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Yesterday I came across an article by Dan Barker titled: "the top 10 worst Old Testament verses" in his article Mr. Barker, an Evangelical turned Atheist quoted many verses to prove his point, for example: Dan accuses God of destroying a family for no reason in the Book Of Job, accuses God of destroying the fetuses of those who don't worship him (Hosea 13:16) says that God ordered the slaughter of innocent people (Judges 18:1–28) says that God permits or even orders the murder of babies and the rape of innocent woman (Isaiah 13:9–16) accuses God of killing a mixed-race couple for no reason at all except for the colour of their skin (Numbers 25:6–13) says that God allows a human sacrifice to take place (Judges 11:30–39) says that God condones and even commands cannibalism (Leviticus 26:27–29) says that God threatens to rape and even takes credit for it (Jeremiah 13:15–26) says that God threatens molestation (Isaiah 3:16–17) and finally accuses God of wanting to dash babies to peaces upon rocks (Psalm 137:8–9)

How can we respond as Christians to Dan Barker's claim? I have left a link to the article below and to his other debates:

https://ffrf.org/publications/freethought-today/item/26141-the-10-worst-old-testament-verses

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvd2MNT642Q&t=2592s

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  • This is not a website for Christian apologetics, but Biblical exegesis. Rather than asking about 10 verses, maybe pick 10 or ask 10 questions and we can have a discussion about each of the verses in terms of understanding what the verse means. If you re-ask the question about one of these 10, I'd be happy to engage you. I reviewed this list and kinda like these verses, TBH.
    – Robert
    Jun 20 at 0:53
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    ① This isn't a Christian site - there are Jews, atheists, and more here. ② We can't really handle questions that ask us to respond to so much at once here. You might be able to focus on just one of these passages at a time, however even then, on this site the questions would need to be focussing on the meaning of the passages, not apologetic questions on whether or not they mean God is bad.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 20 at 0:53
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    If you want to ask how to interpret the verses, you need to ask a separate question for each passage in question. Otherwise, ask the question at christianity.stackexchange.com/questions
    – Perry Webb
    Jun 20 at 1:38
  • See this for one passage: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/62531/…
    – Perry Webb
    Jun 20 at 1:43
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    For Psalm 137, see something I wrote long ago: Why does the bible appear to advocate violence against children?. Jun 20 at 14:04
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Q: How would Christians answer Dan Barker?

The short answer is, Christians would want to do what Jesus would do, and Jesus would not argue even with the devil.

"Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee." (Jude 9)

But we can take it a step farther in asking how Christians would consider the accusations of someone like Dan in answering any questions in their own mind on the matter. While not choosing to argue with Dan, they might wish to satisfy their own minds by looking carefully at those passages to see what they really mean and teach.

1. Did God destroy a family for no reason in the book of Job?

Obviously not. The story is clear enough that Satan was behind the destruction, not God. Job may have stated that he was willing to have God take from him anything He had given him (Job 1:21), but Job was not aware of the behind-the-scenes controversy, and that God was actually trusting Job to be an example to many who should come afterward. Job's trials were not in vain, as multitudes would be brought to a better understanding of why bad things might happen to good people, and be comforted by this.

2. Does God destroy the fetuses of those who don't worship him (Hosea 13:16)?

Again, nowhere in the text does it say that God is behind the destruction predicted. Evil people do evil things--but God is not evil and does not treat us the way we often treat each other. In this case, because the people had "rebelled" against God, God was no longer able to protect them as before, and they were left unprepared to defend themselves against their attackers. Should God be blamed for the people rebelling against Him? Of course not. Choices come with consequences, and God gives us freedom both to choose and to receive the natural consequences of that choice.

3. Did God order the slaughter of innocent people (Judges 18:1–28)?

I would like to know where in that passage Dan sees anything about God giving orders to slaughter anyone. When these men are taking with them teraphim, graven images, and gods which Micah had made--none of which would be possessed by worshipers of the true God, it is clear enough that they were not following the Spirit of God in their decision-making process. God gives no such command as Dan claims in this passage. He needs to reread it.

