Yahweh - A God of war

The God of the Bible is a
grotesque human fantasy
By 'Fed up with religion'

"The Lord is a man of war; Yahweh is his name." – Exodus 15.3.

"I form the light, and create darkness. I make peace, and create EVIL. I the LORD do all these things." – Isaiah 45.7.

All cultures have anthropomorphized their gods into humanoid (if sometimes grotesque) form. Were the Jews the exception? Hardly. We know precisely what the Hebrew god looked like. We are, after all, fashioned in his own likeness! "Yahweh", in fact, is an abbreviation of the longer name, "Yahweh Sabaoth." Sabaoth is the Greek form of the Hebrew word tsebaoth "armies”. Thus Yahweh's name identifies the god primarily as the military leader of the tribe. In the mouth and the mind of an ancient Hebrew, Yahweh-tsebaoth was the leader and commander of the armies of the nation. - Prof. Corrine L. Carvalho. Encountering Ancient Voices: A Guide to Reading the Old Testament.
In other passages in the Bible, a longer version of the name, the Lord of hosts, could also be translated as “the one who created the heavenly armies.” This would suggest that Yahweh was first and foremost a warrior God.



Biblical scholar Jonathan Kirsch writes in God Against the Gods:

Among the many titles and honorifics used to describe the God of Israel is Elohim Yahweh Sabaoth, which is usually translated as “Lord of Hosts” but also means “Yahweh, the God of Armies.”

A God in Mans Image
Yahweh was a man, no doubt looking remarkably like the bearded sage asking us to worship him.
If we believe the Bible, he has body parts: eyes and a face (‘they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes’ – Jeremiah 16.17); nose and a mouth (Psalms 18.8); lips, tongue and breath (Isaiah 30.27,33); loins (Ezekiel 1.27); even ‘back parts’ (Exodus 33.23). He also has several ‘human’ emotions, manly appetites, and a worrying disposition towards pathological violence.
Yahweh feels regret for his own evil (‘And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.’ - Jonah 3.10); and grief (at the wickedness of men) (‘and it grieved him at his heart’ - (Genesis 6.6). He actually gets down and wrestles with Jacob, dislocating his thigh (Genesis 32.24). He forgets (he goes on calling Jacob ‘Jacob’ even after re-naming him ‘Israel’ - Genesis 35.10, 46.2). He practises favouritism (choosing the Israelites ‘above all people’ - Exodus 19.5; but he just does not like Cain or Esau!). He holds grudges (‘I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation’ – Exodus 20.5).
For an omniscient god he is surprisingly unknowing (‘They have set up kings, but not by me; they have made princes, and I knew it not.’ – Hosea 8.4). And for an omnipotent god he has his limitations (‘The Lord was with Judah; and he drove out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had chariots of iron.’ - Judges 1.19).
And after his creation of the world, he even has to rest from his labour (‘And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work’ - Genesis 2.2) – to the endless bemusement of pagan critics, whose own gods didn’t need to rest!
The most disturbing aspect of Yahweh’s humanoid personality, however, is his blood-lust. The smell of burning flesh is a ‘sweet savour unto the lord’ – so sweet, in fact, that the phrase appears in the Old Testament no fewer than twenty-three times. The butchery demanded by this god is truly monumental. Believers are required to sacrifice two lambs day-by-day continuously – and that’s just for starters! Just as well Yahweh had several thousand priests to help him trough through the banquet!
Livestock bears the brunt of god’s appetite but humans could so easily get the chop from the big guy. God kills Uzzah for simply steadying the tumbling Ark (1Chronicles 13.9,10). Poor Onan was zapped for using the withdrawal method of birth control (Genesis 38.10). But such isolated vindictiveness palls in comparison with the mass killings of the Lord. When the autocratic Moses faces a rebellion led by Korah, God uses an earthquake and fire to consume two hundred and fifty rebels. When indignant sympathizers protest at the injustice, God wipes out another fourteen thousand seven hundred with a plague (Numbers 16). What a guy!
In Joshua’s (supposed) wars of conquest, God gets right in there. He throws down ‘great stones from heaven’ (Joshua 10.11) and scores a better body-count than his Israelites with mere swords. When the Lord gets up a real head of steam the slaughter reaches a truly epic scale. For merely looking into his Ark, Yahweh wipes out fifty thousand and seventy unfortunate men of Bethshemesh (1 Samuel 6.19). When King David slips up and orders a national census, an enraged God zaps seventy thousand.
Quite apart from the celestial superman’s own killing, he animates his favourites into wiping out whole cities and nations. Jericho, Sodom, Gomorrah, Ai, Makkedah, Libnah etc., etc., are ‘smote and consumed’ – men, women, young, old, ox, sheep and ass!
‘You shall annihilate them - Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites as Yahweh your God commanded you.’ (Deuteronomy 20.11,18)
In the largest single god-inspired massacre in the Bible, one million Ethiopians are slaughtered! (2 Chronicles 14)
Biblical scholar Prof. J.M.P. Smith writes in Religion and War in Israel published in The American Journal of Theology (emphasis added):

