Tag Archives: Canaan

How do you respond to the conquests and wars in the Old Testament?

Lets take a closer look at a puzzle
Lets take a closer look at a puzzle

Joe Coder has an article about it on his web site.

Here’s his overview:

In the Old Testament are the military campaigns of Israel inconsistent with being led by a just and loving God, and inconsistent with his own commands?  Here, I would like to make the case for consistency and justness.

1. The nations of Canaan were evil, harming others, and needed to be stopped.  They had carried out incest with children/grandchildren and performed child sacrifice by fire. (Lev 18:6-30, Deut 12:31, Deut 18:9-10, Psalm 106:35, 37-38)  They launched unprovoked attacks on Israel (Ex 17:8-9, Num 21:1, Num 21:2-23, 33) and even guerrilla attacks against Israel’s “stragglers in the rear of the march when you were exhausted and tired.” (Deut 25:18)

2. Warfare language was likely rhetorical.  There are five reasons to support the rhetorical nature of languge such as “completely destroy” (Hebrew תחרימו, literally “ban”) in Deut 20:17.  It likely meant a destruction of armed soldiers, buildings, and religious icons.

  1.  Semitic language professor and NIV, NAB, and ESV bible translator Richard Hess argues that Hebrew “ban” is “stereotypical for describing all the inhabitants of a town or region, without predisposing the reader to assume anything further about their ages or even their genders” and “need not require that there really were children, senior citizens, or women there who were put to death” even when followed by the terms “men and women” (Joshua 8:25) or “young and old” (Joshua 8:25).
  2. In Israel’s destruction of enemies we see phrases like “left no survivor” and “utterly destroyed all who breathed” (Joshua 10:40, Judges 1:8).  But in Joshua 21:12-13 the author has no problem telling us these people were still there afterward: “if you ever turn away and make alliances with these nations that remain near you… God will no longer drive out these nations”.  In 1 Sam 15:3-4 Israel was to “strike down the Amalekites. Destroy everything that they have. Don’t spare them. Put them to death–man, woman, child, infant, ox, sheep, camel, and donkey alike.”  In 15:8 Saul “executed all Agag’s people” and Agag himself was killed in 15:33.  But later in  1 Sam 27:8 we’re told they’re still there and ” had been living in that land for a long time”.  Hundreds of years later in Esther 3:1 we’re even told Haman was an Agagite, a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag.
  3. Most verses on the subject speak of “driving out” and “disposessing” the land rather than language suggestive of genocide.  E.g. Num 33:51-53, in “the land of Canaan, you must drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images, all their molten images,  and demolish their high places.  You must dispossess the inhabitants of the land and live in it, for I have given you the land to possess it.”  It’s the same story in Lev 18:25, Num 23:31-32, Deut 6:19, 9:4, 18:12, Joshua 3:10, and 23:9.
  4. Jer 4:20 suggests inhabitants fled before armies arrived:  “At the sound of the horseman and bowman every city flees; They go into the thickets and climb among the rocks”
  5. Deut 7:22 specifically says that Israel was forbidden to “destroy them all at once” and instead they would be expelled “little by little”.

So either all of these verses contradict one another, or the conquest language was rhetorical.

3. Many of the “cities” were probably military outposts.  For example with Jericho and Ai, Richard Hess argues there are no references to noncombatants (apart from Rahab), no archaeological evidence of non-millitary use, the term melek (Hebrew מלכי)  for “king” of the cities often meant mean a military leader in Canaan (e.g. in Joshua 2:2), they were located at defensive positions, and Jericho and Ai weren’t described as a large city as Gibeon and Hazor explicitly were.

4. A just God requires wrath.  It’s not possible to have a God who is just but not wrathful–otherwise wrongdoers continue unabated. Paranormal investigator James Randi wrote in Skeptic Magazine, “I accuse the Christian god of murder by allowing the Holocaust to take place” yet Dawkins and Hitchens condemn God for judgment against the Canaanites.  Which is it? Ultimately the the problem is we view death as the ultimate judgment, when in the theological context of the bible it’s only a graduation to what’s next with accountability for what we’ve done with what we were given.

The four points are developed with links for support. If you get this question a lot, it’s a good resource to bookmark.

What if you only had four minutes to defend Israel’s attack on the Canaanites?

Questioning the Bible by Jonathan Morrow
“Questioning the Bible” by Jonathan Morrow

Jonathan Morrow is giving you just four minutes to respond to a well-known challenge to belief in the Christian God.

Can you handle it?

