Home apologetics A Look At The Wars and Violence in the Old Testament

A Look At The Wars and Violence in the Old Testament

31
0

“Remember the days of old, Consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; Your elders, and they will tell you: When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, When He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples According to the number of the children of Israel.” Deuteronomy 32:7-8 NKJV

_________________________________________________________________________

“I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath. Then they will know that I am the LORD” Ezekiel 25:17 NIV

__________________________________________________________________________

INTRODUCTION

The issue of wars and violence in the Old Testament had been taken by opponents as evidence against the morality of Yahweh. Slandering phrases ranging from “a monstrous deity” to “blood-thirsty and war-mongering god” had been levied against Yahweh.

Those who refer to themselves as Christians, from the turn of the first to the second century, who also were bothered by these issues decided to go for an hyper-radical solution by disavowing Yahweh (whom they refer to as the Old Testament God) as the true Deity. Bending the authentic Christian faith to their polytheistic beliefs, they saw another opportunity to create tension between Jesus and the God of the Old Testament. They see them as two worlds apart and that the connection between them is very negligible. They fondly refer to the Old Testament God as “Demiurge“. The name basically meaning “fashioner” or “artisan” can be traced back to Platonism.

According to them, the Demiurge is an ignorant deity living under an illusion that he created the world alone. True to their conviction is that the Demiurge is ignorant in that he imagined that he created all things alone despite the fact that it was with the help of the productive power of Achamoth.[1] The phrases, “I am a jealous god” and “I am God, and besides me there is none else” is a fancy that the Demiurge drew from ignorance.[2] This ignorance, they believe, put the Demiurge at a great disadvantage against the Cosmocrator (known as the devil and one of the creatures of the Demiurge) who “has knowledge of what is above himself, because he is a spirit of wickedness”.[3] As if the blasphemy is not enough, the God of the Old Testament was referred to as a mere animal.[4] They believed that the high god sent his son as a savior who lived in the man Jesus Christ to help the Demiurge and that the Demiurge was glad to receive the teachings.[5] In the end, the Demiurge having a price to pay for his ignorance, will see his works come to perish.

The early church father and great theologian Irenaeus stood his ground and refuted these teachings. In fact, he believed that the wrath of the New Testament is far terrible than that of the Old Testament in as much as the spiritual death is deadly than the physical death. Irenaeus argued that the God of the Old Testament is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and that there is an established continuity between the two. Giving a detailed argument of Irenaeus in this article is tantamount to writing up to half of Irenaeus compilation.

The second century Christian apologist, Justin Martyr in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, argued that Jesus had been appearing in the Old Testament as the pre-incarnate Angel of the LORD (Malak Yahweh). It was this mysterious figure who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt into the Promised Land by driving out the enemies before them. Yes, we completely agree with Justin Martyr on this crucial point. Greg Boyd’s argument that the Old Testament wars and violence were not actually commanded by Yahweh carries no weight and deserves to be dismissed. The debate between Paul Copan and Greg Boyd can be found here. Paul Copan successfully argued against Greg Boyd that such a suggestion is not plausible and that the wars and violence in the Old Testament does not prove that God is a monster. In his book, Is God a Moral Monster?, Paul Copan demonstrates the moral justification of God in the wars and campaigns He ordered.

Someone who had no regard for the Bible will continue to rant and press that the violence ordered by Yahweh in the OT is a proof that Yahweh is a wicked and harsh god. They are like blind people who insist that their environment is black and dark and that the other colors are mere illusions and hallucinations. Once you are patient and attentive enough, you will grasp the theology of the Bible and you would no longer be bothered by these issues especially when you have studied them in their historical context.

Here, I hope to give the readers a sufficient insight into the wars and violence in the Old Testament. Here is the outline of this article:

1. Sorting out the apples from the oranges

A. The motivation behind the wars

B. The Scope of the wars

2. The wickedness of Canaan and Yahweh’s delayed punishment

3. Yahweh’s command of extending peace toward some of Israel’s enemies with the exception of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, and Perizzites, Hivittes, and the Jebusites.

4. The utter destruction of these nations

A. The literary style of violence

B. The Problem of Contamination

5. Yahweh: The Judge of all nations

6. Let’s not miss the forest for the trees

7. The Commission of the New Israel

8. Is Yahweh the same God that’s preached across the New Testament?

Conclusion

  1. SORTING OUT THE APPLES FROM THE ORANGES

First, we have to point out that labeling the Old Testament campaigns as one of the terrible acts of hate and genocide led by morally depraved men is WRONG. Again, it should be pointed out that there are some instances where the Israelites would have disobeyed God or gone beyond the limits set for them. A glaring example is during the time when God delivered Ahaz the king of Judah (Southern Kingdom) into the hands of Pekah, the king of Israel (Northern Kingdom). King Ahaz deserves the punishment because he is notorious for sacrificing his children into the fire (2 Chronicles 28:3). Pekah defeated Judah but went on beyond limits in order to decimate the people of Judah. Judah was almost wiped out until Yahweh sent prophet Oded to rebuke the Northern Kingdom (2 Chronicles 28:5-11).

Hence we will be examining two sub-sections under this section. We first take a look at the motivation behind the wars. The purpose of the wars is completely justified on moral grounds. Yahweh’s campaigns were meant to cleanse the land of the wicked and barbaric bloodshed going on in the land. The purpose was not to forcefully convert people to worship Yahweh – in fact, the ancient Jews believe that they have exclusive rights to Yahweh and that the gentiles are irrelevant to the plan of Yahweh.

In the second sub-section, we will be proving that these wars are limited in scope and time. They were not to go around wiping out nations that failed to acknowledge Yahweh and Moses. Again, the wars are not to be fought forever.

A. THE MOTIVATION BEHIND THE WARS

There is nothing in the Hebrew Bible that indicates that the pagan nations are oppressed until they testify that there is no god but Yahweh and Moses His messenger. The goal is stated here:

It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 9:5

In other words, the goal/purpose of these wars is to rid the land of its prevailing wickedness. Moses was making it clear that Yahweh is disposing these Canaanite nations because of their wickedness not because of the righteousness of the Israelites. The wickedness of Canaan will be examined later.

B. THE SCOPE OF THE WARS

The wars and campaigns commanded by Yahweh in the Old Testament were specific in both mission and scope. Yahweh forbade the Israelites from possessing the land of nations like Edom, Moab and Ammon. Their goal is to drive out the Canaanite nations because their sins have reached its full measure. The Canaanite nations are ripe for judgment and the judgment would be executed through Joshua’s conquering armies.