Among the functions of Yahweh called into play by Israel’s needs, the leading place in the earlier times was held by warHence, Yahweh is constantly represented as a war-god. He it is who marches at the head of Israel’s armies (Deut. 33:27); his right arm brings victory to Israel’s banners (Exod. 15:6); Israel’s wars are “the wars of Yahweh” himself (Num. 21:14; I Sam. 18:17, 25:28); Israel’s obligation is to “come to the help of Yahweh against the mighty” (Judg. 5:23); Israel’s enemies are Yahweh’s enemies (Judg. 5:31; I Sam. 30:26); Yahweh is Israel’s sword and shield (Deut. 33:29); yea, he is a “a man of war” (Exod. 15:3) As the leader of a nation of war, Yahweh was credited with the military practices of the day.  He shrank not from drastic and cruel measures. Indeed, he lent his name and influence to the perpetration of such deeds of barbarity…Yahweh orders the total extermination of clans and towns, including man, woman, and child (I Sam. 15:3; Josh 6:17 f.).

In Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism, winner of the 2005 National Jewish Book Award, Howard Schwartz writes (emphasis added):

The Warrior God

Yahweh is a mighty warrior who defeated Pharaoh at the Red Sea…God appeared to Pharaoh as a mighty warrior, carrying a fiery bow, with a sword of lightning, travelling through the heavens in a chariot…God took a cherub from His Throne of Glory and rode upon it, waging war against Pharaoh and Egypt, as it is said, He mounted a cherub and flew (Ps. 18:11). Leaping from one wing to another, God taunted Pharaoh, “O evil one, do you have a cherub? Can you do this?”

When the angels saw that God was waging war against the Egyptians on the sea, they came to His aid. Some came carrying swords and others carrying bows or lances. God said to them, “I do not need your aid, for when I go to battle, I go alone.” That is why it is said that Yahweh is a man of war (Exod. 15:3).

Notice here that Yahweh does not merely engage in fighting via divine or worldly agents.  Instead, he is literally on the battlefield itself, fighting as a warrior god.  Schwartz goes on:

In addition to Exodus 15:3, Yahweh is a man of war, God is described as a warrior in Psalm 24: Who is the King of glory–Yahweh, mighty and valiant, Yahweh, valiant in battle (Ps. 24:8).  Frank Moore Cross finds in this passage a strong echo of the Canaanite pattern, in which both El and Ba’al are described as warrior gods.

That Yahweh, the God of the Bible, is a war-god is clearly written in the text itself:

Exodus 15:3 The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is His Name.

Of note aside from the obvious “man of war” appellation is that Yahweh is depicted as a man who is actually physically on the battlefield as a warrior, instead of merely helping from afar. The Lord will fight for you” (Ex. 14:14) is meant to be taken very literally.

Says the Bible elsewhere:

Isaiah 42:13 The Lord will march forward like a warrior.  He will arouse His zeal like a man of war.  He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry.  He will prevail against all His enemies.

God was not just any warrior, but the best of them–victorious in battle:

Psalm 24:8 Who is the King of Glory?  The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.

He would prove his might in battle by crushing the heads of his enemies:

68:21 Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies.

A God of peace? A loving God?

"I Yahweh will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and they will eat one another's flesh in the siege and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life will distress them."– Jeremiah 19.9.

All this carnage, of course, is allegorical, albeit that certain stories may have a tenuous link with an ancient skirmish somewhere. The point is to terrify people into obedience of the priesthood.
‘Moses’ is an archetypal ‘wise priest’, who rules with a rod of iron and brooks no opposition.
‘Take heed’ is the warning. ‘Look what happens when you disobey the word of the Lord!’
This name, Lord of Hosts (Armies)–which defines God’s function as the war-God (or warrior God)–is used well over two-hundred times in the Bible.  Stephen D. Renn notes on p.440 of the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words:

This title, translated “Lord of hosts,” occurs around two hundred times [in the Bible], mainly in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the postexilic prophets. It is found occasionally in the Former Prophets, Chronicles, and Psalms.

