Suffer not the children

Posted: January 11, 2012 in apologists, literalism, Moses, Old Testament

Most Christians are familiar with the account of Moses in the book of Exodus, at least up until the part where Charlton Heston Moses breaks the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments in righteous wrath. However, few Christians seem to be aware of the atrocities Moses commits while leading the people in the desert later on. In particular, Numbers 31 gives an account of the genocide that the Israelites perform:

1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people. 3And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the Lord of Midian.

7And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males. 8And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword. 9And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. 10And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire. 11And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts. 12And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho. 13And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp. 14And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle. 15And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? 16Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. 17Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. 18But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

To summarize this event, Moses ordered the Israeli soldiers to kill all the adult Midianite men. After the soldiers brought the women and children back as prisoners, Moses ordered them to kill all the male Midianite children, then to kill all the Midianite women who were not virgins, and then to divide up all the virgin women and children among the Israeli soldiers.

I think it’s safe to assume they didn’t keep the virgin Midianite women for their scintillating conversation.

Horrible, right? But in keepin’ it real, mainstream Christian apologists justify Moses by saying that the children of sinners can be spared suffering by being murdered before the age of accountability. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

In The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel writes:

…you need to understand the situation among the Amalekites. In that thoroughly evil and violent and depraved culture, there was no hope for those children. This nation was so polluted that it was like gangrene that was taking over a person’s leg, and God had to amputate the leg or the gangrene would spread and there wouldn’t be anything left. In a sense, God’s [orders to kill the Amalekite children] was an act of mercy…. According to the Bible, every child who dies before the age of accountability goes to heaven to spend eternity in the presence of God…. Now, if they had continued to live in that horrible society, past the age of accountability, they undoubtedly would have become corrupted and thereby lost forever.

In an article, Apologetics Press states:

However, to allege that the God of the Bible is some sort of “monster” for ordering Israel to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan exhibits an ignorance of biblical teaching. Those inhabitants were destroyed because of their wickedness (Deuteronomy 9:4; 18:9-14). They were so evil that their Creator no longer could abide their corruption. That they had numerous opportunities to repent is evident from the prophetic books (Nineveh did repent, for example, and for a time stayed the day of destruction). Complaining about Jehovah’s order to destroy innocent children is a vain gesture when one realizes that the children were spared an even worse fate of being reared as slaves under the domination of sin. Instead of having to endure the scourge of a life of immorality and wickedness, these innocents were ushered early into the bliss of Paradise. If the male children had been allowed to mature, they most likely would have followed the pagan ways of their forefathers, and eventually would have taken vengeance on the Israelites. Killing the males not only prevented them from falling into the same abominable sins as their parents, but also kept Israel from having to battle them later

And in an essay, Evidence for God states:

In some instances, God ordered the killing of entire populations, presumably including the killing of babies and children. Isn’t God unrighteous in killing these innocent little ones? First of all, the Bible indicates that all people are sinners, including babies, and worthy of judgment. However, the Bible also indicates that children are incapable of making moral choices, so that they are automatically rewarded with heaven.

You have to know you are taking literalism too far when your answer to the question, “How can the murder of defenseless children be justified by a merciful God and his prophet?” is, “Killing the children of sinners is more merciful than allowing them to grow up and become sinners themselves.”

There are two huge problems here for apologists. The more obvious one is that there has never and will never be another circumstance where the wholesale slaughter of people based on their nationality or religion has been considered a kindness. The second problem is that it’s hard to argue a pro life stance while you’re simultaneously claiming that it’s moral under any circumstances to murder defenseless children. Ironically, both Evidence for God and Apologetics Press hold a pro life stance.

Apologists, I find it genuinely disturbing that you could seriously claim under any circumstances that genocide is moral. Genocide is heinous, whether or not a deity tells you to do it. Your stance reflects poorly on other Christians. Please stop swinging the Hammer of Literalism before somebody gets hurt. Don’t you think there’s a better answer here?

  1. Tina says:

    I’m slightly confused, re: the Bible also indicates that children are incapable of making moral choices, so that they are automatically rewarded with heaven. Aren’t children supposed to be baptised ASAP after birth so that they are no longer sinful and wouldn’t go straight to Hell if they died? LOL. Aw, well. Good old Bible logic.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s