Do not forget that the Israelites were sojourners in Egypt for centuries and that they were oppressed. Yahweh did not ask the Israelites to destroy Egypt. Someone might object that Moses did not attack Egypt because he knew that he would fail since the Egyptians are more powerful. This is wrong. Moses had nothing to fear from Egypt. The God that Moses relied on is capable of dealing with the Egyptians and this is demonstrated in the plagues that Yahweh sent down on Egypt. What about the dividing of the red sea and the drowning of the Pharaoh and his army? During the journey in the wilderness, Yahweh prohibited them from occupying the land of any nation apart from Canaan:

And command the people, saying, “You are about to pass through the territory of your brethren, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. Therefore watch yourselves carefully. Do not meddle with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as one footstep, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. You shall buy food from them with money, that you may eat; and you shall also buy water from them with money, that you may drink. “For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.”‘ Deuteronomy 2:4-7

Yahweh prohibited Moses and his fellow Hebrews from occupying the land of Edom because God had given the land to the descendants of Esau as their inheritance.

The same is said of Moab and Ammon:

Then the LORD said to me, “Do not harass Moab, nor contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession, because I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.”‘… That the LORD spoke to me, saying: “This day you are to cross over at Ar, the boundary of Moab. And when you come near the people of Ammon, do not harass them or meddle with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the descendants of Lot as a possession.” Deuteronomy 2:9,17-19

We can see that the OT wars were not used for evangelism nor is it to force people to adopt the Jewish laws and prophets. The sins of the above mentioned people have not reached its full measure. And when it eventually did, the Israelites are not the one to punish them. The right to judge nations is reserved for God alone. In fact, Israel too will be judged for her own share of the atrocities.

With the foregoing in perspective, we can now proceed to the second section where shall deal with the wickedness of the Canaanites.

 2. THE WICKEDNESS OF CANAAN AND YAHWEH’S DELAYED PUNISHMENT

Permit me to give an illustration which may though not directly related, still can serve as a relevant model for juxtaposing the Canaanite’s case to. In March 2014, a den was discovered at a remote area in Soka, Ibadan. This den famously dubbed as the Ibadan house of horror, according to reliable witnesses, was discovered accidentally by a motorcyclist. Many decomposing human bodies offered in sacrifice to gods for money rituals were discovered in this foul area. About 23 people were rescued from the den. According to the reports of the victims, these people were kidnapped and bewitched. Though some of them were said have been offered as sacrifices, the others were spared to a fate almost worse than death. Among the items in this house of horror, we found items such as school uniforms, travel bags, bank cards, calculators, keys etc.

However, before the discovery of this house of horror in Ibadan, reports of these widespread altars where humans were sacrificed in exchange for money from the demons had come to our ears from victims who managed to escape from these beasts. Do not be mistaken, this house of horror in Ibadan was not the only one. Others too were discovered as well especially in the Eastern part of Nigeria. These reports share a lot in common from independent eyewitness victims who managed to escape with their lives. According to the reports, people were kidnapped by seducing them (with luxuries or promises by a friend). Some of the victims were unsuspecting passengers who mistakenly got into the vehicles of these wicked men. In such cases, the victims are either bewitched drugged or threatened with death if they should ever raise an alarm.

There was a report by lady I heard about 5 or 6 years ago on a Radio programme that airs every Tuesday night. This lady, from Ogun State, was on her way to School Campus which was located in Osun State. She boarded a multi-passenger bus from the garage. During the journey, the bus steered off to another remote direction. The passengers raised an alarm questioning the action of the driver. Unfortunately, the driver was not alone in this plot. About four or five armed passengers who were in the bus were accomplices. These passengers asked the victims to keep quiet while their mobile phones were snatched from them. This lady managed to hide her phone and send a message to her mother. It is an understatement if we say that the mother was troubled when she received the message from her beloved daughter. The mother has to soak herself in prayer begging God that He should release her daughter from these animals clothed in human flesh. The victims were led to a very remote place in the bush and they discovered that they were not alone.

Other buses which contained captured passengers are seen at the place while others are still arriving. The captured passengers were unloaded from the buses. Guarded by armed men, they were led to an underground staircase which descended into darkness until they reached an open place where they encountered an heavily secured place guarded by giant fence. According to this lady, no giant, no matter how tall, can escape over this fence. The victims were taken to place where a ritualist by his occult powers could determine which of the victims were eligible for sacrifice. The eligible ones were taken to another chamber for further processing while the ineligible ones were taken to another section. Lucky enough for the lady, she was found ineligible.

She was taken to a long queue where she peered into the front only to discover one of the worst horrors she had ever encountered in her life. By force, people were brought forward and their hands were laid on a platform where a butcher will cut the hands. This will go on until the victims were cut into pieces limb by limb as if cattle were being slaughtered. The lady also added that the place was a market where rich men who came in exotic cars, shrouded in face masks were negotiating on the price of the human parts. According to the lady, she was crying thinking of the toil and sufferings her parents went through in order to make her who she was. While she was drawn in the agony of weeping, the sun was setting and the place was growing darker since it is not yet her turn to be slaughtered. Then one of the workers there, a woman came to her and decided to help her. The woman narrated how she was captured and forced to be a worker here. The woman, moved by the lady’s plight, decided to help her. While the attention of these terrible men were drawn in killing and selling of human parts, the “Samaritan” placed a ladder against the wall and asked the lady to climb and run for her life. Luckily for the lady, the other side of the ladder was not deep such that she could alight without grave injuries. Once her feet touched the ground, she fled for her life. She ran all the way through the night until she came to a police station where she gave them a report of the ordeals she went through.

I have heard numerous stories from eyewitnesses who narrated a similar ordeal they passed through in the den of these outlawed kidnappers. At least, I knew of an eleven year old boy, living not far from my neighbourhood, who was kidnapped to an unknown place where he was fed with blood and human meat (perhaps in the hope of weakening the boy spiritually) and was later released though the boy is yet to recover from the shock of the ordeals he went through.

I have always wondered how and why humans can be as this terrible. These are men who, for the sake of getting rich and wealthy and famous, will go to any length to get their selfish desires fulfilled. Anyone who is human enough will be greatly distressed at these horrors carried out in the name of acquiring wealth, fame and power. Supposing these perpetrators were found, and you were privileged to pronounce judgment on these beasts, what will your judgment be? We should also keep in mind that these evil perpetrators are almost completely blind to conviction. Demonic activities similar to the actions of these evil perpetrators are rampant in Canaan.

Many think of the land of Canaan as a typical modern country where the fundamental human rights are upheld in high esteem. This is completely far away from the truth. The wickedness of Canaan is so terrible that the “bloodshed” of Joshua’s conquering armies seemed like a mere scratch on the skin. Yahweh promised the land of the Canaanites to Abraham and said that the promise will come to pass when the sins of the Amorites “has reached its full measure” (Genesis 15:16). Yahweh had been patient with the Amorites for centuries before he executed judgment through Moses and Joshua’s campaigns. While the inhumane activities in Nigeria are outlawed, readers should note that these inhumane acts are part and parcel of the Canaanite nations. In fact, these actions are law.

