There aren’t many Orthodox commentaries on the Old Testament. The commentaries in existence are not complete commentaries; i.e. the Fathers did not interpret the books verse by verse. The Fathers have three methods of interpreting the murders committed or ordered by God in the Old Testament:
1) An allegorical method where the incidents are reduced to “spiritual metaphors.” Whether the they accept the events as actual historical events or not, the Fathers render them as typologies of Christ and the New Testament.
2) The Fathers who accept the historical reality of events and criticize those who feel God is cruel for commanding genocide and other atrocities.
3) The Fathers who ignore the incidents: emphasis is placed on another aspect of the event or the story is skipped altogether.
Origen uses this “spiritual metaphor/typology” method of interpreting the Old Testament stories because: “I myself think it is better that the Israelite wars be understood in this way, and it is better that Jesus [Joshua] is thought to fight in this way and to destroy cities and overthrow kingdoms. For in this manner what is said will also appear more devout and more merciful, when he is said to have so subverted and devastated individual cities that ‘nothing that breathed was left in them, neither nay who might be saved nor any who might escape’” (Homilies on Joshua, 13.3).
Church Fathers who accept the historical reality of these events, such as St. Augustine of Hippo, say, “One should not at all think it a horrible cruelty that Joshua did not leave anyone alive in those cities that fell to him, for God himself had ordered this. However, whoever for this reason thinks that God himself must be cruel and does not wish to believe then that the true God was the author of the Old Testament judges as perversely about the works of God as he does about the sins of human beings. Such people do not know what each person ought to suffer. Consequently, they think it a great evil when that which is about to fall is thrown down and when mortals die.” (Questions on Joshua 16).
One of the arguments to justify ignoring or not interpreting God’s atrocities in the Old Testament can be found in a New testament passage: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” (Romans 11:33-35). This is called “circular reasoning.”
One can ask many contemporary monks and nuns who are considered sanctified in the Orthodox Church–or at least considered as such by their blindly obedient followers–about such things. One may receive a slew of different responses that don’t exactly answer the question of why God acted this way in the Old Testament. The following are brief examples of responses given over the years by both monks and nuns at different monasteries under Geronda Ephraim:
- “Questions like that can lead to blasphemy. You shouldn’t focus on these things. Be more simple.”
- “Well, if there’s nothing in the Fathers, it’s obviously not that important. If it was something important, they would have written more in depth about these things.”
- “Knowing the answers to questions like that are not necessary for salvation. You should focus more on the positive things God did.” (Followed by a whole slew of miracles by Christ for our salvation and contemporary miracles by orthodox saints).
- “People always focus on the concept that God is love but they forget that he is also a righteous judge. This should make us fear saddening or angering him through our disobedience lest we suffer something similar.”
- “The Old Testament isn’t that important; it’s the New Testament you should focus on. Anything important or crucial for our salvation in the Old Testament is found in the New Testament, the Synaxarion and the Church Services. It’s very easy to become deluded reading the Old Testament. Some Elders even recommend not reading it because it can incite carnal warfare and blasphemy.”
- “Many saints of old were illiterate and they didn’t become sanctified by reading and studying or satisfying vain curiosities for idle knowledge which puffs up the ego. They didn’t need the answers to such questions because they knew Jesus Christ was the true God through direct experience.”
The numerous vague answers given over the years all seem to come down to one thing: critical thinking is demonic; using reason is “Luciferian,” and this line of questioning stems from egotism. As St. John of the Ladder advises in the Ladder, the Shepherd should attempt to make intricate men simple: “I beg you, do not instruct the simpler sort in the complexities of deceitful thoughts, but rather, if possible, make complex men simple—a marvelous thing indeed!” (To the Shepherd #95).
Using biblical numbers alone, the Old Testament states God murdered 2,821,364. Many of the killings recorded do not give numbers of the death tolls. Based on populations and other Biblical trends of counting numbers, the total number of God’s murders in the Old Testament is estimated at 25,000,000. This high number is for a 4500-5500 year time period (the LXX has an extra 1000 years in the genealogical list found in Genesis 11).
The Orthodox Church Fathers state that natural disasters are punishments from God for the peoples’ sins. The Old Testament total is a very low number compared to all the murders God has committed in the New Testament period of Grace. In the period from 1900 to the present, 115 years, God has greatly exceeded His Old Testament death toll by punishing sin through natural disasters:
- Natural Hazards Data, Images and Education (NCEI archives and assimilates tsunami, earthquake and volcano data).
