Is God Sadistic?

The earth swallows people... fire consumes them...
bears maul them... What is God doing?

Dear Humanists:

If you've been reading these responses, and in particular this page, you may begin to discern something about the character of God... with God there are consequences you cannot escape.

Although not mentioned in the body of this page, one of the major reasons God did the things described here (the earth opening, consuming fire, bears, lions, etc.) is to demonstrate that, if you reject God, there are serious consequences.

If you consider the amount of time the historical record of the Bible covers (about 1,500 years), and the number of times God directly judges individuals and delivers the the just consequences of their rejecting Him, those instances are very rare. But they are sufficient so as to make it clear that rejection of God brings death.

Dear humanist, right now you are experiencing God's grace. He is withholding His judgment, giving you second chance after second chance to turn to Him. Please, repent and turn to God now. Trust Him as your Savior from the consequences of your sin... to save you from the consequence of your disobeying God. Please. Do it today.

SADISTIC ACCUSATION #1: The God of the Bible displayed his sadistic tendencies by employing a variety of other means to torment and kill people.

He caused the earth to open and swallow entire families (Numbers 16:37-32); he used fire to devour people (e.g., Leviticus 10:1-2; Numbers 11:1-2); and he punished the Israelites with wars, famines, and pestilences (e.g., Ezekiel 5:11-17).>

He sent wild animals such as bears (II Kings 2:23-24), lions (II Kings 17:24-25), and serpents (Numbers 21:6) to attack people; he sanctioned slavery (e.g., Leviticus 25:44-46); he ordered religious persecution (e.g., Deuteronomy 13:12-16); and he caused cannibalism (Jeremiah 19:9).

Now the humanist author of their web page is just trying to pile it on. Maybe he is thinking that if he brings up enough accusations, one might stick.

What we have is an accusation of ten ways God has used to "torment and kill people." There is no context nor explanation accompanying any of these. You are to blindly accept the assumption these are sadistic, and you are to use you imagination to fill in the reasons why.

To answer all of these will result in this being a long page. If you don't want to read it all, here is a summary. Each of these punishments was just and appropriate for the crime. God is not sadistic, He is fair and His punishments fit the situation and circumstances.

Now... let's see if we can sort them out and see what God was doing. Let's begin with earthquakes and fire:

Numbers 16:37-32

I've quoted the scripture reference directly from the humanist's web site. But, what I think he is referring to is Numbers 16:31-35. Here is what it says:

As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. All Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, “The earth may swallow us up!” Fire also came forth from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.

Leviticus 10:1-2

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

Numbers 11:1-2

Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire died out.

We see in every case that these punishments come on people who directly disobeyed God.

The tribe of Levi (Levites) had been set aside by God for service to Him. The Kohathites were Levites who had the job of carrying articles used in the Tabernacle whenever their camp moved. They didn't like their work and began to covert the duties of the priests. Korah was the grandson of Kohath. He stirred up a group of 250 men and challenged Moses and Aaron's right to the priesthood. It was an open rebellion against Moses and more importantly against God.

Here is what Moses then said (Numbers 16:28-30):

Moses said, “By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing. If these men die the death of all men or if they suffer the fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the Lord.”

That these people were "swallowed" by the earth was a one-time, supernatural event that demonstrated that Moses was speaking the truth of God and they were in rebellion against God. Such a dramatic death was necessary so the people, a people who had just come out of idolatrous Egypt, would know God and His power. As it still is today, the penalty for treason was death, and God chose this method as a way to demonstrate who He was, and that He was not the powerless "gods" of Egypt.

What about consuming people with fire?

The humanists do not say why this is a problem for them. So I'm not sure how to answer in a way that specifically addresses the humanist's concerns..

The Bible does not give us a specific reason for God using a consuming fire. God Himself is called a“consuming fire” in Deuteronomy 4:24 and again in 9:3. In all of these cases the Hebrew word that is used means to utterly destroy or consume.

