Is YHWH a War Criminal?

The question of divine goodness and justice in light of the deep problems raised by the biblical commands concerning the slaughter of the Canaanites seems to be the hot topic right now. Philip Jenkins writes on the subject of the Bible’s violent texts in the Huffington Post. John Piper has recently made some remarks on the subject. The subject has also come up in several conversations on Twitter that I have seen or been involved in over the last few days.

John Piper takes the God owes us nothing approach to the question, making the startling and, frankly, appalling statement that ‘It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases.’ Such a proposed solution to the problem seems to be founded upon a profoundly nominalistic conception of God, which conceives of God in terms of will, right, and power, to the exclusion of or in detachment from his goodness, beauty, and truth. In order to resolve the moral conundrums raised by the slaughter of the Canaanites, we open up a far more concerning set of problems in the very heart of our understanding of God’s character. In order to expel the horror of the Canaanite genocide, we admit a far more terrible horror into our doctrine of God.

‘Wrestling’ Rather than ‘Solving’

Any approach to these problems must maintain the connection between the justice, will, and power of God, and his goodness, mercy, truth, and beauty. If God desires something it must be good, because God is good: if something is not good, God cannot desire it. Any approach to these problems must also take the biblical witnesses to God with full seriousness. Any attempt to Procrusteanize the text to fit our doctrine of God is to be rejected, just as any attempt to butcher our doctrine of God to make it sit easily with the troubling texts of Scripture is impermissible.

I believe that our approach to such problem texts should be one of ‘wrestling’ rather than ‘solving’. Such texts are part of the biblical witness to God and, for that reason, can’t simply be rejected, no matter how much we might want to do so on occasions. Nor are we to employ subtle but facile rationalizations or justifications, to dull their force, or airbrush the appalling elements of the picture away. The Bible is a text that scandalizes us in many ways and part of our task as faithful readers is to grapple with the scandal of Scripture to the full extent of our capabilities: the text must never be rendered less scandalous than it actually is. Such texts are wounds that must be kept open, upon which no clean cicatrix may form. They are the aporiae that resist all of our attempts at tidy systematization.

It is in the difficult texts of Scripture that God meets us, as if as an enemy, wrestling against us. Our duty as Christians is to wrestle back, and not let go until God blesses us through those texts. We should, however, be aware that wrestling with such texts, while it can bless us, will leave us with a limp. As we faithfully engage with such difficult texts, we lose the jaunty gait of those who avoid such struggle.

The ‘Trajectory’ Approach

One popular approach to such passages is to appeal to theological ‘trajectories’ in Scripture (claims about cultural ‘accommodation’ are not dissimilar, and can be subject to many of the same criticisms). It is by no means clear to me that such an approach really solves our problems, without opening up a problem in our understanding of Scripture as a witness to God’s character. The ‘trajectory’ approach is all too often employed to nullify words and actions of God witnessed to by the text, and often in order to domesticate God to some contemporary moral understanding, such as the prevailing morality of contemporary liberal thought. Such a trajectory approach wrongly disavows the scandal, rather than living with it.

This is not to deny the importance of some sort of a trajectory approach in such contexts. God’s work is all about maturation on many different levels. The form of the kingdom matures and the form of God’s moral revelation matures (from Law to wisdom, from wisdom to prophecy, from prophecy to incarnation by the Spirit). Imposing an old form upon a new reality can be strongly condemned by Scripture, even though the old form was right and proper in its own place. The second part of the last statement is crucial: the old word is not nullified but fulfilled and surpassed. The old word does not cease to be a divine word in its own time and place, and we cannot therefore escape the duty of wrestling with it. As a divine word we cannot exclude it from the biblical testimony to God’s character, truth, goodness, and justice, no matter how troubling we might find it. While such texts must not be permitted to overrun or take precedence over clearer texts, most particularly the revelation of God’s character in Jesus Christ, the tensions that they create cannot be abandoned.

Some Wrestling ‘Moves’

All of the above remarks are preparatory for the following comments. I want to make clear that the following thoughts are not intended to provide a solution to these problem texts. Rather, they are some of the insights that have arisen as I have wrestled with these texts over the years (many of my comments about wrestling with Scripture above rehearse arguments already made in this post). I believe that these insights can help us in our wrestling, perhaps giving us an upper hand on certain of the problems that the texts throw at us, but without thereby ending the struggle.