Why don’t we take a peep into the beliefs of the ancient Canaanites? According to the Canaanites, it was said that Baal (the storm god) defeated Yamm (the sea god) in order to achieve the status of the high god. Mot (the grave god) tried to usurp Baal by attacking him. Anath, who is a goddess of love and war as well as the wife of Baal, fought her way into the grave to rescue her husband. It is a known fact that Baal and Anath delighted in sadism and butchery while their followers imitate their ways when worshiping these gods. For instance, it was said of Anath,

“The blood was so deep that she waded in it up to her knees—nay, up to her neck. Under her feet were human heads, above her human hands flew like locusts. In her sensuous delight she decorated herself with suspended heads while she attached hands to her girdle. Her joy at the butchery is described in even more sadistic language: “Her liver swelled with laughter, her heart was full of joy, the liver of Anath (was full of) exultation(?).” Afterwards Anath “was satisfied” and washed her hands in human gore before proceeding to other occupations. [6]

In fact, the Canaanites believed that the rate of their own sexual copulations in the shrines is directly proportional to the rate at which rain that will fall upon them. That is, “the more sex on the Canaanite high places, the more this would stimulate the god fertility Baal to have sex with his consort, Anath, which meant more semen (rain) to water the earth”. [7] Let us keep in mind that, according to the beliefs of the Canaanites, Anath is the sister of Baal – a textbook example of incest even among the gods! So it isn’t surprising too when incest became a norm among the Canaanites.

What about human sacrifice? Yes, this terrible act is very common in Canaan. Child sacrifice is not illegal either, not only that, it is advised as well. Readers should take note that the Canaanite civilization wasn’t totally destroyed by Israel. In fact, the remnants (while some remained in Israel until David wiped them out) migrated elsewhere to establish colonies along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, where they thrived for centuries. The colony of Carthage in the present-day Tunisia is an example of such colonies. This colony spoke the Canaanite language and practiced the Canaanite religion. Readers should also keep in mind that Carthage grew and became powerful and became threat to the Roman Empire until the Roman Empire defeated it. Hence, this ancient city received attention from ancient historians. Look at what Plutarch said concerning this civilization:

Again, would it not have been far better for the Carthaginians to have taken Critias or Diagoras to draw up their law-code at the very beginning, and so not to believe in any divine power or god, rather than to offer such sacrifices as they used to offer to Cronos? but with full knowledge and understanding they themselves offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds; meanwhile the mother stood by without a tear or moan; but should she utter a single moan or let fall a single tear, she had to forfeit the money, and her child was sacrificed nevertheless; and the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums took the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people. [8]

This is absolutely disgusting! Imagine a mother watching her child being slaughtered to a god without showing signs of remorse – otherwise it is believed that she will have to forfeit what she came for. I do not think that someone, who goes purchasing children only to cut their throats, should be called human.

The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (around first century BC) also said:

Therefore the Carthaginians, believing that the misfortune had come to them from the gods, betook themselves to every manner of supplication of the divine powers… In their zeal to make amends for their omission, they selected two hundred of the noblest children and sacrificed them publicly… There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire. [9]

These immoral actions have been proven by archaeological evidences. In 1921, a group of French archaeologists excavated the ruins of ancient Carthage and they uncovered “urns” containing the bones of children (sealed in a mortar) offered in sacrifice to the Canaanite gods. The approximate number of the children discovered is around 20,000!

When the Israelites were on the brink of entering Canaan, Yahweh prohibited them from imitating the detestable acts of these Canaanites. Yahweh prohibited adultery (Lev. 18:20; Deut. 22:22), incest (Lev. 18:6-18), child sacrifice (Lev. 18:21; Deut. 18:10), homosexuality (Lev. 18:22) and bestiality (Lev. 18:23). Yahweh went on to say, “Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Lev. 18:25 NIV).

The wickedness of Canaan is so great that it deserves the calamity that Yahweh is about to visit on her. The Canaanite nations are far from innocent. Just like Sodom and Gomorrah, the land of Canaan is ripe for judgment. Rahab herself testified that:

“and said to the men: “I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” Deuteronomy 2:9-11 NKJV

Rahab is evidently aware of the judgment that is to come upon them because of the wickedness of the land she dwells in. Rahab did not just stop there; she also went further and asked for help:

Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.” Deuteronomy 2:12-13 NKJV

Rahab was fully accepted into Israel and she went on to marry a leading Israelite. She also became the ancestress of our Lord Jesus Christ. Definitely, if the Canaanites sought the help of the Israelites, Yahweh would have accepted their plea provided that these people repented of their inhumane activities and Yahweh would have given the Israelites another land to occupy. However, Yahweh foreknew that this people will not hearken to His voice so their hearts were hardened till they were destroyed.

3. YAHWEH’S COMMAND OF EXTENDING PEACE TOWARD SOME OF ISRAEL’S ENEMIES WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE HITTITES, AMORITES, CANAANITES, AND PERIZZITES, HIVITTES, AND THE JEBUSITES.

It is imperative to discuss the manner in which Yahweh through Moses commanded the Israelites on how to go about warring with neighbouring cities they came in contact with on the way to get to the Promised Land. Below is the passage that gives insight into the diplomatic relation in which they were to be engaged:

When you come near a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it answer you peacefully, and open unto you, then it shall be, that all the people that is found in it shall be tributaries unto you, and they shall serve you. And if it will make no peace with you, but will make war against you then you shall beseige it. And when the Lord has delivered it unto your hands, you shall smite every male in it with the edge of the sword: but the women and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even the spoil, you shall take to yourself Deuteronomy 20:10-14

Some things can be highlighted from the passages, namely, cities aren’t just to just be sieged and warred against without first the offer of peace. There is an open cheque to allow the inhabitants to live, in which the choice to do or not depends entirely on them. The cities who wouldn’t as much as respect this kind of offer but would be ready to wage war against Israel then have their male as scapegoats, while the women, and the children were to be absorbed into the nation of Israel. If this is not benevolence given the historical context and erratic display of no respect for human life imbued in other nations, one wonders what is.

The later verses after dealt with the manner in which the Jebusites, Hittites, Canaanites, Amorites, Perrizites, Girgashites, Hivittes (which is a command for the Israelites to utterly destroy them). And the possible reasons will be assessed in the course of the article.

4. THE UTTER DESTRUCTION OF THESE NATIONS

When the sin of the Amorites had reached its full measure, God judged these nations through the conquering armies led by Moses and Joshua. God had enough of these terrible inhumane activities carried out in the name of religion.

The problem here is: What about the command to UTTERLY destroy the Canaanites (e.g. Deut. 7:2)? What about Joshua’s utter destruction of the Canaanite nations (Joshua 11:16-17)? How can a moral god order the UTTER destruction of these Canaanite nations? Not only that, Yahweh ordered the UTTER destruction of the Amalekites? Why? The answer to this question will be divided into two sub-sections:

 A. THE LITERARY STYLE OF VIOLENCE

After the “UTTER destruction of the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perrizites, Hivites and the Jebusites”, we hear the famous story of king David usurping the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and Yahweh punishing David for this terrible act as well as for the murder of this innocent Hittite. Wait a minute! Did I just mention an Hittite here? But they have been destroyed by Joshua’s campaign. Not only that, this particular Hittite is fighting for the house of Israel and was even eager to deny Himself of going home to his wife while the war is still going on despite the insistence of King David. Something is not right here.