Fire is also associated with God's wrath and frequently associated with purification (refining fire), and that is what we are seeing in the above verses. Notice that all three of these take place during the Exodus. God's people have been freed from slavery in Egypt, but not their spiritual slavery to idols. They long to return to Egypt (Exodus 16:3) and they even made a golden calf (Exodus 32)... the calf was a major Egyptian deity. God had to make it clear that He is the one and ONLY God... and He did that through a dramatic display of fire consuming those who had rebelled against Him.

God had laid out the law and the death penalty was the appropriate punishment. God using fire demonstrated the need need to cleanse the people of sin.

Punishing the Israelites with wars, famines, and pestilence

The example given here is Ezekiel 5:11-17. This is a prophecy that is a repetition of the prophecy in 5:2-3. The Jews had turned from God, had disobeyed God in spite of His kindness, and they had even defiled the sanctuary, demonstrating how totally wicked they were. A just punishment was coming. God would withdraw his blessing from Judah, and even withdraw His glory from the temple (Ezekiel 10)... without His protection the Babylonians would conquer Judah and lay siege to Jerusalem, and conquer it. Sieges often lead to famine and disease in the city that was under siege, and this was exactly what God was saying would happen. God is warning Israel through Ezekiel... but they refuse to turn away from evil and the prophecy becomes reality.

God sends wild animals such as bears

2 Kings 2:23-24 is referenced. This is a story about Elisha that is frequently cited as showing cruel and excessive punishment. Here are the verses::

Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.

If you just read these verses quickly, it seems as though God uses two bears to maul 42 kids who simply called Elisha a "baldy." But, there's a lot more to the story. Let's go through this step-by-step:

First notice that the "lads" were not killed. Other translations say "mauled." While some of the 42 were probably seriously injured, most likely none died. So if some says the bears killed 42 people, as is frequently stated, that is a misrepresentation.

Also, how old were these "lads?" Some even translate this as "children." This is where having someone who can look at the original Hebrew is helpful. The word used here can be translated as "children," but it is more like "young adult" in English. These "lads" were most likely in their late teens or early 20's -- old enough to know right from wrong and to be held accountable for their actions.

What was the reason this happened? Because they called the prophet "baldhead?" That was a serious insult in those days. But no, that was not the main problem. The reason God sent the bears was because they taunted him to "go up." To understand what was happening we need some context,

This is Elisha the prophet. Just before this Elijah the prophet had been taken by God directly into heaven, carried up by a whirlwind. Elijah was a -- he delivered God's words to the people. He spoke with the authority of God. When Elijah spoke on behalf of God, it was if he was God Himself was speaking. Elisha was his replacement... an prophet and he also spoke with the authority of God.

Where did this take place? Near Bethel. Bethel was a center of pagan Jewish worship. Bethel was on the road to Jerusalem. Idols had been set up in Bethel and the Jewish people of the Northern Kingdom were told they did not need to go all of the way to the temple in Jerusalem. They could worship right there in Bethel... and they did. So this city was the center of evil. This is where Elisha was headed.

So why was the taunt of "go up" such a big problem? They were taunting Elisha, demanding that he prove he was a prophet like Elijah, by demanding that he go up into heaven like Elijah had just done. These were pagan followers of false idols mocking Elisha in a way that made it seem he was not a prophet. That he was not truly Elijah's replacement. To mock God's ambassador is to mock God. Also, to mock Elisha this way took away his authority and called into question his ability to speak for God. He was about to enter the main center of pagan worship, and it needed to be clear -- with no doubt in anyone's mind -- that Elisha spoke for God. So God sent two she bears, and it became very clear that Elisha truly was God's representative. It became very clear... undeniable... that Elisha spoke for God.

...and lions

For lions the humanist references II Kings 17:24-25. Here is what it says:

The king of Assyria brought men from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Avva and from Hamath and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the sons of Israel. So they possessed Samaria and lived in its cities. At the beginning of their living there, they did not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them which killed some of them.

