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Cruel; Cruelty

CRUEL; CRUELTY

kroo'-el, kroo'-el-ti 'akhzar, ("harsh," "fierce," chamac, "violence"):

There are various uses of the word "cruel" in the Old Testament:

  1. "the cruel (deadly) venom of asps" (Deuteronomy 32:33);
  2. spoken of men of relentless hate:

    "They hate me with cruel hatred" (Psalms 25:19; compare Proverbs 5:9; 11:17; 12:10; Jeremiah 6:23; 50:42);

  3. Job speaks of God's dealings with him as "cruel" and arbitrary:

    "Thou art turned to be cruel to me" (Job 30:21); conscious of his virtue, yet holding God to be the author of his sufferings, Job is driven to the conclusion that God has become his enemy and is bent upon destroying him;

  4. the "day of Yahweh"--a prophetic phrase to denote the time of God's manifestation in judgment--is described as coming, "cruel, with wrath and fierce anger" (Isaiah 13:9). The word "cruelty" has nearly disappeared from the Bible. In the Revised Version (British and American) it occurs only in Psalms 27:12. The King James Version has it in Genesis 49:5; Psalms 74:20 (the Revised Version (British and American) "violence"); Ezekiel 34:4 (perekh, "crushing," the Revised Version (British and American) "rigor").

    The Old Testament records many acts on the part of chosen individuals and the elect nation which are marked by gross cruelty, particularly when measured by the leaders are standards of our own age. Some of these acts are sanctioned by Scripture or even presented as commanded by God, as, for example, the sacrifice of Isaac, the extermination of the Canaanites, the authorization of the avenger of blood and of human slavery, and of retaliation for evil. Some of the deeds performed by Divinely appointed of Israel are characterized by inhumanity. Samuel "hewed Agag in pieces" (1 Samuel 15:33). David massacred the Ammonites with great barbarity (2 Samuel 12:31). Elijah slew the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:40; compare 2 Kings 1:10; 10:25). Some of the utterances of the Psalmists breathe spirit of hate and revenge, as in the so-called imprecatory psalms (Psalms 137:8,9; 139:21). This has often been a matter of great perplexity to the devout student of the Bible. He has found it difficult to reconcile such practices, which bear the stamp of Divine approval, with the highest standards of Christian morality. It is sometimes urged in justification that these deeds are permitted, but not commanded by God. But this answer if we recognize the fact, which Jesus emphasizes, that the in attendant cruelties and horrors. The Old Testament religion is a self-accommodation to the low moral standard of those whom it was designed to instruct. This He reiterates in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:22,28,34), and affirms in His reference to the hardness of the ancestral Jewish heart (Matthew 19:8). In the Old Testament we are dealing with the childhood of the world, in which revelation is compelled to limit itself to the comprehension of its subjects. It must speak so that they can understand. It must start with them where it finds them. It walk, that character may grow step by step. A gradual development of spiritual and ethical ideals may clearly be traced in the sacred records. We must therefore read the Old Testament narratives and interpret their teaching, not according to the standards of our own age, but the light of the age to which these narratives belong. The spirit of Elijah may not be the spirit of Christ (Luke 9:55). While many of the acts of cruelty and barbarity recorded in the Old Testament are indicative of an age of a low type of morality, yet we must at the same time recognize the fact, that Israel's religion by emphasizing holy living and righteous conduct created an atmosphere favorable for the growth of high ethical ideals. Wherever this religion is seen at its best, as in the teachings of the prophets, it is the mark of the righteous man to treat human life as sacred and to refrain scrupulously from inflicting unnecessary pain. Even the Gentiles shall be brought to judgment for their barbarities and inhuman practices (Amos 1:2; 2 Kings 25:7). Among the blessings of the Messianic kingdom, predicted by the prophets, is the cessation of war with all of its Law of Israel also reflected this tendency toward humanity, and many of its ordinances, while seemingly inhuman, really tended to mitigate prevailing barbarity. Instances of such ordinances those referring to the maltreatment of slaves (Exodus 21:20), to the Cities of Refuge (Numbers 35:19; compare Joshua 20), to rules of warfare (Deuteronomy 20:10), etc. The extermination of the Canaanites is represented as a Divine judgment upon a morally corrupt civilization (Genesis 15:16; Deuteronomy 12:30). It is declared necessary in order to guard the Hebrews from contamination by the sins of the Canaanites (Exodus 23:32). It is not so far back, that many of the practices that are condemned by the most enlightened Christianity of our day, prevailed universally and were not thought incompatible with Christian civilization. Even our own time needs to secure a more widespread practical recognition of the principles of humanity, kindness and justice, which are professedly the law of the Christian life. L. Kaiser must lead them along lines in which they of their own volition can hardly meets the facts of the case. We shall arrive at a truer answer


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'CRUEL; CRUELTY'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.