The God of Deuteronomy

The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, is at the center of a political controversy for calling Ralph Miliband, the father of Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party, “The Man Who Hated Britain.”

In criticizing the father of the leader of the Labour Party, The Daily Mail tried to exonerate the son by appealing to the Old Testament. The article in The Daily Mail said: “We do not maintain, like the jealous God of Deuteronomy, that the iniquity of the fathers should be visited on the sons.”

Many people in the UK have criticized The Daily Mail for saying that the God of Deuteronomy is an evil God who allows atrocities and all forms of genocide.

In a rebuttal to the article in The Daily Mail, Giles Fraser, a writer for The Guardian, another British newspaper, criticized the article in The Daily Mail. He wrote: “In its attack on Ralph Miliband, the paper falls back on the nonsense that Old Testament is bad and New Testament good.”

In his criticism of the article in The Daily Mail, Fraser said that the statement about the God of Deuteronomy reflects the words of Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist. Fraser wrote:

The Jewish Chronicle, among others, has pointed out that this editorial, in the context of an attack against a Jew, has a “whiff of antisemitism about it”. The Mail, of course, has vigorously denied this charge. But what has been less discussed is how such an apparently disparaging reference to the God of Deuteronomy fits with the Mail‘s overall defence of religion. For indeed, the “jealous” tag is straight out of the Richard Dawkins play book. Here, for instance, is the great man in full flow: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Fraser is very critical of the article in The Daily Mail.  He concludes his criticism by saying that “Christians see the whole Bible as the story of God. The God of Deuteronomy was the God whom Jesus called father. All this Old Testament = bad/New Testament = good stuff is just plain nonsense, for both Jews and Christians alike.”

You can read Fraser’s article by visiting The Guardian online.

I agree with Fraser in his criticism of the statement about the God of Deuteronomy. The picture of God presented by The Daily Mail is a caricature of the God of the Old Testament. When one looks at the revelation of God in the Old Testament and when one studies the Bible in its proper context, one will come away with a completely different picture of God.

The picture of God that The Daily Mail and Richard Dawkins present is that of a God devoid of holiness, a God who does not take seriously the sinful actions of human beings. The God of Deuteronomy is the God of the whole Bible. He is the God who makes himself known in Jesus Christ. He is the Creator of the universe and the Lord of history. He is also the God of love who declares that people are responsible for their actions and accountable to him for the good or evil they do in life.

The best description of the nature and character of God is found in Exodus 34:6-7:

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

The God of Exodus, “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,” is also the God of Deuteronomy.

The God of Deuteronomy may visit “the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” because he by no means clears the guilty, but he is a God who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin to the “thousandth generation” because he is a “God merciful and gracious,” a God who is “ slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

This entry was posted in Deuteronomy, Hebrew God, Richard Dawkins and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The God of Deuteronomy

  1. Rev. Bryant J. Williams III says:

    Dear Claude,

    It appears that no one remembers that Marcion made the same claim regarding the God of the OT and the God of the NT. The Gnostics made similar, but not the same claims. This ignorance of the Bible and Church History amongst Christians is inexcusable; though it is not surprising that non-Christians would be so ignorant.

    Like

    • Claude Mariottini says:

      Bryan,

      I agree with you completely. Let’s face it: many Christians know very little about church history. If you ask most Christians to identify Marcion, they will have no idea who Marcion was. Maybe, as ministers, we have to teach others about Marcion. Maybe I will have to write a post on Marcion to teach some people that his views are still alive in the twenty-first century.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

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