Biblical scholar David Noel Freedman writes on page 1402 of Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible:

Yahweh is linked with seba’ot (“armies/hosts”) 284 times in the Hebrew Bible.

Most Frequently Used Names for God in the Bible

1.  Yahweh (Lord): 6,519 times
2.  El, Elohim (God): over 2,000 times
3.  Adonai (Lord): 434 times
4.  Yahweh Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts/Armies): over 280 times
5.  El Elyon (The Most High God): 28 times
6.  El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty): 7 times
7.  Qanna (Jealous): 6 times
8.  El Olam (The Everlasting God): 4 times
9.  Yahweh-Raah (The Lord is My Shepherd): 4 times
10.  Yahweh Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness): 2 times
11.  Yahweh Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You): 2 times
12.  Yahweh Nissi (The Lord My Banner): 1 time
13.  Yahweh-Rapha (The Lord That Heals): 1 time
14.  Yahweh Shammah (The Lord is There): 1 time
15.  Yahweh Jireh (The Lord Will Provide): 1 time
16.  Yahweh-Shalom (The Lord is Peace): 1 time




This would mean that not only is Lord of Hosts/Armies the fourth most common name of God, it would mean that it is the first most frequently used descriptive name of God in the Bible, behind only generic names such as Yahweh (Lord), El/Elohim (God), and Adonai (Lord).  Sabaoth is certainly the most common descriptor following Yahweh, with Raah (as in Yahweh-Raah) a very distant second place.
I argue that the Judeo-Christian conception and understanding of God is not very desirable in the first place.
''The Bible has been interpreted to justify such evil practices as, for example, slavery, the slaughter of prisoners of war, the sadistic murders of women believed to be witches, capital punishment for hundreds of offenses, polygamy, and cruelty to animals.
It has been used to encourage belief in the grossest superstition and to discourage the free teaching of scientific truths."–Steve Allen (Bible Religion & Morality)
A Good Book?

“Happy the one who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock!” - Psalm 137.9.
I leave you with these two quotes;
“Now to the root of the matter. The great unmentionable evil at the centre of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved — Judaism, Christianity, Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal — God is the omnipotent father — hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in place not for just one tribe but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good. Ultimately, totalitarianism is the only sort of politics that can truly serve the sky-god's purpose. Any movement of a liberal nature endangers his authority and that of his delegates on earth. One God, one King, one Pope, one master in the factory, one father-leader in the family home.” - Gore Vidal

“The cost to humanity of fifteen centuries of Christian savagery – of hundreds of millions of lives brutalised and truncated, sacrificed to war, torture, pogrom, burning, pestilence and plague – is incalculable. Christianity is the worst disaster in human history.”
- Kenneth Humphreys



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11 comments:

  1. I remember when I first read from a version that used "Yahweh of Armies" rather than the normal "Lord of Hosts". It was much more confronting, but I came to realise that the two were equivalent, and to prefer "Yahweh of Armies" because it actually made me (and others) stop and notice what the text was saying, rather than just skimming over a familiar phrase.

    For Christadelphians it should be confronting, because it's different from the God of love and peace and "do not murder" and conscientious objectors. Though the cry has always been "We are not pacifists", and I guess some Christadelphians look forward to being part of God's future army conquering and ruling the world, it still doesn't quite scan. Maybe they need to see more of it in the text...

    I suspect many Christians today either spiritualise a lot of the references you mention or view them as part of the "Old Dispensation" and past history.

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  2. As a child brought up in a fourth generation Christadelphian family, my first doubt about the religion occurred when I was eleven years of age following a Sunday school lesson. I asked my father "Why did God command that everyone in Jericho be killed and why did he want all of the Caananites slaughtered?" He replied "Because they deserved it; they were wicked people." It did not seem to be a very satisfying answer. Why not just show them their error and give them the opportunity to mend their ways? Nevertheless I was baptised at age fifteen years and it was another eighteen years before I resigned from the religion.

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    1. You're right: God says clearly to Abraham that the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete, but we don't hear any suggestion that God did other than sit back and wait for that iniquity to be complete. No messenger sent, as is supposed to have happened with Nineveh in the time of Jonah (affirmed by Christ in the NT, no less).

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    2. Fed Up With ReligionNovember 18, 2016 at 11:57 AM

      It’s interesting to look back...

      When I look back on that part of my childhood, I never really fell for it. None of it made sense to me. I was more interested in the social aspect and the girls. I slept through most of the meetings from memory...