- Earthquakes with 1,000 or More Deaths 1900-2014.
- List of natural disasters by death toll
- International Disaster Database (EM-DAT contains essential core data on the occurrence and effects of over 22,000 mass disasters in the world from 1900 to the present day).
[Also see Demetrios Panagopoulos’ Homilies on Earthquakes #18- & 181. Demetrios also relates a miracle from June 20, 1978. Geronda Epraim was being driven to Thessaloniki. On the way there, he ordered the driver, Ioannis, to turn around immediately. He did, and they avoided the great 6.2 earthquake that occurred that day in Thessaloniki. ( περί τών σεισμών).
COMMENTARIES OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH FATHERS
The following article contains a few excerpts from the Fathers. It is by no mean an exhaustive list.
THE FLOOD OF NOAH
St. Justin Martyr writes: Accordingly, when the prophet says, ‘I saved you in the times of Noah,’ as I have already remarked, he addresses the people who are equally faithful to God, and possess the same signs. For when Moses had the rod in his hands, he led your nation through the sea. And you believe that this was spoken to your nation only, or to the land. But the whole earth, as the Scripture says, was inundated, and the water rose in height fifteen cubits above all the mountains: so that it is evident this was not spoken to the land, but to the people who obeyed Him: for whom also He had before prepared a resting-place in Jerusalem, as was previously demonstrated by all the symbols of the deluge; I mean, that by water, faith, and wood, those who are afore-prepared, and who repent of the sins which they have committed, shall escape from the impending judgment of God. (Dialogue with Trypho, 138).
St. Ephraim writes: If they did not repent because of the signs done in those seven days, it was clear that they would not have repented in the twenty years in which there would have been no signs. Therefore God sent off, with many fewer sins, those whose lives He had shortened by twenty years… (Commentary on Genesis).
SODOM AND GOMORRAH
St. Augustine writes: “Sins against nature, therefore, like the sin of Sodom, are abominable and deserve punishment whenever and wherever they are committed. If all nations committed them, all alike would be held guilty of the same charge in God’s law, for our Maker did not prescribe that we should use each other in this way. In fact, the relationship that we ought to have with God is itself violated when our nature, of which He is Author, is desecrated by perverted lust…Your punishments are for sins which men commit against themselves, because, although they sin against You, they do wrong in their own souls and their malice is self-betrayed. They corrupt and pervert their own nature, which You made and for which You shaped the rules, either by making wrong use of the things which You allow, or by becoming inflamed with passion to make unnatural use of things which You do not allow” (Rom. 1:26). (Confessions, Book III, chap. 8)
Origen writes: But let us return to Lot, who, fleeing the destruction of Sodom with his wife and daughters after he had received the command from the angels to not look back, was proceeding to Segor. But his wife became negligent of the command; “she looked back”; she violated the imposed law; “she became a little statue of salt.” Do we think there was so much evil in this transgression, that the woman, because she looked behind her, incurred the destruction which she appeared to be fleeing by divine favor? For what great crime was it, if the concerned mind of the woman looked backward whence she was being terrified by the excessive crackling of the flames? But because “the law is spiritual” and the things which happened to the ancients “happened figuratively,” let us see if perhaps Lot, who did not look back, is not the rational understanding and the manly soul, and his wife here represents the flesh. For it is the flesh which always looks to vices, which, when the soul is proceeding to salvation, looks backward and seeks after pleasures. For concerning that the Lord also said: “No man putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.” And he adds: “Remember Lot’s wife.” But the fact that “she became a little statue of salt” appears to be an open indication of her folly. For salt represents the prudence which she lacked. (Homilies on Genesis, 5.2)
ER FOR BEING WICKED, ONAN FOR SPILLING HIS SEED
St. Clement of Alexandria writes: “Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted” (The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2).
St Ephraim the Syrian writes: After these things, Judah took a wife and by her begot Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er, his firstborn, took Tamar as a wife. But because he was evil before the Lord, that is, because he was wicked before the Lord, the Lord slew him. even though his brother took Tamae out of love for her, because of his hatred towards his brother, Onan did not wish to raise up offspring for his brother. When God also slew the second son because of the cruel stratagem that he contrived, it was thought that it was due to the sins of Tamar that her two husbands had died. (Homilies on Genesis, 34.2)
GOD’S 7 YEAR, WORLDWIDE FAMINE: The Fathers teach that Joseph, in providing for those suffering from the seven year famine, is a figure of Christ, who provides for all those suffering from spiritual famine. They don’t really focus on anything else.
