Violence was Inevitable

Some of the events described in the Old Testament involved significant violence. The key to understanding these difficult passages is realising that the people of God had limited spiritual protection from the powers of evil. Violent action was sometimes needed to deal with the spiritual powers of evil. When we read the Old Testament, we should remember that God was operating in a situation, where he had very little authority against enemies who were ruthless and violent.

The evil spiritual powers that seized control of the earth when Adam and Eve sinned were ruthless and violent. They would not stop at anything to accomplish their purposes. Because God's authority on earth was limited to what humans would give him, he had no alternative but to use violence to destroy their power.

God mostly used evil nations to destroy other evil nations. He sometimes inflicted the violence himself, but occasionally, his people on earth had to use violence too. This is not the way that God likes to work, but the spiritual powers of evil had made the situation on earth was so desperate, that he sometimes had no alternative but to resort to violence.

The Problem

When God created the world, he gave dominion over the earth to mankind.

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion" (Gen 1:26).

God gave mankind authority over every living thing upon the earth. This was an amazing gift. Creating something wonderful and beautiful and giving authority over it to someone weaker was a risky decision, but this bold act transferred authority over the earth from God to humans. The earth became our domain and sphere of control. This is confirmed in Psalm 115:16:

The highest heavens belong to the LORD,
but the earth he has given to man.

God has full control over the heavens. The angels do his bidding without resistance. He has given authority over the earth to us.

Adam and Eve soon surrendered their authority to evil, by disobeying God and eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. By agreeing with Satan's lies about the tree, Adam and Eve gave him influence over them (Gen 3:6). When Adam and Eve submitted to Satan's advice, they gave him authority over their lives.

This transition dramatically changed the working of authority on the earth. God had given control to humans. The representatives of humanity had given authority over the lives to the devil. This gave the forces of evil significant control over the earth. This transfer of authority created a huge problem on earth and explains why evil has often been rampant on earth. It also created a huge dilemma for God.

God had the power to put things right, but he did not have authority to act, because he had given authority on earth to humans. God is trustworthy and faithful, so he does not change his mind or go back on his decisions. He does not say one thing and do another. His promises are irrevocable, so despite humans making a mess with their authority over the earth, God could not just take it back and intervene on earth.

For more than a millennium, God was shut out of the world that he had created. During this long season, he only received rare opportunities to gain influence on earth. He used each of these very wisely, but could not make much progress. The season between the fall and the flood was the devil's greatest moment. The spiritual powers of evil had a free hand on earth for more than a millennium.

All human activities were distorted for evil purposes. Evil became so normal that no one thought about God. The possibility of getting him involved on earth did not occur to anyone. By the time of Noah, the entire world was an unmitigated disaster; full of corruption and violence.

Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways (Gen 6:11-12).

The Hebrew word for corrupt is "shachath". It is a strong word that means ruined or destroyed. God could see the earth being ruined and destroyed, but he was powerless to prevent it.

Human life was corrupted and full of terrible violence. The earth was being distorted and devastated, because the spiritual forces of evil had authority to do evil on earth. We do not know what they were planning, but if this had gone on for much longer, the earth would have been wrecked and uninhabitable.

Spiritual Danger

The loss of authority to the powers of evil made it almost impossible for godly people to live on earth. They had no protection from the wiles of the spiritual powers of evil. They were rampant on earth for more than a thousand years, smashing and destroying God's beautiful creation. They were so strong that anyone who chose to follow God's way could be taken out. If the spiritual powers of evil could not get them with deception, anger or hatred, they could get someone to kill the good person.

The first person on earth to respond to the Spirit and pray was Enoch. Towards the end of his life, Enoch began to walk with God. However, the situation on earth was so terrible that a man walking with God was not safe. The forces of evil would see the danger so they stirred up evil men to destroy him. God had to take Enoch out of the world to protect him from evil.

Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him (Gen 5:24).

Enoch was the first human prophet on earth since Abel (Luke 11:50-51). Before leaving the earth, Enoch did something pivotal. He spoke to the people and warned them of coming judgment.

