June 5, 2020

Difficult Scriptures: The “Genocidal” God?

By Chaplain Mike

Some of the most difficult stories in the Bible are those which portray God ordering the annihilation of entire nations or groups of people. This appears prominently, for example, in the Book of Joshua, when the Hebrews defeated the Canaanites on various occasions to take control of the Promised Land.

How do you deal with these texts?

In the following video, Tremper Longman III discusses “The Genocidal God” and gives us his understanding of a theological framework in which we may read these stories. He suggests that one key is to read them in the light of what the entire Bible teaches about the subject of God’s judgment.

What do you think of his explanation?

Is our struggle today more with the overall idea of God’s wrath and judgment than with specific historic instances of it recorded in the Biblical history?

If Longman’s perspective makes sense, is it still a problem for you that God chose to use human instruments to execute his judgment in the Biblical accounts?

Let’s talk.

Tremper Longman III is Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He is also a visiting professor Mars Hill Graduate School, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Fuller Theological Seminary. He lectures regularly at Mars Hill, Regent College in Vancouver and the Canadian Theological Seminary in Calgary.

The Wilberforce Fellowship has collected several of Longman’s video clips on their channel on YouTube.

Comments

  1. What is problematic of God ordering the Israelites to wipe out the morally corrupt Canaanites? God’s wrath against sin is fully demonstrated against the pagan Canaanites who practiced very vile religious, moral, and social actions.

    Why do we have to soften up the Biblical text just to appeal to modern-day unregenerate people?

    • Mark, if your paster told you God wanted you to butcher your neighbour’s family (including newborn infants, small children, and family pets) for being morally corrupt, would you obey him and do it?

      Now do you see what’s problematic?

      • My pastor is not the Almighty God. Thus, your scenario is irrelevant to our discussion.

        • Well, the Israelites were never told by Almight God either. It always came through an intermediary, like Joshua or the high priest.

          • Our Air Force is presently dropping bombs on fighters who think it’s OK to kill kids and women in the name of God. The best take on these kinds of passages is that they did not reflect the will of God, and the writer projected God into it. If anyone told me that he thought God thinks it’s OK to chase down and murder little kids, I would leave the room.

    • Tim Becker says

      For one thing, Mark, the Israelites were pretty vile and corrupt themselves. God wanted to kill them all at the foot of Mt. Sinai, until Moses seemed to talk Him out of it. Then a time or two in the desert as well. After the conquest it didn’t take long for the Israelites to begin doing the same things as the previous inhabitants, and then God used the pagans from the surrounding nations to whip up on them. So it’s not quite as simple as God using good people to punish bad people.

      • Tim,

        My point in my previous posts is to point out that God is a God of perfect justice and righteousness. He cannot tolerate sin, wickedness, and evil – whether among his own people or unbelievers. He has to punish the unrepentant for their sins. It is in his own nature to uphold his holy law and enact retributive justice to those who refuse to walk in his ways.

        I am not trying to portray a sadistic God here who delights in punishing the wicked. We know God does not delight in the demise of the wicked (Ezek 33:11), but he is also a God who will not let the wicked go unpunished (Nahum 1:3). In this life or the next, God will punish those who continue in wickedness and sin.

        I am trying to say that evangelicals, like Tremper Longman, who acknowledge God’s will for the Canaanites to be destroyed have a very good case for the “genocidal God” (though not genocidal in the way we normally understand it, but in a way that reflects his perfect righteousness). The worst Christianity can embrace is the modern “God” of progressivism that states that God will not punish anyone no matter what course they take in life. This is not the God of the Bible. It is a man-made God that is fictitious to the core.

        • Tim Becker says

          It’s difficult to argue against your logic Mark, and I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just trying to figure it all out. Surely there were other pagan nations in the world back then that weren’t wiped out by the Israelites. And there are many pagan nations in the world today that have been around for a long long time that haven’t been wiped out. Why not? And why the babies and animals? Wasn’t that something that God particularly had against the Canaanites, that they were killing their children as sacrifices to their gods? I agree that we shouldn’t change God to make him more appealing to the unbelieving, but I’m finding that atheists and unbelievers are doing a lot more Bible reading lately, and are pointing out areas of the Bible that seem to make God look like the bad guy, and we don’t have an answer for it other than to say what you’re saying. And that doesn’t seem to be making much headway. As a Christian I accept it by faith that God is good and everything he does is good, but to tell you the truth, the explanation for all the killing- that God is righteous and just- isn’t as satisfying as it used to be. At least for me.

          • Tim Becker says

            And that could be because I see all the unrighteousness in my own life, and haven’t been wiped out myself.

          • Tim, I understand where you’re coming from. The question, however, is this: do we need to re-model God to adjust to the sensitivities of unbelievers in our modern age? Can’t we just give them a straight answer and say that God does what he does as a reflection of his character as just and righteous?

            I don’t like Joel Osteen in the least bit, but his recent interview with Piers Morgan on the homosexuality question was a bright point that we can all learn from. Just because secular people don’t like our answers does not mean he should not speak the truth to them.

          • David Cornwell says

            I knew Mark would soon be preaching about homosexuality!

          • There used to be an ad in the back pages of various popular science magazines that read, “Learn why heterosexuality is condemned by God!” followed by a PO Box number.

            Him that can receive it, let him receive it.

            (rimshot)

        • Perhaps God’s punishment for people who take whatever course they want in life is the fact they are able to take whatever course they want in life. What I mean by that is that as fallen people often the object that is the center of our desire become the very thing that tortures us. It’s much like the Ring of Power in The Lord of the Rings. The very thing that Gollum wanted and thought he couldn’t live without destroyed him.

    • Those morally corrupt children! They totally deserved to die!

      • And we totally deserve to second guess God’s justice.

        • I’ll second guess God if I think his actions merit it.

          • Actually, I agree with Christopher Hitchens on this one. The problem is not a genocide or two in Joshua. The problem is a God who consistently kills his enemies. Truthfully, the slaughter in Revelation is worse than that of Joshua. And if one accepts the Biblical theme of hell and eternal torment, then God’s justice gets even worse. If it is up to me or any human court to decide what is right, then God fails, and not just in the conquest of the promised land. For my part, I choose to believe that God is good and just, as he says he is, and in light of that, I think Longman’s analysis probably has some merit.

      • So did all those animals in the Flood.

      • I think its safe to say after the reformed theological training Trempor Longman III hs proven that he has a BS in BS 😛 (I first heard that in the Catholic college I attended in Montana where the priest leading the comparaitve religions course said..”Okay now your are getting your BS in BS”

      • Let’s imagine a scene from the conquest of Jericho. A Hebrew warrior, his sword dripping with the blood of several Canaanite men he’s killed in the battle, kicks open the door of a little cottage. Huddled in a corner is a young woman, holding an infant in her arms. Clinging to her is her two year old son. On a cot beside them is her 80 year old invalid mother-in-law. The servant of God then does what?

    • Mark, you ask, “Why do we have to soften up the Biblical text just to appeal to modern-day unregenerate people?”

      We probably don’t. But Tremper Longman does put it into a context that can make sense to unregenerate people—in order to win a few of them, as in Paul’s “all things to all people” device.

      And it’s not only the unregenerate that have problems with this. Chaplain Mike’s question was to all of us, remember? Most of the indignation that I hear is from believing Christians at bible studies.

    • Mark- I’d love to know what a first born Egyptian infant did to where he deserved to be killed. What was his crime? Being Egyptian? Is God any different that Pol Pot, Hitler, or Joseph Stalin if he acts that way? I can understand someone like Pharoah…THAT’s different. Also when women who were carrying children are killed by God is that a form of abortion? (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!) is life really that scared? And why is it that the Lord who tells people not to murder doesn’t even practice what he preaches at times. I guess the Lord can “sin” when he would like.

      Let me close this with an annoying parallel I hear on secular radio here in the Washington, D.C. area by a mega church pastor. “Not a sermon, just an agnostic thought….”

      • Eagle, with all due respect, many of us know what perspective you come from. Your point is practically mute because you come from an unbelieving skeptical perspective.

        • ” Your point is practically mute because you come from an unbelieving skeptical perspective.”

          Because you say so, Mark?

          • Unbelievers contribute nothing to theological discussions because they write from a perspective that is basically non-Christian/anti-Christian. You think someone with that mindset can contribute anything positive to any proper growth in theology, I think not.

          • “Unbelievers contribute nothing to theological discussions…”

            I’m of the opinion that unbelievers, bearers of the image of God, can reveal our blind spots….

          • I agree with ahumanoid…well said

            Last I knew, skeptics and unbelievers, so long as they approach a discussion with humility and respect, are very much welcome around here. Just like everyone else.

            I am grateful for the contributions and perspectives of people like Eagle, especially since I am mostly surrounded by people like myself, which does not challenge me to understand and articulate why I believe what I do, especially on the tough issues.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Unbelievers contribute nothing to theological discussions because they write from a perspective that is basically non-Christian/anti-Christian.

            Strip that of the Party Ideology Duckspeak rhythm and you get:

            “ARE THEY GOD’S CHOSEN? ARE THEY GOD’S CHOSEN?”
            — Gordon Dickson, “Soldier, Ask Not” (how many of you catch the reference?)

        • If you have to preface something with “with all due respect” perhaps it should be left unsaid.

          You are suspicious of those who are skeptical; I am suspicious of those who are certain. Fortunately neither of us is the final arbitrator of who should and should not be listened to.

          • Ha. The judge I clerked for often said, something to the effect of, ” ‘with all due respect’ is just another way of saying, ‘I don’t respect you.’ ”

            That said, I think there is some truth to both what ahumanoid and Mark are saying. I agree with ahumanoid that the point of view of the non-believer can be helpful in challenging us to think critically about our own beliefs. At the same time, Mark is right, in my opinion, that it can be very difficult to have a meaningful theological debate with a non-believer, because the non-believer denies the validity of the very subject of the debate (maybe “debate” isn’t the right word, but you get the point).

            In any event, when it comes to these types of questions (like the subject matter of this post) I just enjoy sitting back and reading all of the varying points of view. Personally, I’m not smart enough when it comes to these types of things to have much of an opinion. It’s all food for thought.

        • Mark…I’m not trying to be difficult, but this is one of those issues that I had a difficult time reconciling when I was a Christian. Reconciling this issue is like trying to reconcile other difficult issues such as why a loving God allows evil, or the problems with salvation alone in Jesus especially with those who never heard the gospel message due to historical or geograghic limitations. What bothered me when I was a believer was all the absolute certainity and avoidance of discussions like this. I learned from my time in Mormonism Mark that a religious system built on a false premise is afraid of scrutiny, that’s why the Joseph Smith story fails. Christianity should be willing to be subjected to the same scrunity especially since it is taught as truth. Who knows if I could get answers I could live with, maybe there’s a future for me in some church again down the road.

        • Mark….also remember I’m not someone who became agnositc in college. I’m 36. I was born a Catholic, looked into Mormonism in college, and was finally born again at age 24. I was baptzied against my parents will at an Evangelical Free Church, and involved in Campus Crusade for Christ. I helped launch a chapter in the upper midwest and served at the churches I was a member of. On faith I moved to the DC area and took a job. On faith I went to a really ugly place in the world to work that’s in the news a lot. On faith I did a mission trip. Yet it was problems, horriffic Christian experiences and Pharises that helped kill my faith. When I was 34 it died when it went into a dumpster (along with a lot of Christian material) beyond a grocery store in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. So as an agnostic I don’t think I am your run of the mill. I do know the Bible well, as well as teahcings, sermons, and ministries by many prominant Christians. It can very from John Piper, to James Dobson.

          • Eagle-
            I was on the diet of campus crusade, Piper, Dobson, etc. I got sick. Too focused on me, how I felt, and how I wasn’t living up to some standard.

          • Eagle, can you elaborate on what horrible things you experienced while as a member of CCC that led you to be turned off from the Christian faith? I am asking not to bait but because I am genuinely curious what happened that made you so distressed and bitter about your experiences as an evangelical Christian.

          • Eagle, have you read Michael Spencer’s book, Mere Churchianity? I think he had you in mind.

            I understand how you’ve been burned. But remember that it wasn’t God but people who burned you. Romans3:4 says “Let God be true though every man be false.”

          • @ Mark –

            Mark-

            I have many reservations about reformed Christianity. I’m still detoxing and working through what I was involved in; but if I decide to be a Christian again…I suspect it may be in a liberal church. Here are some of the problems. I’ve already told you about the Pharisees, bad church experiences, and doubt. These are some of the other points I noticed.

            1. Many aspects of reformed Christianity work best in a bubble. For me it worked well when I was in the bubble. I could control life, had more control over my job and circumstances, etc.. And in that land of “make believe” my theology worked well. I would suggest this is how many Christians are…they are in this environment where things go the way they desire.

