What turns me down about God are 2 stories that I have readed on my bible.

  1. God hardening pharaoh's heart and punishing him because of it, and
  2. Levites killing his relatives

Today I will talk about the second one.

Exodus 32:27 "Slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour".

Since I've believed in Jesus because of his love, this freaks me out. And makes me wonder how one could do good on murdering the ones who are loved by us. Considering that Levites didn't made anything wrong (since they did not worship idols), I wonder how is righteous to punish them with that horrible task.

This passage, being absolutelly contradictory to the scripture on New Testament (Matthew 5:43-48 and a lot more). Makes me think how terrible it must be for someone who has never even killed for eating, taking a knife and kill just in order to "obey" or "save his life".

What shocks me more is that they receive a blessing for being murderers of his loved ones.

Exodus 32:29 Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.

Isn't this absolutely opposed to what we have learned from Jesus? Is God capable of demanding that people murder their loved ones?

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    Alan, do you have an actual question? This isn't a discussion board, but rather a Q-and-A site. So, you need to actually ask a question, not just post your thoughts on something in order to start a discussion.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 0:09
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    @ThaddeusB Isn't this absolutely opposed to what we have learned from Jesus? I know it's a general question, but I do think is worthy to be explained as we -as Christians- are called moral people
    – Juan
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 0:19
  • The purpose of BHSE is to look into the meaning of the text. We can't tell you whether the meaning contradicts what you may have learned elsewhere for a variety of reasons including we don't know what your church teaches. Different Christian Churches will have different answers to the same theological question and in any case doctrinal questions are out for scope for BHSE. You could ask something like "How does (denomination X/school of thought Y) explain God (apparently) blessing murder in Exodus 32:29?" on the Christianity SE, though.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 0:19
  • @ThaddeusB It is a contradiction with the passage I did cite: Matthew 5:43-48 and the context is pretty clear: Levites killed his neighbor obeying God's commandment and been blessed by Moses words for this act.
    – Juan
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 0:24
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    This question/answer might help to contextualize why God would be so mad. If you caught your bride cheating on your wedding night, you might murder her and her boyfriend in a rage too. Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 4:08

4 Answers 4


Since I have given Alan a bit of a hard time, I feel somewhat obligated to provide an answer. :)


Like all passages, the key to understanding Exodus 32:26-29 is to look at the broader context. In the previous chapters of Exodus, Moses has lead the Israelites out of Egypt through a series of miraculous events. He has now gone up Mount Sinai to get the Ten Commandments. Moses has been gone awhile (perhaps a month or so) and the people have grown antsy. They say to Aaron (who was in charge during Moses' absence)

Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him. (32:1, NIV)

To build a golden calf the people sacrifice the women's earrings (a valued possession). They throw a great party to celebrate their new idol. The party quickly got out of hand and, although it is not explicit, there are indications this included sex acts.

God then tells Moses what is going on and Moses descends the mountain carrying the Ten Commandments n order to deal with the situation. The noise from the party is so loud that Joshua (who was apparently waiting for Moses on the mountain and unaware of the situation below) mistakes the sound for a war. (32:17) When Moses sees the scene, he breaks the Ten Commandment tablets (32:19), has the statue destroyed in a fire and then ground up and cast into the river (32:20). He then gets a (really lame) explanation from Aaron for what happened.

Exodus 32:26-29

All of Moses' actions would have taken some time (at least hours, perhaps days), but evidently destroying the calf was not enough to get some people to stop their rebellious acts and repent.

"Whoever is for the Lord, come to me." (32:26)

Moses gives everyone a chance to repent and return to Yahweh.

"This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.'" (32:27)

Now, we arrive at the passage in question. Yahweh (through Moses) is not commanding everyone to kill their friends and family specifically, but actually is saying spare no unrepentant guilty party, regardless of relation. This is clear because 1) some people's brothers are surely part of the repentant group; 2) it would be highly unlikely that every unrepentant person had a friend or relative in the repentant group. In other words, the command is "kill the unrepentant guilty, sparing no one", not "kill your brother".

The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. Then Moses said, "You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day." (32:28-29)

Those who carried out the killings (which was a small percentage of the spared people) are blessed because they obeyed God's will, sparing not even their friends and family.

Why such harsh retribution?

Even understanding the command was "don't spare any guilty," why did God make such a harsh commandment? The answer is that this was an absolutely crucial moment in Israel's history.

The Israelites had witnessed multiple miracles far beyond anything you or I will ever see. They had seen the very presence of God in their camp daily. Yet, many of them still turned against Yahweh when Moses was "too slow" to return, committing heinous acts of idolatry, worshiping an object they themselves created. And even when Moses did return, some still continued with their unholy behavior, refusing to repent.