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones (Jude 1:14).

Taking people like Enoch out was not a long-term solution. God needed a greater victory, and Enoch's prophecy was crucial, because it gave him permission (for the first time in a very long time to send a host of angels to intervene on earth, However, the spiritual powers of evil did not want God breaking back in, so they were really annoyed by this prophecy. They would have attacked Enoch vigorously, because he was the first person to betray their cause and turn to God. God had to take him out for his own protection, but his work was done.


The flood was the first serious action by God to restrain the evil rampant on earth. Noah's prayers gave God authority to send a flood and sweep away the evil that had spread through the earth. Enoch's prayers released the holy angels to do God's bidding on earth. They had been absent from the earth for more than a thousand years and the powers of evil had been having a great time without them.

God had very little authority on earth. The spiritual powers of evil held most authority on earth, and they were committed to violence and destruction. God hated violence, but in this situation, the only way he could prevent the spiritual powers of evil from totally wrecking his creation was to use violence against them. He did not want to use violence, but they put him in a situation where violence was the only option that he had. Sending the holy angels to use force was the best way to push them back.

The situation on earth was so dire, that God had to act, before the earth was fully wrecked. The spiritual powers of evil had done terrible evil on earth. It was getting to a point where it would be beyond repair, if something did not happen. If God had let it go on a bit longer, the earth would have been totally wrecked and beyond restoration.

God was very limited in what he could do. When he got an opportunity to act, he took the only action that he had been given to take. Enoch prophesied that the holy angels would destroy those who supposed God. This destruction was all that the prophecy authorised him to do.

The flood resulted in many deaths, but they were not innocent. Genesis says that only Noah was innocent. The responsibility for the deaths lies with spiritual powers of evil who created the evil situation, and humans who gave their authority to the powers of evil. Unfortunately, it appears that God caused the destruction and so he gets the blame. That is a cross that he gets to bear.

God hates violence, but he had to use violence against the powers of evil, and the people and creatures they had corrupted on earth. He was so constrained that he had no other way to deal with the serious problem that humans had released on earth. God does not pass the blame. He takes responsibility for what happens on earth, even though he has no control over it.

The Flood

The Flood was the first intervention that God was able to send against the evil that had become rampant on earth. At the time of the flood, some of the spiritual powers attacked the depths of the earth and broke up the deaths.

On that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up (Gen 7:11).
When these spiritual powers of evil attacked the great depths of the earth, they moved away from the place where they had authority upon the earth. God was able to send a host of angels and take them captive, so that they could not work on earth any more. God had authority to do this, because they had moved to a place where they did not have authority, and he did.

The Flood was a huge victory over evil. Evil spirits do not seem to be very mobile, and when their hosts were drowned, millions seemed to get trapped in one place. They were probably hiding together in a dark place. God sent his hosts of angels and they were able to lock them up and take them out of action on earth. We do not know how he achieved this, but the results are confirmed in the New Testament. God shut them away where they could do no harm on earth (1 Peter 3:19; 2 Pet 2:4-5). This was a significant change, as it dramatically reduced the number of evil spirits working on earth. The level of spiritual protection available to God's people on earth increased significantly.

Rainbow Covenant

God used Noah to put in place this important tool for dealing with evil. The covenant that God made with Noah allows him to bring protective judgments on earth, during times of serious evil, without getting permission from a prophet. This allows God to act against evil in a season when there are no prophets.

God promised to prevent evil from getting so strong that it has potential to destroy the entire earth. He was able to make this promise, because the covenant with Noah increased his authority on earth. God had given authority over the earth to man, so he could not intervene on earth without getting permission. The Rainbow Covenant God gave him permission to intervene on earth when evil was getting out of hand.

The rainbow covenant was a huge step in the battle against evil. Until the time of Noah, God was shut out of the world and could do nothing to prevent evil from destroying the world. The rainbow covenant did not give God a free hand on earth. Most of the time, it does not apply, because the situation is not bad enough. However, it does give God permission to intervene on earth when evil gets really bad. This is a great improvement over the situation that existed before the Flood.