I'm assuming that you've been reading through all of our web pages that respond to the humanist's accusations against the Bible and God. But, maybe it would be a good idea to quickly summarize our relationship with God... He created us, He owns us, He can do whatever He wishes with us. However, God is good. What He wants for us is for us to live with Him forever. Accomplishing that is what the Bible is about.

In the example we are looking at, Assyria has conquered the Northern Kingdom, also known as Samaria. Most of the Jews living there have been relocated to other cities in the Assyrian Empire, and outsiders (Gentiles) have been moved in. But, the new people did not know God... they had no interest in God (they worshipped other gods), nor in obeying Him. The just penalty is death. The Bible does not explain why God uses lions, but He certainly has the right and the ability to do that. And by using lions God brought that penalty in a way that got their attention.

Now humanists might say that these people had their own religion, why not just leave them alone? They were happy with their beliefs. But that's not good. It has to do with reality and truth. Your believing in something does not make it true. Sorry, but that's reality. Believing in any god other than the one true God (the creator God of the Bible) leads to death. God loves you and wants you to live. So, for whatever reason, God chose to use lions that killed some so that many would understand who God is and have life.

And serpents:

For this example the humanists choose Numbers 21:6...

The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

This is an event that happened after the Exodus will the Israelites were wandering in the desert. The people were complaining that there was no food nor water, and they were really tired of eating manna. God had been taking car of them, and protecting them from their enemies. But they had become impatient, and were complaining against God... no longer trusting God.

So God sent fiery serpents... and what happened? Here is verse 7:

So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people.

As a result of the serpents the people realized they were doing wrong. They confessed, repented and turned back to trusting the Lord. Mission accomplished.

In addition, God made a way for the people to be saved from the serpent bites. He had Moses make a bronze serpent and put it on a staff. Anyone who was bitten could just look at the staff and be saved. Looking at the staff was an act of will, an intentional act a person had to do... and an action that showed they believed the Lord.

Next up... God sanctioned slavery

A question for humanists... what is wrong with slavery? It's survival of the fittest. So if I am fitter... I am stronger... what is wrong with my making you my slave? After all, we're just chemicals. What's wrong with one bunch of chemicals using another bunch of chemicals to benefit themselves?

Slavery (defined as American early 19th century style slavery) is only a problem if, human beings have worth. We are created in God's image (Genesis 1:27) and that gives us infinite worth. No human has the right to enslave another bearer of God's image. We belong to God, and God only.

Okay... let's get going on this one. The humanist reference the book of Leviticus 25:44-46:

As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you. Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession. You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.

Here's the problem... for us the word slavery brings up an image of the race-based slavery in America in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, that's not what the Bible was referring to. "Slavery" had a very different meaning to the people in the Bible... a meaning mostly based on economics, not race. That's why some Bible translations use the term "bond servant" instead of "slave."

The "slavery" of the Bible in no way resembled what we now know as slavery.

Also, the Bible strongly condemns slavery based on kidnaping. Kidnapping was the basis of what happened in Africa from the 16th through the 19th century. American slavery was based on kidnapping Africans, and is strongly condemned by the Bible.

He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death. - Exodus 21:16

The New Testament also condemns this form of slavery (1 Timothy 1:8-10).

The "slavery" of the Bible in no way resembled what we define as slavery today.

Start reading Leviticus 25 at a location earlier than the verses referenced by the humanists... say in verse 39, and you'll see that Hebrew "slaves" were to be treated as family, and only serve until a Jubelee year, and then be released from all their obligations.

In many cases "slavery" was voluntary. There were no social welfare programs. If you could not support yourself, the best option was to find someone who would provide for your needs in return for your work. Many physicians and lawyers were "slaves" and in some cases "slaves" could become very wealthy.

What happened if a slave ran away? Here is the answer in Deuteronomy 23:15, they must be protected and not returned to their "master."

You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you.

This is not the way we understand "slavery" today. In Bible times slavery was a way for the destitute to work for their food and shelter. In other cases it was similar to the employee/employer relationship we have today. And slaves were to be treated like family, not as property.

