The Bloody Bible by Louis W. Cable (June/July 1997)

Robert G. Ingersoll, the great nineteenth century agnostic and philosopher, put it succinctly when he said, “Somebody ought to tell the truth about the Bible[1].” The Bible, characterized by some Christians as that “most uniquely consistent of all books,” is, in reality, a horrible story of murder, torture, incest and genocide. The blood of innocent victims drips from practically every page.

Killing, much of it nothing more than senseless murder, is just business as usual in the Holy Bible, euphemistically known as the “Good Book[2].” The unvarnished truth is that killing, or the threat of killing, most of it totally irrational, occurs unabated throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelations.

In about half the versions I consulted, the word “kill” in the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13) has been changed to “murder.” This amounts to a significant revision. Kill is an umbrella term covering all cases, whereas murder is more narrowly defined. Forbidding murder creates much less of a problem for the Bible believer, hence the change. This revision helps them, of course, but they are by no means off the hook. Need I remind them that Moses, the man selected by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, was a murderer (Exodus 2:12) never brought to justice for his crime. However, God, himself, is the most notorious murderer of them all.

Biblical killing begins early in Genesis when Cain, the first born son of Adam and Eve, murders his younger brother Abel. But why would Cain do such a thing, you ask? Well, it seems that when Cain, a tiller of the ground, and Abel, a keeper of the flocks, dutifully brought their offerings to God he accepted Abel’s but for some unexplained reason spurned Cain’s. As a result, Cain, in a fit of uncontrollable jealousy, slew Abel (Genesis 4:8). Now strictly speaking one would have to acknowledge Cain’s guilt in this matter. But shouldn’t God, who is said to be omniscient as well as omnipotent, bear part of the blame? After all didn’t he set the whole thing up with an irresponsible act of petty partiality?

Now consider the story of the great flood (Genesis 7), the most appallingly inhumane record of murder and genocide in human history. If we are to take this story seriously, and many Christians do in spite of its obvious absurdity, it must be recognized that, except for Noah and his immediate family, God deliberately murdered every man, woman and child on earth, including fetuses, some of whom doubtless were viable and in the third trimester of gestation. He also wiped out practically all of the animals, to say nothing of plant and insect life.

The story of the tenth plague (Exodus 11 and 12) is perhaps the most shameful in this book of shame. In it God calls Moses aside and advises him that, “About midnight I will go into the midst of Egypt. All of the firstborn of Egypt will die, from the first born of Pharaoh [don’t forget that according to the story Moses grew up under the care and protection of Pharaoh’s court] even to the firstborn of the maidservant who is behind the millstones and all the firstborn of the beasts” (Exodus 11:4-5).

In addition to this story’s general repugnance, deliberately specifying such individuals as the maidservant underscores God’s indiscriminate cruelty, since she could have in no way influenced Pharaoh’s policy toward the Israelites or anything else. Also, why take it out on the beasts? But while the Israelites dined securely behind their blood-smeared doors, God went merrily about the business of murdering all of the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 12:29). It should be noted that Egyptian history of this period makes no mention of this traumatic event or anything else recorded in the Book of Exodus. This and other evidence, has lead Bible scholars to declare the Book of Exodus to be fiction and nothing more.

Genesis 19:26 Because he disapproved of their lifestyle, God murdered all of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah except Lot and his family. He whimsically turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt simply because she couldn’t resist a natural impulse: looking back.

Genesis 38:7 Er, Judah’s first born, was wicked in the eyes of the Lord so the Lord murdered him.

Genesis 38:8-10 Because he refused to impregnate his widowed sister-in-law, God murdered Onan.

Exodus 19:12 Whosoever toucheth Mount Sinai shall be killed. How about the traveler who didn’t know one mountain from another?

Exodus 22:18 Thou shall not suffer a witch to live. This one little sentence led to the execution of thousands of innocent women.

Exodus 31:15 Whoever does any work on the Sabbath will be killed. Would anyone care to see this one enforced today?

Leviticus 20:10 Adulterers shall be put to death. This would include a lot of preachers I’ve heard about.

Leviticus 20:13 If a man lieth with another man as with a woman, they shall both be killed. This one justifies homophobia.

Leviticus 24:16 He that blasphemeth the Lord must be killed. This one violates our First Amendment rights.

Leviticus 24:21 He that killeth a man shall be killed. This passage is used by Bible believers to justify capital punishment.

Numbers 1:51 Any layman approaching the tabernacle will be killed. Note that no exception is made for the blind.

Numbers 16:31-35 As a penalty for daring to question Moses’ leadership, two men, Dathan and Abiram along with their wives, children, servants and other followers (250 in all) were either buried alive or burned to death. Here again innocent victims are pointlessly and cruelly murdered.

Numbers 21:5-6 The Lord sent fiery serpents to bite the people because they complained. As a result, some of them died. Only a control freak would do an awful thing like that!

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 When a son is disobedient and will not obey his parents or pay attention when they punish him, then his parents shall bring him out to the town gate. There they shall say to the town elders, “Our son is disobedient and will not obey us.” Then the men of the town shall stone him to death. Today, there wouldn’t be enough rocks.

Deuteronomy 28:15-57 God gives a detailed description of what the Israelites can expect in the event they do not obey his commandants. In verse 49 he threatens to bring a fierce nation against them which will “show no favor.” The results, set forth in graphic detail in verses 53-57, are too horrible to describe because they include cannibalism. Only a madman would perpetrate such an awful fate on anyone, let alone his chosen people.