            2. This next point builds upon the first and works well is that I would suggest that the prosperity gospel is deeply embedded in reformed Christianity. I think this is a natural by-product of our culture. Likewise reformed theology works well for white, upper middle class, suburban lifestyles. They view their circumstances as being “blessed” by God. And as I learned many Christians in this environment view God as worthy of praise and love because they get what they want. That could be a number of things…from that marriage, to that healthy kid they wanted, to that job promotion, to that loved one’s recovery going to how they prayed, etc… This culture can be cruel to those who are suffering. If life is going differently or you are experiencing hardship…you can hear such comments as “it must be sin in your life” to “check your heart for sin…” In this culture I knew people who the secular US culture at large would call “successes”. In this culture I never met a lot of individuals who were having a hard time about sin, doubts, wrestling with homosexuality, etc.. Everything is certain.. One of my friends who is gay today was driven from this cutlure. And I would suggest it helepd to harm him.

            3. I would also suggest that many pastors, ministries, etc.. are worshipped in this environment. And that many individuals in reformed theology desire to become pastors, missionaries, ministry leaders (such as CCC) because they desire to be worshipped. Harsh statement I know….but think about it. How many times did you hear some pastor, missionary, etc.. talk about “being called” and then see the church respond with prayer, send offs, etc..if you knew a guy who felt called by God to work in a customer service job for your local utility company or to be a Nissan Service Technician at your local Nissan dealer ship; how does the church respond? Is it similar? No…the later calling by God is insignificant and minor and is treated as such. Have you seen the local businessman or the Nissan technician used as an example of being obedient to God? Probably not… It’s the system…creating and worshipping itself. It creates people who worship missionaries and pastors and thus inspires to be them. Please note I’m not opposed to missionary work. I may disagree with it, but there are some missionaries who I think are above the system and providing good health care, love, etc.. Those people I respect.

            4. Many reformed people also bring an agenda or ideology to the Bible. It’s a total distortion….

            5. Also the reformed culture operates like a business. Think of how mega churches operate and get consumed with church plants. Think of the strong focus on immediate decisions for “Christ’ which is ignored by loving discipleship or long term interest as time moves on. I once refered to baptisms at a mega church as “McBaptisms” becuase of the fast food mentality they embodied. It’s a number game. Call me cynical but some churches such as Willowcreek, McLean Bible, etc.. can operate in a mentality that is no different that General Motors or Wells Fargo. Bottom line..it’s all about numbers….

    • Respectfully my brother, I don’t see how anyone can fail to see the tension between God commanding people to commit genocide and the teachings of our Lord. I respect and admire Dr. Longman, but he’s just dancing around this issue instead of meeting it squarely head on. I have spent a lot of time studying this, and wrestling with it in prayer. I have concluded that either this Caananite genocide didn’t occur, or if it did, God didn’t command it. I just cannot reconcile it with the character of God as revealed in Christ, the exact representation of his being.

  2. Typical apologetic nonsense. His excuse fails on many levels. To just scratch the surface, why did God’s penalty depend on whether the people lived within Israel’s “promised land” borders or outside them? What did babies and children do to deserve this “judgment”? How does taking all the virgins to be concubines and sex slaves count as “judgment”?

    Longman says that the God of the OT isn’t the sort of God “we’d create” if we were making it up. Au contraire, this is exactly the sort of God we’d make up if we were genocidal maniacs who wanted to whitewash our actions and consolidate political or religious authority.

    To be honest, now that Thom Stark’s book “The Human Faces of God” is out and deals with these passages in a much more truthful way while remaining faithful to the essence of Christianity, it seems utterly futile to go back to flimsy apologetic excuses for the murder, rape, and violence committed by the Israelites according to the OT narratives. Everyone interested in the subject ought to read that book or the scholarly research behind it so they’re at least caught up on the issue and able to debate it intelligently.

    • Basically, you have a problem with the God who is revealed in Scripture. Am I correct?

      • No, you’re incorrect.

        • Paul,

          How would you answer the question, then? What is your solution to the “genocidal God” problem?

          • The phrase “the God who is revealed in Scripture” is a misleading oversimplification. The Bible is an argument about God, with many different points of view expressed by different authors trying to make sense of their world in the midst of violence, suffering, catastrophe, and exile. These arguments on their own get some things right and some things wrong. They often purposely contradict each other.

            We learn who God is by understanding what each author is saying and *why* he is saying it. We also use our ultimate examplar of God incarnate — Jesus Christ — as well as the consciences God made each of us with to discern what we read.

            The “God who is revealed in scripture” is not one who commands people to kill each other, to hurt other, to rape each other, or to rob each other. However, a careful study of the Bible shows us why some biblical authors thought He was that kind of a God, and we can learn how not to make the same mistake.

          • See my critique of what I believe to be the Marcionist direction of this line of argument below. If the Tanach lies about God, then the Tanach cannot be Scripture. And if documents which record falsehoods about God can be Scripture, then it’s time to add the Gnostics to the canon, because they too are part of the argument.

          • “If the Tanach lies about God, then the Tanach cannot be Scripture.”

            There, I think, we must differ. I do not set rigorous standards that the Hebrew writings must meet to qualify as scripture — i.e. useful or instructional religious documents.

            Ultimately, any claim that the Bible must be inerrant in order to be scripture will end up with there being no scripture.

            “And if documents which record falsehoods about God can be Scripture, then it’s time to add the Gnostics to the canon, because they too are part of the argument.”

            If something can be learned from studying those documents and understanding why the Gnostics thought what they did, why should we be scared to incorporate that knowledge? If God is truth, any honest search for the truth is likely to bring us closer to Him, in spite of what the fundamentalists will argue.

          • I don’t think that stipulating that a document which is to be regarded as Scripture must tell the truth about God’s commands is too rigorous a standard. That is, if “God-breathed” is to mean anything. By your standard, any writing at any time that anyone may find useful in whole or in part is “Scripture.” You imply that I’ll end up with no Scripture, I say you’ll end up with everything being Scripture. And then of course nothing will be Scripture. It will be a meaningless category, determined only by what you believe is helpful and consistent and convenient.

            I’m not an inerrantist, by the way. I just don’t believe that God inspired and preserved books that completely misrepresent Him.

      • Beelzebub's Grandson says

        I do! (raises hand)

      • Mark, as difficult as it is to read you at times, what you say must be written so that we are all crushed with the law. Only then can the gospel be pronounced to us. You are taking the law to its proper heights. Now, we can hear that Christ died for us the un-godly.
        Thanks!

        • I agree with your statement rcran. I also believe that true salvation necessarily leads to God-honoring obedience for a lifetime. How is that putting the burden of the law again on the shoulders of people? It is called the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (or you can take the other view and say that Christians can lose their salvation by failing to obey God). Either way, the Bible does not promote antinomianism.

          • Hmm, I didn’t think I was promoting antinomianism… I was merely stating that only through hearing the law and our failure to live to its standards can we ever come to the reality of the need of a Savior. I had not yet had the opportunity to post/discuss about the Christian life.

    • Thom Stark? You’re joking, right? Now I feel discussing this issue with you is futile.

    • “Au contraire, this is exactly the sort of God we’d make up if we were genocidal maniacs who wanted to whitewash our actions and consolidate political or religious authority. ”

      Agreed.

      • No. If genocidal mainiacs wanted to whitewash it they wouldn’t have written it into the bible in the first place.

        The bible is probably the only record from the ancient world that doesn’t whitewash or glorify its kings and leaders.

        • That is one way to whitewash history, another is to attribute your actions to the will of God. Both have been used many times throughout history and are not mutually exclusive.

        • The Hebrew word used to describe the command to massacre the Canaanite people is herem (which can be translated “devoted” (meaning all killed for the glory of God rather than kept as slaves, or something to that effect.)

          Herem, or genocidal holy war, was a practice known throughout the ancient world. In addition to biblical testimony attributing such wars to Assyria, the Ammonites, Moabites, and those ordered to punish Babylon, the Mesha Stele from the late Ninth Century BCE includes a statement from a Moabite king that he had slain and “devoted to destruction” for the god Ashtar-Cemosh, “seven thousand men, boys, women, girls, and maid-servants.” See Anthony F. Campbell, Joshua to Chronicles (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004)

          • If I’m not mistaken, history shows that only two nations are ever known to have ritualistically slaughtered everyone they conquered — men, women, children, and even babies — as sacrifices to their god. The Israelites, and the Moabites (as per the Mesha Stele). The Assyrians attributed their successes to their gods but never wantonly slaughtered *everyone* as a religious ritual like the Israelites did.

    • “Faithful to the essence of Christianity”? Really? Stark may fancy himself a theist and even a Christian, but what he is left with is another religion. A god who commits evil and has to be rebuked by a human with a more refined moral sense is in no way the Christian God.

      • “A god who commits evil and has to be rebuked by a human with a more refined moral sense is in no way the Christian God.”

        I’m fairly certain Stark would agree with that remark.

        Have you even read his book?

  3. Oh, and another thing, if God didn’t judge the pagans in the land of Canaan then we have an immoral God who has no standard of right and wrong, good or evil.

    The problem with modern-day Christianity is that in one form or another we want a God who is this giant Santa Claus in heaven. Sorry, to say, the Bible never portrays God in that way. Yes, he is loving, gracious, and merciful, but he is also holy, perfectly righteous, and just.

    If you have a problem with this God, as described in Scripture, perhaps you should find another religion to follow. This is Christianity to the core. The God who is both merciful to the repentant and fully wrathful against the wicked.

    • “God didn’t judge the pagans in the land of Canaan then we have an immoral God who has no standard of right and wrong, good or evil.”

      Doesn’t God get to set the standard for what is right and wrong, good and evil? Is it really our place to decide how God must act in order to be moral?

      • Yes, it is God who decides what is right and wrong, good and evil. That is why we have Scripture to tell us what God thinks of moral/ethical issues.

        Hence, his ordering the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites. The Canaanites were vile people who practiced all sorts of religious, moral, and social degeneracies. You think God will still be God if he allowed this to continue?

        • Beelzebub's Grandson says

          “Religious, moral, and social degeneracies”–oh my!

          “You think God will still be God if he allowed this to continue?”

          (Looking around.) I guess he’s not God, then.

          In fact, if half of this story is true, then God is the degenerate.

          • I have to say this is a good reply. Why DOES God allow evil? Is today’s evil less evil than that of the Canaanites? Why doesn’t he wipe us out?

            Eagerly awaiting Mark’s answer.

            btw, I think Mark has had some pretty good points today. There’s hope.

          • Ted,

            Your statement assumes that God owes us something (like getting rid of all evil). He owes us ziltch.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Should follow that with “AL’LAH’U AKBAR!”, Mark.

          • Mark:

            There is no way I’m saying that God owes us anything. Where do you get that?

            Beelzebub’s Grandson’s comment was back at yours. You implied that God would not be God if he allowed evil to continue. But evil does continue. Have you looked around, as B. G. did? He had a fair point.

            No, God doesn’t owe us anything. My question was “Why doesn’t he wipe us out?”

        • Do you not see the double standard here? You accuse those who are uncomfortable with the idea of a genocidal God of insisting that God follow their own version of morality, of holding God to their standards rather than letting God dictate what is right or wrong, yet in the very same breath you say that if God did not follow your understanding of what is right and wrong, than he would be immoral.

          Look, I get that people who express problems with the OT frequently try to hold God accountable to their own understanding of morality, and I agree that this is not a good place to stand. God determines what is good. But you and your side do this just as often.

          Good is good. God decides what is good. We do not get to decide what is good. But if you agree with this, then you can’t say that a namby-pamby God isn’t really God. If God wants to be a namby-pamby, who are you to argue with Him?

          You can argue that God doesn’t want to be a namby-pamby, fine, let’s discuss that. But let’s stop pretending that we and those who agree with us are the only ones who are not demanding God to follow our standards.

  4. Mark, Paul and other angry commenters:

    Play nice or you will find yourself in time out. I can see that you both are hurting. So are many others here. So am I. Speak to each other words of encouragement or don’t speak at all. We are not going to tolerate taunting here. Sincere discussions are welcome. “I’m right and you’re wrong” comments are not. I have an itchy “delete” finger tonight. Do not make me use it.

    Try this: Say the kinds of words you would want said to you. How is that?

    • Jeff, you’re assuming posts here are based on some personal grievance I have experienced. That is not so. It is based on my study of Scripture and theology from an accredited seminary. I’m trying to be faithful to Scripture in my posts. It is not based on some emotional angst I am experiencing.

    • Thanks for the reply, Jeff. I come off more brusk than I mean to, especially when I don’t have time to compose my comments as carefully as I’d like. Sorry about that.

    • Jeff, did you delete some already and I missed out? So far, everything up there is pretty civil. Lively, but civil.

      • Note that I said that at 9:31 this morning. It’s now 5:18 in the evening and I take back what I said about civil.

        • well, right now we have GOD’s sovereignty with a little gender bending thrown in…… add a few female Arminian aliens…..re-ignite….and burn, baby, burn…..

  5. The really big issue to keep in mind here is the cross. It changes everything is this discussion. I’m not saying it makes the challenge of this question disappear, but it may not work to compare our lives with the situation of the Israelites as they entered Canaan. The cross is a huge moment of both grace AND wrath, and there is yet another huge moment of grace AND wrath yet to come when Christ reappears. In a three minute clip Tremper basically put this issue in the light of the whole cosmic history of God’s salvation of his people. Again, this does not end the discussion, but it gets it started in the right context.