The first battle recorded in the book of Judges is between the house of Judah and the Canaanites (Judges 1:1ff). And through the book, we continue to encounter these Canaanites! Some scholars, seeing this as another opportunity to blast the scriptures as being fraudulent, cried out contradiction. However, the archaeological and documentary evidences keep mocking their intelligence and exposing their ignorance.

Terms like this are peculiar to the Ancient Near Eastern culture. The author is using the normal rhetoric of violence which was in vogue in his days. For instance look at this inscription which said:

But I saw my desire over him and his house, and Israel has utterly perished forever.

And I fought against the town; and I took it. I killed all the inhabitants of the town, as an offering of propitiation to Kemos and Moab.

Then KemoS said to me:

“Go, seize Nebo from Israel.”

So I went by night; and fought against it from the break of dawn until noon; and I took it; and I killed everyone in it, seven thousand men and women, both natives and aliens, and female slaves; because I had dedicated (nnoinn) it to ‘Astar-Kemos. [10]

Here, the king of Moab is boasting that the house of Israel has utterly perished forever. The great irony is that the house of Israel has endured till today while Moab has been completely wiped off the globe!! Israel lost its theocracy a century after this boast and continued to exist till now. However, Mesha the king of Moab is not alone. Take a look at this ancient stela:

Yanoam made nonexistent; Israel is wasted, his seed is not. [11]

This is evidently not true in literal sense. These types of rhetoric are abundant among the Ancient Near Easterners. The authors of the Hebrew Scriptures also employed this ancient style. A renown Egyptologist remarked:

“The type of rhetoric in question was a regular feature of military reports in the second and first millennia, as others have made very clear. We can thus be brief here. In the later fifteenth century Tuthmosis III could boast “the numerous army of Mitanni was overthrown within the hour, annihilated totally, like those (now) non-existent” – whereas, in fact, the forces of Mitanni lived to fight many another day, in the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries. Some centuries later, about 840/830, Mesha king of Moab could boast that “Israel has utterly perished for always” – a rather premature judgment at that date, by over a century! And so on, ad libitum. It is in this frame of reference that the Joshua rhetoric must also be understood.” [12]

Lawson Younger (Jr), after citing numerous examples of hyperbolic rhetoric common in the Ancient Near Esater accounts, also concurs when he said:

Thus it is evident that the syntagms… ‘they completely destroyed it and everyone in it’),… ‘he left no survivors’), etc. are to be understood as hyperbole. Just like other ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts, the biblical narrative utilizes hyperbolic, stereotyped syntagms to build up the account. [13]

Kenneth A. Kitchens, when responding to the people who are trying to see contradictions in the conquest accounts, said:

So commonplace a phenomenon in the biblical world, it is this factor which has misled Old Testament scholars in particular in their evaluations of the book of Joshua… It is the careless reading of such verses as these, without a careful and close reading of the narratives proper, that has encouraged Old Testament scholars to read into the entire book a whole myth of their own making, to the effect that the book of Joshua presents a sweeping, total conquest and occupation of Canaan by Joshua, which can then be falsely pitted against the narratives in Judges.

But this modern myth is merely a careless falsehood, based on the failure to recognize and understand ancient use of rhetorical summations. The “ails” are qualified in the Hebrew narrative itself. In 10:20 we learn that Joshua and his forces massively slew their foes “until they were finished off” (adtummam), but in the same breath the text states that “the remnant that survived got away into their defended towns.” Thus the absolute wording is immediately qualified by exceptions – “‘the quick and the dead,” as one might say of pedestrians trying to cross our busy highways! Nor is this an isolated datum. To begin with, the allotments of land to the tribes were decided after Joshua’s campaigns, both those narrated and those merely mentioned (1l:18; cf. 1):1). Then we have a series of notices which indicate that, already under Joshua, the tribesfolk could not easily take possession of the territories raided; cf. such as 15:63; 16:10; 17:1 2-13, 18; Joshua’s still later critique, 18 :3, before the second allotment; 19:47. And one should note 23:4-5, wherein Joshua speaks of having made allotments, in principle, which the tribes must still then take up – “YHWH your God … WILL drive them out.” So there is no total occupation shown to be achieved under Joshua himself in this book about Israel’s entry into, not occupancy of, Canaan. Once and for all.” [14]

By now, it should be clear that these phrases are not to be understood in the modern literal sense but in the context of its contemporary ancient near eastern accounts. The same can be said concerning the order of Yahweh to Saul that he should “wipe out” the Amalekites. The Amalekites still continue to exist after Saul’s raid. More on the Amalekites will be discussed in upcoming section.

B. THE PROBLEM OF CONTAMINATION

During the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness, they rebelled and grumbled against God till the point that God has to destroy a whole generation (with the exception of Joshua and Caleb) and wait for a new generation to take over the land. The Hebrews who followed Moses from the Land of Egypt still have the slave mentality they were acquired while in Egypt. The people who saw God divide the Red Sea asunder and waste away Pharaoh and his huge army, were the very same people grunting that Yahweh did not provide food and water for them. It is not the fact that they asked for food and water that angered Yahweh, it was this foolish phrase “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full!; For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger”(Ex. 16:3) spoken by the Israelites that tried the patience of Yahweh. They often grumble and complain and even threatened to stone Moses anytime they sense danger or they are not getting what they want.

Now, when Moses was away with Joshua on the mountain for forty days, the Hebrews who earlier promised that they would follow Yahweh quickly resorted to the worship of the Golden Calf. Alas! They even had the audacity to try and cheat Yahweh by ascribing His feats to a mere idol!! Where was the Golden Calf when the Egyptians were pursuing the Israelites? Is it not the Glory of Yahweh that accompanied them?

Take a look at another instance. After Balaam’s unsuccessful attempt to curse the Israelites, the Israelites were seduced by the Moabites into adultery in order to incur the wrath of Yahweh on the His own people. This deceptive ploy by Balaam worked and the Israelites followed in the worshipping of the lesser gods through sexual relations between them and the Moabite women in their shrines. Is this not one of the very reasons why the Canaanites had to be driven out of their inheritance?

The history of the Israel is the negative proof of the reason why the Canaanite civilization had to be destroyed irreparably. Not that they should be killed to the last breathing heart, but to reduce their influence and incorporate the willing ones into the people of Israel. God wants the entire civilization, and by extension, the influence of this wicked empire to crumble and not to rise again. After the death of Joshua, it was recorded:

“But the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem; so the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day…

However, Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; for the Canaanites were determined to dwell in that land. And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites under tribute, but did not completely drive them out.

Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; so the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them. Nor did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron or the inhabitants of Nahalol; so the Canaanites dwelt among them, and were put under tribute. Nor did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Acco or the inhabitants of Sidon, or of Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik, or Rehob. So the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; for they did not drive them out. Nor did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh or the inhabitants of Beth Anath; but they dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land. Nevertheless the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath were

put under tribute to them. And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountains, for they would not allow them to come down to the valley; and the Amorites were determined to dwell in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim; yet when the strength of the house of Joseph became greater, they were put under tribute.Judges 1:21, 27-35 NKJV

After the major conquests of Joshua against the land (another evidence that Joshua did not ultimately destroy the Canaanites but rather destroyed the major and prominent figures), the Israelites did not mop up the land. When they had control over the Canaanites, instead of destroying their civilization, they put them under tribute. That sounds nice of the Israelites, doesn’t it?

However, this is a scent of doom! The angel of the LORD appeared at Bokim and said:

Then the Angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, “I will never break My covenant with you. And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this? Therefore I also said, “I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.”‘ Judges 2:1-3 NKJV

This particular angel revealed to us that not only does this people fail to drive out the Canaanites, they also made covenant with the inhabitants as well! In fact, their altars and shrines were not desecrated. Then the doom finally arrived:

When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger. They forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. Judges 2:10-13 NKJV

So soon! Israel had already demonstrated that she is weak and prone to the temptation of adopting the wickedness of the Canaanites. This was evidently shown during the time Moses went up to the mountain to receive the Law and when the Moabites seduced Israel into sexual immorality. The Hebrews paid a terrible price for this. They were forsaken by God and were oppressed by the other nations. If any of the neighboring nations oppress Israel, Israel will cry out to Yahweh and Yahweh will raise up a judge to rescue His people. After the deliverance, the Israelites returned to their filthy ways which will land them into another trouble. This pattern repeated itself severally with God raising numerous judges to rescue Israel during perilous times. The period of the Judges is the period of anarchy – as the Bible says about five times in the Book of Judges that “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit”.

During the last five chapters of the Book of Judges was Israel portrayed in a very ugly light. We find an Israelite using the shekels he stole from her mother (though he confessed and the mother gave the money to him) and use it to cast an idol (Judges 17). The man (Micah) installed a Levite (who is not from the Priestly family) as his own personal priest. We also have the Danites envying the Micah’s idols and taking it away from him while the man was away (Judges 18). Micah’s outraged cry offers a sad commentary on the state of Israel. Even though his stolen gods were unable to protect themselves (and that should be obvious because the gods could not fight back when they were about to be stolen), let alone him, Micah knew no other refuge. Anarchy prevailed as did idolatry.

Then again, we have a Levite who went on a journey to retrieve his unfaithful concubine. On his way back home, he decided to rest in Gibeah after he turned down an offer to live in Jebus because, according to him, Jebus is a non-Israelite country and is unsafe – which was his biggest mistake. Only an old man offered him accommodation while the others ignored him. While reclining at the house of the old man, the Sodomite Hebrews came banging the door, wanting to rape their own fellow Hebrew man. The Levite threw out his own concubine to the beasts waiting outside to ravish her. The woman was raped and thoroughly abused and released at dawn – though she later died. The Levite dismembered the woman into twelve parts, limb by limb, and sent them to the twelve tribes of Israel (Judges 19).

The other tribes demanded for justice and asked the tribe of Benjamin to let out the culprits but the Benjamites stubbornly refused. This resulted in a war that resulted in the loss of at least about 65,130 Israelites {22,000 (20:21); 18,000 (20:25); 30 (20:31); 25,100 (20:35)} and the decimation of the Benjamites to about 600 men (leaving them with shortage of women). Now who is the enemy here? No military leader could rescue them from themselves. Israel has finally become her own enemy. One is left to wonder the kind of deliverer that God would send to the Israelites to deliver them from themselves!

However, Yahweh came to the rescue and eliminated anarchy by raising Samuel and Saul who secured the land of Israel from her external enemies, cutting down the flow of contamination. King David, however, was the one who finally uprooted the civilization of Canaan from Israel.

David’s successor, the wise king Solomon started very well since the civilization of Canaan had been cut down to the barest minimum by his father. Later in his life, Solomon started marrying wives from foreign nations who turned away his heart from the worship of the True and Living God to the worship of the idols and demons. Israel was torn into two and never attained the Golden age she had during the reign of Saul, David and Solomon. Israel too was carried off into exile after the repeated warnings of the prophets that Israel should not imitate the ways of her wicked neighbors.

By now, we can see another reason why Yahweh wants the Israelites to drive out the influence of the Canaanites completely. It is the problem of contamination which eventually led to the downfall of the Israelites. Though, it is not the contamination from the Canaanites that led directly to the fall, it was the importation of foreign elements into the land of Israel by Solomon first (after the cleansing of his father – though Solomon repented later), then by Jeroboam I (probably from Egypt) to the Northern Kingdom which later found its way into the Southern Kingdom.

5. YAHWEH: THE JUDGE OF ALL NATIONS

Come near, YOU NATIONS, to hear; And heed, you people! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, The world and all things that come forth from it. For the indignation of the LORD is against all nations, And His fury against all their armies; He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to the slaughter.” Isaiah 34:1-2 NKJV

When you step back a little bit and look at the actions of Yahweh in the Bible, you will stop accusing God of being a wicked monster just because of your own mere emotional outbursts. Do not miss the forest for the trees! A look at some prophetic books (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Joel, Zephaniah) in the Bible reveals a pattern. Israel is judged first while the other nations are judged later perhaps with the exception of Amos who had it in the reverse order. Each nation has its own moments in the court and each will be judged accordingly. Yahweh judged Israel based on the laws He gave to her and was harsher on her. Other nations were not condemned because they did not worship Yahweh or because they did not follow the Sinai Covenant, but because of their crimes against humanity. Apostle Paul puts it better when he said, “For when the gentiles who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, while their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:14-15). The great Christian thinker, C.S. Lewis in his book, Abolition of Man, studied various moral codes that were constant among several cultures. These nations violated virtually all these codes! We will take a look at some of these nations.

I. THE ERA OF THE PRE-FLOOD

After the Fall of Man in the Garden, Adam and Eve conceived sons. But as time goes, the gulf between God and humanity widens. Wickedness abounds so much on the earth that the author of the Book of Genesis said that God was grieved that He created man. Only few men (probably the godly line of Seth) were righteous enough to earn God’s mercy through faith. The situation grew worse to the extent that only a man was found to be righteous enough to earn the mercy of God. The man, known as Noah, was ordered by God to build an ark for the impending calamity that is to fall on earth. Noah went about preaching for about 120 years, offering these wicked men another chance to repent. However, these men stubbornly refused, mocking Noah and the God who sent him. When their rebellion reached its upper limits, God sent the flood and these men perished. Only Noah and his family were saved.