HAIL: THE 7TH PLAGUE OF EGYPT
St. Ephraim the Syrian writes: “Hail and fire” together; neither did the hail extinguish the fire, nor did the fire melt the hail. Rather, it burst into flames in the hail as in a thicket and turned [the hail] as red as iron in the fire, blazing in the hail, and careful of the trees. The force [of the hail] “splintered the ancient trees,” but the fire [in the hail] protected the hedges, seed beds and vineyards.” (Commentary on Exodus 9.3)
GOD KILLED ALL THE FIRST-BORN EGYPTIAN CHILDREN
St. Basil the Great writes: “He that has opened a pit and dug it.” We do not find the name of “pit” (lakkos) ever assigned in the divine Scriptures in the case of something good, nor a “well” of water (phrear) in the case of something bad. That into which Joseph was thrown by his brothers is a pit (lakkos). And there is a slaughter “from the firstborn of Pharaoh unto the firstborn of the captive woman that was in the prison (lakkos).” (Exegetic Homilies 11.8) [Ps. 7:15; the Greek word for dungeon in Ex. 12:29 is lakkos].
GOD DROWNS THE EGYPTIAN ARMY
St. Clement of Rome writes: Pharoah and his army and all the leaders of Egypt, “the chariots and their riders,” were drowned in the Red Sea and perished for no other reason than that their foolish hearts were hardened, after the working of signs and wonders in the land of Egypt by God’s servant Moses (Letter to the Corinthians 51).
St. Gregoy of Nyssa writes: “Again, according to the view of the inspired Paul, the people itself, by passing through the Red Sea, proclaimed the good tidings of salvation by water. The people passed over, and the Egyptian king with his host was engulfed, and by these actions this sacrament [i.e. Baptism] was foretold. For even now, whensoever the people is in the water of regeneration, fleeing from Egypt, from the burden of sin, it is set free and saved. But the devil with his own servants (I mean, of course, the spirits of evil) is choked with grief and perishes, deeming the salvation of men to be his own misfortune.” (On the Baptism of Christ) Elsewhere, St. Gregory writes: “But after that the surface of the sea became one again, and the temporary gap was flooded over. So this remains a unique event which occurred in such a way that the marvel did not lose credibility because of the passage of time, since it continues to be testified to by visible traces. That is the way the affair of the marshy lake is both described and shown.” (The Life of Gregory the Wonderworker 7.55)
Paulus Orosius writes: The Hebrews proceeded safely over the dry passage, and the masses of stationary water collapsed behind them. The entire Egyptian multitude with their king was overwhelmed and killed, and the entire province, which had previously been tortured by plagues, became empty by this last slaughter. Even today there exists most reliable evidence of these events. For the tracks of chariots and the ruts made by the wheels are visible not only on the shore but also in the deep, as far as sight can reach. And if perchance for the moment they are disturbed either accidentally or purposely, they are immediately restored through divine providence by winds and waves to their original appearances, so that whoever is not taught to fear God by the study of revealed religion may be terrified by his anger through this example of his accomplished vengeance.” (Seven Books of History Against the Pagans 1.10)
GOD’S PERPETUAL WAR WITH AMALEK: The Church Fathers usually focus on the name Amalek meaning “a sinful people” and Moses’ raised arms as a typology of the Cross.
St. Justin Martyr writes: In truth it was not because Moses prayed that his people were victorious, but because, while the name of Jesus was at the battle front, Moses formed the sign of the cross. Who among you does not know that prayer is most pleasing to God which is uttered with lamentation and tears? But on this occasion Moses (or any after him) did not pray in such a manner; he was seated on a stone. And i have shown that even the stone is symbolical of Christ…Besides, the fact that the prophet Moses remained until the evening in the form of the cross, when his hands were held up by Aaron and Hur, happened in the likeness of this sign. For the Lord also remained upon the cross until the evening, when he was buried. Then he rose from the dead on the third day (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, 90, 97).
