In the King James Bible translation, words such as "kill" and other synonyms for taking the life of something that is alive (e.g. "slain," "shed blood," etc.) easily occur more than 1,000 times! This series studies the fascinating subject of murder and mass killings in God's word.
Do you know who, chronologically, carried out the first mass murder of innocent humans mentioned in the Bible? It was, not surprisingly, Satan the devil! We find the record of his act in the book of Job, the oldest section of God's word, written around the 1660s B.C.
In Job 1, we are told that God allowed Satan to test the supposition that Job only acted righteously because he was rewarded for doing so. Limited only by not being allowed to harm his life, the devil moved to destroy all that Job owned and kill those he loved. One of his targets was Job's seven sons and three daughters.
The devil, while Job's adult children were all gathered at the oldest son's home, caused a mighty wind to blow against it. The fast moving air caused the roof to collapse and murder all those inside (Job 1:2, 12, 18 - 19).
Revenge of Simeon and Levi
Who are the first humans, recorded in Scripture, which committed the mass murder of innocent people? The surprising answer is Simeon and Levi, the second and third oldest sons of the patriarch Jacob! Their over-the-top response to a legitimate crime cost their descendants a significant inheritance in the Promised Land.
Here is the background behind Simeon and Levi's impulsive deed. Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob, is raped by a man named Shechem (see Genesis 34). After the crime, His father Hamor attempts to negotiate with Jacob's family regarding allowing Dinah to become his son's wife and having their families intermarry. Jacob's sons, justifiably angry at what happened, seek revenge rather than justice.
The sons of Israel agree to Hamor's proposal under the condition that Shechem, Hamor, and all the men that live in their city circumcise themselves.
On the third day after the mass circumcision, Jacob's sons Simeon and Levi enter the city and murder all the men (including Shechem). Simeon and Levi's descendants are foretold, by a dying Jacob, to be scattered among the rest of Israel as punishment for their violent behavior (Genesis 49).
The children of Israel multiplied greatly after they migrated to Egypt from Canaan (Exodus 1:1 - 7). They soon grew larger in number than the Egyptians. Pharaoh, in an attempt to curtail the further growth of Israel's power, ordered all midwives who helped deliver their babies to murder any male child that came out of the womb.
Fearing God, the midwives quietly refused to carry out Pharaoh's order of mass extermination (verses 15 - 17)! Egypt's leader, after it became obvious his initial plan failed, ordered all Egyptians to throw into the Nile any newborn Israelite child that was male (verse 22). It is unknown how many lives were lost under this second plan.
Grasping at greatness
Abimelech, one of Gideon's many sons, thought he deserved to rule over God's people (Judges 9). After convincing the men of Shechem of his "greatness," they offer him seventy pieces of silver from a local pagan temple. Abimelech then uses the money to hire men to murder sixty-nine of his seventy brothers (Jotham, the youngest, escapes)! Soon after this horrific event he is considered not only a Judge in Israel but also possibly its first human king (Judges 9:6, 16).
According to the Bible, after Abimelech rules for just three years the people of Shechem begin to resent him and rise up in rebellion. Their efforts, however, are in vain, as Abimelech (who now has a mass of supporters) murders most of the city's inhabitants in Israel's second recorded civil war.