The History of the Canaanites

First, we need to recognize that the invasion of Canaan does not occur in a historical vacuum. In Genesis 15:16, God indicates that the deliverance of Canaan into the hand of Abraham and his seed will not occur until the wickedness of the Amorites (and presumably the rest of the Canaanites) has reached its full measure. Such a process takes centuries, each successive generation continuing in and intensifying the wickedness of the one that preceded them. We are told that it was on account of the bloodthirstiness and wickedness of the Canaanites that God determined to purge the land of them. The land vomits out the nations that have defiled themselves and it with innocent blood and sexual immorality (e.g. Leviticus 18:24-30; Deuteronomy 9:5).

This is a point that the biblical text continually underlines: the Canaanites were not innocent and mild-mannered nations minding their own business, but brutal and bloody oppressors of other peoples, nations who perverted and defiled the image of God through all forms of sexual immorality and unfaithfulness, nations steeped in injustice and involved in the enslaving and subjugation of others, worshippers of cruel gods who demanded child sacrifice. This is the rationale that the Bible gives for the complete eradication of their culture. The Canaanites were perceived in a manner that made them the Nazis of their day, a society so evil and depraved that it had to be completely uprooted, and no form of compromise made with it. No tears were to be shed over the death of anyone who fought to defend that culture and the wickedness that it represented and perpetrated.


Second, these nations also had forewarning. The Canaanites were well aware of what had happened in Egypt (Joshua 2:9-11), where YHWH had proved his might over all of the gods of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:12; Numbers 33:4), and demonstrated that he was the God of heaven and earth. In fighting against the Israelites, the Canaanites knew that they were taking up arms against the Most High God, the God who had brought the empire of Egypt to its knees, humiliating all of its gods, and not just some petty tribal deity. Seen in this light, their resistance to the Israelites was a suicidal determination to fight a war against the God above the gods. The Canaanites are presented as a terrifyingly cruel civilization driven by a death wish and unwavering opposition to the God who sets free the captives.

The Canaanites’ Options

Third, the Canaanites had options open to them. They were to be eradicated from the land. However, there was nothing stopping them from fleeing from the land. Nor, far more importantly, was there anything preventing them from converting to YHWH. The Gibeonites tricked the Israelites into making a treaty with them and were protected for that reason. We also see Rahab converting to YHWH in Joshua 2. Even while declaring the complete destruction of any who resist, God’s declaration of judgment upon a people always left open the possibility of repentance and protection for those who will turn. For instance, in the Exodus, the Israelites were accompanied by a ‘mixed multitude’, among whom we may presume were many Egyptians and other formerly oppressed peoples fleeing from Egypt.

What God commanded in the conquest was the eradication of a series of cultures from the land of Canaan (the focus in the text is less upon annihilation of people groups as on utterly dispossessing them of the land). This could be achieved in a number of ways. The members of the cultures could eradicate their own cultures by converting to the God of Israel. The cultures could remove themselves from the land by mass migration or through a tribal diaspora, as the Israelites migrated from Egypt. The final option, and what for the most part seems to have taken place, was sanguinary removal from the land by conquest.

Hyperbole and History

Fourth, we need to take care to read these narratives within their literary context, and in terms of broader evidence. For instance, God speaks of Israel being ‘annihilated’ and ‘destroyed’ in Deuteronomy 28:63, the same verbs as are used of the Canaanites, but it is clear that not all were killed, and many would have remained in the land under foreign rule, while the ruling classes would have been utterly removed or exiled, and all military and cultural power broken.

There is also the fact that not all cities were utterly destroyed (e.g. ‘I gave you … cities that you did not build’ – Joshua 24:13), even though the commandment was spoken of as having been fulfilled. The focus seems to have been on the defeating of citadels (which archaeology suggests were distinct from the civilian populations of their surrounding countryside), military centres and outposts, and their ‘kings’, not upon the indiscriminate wiping out of all, combatants and non-combatants alike. The strongholds were eliminated, not the population centres. Jericho wasn’t a big city and population centre (a claim supported by archaeology), but a military stronghold, small enough to walk round seven times in a day with time left to wage war against it. The inhabitants would almost all be combatants, with a person like Rahab as an exceptional case. The cities would not be civilian centres, and the language of destroying all including woman and children, or ‘everything that breathed’ is similar to conventional ANE hyperbole.

