Many skeptics and critics of our faith charge that there were contradictory gods in the Bible. The Old Testament one was mean, vengeful, and plain old nasty while the New Testament one is loving, forgiving, patient, and kind. They can make a good case when certain verses are taken out of context. By “context” I mean the Big Picture of what God needed to accomplish and when He needed to accomplish it.

When man rebelled against God with sin, God had to withdraw Himself from this planet. He cannot tolerate sin in His presence. So early in our history, there was a major problem…and things would get worse as sin produced its ugly effect over the years. Once sin ruled mankind, God could not help man face-to-face because every human would perish at the sight of His face. So He chose to work through people, especially prophets and the words in the Holy Scriptures.

One problem is that God could not reveal Himself all at once because, I think, it would be too much, too fast, and humans would not understand much. So He choose to do this slowly over hundreds of years, gradually leading up to His personal visit in human form. This unfolding of Truth in His timeline, I contend, was to maximize the number of souls that could obtain eternal life.

In His love for humans, God would intervene immediately after the first sin of Adam and Eve by covering them with animal skins. This was to show that human effort to cover sin (fig leaves in this case) is not effective when trying to rid ourselves of sin. But the shedding of innocent blood is. Therefore, the Jewish mandate of animal sacrifices was shouting out to fallen man that innocent blood had to be shed. This practice, however, was a temporary cover. It was awaiting of the sinless Messiah to shed His untainted blood to do away with man’s sin forever. This is the reason why animal sacrifices are not performed any longer – since the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D. This was God’s judgment against a nation (not all individual Jews) that rejected their God by crucifying Him. I believe God is underscoring His accomplishment via the cross by not allowing the Jewish animal sacrifices to return.

Returning to the Old Testament, I believe God had to reveal His name, His holiness, and his rules so that mankind would know what to do with their lives. In a sinful state of separation from God’s presence, man had no idea what true holiness is. Hence, God in OT times was strict about certain things, and sometimes people were killed because they did not obey. In early history, the Creator was not feared or obeyed. This would change over the years (but, of course, not all would do this). The groups of people that did do this maintained the lineage of the Messiah so that huge numbers of souls could have eternal life.

At first glance, God seems harsh when He told Jews to kill people in the land promised to them. Sometimes they were commanded to kill women, children, and even animals. Why? First, we have a difficult time understanding the depth of wickedness in non-Jewish cultures. If they were not completely wiped out, the Jews would start acting like them and God’s plan of eternal life for humans would be destroyed. It’s like a good doctor treating cancer. Cancerous cells are normal cells turned renegade. Normal cells have the ability to reproduce themselves and to stop that process. Cancerous cells have lost the ability to stop this process. So they will eventually surround and crowd out normal cells, cut off their blood supply and kill them. So doctors must kill the cancer cells before they kill the person’s body. I believe in the Old Testament times, God reluctantly had to do this at certain times in history or the whole planet would be on a premature self-destruct path. This almost happened in Noah’s day. If it weren’t for the loving and merciful God of the OT, humankind would have been wiped out thousands of years ago.

But why kill animals of their enemies? The Bible never explains this, so I can only guess. I think it was a sign to other nations that the Jewish nation did not kill and conquer others for the wealth but rather it was the execution of God‘s judgment against horrible immorality. Animals were a most valuable commodity in those days. Heathens attacked and killed to gain wealth and power. In these cases, Jews did it to stop immorality from spreading. I also think God, because He loves non-Jewish people, wanted to let survivors know that He alone is the creator of all things and has sovereignty over all. False gods in other cultures never were considered to be over all things. The sun god, for example, had no power over the rain god, etc. So this concept of one God being all-powerful was a new concept for heathen people.

Unknown to Bible critics, there are 150 verses in the Old Testament that claim that God is loving and merciful. There are also countless times where He has intervened on man’s behalf to preserve life. Anyone can take verses out of context and without understating the Big Picture and come to the conclusion that the OT God is mean and harsh and unfair. But upon open-minded scrutiny of all the Scriptures, we can see that this is not so.