BTW, this only applies to Israel (people who lived according to the God's word), and not all Israelites obeyed God. So there were abuses. Pagan slavery, such as Roman slavery, was brutal. Slaves were considered to be the same as the ox that pulled a cart. The only difference was that a slave could talk. The problem was that the Romans followed their own pantheon of gods and rejected the God of the Bible... and how they treated slaves reflected that.

Next topic: God ordered religious persecution (Deuteronomy 13:12-16)

Why do humanists think this is a problem? They are regularly involved in attacking Christianity and the Bible. It is interesting that the target of humanists is heavy skewed toward targeting Christianity. For example, the information about Islam on their web site is very friendly toward Islam -- and there are no attacks on the Koran. The same for Buddhism and Hinduism. Why is that?

Let's take a look at Deuteronomy 13:12-16...

If you hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you to live in, anyone saying that some worthless men have gone out from among you and have seduced the inhabitants of their city, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom you have not known), then you shall investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly. If it is true and the matter established that this abomination has been done among you, you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying it and all that is in it and its cattle with the edge of the sword.

What this is talking about is entire Israelite cities, cities that were given to the Israelites by God, turning away from God and worshipping pagan gods.

We have seen this over and over... turning away from God and to other gods, is a very serious issue. As described here, the death penalty is appropriate and is frequently pronounced on those who turn from God and worship idols.

The reason why the death penalty is appropriate is that those who turn away from God tend to lead others away from God... lead others into spiritual death and eternity separated from God. To stop it from spreading, and prevent the eternal destruction of people, God commands that those cities who have turned away from him be wiped out. It is the only way to save everyone else.

To a humanist this may not seem reasonable. That's because they don't understand how serious this is. And noticed, the death penalty here only applies to those who once knew God and turned away from God. These are people who once belonged to God, and have now become children of Satan. People who once had life and now are walking dead who are looking to make more people into the walking dead. The death penalty is the only reasonable way to stop more people from being snatched away from life.

BTW, this no longer applies today. We are under a new covenant in which we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us... holding us secure in our salvation. In Old Testament times (Deuteronomy) they were under the law, including the prescribed ceremonies, and they could bring condemnation on themselves by turning away from God.

Next topic: God caused cannibalism

I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh in the siege and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life will distress them. - Jeremiah 19:9

We've talked about this several times.

First, this is a prophecy about what will happen, if the people of Israel do not change. As we see over and over, God gives a warning about what is going to happen. If they would pay attention, and listen to what God says, and turn away from their sin, they would not experience this prophecy. But, they don't.

In this case, in verses 9:1-9 God explains why this will happen. The people of Judah are warned.

In this prophecy God is describing what happens during the siege of a city. Food will run out and people will starve, some of them turning to cannibalism. Why does this happen? Because God has withdrawn His blessings... He has withdrawn His protection... and that has allowed Babylon (in this case) to put Jerusalem under siege. So yes, in one sense God has caused the cannibalism because He is no longer protecting the Jews from the armies of Babylon.

But... do the people deserve His protection? Read verses 9:1-8. They have forsaken God. Rejected Him. Turned to other gods. Worshipping and sacrificing to other gods. So what does God do? He gives them what they want. They've rejected Him, so He leaves them on their own. That is fair and just. The consequences are a siege that leads to starvation... that is also fair and just. Why? Because it is the direct consequence of giving them what they wanted.

Our Overall Conclusion: God is not sadistic. His actions and punishments are just and appropriate.

Next accusation: The biblical God is also guilty of inflicting punishments that are grossly disproportionate to the acts committed. In the American legal system, such disproportion violates the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishments.

Obviously, to punish people who are completely innocent, as seen in the preceding Bible verses, constitutes punishment that is horribly disproportionate to the moral culpability of the recipients.

It is interesting that they reference the U.S. Constitution as being a superior authority over God. The founders of our country, and the authors of the Declaration of Independence, saw it the other way around... God is the source of our rights and laws. Well, let's see if we can sort it all out. Click here..


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