The Old Testament records a number of situations where God sent a protective judgment to prevent the advance of evil in fulfilment of the rainbow covenant. In each of these situations, a powerful forceful for evil was emerging in the world. If these had been left to grow, they could have produced tremendous evil. God cut them down before they got big enough to ruin the earth. God has been faithful to the promise of the rainbow. Evil has never been able to take control of earth as it did before the flood, because God's interventions have kept evil in check.

More at Spiritual Warfare in Genesis

Entering the Land

Entering the land of Canaan was especially dangerous for the Israelite. They had no spiritual protection, because they were living before the cross. The people of Canaan were saturated with evil spirits (the population of the world was much less then, so they were more intense). The only protection was to remain separate from the surrounding nations. God gave the Israelites cultural makers to make this easy. The two main cultural markers were the Sabbath and circumcision. These were not about righteousness, as the Pharisees thought, but to keep the people separate and spiritually safe. The laws about sexual immorality had the same purpose, because immoral sexual behaviour, gave evil spirits free access.

Spiritual protection was the reason that God expelled the Canaanites. Their wickedness has increased enormously, so their land was full of evil spirits. Canaan had become the haunt of every foul demon and bad spirit. The children of Israel had already demonstrated a vulnerability to the practices of the people around them, so God was running an enormous risk by bringing his people into this land without any spiritual protection.

In the Old Testament age, there was no cure for evil spirits. Jesus had not yet died for sin, so evil spirits had not been defeated. The Holy Spirit had not come on all people, so evil spirits could not be cast out. The only way to keep safe from evil spirits was to keep separate from people who carried them.

Going into a land that was a stronghold of evil spirits was not a good idea. In the hostile spiritual environment of Canaan, the children of Israel needed serious protection from spiritual attack. The only protection from evil spirits was to keep separate from the people who carried them. Forcing out the inhabitants of the land would get rid of the demonic powers they carried.

The law of Moses required the children of Israel to keep separate from the Canaanites. They must not make a treaty with with the people of Canaan. They must not marry them.

When the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must totally separate from them. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them.

God would deal with the Canaanites. The Israelites should avoid all contact.

Moses is very precise about what should be destroyed.

Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God (Deut 7:5,6).

God wanted the Israelites to destroy the idols and all the sacred things that belonged to the previous inhabitants of the land, but he did not want the people destroyed. He would deal with them himself.

The LORD your God will clear away these nations (Deut 7:22).

Entering the Promised Land was very risky for people without spiritual protection, because the wickedness of the Canaanites has increased enormously, filling the land with evil spirits. The only protection from evil spirits was to keep separate from people who carried them. Driving out all evil people from the land was the safest way to get rid of the demonic powers they had brought in.

God required Israel to drive out all the inhabitants of the land they were entering, because allowing the Canaanites to live among them would mean allowing these evil spirits to continue their activity. By purging the inhabitants of Canaan, they could get rid of most the demonic activity that dominated the region.

God did not want the inhabitants of Canaan killed, because eviction was more effective for dealing with evil spirits than destruction. If the people possessed by spirits were killed, the evil spirits would remain in the land and seek out other victims to control. The most vulnerable person would be the soldier who killed their previous home. Fighting hand to hand with people carrying evil spirits is very dangerous. Evicting them is risky too, but not as bad, because most demons will leave with the people who carry them.

If the Israelites had allowed God to expel the inhabitants of Canaan, they would have got rid of most the demonic activity that dominated the region. Because Joshua slaughtered many of the inhabitants of Canaan, he allowed an army of evil of spirits to remain in the land. This is one reason why the people of Israel were so easily led into evil. By slaughtering the Canaanites, Joshua opened his people to spiritual defeat.

More at Spiritual Warfare in Exodus


The laws in the book of Leviticus are addressed specifically to the children of Israel (Lev 1:2; 27:34). They are not universal laws, but were designed to provide spiritual protection for Israel during the season before the cross.

