Did God Really Command Genocide?

By Jon Kauffman

I just finished reading “Did God Really Command Genocide?” by Paul Copan and Matthew Flanagan.1.

Copan and Flanagan made interesting and convincing arguments that God did not command genocide when he told the Israelites to conquer the promised land.

They begin by exploring the possibility of God commanding his people to kill innocent men, women, and children. Were the Canaanites innocent? Did Israel drive out the Canaanites or kill them all.

They continue exploring how the book of Joshua would have been viewed by people of that day and demonstrate the hyperbolic nature of the book of Joshua.

Back Cover

Reconciling a Violent Old Testament God with A Loving Jesus

Would a good, kind, and loving deity ever command the wholesale slaughter of nations? We often avoid reading difficult Old Testament passages that make us squeamish and quickly jump to the enemy-loving, forgiving Jesus of the New Testament. And yet, the question remains.

In the tradition of his popular Is God a Moral Monster?, Paul Copan teams up with Matthew Flannagan to tackle some of the most confusing and uncomfortable passages of Scripture. Together they help the Christian and nonbeliever alike understand the biblical, theological, philosophical, and ethical implications of Old Testament warfare passages.


“Copan and Flannagan address the arguments of the atheists who use divine violence in the Bible to undermine belief and confidence in God. Not only are they adept at biblical interpretation and philosophy as they effectively counter this challenge, but they also write in a deeply compelling way that will appeal to both students and laypeople.”

—Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

“In their wide-ranging book, Copan and Flannagan go beyond standard treatments of Old Testament warfare; they incorporate biblical, theological, philosophical, ethical, legal, and historical perspectives on a much-debated but often-misunderstood topic. This volume makes important strides forward in laying out a case for the coherence of divine command theory in connection with these Yahweh-war texts.”

—William Lane Craig, research professor of philosophy, Talbot School of Theology

“This is a very lucid and helpful discussion of this troubling topic.”

—Gordon Wenham, professor of Old Testament, Trinity College Bristol

“This brave, hard-nosed, and wide-ranging study constitutes a serious attempt at facing all the varied aspects of a question that troubles so many people. Well done!”

—John Goldingay, David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

“As a full-scale follow-up to the excellent popular treatment of the topic in Is God a Moral Monster?, this book provides the most thorough and comprehensive treatment of the problem of violence in the Old Testament that I have encountered. The authors tackle the aggressive charges of the new atheists, as well as other equally sceptical but less strident critics of ‘the God of the Old Testament.’ And they do so with a blend of careful biblical exegesis and incisive moral argumentation. The book reaches deep but remains readable, and the summaries at the end of every chapter are a great help in following the case as it is steadily built up. All of us who, in teaching or preaching the Old Testament, are constantly bombarded with ‘But what about the Canaanites?’ will be very grateful for these rich resources for a well-informed, gracious, and biblically faithful reply.”

—Christopher J. H. Wright, International Ministries Director, Langham Partnership; author of Old Testament Ethics for the People of God and The God I Don’t Understand

“Does your god order you to slaughter your enemies? Did God’s command to the Israelites to kill the Canaanites set a pattern for human behaviour? Do Joshua’s wars justify the Crusades? Does the Bible promote violence against dissenters and opponents, as the Qur’an does? Reading the Bible as a modern book leads to false conclusions, the authors show clearly. Comparing writings from Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, and the Hittites with biblical texts, they demonstrate the common use of exaggerated language—so that ‘all’ may not mean ‘every single person,’ for example—bringing clearer understanding of God’s apparently genocidal commands about the Canaanites. Carefully argued, with clear examples and helpful summaries, these chapters give Christians sound bases for defending and sharing their faith in the God of love, justice, and forgiveness. This is an instructive and very welcome antidote to much current thought.”

—Alan Millard, Rankin Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Ancient Semitic Languages, University of Liverpool


Copan and Flanagan made extremely strong arguments for their position throughout most of the book. In the final chapter, they discuss “Turning the Other Cheek, Pacifism, and Just War.”

Copan and Flanagan attempt to prove that Christians can use violence in War. Their case is very weak. They take biblical passages and stories out of context and do not demonstrate that Jesus would approve of Christians fighting in War. For an upcoming blog post, I plan to discuss their arguments.

Book is available at Amazon2.

.Paul Copan (Ph.D., Marquette University) is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He has authored and edited thirty scholarly and popular books, including Is God a Moral Monster?

Matthew Flannagan (Ph.D., University of Otago) is a researcher and a teaching pastor at Takanini Community Church in Auckland, New Zealand. He is also a contributing author to several books.