    DSY

  6. i’ve always been very uncomfortable with the command in 1 Samuel to wipe out the Amelekites. my only way of understanding the intentions behind the slaughter of all these people is to trust the bigger story. that is, God was trying to create a people who would get it right. God was calling the people of Israel to show the world what following him looked like, and God knew that these other people would ruin the plan. which, if we know the story, they do. it’s interesting that the Israelites actually FAIL in the command to wipe out all the people, and their failure leads to their own demise. while i’m still not “comfortable” with these passages, i’m able to cope with them when i look at the big picture of God’s plan for saving humanity.

    • The Amekiltes had been attacking the israelites for genarations, right since the exodus. It was never going to stop. The Isrealites had defeated them several times, but that only gave them temporary respite till the amekelites attacked again. It was never going to stop

      • What was never going to stop, Ben? The war between the Israelites and the Amalekites had happened 400 years earlier. Surely there’s no justifiable reason to murder someone because his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather fought against yours.

        That passages reads to me very much like leaders stirring up a war against an old “enemy” to distract the people from trouble at home. The Amalekites were weak and easy pickings for Israel and their newly conscripted army.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Ever considered that this was written by and for Semitic nomad tribesmen, who weren’t exactly the nicest of people? As in Honor Killings, Blood Feuds, Raid-and-Pillage Economy?

      This is raw and bloody, from a raw and bloody people and a raw and bloody time straight out of R Crumb’s Illustrated Book of Genesis.

  7. To begin with, the genocidal episodes from Joshua etc. seems not to have actually occurred, if liberal archeologists are to be believed. On this reading there was no Exodus from Egypt; and the Israelites were not distinct from the Canaanites until a monotheistic (?) YHWH cult arose among them, which then attacked other elements of the same native religion as if they were alien. (Note that the “immorality” referred to above, which is supposed to justify God’s genocidal wrath, refers mainly to practicing these “wrong” religions.)

    Christians contemplating hell face much the same quandry: either God is monstrously unethical, or Christian tradition is fundamentally unreliable.

    • “unethical” according to what ethics, exactly?

      • If we, who according to the bible are bearers of God’s image, have no concept of justice what does that say about the supposed universal nature of the moral law?

      • I admit this is a problem, but if we assume there is anything at all to our ordinary, “commonsense” ethical intuitions, then surely prohibitions of genocide and rape would be included. One could argue that God is a different kind of moral agent than humans, in that what is wrong for us (murder, for example) might be permissible for him, or even part of his duty (allowing / arranging death to occur, so that the world can go on), although this would still not explain such details as suffering infants, etc. This particular story disturbs in part because God issues commands through human agents, thus blurring the two spheres.

    • And why would somebody invent an exodus story? It may not have been an entire nation, but I’d bet you a quarter somebody escaped Egypt whose descendants later became important in Canaan.

      • I suspect you are right (also, they were slaves in Egypt, not pharoahs), but whoever it was would have become absorbed into the Canaanite culture and gene-pool. YHWH seems to have been a typical Middle Eastern conquering storm god, until he absorbed elements of the Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda–in any event, not an imported Egyptian deity. The emergence of the “YHWH only” cult is often traced to the divided monarchy, but the Zoroastrian connection leads me to suspect rather the Babylonian Exile.

    • Exactly. It is only a problem if 1. It really happened and 2. God was behind it if it did.

  8. OK a couple of comments, firstly from the perspective of assuming that the story is true, a god DID tell people to slaughter children because of their sin.
    Wow.. how utterly vile. That is not a god worthy of respect, let alone worship. It is a god, that if I met him, I would feel the urge to spit in his face. I am sorry, but that is just horrendous behaviour from any being. The fact that he makes people WAIT until they are just “evil”,(although quite how a child can be evil is beyond me) enough to be slaughtered makes it worse in my opinion.

    Now, from my atheist perspective which does not actually include the idea that it is a true story about a god.
    If I had some ancestors who I believed committed genocide, and I felt uncomfortable about that, I might well feel better about it if I was convinced that they did it to REALLY nasty people, but even then, they only did it because a god told them to.

    • with regards to the killing of innocent children,

      If the Israelites had left them alive, then they would have died of starvation, been eaten by predators, or captured by other tribes and used as slaves or human sacrifices.
      The Israelites themselves did not have the resources to care for all the amekelite children.

      One could argue that God could have provided for these children, but the God described in the bible rarely seems to intervene supernaturally in situations like this – he uses the resources available in a given context

      http://christianthinktank.com/rbutcher1.html

      • “The Israelites themselves did not have the resources to care for all the amekelite children.”

        What basis do you have for this assertion? Does that mean that they don’t have the moral obligation to care for ANY of the amekelite children??

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Welcome to low-tech tribal warfare, Donalblain, Ben, Ahumanoid.

        This sort of stuff goes on today in “AK-47 Republics” and Third-world War Zones, where “war” means “tribal blood feud with modern weaponry”. Especially in Africa, the Third World’s Third World and Earth’s continuing hard-luck continent.

        • I know it happens. The point is, the people who order it to happen are scum. And that applies wether they are a warlord or a god.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            And what happens when a god has to speak to mortals whose heads are completely wrapped up in that It?

  9. Ok, I’ll say it. Yes, I do have a problem with Him. I’m a bit frustrated with the “God said it, I believe it, and that’s good enough for me” mentality. The first two axioms in that statement don’t necessarily lead to the third, at least for me. I believe God is who he is as revealed in the sacred text. But that doesn’t mean I’m ok with it, don’t have problems with it, or that I even like it.

    You asked, “What is problematic of God ordering the Israelites to wipe out the morally corrupt Canaanites?” I’ll ask a question back – does it really not affect you in any way when you acknowledge that in his judgment God just wiped out infants and children as part of his cleansing? The same God who passed judgment on nations for sacrificing children? The same God who said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

    It may work for some to simply say this is part of God’s wrath, and to question it is to attempt to soften scripture and capitulate to today’s moral ambiguities. But to me, the issue is not so black and white. I trust God. I follow God. But that doesn’t mean I always agree with His methods. I’m not trying to appeal to modern-day unregenerate people. I’m trying to appeal to *me*.

    • DreamingWings says

      This is what happens when you replace the worship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with the worship of a book. The demands of this sort of fundamentalism force the worshiper to create ever more bizarre and morally repugnant justifications for why the book is one hundred percent correct. Or, to put it more accurately, why their own interpretation of said book is correct.

      • Well put, DreamingWings. As Proverbs says, “in all your getting, get understanding.” The Bible is not our God nor the object of our worship, and we need reason and wisdom as well as the fruits of textual and archaeological study to know how to interpret and apply it.

        Some people (on this thread and elsewhere) claim it’s just and righteous to commit these kinds of acts if we think God is telling us to. I cannot see any meaningful difference between that and what a religious extremist terrorist believes.

      • I agree, looking at the bible as a “flat” book where all texts are the literal, words of God is a real problem.
        this view makes the words of Jesus as important as the words coming out of Balaam’s ass 🙂

        • DreamingWings says

          That is, without a doubt, one of the best analogies I’ve ever heard.

        • http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers%2022:21-39&version=NLT
          Ah, but, Balaam’s donkey was a very wise donkey. (But your “words coming out of Balaam’s ass” is very colorful, briank!)

          Whenever people try to tell me that all of scripture is as important as any other part of scripture, I bring up the scripture about the priests dealing with mold problems in Leviticus 13:47-59. I just cannot believe those passages are as important to us to know as John 3:16 even though mold problems can be terrible. Believe me, we tore down our old house this past summer due to mold, so I know how bad it can be.

      • When I was in Mormonism the Mormon missionaries and other LDS folk told me that evangelcilas worship their Bible. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a lot of truth in that statement. However, to be fair, I would suggest that Mormons worship the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

        • I agree. Bibliolatry is a dangerous trap to fall into, especially since it eliminates the responsibility of thinking for ourselves.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Mormonism came out of the Burned-over District of Upstate New York in the 1840s; that district had been “burned over” by high-powered Revival fires several times a year — imagine a new Lakeland sweeping the same area every few months.

          It is to be expected that a LOT of Mormon attitudes, trappings, and behavior would be similar to Evangelicals. (A point missed by Evangelicals who denounce Mormons entirely from parsing their VERY offbeat theology.) Both Mormon and Evangelical came from a rural NE American X-Treme Christian cultural background. Same people, same culture; they WOULD show a lot of similarities.

  10. Ok, I’ll admit it. Yes, I do have a problem with Him. I’m a bit frustrated with the “God said it, I believe it, and that’s good enough for me” mentality. The first two axioms in that statement don’t necessarily lead to the third, at least for me. I believe God is who he is as revealed in the sacred text. But that doesn’t mean I’m ok with it, don’t have problems with it, or that I even like it.

    Mark asked, “What is problematic of God ordering the Israelites to wipe out the morally corrupt Canaanites?” I’ll ask a question back – does it really not affect you in any way when you acknowledge that in his judgment God just wiped out infants and children as part of his cleansing? The same God who passed judgment on nations for sacrificing children? The same God who said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” How did these infants participate in and propagate the vile social and religious customers of their parents?

    It appears God’s purpose was to completely rid the entire area of the stench of the Canaanite’s sinful ways. I get that. I really do. On a theological level. But as a parent, as a children’s worker, as a care-giver, as a pro-lifer, internally I rebel against it.

    It may work for some to simply say this is part of God’s wrath, and to question it is to attempt to soften scripture and capitulate to today’s moral ambiguities. But to me, the issue is not so black and white. I do think there is room for me to struggle with this while still submitting to His perfect sovereignty. My children do this with me (especially now that they’re teenagers! :). I hope God allows me to do it with Him.

    God bless.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      It appears God’s purpose was to completely rid the entire area of the stench of the Canaanite’s sinful ways. I get that. I really do. On a theological level.

      Unfortunately (as is pointed out in another comment thread here at IMonk), this has been used as Godly Justification for “Us Israel, Them Canaanite” Culture Wars, from the Scots-Irish colonizing Ireland (HT Martha — Protestant colonists = Israel, Catholic =Irish Canaanites) to the first Indian Wars in New England (New England Puritan colonists = New Israel, Heathen Indians = Canaanites). And we’ve heard similar quasi-Jihadi rhetoric in our own day, as part of the Culture Wars. For how can you “take back America and establish a Christian Nation” without “removing” the non-Christian Canaanites who occupy the Promised Land?

  11. I think I’m stuck with stories that I simply can’t reconcile with the Father that Jesus says he reveals. I do manage to not see how I might possibly be complicit in actions similar to those of Joshua in modern wars. I wouldn’t countenance for a second the genocide of women and children but can hear words like collateral damage without feeling the burden of women and children being slaughtered on some noble ideal of fighting for freedom. I don’t think we need to unravel human nature of 3,000+ years ago, I simply have to look at current events and see the same realities that were happening way back in the day. My response may reveal a bit of how I understand God.

  12. How about a different perspective? God’s judgment is indeed cruel if the perspective is that the highest good is life here on earth. But that is not the highest good. Life with God is good. Life here is often cruel and wrong. Some unbelievers receive judgment now and some later. Are we just arguing that His timing is bad? As for the infants, in our mind they never had a chance to live, but actually they are living way better than their pagan parents who had life on this earth, only to face eternal separation from God. Better to live life in glory than grow up pagan and spend eternity separated from God, Yes?

    There is also the aspect of sin. We all deserve death. In sin we are conceived, in sin we live, and, without Christ, in sin we die eternally. Jew, Amalekite, 21st century American. We live only because of God’s mercy and love.

    “He shows mercy to whom He shows mercy.” was Paul’s answer to the Romans, and he was reiterating God’s statement to Moses. Romans 9 is an explanation. It may not be a satisfying explanation, but it is an explanation.

    I struggle with this issue also, but I also know that there were things I did for my children’s protection that probably seemed wrong, and perhaps even cruel, to them that from my perspective were absolutely right. Could it be that in our sin and our limitations of time and space we can’t see what is truly right?

    • Interesting points.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      I was going to suggest stuff along these lines, but I think you did way better than I would have!

    • Indeed! Somehow we’ve made life here on earth the fundamental right – the abortion is so abhorrent because it denies fetuses the right to life! But does God ever guarantee our right to life? If anything, I think the Bible teaches that this life is a vapor – but there will be a resurrection. I think we need to face the fact that there is no life on this earth without suffering. It is the consequence of sin – and when Jesus came to live the triumphal life, he experienced suffering beyond us all.

      If God came to give us life, and life abundantly, it was not life rooted in the here and now but life eternal after this vapor fades away.

    • Thanks CJ, I think we are fleas trying to figure out what the rhino is up to and why….not that this is wrong, just ridiculously demanding on our ability to get a correct perspective. Nice post.