Leviticus 18 lists a range of detestable behaviours that would defile the Israelites. These behaviours are immoral, but more seriously, they allow evil spirits access into the community. Anyone engaging in one of these sins must be excluded from the community, because they have submitted to evil spirits, so they are threat to the spiritual safety of the community. God's people must remain holy and separate, so they can live with the presence of God

You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine. (Lev 20:26).

The book of Leviticus records commands that were specifically addressed specifically to the children of Israel (Lev 1:2; 27:34). They are not universal laws, but were designed to provide spiritual protection for Israel during the season between Sinai and the cross.

Leviticus 18 lists a range of detestable behaviours that would defile the Israelites. These behaviours are immoral, but more seriously, they allow evil spirits access into the community. The behaviours listed are spiritually dangerous because they open people up to spiritual attack. Permitting these behaviours makes a community vulnerable to the spiritual powers of evil.

Anyone engaging in one of these sins must be excluded from the community, because they have submitted to evil spirits, so they are a threat to the spiritual safety of the community. God's people must remain holy and separate, so they can live with the presence of God

You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine. (Lev 20:26).

The provisions of Leviticus seem quite harsh. The reason is that Israel needs protection from the hostile environment in which they were living. Jesus had not yet died for their sins, so they had no spiritual protection from demonic attacks. The Holy Spirit had not transformed their lives, so they had no ability to cast our evil spirits. The key to spiritual protection was remaining separate from people carrying evil spirits.

The power of the cross did not exist in Old Testament times, so separation and destruction of evil was their only protection. Rather than condemning Israel for being harsh, we should be grateful that we have better spiritual protection.

The rules given in Leviticus were designed to keep Israel separate from the rest of the world. While they were slaves in Egypt, the Israelites were forced to live together in one place. They were shut out of life in Egypt, but this protected them from the influence of Egyptian culture. Once they moved into the Promised Land, this protection was gone. The risk of losing their identity was enormous. They needed a way to protect themselves from the influence of the surrounding nations.

The book of Leviticus contained a set of rules and regulations that would give Israel a unique identity. This would keep them distinct from the nations around them. Leviticus is all about separation and holiness.

Being holy is about being different. The children of Israel would dress differently and eat differently. Their society would be organised differently. These distinct cultural patterns would keep them separated from other cultures that might influence them.

This is why many of the rules in Leviticus are about external behaviour. The best way to establish a distinct cultural identity is to live and behave differently from those around you. This is stated throughout the book.

You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them (Lev 15:31).

By dressing differently and eating different food, they were able to remain distinct.

The laws in Leviticus have a different purpose to those in Deuteronomy.

Those in Leviticus are for providing spiritual protection when a single person engages in a sin that would release powerful evil spirits into the nation. This was particularly true for sexual immorality and witchcraft. The culprit has to be dealt with severely to protect their neighbours from the evil. (Note: houses were burnt, not people).

The curses in Deut 28 relate to the nation and as a whole. If the entire nation turns away from God the curses are the consequence. They are what happens when the nation allows bulk access to the spiritual powers of evil.

Changed Situation

The situation on earth is totally different now that Jesus has come. The cross of Jesus has dealt with all sexual sin and defeated the demonic powers behind it. Christians are fully protected from all spiritual evil, provided they abide in Christ. People can now be delivered from evil spirits the name of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. We no longer need to stamp out all sexual immorality, because we have much better protection through the cross of Jesus. He was able to eat and drink with prostitutes and sinners without fear. We can do the same because we have the protection of the blood of Jesus. We no longer need to separate ourselves physically as the Israelites did.

The Tabernacle was a Dangerous

The Holy of Holies was the place where God dwelt. The main furniture was the golden box containing a copy of the covenant between God and the Israelites. Just outside the Holy of Holies, but still within the tabernacle, was the golden altar. Incense was placed on this altar as a pleasant aroma. God did not demand blood. A little blood was dabbed on the horns of the altar, once a year on the day of Atonement (Exodus 30:1-10), so there was very little blood in the Holy of Holies. God is easy to please and a pleasant aroma was all he required.

God dwelt in the Holy of Holies because the Covenant with Moses gave him the right to be there. The spiritual powers of evil hated this intrusion because they thought the earth belonged to them. They didnít want the children of Israel being close to God, so they made them feel ashamed and afraid to draw near to him.

