A number of candidates exist for “Worse Verse in the Old Testament.” For many, its Psalm 137:9 (the “smashing babies against rocks” verse), or any of the passages in which Yahweh directly orders Israel to “wipe out” every resident of Jericho (Joshua 6:17) or the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:2, which specifies killing “children and infants”).
I’d like to add another to the list: 2 Samuel 24:1.
The Lord burned with anger against Israel again, and he incited David against them: Go and count the people of Israel and Judah.
This entire story is bizarre, if not disturbing. First, Yahweh is enraged for unspecified reasons against Israel, so he incites David to take a census, which – again, for unspecified reasons – is clearly a sinful act (Joab tries to talk David out of it, and David himself is repentant as soon as the census is complete). For David’s sin, Yahweh then punishes the entire country, killing 70,000 people. Which leads us to 25:16:
But when the divine messenger stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord regretted doing this disaster and said to the messenger who was destroying the people, “That’s enough! Withdraw your hand.”
This isn’t one of those stories they teach you in Sunday School. The injustice of Yahweh’s actions is obvious and bewildering. Not only do 70,000 people die for David’s sin, but David only sins because Yahweh “incites” him to do it!