  13. Dr. Claude Mariottini addresses this issue in one of his blog posts. If you have time, read his explanation and I think you may find it very interesting and perhaps enlightening………..

    http://doctor.claudemariottini.com/2010/11/is-yahweh-moral-monster.html

  14. I believe people all through history will do heinous things and say and write that it was God that wanted it done. And I believe THAT is what we are seeing in some of the stories of the Old Testament. The books of the Bible are a collection of books that show the history of humankind coming to understand God and coming to understand the place of humans in the history of the universe. It is Jesus that we look to when we want to understand the Father. Jesus told us to look at him in order to know the Father. And Jesus would never command all the infants and children to be killed in an area. I will never believe differently than that. Some may think this is heretical or worse, but I also think this is an understanding of the Bible and God that will not drive people away from wanting to know God. The stories in the Bible are stories of what not to do as much as they are stories of what to do. Mark will likely say that I am making Jesus out to be a namby-pamby kind of guy who never talked about the destruction of evil and evil people, but I am not. Jesus will have the last word on everything and all evil will be destroyed forever. One evil that will be destroyed is saying that good is evil. That, Jesus said, was TOTALLY evil.

    • “It is Jesus that we look to when we want to understand the Father.”
      she shoots, she scores!!!!!

    • I don’t mean to be a pest, JB, but what you are expounding here is basically a soft-core Marcionism.

      • DreamingWings says

        I’m not really seeing how. Marcionism would, by definition, eventually seek to throw out all the books that we disagree with. This seems the opposite of what JoanieD is saying. Her take on scripture would seem to give the study of the old testament an even deeper value. The study of one’s forebears and how they saw the world is equally as important for learning how not to behave as it is for learning of our traditions and the basis for spiritual beliefs.

        • This is why I said “soft core Marcionism.” Marcion, and other Gnostics, believed that the creator-God of the Old Testament was an evil tyrant and that Jesus was the good God who brought freedom from that tyranny. The position JoanieD seems to be advocating is not that the Old Testament God is a separate and malevolent God, but rather that the ignorant Old Testament figures and/or authors misunderstood or misrepresented God as a warlike deity who commanded conquest. You end up at the same place as Marcion as far as I can see, because if the Tanach says that God said something that He never actually said, then it is false witness and therefore useless as Scripture. I don’t buy the implicit argument that it can still be Scripture because it shows how we misunderstand God or how the true image of God gradually comes into focus over the centuries. If the book of Joshua depicts God as commanding things that God never actually commanded, and things that are in fact hateful to God and completely out of His character, then it’s no more worthy as Scripture than the Gnostic gospels.

    • Well said

    • Joanie – I think we see this similarly. I think these Old Testament (as Christians commonly call those writings) accounts are the written stories of a people, stories that explain how that people came to be and how they survived in a hostile environment. These stories included accounts of enemies, battles and loss of life. Victory in battle was understood to mean that God favored this people, and had actually directed them to destroy their enemies. Defeat meant they had somehow offended God.

      Unfortunately, this idea has never really gone away. I think sadly of Europeans seeking religious freedom who invaded North America, driving the indigenous people from their lands, killing their buffalo and killing any indigenous people who chose to defend their homes and land. Many of these freedom-of-religion seekers felt God was on their side, and that the indigenous people were savages and heathen who somehow deserved to be slaughtered. Now most of us doubt that God was behind what the European invaders did to native North Americans, even if the Europeans thought God was.

      Are these Biblical accounts historically accurate? – I suspect we’re trying to judge them by our current understanding of what we mean by that term. Most likely the ancients had a different understanding. They recorded their understanding, and that is what we find in these written records. We find their understanding of the events, as well as their understanding of their role and God’s role in those events. Most of us now have a different understanding of God and God’s role in history.

      • Thanks, Sam. I particularly think your last paragraph sums things up on this matter very well.

  15. what do we know:
    -this idea of completely getting rid of all the Canaanites – did not work, it is imposible (thankfully)
    -as the video says God wanted the Israelites to wait for his time, they did not.
    -they did not have the complete revelation of God (Jesus) they had the prophets(lesser) see Heb 1:1-3
    -God does use our evil for Good – he has to – not much good in us.

    I believe (though I’m willing to hear push-back) God did not want this “Holy War”. There is no such thing as “Holy War”, it is broken people trying to make our sin sacred. We human go to war to feel safe & secure on our own merits. We do not trust God enough for our safety. In the Garden we wanted his Knoledge, Israel wanted it’s enemies destroyed on their own time, Israel wanted Kings, We want our Law & Justice. God has his own plans but we are too prideful & scared to trust them.
    I believe the scriptures in the OT are historically correct. I believe they show what the prophets ‘heard’, but not what God was truly ‘saying’. The OT shows us alot about God. It also shows us alot about ourselves & how we put our own perceptions on God. Thankfully God works with us anyway.
    Greg Boyd’s blog – has an essay “Could Old Testament Warriors Have Been Mistaken?”
    it is very good.

    • I will have to take a look at that essay by Greg Boyd, briank. I have liked a lot of what Greg has written.

    • I believe the scriptures in the OT are historically correct. I believe they show what the prophets ‘heard’, but not what God was truly ‘saying’

      I have not read or heard Boyd’s take on this, but I’ll say that this position looks like a big fat hermenuetical nightmare. This , to me at least, has rewriting huge parts of the OT to fit a GOD we can live with. I dont’ see this as very satisfactory. My take (for now).

  16. http://gregboyd.blogspot.com/2008/03/could-old-testament-warriors-have-been.html
    There is the first of three blog posts about this matter as considered by Greg Boyd. Be aware that at the bottom of his post, you go to the following post by clicking on the left button where it says “Newer Posts” not the right “Older Posts.” That seems reversed from what I am accustomed to.

    • Joanie, if the post in the link is “the first of three” then it is by definition the oldest of the three and to get to parts 2 and 3 you would have to go to “Newer” posts, not to “Older” posts. Makes perfect sense logically.

      • Yes, I understand that, Bob. It is just that the “Newer Posts” button is on the left hand side at the bottom of the post and not the right hand side. That is what seemed reversed for me.

    • Only because Part 1 is the older post. Parts 2 and 3 are each newer than Part 1.

    • Cedric Klein says

      Oh, there’s way more than three that deal with the subject. There were at least a dozen & he even deals with the Nephilim/”fallen sons of God” theory. If I’d read Boyd before, I might have nuanced my position more. Boyd’s view that the Total Wars were almost a tragic necessity, God doing His best with a horrible situation in a progressive unfolding which leads to the Prince of Peace as God’s Ideal strikes me as close to the truth if not dead-on bulls-eye.

      I am far from a pacifist & believe that even a fully Christian sociey will need police, criminal justice systems, a military & the option of the sword, so I probably would argue with Boyd on a lot of other aspects, but I have to commend him on a job well done that takes the OT as seriously as the NT does.

  17. Somewhere in this process, each of us has to ask ourselves the question: If God Almighty commanded me to do a thing I found reprehensible, would I do it? Questions about how we would know it was really God talking to us are important, but they are separate. Assuming that the command was from God, my answer has to be “Yes, I would obey.” Abraham did.

    There are two kinds of error. There are those on one side who do the evil they want to do and say, “God told me.” They are destroyers. And there are those on the other who worship God Almighty only when He fits into their own morality. They are idolaters.

    I believe that God’s Way is always right and good and just no matter how it seems. I don’t imagine for a moment that I fully understand it, or that I may edit it merely because I’m perplexed.

  18. I disagree with Mr. Longman profoundly.

    I think that cultures tend to shape God into whatever form they need, and in the times of the Judges and Kings, the Israelites needed the character of a God that would send them out to fight. It has very little to do with sin and judgment–if that were the case, the Israelites never would have survived exile; either that, or God should’ve found another group of chosen people. This doesn’t mean that God is actually this way–just that he is portrayed as such in a few ancient scriptures. This is a very difficult thing to wrestle with, indeed.

    Also–the ancient Hebrews had no understanding of Satan, so all things–good and evil–were attributed to the one almighty God. “God” sent evil spirits to dwell within Abimelech, and later, Saul. Do we really think that an all-good God is capable of sending out evil spirits? Of course we don’t. That undermines Christian doctrine.

    So there has to be some give and take. As Christians, we look at the entire Bible through the lens of mercy, grace, and Jesus. Not saying that we should ignore these instances of violent genocide, but we’re all smart enough to know when something doesn’t fit with the overarching theme of God’s peace, love, and justice. It is then that, instead of trying to reconcile it with the rest of the scriptures, we should just be able to take it for what it is.

    These are isolated instances that are undercut by the long-running narrative of Holy Bible as a whole. Weeds may shoot up here and there through the cracks of an asphalt road, but that does not mean that the road is unable to be navigated; it also doesn’t mean that the weeds are part of the road, just that they are in the middle of it.

    “A Rabbi Reads the Bible,” by Rabbi Jonathan Magonet, and “Narrative in the Hebrew Bible,” by David M. Gunn and Danna Nolan both provide fascinating and unique perspectives on this discussion.

    • I think there is truth in your comment. We see God differently – according to our place in life, economics, culture, etc…. this may not be right but it’s true. If we look at the OT narrative, the perception of God & his people seems to change constantly.
      -Abraham seems almost like a polytheist – they always talk about “the God of Abraham” going up against other foreign gods.
      -Moses & the burning bush seems to bring the monotheism
      -with Abraham we hear always of the Covenant – Moses was about Laws– they are people of the covenant – but though the Psalms & Proverbs we stop hearing about the covenant & start hearing about the Laws
      -with Ezra we hear more about the “people of the book” – instead of the people of the covenant
      -Jesus oh course changes everything – makes it whole
      peace

      • Exactly. I think that the Bible is living proof that God (or at least, the human characterization of God) evolves.

        Ancient Hebrews actually WERE polytheists–they practiced monolatry, not monotheism. The ten commandments (decalogue) say “I am the LORD your God. You shall have no other gods before me.” They don’t say, “I am the only God.” Originally, the Hebrews believed that there was some sort of heavenly council (take a look at the opening of the book of Job, one of the oldest books in the OT) made up of God and the lesser “sons of god,” as well as “heavenly adversaries.”

        The violence inherent in the “conquest” books of the Hebrew Bible are specifically there to justify conquest. That doesn’t mean that God condoned it, only that the writers of those books wanted the character of God to condone it. History is written by the winners.

        But, as you pointed out, Brian, Jesus changed everything. 🙂

  19. Many thanks, Chaplain Mike, for posting on this very difficult and hypersensitive subject. The “genocidal God” is one of the biggest theological giants I have wrestled with for the last few years. For some reason those OT stories didn’t bother me in my early youth. The turning point came after I saw the film “Hotel Rwanda,” with its very graphic and horrific portrayal of the slaughter of innocents.

    I felt angry and confused at God for years since. I didn’t (still don’t) understand how a Lord who is supposed to be the Same, Yesterday Today and Forever could command such violence against babies and puppies. And this pattern of back-and-forth atrocities between Israel and its enemies: what good came out of it? I struggle to see God’s purpose in it; what I do see is a perpetuation of hate and revenge that prompts the Psalmist in 137:8 to say, “… happy is he who repays you [Babylon] for what you have done to us–he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”

    All I can say is, Thank God for Jesus Christ. If it wasn’t for Jesus and his drastically different posture toward sinners and pagan neighbors and little children, I would have left the Christian faith by now.

  20. This was one of the questions I struggled with when my faith was falling apart.

    1. When God orders the killing of women, children, etc…is God any different than Pol Pot, Hitler, or Joseph Stalin?
    2. Why can’t God practice what he preaches especially if he says that murder is a sin? So I guess God can kill at will and that’s fine becuase he’s God. He defines morality…okay.. What if God wanted to molest a kid? Would that be okay becuase he’s God?
    3. Is this type of theology that leads to idiotic commentary during national disasters such as Hurriance Katrina, 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, and that tragic Haitian earthquake?
    4. Why can’t more Christians admit that they don’t know and stop reading the Bible as a “plan for their life?”
    I mean its stuff like this that I never heard Pastors, etc.. talk about. And somtimes I wonder if they believe what they say. I mean think about it…do Christians actually stop and contemplate what they are saying? Why this, “the Bible said it, I believe it, it’s true” bull crap that keeps coming down the pike. It works for the Mormons…do Christians also have to act like that?

    These were some of the questions that were hard to ask. No one wants to ask..”Is God a Genocidal killer?” If so than could we suggest that maybe he is also a psycopath for killing his own son, ESPECIALLY when God could have just said, “I forgive mankind for the fall of man and for original sin”. If God could form the world and make it come to be…why couldn’t he just issue a blanket forgiveness after Adam & Eve’s fall? Don’t you think that would make more sense…especially if he knew in his omniscience when he created the world that he would have to kill his only son?

    Nuff said…

    • Hello Eagle,
      The important thing to remember is that all of history is about God – not us. God created life, and God dictates the terms for life to end. When a dictator sets up death squads, he is proclaiming himself as God – that is why it is wrong.

      Similarly, Jesus’ death. God can’t just forgive sin. That would proclaim that sin is nothing, whereas it is really quite serious.

      The Cross shows us how terrible sin really is, and yet how God is willing to pay the price for us.