II. SODOM AND GOMORRAH

After the flood, men began to multiply on earth. Nations and languages were being founded across the earth. Nevertheless, man did not learn from the story of the flood but persisted in his wickedness. Yahweh had promised Noah that He would not wipe the earth with the flood again. Henceforth, Yahweh had to use another method in establishing the moral codes. He starts to reveal Himself progressively. God starts replacing a wicked nation with another nation. He will wait till the wickedness of a nation reaches its fullness before driving them out of their land with another nation that is better.

The account of Sodom and Gomorrah is majorly dealt with in Genesis 18 & 19. Yahweh appeared to Abraham and told him concerning Sodom and Gomorrah that:

“And the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” Genesis 18:20-21 NKJV

Despite the fact that those in the bash-the-Bible camp see this passage as another opportunity to attack the deity of Yahweh, we should provide a briefer response by telling them that paying a careful attention not only reveals that Yahweh is being anthropomorphic here, but that He desires to test the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and offer them another chance. Yahweh sent his two angels into the land. Only Lot accommodated these angels – another sign of the wickedness of these people. While these angels in form of men were reclining in Lot’s house, the wicked men of Sodom and Gomorrah came and demanded that Lot’s visitor be let out so that they could be raped. It is evident that homosexuality and rape is the order of the day in Sodom and Gomorrah.

The patience of God had been tried enough. The angels blinded these wicked men and told Lot to hurry out with his family out of these nations. Their sins have reached its full measure and the people are ripe for judgment. Lot sent to his wannabe son-in-laws but they mocked Lot – heaping judgment upon their own heads. Lot and his immediate family were hurried out of Sodom and Gomorrah with the instruction that none of them should look back. However, the wife of Lot looked back and perished. After Lot and his family were gone, it was written that “the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens”. And that is the end of Sodom and Gomorrah.

III. CANAAN

We have already dealt with the wickedness of the Canaanite nations in the second section. God was patient with the morally decaying Canaan for centuries. After turning a deaf ear to repeated warnings, they were punished by Yahweh through Joshua’s conquering armies.

IV. EDOM

The Israelites had been warned, “Do not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother” (Deuteronomy 23:7), yet the Edomites grew to become cruel and heartless to the Israelites. The feud began with their ancestors – Jacob and Esau. Esau traded his birthright for a meal to Jacob. Rebecca, their mother, tricked Isaac into giving the blessings reserved for Esau to Jacob. Esau in turn hated Jacob though they later came to a truce.

The quarrel was carried on through their descendants. The Horites were driven out of their land before the Edomites. The wickedness that characterizes Canaan was apparently absent in this nation (even if it was there, it is likely to be on a small scale).

Prophet Obadiah’s book is entirely based on the judgment of Edom. They were accused of inhumane actions such as treachery, robbery, violence, destruction etc. When the Babylonians ransacked Israel, Edom egged on the conquering armies, preyed on the fleeing Israelites and helped to plunder Jerusalem. Psalm 137 recorded this sad event:

“Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom The day of Jerusalem, Who said, “Raze it, raze it, To its very foundation!” Psalm 137:7 NKJV

Prophet Obadiah also said something similar:

“For violence against your brother Jacob, Shame shall cover you, And you shall be cut off forever. In the day that you stood on the other side– In the day that strangers carried captive his forces, When foreigners entered his gates And cast lots for Jerusalem– Even you were as one of them. “But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother In the day of his captivity; Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah In the day of their destruction; Nor should you have spoken proudly In the day of distress.” Obadiah 1:11-12 NKJV

The voice of prophet Ezekiel joined in the outcry of the treachery of Edom against Israel:

“Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because of what Edom did against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and has greatly offended by avenging itself on them,” Ezekiel 25:12 NKJV

Edom would have to pay for his atrocities. Yahweh said concerning Edom, “as you have done, it will be done to you” (Obadiah 15). Obadiah prophesied that their treachery toward Judah (verses 11-12) will be repaid with treachery from their own allies (vs. 7), his robbery (vs. 13) repaid with robbery (vs. 5-6), their violence (vs. 10) repaid with violence (vs. 9) and their love of destruction (12-14) repaid with utter destruction (10, 18).

Yahweh prophesied through His oracle that He will “strip Esau bare… uncover his hiding places, so that he cannot conceal himself. His children, relatives and neighbours will perish and he will be no more” (Jeremiah 49:10).

This prediction was fulfilled when the last of the Edomites were destroyed in the Roman siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Edom was being previously destroyed by series of foreign invaders until the last straw that broke the camel’s back took place during the Roman siege. Ironically, the nation which helped the Babylonians plunder Jerusalem later died when trying to defend the city of Jerusalem.

V. MOAB AND AMMON

The chief god of Moab, Chemosh is a god known for his notoriety. This god is also probably the national god of the Ammonites. Readers should keep in mind that Moab and Ammon are the sons of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughters. Mesha the king of Moab in his famous inscription is famous for boasting that his god Chemosh had given him victory over the king of Israel and had given him independence from the land of Israel after years of oppression under Omri. When Yahweh was pronouncing judgment on Moab, He said that the Moabites will go into exile. Not only that, Yahweh through His oracle emphasized that “Chemosh will go into exile, together with his priests and officials” (Jeremiah 48:7)

Moab is condemned for her pride and arrogance and for his mockery against Israel. The god of the Moabites also accepts human sacrifice as this was obvious when Mesha king of Moab sacrificed his firstborn to Chemosh. Chemosh is known as the “abomination of Moab” when Solomon introduced the god into Israel (2 Kings 11:7). We should not forget that the Moabites were ones who seduced Israel into sexual immorality on their way to the Promised Land which resulted in the death of about 24,000 Israelites by a plague sent by Yahweh. The judgment and downfall of Moab was predicted by Isaiah (Isaiah 15), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 48) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 25:8-11). Moab later went into exile when the Babylonians defeated them and were later over-run by series of Arabian invaders.

The god of the Ammonites, Molech, is a terrible god known for accepting child sacrifices. Several passages in the Bible prohibited the Israelites from passing their children through the fire in sacrifice to Molech (e.g. Lev. 18:21). It is evident that the Israelites still went on to adopt the wicked practices of the Ammonites until Josiah destroyed the altars of Molech (2 Kings 23:10). Just as Chemosh went into exile, Molech (or Milcom) will also go into captivity (Jeremiah 49:3). The Ammonites who were also chastised for their contempt against Israel and Yahweh, were carried off by Nebuchadnezzar II (the Babylonian king) into exile. Though they later returned in accordance to the word of Yahweh through Jeremiah that afterwards, He will “restore the fortunes of the Ammonites” (Jeremish 49:6). The Ammonites are still numerous during the time of Justin Martyr since he referenced them in his dialogue with Trypho.

VI. AMALEK

The Israelites had their first encounter with the Amalekites, a semi-nomadic group of pitiless raiders, on their way out of Egypt. Yahweh declared through Moses that Amalek should be wiped out (Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19). The feud never abated as the Amalekites would sweep into unprotected towns and villages on the edge of the southern desert, killing and looting leaving the survivors to starvation.

