The Top Five Smitings from the Bible

By Vexen Crabtree 1999


1. 2 Kings 2:23-24: 42 children are killed by two bears, for calling a prophet "baldy"

Elisha left Jericho to go to Bethel and on the way some boys came out of a town and made fun of him. "Get out of here, Baldy!" they shouted.Elisha turned around, glared at them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys to pieces.

2 Kings 2:23-24 [NIV]

Eli'sha was travelling to Bethel. Some children insulted him calling him "Baldy" and he cursed them, two she bears then killed 42 of them. Amazing! How is it possible that over FORTY children all insult one person - it's an entire classroom full of children. Not only that but how did TWO bears kill FORTY TWO children? Did they take them by surprise one by one? Didn't the children run away after they killed the first few of them? What are the morals of this story? Is death a suitable punishment for those who take fun of you? Of course not! What happened to the great virtue of humbleness and forgiveness? Eli'sha seems to be highly immoral for cursing them for merely calling him names, and that good OT God is even more immoral for carrying it out in such a way.

And to think they used to allow this book in schools! Good riddance!

2. 1 Samuel 6:19: 50 070 (or 70) people are killed for looking in (or at) the Ark of the Covenant

But God struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy [1] of them to death because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them.

1 Samuel 6:19 [NIV]

The story is that God killed 70 people for looking inside the Ark of the Covenant. There is no further mention of this particular story (i.e., it is self contained). My question is: how did 70 people look inside the Ark and then get killed? Did they all queue up and wait their turns? Or did they all crowd round like children and then after a few minutes God decided to smite them so?

*[1] Many manuscripts including the Septuagint use the figure 50,070 people, and also some people claim it should read "looked AT the Ark" rather than "IN" it.

What morals does this teach us? That we should not show curiosity? Or what? It certainly doesn't tell us much useful information about morality or justice! Except perhaps, that God doesn't have much of either!

3. 1Kings 20:30: God makes a wall fall and kill 27 000 of an army retreating from some Israelites

But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city; and there a wall fell upon twenty and seven thousand of the men that were left.

1 Kings 20:30

Another amazing story with a rather dubious moral foundation. A wall fell on 27000 people and killed them? Really! What an amazing, just god! What nonsense! The story is that one army was retreating from the field of battle into their city.

4. Numbers 16:16-49: Death to all those who complain (14 950 of them altogether)

Numbers 16:16-49 continues with the story of the escaped Israelites. They had been complaining to Moses about the lack of water, sustenance and food in the desert that they have been led to by Moses.
16: Moses commands that 250 of them must come to the tent and present incense at the altar. They do so.
21: God says "stand back from these people, and I will destroy them immediately."

Moses then asks an important moral question:
22: "Moses and Aaron bowed down and said, "O, God, you are the source of all life. When one man sins, do you get angry with the whole community?"

31-34 supplies the answer: "the ground under Dathan and Abiram split open and swallowed them and their families, together with all of Korah's followers and their possessions. The earth closed over them, and they vanished. All the people of Israel who were there fled when they heard their cry. They shouted, "Run! The earth might swallow us too!"
35: "Then the Lord sent a fire that blazed out and burnt up the 250 men who had presented the incense."

When told to offer incense they did, no doubt wandering what the answer to the complaints would be. They were told they were to be destroyed. The answer to Moses' important question "When one man sins, do you get angry with the whole community?" is apparently, yes. All those who offered incense, as told to by Moses, were killed by a blazing fire.

You would think that that was enough. It only really the worst kind of terrible, murderous psychopathic dictators whom react in such ways to protests. But God wasn't finished yet!

41: The next day the whole community complained against Moses and Aaron and said, "You have killed some of the Lords people" ... then the Lord appears with his customary cloud over the tent.
45: God speaks to Moses, "Stand back from these people, and I will destroy them on the spot!"

So what is happening here is that after 250 people are killed plus a load of families and supporters, the entire community complain. And you would expect that too, if that many people in any community were killed by its leaders. God's repeated punishment for complaining is again, destruction of the complainers. This time round (in versus 46-48) Aaron performs a ritual of purification and stops the plague that the Lord had sent to kill them all.

Mass murder? Killing people for complaining? Death by earth, fire and plague? What is going on? I thought the evil ones were Satanists and the devil? And to bring it to an end, an occult "ritual of purification" is performed to save the people from God's anger. It is hard to see any good in God or Moses, or in any of these stories, at all.

48: "This stopped the plague, and he was left standing between the living and the dead. The number of people who died was 14 700", and, it notes that this doesn't count those who died in the previous incident, making the total killed:

250 killed for complaining and then bringing incense when told to plus followers and family who were not numbered.
14 700 killed for complaining about the 250 who were killed.

Which makes this entire escapade (death by earth, fire and plague for complaining) a dead cert for a Top Ten Smiting Certificate.

5. 2 Samuel 6:6-11: God kills someone for accidentally touching the Ark of the Covenant

When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God. 8 Then David was angry because the Lord's wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah. 9 David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, "How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?"10 He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household.

2 Samuel 6:6-11

This is quite ridiculous. Like "I shall punish sinners for up to 4 generations", God appears to punish and kill even for things they did not do. The same applies to the very concept of original sin. This is not the actions of a moral God! There's not much I can say about this. It reads like the author/story-teller was trying to simply present his God as very very fearsome, not as moral (sounds more like Satan to me!). God's character is invented by Humans according to their needs.

By Vexen Crabtree 1999
http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/smite.html
Parent page: Christianity

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The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. [Book Review]

© 2014 Vexen Crabtree. All rights reserved.

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