The Liberation of the Captives

Fifth, the entire Hexateuch is filled with God’s concern for releasing the slaves and the oppressed, and his humiliation and defeat of oppressors. It would be remiss of us suddenly to forget this theme as we start to deal with the conquest (much of the following comes from Peter Leithart’s stimulating comments on the subject). The conquest begins with sequences of sevens and the blowing of trumpets, much as the Jubilee in Leviticus 25:8-17. Much as in the book of Revelation, an oppressive and bloody city is defeated with the blowing of seven trumpets, which announces the release of captives, the destruction of oppressors, and the establishment of liberty. As the Bible presents it, Joshua’s conquest is a liberation movement.

This reading can be strengthened by observation of the way that Joshua’s conquest is picked up as a theme later in Scripture. We see a pattern of ‘desert ministries’ followed by ‘land ministries’, marked off by the crossing of the Jordan. Moses leads the people in the wilderness, before handing off to Joshua on the far side of the Jordan. Joshua crosses the Jordan and leads the conquest of the land. Elijah is a prophet associated with the desert, spending much of his time in the wilderness, hiding from Jezebel and Ahab. In 2 Kings 2 he is succeeded by Elisha on the far side of the Jordan. Elisha miraculously crosses the Jordan and begins a ministry of miracles and healing within the land, setting the stage for the complete shake-up of Israel’s power structures. Jesus is baptized by John (the Elijah that was to come) in the wilderness on the far side of the Jordan. He then (after his temptations) enters the land and declares Jubilee (Luke 4:16ff.), casting out demons, healing the sick, and preaching deliverance to the poor and oppressed. In other words, the theme of conquest is fundamentally one of liberation.

Returning to the analogy of Nazi Germany, we can see that we tend to perceive the events of 1945 in much the same way. Germany eventually capitulated, and incredible suffering and deprivation were experienced by its inhabitants, but it was fundamentally a liberation that occurred. Germany suffered a gruesome death toll, but the images that most haunt us are the gaunt figures in liberated concentration camps, and though we may be appalled at the German loss of life, we know that the utter removal of Hitler’s power and the eradication of Nazism was morally necessary. The downfall of that evil power was something to rejoice in and few people are ashamed of having played a part in its destruction.

The Gospel Trajectory of Holy War

Sixth, and most importantly, we see a progressive development in the way that the theme of Holy War functions in Scripture. As I have argued above, this ‘trajectory’ does not entail a nullification or disavowal of earlier stages, but the progression to something more advanced. The Church is still called to engage in Holy War, but this war occurs by different means.

Already in the book of Joshua we see hints of what Holy War might develop into. The victory over Jericho fundamentally occurs by means of a liturgy and an act of worship. It also involves a prominent conversion in Rahab, who becomes part of the line of Jesus.

Where the Levites killed 3,000 of their brethren in Exodus 32:26-28, and are then set aside for their tabernacle ministry, at Pentecost, Peter’s sermon ‘cuts’ 3,000 hearers ‘to the heart’. Both Elijah (1 Kings 17:9-24) and Jesus (Matthew 15:21-28) exercise their deliverance ministries for poor Canaanites. While the evil Pharaoh-like king of Israel, Ahab, is being plagued with drought, God ministers to the poor Canaanite widow of Zarephath. Whether we should read this as a parallel with the way that God sought to deliver oppressed Canaanites from wicked rulers, or in contrast to the destruction of the Canaanite cities is not clear to me. However, what is clear is that the accent of Holy War shifts from physical military means, to those of prayer, the casting of demons, the proclamation of the gospel, and the various deliverance ministries of healing, feeding, release from debt and captivity, etc.

The old covenant order was one where the Spirit was not operative to the same degree or in the same manners: it is only through and in Christ that the fuller measure of the Spirit’s work is enjoyed. Whereas Joshua defeated the oppressing nations largely with physical weapons, albeit empowered by God, within the new covenant the weapons of our warfare are not those of this world, but are far more powerful (2 Corinthians 10:4). Our nations seek to wage wars of hearts and minds, but lack the necessary weapons, so must resort to brute force. The gospel, however, is capable of conquering hearts and minds, and bringing them under Christ’s rule. Holy War becomes mission. The commission that our ‘Joshua’ gives us is greater than that Moses gave to the first Joshua. Joshua was called to go into the land and wipe out the Canaanites by the sword: we are called to go into the whole world and cut every creature to the heart with the two-edged sword of the Spirit. The Church’s prayer, worship, and gospel proclamation is the means by which the whole world will be brought into Christ’s blessing.