4. Does God permit or even order the murder of babies and the rape of innocent woman (Isaiah 13:9–16)?

The word "innocent" changes the tenor of the question and makes it provocative. Anyone reading the passage carefully, however, will find that there is not even the slightest intimation of innocency there. God is not addressing the innocent, but the guilty.

Consider:

"And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible." (Isaiah 13:11)

Do these people sound "innocent"? Hardly.

The Bible plainly teaches that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), but in the same verse offers "the gift of God" which is "eternal life." If we do not accept God's gift, do we well to expect anything less than death in consequence?

5. Does God kill a mixed-race couple for no reason at all except for the colour of their skin (Numbers 25:6–13)?

The passage given in support of this specious lie is excerpted from the story of what happened to the children of Israel at Baalpeor when the Moabites, knowing that they did not stand a chance of defeating the Israelites militarily as long as they enjoyed God's protection, and that this protection was offered as long as they were obedient to His commandments, deviously plotted a means of causing Israel's moral downfall. They invited the Israelites to a feast, and brought the beauties of Moab to come and seduce the men of Israel. The "mixed race couple" was killed in the act of whoredom. They were killed because of the egregiousness of their sin, both to themselves, and as examples to all Israel. Both of them were well known in their respective societies. Their punishment had absolutely nothing to do with their skin color, and, in fact, the Bible makes no direct mention of skin color, only of their lineage.

6. Did God allow a human sacrifice to take place (Judges 11:30–39)?

This is truly a difficult passage to read. It is heart-wrenching. But there is nothing in the passage that indicates God's involvement. God was only involved via the rash vow from Jephthah's lips. God cannot be blamed for what people choose to do--even if they are making rash promises to Him. But it is also true that nothing indicates a human sacrifice took place. In fact, the passage hints at the fact that the young woman was to live as a virgin for the rest of her life, and that this was the sacrifice which was made for her. Scholars cannot be certain one way or the other, so to pin the blame on God for something that 1) God did not do, and 2) we cannot be certain of what happened in the first place, seems rather disingenuous.

7. Did God condone and even command cannibalism (Leviticus 26:27–29)?

No. The statement there is a prophecy, not a command. This question was answered earlier HERE. God was warning the people of what would happen, not commanding that it happen! And He certainly does not condone cannibalism when the Ten Commandments are so clearly against murder and the laws of health (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14) were so plainly against the consumption of unclean meats.

8. Does God threaten to rape and even take credit for it (Jeremiah 13:15–26)?

Once again, we do not find that the accusation can be supported by the language in the passage. The passage makes no mention of rape. It speaks of the shame (nakedness) of the people being uncovered, but seems to be speaking euphemistically at that. Where does Dan see "rape" there? His keyword is entirely missing--in the KJV, at least.

9. Does God threaten molestation (Isaiah 3:16–17)?

Here the language seems clearly symbolic, but even if we take it to be literal, there is no mention of molestation. One might even take it to mean that because the girls were promiscuous, they would get STDs that would force them to "discover their secret parts" (vs. 17). The "scab" on their heads and the disease that they got from their own waywardness can hardly be charged upon God. God wants only to bless and to heal, and takes no delight in seeing the miseries that come upon us when we rebel.

10. Does God want to dash babies to pieces upon rocks (Psalm 137:8–9)?

Again, this passage is rich with symbolism, but let us assume for the moment that it was intended literally. Where does it say anything about God wanting this? God is not the writer here. It would be a difficult case to make to say that everything written in the Bible was illustrative of God's desires. This is simply too tenuous and weak to be the basis of any sound belief system.

"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5)

"He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." (1 John 4:8)

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  • @PerryWebb The text specifies that the woman was "Midianitish." I presume that this parallels somewhat the situation with Moses' own wife.
    – Polyhat
    Jun 20 at 11:48
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    Covering the details is why these should be ten separate questions.
    – Perry Webb
    Jun 20 at 12:17

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