Samuel ordered Saul to destroy the Amalekites once and for all. Readers should carefully note that the order, “attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything… put to death men and women, children and infants…” (1 Samuel 15:3) is another example of literary style of violence common among the Ancient Near Easterners. Saul is said to have destroyed the Amalekites completely (1 Samuel 15:7) with the exception of the king and some animals. However, this is not so since Haman, the worst enemy of the Jews until Hitler, is an Amalekite of the Agag descent.

VII. TYRE

Tyre is known for her pride such that Ezekiel linked her pride with the pride of Satan (Ezekiel 29:12-19). The merchants of Tyre consider themselves virtual god because of their wealth, success and fortified cities. They also rejoiced in the downfall of Jerusalem seeing that as an omen of increased trade. Yahweh predicted that Tyre too will fall and be a “bare rock, and… a place to spread fishnets” (Ezekiel 26:14). The prophecy was fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar captured the mainland city, 12 years after the fall of Jerusalem. Despite the impregnability of the Island, the determined king of Greece (Alexander the Great) destroyed it centuries later. The city was never rebuilt (according to Ezekiel 26:14) and has become a place to spread fishnets till today.

VIII. EGYPT

Egypt is one of the great superpowers in the ancient east for centuries – with its civilization enduring through ages such that a whole field was dedicated to its study. Egypt has both good and bad sides. Lise Manniche in his book, Sexual Life in ancient Egypt, highlighted some sexual immoralities that characterized Egypt ranging from incest to bestiality. Time would not allow us to examine the sins of Egypt in details. Egypt too was condemned for his arrogance, contempt for Yahweh and for being a staff of reed for the house of Israel. When the Israelites were oppressed by other superpowers, they will turn to Egypt for help. Though they first helped Israel against Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar retreated partly due to the reason that he wants to secure the throne after the death of his predecessor. Later, during the siege of Jerusalem, the Israelites expected Egypt to come to their help but their mighty armies never appeared. Nevertheless, Egypt was defeated by the Babylonians in the battle of Carchemish. Series of invasions on Egypt ensured that Egypt no longer rise to the position of power. And as Yahweh had prophesied through prophet Ezekiel, Egypt “will be the lowliest of kingdoms and will never again exalt itself above the other nations… it will never again rule over the nations” (Ezekiel 29:15). Yes, Egypt, a great power for centuries had lost its dominance and has never regained it till now.

 IX. ASSYRIA

Assyria was the nation that captured the Northern Kingdom. He also levelled about 46 cities in Judah and threatened Hezekiah, the leader of the Southern Kingdom. The king of Assyria blasphemed the name of Yahweh. However, Yahweh took care of the Sennacherib and his mighty army (2 Kings 18-19).

Yahweh sent Jonah to preach in the great city the Ninevites because the wickedness of the city has come up before Him. Nineveh repented but the repentance only lasted for a while. The city returned to its old filthy ways. Assyria left monuments to the cruelty – long and boastful inscriptions describing their torture and slaughter of people who opposed them.  In fact, there was an Assyrian king who boasted of erecting a pyramid of chopped-off heads in front of an enemy’s city.

However, when their sins reached its full measure, Yahweh spoke through Prophet Nahum concerning the fall of Assyria. The cruelty of Nineveh (the capital of Assyria) was described in Nahum 3:1-3 such that the chapter concluded in verse 19 saying, “for who has not felt your endless cruelty?”

Assyria fell to the Medes and was destroyed completely such that both Alexander the Great and Napoleon camped near it and had no inkling that a city had ever been there.

 X. BABYLON

Babylon was the city which destroyed the Southern Kingdom and carried them into exile. Babylon was proud but Yahweh mocked his pride, emphasizing that Babylon is just a mere war club (Jeremiah 51:20). Notwithstanding, we still have a good king like Nebuchadnezzar who humbled himself before Yahweh – though not until after Yahweh humbled him and displayed His power. However, his successor, Belshazzar (actually the successor was Nabodinus but he was away most of the time fighting) overstepped his bounds when he took the gold and silver goblets dedicated to Yahweh and used them for drinking wine. Not only that, he and family and nobles praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. Yahweh had enough of this arrogance and sent some writings on the wall that pronounced doom on the king. While the king and his kingdom were feasting, the Medes and Persians were outside the walls trying to penetrate into the impregnable walls of Babylon. The river Euphrates was diverted to another channel while the Persian armies marched through the dry riverbed underneath the city walls. That very night of the feast, Babylon was captured while Belshazzar was slain. Babylon fell but never rose again.

There are other nations that were judged by Yahweh but time would not allow us to examine all of them in details. What happened to Israel? After years of repeated warnings, the wickedness of Israel did not cease (though some good kings arose only for their successors to reverse their good revivals) before Yahweh. Yahweh’s patience was tried enough. He tore Israel into two and sold them into exile piece by piece. The very same reason why the Canaanites were drove out was the very reason why Israel too was drove out. Though Israel returned but never gained its independence until centuries later in the 20th century. Nevertheless, Israel has lost its theocracy and remained a secular nation till date.

6. LET’S NOT MISS THE FOREST FOR THE TREES

Yahweh is and has never been a racist. He was working for the good of the world.  This gradual replacement of a nation with another nation eventually led to the entrance of democracy into the world. The kingdom of Persia that Yahweh used to replace Babylon was lest bestial than the former. Persia had respect for the religions of the nations he conquered. Though, it is a ploy used to secure the nation from threats.

Persian was later conquered by Greece. A hint of hope came to limelight when the Athenians practised a form of Democracy in the fifth century B.C. It seems that morality is coming to be grounded on earth. Though Greece was conquered by Rome, the Greek language endured till today.

Rome too was less bestial than Greece. However, that should not mean that Rome is not cruel. The Romans, Greeks, Persians are still cruel in a sense. But the cruelty is not as terrible as before. In as much as you do not disturb the kingdom or threaten it, you will live peacefully though democracy is still evolving underneath. Rome was splitted into the two kingdoms and on and on until we have the major superpowers today. The fundamentals human rights have been established among nations under the banner of the United Nations.

Now, we should be curious as to what happened to the atheists, agnostics and secular humanitarians during the period of the Canaanites. Where were they? They were virtually nowhere to be found. After Yahweh had worked to ensure that moral codes become enshrined in the world ethics, then we have people who are taking their freedom far beyond limits. They are now accusing Yahweh of being a wicked god. They are using the very same moral codes that Yahweh worked to establish in the world and use them to attack Yahweh of being a wicked god. We can only sit back and see them perishing in their folly. When their source of morality is gone, they will perish. And if the trend of rejecting Yahweh continues unabated, the world will return back to the wickedness of the Canaanites. Do not forget, sodomy is now being legalized in many countries.

