hartinker Those are perfectly legitimate questions. It is not necessary to have any special knowledge to consider potential answer. It is also important to realize that simply because we do not know the exact answer does not mean there is no answer. I hope these thoughts are helpful for you.

Marriage Between Siblings

Is Hugh Ross’ explanation reasonable to you? If not, how come?

Hugh Ross - ”Given that we are all descended from Adam and Eve, either Cain or one of his brothers must have married a sister. This would seem to violate the commands recorded in the book of Leviticus forbidding marriage between brothers and sisters. The Levitical laws, however, must be considered in their proper historical context. Though the book of Genesis condemns sexual relations between children and their parents, it nowhere prohibits a man from marrying his sister or niece. Abraham, for example, married his half-sister without compunction. Not until the time of Moses were laws established forbidding a man from marrying a sister or niece. The timing of this command makes perfect sense biologically, for genetic defects as a result of intra-family marriage would not begin to crop up until after the first few dozen generations.”

The Issue of Murder

If I understand your question correctly, you are confused as to why it is sometimes permissible to kill other people and sometimes not permissible. To understand that, you must understand the idea of justice. If someone does something wrong, there is a just penalty for their sin. Consider the penalty for taking a life in Leviticus:

Leviticus 24:17 - Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death.

The only times in the Bible when men were permitted to kill other men is when the men being killed were under God’s judgment for their own sin. God is not being arbitrary. Death is the penalty for sin.

In fact, God is 100% fair in this manner. God allowed Israel to destroy wicked nations. Then, when Israel sinned and became wicked, God allowed other nations to ransack them. Look at this list of sins that Amos condemns Israel for in Amos chapter 2:

For three sins of Israel,
even for four, I will not relent.
They sell the innocent for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals.
They trample on the heads of the poor
as on the dust of the ground
and deny justice to the oppressed.
Father and son use the same girl
and so profane my holy name.
They lie down beside every altar
on garments taken in pledge.
In the house of their god
they drink wine taken as fines.

If you read Deuteronomy 28 God makes it clear that if Israel chooses to do evil they will also be punished.

(Vlad Darius) #3

Sorry for the delay:

The Issue of Murder

Point taken, I guess my issue has to do with my perception of justice, considering that I am a person looking for God and bound by sin (in a real way). My perception on justice and other moral concepts is altered and laks the guidance of the Holy Spirit wich I feel - sounds like a strange thing to say - it is very difficult for me to explain but I have found that these experiences of mine are more common than I thought. In any case it is interesting to me to say the least in my current state of mind that some actions in themselves are not considered sinful, but it depends on the context, like taking someones life. I guess living in Eastern Europe has made me sensitive to stuff like that because I have seen lives taken by others with authority for no real reason at all every day. Those people that did the killing were also invoking justice, so that you may understand where I am coming from by asking the question of what this means by God in the O.T. context…

"Marriage Between Siblings"

My question is:

Was the act of marying a sister or a niece a sin, objectively speaking, before the law was given in Leviticus? My concern is that because of the fall from grace and also because God did not want to destroy Adam and Eve and start from scratch(it says something extraordinary about His character), He had no other choice, in that situation, but to let human kind develop this way until He sad - no more? He had to go along with this because there was no other way? And if Adam and Eve would have not fall into sin, things would have gone the same way? Because God told only to them to multiply and replenish the earth.

I guess things would have gone ahead in a similar manner (I don’t know if by the same darwinian means) but without Adam and Eve having the knowledge of good and evil, which is very interesting.

In manner of many other sins commited by human kind in those days, people still had a choice but in this particular “marriage between siblings” thing they did not.

I hope what I wrote makes sense. If you find it difficult to understand the phrasing and what I mean fell free to ask me to either rephrase my questions or reformulate it completely. Thank you very much.

(Vlad Darius) #4

It is not necesarily about the acts in themselves that I am interested in (although being raised in a judeo-christian culture i find them appaling - the sibling thing at least)) but the meaning behind the acts that have roots in the “divine moral framework”, maybe not the best description but hopefully you know what I mean.

(SeanO) #5

@hartinker Thank you for those clarifications. How come you feel your perceptions lack the guidance of the Holy Spirit? What does that guidance look like to you or how do you expect it to come?

Murder and Abuse of Authority

I am sorry to hear that you have seen authority misused to justify violence. That is flagrant injustice and bears no similarities to true justice. In the Old Testament, God is patient with the wicked, always desiring that they repent. But God does raise up nations and depose them - He does bring justice at the right time. Consider that God made Israel wait 4 generations to enter the promised land. Why? Because the sin of the people who lived there had not yet reached the height where it had to be dealt with in this manner. God made His people wait hundreds of years because He is just - and always desires that wicked people and nations turn from their wickedness. He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and filled with unfailing love (Psalms 103:8).