GOD PLAGUED THE PEOPLE BECAUSE OF AARON’S CALF
Salvian the Presbyter writes: Thus it is written: “The lord therefore struck the people for their guilt on the occasion of the calf which Aaron had made.” What greater and more manifest judgment could God have made regarding sinners than punishment immediately follow their sins? Yet, since all were guilty, why was not condemnation visited on all? Because the good Lord struck some with the swords of his sentence in order to correct others by example and to prove to all at the same time, his judgment by correcting, his love by pardoning. When he punished, he judged; when he pardoned, he loved. His judgment and love were unequal: his love was more evident than his severity. (The Governance of God 1.11.48)
THE JERICHO GENOCIDE: The Church Fathers focus more on the Fall of Jericho and the trumpets, as well as Rahab the prostitute, and overlook the genocide aspect. There are also many allegories made, but none of the Fathers really explain or interpret the fact that God ordered and sanctioned the genocide of an entire nation; “And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.”
ACHAN AND HIS FAMILY ARE STONED AND BURNED TO DEATH
St. Jerome writes: Achan sinned, and the entire nation transgressed. And the Lord said to Joshua, “The children of Israel will not be able to stand before their enemies but shall flee from their adversaries, because there is a curse in the midst. And I shall no more be with you unless the anathema is destroyed out of you.” And when they made search for the guilty person and the lot discovered him hiding, Achan, and his sons and daughters, and his asses and sheep are killed; his tent and all his possessions are destroyed by fire. Granted, that he himself committed a sin. What sin did his children commit, his oxen, his asses, or his sheep? Reprehend God, why one man committed a sin and a number of people were put to death; why even he is stoned to death and all his possessions are destroyed by the avenging flame? Let us also quote the other testimony: “There was not a city,” he says, “that the Lord did not deliver to the children of Israel except the Hivites who dwell in Gibeon; they took all by fight, because it was the sentence of the Lord that their hearts should be hardened and they should fight against Israel and be killed, and that they should not deserve any clemency and should be destroyed, as the Lord commanded Moses” (Josh. 11:19-20). If it was done by the will of God that they should neither make peace with Israel nor obtain peace from Israel, let us say with the Apostle: “Why then does he find fault? For who can resist his will” (Rom. 9:13)? (Defense Against the Pelagians, 1:37).
St. Basil the Great writes: Accordingly I find, in taking up the Holy Scripture, that in the Old and New Testament contumacy toward God is clearly condemned, not in consideration of the number or heinousness of transgressions, but in terms of a single violation of any precept whatsoever, and, further, that the judgment of God covers all forms of disobedience. In the Old Testament, I read of the frightful end of Achar (Jos. 7.19-26) and the account of the man who gathered wood on the Sabbath day (Num. 15.32-36). Neither of these men was guilty of any other offense against God nor had they wronged a man in any way, small or great; but the one, merely for his first gathering of wood paid the inescapable penalty and did not have an opportunity to make amends, for, by the command of God, he was forthwith stoned by all his people. The other, only because he had pilfered some part of the sacrificial offerings, even though these had not yet been brought into the synagogue nor had been received by those who perform this function, was the cause not only of his own destruction but of that also of his wife and children and of his house and personal possessions besides. Moreover, the evil consequences of his sin would presently have spread like fire over his nation and this, too, although the people did not know what had occurred and had not excused the sinner unless his people, sensing the anger of God from the destruction of the men who were slain, had promptly been struck with fear, and unless Joshua, son of Nun, sprinkling himself with dust, had prostrated himself together with the ancients, and unless the culprit, discovered thus by lot, had paid the penalty mentioned above.
Perhaps someone will raise the objection that these men might plausibly be suspected of other sins for which they were overtaken by these punishments, yet the Holy Scripture made mention of these sins alone as very serious and worthy of death. (Preface on the Judgment of God)
THE AI MASSACRE
Origen writes: You see that these things that follow truly pertain more to the truth of a mystery that that of history. For it is not so much that a piece of land is forever uninhabitable, but that the place of demons will be uninhabitable when no one will sin and sin will not rule in anyone. Then the devil and his angels will be consigned to the eternal fire with our Lord Jesus Christ sitting as ruler and judge and saying to those who overcame before and afterwards, “Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom that was created for you by my Father.” But to the others he will say, “Go into the eternal fire that God prepared for the devil and his angels,” until he takes care of every soul with the remedies he himself knows and “all Israel may be saved.” (Homilies on Joshua, 8.5)
You will read in the Holy Scripture about the battles of the just ones, about the slaughter and carnage of murderers, and that the saints spare none of their deeply rooted enemies. If they do spare them, they are even charged with sin, just as Saul was charged because he had preserved the life of Agag king of Amalek (1 Sam. 15:9-24). You should understand the wars of the just by the method I set forth above, that these wars are waged by them against sin. But how will the just ones endure if they reserve even a little bit of sin? Therefore, this is said of them: “They did not leave behind even one who might be saved or might escape.”