Some care is needed here, as the New Testament doesn’t altogether leave behind the idea of the destruction of wicked and bloodthirsty oppressors and absorb everything under the idea of conversion. However, the defeat of the oppressors occurs by means of the worship, prayer, and mission of the Church, rather than through force of arms. This is especially seen in the book of Revelation, where divine judgment and victory over the bloody persecutors, vindication of the martyrs, and release of the oppressed occurs through worship and liturgy. In place of Joshua’s military campaigns, we have Paul’s missionary journeys (notice that Paul takes the Nazirite vow – a sort of holy war vow – at least once in connection with his missionary work, much as Jesus took a Nazirite-like vow in abstaining from wine prior to and while on the cross). There are judgments upon wicked persons along the way, but it is deliverance and conversion that dominate the narrative, not judgment.

As I have argued, the theme of Holy War is not left behind in the New Testament, but elevated to a higher level and intensified. The world, not merely the land, is now the site of the war. No longer are our enemies primarily flesh and blood individuals, but rather the shadowy spiritual forces behind them. We have grown beyond fighting with physical swords and have now been entrusted with the heavy weaponry – the word of the cross, which can tear down strongholds and powers (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; cf. Jeremiah 1:9-10).


In conclusion, I want to reiterate that the above comments are not intended as a ‘solution’ to the problems of these texts, which remain deeply uncomfortable. However, they may serve to clarify these problems somewhat and knock certain of them down to a less terrifying size. I would love to hear any further thoughts that people might have in the comments.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Bible, Joshua, OT, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Is YHWH a War Criminal?

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  4. Paul D Baxter says:

    I’ll have to remember to come back and read over this more thoroughly (I just briefly skimmed it now). I think this is a wonderful topic for exploration since it is one that presents a stumbling block for many both inside and outside the church in our culture.

  5. Paul D Baxter says:

    You are more than welcome. I thought it was a tremendous book and you were one of the people I thought would enjoy it.

  6. This is an interesting post, thank you for bringing up this important issue. It also shows that you’re reaching out to a wider audience when you discuss wrestling moves in a theological blog! There were a few questions I had about some of your answers though:

    When you talk about the history of the Canaanites pre-conquest and the fame of the Exodus spreading to Palestine, how much should we assume the account given in the Bible? It seems like extreme accounts of inhuman levels of wickedness, along with widespread acceptance of the existence and superiority of the author’s god would be pretty standard in a text building a national myth. It would also seem to fit in quite well with the idea of the actual writing (or editing) of the texts happening later, when Israel were hardly the dominant force in the region and needed some support for their belief in their special place in the world. Please understand that these are just suspicions, rather than the result of great amounts of research.

    Secondly, does a reading of the text support your claim that the requirement was merely to eliminate strategic centres of military power? I don’t know much about the background to the texts, but surely Samuel’s answer to Saul’s imperfect slaughter of the Amalekites as well as the reasons given for the slaughter in Deuteronomy 20 (attack the cities you are being given as an inheritance and wipe out the people without giving quarter, while leaving useful material such as fruit trees (and presumably the city itself) standing – otherwise even the women and children may turn you away from YHWH) suggest that the writers knew the definition of ‘all’.

    In some ways, the story of the Gibeonites shows how the options you talk about were not actually available to the people. The Gibeonites were only able to stay in the country and gain positions of extreme subservience because they tricked the Israelites; if the real situation had been known, the implication seems to be that the Gibeonites would have been forced to become refugees outside of Israel. Rahab is also a bad example: someone in an important citadel who is willing to commit treason by giving assistance to an invading army could probably expect a significant reward, but this would only make the chance of anyone else escaping even less likely. It’s been a while since I read the passage in detail, but wasn’t it true that the Israelites weren’t allowed to make agreements with those living in the promised land? I suppose some individuals might have been able to join the mixed multitude, but it seems this was seen as a diluting of the Jewish culture and a sign of an imperfect conquest that later brought problems, rather than a wonderful example of the inclusiveness offered by YHWH. “There was nothing stopping them from fleeing from the land (and becoming refugees)”. Oh, goody. So the real options are cultural genocide (as a possible option offered to a select few), actual genocide or fleeing before that can happen. I hate to invoke Godwin’s Law, but the Nazis also framed their invasion of Poland in terms of liberation of (certain groups of) its people, as did the Soviets after them – it seems to be a good way of justifying conquest in general, often with no tangible benefit to the captives themselves (apart from when the conquerors see themselves as the slaves).