The tabernacle court was a dangerous place to be, because the spiritual powers of evil hung around there, enjoying the death and gore. They would attack anyone who was not authorised by God to be there. The Israelites had very little spiritual discernment, so they needed strict rules to keep safe in this situation.

The evil powers that gathered around the tabernacle of God to do harm were led by a spirit called Wrath.

The Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there will be no Wrath on the Israelite community (Num 1:53).

Wrath and other spirits did their best to harm those who went near the tabernacle.

God had put spiritual protection in place for the Priests and Levites, by specific sacrifices and keeping them away from activities that could leave them vulnerable to spiritual attack.

The Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the testimony (Num 1:53).

They camped around the tabernacle, because they were the only ones who were safe in this dangerous place. They put up their standards to mark the safe area (Num 1:52).

The time when the tabernacle was being packed up was particularly dangerous because the boundaries and safe places were less clear.

Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who approaches it is put to death (Num 1:51).

The Israelites assumed that God would put them to death if they went near the tabernacle, but that is wrong. Wrath and his evil angels would put people to death, if they got caught in the wrong place.

The spiritual powers of evil hated the covenant box, because it was the place where God met with his people. They wanted to make the people fear it and be unwilling to meet with God.

The tabernacle was not the centre of ceremonial religion, or a type to teach us mysteries. It was the site of an intense spiritual battle, in which God won and enforced a strategic victory that foreshadowed a much greater victory of Jesus cross and resurrection. Following the cross, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, spiritual protection comes from the gift of discernment and walking in the Spirit.

Many More

These are just a few of the Old Testment passages that deal with spiritual protection. They seem strange to modern eyes, but God did what he had to do to provide spiritual protection for his people in the season before Jesus had come and defeated the spiritual powers of evil. There are many more similar passages, but they must be understood in the same way.

Explained to the Galatians

The Letter to the Galatians has a long discussion about the role of the law. This was necessary, because the Christians in Galatia were falling back into legalism. Paul explains why the law was needed in the period between the Exodus and Jesus ministry (Gal 3:19).

In most English translations the last part of Galatians 3 sounds like the people were prisoners of the law. This is a bad translation by people who do not understand the purpose of the law. Paul is actually explaining to the Galatians that the law provided spiritual protection for the children of Israel. The Greek word "phroureo" in verse 23 is usually translated as "imprisoned". This is misleading. The core meaning of the word refers to a garrison. It also refers to a sentinel looking for trouble in the distance. In Phil 4:7 and 1 Peter 4:7, it is translated to mean "kept safe". This is Paul's meaning in Galatians. The law was not a prison in which the people were locked up. It is a garrison, which keeps the people free from spiritual attack.

The law provided the people with Israel with spiritual protection from the spiritual powers that dominated the surrounding nations.

Now before faith came, we were guarded/kept safe together under the law until the coming faith would be revealed (Gal 3:23).

The law offered protection for the people of Israel until Jesus came. It did not lock people up. It actually guarded them, so they could live in relative freedom until the coming of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit would provide full protection and freedom.

This spiritual protection was not limited to the Jews.

The Torah embraced (encloses) everyone under sin until the announcement of faith through Jesus could be given to those who believe (Gal 3:22).

Anyone who chose to serve God and reject evil could have the same protection.

The last two verses of Gal 2 are often translated as if the law was a schoolmaster to lead people to Jesus. This is misleading, as Paul is concerned about the protection role of the law.

So the Law has become our supervising servant to lead us to Christ that we may be justified by faith (Gal 3:24)

A "paidagoges" was not a tutor. The word refers to a servant who accompanies the son of his master on his amusements and studies to keep him safe from moral and physical evil and to ensure he does not wander into trouble. This is the perfect description of the role of the law. It could not make the people of Israel good. But it could go with them to keep them on the right track and free from evil.

Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian (Gal 3:25).

After the coming of the gospel, they no longer needed the spiritual protection provided by the law, because Jesus provides better spiritual protection.