      • Nedbrek-

        Don’t take this the wrong way…but the standard pat Christian answers are hard for me to swallow. I would have thought that God would be able to easily forgive to avoid his son being killed. What type of Father would set a plan in motion ALL THE WHILE knowing that eventually you are going to have to have your son be killed. For me it also shows that God is flexible about morality and I find it frightening that people could believe and trust that so easily. Another questions is this…..due to the doctrine of the trinity when God sacrificed his son…could you also say that was suicide since God is triune?

        (Maybe I’m watching too much Betty Bowers on Youtube 😛 )

        • You can call it suicide, but I think that is missing the point.

          It comes down to what is the purpose of the universe (teleology). If it is about our pleasure, then it is clearly a failure.

      • nedbrek, you just said the magic words: “God can’t…” And alarm bells went off in my head.

        At best, putting “God can’t” in front of anything is meaningless. At worst, it becomes a heresy, saying that God’s holiness trumps his sovereignty. We need to insist upon both holiness and sovereignty.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Because Soverignity without Holiness means a God who is Omnipotent but NOT Benevolent. (And often leads to Utter Predestination.) Islam has labored under this combination of ideas from its inception, and look what fruit it keeps bearing.

      • “God can’t just forgive sin.”

        For what it’s worth, I completely disagree with this statement.

        • Ted, God can’t lie. He can’t be darkness, cannot violate His nature, be unholy. There are lots of things God can’t do.

          Paul, that is your prerogative. Note, that this is the theology of Islam (God forgives without a price).

          • The phrase “God can’t…” is meaningless. I’m stickin’ to that. It’s important to insist that “God WILL NOT…” Then I’m with you.

            And as for God forgiving sin (or sinners), read Romans5:8. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

            Oh, yeah, yeah, I know. Christ dying isn’t precisely the same as God forgiving. But it’s God’s initiative, wanting all to be saved. 1Tim2:3-4

          • Ok, I’m not sure what the difference is between “can’t” and “won’t” for God…

  21. One thing I can’t get away from in questions like this is the fact that in Genesis God drove Man out of the Garden, condemning him and all his descendants to death. And of course there’s the fact that in Revelation we have final judgment, which Longman pointed out.

    So that raises some questions: Could all death(which includes everyone in history) be attributed to God the same way the genocides are? We don’t ask the same questions when people die “naturally” from old age, their bodies wearing out. Is this a double standard we set up for God? Of course the next question is “is there a difference between God doing something and God allowing something to happen?”

    Longman’s idea that this is really a problem with judgment in general resonates with me. Personally, I’ve inwardly dealt with the idea of hell existing, why can’t I deal with this? So it’s the “human instruments” question that’s more of a problematic question for me. It doesn’t seem like this would be the best way to do things, given what I know of God from Jesus. I’m told things that indicate we are not to do violence, and I’m assuming God is the same yesterday, today and forever. While he lays down his life and tells his followers to do the same, he seems to accept all of the OT, though not specifically mentioning these events. There’s no satisfying answer for me.

    Interestingly, this is one of the primary issues I get challenged with when discussing Christianity with people who can’t accept it. I usually come up short of saying anything helpful or satisfying for them also.

    One last thing, I seem to remember Imonk stating that he didn’t believe that he needed to accept that God actually told Israel to do these things. Can anyone shed any light on this?

    • Well, Genesis notwithstanding, death has always been with us (and did not simply appear a few thousand years ago).

      Marvel Comics’ superhero Thor once managed to bind the “villainess” Hel (death) for some reason, and as a consequence people and animals ceased to die. Thor then realized that Hel, though unpleasant, was necessary to the good operation of the universe. (Cf. the film “Death Takes a Holiday” and its remake.)

      This, of course, has no bearing on the mythical land-conflict / population movement under discussion, or the reliabilty of Israel’s shamans (“prophets”) and ours.

  22. One other point popped into my noodle. Is it possible that these difficult versus have adverse effects on populations in ways that we don’t contemplate? For example if Christian missioanries go into tribalized societies in Africa and translate Bibles with this material in it…can it inflame or led to genocidal actions? I don’t know…but as an agnostic I would be fascinated to know if this played a contributing factor in the Hutu/Tutsui ethnic situation in Rwanda or other parts of Africa. Can’t you see how that can happen? Especially if a person is reading about God killing the enemies of Israel? Again I think this could possibly show the harm that Christian missionaries (remember I did a church mission also and worked with ethnic minorities…so part of this is directed at myself) can do in Africa, Asia, South America, etc..

    • I don’t know about Rwanda specifically, but I believe that these passages were used by Oliver Cromwell to justify the massacre at Drogheda in Ireland. But I am not totally sure.

    • Tim Becker says

      I used to interact with a friend on a political forum who was a marginal Catholic, who advocated nuking Muslim countries and shooting illegal aliens on the street. When I suggested that God wouldn’t approve of those actions, he disagreed and cited the death of the first born in Egypt as a justifying example.

      • well that’s just fantastic.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          “Because people are people, and the world is filled with tricks and twistiness yet undreamed of.”
          — one of The Whole Earth Catalogs

          And Men of Sin will glom onto any Cosmic-level Authority (like the Bible) to justify what they wanted to do anyway.

    • As we speak, various African countries are persecuting accused “witches” and gays, in part because of encouragement from U.S. evangelicals. Sarah Palin’s church has come under fire for this.

      • DreamingWings says

        And don’t forget Rick Warren. The ‘Christian pastor’ who had to be publicly shamed into speaking out against the Uganda government’s proposed law punishing homosexuals with death. The same government whose leaders Warren regularly engages with and advises on spiritual matters.

  23. Mike McDonald says

    I had Tremper @ WTS back in the late 80s (great OT dep’t back then–Waltke, Groves, Longman, Dillard) and he and the rest were viewing Scripture redemptive-historically, i.e. as Geerhardus Vos taught. It’s the whole sweep of Scripture that reveals the singular nature of creation, fall, redemption. I had one prof in an undergrad class at Calvin College say that 2/3rds of the Bible is Gen 1-2. Gen 3 onward is about fixing what’s broke.

    On a related note, in a class at Calvin Seminary, Arie Leder who had spent his entire pastoral career in Central America assigned us to read a fascinating paper looking at the Conquest written entirely from a Native American/First Nations perspective. The author was an evangelical but was confessing that reading Joshua took a long time for him to digest because the language of Joshua was so close to the European invasion of North America. Sadly, I don’t have that syllabus any longer but that was a most profound experience reading that. Evangelicals guilty of cultural imperialism? “God is on our side…”

  24. God had a reason for anger under the Old Covenant – sin. Under the New Covenant, where there is Grace, all sin has been dealt with because the requirements of the Law have been fulfilled – 1John 2:2 (and several others). Therefore sin is no longer the problem and this conversation is irrelevant.

    • Tim Becker says

      The scripture says that Jesus was the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, so that explanation is a little too simplistic. Anyway, so God was mad but now he’s not? Why a future hell then?

      • That would be before time, or outside of time, where God has always existed. How else would one sacrifice be for all time (past, present, and future)?

      • I have found that truth is usually simple. I recently attended a convention where a pastor who is known as a very intellectual, deep thinker was the speaker. He was very hard to follow, but when he finally brought it all together to make his point (after about an hour) it was a very simple truth that could have been stated in a couple of minutes. This is a conclusion that I have come to after long searching. The truth was not only at the end of the journey, but it was all throughout the journey. If you really seek truth – you will find it. If you seek to justify your opinion – that is what you will find.

        • “If you really seek truth – you will find it. If you seek to justify your opinion – that is what you will find.”

          But Ron, seeking truth is such dirty, sweaty, heart-rending work.

          Love it.

  25. This is certainly a hard thing to understand.
    I often just chalk it up to something that I may not ever really understand.
    I do know that sin is ugly and detestable to God.
    I don’t know how to reconcile the picture of a loving and merciful God with a God who puts entire communities to death… Yikes. But perhaps it was better off for the big picture that the sin was cut off completely if he knew that the people would not repent…
    I don’t know, and don’t pretend that I’ll ever really figure it out.

  26. Our obligation to love, honor, and obey any being, is in proportion to his loveliness, honorableness, and authority; for that is the very meaning of the words. When we say any one is very lovely, it is the same as to say, that he is one very much to be loved. Or if we say such a one is more honorable than another, the meaning of the words is, that he is one that we are more obliged to honor. If we say any one has great authority over us, it is the same as to say, that he has great right to our subjection and obedience.

    But God is a being infinitely lovely, because He has infinite Excellency and beauty. To have infinite Excellency and beauty, is the same thing as to have infinite loveliness. He is a being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory; and therefore He is infinitely honorable. He is infinitely exalted above the greatest potentates of the earth, and highest angels in heaven; and therefore He is infinitely more honorable than they. His authority over us is infinite; and the ground of His right to our obedience is infinitely strong; for He is infinitely worthy to be obeyed Himself, and we have an absolute, universal, and infinite dependence upon Him.

    –Jonathan Edwards: The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners

  27. The last time I checked, every one of us is going to be put to death sooner or later, whether by disease, accident, at the hands of others, or through self-inflicted means.

    Everyone has their our own idea of when death is premature, or what constitutes an “acceptable” form of death.

    If 1000 people get killed in a single instance of violence, we are horrified. 1000 people dying one at a time by way of homicide barely get’s noticed.

  28. Cedric Klein says

    Gotta love it when even Christians claim the authority to judge the Bible rather than to let it judge them, and to judge that Bible in the Name of the Father, Jesus, & the Holy Spirit, although that Bible is our main source of information about the Father, Son & Spirit.

    I’ve had problems with the same passages. I don’t see us as being allowed to reject them. Examine them, question them, find interpretations that make better sense- sure. But in the end, they are just as much the Word of God as “Love thy neighbor… even Love thine enemies.”

    Several points I came to-

    1.) Jesus said “You’ve heard it said” or “The Scripture say this… BUT I say something else” plenty of times. Yet Jesus never showed any hint of questioning the actual Scriptures, the past commands of God, or His ruthless judgments. He is the Full Son, the Express Image of His Father. I believe as the Logos, He was the Voice that commanded to Moses, Joshua & David such slaughters. AND He proclaimed similar slaughter was about to fall within one generation on His beloved but unfaithful Jerusalem. Yes, for the crime of persecuting His Apostles & His Bridal Church, Jesus abandoned Harlot Jerusalem, men, women & children, to the Beast 666 of Rome. So if YHWH is a moral monster, so is Jesus.

    2.) Quite possibly, what we see as God’s commands for ‘total slaughter’ was actual ‘collateral damage policy’, a harsh acknowledgement that sometimes innocents are brought into battle settings, perhaps as human shield, & Israel could not afford to let that stand between them & victory, indeed if it were the Canaanites who were the moral monsters to bring their women & children into battle, then let them see the effects of that.

    3.) The Canaanite tribes targeted for total destruction were bestialist, child-sacrificing, harlot-enshrining apostates who had known El Elyon (Melchizedek had been Priest-King among them, their ancestors had been co-combatants with Abraham) & who knew that the Israelites had been freed from Egypt by YHWH & yet stood against them. If they fled, they were not pursued & slaughtered by Israel. Nor was Israel to keep prisoners to rape & torture. Those doomed for slaughter were those who stayed to fight & they were put to death quickly.

    4.) The OT & NT alike are based on brutal, rough justice. For Israelites also- profane the Sabbath, the Holy Name, the sexual-marriage covenant- then die for it. For Canaanites- sacrifice your children to Moloch, then watch your children be wiped out & your land given to Israel. For Midianites- send your women to seduce Israel by shrine-harlotry, then watch your virgin daughters be given to them as concubines. For David- seduce a man’s wife & then set that man up to be killed, then watch your sons die in civil war against you & each other. For YHWH Himself- allow Your Creation to fall into a cycle of abuse & horror, then absorb that abuse & horror into Yourself at Golgotha. It’s tough but fair.

    5.) Inactively or actively, God kills tons of people, guilty & innocent, every day. Why be shocked if in a dozen rare & limited instances, He does it by actively commanding an army? There is no Biblical justification for any Jews or Christians today to see these as standing orders for further Holy War, tho past generations may have tried to apply them to the Crusades (which were originally intended as defensive wars but soon got WAY out of hand).

    • YOur post is excellent and I’ll ask just one with this reply: when the OT records “you are to kill (fill in the blank) man, woman, beast, and child” are we to understand that Israel was to hunt down and eradicate all these OR is this another way of saying “as you fight the battle, kill everything that wages war against you on the battlefield….and if they use children as “sheilds” , well, kill them as well”.

      I don’t want to read this into the text, but have any of the IMONK audience looked into this and gotten clarity ?
      Thanks in advance . GregR

      • Cedric Klein says

        Well, there is definitely no command to hunt them down & exterminate them wherever the Israelites found them. In fact, we see many of these people show up later on, probably descended from refugees & there is no similar command to kill them.

        I don’t think it would be reading too much to take this as battlefield commands rather than ‘besiege this city that isn’t bothering anyone’ commands. In fact, in this thread there was a link in which I became aware that the “cities” were military bases/forts/gov’t centers where the leaders may have their families but that the regular people were out in the country & not subjects of the “Kill ’em all” sieges.

