I saw a dvar Torah on a site that was talking about Shelach and the sin of the spies. The piece was titled "Relating to a Vengeful God".

My first reaction was outrage - it's seemed blasphemous. Hashem is a loving God and even when he needs to punish it's not out of vengeance but justice and rachamim. But perhaps my perspective is just an candy coating - and it is accurate to say such a thing.

What is the correct perspective? Please provide any references you have.

  • what do you mean by vengeful? malicious?
    – ray
    Jun 9, 2015 at 18:09
  • @ray - I supposed it's open for interpretation. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vengeful or dictionary.reference.com/browse/vengeful are similar - seeking vengance or revenge. The english words don't sit well with me - but the hebrew is נקמה which as people point out there are many pasukim using this word. I think what also bothers me is the use of the word Vengence in this context (Shelach) - it seems to be more appropriate when referring to the nations than it does to the Jews.
    – Yehosef
    Jun 9, 2015 at 21:23
  • it's an elastic word. are you asking for example whether God overlooks evil deeds and does not exact justice?
    – ray
    Jun 10, 2015 at 5:30
  • no - just whether "vengeful" would be an appropriate word to use when talking about Hashem's relationship with the Jews. Would you ever talk about a (good) parent as being "vengeful". Parents do not overlook evil deeds forever and when they need to punish, it is to correct, never for "vengeance".
    – Yehosef
    Jun 10, 2015 at 6:36
  • "His work is perfect: for all His ways are justice: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He" Deut. 32:4 so if He is vengeful it is in a measured and just manner
    – ray
    Jun 12, 2015 at 11:03

4 Answers 4


Tehillim 94:1 refers to Hashem as being "vengeful" (twice in one verse!):

קל נְקָמוֹת ה' קל נְקָמוֹת הוֹפִיַע

A word about our descriptions of Hashem - when we attribute descriptions to Hashem, we are not describing His essence, or His nature. We are describing the way in which he interacts with the world. When a person is "loyal," that means that loyalty is part of who he is, and to act against that would involve overcoming something about himself. G-d is not that way - He is beyond description and limitation to any attribute or characteristic, and we merely describe the ways in which He chose to interact with the world which He created. (Source: Da'as Tevunos Siman 86, p. 72 in Friedlander edition)

So G-d may act with the world in ways which are, at times, vengeful, but that is not because He is vindictive.

  • Thanks for the references. Does there seem anything wrong with that kind of title "Relating to a Vengeful God" - something about it still doesn't sit well with me.
    – Yehosef
    Jun 7, 2015 at 21:18
  • @Yehosef I agree, but more because of the implication than anything intrinsically wrong with the terms. Jun 7, 2015 at 21:20
  • @yEz - meaning the implication that that is His essence as opposed to a midah that He is using?
    – Yehosef
    Jun 7, 2015 at 21:22
  • @Yehosef more the implication that it is something that we need to "cope" with. Jun 7, 2015 at 22:39
  • i dont think this means vengeful in the way we are vengeful.
    – ray
    Jun 9, 2015 at 17:35

I am Christian. Knew nothing about this site but this page literally was just here when I looked a my iPad after putting it down several minutes ago. I want to start by saying I stand with the Chosen People of G-d which is the Jewish people. You are His favorite. He choose you! I believe this fact completely. With that,please know. I rejoice with you and have the utmost respect for you as His people.

I'm compelled to reply this "God is a jealous God not to be trifled with" - Ezekiel 5

Also in Deuteronomy 6:14-16 there is this about Him. "For The Lord thy God is a jealous God among you lest the angered The Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth"

He is Perfect Love. However, He won't tolerate us loving anything more than we love Him. What if vengeance is the separation we can cause by loving something more than Him? I'm not a scholar by any means. I just want to think about that. Maybe you will think about that too.

  • 1
    Those are good sources. If your quote from Ezekiel is referencing verse 13, I would add that the translation is probably not exactly how the average person I know would translate those words, but the vengeance is definitely there. As far as your understanding of His vengeance, see in Leviticus 26 23-24 if our relationship with God is with indifference, that will directly result with Him treating us with indifference as well.
    – user6591
    Jun 8, 2015 at 1:11

"The LORD is a jealous and avenging God, The LORD avengeth and is full of wrath; The LORD taketh vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserveth wrath for His enemies." (Nahum 1:2).

Advice to terrorists: Don't mess with Nachum.


The scriptures do refer to God as vengeful several times. Here are just a few I think are most significant (All translations from the Tanakh 1985):

See, then, that I, I am He; There is no god beside Me.
I deal death and give life; I wounded and I will heal: None can deliver from My hand.
Lo, I raise My hand to heaven And say: As I live forever,
When I whet My flashing blade And My hand lays hold on judgment,
Vengeance will I wreak on My foes, Will I deal to those who reject Me.
I will make My arrows drunk with blood -- As My sword devours flesh --
Blood of the slain and the captive From the long-haired enemy chiefs.
O nations, acclaim His people!
For He'll avenge the blood of His servants,
Wreak vengeance on His foes, And cleanse the land of His people. (Deuteronomy 32:39-43)

Assuredly, thus said the LORD:
I am going to uphold your cause And take vengeance for you;
I will dry up her sea And make her fountain run dry.
Babylon shall become rubble, A den for jackals,
An object of horror and hissing, Without inhabitant.
Like lions, they roar together, They growl like lion cubs.
When they are heated, I will set out their drink And get them drunk,
that they may become hilarious And then sleep an endless sleep,
Never to awake -- declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 51:36-39)

Thus said the Lord GOD:
Because Edom acted vengefully against the House of Judah and incurred guilt by wreaking revenge upon it --
assuredly, thus said the Lord GOD:
I will stretch out My hand against Edom and cut off from it man and beast,
and I will lay it in ruins; from Tema to Dedan they shall fall by the sword.
I will wreak My vengeance on Edom through My people Israel,
and they shall take action against Edom in accordance with My blazing anger;
and they shall know My vengeance -- declares the Lord GOD.
Thus said the Lord GOD:
Because the Philistines, in their ancient hatred,
acted vengefully, and with utter scorn sought revenge and destruction --
assuredly, thus said the Lord GOD:
I will stretch out My hand against the Philistines
and cut off the Cherethites and wipe out the last survivors of the seacoast.
I will wreak frightful vengeance upon them by furious punishment;
and when I inflict My vengeance upon them, they shall know that I am the LORD. (Ezekiel 25:12-17)

God sometimes acts to avenge his people because of the close affinity is feels for them. And though God also judges his people for their sin, as far as I could tell, the scriptures never use the word 'vengeance' to describe those judgements.

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