the angry, bloody God of the Bible? part 1

I started writing this today and it turned into one of my dissertation length posts. I'm trying to be a nicer blogger, so I'm breaking it into chunks.

I was listening to today's lectionary reading while riding my bicycle into work and got hung up on this passage.
Psalm 68
19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.
20 Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.
21 Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies, the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.
22 The Lord says, “I will bring them from Bashan; I will bring them from the depths of the sea,
23 that your feet may wade in the blood of your foes, while the tongues of your dogs have their share.”

This Psalm has plenty of nice things and encouraging things in this Psalm, but the last two verses put in God's mouth do not agree with what Jesus taught about loving our enemies. I have two directions to go with this dilemma.

  1. David was wrong to attribute this to God.
  2. This is symbolic language, not to be understood literally.

I'm open to #1 because #2 has just as many problems in my thinking. This topic touches on my problems with Joshua's genocidal conquest narratives, see a collection of my blogs here. I've been puzzling over this concept of God's violence here on the blog for several years now, soon after I started it. Both options are in play for me in Joshua's case as well. Additionally, another sub-option shows up in Joshua, two or more editors inserting contradictory information. I call it a sub-option because it's related to #1 above, that the human stain colors the entire Bible. David writes violently, with similar imagery earlier in the Jewish hymn book.
Psalm 58 
9 Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns— whether they be green or dry—the wicked will be swept away.
10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 Then people will say, “Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.”
I'm aware that I live a privileged life. My degree of violation by others is nowhere near what people in David's time and even today have experienced. Yet even on the cross, after the most severe of violations, Jesus does not quote this Psalm. He goes to David's 22nd Psalm, which focuses on his feelings of despair and abandonment, then moves to hope and worship. Finally, Jesus, who mentioned he could call down a heavenly army to deliver him at any time, prayed that God would forgive those who killed him, not strike them down.

If you are a believer, what approach do you take to these passages?


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