        And thank you for the compliment!

    • Your third point is very important and has not been addresed. As the story of Rahab shows, the judgment on the individual cainanite was avoidable in one of two ways: either by conversion, or by fleeing the land. Granted, neither of these would be easy, but the discussion needs to include this point.

  29. Can you imagine being an Israelite soldier coming home to your wife and children after slaughtering women and babies while they begged for their lives? They weren’t dropping bombs from 20,000 feet either…they were running them through with sharp instruments. I choose to believe the Israelites got caught up in the horrors of battle, and when they returned, the only way they could live with themselves was to say that God told them to do it.

    • Budster, if you’ve ever listened to Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History” podcast, he describes in detail the brutality of ancient warfare. Basically, every soldier who survived battle had experienced the emotional / mental equivalent of becoming a bloody serial killer. Imagine also fighting alongside family members, watching your borther or son getting butchered 20 feet away from you, while you are in similar hand-to-hand combat.
      The post-traumatic stress disorders must’ve been astounding. We have no modern equivalent.

      Another practice in ancient warfare was when vanquished a city, your enemy’s widow became your wife and his children became yours… just part of the ransacking process. That must’ve been a pleasant dinner table conversation on the first night, huh?

      In general, it is nearly impossible for us to understand the kill-or-be-killed morality of violence in ancient cultures from a 21st century perspective, so for me it is difficult to “armchair general” the Isrealites or YHWH on this one.

    • I’m with you. Sadly, history tells us that we often attribute sin to the will of God. I don’t believe God commanded the Crusaders to murder Jews and Muslims, I don’t believe God commanded Al Qaeda to murder Jews and Christians, and I don’t believe God commanded Hebrews to murder Canaanites. But I have no trouble believing that the murderers would claim the imprimatur of God to justify their sin.

      Suppose the pope or some famous preacher announced that God has commanded Christians to massacre all the people of some nation or ethnicity. We’d all know that couldn’t be a command from God, and if he actually got such a message it was actually from Satan. Is there anyone reading this would even consider for a second obeying a “command” to commit genocide. I’m confident we’d all know any such command couldn’t have been from God. And since God doesn’t change, if it wouldn’t be from God now, it wasn’t then.

      imho

  30. The problem for me begins with the 10 Plagues of Egypt. The 10th one in fact: Death of the Firstborn…

    I will not belabor the significance of the firstborn in cultures of the time or even to God Himself. There is a theological theme in my mind emphasizing the death of the firstborn & subsequent freedom from bondage…

    NOTE: in all of mankind’s encounters with God in the Old Testament, I do believe it was Jesus. He was always intended to be God’s revelation to man & so He is the One destined to walk in our sandals from the beginning. It is problematic then to think of Jesus in the Old Testament being the fullness of God in the New Testament. But I choose to live with this ambiguity because I believe Jesus wanted to be recognized as the God of mercy, not wrath. It was up to humankind to appeal to this character of the God revealed in the Old Testament. We needed to see God as, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin…” (Ex 34: 6-7).

    I believe it was Noah that first had this opportunity. During the building of the Ark he had ample time to reflect on the nature of God & the condition of mankind. I think the Ark itself & the eventual gathering of clean animals could have been used as a huge sacrifice if Noah had appealed to God’s mercy & compassion & interceded for humankind. I believe Noah could have averted the flood.

    Abraham got it though when he pleads for Sodom (Genesis 18:16-33). Any wonder why he is regarded as the father of our faith?

    Moses got it too (Deut 9:25-29). Not once, but on numerous occasions. In fact, it was his misrepresentation of God’s character that prevented Moses from entering the Promised Land.

    And Joshua had his opportunity when he approached the “commander of the army of the LORD” (Joshua 5:14-15). He was ordered to take off his sandals just like Moses was. Get a clue Joshua? He could have responded as Moses had done. He could have pleaded with God to spare the people of Jericho. My understanding+speculation of course…

    However, is there any reference in the Old Testament where God refused the intercessory plea of the person He was interacting with? Did God relent each & every time He was asked to? Jonah understood this character about God. It seems if God was not challenged by an individual willing to speak up for those destined for destruction He permitted it. But is this because God is a genocidal God or because there wasn’t a human agent to stand-in-the-gap for those targeted for destruction?

  31. I’m too busy to get into a reply just yet, but a big THANK YOU to Chap Mike and friends for raising the questions. I’m currently part of bible study on the book of Judges, so some of these same themes are coming up, and I feel like I am one of the few in class that has a “problem” with this issue: though the biggest problem is not seeing how GOD could judge this way or that, but HOW DID I ESCAPE ?? I feel like I’m not so much better than the worst of the Amorites or any of the other “ites”.

    Back for more later, again, this is a discussion that is unavoidably awkward, and at times heated, but very very (IMO) necessary.

    GregR

  32. Let me add something else to this discussion: is there anyone here who professes to be a Christian and believes in universal salvation? If you reject universalism, then your arguments against Longman’s point becomes mute, because you acknowledge that God, if he doesn’t punish now, will punish the wicked at the end of the age.

    • Mark…why the black and white view of the world? When my thinking shifted to “gray” that harsh view of faith was harmful. Plus there are so many variations. Do we know the person’s heart? Do we know their history? A “fundgelical” can say all they want and may not know that a person is trying to have a faith in in the privacy of their life.

    • are there not enough people to argue with here? you seem to be looking for new people to call heretics.
      😉

    • I personally favor universal damnation.

  33. On more thing, if you call yourself a Christian and believe (I did not say “wish” or “desire”) in universal salvation, then you basically have dishonored God’s character as righteous and just.

    • Again, because you say so, Mark? Maybe I believe in universal salvation, because that’s what I believe the Bible teaches.

      • Prove to me that the Bible teaches universal salvation using rigorous and cogent exegetical arguments.

        • Do I think that universal salvation is taught? No.

          Would I be upset if, in the end, it happened? No.

          If I must err, I’ll err towards grace and mercy. As they say- “The more, the merrier!”

    • “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

      “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’”

      Yes, God will allow us to believe what we want about Him & act accordingly. We will be subject to divine scrutiny regarding how we envision God to be…

      Re: Universalism. If there is anything heretical about it I would say it is this: it errs on the side of mercy+grace.

      If we are capable of forming God into a figment of our imagination, it will always be defiicient. In fact, God will never be fully known by us. We will know ourselves fully though. In light of Him we will know as we are known…

      God is not subject to our interpretation of Him. And it will be that way no matter how we use the bible or personal experience or what we ate for dinner. Since no one knows what happens at the moment of death or afterwards, it is something we must all trust in God’s mercy at that moment…

      I do believe all wrongs will be addressed. We will stand before God & all those we ever wronged & those that wronged us. We will all give an account. Will there be opportunity for restitution then? Forgiveness? Absolution? And if so do we react as Jonah did?

      On the other hand, I do believe God will also honor our choices in this life. And He will not force anyone into eternal relationship with Himself. Will we either be repulsed or attracted to Him? Will the eyes of fire enrapture us in awe or burn with unapproachable heat?

      I cannot say I know the particulars. Jesus was deliberately vague on those details becasue today has enough troubles of its own. And those that claim to have been to hell or heaven & have written about their accounts? I do not give them any credence apart from the individual that could have had some crazy hallucinations. Only One has descended from Heaven, died here, & returned to Heaven. I will look to His life & example & trust in the Holy Spirit to continue the transformation He desires…

    • Tim Becker says

      Mark, really? The death of Christ wasn’t sufficient to pay for the sins of everyone?

      • Even non-Calvinist evangelicals would say that the sufficiency of Christ’s death for everyone does not mean that every human being will eventually be saved.

        Universalism is one of the worst heresies sprung up in the history of the church. Prove to me wrong, Tim.

        • Tim Becker says

          “if you call yourself a Christian and believe (I did not say “wish” or “desire”) in universal salvation, then you basically have dishonored God’s character as righteous and just.”

          OK, universalists might be wrong, but they do no dishonor to God’s character. This should be especially evident to Calvinists. God could have chosen to save everybody, and his character would still be intact since the demands of justice were fully met on the cross.

          • The problem is, from a Scriptural point of view, God did not choose everyone (in fact, he has passed by many for the blessing of redemption). This is what a Calvinist would say.

            Non-Calvinists would say that many people will refuse the gift of eternal life and perish eternally. Scripture also speaks to this.

            Either way, if you take Scripture as God’s Word and fully authoritative for life and doctrine, then you would have to conclude without reservation that not all human beings will be saved (Matt 7:21-23).

        • “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

          Mark,

          I have been scrolling through reading your posts and the ensuing “discussions” that result from your comments and behavior here, and I can think of nothing else to say than what Jesus said to the Pharisees of His day and age.

          Be well Mark.

  34. Hooooo boy, the “problem of evil” post now has 100plus posts, and climbing. somebody hit a nerve…

    • Lets bump it up higher 😛 I love this blog Greg… a while back I learned that I am not alone in my doubts, and problems with reformed Christianity. Others deal with it, but in my case I took the next step beyond that point.

      • I’ve said it often: there just aren’t enough venues in the church where tough issues can be brought to the table and discussed without:

        1)someone breaking up the table for kindling and let the heretics burn…
        2)the MAN in charge stepping up and letting the poor sheep-ees know what’s biblical and what’s not
        3)someone’s wounded inner child crying so loud you can’t hear yourself think
        4) I could think of a #4,#5, and so on but you get the point..

        Glad to have you around, Eagle, as a voice “outside of the box”. Stagnant water goes sour….
        GregR

  35. Blackdutchman says

    The heart of the problem is how can God set up a system of law, where we are not to murder, and the times in which we are to put someone to death it is after they have been before the judges and are put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses, how can God then tell Israel to go and murder people who haven’t been brought before a court let alone witnessed by two or three Israelites. It is easier to eccept God doing the killing e.g. the Flood, Sodom and Gamorah, Egypt. Longman is write that it is easier to begin to grasp when taken in light of the New Testament. Israel as a whole is perhaps a type of Christ or forshadowing of the final work of Messiah when He returns. But I can’t help but wonder if God’s judgment would not have been assuaged if someone would have interceded for the nations like Moses did for Israel when God was about to destroy them or like Abraham and Sodom and Gamorah(almost assuaged).

  36. One theory I’ve come across that I actually find quite fascinating is that perhaps the cleansing of the people in the land of Canaan actually had something to do with the remnants of the Nephilim in this area. We are, after all, told that some of these beings survived the great flood. So, if God was in the process of rescuing the earth from a Satanic foothold from the beginning of the Creation narrative, what’s to say He stopped in the first few chapter of Genesis? Greg Boyd has a post about this a few years ago on his blog – it’s here.

    Longman says that the genocides described in Genesis are judgment – well I’d say they are. But perhaps the spiritual and the physical were not always as neatly split as we’d like to think. Perhaps they had become intermingled to a degree that was not what God has intended, so He had to deal with by wiping these beings out.

    I know it sounds weird, but I guess I’m willing to accept weirdness in the Scriptural record. After all, a man being raised from the dead is weird too…

    • Phil,

      You might be onto something here. Of course, some people here might think the theory is preposterous.

      I think this might answer the question why God doesn’t wipe us out since there is still so much degeneracy going on in this world today.

      Either way you answer the question, the point is: if God doesn’t wipe us out today for our unrelenting wickedness, he will certainly wipe out the unrepentant wicked on the day of judgment when all will be made clear as light of day.

      • I have no fear of God wiping me (or other sinners, actually) out on the day of judgment. Actually, I rest assured that Christ dealt with all that needed to be dealt with on the cross. If I didn’t believe this, I think I’d live in abject fear of getting smitten by the hand of God all the time. I call that type of belief “eternal insecurity”.

        If people do choose to live their lives in rejection of God, what they need to fear is not being wiped out by God. What they should fear is a world where they are living only for themselves. In essence, humans become what they worship. If they waste their lives chasing after nothing, they will have the unfortunate effect of eventually getting what they were chasing after.

        • “If they waste their lives chasing after nothing, they will have the unfortunate effect of eventually getting what they were chasing after.”

          Which will, sadly, last into eternity.

    • Some churches that there exists even today a “Serpent Seed,” a race of men intermixed with the devil, and so abominable that each and every one of them deserves to die.

      If you would like to visit one of these churches, I believe that Stormfront.org probably links to them.

      • Huh?

      • Stormfront.org? Don’t take anything seriously from those hate-filled bigots.

        • I should probably have mentioned that the “Serpent Seed” doctrine is generally directed at non-whites and Jews. I assumed the racism behind this would have been obvious to anyone who looked up the website.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Funny when the guy who came up with the “Serpent Seed” doctrine (which included a new take on what Eve’s sin that caused the fall REALLY was) taught that Christ redeemed the Serpent’s Seed too.

        And besides which, if you’re gonna go the “Serpent Seed” route, at least have your Serpent Seeds look the part!
        (Linked Pic SFW, much of site (and most of the artist’s pages) definitely NSFW.)

