In the long litany of excuses given to avoid biblical accountability, my personal favorite goes something like, “the Old Testament is too violent,” or “the Bible is too negative.” Lamenting the many and various examples of scriptural cruelty, abuse, and assorted graphic unpleasantries, biblical detractors suggest that humanity should instead “focus on the positive.” In reality, and along the lines of ancient Sanskrit wisdom, biblical violence is nothing more than a looking glass for the human race. 1 Responding to our self-delusion on behalf of the victims of abuse, biblical violence in Micah taunts the reader, “God is too violent? Really? Too violent for whom?”
In chapter 3 of Micah, God’s anger turns toward the religious rulers of Jerusalem, who shy away from God’s violent message (2:6) crying instead for a “peace” that ignores “justice” (3:1) while ensuring their own comfort. (3:5) Overlooking violence against women and children (2:9) they deride the veteran (2:8) even as their sanctimonious “peace” consecrates a self-serving “holy war” at the expense of the most vulnerable of God’s children.
In contradistinction with modern makers of war 2 the biblical God speaks loudly and carries a small stick. Begging and pleading with the leaders of Jerusalem to look in the mirror, Micah threatens them with a terrorism that is the natural consequence of their own misdeeds. In this sense, biblical violence is a hoax. God does nothing. We do it to ourselves.
In Micah–among the most violent non-violent texts ever written–God employs the language of the oppressor to open our eyes to the plight of the victim. Most people reading this blog–people with access to computers and electricity–do not go to bed hungry. In a world where the vulnerable suffer violence, hunger, and abuse every day, platitudes about a “more positive” alternative to the Bible are an abusive sham.
Uncomfortable, yes. But to the afflicted and the brokenhearted, the Bible’s violence is good news; For those held captive or in prison, it is the herald of their liberty; (Isaiah 61:1) For the rest of us, it is a warning.