There is an interesting discussion on the God of the First Testament vs. the God of the NT on the question of God's violence in the Hebrew scriptures. See Michael Whitenton, Daniel Kirk and Michael Gorman.
As someone who studies the New Testament writings, I value and appreciate the Hebrew Scriptures as the necessary story within which to locate the narratives of the first Christian writers. I love the Hebrew scriptures and both affirm their value and necessity for understanding Jesus and the first Christians. BUT!
I cannot reconcile the GOD revealed in Jesus of Nazareth with a few of the depictions of YHWH in the Hebrew scriptures. In fact, this is a significant problem for me. I'm currently wrestling through this issue, and I've tentatively arrived at some very uncomfortable positions. It appears that only a Christological reading of the Hebrew scriptures can solve this dilemma. But But I take a more radical position than Daniel Kirk appears to take.
If, as I believe, Jesus fully reveals to us the identity of God, and we are to live and decide what's right and wrong within the trajectory of Jesus' teachings, actions, ethics, life, etc. (the NT), why can't we read the Hebrew scriptures retrospectively, and through the lens of Jesus, assess whether or not Israel got it right when they heard God? I realise this sounds slightly like Marcion, but I have no desire to throw out the Hebrew Scriptures. However, I've got to question whether or not they (Israel or the particular writers of these traditions) heard right, or faithfully represented the intentions of YHWH when engaging in such horrific acts. I'm perfectly happy to concede that we are quite ignorant concerning the surrounding circumstances of these events and actions, and so our conclusions are tentative, but I think this Christological approach may help us.
Anthony Thiselton argues, concerning prophecy, that: The authentic is to be sifted from the inauthentic or spurious, in the light of the OT scriptures, the gospel of Christ, the traditions of all the churches, and critical reflections (Thiselton, 1 Corinthians, pg. 1140). Could a sifting perhaps apply to the writings of the Hebrew scriptures themselves? Could we, in light of other portraits within the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christ event, the teachings of the New Testament, and critical reflection, sift our teachings/traditions of these violent narratives which do not in fact accurately portray the intentions of YHWH? I'm almost convinced we instinctively do this anyway. We read 2 Sam 13 and affirm that the actions are heinous and evil. We read of a Elisha's cruel punishment of childish pranks (2 Kings 2:23-24), and we conclude what? That God really gave him the power to do this? While I would not advocate deleting these traditions, it would then be possible to see them as instances where Israel or a prophet appealed to the authority or agency of God for these horrific events, but were in fact wrong to do so. AGAIN these are tentative thoughts which I find very uncomfortable because it challenges what I believe about the Bible. But I can't help but think this may be a better solution to the problem than just claiming we don't have enough information to make an informed decision. Or perhaps I'm wrong.
Does this make sense? Questions, comments and criticisms are all welcome.