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

7 Reasons the Old Testament Cannot be used to Justify Christian Violence

It is often the bee who gets the credit for being busy; however it seems the spider could claim the title as well. Courtesy Leon Kauffman.

7 Reasons the Old Testament Cannot be used to Justify Christian Violence

By Jon Kauffman

Many Christians claim that because God commanded Joshua to use violence in the Old Testament, then violence is acceptable for Christians.

Seven reasons that Christians cannot use the Old Testament to justify violence:

  1. JESUS: Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Jesus very clearly taught and demonstrated non-violence even in the face of death. No other reason is necessary for a follower of Jesus to reject violence and war.

    Jesus, an innocent man, did not use violence to protect himself, instead Jesus said, “’Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” Luke 23:34

    The Old Testament tells the story of humanities journey to God and healing through His revelation. It takes time for mankind to draw closer to God just as it takes time each of us to draw closer to God.

    Moses says: “Show no pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” – Deuteronomy 19:21

    But Jesus contradicts this and says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’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

    And Jesus continues: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:43-48

    That journey of God’s revelation took a huge leap forward when Jesus came to earth as He taught us to Love our enemies. That journey will not culminate until we see Jesus face to face and we will be like him because we will see him as he is.

    We see many indications in the Old Testament of the journey to non-violence. Just as sometimes God deals with our sins one at a time, so God sometime deals with mankind’s sins one at a time.
  2. EARLY CHRISTIANS: The early Christians very clearly taught and demonstrated that they understood Jesus to be saying that Christians must not participate in violence. For example:

    Justin Martyr said, “For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking: but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the word of God, and we who formerly used to murder one another do not only now refrain from making war upon our enemies, but also, that we may not lie nor deceive our examiners, willingly die confessing Christ.” Justin Martyr, 100 AD to 165 AD, First Apology, Chapter 39.

    Arnobius said, “For since we, a numerous band of men as we are, have learned from His teaching and His law that evil ought not to be repaid with evil, Matthew 5:39 that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it, that we should rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another.” Arnobius (Died 330 AD) Book 1, Section 6.

  3. GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE: Israel was God’s chosen people. God was their King. God separated Israel from the rest of the world so that he could reveal himself to them and make a way for Jesus to be born.

    Today God’s chosen people come from every race and live in every country and speak every language. God’s Kingdom is no longer confined to one country. Jesus is our King, our President, our Prime Minister. Jesus is a higher authority than any earthly king or president. As his followers, Jesus does not ask us to crush our brothers and sisters and the poor in foreign lands to make America greater. Our brothers and sisters in Christ in foreign lands are citizens of our own country or kingdom. The kingdom of God spread throughout the world.

  4. GOD FOUGHT FOR ISRAEL: When God commanded Israel to fight wars, God fought for Israel. When Gideon was given the task of fighting Israel’s enemies, God told him to whittle down the numbers of his troops until there was no doubt but that God had won the victory. The United States wins it’s battles by brute strength.

  5. WAR AND WEALTH: God did not allow Israel to gain wealth when waging war. Often God commanded Israel to destroy everything their enemies possessed when they conquered them.

    Primarily the Crusades, European wars, and the wars of the United States have been about the gain of wealth. The United States used brutal tactics to steal land from Native Americans. For the last 40 years, the number one reason that the United States has been fighting in the Middle East is to ensure a large supply of oil for the United States. See America’s War for the Greater Middle East, by Retired Army Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich

  6. OLD TESTAMENT AS METAPHOR: Much of the Old Testament is foretelling the coming of Jesus and a metaphor for His coming. For example, the story of Jonah’s 3 days in the belly of the whale is a metaphor for the 3 days Jesus was dead. God had the whale spit Jonah onto dry land. God raised Jesus from the dead. The physical warfare of the Old Testament is a metaphor for the spiritual warfare Christians are involved in during the Church period. King David is like Christ. David fought the physical enemies of God. Jesus fought the spiritual enemies of God. King Solomon is like Christ ruling in peace now and in the future. We must join this Kingdom of Peace.

  7. TIME FOR WAR: Ecclesiastes 3:8 says there is a time for war and a time for peace. The Old Testament period was a time for war. The Church period is a time for peace. And yet the Church is living in a time of war, an eternally important war.
    Paul said,“Some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:2-5. NIV

    For an excellent essay on the Old Testament and peace see Old Testament Peace Vision by Ted Grimsrud

    Jason Porterfield has written an excellent piece explaining why the cross requires Christians to use mercy against their enemies. “Vengeance Is Forbidden. Mercy Is Commanded.”

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Copyright © 2019 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.

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