Do you perhaps not believe me that the battle is joined against our sin? Then believe Paul as he says, “Not yet to the shedding of blood have you resisted against sin” (Heb. 12:4) Do you see that the fight proposed for you is against sin and that you must complete the battle even to the shedding of blood? Is it not evident that the divine Scripture indicates these things, even as it habitually says, “Sanctify war” (Joel 3:9), and, “You will fight the battle of the Lord” (1 Sam. 18:17)?
When the Jews read these things, they become cruel and thirst after human blood, thinking that even holy persons so struck those who were living in Ai that none of them was left “who might be saved or who might escape.” They do not understand that mysteries are dimly shadowed in these words and that they more truly indicate to us that we ought not to leave any of those demons deeply within, whose dwelling place is chaos and who rule in the abyss, but to destroy them all. We slay demons, but we do not annihilate their essence. For their work and endeavor is to cause persons to sin. If we sin, they have life; but if we do not sin, they are destroyed. Therefore, all holy persons kill the inhabitants of Ai; they both annihilate and do not release any of them. These are doubtless those who guard their heart with all diligence so that evil thoughts do not proceed from it, and those who heed their mouth, so that “no evil word” proceeds from it. Not to leave any who flee means this; when no evil word escapes them. (Homilies on Joshua, 8.7).
FIVE KINGS KILLED AND HUNG ON TREES
St. Jerome writes: For if the armed host of the Lord was represented by the trumpets of the priests, we may see in Jericho a type of the overthrow of the world by the preaching of the gospel. And to pass over endless details (for it is not my purpose now to unfold all the mysteries of the Old Testament), five kings who previously reigned in the land of promise and opposed the gospel army were overcome in battle with Joshua. I think it is clearly to be understood that before the Lord led his people from Egypt and circumcised them, sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch had the dominion, and that to these, as to five princes, everything was subject. And when they took refuge in the cave of the body and in a place of darkness, Jesus entered the body itself and killed them, that the source of their power might be the instrument of their death. (Against Jovinianus 1.21).
JOSHUA UTTERLY DESTROYS ALL THAT BREATHES AS GOD COMMANDED
Joshua Conquers Libnah
Origen writes: But if we examine the very meanings of the names more eagerly and more diligently, it will be discovered that the significance of the names can have an interpretation at one time of a wicked kingdom, and at another time, of a good kingdom. For example, I think Libnah means “whiteness.” But whiteness is understood in different ways, for there is a whiteness of leprosy and a whiteness of light. Therefore, it is possible to indicate diversities in the meaning even of the name itself, and of either condition. Thus Libnah had a certain whiteness of leprosy under the wicked kings, and, after those are destroyed and overthrown, when Libnah comes into the Israelite kingdom, it receives the whiteness of light; because whiteness is mentioned in Scriptures as being both praiseworthy and blameworthy. (Homilies on Joshua, 13.2).
Joshua Conquers Lachish
Origen writes: And again, Lachish is interpreted “way.” But in the Scriptures, a way is both a laudable and a culpable thing. That is not difficult to demonstrate, as it says in the Psalms, “And the way of the impious will perish;” and in another place, on the contrary, “Make straight the way of your feet.” Therefore it can also be understood here that the city of Lachish was at first the way of the impious, and afterwards, when it was destroyed and overthrown, it was won over to the right way with the Israelites reigning. (Homilies on Joshua, 13.2).
Joshua Conquers Hebron
Origen writes: In like manner, there is also Hebron, which they say means “union” or “marriage.” But the union of our soul was at first with a wicked man and a most evil husband, the devil. When that one was destroyed and abolished, the soul was “freed from the law” of that former wicked man and united with a good and lawful one, him about whom the apostle Paul says, “I determined to present you a chaste virgin to one man, to Christ.”
Thus even the understanding of names themselves agrees with this twofold condition of every city.
