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Texts of Terror: 2 Chron 15:13: “All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death…” February 13, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Theological Reflection, Theology.

2 Chronicles 15:13: “All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.”

That’s the NIV translation, and it’s as good — or as bad — as any. You’ll find more translations than you’ll ever know what to do with at biblos.com but they all come down to the same thing: convert or die, no exceptions, no mercy. Eugene Peterson’s The Message hammers the horror home:

They all arrived in Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign for a great assembly of worship. From their earlier plunder they offered sacrifices of seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep for the worship. Then they bound themselves in a covenant to seek God, the God of their fathers, wholeheartedly, holding nothing back. And they agreed that anyone who refused to seek God, the God of Israel, should be killed, no matter who it was, young or old, man or woman. They shouted out their promise to God, a joyful sound accompanied with blasts from trumpets and rams’ horns. The whole country felt good about the covenant promise—they had given their promise joyfully from the heart. Anticipating the best, they had sought God—and he showed up, ready to be found. God gave them peace within and without—a most peaceable kingdom!

Not satisfied with slaughtering hundreds of oxen and thousands of sheep, anyone who refused to join in would be slaughtered too; and God, bless him — and surely only a male deity could approve of this? — “gave them peace within and without—a most peaceable kingdom!”

Well bravo, God. Nice party, huh? A “peaceable kingdom” indeed: who dares to differ, to question or challenge when the price of standing out from the crowd is your life?

How do you deal with Bible verses like this? Skip over them as quickly as possible? Try to pretend they’re not there? I had the misfortune of having to read 2 Chronicles 15:1-15 at Evening Prayer tonight. When I reached this verse — verse 13: unlucky for some — I paused, looked the congregation in the eye, read it, then paused again before completing the reading.

There was no sermon slot. After the readings, we went into the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth…

I stumbled through it. Bullshit. This is not the God I believe in.

And the good news? No one’s going to slaughter me for saying it. I hope…


1. Archdruid Eileen - February 13, 2010

An issue I often ponder. If the message at the time had been “Everyone do what you want. It doesn’t matter if we’re all of the same heart and mind” – would the Jewish people have even made it to the birth of Christ? For a nation to survive at that time, in that place – maybe that’s the only way they would? Maybe there were dozens of tribes that went for post-modern laissez-faire and tolerance of those with differences. I wonder what happened to them?
Not justifying it – maybe it’s just one of those great historic ironies.

Phil Groom - February 15, 2010

Thanks for dropping in, Your Eminence (or whatever the correct form of address is for an Archdruid: pardon my ignorance).

Like you I find myself wondering: need the options be so extreme? Isn’t there an entire spectrum of possibilities in between? How about: “Let those who will not seek the LORD depart”? Maybe they’d’ve been slaughtered later by the surrounding tribes, but at least it wouldn’t be slaughter in the name of God.

As for all those other tribes: I guess they formed the surrounding nations … there were plenty of them.

And if ancient Israel hadn’t embraced brutality so wholeheartedly, maybe, just maybe, the birth of Christ and everything that followed on from that wouldn’t have been necessary…

2. Tiger - February 15, 2010

My Dad’s name is Phil. I totally freaked for a minute when I saw that you commented. And then I chilled out quite quickly, after seeing your blog. Right up my ally, I think. However, quite clearly, not my father. =p

Phil Groom - February 15, 2010

Sorry to have freaked you, Tiger: not at all what I’d ever intend! Thanks for stopping by.

3. Archdruid Eileen - February 15, 2010

I think by the time the Israelites were on the scene, the Incarnation was already well and truly necessary! And, possibly, indispensible. For an interesting view on this, can I recommend: http://theophiliacs.com/2009/12/26/12-propositions-2/

4. David Marriott - February 15, 2010

Question – is this God’s desire, or is this Israel getting a little overzealous? It seems to me, aside from God being ‘found by them’, he didn’t have much to do with that decision. Does that last sentence imply he concurred with the mass slaughter (presuming upon a lot of heathens, obviously), or that he was making the best of a bad lot?

Perhaps that’s an easy get out that I’m rather desperately clinging to?

Thanks for the thinkings, though, Phil.

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