      The straw that broke the camel’s back though, and the real “what the?” moment, came when I was cornered and absolutely grilled by “senior brethren” at a bible school for wearing a T Shirt with a logo printed on it...

      I left the religion after that at 15 when my aversion to subjugation kicked in. A few of us did. I still remember telling my mother I wasn’t going anymore. Then the reality hit home of how much of a sect/cult it really was.

      We were all shunned...as children...bad enough to hear it still happens to adults.

      Well, they found out what happens when you shun children...

      I attended the funeral of one of my closest friends who left as well, and the child of a well known family in the religion about a year later, caused a real stir in Christadelphia at the time. He hung himself at 16yrs of age from the ceiling fan in the kitchen of the family home. He had turned to self medication and couldn’t deal with the rejection, confusion, and pressure from within the family. I turned my back on the lot of it.

      Only just recently have I seen some of them again. Awkward...

      It has been interesting to look into and analyse religion again though, as I hold no bias. Forgotten the doctrine and dogma. Kind of therapeutic in a way, I have been able to strip away allot of the bullshit and get to the roots, without rejecting it.

      Turns out its easier finding out what’s not true, than finding out what is...

      “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

      Arthur Conan Doyle

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  3. Fed Up With ReligionNovember 16, 2016 at 11:57 AM

    What’s important is to try and put religion in a context that fits into this mess of a world we live in right now.

    Judaism, Yahweh/Jehovah, was created to justify stealing land.

    Islam, Allah/Mohamed, was created to justify taking it back.

    Hence the wars that have been going on in those regions for thousands of years. Over land...It’s essentially imaginary Gods at war. With men at the helm.

    Christianity was created for political, social and financial control, well every injustice you can imagine really, and more...

    Gore Vidal sums it up perfectly in his quote at the end of the article, which is why I thought it pertinent to add.

    For most religious people I would imagine, if they could see, understand and comprehend the underlying reality of what it is that they really believe, they would be horrified at themselves.

    Nothing but insane men (and women) running the show here folks, psychopaths...

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    1. What do you make of the records of persecution in the Roman empire pre-Constantine? I would think it fairer to say that Christianity evolved towards political, social and financial control, or that it was co-opted to it, not that it was originally created for that.

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    2. Fed Up With ReligionNovember 17, 2016 at 1:04 AM

      The financial part possibly, but the social and political was pre-meditated, the financial would surely follow. There is always an evolution, sure.

      “The smooth generalisation, which so many historians are content to repeat, that Constantine "embraced the Christian religion" and subsequently granted "official toleration", is "contrary to historical fact" and should be erased from our literature forever (Catholic Encyclopedia, Pecci ed., vol. iii, p. 299, passim). Simply put, there was no Christian religion at Constantine's time, and the Church acknowledges that the tale of his "conversion" and "baptism" are "entirely legendary" (Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley ed., vol. xiv, pp. 370-1).

      Constantine "never acquired a solid theological knowledge" and "depended heavily on his advisers in religious questions" (Catholic Encyclopedia, New Edition, vol. xii, p. 576, passim). According to Eusebeius (260–339), Constantine noted that among the presbyterian factions "strife had grown so serious, vigorous action was necessary to establish a more religious state", but he could not bring about a settlement between rival god factions (Life of Constantine, op. cit., pp. 26-8). His advisers warned him that the presbyters' religions were "destitute of foundation" and needed official stabilisation (ibid.). Constantine saw in this confused system of fragmented dogmas the opportunity to create a new and combined State religion, neutral in concept, and to protect it by law.

      Thus, the first ecclesiastical gathering in history was summoned and is today known as the Council of Nicaea. It was at this gathering that Christianity was born, and the ramifications of decisions made at the time are difficult to calculate."

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    3. That sounds to me awfully like co-option, not creation.

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    4. Fed Up With ReligionNovember 17, 2016 at 11:49 PM

      Creation is the action or process of bringing something into existence. As was done.

      How it's then carried out, is an entirely different matter.

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  4. I thought Christadelphians claimed Yahweh is not a man. Clearly they do not know their own bibles. Next Brexit another false prophecy not going to happen

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    1. It's not just Christadelphians that claim that. The Bible does as well: Numbers 23:19 "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind."

      Do I understand correctly that you are predicting that Brexit is not going to happen? If so, that's a bold claim.
      I don't think Brexit will contribute to fulfilling prophecies made 2,500 years ago.
      But as for whether it happens, I think the vote for it makes it much more likely, though Article 50 has not yet been triggered.

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