God simply could not allow this to stand. These 3000 people had absolute proof of the veracity of God and chose to rebel anyway. This level of sin is not forgivable. If God let them go unpunished, there would be no way Israel could become a nation "set apart from all others".


Does the image of God in the Old Testament conflict with the New Testament image of him? This is a very big question and can't be answered in a brief post. Volumes have been written on this subject.

Thus, I will comment only briefly. The second half of Exodus tells how The Law was established. From a Christian point of view, God gave The Law to show man that he could never measure up. (For example, see Romans 3:19-20.) If God had shown mercy to unrepentant law breakers right as The Law is first being delivered, man would always have an excuse ("I didn't keep the law because it didn't really seem to matter that much to you.") The message of Christianity is that despite God using every conceivable measure, including at times violent judgments, to get through to His people, time after time after time they fall back into sin. No one can ever be righteous through his/her own effort.

So no, I don't see the (at times, but usually not) violent God of the Old Testament as contradicting the New Testament message. I see Yahweh's action as both justified (He has absolute authority) and necessary (to give mankind the highest possible motivation to obey).

  • Since Alan will ask... it is highly unnatural for me to consider killing anyone. If I had direct revelation from God and he commanded me to kill someone, even a close friend/relative, I would plead with Him to do his will any other way possible. But, if there was no other way, then I would do as commanded. My faith in God is absolute. However, I can be 100% certain that will not happen. God does not normally operate that way now, or ever. The few exceptions are at pivotal times in God's ultimate plan for the (availability of) salvation for all humanity. That plan is now complete.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 3:55
  • Alan, I hope this helps you. If you want to discuss it further, let me know - I am happy to chat here or in private.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 3:57
  • Although I do appreciate the effort and gentleness of intention with which you have answered this difficult question, I still consider the action is not worthy of a Perfect & Almighty God. Bless you all!
    – Juan
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 20:45

The Scripture says:

then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the LORD’s side—come to me!”... (Exodus 32:26 NKJV)

The offer was made to everyone.

The resulting action and message is straightforward. If you are for the LORD, come to Him. At some point all people have to decide: whose side are you on? No one should be surprised that rejecting the LORD also brings consequences.

Do not forget all of the signs and actions the LORD did to prove who He was. This was open rebellion after He delivered them out of Egypt; after they had heard Him speak; after they had accepted His covenant; after Moses called them to come (back) to the LORD.

The killing of 3,000 (a small fraction of the total who failed to come) is one side of the picture; the other side is the sanctification of those who did respond. The Levites (22,000) took the place of the firstborn and were set apart for service to the LORD even though they were had been participants in worshipping the idol and even though most of them (at least 19,000) killed no one.

The complete picture is one of judgment and mercy.

  • I'm sorry for not being more gentle, but I need to ask this: are you willing to kill your loved ones in order to "go to the Lord"? You think that doing it would make you proud of your "sanctification"?
    – Juan
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 11:15
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    Pride? The question concerns the morality of God. In this event 3,000 people out of a million were killed. There were 22,000 Levites: most did not kill anyone. Most were able to accomplish the task of restoring order without killing. The picture described is no different from one which will be faced by all mankind. The offer of salvation is open to all. There are some who will reject what is offered. When God deals with them Is His morality the issue? If someone openly (and continually) rejects a call to the LORD after the consequences are plainly stated, is God’s morality the issue? Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 5:54

Perhaps, you need to read the Hebrew of Exodus 32:25 - 29.

Abandon all existing doctrine and interpretation. Read it like your friend wrote you an email. Don't care what "experts" have commented. Just read the Hebrew plainly without religious allegiance.

You will notice there is no imperative, no incompletion verb, among the verbs that concern you.

You see, Biblical Hebrew has no past. present, future tenses. Verbs are either stative, or incomplete. Stative means stating the action.

When a verb is inflected as an incomplete form, it could mean either "will", "should", "may", "then", "could". i.e., it could be an instruction, a prediction, a command, a subjunctive, a proposal, a possibility.

But the verbs that concern you in the passage are stative. When verbs are stative, it could mean the actions are already performed, or ongoing.

Also, for a few hundred years, understanding of biblical Hebrew has been screwed up (sorry for the harsh term) by the inversive-vav theory. Like as though ancient shepherding Israelites would really go thro all the trouble to develop a language that would invert the tense due to a preceding sequence-conjunction. Rather than follow every sequentially-tensed language that had developed and spoken by humans - where a sequence-conjunction simply helps to anchor the time reference on the previous phrase.

The proof of the screwedupness of inversive-vav theory is every passage you read, and then compare to the English/Greek translations, the inversive-vav is inconsistently applied. Like having grammar is pointless, and one has to use "common-sense" and arbitrary "context" when to apply the inversive-vav.