    It is a good point about the hyperbole evident in this kind of text, it would seem from a bare reading that the Canaanites were pretty effectively wiped from the face of the earth when there are definite clues that this wasn’t the case (as you’ve pointed out). It’s a shame that the record of their culture is a lot sparser than that of the Israelites though, it’s hard to judge claims of Caananite depravity when you mainly just hear one side. In fact, one of the only redeeming graces of the account would be if it does contain massive amounts of hyperbole, although this wouldn’t help my opinion of the Israelites much in either case (the Israelites actually destroyed the people vs. they only approved of and exaggerated the extent of their destruction).

    One of my problems with the idea of ‘wrestling’ (in the sense that many people use it) is that it can often be used to mask a refusal to find out uncomfortable answers. I’m not necessarily accusing you of this, it’s just that I do sometimes see people whose theology is at odds with their moral compass or with reality coming to a text and essentially just saying “hmm. Difficult text”, before moving on. I’m certainly not pretending that I see no tension between my own beliefs and reality, but in this case it seems the tension comes from attempting to reach a position of justification of this action, due to the unchanging character of YHWH. I don’t see a big problem with seeing the Israelites as warring tribes who committed actions that were more common in that time, even if they would be unthinkable now. There’s also the mistake of applying human judgement to God, who could justifiably do things that would be seen as wrong if done by ordinary people. However, this is one of the reasons I rejected Christianity in the first place: as you have pointed out, the conquest of Canaan isn’t an isolated event or a dark chapter in Israel’s history, it is celebrated throughout the Bible and (while generally becoming less physically violent) is just as intolerant of alternative viewpoints as ever. For many Christians from most major denominations, the future will bring complete domination over all other beliefs and possibly the destruction of their adherents. For these and other reasons, even if the Bible is proven without question and its God is conclusively seen to exist, I will never ally myself to him.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jonathan. You raise some very important questions. My response will have to be relatively brief; I can’t answer every question that you raise completely here.

      Since the discovery of Ugaritic literature about a century ago, we now have a better idea about the character of Canaanite culture and religion. We know some of their myths, of the key deities of their pantheon, and of some of their worship practices, in texts written by scribes of the religion. While these should not be employed uncritically (although the gods and the religion are fundamentally the same, the location is north of Israel, and there might also be differences between folk and established religion), in a number of respects they lend support to the biblical presentation of the Canaanites. Canaanite religion and its practices seem to be bloody (there are suggestions of child sacrifice from some extra-biblical sources), drunken, and orgiastic, a religion where sex, death and the dead, and war were prominent. To the degree that a culture’s behaviour will tend to reflect its gods (or at least claim or seek to do so), Canaanite society comes across as fairly established in cruel, dehumanizing, and oppressive practices. The strong textual relations between biblical and Canaanite texts also suggest that the biblical authors were quite aware of the culture of Canaanite worship and its practices.

      With regard to your second point, yes, I believe that the text does lend some support to these claims. Other ancient near eastern texts also illustrate the use of extremely hyperbolic language of totality to refer to something significantly less than that. In the case of the Amalekites, for instance, they crop up several times later on in the book of Samuel, and in Scripture. In the case of the destruction of the cities of Canaan, we only see three cities (Jericho, Ai, and Hazor – all fortress citadels) being burned.

      In the case of the women, we do see women being killed at points like Numbers 25. While non-combatants, such women would be killed as active participants in and perpetrators of the dehumanizing Canaanite religion and its sexual license.

      There are broader principles of biblical justice at work here, principles that come to the fore when a whole nation corrupts itself over a number of generations. God’s justice is not merely executed upon individuals, but judgment is visited upon entire nations. Explaining the logic of these principles of justice, which are naturally very important for understanding the conquest of Canaan would take longer than I can spend right now, but I might try to address this directly and at length at some point in the future.

      The case of the Gibeonites was problematic because they were under the ban. As a people they had to be dispossessed of the land. The treaty formed with them conflicted with the ban, but not if they were devoted to YHWH’s possession, which is what happened (and why they were made tabernacle servants). They could also have escaped judgment by rejecting their Gibeonite identity and joining Israel, something illustrated by the archaeological and textual evidence of Canaanite assimilation into Israel.

      Sure, any culture can frame conquest in terms of liberation. However, some conquests are more justifiably framed in such a manner. I believe that we have both biblical and extra-biblical evidence that would suggest that the wiping out of Canaanite culture in the land of Israel (although it obviously persisted) might not have been that bad a thing at all (the fate of the Canaanite people themselves is, of course, a more difficult question).