Joshua 7:18-25 Next consider the sad story of Achan. Now it seems that before the fall of Jericho Joshua declared that all the spoil taken there should be given to the Lord. In spite of this order Achan, one of Joshua’s soldiers, secreted away a garment, some silver and some gold. Afterward Joshua tried to take the city of Ai. He failed and many of his soldiers were slain. Joshua sought for an excuse for his defeat and discovered Achan’s indiscretion. Thereupon Joshua took Achan along with his sons and his daughters, his oxen and his sheep and had them stoned to death. Perhaps Achan deserved it, but what had his sons and daughters or the oxen and sheep done to deserve such a cruel fate? Why didn’t God step in and save them?

I Samuel 6:19 In a fit of pique God slew 50,070 men simply for “looking into the ark of the Lord.”

I Samuel 15 tells the story of the massacre of the Amalekite people. It seems that God was ticked off at them for something their ancestors had allegedly done several hundred years earlier. So, he sent the prophet Samuel to command King Saul to “Go and smite the Amalek. Slay men, women, and infants, oxen and sheep, camel and ass.” Saul then proceeded to wipe out all of the Amalekites. Besides breaking the sixth commandment, didn’t God commit what could only be called genocide?

I Samuel 18:27 David, with God’s permission, slew two hundred Philistine men in order to obtain the number of foreskins necessary to purchase Saul’s daughter to be his wife. This one speaks for itself.

Now take the famous story of the adulterous relationship between King David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). This illicit love story has supplied the grist for quite a few successful novels, movies, and TV shows. In them, however, the real atrocity, the one committed by God, is conveniently overlooked. God, in a display of his infinite mercy, did forgive David both for committing adultery and for sending Bathsheba’s husband to certain death on the battlefield. But at the same time God made it clear that David would pay a price for his sin. The child, conceived during his tryst with Bathsheba, would die. So, God “punished” David by murdering an innocent baby. The baby, it says in 2 Samuel 12:15-18, suffered for seven days before it died. Shouldn’t God be condemned for such a cruel act? The irony is that in letting David off while killing the baby God not only committed a senseless act of murder, he actually broke his own laws. In Leviticus 20:10 it says adulterers will be killed for their action; in Deuteronomy 24:16 it says children will not be punished for the sins of their parents.

David offends God again by taking a census (2 Samuel 24). So what does God do to “punish David?” He sends a pestilence killing 70,000 men (v15). WOW, talk about innocent victims!

2 Kings 2:23-25 records another senseless act of slaughter–this time against children. It seems that as Elisha, one of Israel’s most venerated prophets, was on his way to Bethel a group of children began to mock him. “Go up thou bald head .Ê.Ê. Go up thou bald head,” they shouted. This infuriated Elisha. He turned and cursed them in the name of the Lord whereupon two bears came out of the nearby forest and tore apart forty-two of the children. Satisfied that his dignity had been sufficiently restored, Elisha continued on his way.

God reveals to Ezekiel in a vision what he will do to the Israelites if they disobey him (Ezekiel 9:5-6). First, he will recruit a bunch of cut-throats and have them, “Go through the city .Ê.Ê. and strike; do not let your eyes have pity, and do not spare. Slay old men, young men, maidens, little children and women, .Ê.Ê.” And some people actually worship such a sadist!

In the story of Daniel it seems that Darius, King of the Medes, was informed by certain of his followers that Daniel had been caught worshiping a god other than that of the Medes. Because this was a capital offense Daniel was summarily thrown into the lion’s den, but God protected him. When King Darius saw what had happened he was so impressed that he decided it was time for a little reverse justice. He ordered that those who had informed on Daniel be thrown into the lion’s den along with their wives and children (Daniel 6:24). In the first place, those who informed on Daniel were only carrying out Darius’ orders. But the real question is, “What had the wives and children done to deserve this awful fate?” Shouldn’t God have intervened since it was all his fault?

Jesus, whom many Christians claim to be synonymous with God, not only demanded that certain people be killed, he actually volunteered to do the killing–of children, no less. In Luke 19:27, Jesus said to the crowd at Zacchaeus’ house, “Bring my enemies here and slay them in my presence.” In chapter 2 of The Book of Revelation, Jesus expresses an almost psychopathic hatred for Jezebel, a woman he never knew personally. In verse 23 he says, “I will kill her children.”

Another indication of Jesus’ true character can be found in Matthew 15:21-28. Here a Canaanite (non-Jewish) woman beseeches him to save her daughter who, as she puts it, is “cruelly demon-possessed.” Despite his pious endorsement of the “Golden Rule” (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31), Jesus at first callously ignores her. When his disciples intervene on her behalf, he contemptuously refers to her as a “dog” and reminds them that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. After much pleading and groveling by the mother, Jesus reluctantly relents.

In some instances Jesus makes highly irresponsible, even reckless, suggestions to his followers. In Matthew 19:12 he gives tacit approval to castration. In that wonderful Sermon on the Mount he openly advocates self mutilation by recommending that “if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out” (Matthew 5:29) and “if thy right hand offend thee, cut off” (Matthew 5:30). I wonder how many sick, deluded Bible believers have taken these ill-considered recommendations seriously

The above citations are by no means a complete catalogue of Bible atrocities. However, they should be sufficient to cause any Bible-believing Christian to have some sobering second thoughts regarding his or her religious commitment.

Louis Cable is a long-time Foundation member from Texas.


  1. “About the Holy Bible” in The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll
  2. “The Good Book,” said the late Ashley Montagu, “ranks as one of the most remarkable euphemisms ever coined.” 

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