In verse 25:
וירא משה

In sequential-tense language, verse 25 would say: "and Moses will/shall see".

Whereas, the silly inversive-vav theory has been willy-nilly chosen to be applied here, by English translations to say, "and Moses saw".

In verse 26:
ויעמד משה ... ויספו

In sequential-speak: And Moses will/shall/would stand ... and they will congregate

Verse 27:
וימר להם כה אמר יי

In sequential-speak: And he will/shall/would say thus says the LORD

There are these initial incompletion verbs, but the verbs that follow them are all stative.

It means that ....

Moses will see the orgy, and Moses will stand at the gate, and the people will congregate, and Moses will say thus the LORD says/said a man placed his sword upon his side, crossed back and forth from gate to gate in the encampment and killed, a man against his brother ....

And the sons of Levi will be doing as Moses had said, and shall fall among the people on that day, about 3000 man.

And Moses will say, they fill(ed) your hand today to the LORD as man in his son, and in his brother, and to give you today blessing.

And it will be from tomorrow Moses will/shall say, to the people, you have sinned a great sin .... Maybe I should make atonement for your sin?

Because these people, had an orgy, killed each other and then even went on to impersonate the blessing of the LORD. And Moses then questions maybe he should go up the mountain again, just to atone for their sins. You take it for granted that I will atone for your sins, huh?

If you translated the Hebrew thro phrase literal translation, to a Papua New Guinea language, in sequential-tense language, that person would simply say, the killing has already occurred or is currently taking place. G'd did not command the killing. G'd was simply saying thro/to Moses, "look at the orgy and killing that is happening."

The English translations do not even bother to reflect the sarcasm of Moses.

It is time we flushed the worthless inversive-vav theory away. But we can't because a lot of established doctrines would be thrown with the dirty bath water. Perhaps those established doctrines are the dirty bath water.

  • Someone who keeps voting me down, tell me where I have gone wrong. Did you vote me down because I keep demolishing established doctrines? Maybe,perhaps, probably (אולי), you might look at my dashboard of answers, and vote those answers down too.
    – Cynthia
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 7:48
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    I haven't voted you down however the reason you are getting down votes might be that your answer come across more as a 'rant'. If you keep your answers focused on the question and provide support from other sources then I imagine the down votes will turn to up votes :D Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 7:59
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    Agreed with @Jonathan, also...אולי...this may have something to do with the absence of any citation of a grammar to support your contention that שִׂ֥ימוּ... עִבְרוּ...וָשׁוּבוּ...וְהִרְג֧וּ are not imperative forms. Your Hebrew is obviously better than mine, and I’m willing to re-consider, but AFAIK this has nothing to do with vav (inversive or otherwise). Nothing to do with doctrine either. Really.
    – Susan
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 10:24
  • Considering your conclusion is "G'd did not command the killing." I don't see why you would think a downvote is for "demolishing established doctrines". Most Christians would be glad to learn the passage does not say God commanded the killing. I agree w/Jonathan that it is probably the tone (not the content) of your answer that generated the downvote (which was not from me, for the record).
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 16:23
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    I think your problem might be "Just read the Hebrew plainly without religious allegiance" - since I can neither read nor speak Biblical Hebrew, I need some help here - but you don't seem to give much. Some of these things (future tenses, stative, or incomplete stative verbs, etc) I'm barely understand in my native tongue, let alone inversive-vav theory and sequence-conjunction. A good place to start would be to explain it like I am 5. Or at least link to some explanations. Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 4:05

One thing I notice is when the "good guy" in the biblical narrative speaks, we automatically assume it is as the oracle of God. When the "bad guys" speak in the biblical narrative we don't. So when King Saul say "God has given me favor by delivering my enemy David into my hands" we don't think, well, therefore, obviously, God must have delivered over to Saul for Saul to kill him." But when Moses says "God wants you to butcher your brothers and neighbors" we assume merely because he is one of the "good guys" that he must have truly been speaking for the Lord. We tend to assume everything Job said was good, while his friends were all wrong, yet at the end of the book of Job we find out they were ALL mistaken. The heros of the bible don't always get things right. We have psalmist saying disgusting things like "Blessed is the man who bashes the infants against the rocks" yet with such psalms, we tend to have a little more give, allowing them to say things which are evil and completely contrary to the God who is revealed in Christ.

So yes, all this to say, maybe this was PURELY Moses in his anger (and BOY does he have a fierce temper), if the text actually claimed "God told Moses to tell the Levites to go slaughter their bothers" that would be harder to deal with. But we don't have that here.

Notice also at the end of the chapter, God sends a plague as judgment. I think Moses should have just let God do the dirty work. For me there is a HUGE difference between God sending a plague in judgment, and actually people taking swords and hacking their brother and neighbors. And then being blessed for doing such an evil.

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