Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - Death, Famine, War and Conquest, an 1887 painting by Viktor Vasnetsov

Killing women and babies and other stuff the Bible tells us NOT to do

With the current war between Israel and Palestine, we’re hearing a lot of alarming claims in the media about what the Bible does and doesn’t say. Comparisons between the Bible, specifically the Old Testament, and the Koran are made, offering verses from each to make a point that religion is bad. The problem however, is the verses being offered up as evidence are cherry-picked and taken out of context. We call it “verse mining,” and it targets ignorance of the Bible.

The God of old vs. the God of new

As Christians, our New Testament provides us with corrections and clarifications about Old Testament guidelines (along with God’s New Covenant). In the Old Testament, God gave a very simplified set of guidelines – do good or be punished. Often times that punishment could be as severe as death if God foresaw the need to protect his followers. It is those instances that detractors draw off of to make their twisted point.

Examples of Bible verses that tell us to kill babies

1 Samuel 15:3

The most used example is derived from 1 Samuel 15:3, in which a snippet of the verse says, “Kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep.”

“Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

The verse above is not a command for us to go and kill women and children. It is a historical account of Samuel and Saul. It specifically details Saul’s fall from grace. The command was given by Samuel, relayed by God, as a test for Saul (which he failed) and was intended to punish the evil child-sacrificing Amalekites with total destruction (as God had earlier said must be done). It was not and is not an open call to kill babies.

Hosea 13:16

Hosea 13:16 is another example often twisted to proclaim the Bible says we should kill babies and women.

“The people of Samaria must bear their guilt because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.”

This verse is a conclusion to a prophecy and graphically portrays the horrors of the Assyrian invasion. The practices mentioned above were, sadly, common in ancient wars. But the behavior was not condoned by God.

Psalm 137:9

“Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”

The verse above does not tell us that dashing infants against rocks will make us happy. It is the final line in a song about the atrocities committed by Babylon and how divine retribution will ultimately catch up with them.

The Bible’s message is clear – be kind and love one another

Ignore twisted scripture

Violence, of course, is not the Bible’s message. Detractors ignore the plethora of verses that make it clear we are to love one another, be kind, and forgive others who do us wrong. This was reiterated repeatedly by Jesus, who was brought to Earth to correct misconceptions about God’s plan. But it was prominently featured in the Old Testament too.

Exodus 23:7 – Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked.
Psalm 127:3 – Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Genesis 9:5 – Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.
Deuteronomy 5:17 – You shall not murder.