7. THE COMMISSION OF THE NEW ISRAEL

Yahweh had it in plan that the Messiah will come from the Jews. However, the kingdom of darkness tried to wipe out Israel from the globe but never succeeded. The little success they had was due to the rebellion of Israel had against her God.

Finally, the Messiah arrived into the world when democracy is being shaped. Jesus is not a pacifist in the sense that people do think of Him. Jesus as before had always hated immorality and wickedness and will not hesitate to use love and violence to uproot them from the world. He will use His unfailing Love to redeem the willing people from wickedness while the unrepentant and stubborn men will be uprooted along with their wickedness from this world. The world (His inheritance) is at a terrible mess and He will come back to clean everything up. During His first coming, Jesus was clear when He said,

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 NKJV

And Jesus said that He did not come to judge the world in His first coming,

“And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” John 12:47 NKJV

The judgment would come at His second coming:

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Matthew 16:27 NKJV

Jesus came to save the world and recruit those who are willing to inherit the kingdom with Him. How is your response so far to His call?

After the vicarious atonement of Christ and His victorious resurrection, He did not give us swords and arrows. He rather gave us the Holy Spirit to direct the Church. He directed our focus not to the physical battles but rather introduced us to the battles occurring in the spiritual realm. The kingdom of darkness is now working so that the good plan of God will not come to pass in our life. The battle is still on but it has moved to another realm. Apostle Paul was right when he said:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” Ephesians 6:10-18 NKJV

Prayer, watchfulness and the Word of God are the weapons that Christians must use in the spiritual warfare while the Holy Spirit is the One to guide how we use how weapons effectively. The Holy Spirit was given to the Church on the day of Pentecost.

Christianity was founded in such a way that you cannot use violence to propagate it. How can you say, “accept Jesus now or else I will kill you” and minutes later be preaching the love and forgiveness of Christ? In fact, how will you know that the person has accepted Christ wholeheartedly? What if he just confess Jesus with his mouth but not with his heart, how will you know? Love is not confessed by our vocal cords but with our hearts. For the first three centuries after the resurrection of our Lord, Christianity was under fierce attack YET the faith grew and conquered the whole Roman Empire!!! A saying goes, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”. The saying is true. For instance, take a look at the early church. How did the Christian faith move out of Jerusalem? Is it not through the martyrdom of Stephen?

Now, someone may point to the Crusades and Inquisition as evidence for violence in Christianity. Well, why pick the argument from about 1000 years after Christ? That is, because the founder of Christianity is not a terrorist. The Apostles and the early Christians are proud to die for their faith not kill for their faith.

Second, pointing out the wars of America and other Christian countries is completely beside the point. First, America is not a Christian country. It is a secular country. The often used phrase, “Christian country” is an error. Jesus said that His people will always live among His enemies as was prophesied in the OT that:

“The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!Psalm 110:1-2 NKJV

Jesus’ first coming is to recruit people into His Spiritual Kingdom. Every true Christian on earth belongs to this spiritual kingdom. Does that mean that this world will go on with its wickedness? No! The prophecy went on to say:

“Your people shall be volunteers In the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth. The LORD has sworn And will not relent, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries. He shall drink of the brook by the wayside; Therefore He shall lift up the head.” PSALM 110:3-7 NKJV

Yes, and this will be accomplished during His second Coming when He will come and establish His kingdom of righteousness.

The modern wars are not fought in the name of Christianity. I wonder why America (a secular nation consisting of Christians, Muslims and atheists) will want to propagate Christianity by sending a nuclear bomb to Hiroshima in Japan (which consists of Muslims, atheists and Christians as well). There is ONLY one Christian country and that country is YET to be established. The ONLY Christian country will be founded when Christ comes in His full power and glory to establish the Kingdom of His Father.

Just as Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, our Lord Jesus Christ brought us (the New Israel) out of the world of sin into His Kingdom of righteousness. However, unlike Moses and Joshua, Jesus sent us out not as conquering armies but as bearers of the gospel.

8. IS YAHWEH THE SAME GOD THAT’S PREACHED ACROSS THE NEW TESTAMENT?

Considering the manner in which Yahweh dealt with the Israelites, and the nations of the then world, it’s natural to ask as to whether Yahweh, was still the same God that Jesus and his disciples so vehemently proclaimed as been the God of love and of all peace. Under the new covenant, God has made a covenant of eternal peace with man, through the body of Jesus. Essentially, all of humanity’s sins had been laid on the cross, and the veil impairing man’s relationship with God has been torn. In the New Testament, all of God’s wrath which he should mete on all men had been poured on Jesus on the cross since he became a substitute for us. And since that according to the Christian is the case, nothing has really changed about the nature of God. He remains the God of righteousness and justice, he remains the judges of all nations, and ruler of in the affairs of men which man can please only through Jesus. God is pleased with man through the penal substitution said the Christian. God has judged all sin on the body of Jesus, and he is pleased with those who acknowledge this fact. As it is written:

“God has made him sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be the righteousness of God by him”           2 Corinthians 5:21

9. CONCLUSION

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrew 13:18). The earthly Yahweh who rained down burning Sulfur from the Heavenly Yahweh (in Genesis 19:24) is the very person who came in flesh to bear our sins, shoulder our blame and paid our debt. This very Yahweh will come during the last days to destroy the wicked and the ungodly. When we are talking about the God revealed in the scriptures, we are not talking of a deity who out of being all-loving, love both wickedness and righteousness. Love must hate wickedness, injustice and ungodliness. Love will do everything to redeem His world back unto righteousness and that He will do by vanquishing every element that stand in His way of bringing redemption.

My special thanks goes to our dear brother and fellow soldier, Mr Taiwo Ademola Eagle for his invaluable contribution to this article. I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ continue to uphold him in His wonderful Grace.

 

ENDNOTES

  1. Ireneaus, Against Heresies, Book I, Chapter v, No. 3
  2. Ireneaus, Against Heresies, Book I, Chapter xxix, No. 4
  3. Ireneaus, Against Heresies, Book I, Chapter v, No. 4
  4. ibid
  5. Ireneaus, Against Heresies, Book I, Chapter vii, No. 4
  6. William F. Albright (1968), Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, Baltimore, John Hopkins Press, pp. 77
  7. Paul Copan (2011), Is God a Moral Monster?: Making sense of the Old Testament God, Grand Rapids, Baker Publishing Group, pp. 159
  8. Plutarch, De superstition, Section 13
  9. Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, Book XX, 14:1
  10. K. Lawson Younger, Jr (1990), Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing, University of Sheffield, Sheffield Academic Press, pp. 227
  11. ibid. pp. 227
  12. Kenneth Anderson Kitchens (2003), On the Reliability of the Old Testament, Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmam Publishing Co. pp. 174
  13. K. Lawson Younger, Jr (1990), Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing, pp. 228
  14. Kenneth Anderson Kitchens (2003), On the Reliability of the Old Testament, pp. 173-174

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here