    • Blackdutchman says

      This might work if it were a local flood and not a world wide flood. Otherwise if the Nephillim survived, the flood failed to accomplish its task.

      • Genesis 6:4 states that the Nephilim, or the “Sons of God” were around before and after the flood. It’s also interesting that the spies report seeing Nephilim in Canaan when they report back to Moses about what they saw in Canaan.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I think the problem is “Nephilim” has NO direct translation into English. “Giant”, “Mighty Man”, “Hero” (in the classic sense), literal or figurative (describing someone bad-news and powerful as “A Giant Among Men”?)

          Remember how “Re’em” got translated as “Unicorn” because it refers to an animal not found in the translator’s country or language?

  37. Morality doesn’t stand above God lording itself over God. God is morality!!! God can also kill whomever God chooses to kill whether it be through Joshua or through the Indonesian Tsunami! God is God and wholly other.
    I don’t see why this is so difficult other than on the emotional level.

    • HUG, would you care to deliver the *adhan*?

      • Why invoke the Islamic call to worship? Guitly by association?

        • It’s just that Headless Unicorn Guy (HUG) often mentions Islam after posts like this. Yes, the point is to compare (unflatteringly) one type of fundamentalism with another. Not that all Muslims (or Bill Trip above) necessarily fit this description.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Believe me, I’ve seen Christian fundamentalists whose attitude wouldn’t be out of place in Extreme Islam. Just their Infallible and Inerrant Holy Book (dictated word-for-word by a micromanaging God) is called a Bible instead of a Koran. And I’m pretty sure they would act the same in a position of Utterly Righteous Absolute Power.

  38. Where’s Martha from Ireland? Does anyone know how she’s doing? I usually look for her wonderful, insightful comments, but haven’t seen her weigh in for a couple of days…..

  39. “Don’t you know by now why the chosen are few?
    It’s harder to believe than not to.”

  40. We have Jesus saying: “Love your enemies.” “Turn the other cheek.” “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” He asked the Father to forgive the people who were killing him. He said we were to look at him to see what the Father was like. So how are any of those things like God allegedly telling people to kill every living thing in an area? They are not alike. Jesus was often getting in trouble with the Pharisees for healing on the Sabbath. These Pharisees are the same people who were supposed to be experts in God’s law. Jesus was not so happy with these experts, methinks.

    People will say, “You can’t just pick what you like in the Bible and leave out what you don’t like.” Maybe not, but I can use the brain that God gave me to try to make some sense of this, to the extent that any of us can make sense of the world, God, ourselves.

    In one of Greg Boyd’s blog posts about this at http://gregboyd.blogspot.com/2008/03/defense-of-ellers-thesis.html he says, “For one thing, everyone grants that some aspects of the Old and New Testaments are culturally conditioned. For example, no one today believes the earth and sky are held up by pillars, that the earth is surrounded by waters populated with threatening sea monsters (Rahab, Leviathan), that the sky is as hard “as a molten mirror” (Job 37:18) and holds water above it, and that this sky has windows in it that God opens up so it can rain on the earth (e.g. Gen. 7:11). This is clearly the view of the cosmos reflected in many Old Testament passages, but we of course realize this is just part of the Bible’s cultural conditioning.”

    So, if you do not believe that the earth and sky are held up by pillars, then you are taking a different view of things than the writer within that book of the Bible had. Then, it just becomes a matter of what percent of the Bible you view differently than the people who wrote it. I don’t think most Christians would want people to be stoned for the things that some of the scriptures say people should be stoned. So…we should not be afraid to look at the stories within the Bible as stories that are conditioned by the times in which they were written. I cannot with a straight face tell an atheist that the God telling people to bash in the heads of the infants is Jesus. It’s not gonna happen.

    All that said…I am not a pacifist. If a country or countries are attacked, they should defend themselves. If someone came into my house and attacked my family, I HOPE I would beat on that person or even kill them if I had to in order to save my loved ones. I may be horrified by having to kill and it may do my soul some real damage, but I will believe I had to kill in order to defend the defenseless. And if someone attacks me, I can’t believe that I would just stand there and let it happen. Jesus, however, allowed himself to be killed. He did not want to die that way, but knew that this was the path he had to walk in order to defeat the powers of darkness and in order to always be with each and every one of us.

    I could very well be wrong in my understanding, but this is where I stand at this point. By the way, Greg Boyd does NOT come to a position like mine by the end of his four or five posts on this matter. I was surprised by the position he came up with, actually.

    • I have enjoyed your comments this whole discussion. I am close to where you are on this issue, only I do take a pacifist position. though I am a pacifist, I still could see myself defending myself & family in the same way you have proposed. We just don’t know how we will react in horrible situations – we are obviously not perfect people.
      peace.

  41. Joanie

    I think the basic issue is whether we stand under the scriptures or over them. The problem with the later view, of course, is that we become the authority.

    As to the things you mentioned, I dont think it at all obvious that the Bible is endorsing this cosmology when it uses word pictures like this, any more than I think meteorites are literal falling stars (though I persist in calling them that).

    The real problem is that by creating a dichotomy between Yahweh and Jesus we completely undermine New Testament theology (not to mention that we ignore passages like Hebrews 1 and Revelation 1 where descriptions of Yahweh are now given to Jesus). That doesn’t mean that Jesus does not bring a new gospel, but that it is a gospel that only makes sense in light of the wrath of God.

    As for Leviathan and Rahab, you may find the following link instructive:
    http://www.fccplace.com/what-is-leviathan-and-why-should-i-care/

    • Thanks, Daniel. The pillars and Leviathan and Rahab were perhaps not the best things Boyd could have used in making his point. But the point is, people at that time viewed the earth and universe in a different way than we do today. Their view affected how they understood God. Our view affects how we understand God. Which is more correct? Only God really knows! But if I want to understand God, I am going to spend more time in the Gospels than in any other part of the Bible. Yes, Jesus quoted scripture. But look at the scripture he quoted. It was to reinforce the idea that God is love, God is spirit, God is father, God heals. At the same time Jesus says that God will bring judgment against the wicked and that Jesus is the one who will make that judgment. So there is always this balance. In the end, we just have to accept that God knows how this will all work out.

  42. The problem with suffering & the horrendous abuses people do to their fellow humans seems to be the human saga unfortunately…

    In all those instances after Jesus returned to the Father we ascribe such acts as unChristlike. What does happen to the perpetrators of such things? If such things happen that seem to be clearly contrary to His will, then is it better appreciated that He directed such things? I mean, was there any merciful exemption granted to the suffering of the defenseless? Women & children & old folks? Animals? If God was in the order to annihilate, then would such a situation be more merciful than the craziness of the headlines today?

    How is the suffering of the innocent to be addressed by the Almighty? I would hope there will be a day in divine court to address the worst things people do to other people. No loopholes. No insanity defense. No slick lawyer deflecting responsibility & avoiding the penalty of horrendous abuses+torture+senseless death…

    Somehow there is a rightness to be realized out of all the mess we have done. God is not blind, indifferent, calloused. It is a sobering thought to fall into the hands of an angry God. If that anger has not been assuaged by the Cross & those that have grasped it as the Last Ark of hope then God will be the One standing up on behalf of the child+orphan+widow+unborn+man+woman abused & despised by others. And I shudder to think of how a pure righteous indignation will express itself on that day…

  43. Joe Rutherford says

    Well friends, the most important thing for us to know is that God rules with absolute authority and power according to His own will, and that Jesus is God the Son Who became a man, and that Jesus is the Truth, Light, and Way. Some folks think God is like santa clause. But many do not know God. Those who fail to fear Him, are sure to recieve His wrath at some point in time. I have seen Jesus Christ, He has talked to me, He has litteraly shown me the land of ancient Egypt and something which happened there. God has told me about some things coming in the future. But most folks will not believe until they see, and then it is too late. I would encourage every one, even myself, to repent. Repentance is so good for us and we all need it. Best wishes.

    • Joe Rutherford: Any connection with Jehovah Witnesses? Your name too obvious not to make such an association.

      You are the one claiming to be a prophet? Jesus personally appeared to you showing you visions of the past & future events?

      I suppose making known your supra-spiritual credentials necessary for those you interact with to take notice? After exiting the prophetic movement ~12 years ago, I am not sure the manner which the New Testament gift of prophecy was intended is being represented rightly by those that claim the mantle of modern day Prophet.

      And wasn’t Jesus declared to be the One Prophet we are to listen to? He is not only the last Adam, but the Prime Prophet. As in any judicial case today, second-hand conversation is not admissible in a court of law. It is hear-say. Now I might grant leeway to someone that claims God told them to buy a BMW. Okay…that is a personal issue between that individual & God. However, if that same person claimed that God told them to tell me to buy a BMW, then the red flag is now raised.

      Claiming to be a spokesperson for someone else whether it is a personal prophecy, or even on a grander stage, say, a national word or to The Church universal, is simply too pretentious. It is silly. Goofy. And way out of proportion to the one thinking they are being prophetic.

      Yes, repentance is a good thing. I heartily concur. I think it is important to examine oneself in light of the faith being walked in. I urge caution & healthy skepticism when hearing from someone claiming to be God’s prophet today. It is just another kooky misuse of spiritual giftings & bogus religious claims that have plagued The Church from its inception…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I have seen Jesus Christ, He has talked to me, He has litteraly shown me the land of ancient Egypt and something which happened there. God has told me about some things coming in the future.

      Extraordinary claims require Extraordinary levels of evidence…

      But most folks will not believe until they see, and then it is too late.

      … not Extraordinary levels of Gnosis.

  44. Someone above mentioned their problems started not with Jericho, but with the 10th plague in Egypt. But what about going back to Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac? No, Abraham didn’t finish the deed, but he had the intention to do so.
    Kierkegaard refers to this dilemma and the “teleological suspension of the ethical” in his work, “Fear and Trembling”. What happens when God asks you to do something that goes counter to what you believe to be his revealed ethic (“kill your son”)?

    Furthermore, God, did not merely say, “bring your son, bind him to the altar, and I will strike him with lightning and fry him myself”; something where Abraham could obey without violating God’s previously revealed will (Genesis 9:6). No, God makes Abraham an active participant in this attempted killing.

    No wonder Kierkegaard referred to the scripture from Philippians 2:12, “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works within you…”

    If someone said, “God told me to kill you” (or perhaps even the more mundane, “God told me you will marry me”) where is the Teleology, the final cause – the thing to whom or to which we give allegiance that holds the final word on what is right or wrong?

    When I read Mark’s postings here, they initially sound to me like foreclosure, a not-fully-thought-through “God said it + I believe it = that settles it”. The same defense could be made for the actions of suicide bombers, so that makes me uncomfortable. (Mark , I’m not saying you ARE that way, I’m saying it reads that way to me.) But perhaps after all the possible discussion, maybe there is an inevitable point of what Kierkegaard calls “infinite resignation” regarding faith.

    • Okay, I think where you’re coming from…

      Btw, what is wrong with Paul’s statement to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”?

      Did you know that the Scriptures consistently tell us that we must obey God from our hearts if we even have a chance at heaven?

      (I’m also speaking as a conservative evangelical.)

      • Mark, nothing is wrong with Paul’s statement. Kierkegaard embraced it fully and tried to flesh out its implications for one of the heroes of faith, Abraham.
        Interesting to note that when the Apostle Paul worked out his salvation with fear and trembling, he STOPPED his violence against the church , and in fact suffered the violence of others upon him, all for he sake of Jesus.

        And I agree about obeying God from our hearts. and as noted with the example of Paul above, it only works if we are transformed by the renewing of our mind, so that we actually PROVE the will of God (Rom. 12:2), and not be zealous for that which hurts Jesus.

        The scary part of the example of Abraham is, which part of God’s command would I obey if I were him? The Genesis 9:6 part (if I hypothetically had access to that post-flood command), or the voice I thought I heard from God telling me to kill my son? It’s not being wishy-washy or disobedient to wrestle with two apparently contradictory commands.

    • Yeah, it was that 10th plague that had me pondering God’s workings amongst the Egyptians…

      And yes, God did command Abraham to sacrifice the son of promise. God did require human sacrifice. He then provided the ram caught in the thicket in that instance, just like He would do with Jesus much later. Only God could rightly require such a thing…

      I don’t have any problems with these one-time head-scratchers. It seems He can make a dramatic point that pointed to the future. But we also have discussed the strange episode of Ananias & Sapphira in the early church. As far as we know, a one-time event that did not set a precedent throughout Church history. Maybe because in so doing all new believers eventually would get zapped for some clear violation of honesty+integrity…

      The puzzling events that leave me pondering the nature of God & His reasons for being implicated in them part of this walk of faith. I do not claim to have God neatly in a box about the size of a new bible. I shake my head in mild befuddlement when looking at these scriptural accounts that seem contrary to a God revealed most clearly in Jesus. I am not worried about sorting it all out to my satisfaction on this side of the veil. I know I will depart this life with many questions unanswered. I do believe if God wanted to let me know He could. Could be full disclosure not part of this existence. I like the way I am stretched pondering such things. I am not afraid of the conundrums. I don’t feel I need to pass the ultimate theology challenges ala Monty Python’s The Bridge of Death in order to cross into my eternal reward.

