A major concern of the pentateuchal narratives and laws is violence.  Cain murders his brother, Abel.  Lamech boasts that he will exact seventy-sevenfold vengeance on anyone who attacks him.  Violence committed by “all flesh” (i.e., both humans and animals) is twice said to provoke the flood (Genesis 6.11, 13).  Within the chosen line, Esau plans to murder Jacob, Joseph’s brothers propose to kill him, and Simeon and Levi massacre the Shechemites.  Violent crime and its punishment figure prominently in the laws.  It is not just murder that is regulated, but other violent disputes, as well (e.g., Exodus 21.12-36; Numbers 35.9-34; Deuteronomy 19-21).  Both laws and narratives demonstrate divine disapproval of violence.  God explains to Noah why He sent the flood: “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them.  Behold, I will destroy them, with the earth” (Genesis 6.13).  In his farewell song, Jacob damns his sons, Simeon and Levi, for their actions at Shechem (Genesis 34): “Simeon and Levi are brothers.  Weapons of violence are their swords. . .Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel!” (Genesis 49.5, 7).

The Psalter shares this rejection of violence.  The Hebrew term that most closely corresponds to English “violence” is hamas.  It occurs more often in the Psalter than in any other Old Testament book (fourteen of the sixty total occurrences).  The second time that the Psalter mentions violence, it declares, “The Lord. . .hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Psalm 11.5).  The violent are the oppressors of the poor and the weak (Psalm 35.11).  Violence is the fruit of an attitude of mind: “No, in your hearts you devise wrongs.  Your hands deal out violence on earth (Psalm 58.2; cf. 73.6).

From: Psalms as Torah: Reading Biblical Song Ethically by Gordon J. Wenham; Studies in Theological Interpretation series (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012), pp. 110-111.

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