If not, here is a podcast to help you get ready.

Description:

Is the God of the Old Testament violent and bloodthirsty? Did God really command genocide? Why did Israel attack the Canaanites? These are just a few of the tough questions I tackle in this episode of the think Christianly podcast. Learn how to respond to one of the most challenging and emotional objections to Christianity in under 10 minutes.

Summary:

  • quotes Richard Dawkins to set up the objection
  • response: does God have the authority to give and take life?
  • response: after the Fall, things in the world are not the way they are supposed to be
  • response: Old Testament commands for the Jews to judge other nations are specific to them in that time
  • response: “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” are not accurate descriptions of the attack on Canaan
  • response: the attack on the Cannanites takes place in the context of redeeming the whole world

Here is the Christian Post article he was interviewed for, where he had to answer:

Jonathan Morrow, author of Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority, says readers are often perplexed by Old Testament scripture because “sometimes we just picture a God where anger and love can’t co-exist.” Yet he explains, “We all have seen people who have been taken advantage of and that makes us angry [because] we love them. So those emotions can co-exist.”

[…]Along that same line, Morrow clarifies that God’s instructions to the Israelite army in Deuteronomy 20 to destroy the people occupying the land of Canaan is “about judgment, not genocide.”

“The Bible teaches clearly that all people are sinful and in rebellion, kind of living in open rebellion against God, and God is just to judge anyone,” says Morrow. “But in this particular case with the Canaanites, there’s several things going on there, but one of those things was the wickedness of the people which was well documented – child sacrifices to Moloch and others, and bestiality and a lot wickedness.”

He says this judgment was necessary because “Israel’s national survival was crucial so that the Messiah – we would know Jesus as the Messiah – and God’s saving purposes of redemption to the world could one day be born because if the Messiah was supposed to come through the lineage of Israel and Israel co-mingled with this wicked people and was ultimately destroyed, that promise of hope and blessing to the whole world could not have been realized.”

[…]Morrow recognizes that Old Testament questions are particularly challenging. “We live in a sound bite culture and so this is one of those questions where it kind of gets thrown out for people, why does God command genocide, and that’s really easy to say and then it takes some time to respond to because there’s some context.”

Morrow says his sound bite answer is: “These passages are about judgment; they’re not about genocide.”

However, he encourages believers to find out the asker’s real interest in this question. “I would ask them, you know, it sounds like this is a pretty emotional question for you, why is that. Let them talk about it some so you can better understand because that’s the goal. We’re not just trying to win an argument; we’re trying to understand and help people.”

It the asker is after truth, Morrow advises Christians to “ask them … are you interested in kind of walking through and getting kind of messy about looking at the evidence for this because I’d love to share that with you, and sometimes they’ll go, ‘yeah, that’ll be great.'”

Other times, Morrow says, the asker is simply looking for “space and distance from God and this question allows them to put space between them and God.”

By the way, Morrow and McDowell’s basic apologetics book – “Is God Just a Human Invention?” – is my first pick when mentoring new people in apologetics.

UPDATE: J.W. Wartick has reviewed the 11 Questions book on his blog.

How do you respond to the conquests and wars in the Old Testament?

Joe Coder has an article about it on his web site.

Here’s his overview:

In the Old Testament are the military campaigns of Israel inconsistent with being led by a just and loving God, and inconsistent with his own commands?  Here, I would like to make the case for consistency and justness.

1. The nations of Canaan were evil, harming others, and needed to be stopped.  They had carried out incest with children/grandchildren and performed child sacrifice by fire. (Lev 18:6-30, Deut 12:31, Deut 18:9-10, Psalm 106:35, 37-38)  They launched unprovoked attacks on Israel (Ex 17:8-9, Num 21:1, Num 21:2-23, 33) and even guerrilla attacks against Israel’s “stragglers in the rear of the march when you were exhausted and tired.” (Deut 25:18)

2. Warfare language was likely rhetorical.  There are five reasons to support the rhetorical nature of languge such as “completely destroy” (Hebrew תחרימו, literally “ban”) in Deut 20:17.  It likely meant a destruction of armed soldiers, buildings, and religious icons.