      My point in the above post is that we should never simply move on from ‘difficult’ texts, but must tarry with them and continue to wrestle with them, without settling for facile solutions. This is why all of my comments to this point have been presented, not as solutions, but as means of wrestling with the difficulties. Of course, there are some who see these difficulties to be so great that we must abandon certain fundamental theological convictions in order adequately to deal with them. I obviously do not share that conviction, but nor do I believe that we should act as if a tidy solution exists.

      The Bible presents God’s word, most fully revealed in Jesus Christ, as the Truth, and the only way to God. It also teaches that this Truth will become fully manifested and will be universally acknowledged in the future. How this relates to different viewpoints is a complex issue, not least on account of the fact that different viewpoints are not necessarily mutually exclusive, or in fundamental conflict. It is not rare for God’s Truth to be revealed as the fulfilment of some cultural truth, not as a contradiction, but as a surpassing. When God’s Truth engages with a culture, it seldom if ever involves a complete rejection of the cultural viewpoint, but a purifying and leavening of it. However, it is true that, if the Scriptures are correct, certain core beliefs of most people are fundamentally wrong, and will be revealed as such.

      Whatever certain Christian denominations might say, the biblical focus is not upon the judgment of people for bare belief systems, but upon judgment according to works. Among the nations, this is seen to focus on judgment for the way that they treated the image of God in themselves and their neighbours.

      While I can understand your moral qualms – moral qualms which, I suggest, historically owe a lot to the Christian tradition in several respects – I wonder whether you risk losing the rationale for these important moral qualms in the process of jettisoning the Christian faith on account of these elements within it that provoke them.

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  9. Matthew Petersen says:

    The other issue that I don’t often see raised is that “genocide” is something inherently different in the hands of a God who can raise the dead than it is in the hands of a man for whom death is ultimate. If a physician puts someone into a coma in order that they live, the physician has done a good thing. (For instance, in the Milwaukee protocol: But if I put someone into a coma, I would be guilty of a very serious crime.

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  13. Lucifer says:

    Might does not make right. You will never be able to justify the killing of children. My ex-employer Yahweh is a monster who has slandered me while committing horrid atrocities. I only want to bring light and knowledge, do NOT listen to the guy in the sky telling you to kill innocent children.
    I know him better than any of you.

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  16. phai says:

    A reply to an old topic but meh!! For those who are still sitting on the fence the following is a decent illustration of what it meant to be on the receiving end of the war god yahweh Also why does he like to refer to himself in the plural? why is he described as god of gods? is that an admission of something? yahweh was/is a Canaanite god son of El husband of Asherah part of a pantheon of gods nothing more. all the best with your search for truth.

  17. James Bejon says:

    This post ties in nicely with some of Peter Leithart’s thoughts here: I’ve stolen both posts for the purposes of some work on the Jubilee I’ve been trying to put together. Hope neither of you mind! James.

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  19. rtgmath says:

    “Is God a War Criminal?” By any reasonable measure, yes. Not only were combatants killed, but women, children, and infants who won’t have been guilty of the crimes of licentiousness noted. We do not kill adulterers or fornicators in this day, nor am I convinced it was ever “right” to do so regardless of the cultural implications. And God encouraged the killing of all but the. Irgun girls, who would be destined for sexual slavery and rape. No matter what ceremonies were performed, they were still raped — at God’s behest.

    Or at least this is how they portrayed Him. Savages require a savage god. As they grew more civilized, their perception of God did as well.

    But then, those who hold to God being virtuous in all this savagery demonstrate that they are no more than savages at heart, too. The belief that God will condemn those who do not believe (for a variety of reasons) to eternal torture demonstrates that, in the minds of most believers, God is still the Ultimate Savage, a Monster they worship because of strength and the ability to punish, not because of virtue or goodness.

  20. padrerichard says:

    Reblogged this on padrerichard and commented:
    Very interesting look at war and devastation in the Old Testament.

  21. Rickwright67 says:

    I know you posted this in 2012. In my experience, “divine violence” in the conquest of Canaan is usually the number one complain about Scripture, and is a lynchpin for those who want to toss out the Old Testament and argue for neo-Marconism. It is how radically “progressive” Chriistians consistently attempt to undermine and dislodge other Christians from their confidence in the truthfulness (and I don’t mean “literal” truthfulness) of Scripture. I’ve experienced this first hand, and frankly it was rough. The conquest of Canaan is arguably the weak spot in Christian reverence for Scripture.

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