The Whole Land is Defeated
I myself think it is better that the Israelite wars be understood in this way, and it is better that Jesus [Joshua] is thought to fight in this way and to destroy cities and overthrow kingdoms. For in this manner what is said will also appear more devout and more merciful, when he is said to have so subverted and devastated individual cities that “nothing that breathed was left in them, neither nay who might be saved nor any who might escape.”
Would that the Lord might thus cast out and extinguish all former evils from the souls who believe in him—even those he claims for his kingdom—and from my own soul, its own evils; so that nothing of a malicious inclination may continue to breathe in me, nothing of wrath; so that no disposition of desire for any evil may be preserved in me, and no wicked word “may remain to escape” from my mouth. For thus, purged from all former evils and under the leadership of Jesus, I can be included among the cities of the sons of Israel, concerning which it is written, “The cities of Judah will be raised up and they will dwell in them.” (Homilies on Joshua, 13.3).
Likewise, it is especially the work of the Word of God to pull down the diabolical structures that the devil has built in the human soul. For, in everyone of us, that one raised up towers of pride and walls of self-exaltation. The Word of God overthrows and undermines these, so that justly, according to the apostle, we are made, “the cultivation of God and the building of God”, “set upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself the chief cornerstone, from whom the uniting edifice grows into a temple of God in the spirit.” And thus at last we may be entitled to be included in the inheritance of the holy land, in the Israelite portion. Then our enemies will be abolished and destroyed so “that none of them remains who may breathe in us,” but only the spirit of Christ breathes in us, according to the teaching of Christ Jesus our Lord, “to whom is the strength and the power forever and ever. Amen!” (Homilies on Joshua, 13.4).
JABIN, JOBAB, AND ALL THE PEOPLE IN 20 CITIES
Origen writes: But let us attempt, as God grants, to investigate certain individual kings of the opposing army; and through the meaning of the names of each one, let us consider also the work he performs in malice.
First of all, the one who is designated the author of this war, who collects the others and summons them to a conspiracy of wickedness, is named Jabin, who was king of Hazor. For he is the one who is said to have called the others together. But Jabin means “thought” or “prudence.” What,, then, is this “thought” or “prudence,” if not that which the prophet Isaiah calls “proud thought?” For he says, “And moreover, I shall strike out the proud thought of the prince of the Assyrians who said, ‘I shall bring it to pass by my power, and by the wisdom of my perception, I shall remove the boundaries of the nations and plunder their power.’”
Therefore, the one who is called “proud thought” in that place is this king of the Assyrians. But here, Jabin is “thought” or “prudence.” For it is written that in paradise the serpent was “more prudent than all the beasts” who were upon the earth. And even that “steward of iniquity” is said to have “done prudently” that which he did. This Jabin, then, is king of Hazor. But Hazor means “court.” Therefore, all the earth is the court of this king, the devil, who holds the supremacy of the whole earth as though one court. But do you wish to verify that the court is itself the earth? In the Gospels it is written that the strong one sleeps unconcerned in his own court until a stronger one comes, who may both “bind” him and “carry away what he possesses.” The king of the court, therefore, is “the prince of this world.” (Homilies on Joshua, 14.2).
Origen writes: This one sends word to Jobab; for he himself is the one who sends word to all nations and summons them to battle. He sends word to the king of Merom. Jobab means “hostilities,” but Merom means “bitternesses.” Therefore, the devil sends word to another hostile power, doubtless from among the fugitive angels, and this power is the king of bitternesses. All bitternesses and difficulties in this world that are inflicted on wretched mortals issue from this author and what he does. There are diverse kinds of sin. For nothing can be more bitter than sin, even if it seems somewhat delightful at first, as Solomon writes. “But in the end,” he says, “you will find what seemed sweet in the beginning to be more bitter than gall and sharper than the edge of a sword.” But the nature of righteousness is the opposite: In the beginning, it seems more bitter, but in the end, when it produces fruits of virtue, it is found to be sweeter than honey. Therefore, the devil sent word to the hostile Jobab, the king of bitterness. (Homilies on Joshua, 14.2).
Below are some images of various massacres and attempted genocides against Christians (primarily Eastern Orthodox) during the 20th century. One wonders if, in the spirit and tradition of the Church Fathers, they will be allocated to “allegories” and “metaphors” and “hyperbole” by future writers who deny their historical reality.