  1.  Semitic language professor and NIV, NAB, and ESV bible translator Richard Hess argues that Hebrew “ban” is “stereotypical for describing all the inhabitants of a town or region, without predisposing the reader to assume anything further about their ages or even their genders” and “need not require that there really were children, senior citizens, or women there who were put to death” even when followed by the terms “men and women” (Joshua 8:25) or “young and old” (Joshua 8:25).
  2. In Israel’s destruction of enemies we see phrases like “left no survivor” and “utterly destroyed all who breathed” (Joshua 10:40, Judges 1:8).  But in Joshua 21:12-13 the author has no problem telling us these people were still there afterward: “if you ever turn away and make alliances with these nations that remain near you… God will no longer drive out these nations”.  In 1 Sam 15:3-4 Israel was to “strike down the Amalekites. Destroy everything that they have. Don’t spare them. Put them to death–man, woman, child, infant, ox, sheep, camel, and donkey alike.”  In 15:8 Saul “executed all Agag’s people” and Agag himself was killed in 15:33.  But later in  1 Sam 27:8 we’re told they’re still there and ” had been living in that land for a long time”.  Hundreds of years later in Esther 3:1 we’re even told Haman was an Agagite, a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag.
  3. Most verses on the subject speak of “driving out” and “disposessing” the land rather than language suggestive of genocide.  E.g. Num 33:51-53, in “the land of Canaan, you must drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images, all their molten images,  and demolish their high places.  You must dispossess the inhabitants of the land and live in it, for I have given you the land to possess it.”  It’s the same story in Lev 18:25, Num 23:31-32, Deut 6:19, 9:4, 18:12, Joshua 3:10, and 23:9.
  4. Jer 4:20 suggests inhabitants fled before armies arrived:  “At the sound of the horseman and bowman every city flees; They go into the thickets and climb among the rocks”
  5. Deut 7:22 specifically says that Israel was forbidden to “destroy them all at once” and instead they would be expelled “little by little”.

So either all of these verses contradict one another, or the conquest language was rhetorical.

3. Many of the “cities” were probably military outposts.  For example with Jericho and Ai, Richard Hess argues there are no references to noncombatants (apart from Rahab), no archaeological evidence of non-millitary use, the term melek (Hebrew מלכי)  for “king” of the cities often meant mean a military leader in Canaan (e.g. in Joshua 2:2), they were located at defensive positions, and Jericho and Ai weren’t described as a large city as Gibeon and Hazor explicitly were.

4. A just God requires wrath.  It’s not possible to have a God who is just but not wrathful–otherwise wrongdoers continue unabated. Paranormal investigator James Randi wrote in Skeptic Magazine, “I accuse the Christian god of murder by allowing the Holocaust to take place” yet Dawkins and Hitchens condemn God for judgment against the Canaanites.  Which is it? Ultimately the the problem is we view death as the ultimate judgment, when in the theological context of the bible it’s only a graduation to what’s next with accountability for what we’ve done with what we were given.

The four points are developed with links for support. If you get this a question a lot, it’s a good resource to bookmark.

Brian Auten interviews Clay Jones on the problems of evil and suffering

More good stuff from Apologetics 315. (H/T Apologetics Junkie)

By the way, I notice that Brian is offering some FREE BOOKS to anyone who fills out a teeny, tiny little survey.

The MP3 file for the interview is here.

Topics:

  • about Clay Jones’ area of interest and publications
  • how did Clay become a Christian?
  • how did Clay get interested in the problem of evil?
  • what is the deductive (logical) problem of evil?
  • the popular version of it: why do bad things happen to good people?
  • what are some good books on the intellectual problem of evil?
  • what’s a good book for people who are struggling with suffering?
  • how can Christians defend against the problems of evil and suffering?
  • can God perform logical contradictions?
  • is God’s top priority for the world to make us have happy feelings?
  • what good reason is there for God to permit evil and suffering?
  • can God prohibit evil and still let us have free will?
  • can God prohibit evil and still prepare us for Heaven?
  • why do people even raise the objection from evil and suffering?
  • why do people find the slaughter of the Canaanites so troubling?
  • what kinds of sins were the Canaanites committing?
  • do people really understand how much God hates sin?
  • how much does suffering really matter on an eternal scale?
  • how can Christian apologists convince themselves that people really sin?
  • what is the “the banality of evil”? Are normal people capable of evil?

Two things that I got out of this lecture: 1) When people ask “why do bad things happen to good people?” you can ask them who is a good person? And ask them why they think that God would want “good people” to be happy in their own way instead of having a relationship with him. And 2) his advice that Christians should read about real evils like genocide and mass murder, to understand that ordinary people are capable of incredible cruelty, and capable of rationalizing it, too. It is very rare that anyone really stands up to their culture, like pro-lifers and pro-marriage people do today. It’s really hard to do! Especially when the bad guys make it harder to do the right thing.