Does God retaliate?


My God does not dole out rewards and punishments.

In early December, I was working on the post, “We are a diseased nation,” and the question rose of whether the delusion besetting the nation might be rooted in the delusion besetting its President.  In the Old Testament, the sins of the king were sometimes counted as sins of the nation; as in Second Kings 24:3-4, where the Babylonian Captivity is said to be God’s punishment on the nation for the sins of the king Manasseh.

I recalled this passage:

The whole head is sick,
       and the whole heart faint.
From the sole of the foot even to the head,
       there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores
       and bleeding wounds;
they have not been drained, or bound up,
       or softened with oil.

This proves to be Isaiah 1:5b-6.  I had not recalled Isaiah 1:5a, which puts things in a completely different light:

Why do you seek further beatings?
       Why do you continue to rebel?

The prophet is saying that God has sent calamity after calamity upon the people because of their sins.

But is that really what happened?

I asked about this at Messiah Truth.  It came up in this discussion that the king at the time was Uzziah, who had just been stricken with leprosy.  Now, Uzziah was much-loved among the kings of Judah, one of the few whom the Scriptures count as a good guy.  But he entered the Temple and committed an offense, such that God struck him with leprosy.  At once.  On the spot.  He was leprous for the rest of his life, and had to live in isolation.  (Second Kings 15:5, where he is called Azariah; Second Chronicles 26:16-21.)

So, the Scriptures say God retaliated for the king’s offense.

Does that happen?

There are many instances where the Scriptures say it does; it will be notable how many of these occur in the book of Numbers, which is attributed to the Priestly source:

  • At Genesis 9:29-27, Noah curses his grandson Canaan, because Canaan’s father Ham had seen Noah naked.  Canaan — “father” of the Canaanites, from whom the Israelites would take the Promised Land — was specifically to be his uncles’ slave.
  • Just as God did with Uzziah, at Numbers 12:10 God smites Miriam with leprosy, at once, on the spot, because she objected to Moses’ interracial marriage.
  • Just as God did with Uzziah and Miriam, at Second Kings 5:27,  God smites Gehazi with leprosy, at once, on the spot, because he swindled Naaman the Syrian.
  • At Numbers 11:32, in the affair of the quails, God strikes the people with “a very great plague,” for no discernible reason.
  • At Numbers 16:32, the conclusion of Korah’s rebellion, the earth splits open and swallows the rebels.  At once.  On the spot.
  • At Numbers 25:9, a plague kills 24,000 Israelites, at once, on the spot, for the sin of messin’ with gentile women.
  • At First Samuel 6:19, God kills fifty men because they failed to celebrate the arrival of the Ark to Beth-shemesh.
  • At Second Samuel 6:7, God kills a man, Uzzah, because he touched the Ark.  He killed him at once, on the spot.
  • I have already mentioned Second Kings 24:3-4, where the Babylonian Captivity is said to be God’s retaliation for the sins of Manasseh.  Related:  Bible contradictions #07: What caused the Babylonian exile? | The Homeless Blogger.  Scripture likewise attributes the Assyrian Deportation of the nation of Israel, to God’s retaliation for the sins of that people.  In both cases, the proximate cause of the exile is instead the nation’s rebelling against the empire in power at the time.  They withheld tribute.

(“Tribute,” as thought of in our time, is presents one gives one’s neighbor because she or he is so nice.  In ancient times, tribute instead, in fact, was shakedown money that one gives a bully and hopes the bully don’t kick one’s ass.  Withhold tribute, and the bully’s gonna come, with a ton of whoop-ass.)

Outside of Scripture, as I look at the events I’ve seen in the real world, and in human history — these things just do not happen.  Ever.

Certainly, if I like God had bolts of lightning I could rain down on evil-doers; there are those to whom I would do it; whom I would incinerate.  At once.  On the spot.

This article mentions four such men:

Column: There’s plenty of blame to go around in the alleged sexual assaults of a 10-year-old Chicago girl. Let’s not blame the victim. – Chicago Tribune

However, even when we’re dealing with The Worst of The Worst, it does not happen.

So, for myself, Scripture notwithstanding, I conclude:  God does not do this.

Yes, there is karma.  But karma is not a matter of divine intervention; it is, rather, the natural results of one’s own actions; as in these two examples:

What, then, can I expect from the universe, from God, or from myself?  There is little point in expecting God’s wrath to rain down on people who commit abominations.  There is also little point in continuing to seethe with my wrath against such persons.  God’s model seems to be to have mercy on all persons, to love all persons; and I can learn to love all persons, too.

Related:  Forgiving the cosmos

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