1.Paul Copan, Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God. (BakerBooks, Grand Rapids, MI, 2014)


Does Just War Exist?

Greatest Heresy of All Time? Just War Doctrine?

Jesus and the Roman Centurion, Matthew 8:5-13

Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

Copyright © 2021 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

Edited: 2/23/2022

Does 2 Kings 9 Justify Christian Violence?

By Jon Kauffman

The Old Testament is a history and record of God revealing himself to mankind. Sometimes one prophet will interpret an event to be a command from God and another will have a different take on the situation as shown with Elisha and Hosea.

In 2 Kings 9 Elisha through a young member of the prophetic guild commands Jehu to destroy the evil King Ahab’s son, King Joram, and to become the new king of Israel. (842 BC)

Then the prophet poured the olive oil on his head and said to him, “This is what the Lord God of Israel has said, ‘I have designated you as king over the Lord’s people Israel. You will destroy the family of your master Ahab. I will get revenge against Jezebel for the shed blood of my servants the prophets and for the shed blood of all the Lord’s servants] Ahab’s entire family will die. I will cut off every last male belonging to Ahab in Israel, including even the weak and incapacitated. I will make Ahab’s dynasty like those of Jeroboam son of Nebat and Baasha son of Ahijah. 10 Dogs will devour Jezebel on the plot of ground in Jezreel; she will not be buried.’” Then he opened the door and ran away. 2 Kings 9:7-10 NET

Jezebel with the help of King Ahab had stolen the vineyard of Naboth of Jezreel.

Jehu kills King Joram, kills Jezebel, and becomes Israel’s new King.

Mission Mountains behind the colorful forest #MontanaMoment Copyright © 2021 by Leon Kauffman

A short time later (755 BC?) the prophet Hosea predicts punishment to the dynasty of Jehu for his murders.

So Hosea married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. Then she conceived and gave birth to a son for him. Then the Lord said to Hosea “Name him ‘Jezreel,’ because in a little while I will punish the dynasty of Jehu on account of the bloodshed in the valley of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. At that time, I will destroy the military power of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.” Hosea 1:3-5 NET.

Changes in how circumstances are viewed as coming from God can be seen in the differences between how the 2 Samuel author and the 1 Chronicles author interpret the census of David.

In 2 Samuel 24 (written about 960 BC) the LORD incites David to take a census. In 1 Chronicles 21 (written about 450 BC), Satan incites David to take a census. Early authors of the Old Testament seem more likely to attribute events to God. Later authors begin to attribute evil events to Satan.

In earlier books of the New Testament violence is more acceptable than it is shown to be in later books of the Old Testament as God continues to reveal his true nature.

Moses was a man of God. Jesus changed the teaching of Moses.

Moses:23 But if there is serious injury, then you will give a life for a life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. Exodus 21: 23-25. NET

Jesus: 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:38,39 NIV

Did God really order Joshua to kill women and children? Or did the people attribute their war-making to God in a similar way as American Christians 1. often claim that God is on our side in war? If Joshua killed and wiped out everyone, why did these same people’s descendants show up later in the Old Testament?

At the time of Joshua, it was common for military rulers to claim to have wiped out every man, woman, and child of their enemy to show their greatness. Often, in fact, the battle could have been a narrow victory where many soldiers escaped and no noncombatant men, women, and children were killed, and yet the military leader claimed a great victory. This was especially prevalent among the Egyptian pharaohs.

According to the film “Patterns of Evidence, The Exodus,” in 1208 BC, the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah had a stele built to commorate his military victories. One of peoples Merneptah claims to have conquered is Israel. The Stele says “Israel is laid waste, His seed is no more.” Pharoah Merneptah claims to have totally destroyed Isreal, but obviously Israel is still very much alive today. 2.

Perhaps cultures changed greatly between the time of Moses and the time of Jesus and people were much more open to the nonviolent teaching of Jesus at the time Jesus lived as compared to the time of Moses.

God sent Jesus at exactly the right time when people could accept his teaching. Rome created an Empire with roads and shipping routes that gave Christianity a chance to spread quickly over the Middle East and Europe.

he Merneptah Stele in its current location. 3.

In conclusion, 2 Kings 9 does not justify violence on the part of Christians today.

Copyright © 2021 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

1. The War Prayer by Mark Twain

2. Documentary Review: Patterns of Evidence, The Exodus

3. Merneptah Stele, Wikipedia

Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

Jesus and the Roman Centurion, Matthew 8:5-13


Edited: 10/31/2021

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