Ezekiel 18:21-23 - “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”

Genesis 15:16 - “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure”

Marriage Between Siblings

The answer to your question, according to Hugh Ross’ explanation, would be no, before the law it was not a sin. In this view, God gave the law for our good to prevent deformities due to inbreeding. However, if the fall had never happened, it seems to me that according to this logic it would never have been wrong to marry a sibling or niece. I am not saying this is the correct answer, but it is one potential explanation.

Some people also believe that God may have created other people after Adam and Eve. While I do not hold this belief, it is an alternate explanation. I think the main point is that while we do not know the exact answer to this question, there are multiple potential answers. Here are a couple additional perspectives to consider.

(Vlad Darius) #6

Thanks for your response.

I have watched those videos you posted and others. I will continue to look into these issues. I guess we all have questions and to some of them there are answers and to others not so much yet.

Thank you for all your effort and patience. :slight_smile:

I will definetly continue to post other questions in the future, maybe make them more specific and well phrased. It will also give me a chance to work on my English as well.

God Bless you.

(Hailey Oster) #7

Great answers Sean,

I have a question that sort of has to do with this topic of murder and violence in the Old Testament.

My dad cannot justify believing in a God as violent as the one presented in the Old Testament. But you described above that his violence is just and based on his laws. I guess, ultimately my dad was inquiring in as to why God chose Israel to be his chosen people, and took out the rest. Did I miss the bible verses in Deuteronomy or Leviticus or Numbers where this is explained in more detail than “And God said” (wich is sufficient for me, but not my dad yet!) Did those other nations know about Gods laws and purposely disobey? Were they given a chance to be obedient before God? Or is it Gods omniscient quality, that he knew all the hearts of all those nations to be slayed, and knew that not a single one would eventually come to him?

My heart has been changed by God. I trust him with my life and know I need him more than I need air. My conversion was one of the heart and spirit first, and now I am renewing my mind with his truths. Whereas for my Dad I think it will be the other way around. That is to say, that I trust Gods character so much, and based on what I’ve read in scripture, he is always faithful. So even though I am aware that events like the holocaust were absolutely horrendous, I also know that God is just and good and what we intended for bad he will make good. Sin has consequences, but God is good and has given us an escape in his Son. Sorry, you know all this, but it’s hard for me to articulate this to my Dad. He looks at the world and sees evil, and questions the character of the creator of this world. Whereas I see this world and I see how sin has corrupted the hearts of men, as they reject the gift and saving grace of Jesus. We can clearly see here how God is the one who changes peoples hearts and allows them to understand life in a way they never did before!

Sorry that was a loaded question- any direction, criticism or resource is greatly appreciated Sean. Thank you for doing what you do and praise God for giving you your skills and gifts to help us on this platform!

(SeanO) #8

@Hailey Glad to be helpful. Yes, God gave the other nations in that area 4 generations to repent of their sin, but they did not.

Genesis 15:16 - In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.

Also, Israel was not given special treatment - if they sinned they too would and did experience God’s judgment:

Deuteronomy 28:15 - However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you.

If you read the following article you will see that the Canaanites had become a very perverse and corrupt people by the time of the Exodus:

I answer this question in more detail here, in this thread:

It is important to remember that:

1 - God chose Israel to be a light to all other nations - that is why Jesus was so frustrated when he found money changers in the court of the Gentiles where people were supposed to come and seek God
2 - God gave the inhabitants of the land - Amorites, Perezites, Canaanites, etc - 400 years to repent of their sin, but they did not
3 - Israel was not an exception - they too were judged when they committed injustice and idolatry
4 - God raises up nations and brings them down
5 - God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11)

(Hailey Oster) #9

Sean! Thank you so much for your detailed reply and additional resources. I will be studying them; especially the passages in the bible that you referred to.

(SeanO) #10

@Hailey Definitely - feel free to ask follow up questions or share your thoughts after digesting the material :slight_smile:

(Clarissa Kauzlarich) #11

Hi Sean, do you have any other resource suggestions similar to the caananite pdf listed above?? I came to Christ about 2 years ago and shortly after visited both Israel and Jordan. I essentially “saw” my bible before I could read much of it. Since then I have been trying to find much of what was explained in the pdf for the background in the Old Testament- historically, geographically and culturally. Context was SO necessary! Im not far from Biola… Maybe a visit is in the near future…

(SeanO) #12

@Kauzlac Biola would definitely be a great place to learn about the Scriptures. I might recommend Paul Copan’s book if you have not already read it. Also, I’ve listed a few threads on slavery in the OT you may find helpful / insightful.