      Good discussions & perspectives so far. I like the way other people think with ideas unlike mine. It is a good challenge to my singular viewpoint…

      Carry on…

  45. Late to the party, but to answer the questions:

    Longman’s answer seems to me to be an aspect of the typical attempt by Evangelicals to put a “nice face” on God and these difficult scriptures. I think his argument is weak and doesn’t help reconcile things very much.

    I think we have a problem with both the idea of judgment/wrath and the possibility that God commanded it. For some people, the one carries more weight; for others, the other carries more weight.

    How I have come to deal with these texts has been a process. Here are some things that have gone into that process:
    -Like most things that get people “up in arms”, this is a hermeneutical issue.

    -I let go of “the doctrine of inerrancy”. It simply caused too many problems for me; this issue is but a representative example. I don’t believe scripture claims about itself what inerrantists say it does. I believe scripture is TRUE – and its truth is not dependent on it being a “newspaper report”. Such a view actually restricts what scripture is meant to do.

    -We are looking back at those events from a place that is chronologically after the “higher ethic” of Christianity has taken hold in the world, and that’s a major reason why we are scandalized. If we were looking at them BCE, they probably wouldn’t bother us very much.

    -We have the bible we have because God wanted us to have it this way. He didn’t iron out all the wrinkles.

    -In the history of the church, better thinkers than I have offered interpretation of scripture, and it behooves me to listen to them.

    -Texts are written from a point of view. This does not negate inspiration, but it means that inspiration is probably not dictation.

    -The texts in question were likely written when Israel was being consolidated as a people after the Babylonian exile. The Jews needed a rationale for their continued existence in the face of all that was besetting them amidst nations that had much more clout than they. The human authors were eager to show that YHWH is the One True God who always wins over his enemies, and Jews, as his people, will eventually come out “on top”. Again, this does not negate inspiration: it forces us to quit simplistic explanations.

    -The actual historical events were probably more like the battle plan to attack specific fortress cities as mentioned above. In addition, I think that one of the points of the story was that if the Israelites had listened to Joshua and Caleb, trusted God and simply walked in, there wouldn’t have been the bloodshed; God would have “gone before them” and the people of those cities, whatever their rationale, would have vacated without the slaughter. Not trusting God = bloodshed is a theme that recurs in the OT.

    -As Joanie wrote above, everything in scripture has to be read in relationship to Jesus and the meaning of the reality of his incarnation/life/crucifixion/resurrection/ascension/bestowal of the Spirit. If there are apparent inconsistencies, if we are scandalized, we need to keep wrestling and keep listening to the wise ones who have come before us, to help us make the best, consistent connections to Jesus and what he was about.

    -My faith community teaches that whatever God’s judgment was in the OT, it wasn’t God’s final word. Jesus on the cross was the display of God’s forgiveness for everything; *that’s* God’s final word on the matter of his judgment of evil. His “anger” lasts only for a moment; in his everlasting kindness he will bring us back to himself. Though that passage from Is 54 was written to the Jews in historical context, God accomplished this for all humanity.

    Fr Stephen Freeman has a very helpful post on this: http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/suffering-in-a-one-storey-universe/. BTW, his book “Everywhere Present” will be out March 1.

    Dana

    • I also found this helpful:
      http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/war_and_violence_in_the_ot

      (Separate posting for this link to avoid the “too spammy” message.)

      Dana

      • Cedric Klein says

        Helpful? THIS FREAKIN’ ROCKS!!!! Everyone is this thread owes it to themselves to listen to this!

        Warning to the Ultra-Pacifists: The Violence of God & Israel are defended.

        Warning to the Hell&Damnation Folk: A Universalist Option is presented, not as a surety but a possibility.
        Maybe this is in opposition to some versions of orthodox Christianity, but is perfectly consistent with Orthodox Christianity.

        A few points that Fr. Hopko raises which I’ll much more ham-handedly raise…

        1.) The sudden deaths of the Canaanite babes was much preferable to the debauched idolatrous lives they would have had if they’d grown up in the Canaanite culture.

        2.) The Conquest was a Judgment of God akin to The Deluge or Sodom except that rather than Water or Fire, this time God’s Tool of Judgment was Israel.

        3.) God brought Judgmental Sieges upon Israel, Judah & Jerusalem much more extreme than any of the Wars of the Conquest.

        4.) All the executions & murders of the OT are wrapped up & avenged on the Head of Christ, absorbed into HIs Atonement & redeemed in His Resurrection so that all His OT enemies has opportunity for Salvation at the Final Judgment.

    • Thanks, Dana. I LOVE Father Stephen. In that essay, my favorite part is, “The role of the human will (in its acceptance of Christ) is not insignificant in our salvation – but the will chooses or rejects what Christ has already accomplished. The ultimate outcome of those choices are known to God alone. However, God’s will is clear: He is ‘not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9).”

    • Logical and thought-provoking, Dana. Thank you. And I’m glad to hear the news about Fr. Stephen’s book. I’ve been looking forward to that.

  46. I knew there was a reason I saved this essay: http://epsociety.org/library/articles.asp?pid=63&ap=1

    In short, this is what happens when words cross languages and cultures. The term that is translated as “Men and women, young and old, donkeys and cattle” is simply a generic term for the inhabitants of a city or area. It does not mean that any of those groups were actually there.
    There is also the matter of ANE hyperbole. Exaggeration and bravado were common and frankly the Israelites were rather tame in their use of it (the Assyrians had gigantic walls bragging about their conquests in gory detail, for example). We have similar things today. When someone says “The Broncos absolutely murdered the Raiders last night!”, none of us think that the football team just committed mass murder. Similarly, the Israelites would have known that the language used was not literal.

    And to address a common rebuttal to this, ( that God shouldn’t/wouldn’t use hyperbole or that kind of language) there is no reason for God to always use very concrete language like we do. God talks in ways that the people listening understand. If He’s talking to someone from the ANE, He talks like someone from the ANE. If He’s talking to someone from 21st century America, He’ll talk in a way understandable to a 21st Century American.

    • Very helpful, Cipher. Thank you.

      • (My first post on this topic).

        From Cipher’s link (above) Paul Copan wrote on page 3 —>“That means that Israel’s wars here are directed toward government and military installments. So the mention “women” and “young and old” turns out to be stock ANE language that could be used even if “women” and “young and old” were not living there. The language of “all” (“men and women”) at Jericho and Ai is, in Hess’s words, a “stereotypical expression for the destruction of all human life in the fort, presumably composed entirely of combatants.” The text just does not require that “women” and “young and old” must have been in these cities.”<—
        ========================================================

        I haven’t read Paul Copan’s book, Is God a Moral Monster?, but have heard him on “Theology Unplugged” and read some of his blogs. I’ve also read several critiques of what he has been saying on the topic.

        I find his arguments unsatisfactory w/r/t “women and children”. Copan does well to point out that there are the ANE contexts we should recognize, and interpret accordingly. But, to me, he uses a lot of ‘mental gymnastics’ to come to his conclusions. If the Bible says God commanded the Israelites to kill men, women, and children–as it does–it’s absurd to me to suggest this isn’t what it what it means. But Copan does say this: that the warfare actually only involved men-warriors in fortresses! What a S-T-R-E-T-C-H!

        In any event, I’ve been looking elsewhere for answers to these questions and recommend reading Bill’s blog (which he linked to below, which I’ll probably comment on it later). Also, I plan to listen to Dana Ames’ Ancient Faith Radio link (above).

        Thanks (folks), and for a much needed topic, Chaplain Mike!

        • Add-On: I just rewatched PBS’ The Bible’s Buried Secrets (easily googled, a great intro to OT archaeology /critical studies). Right at the start there’s —

          NARRATOR: Near the banks of the Nile, in southern Egypt, in 1896, British archaeologist Flinders Petrie, leads an excavation in Thebes, the ancient city of the dead. Here, he unearths one of the most important discoveries in biblical archaeology. From beneath the sand, appears the corner of a royal monument, carved in stone.

          Dedicated in honor of Pharaoh Merneptah, son of Ramesses the Great, it became known as the Merneptah Stele. Today it is in the Cairo Museum.

          DONALD REDFORD (Pennsylvania State University): This stele is what the ancient Egyptians would have called a triumph stele, a victory stele, commemorating victory over foreign peoples.

          NARRATOR: Most of the hieroglyphic inscription celebrates Merneptah’s triumph over Libya, his enemy to the West, but almost as an afterthought, he mentions his conquest of people to the East, in just two lines.

          DONALD REDFORD: The text reads, “Ashkelon has been brought captive. Gezer has been taken captive. Yanoam in the north Jordan Valley has been seized, Israel has been shorn. Its seed no longer exists.”

          NARRATOR: History proves the pharaoh’s confident boast to be wrong. Rather than marking their annihilation, Merneptah’s Stele announces the entrance onto the world stage of a people named Israel.

          DONALD REDFORD: This is priceless evidence for the presence of an ethnical group called Israel in the central highlands of southern Canaan.

          NARRATOR: The well-established Egyptian chronology gives the date as 1208 B.C. Merneptah’s Stele is powerful evidence that a people called the Israelites are living in Canaan, in what today includes Israel and Palestine, over 3,000 years ago.
          ===================

          “Pharaoah’s confident boast”—>“Israel has been shorn. Its seed no longer exists.”<— is a perfect example of ANE historical inaccuracy. Whether this could or should be considered ‘ANE exaggerated hyperbole’ or not, I don’t know. Paul Copan could be onto something. But I still think he might be stretching it too far. Thanks!

  47. For what it’s worth, here’s my take on this subject (with all due respect to Professor Longman):
    http://practicingresurrection.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/conquest-and-christianity/

    • Bill,

      I’m not sure I agree with your conclusion, but you are a good writer and thinker. Very nice blog.

    • That is an excellent essay that you wrote, Bill! I think everyone having concerns (and maybe, especially, those people NOT having concerns!) with this part of scripture should be directed to your essay. Great writing, useful references, intelligent conclusions. Thanks!

      • Thanks Joanie. I could never reconcile the Jesus who saved me with the God who supposedly commanded genocide and ethnic cleansing. It was a great relief to me to conclude that I didn’t have to.

  48. Such a confusing week. First, I find out that environmentalists are praising Genghis Khan for murdering 40 million people, because this reduced carbon emissions in the environment at that time. Now this: Pharaoh and the Egyptians, who slaughtered the first born Israelite children and ruthlessly enslaved and oppressed the Israelites, were victims of genocide.

    There were as many as three million German civilian casualties during WW II. One could probably call these victims of genocide, too; however, one could also view it as the consequence a nation faces for the actions of its leaders – regardless whether all civilians supported those actions.

    • I have never thought of it that way. If you some nation attacked the U.S. I would think that our leaders provoked and I would not think oh, God hates me that is why this is happening. hmmm something to think about.

    • DreamingWings says

      The word genocide generally means the attempt, successful or not, to wipe out an entire race of people. No one was trying to wipe the German people from the face of the earth. Well, the Russians being a likely exception in the later years. But overall, the war was to defeat the German armies and force their leaders to surrender. Which was then followed by us spending large amounts of resources to rebuild the country.

    • Can we then blame the mini ice age that hit Europe in the late Middle Ages/early Renaissance on Genghis Khan? Because of the loss of those 40 million people, the world got colder? What would those nice environmental extremists have to say about all those Europeans struggling with crop failure, not to mention the extinction of the Greenland colony?

      Sorry, I know this is off-topic, but dumb ox started it.

      • It seemed on-topic, that aggressors seem to either become the hero or victim in post-modern culture. I personally don’t like stories associated with God’s wrath, because we tend to understand them in our warped understanding of justice. But when I see the smiling faces of monsters inflicting suffering on the powerless, I start humming Bruce Cockburn’s “If I had a Rocket Launcher”.

        • “But when I see the smiling faces of monsters inflicting suffering on the powerless, I start humming Bruce Cockburn’s “If I had a Rocket Launcher”.

          Good one, dumb ox.

  49. Also, I would say that sin in the world caused this and I am not sure that I would automatically go with “oh God hates me” I can say this because I had a 19 yr. old sister die and although I was trying to figure out how something “so unfair” happened, I never went to the place where I thought God directly did this to me. No, it is a sinful world because of our own stupid fault. Death is a consequence but, Christ’s death and resurrection remedies all of our sin.

    • “No, it is a sinful world because of our own stupid fault. Death is a consequence but, Christ’s death and resurrection remedies all of our sin.”

      Amen, Robin.

      Now that’s the gospel.

  50. I would say that the genocidal God ha sto do with the Jewish people wnating to justify the fact that they commited genocide throughout the region. Killing every man, woman, and child and even th estock…I don’t believe God commissioned these acts.

    While God judges us I don’t think he mans we are to just enage in wholesale killing. People don’t[ want to questions these things because they are afraid to think critically about the Bible as the history of a people, political track, social contract, a collection of sacred texts from several tribes in the Middle East, and sometimes inspired by God.

    Scriptures must be intrepreted through the lens of church tradition, experience AND logic.