“The God of the Old Testament has got to be the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous, and proud of it, petty, vindictive, unjust, unforgiving, racist.” — Richard Dawkins.
“But you ask me what the scariest things are in Christianity: this infatuation with biblical prophecy and this notion that Jesus is going to come back as an avenging savior to kill all the bad people”. — Sam Harris
Wow!…. Guess that covers the whole bible then…….This issue is a sacred cow to Atheists who spend their lives looking for reasons to hate God, and I do mean vindictive hate.
They should talk “violent rhetoric”, because I’ve been on the receiving end of that atheist hate for God and it’s not pretty!
A TRUE CHRISTIAN loves everyone in the world without exception but we at the same time can absolutely HATE what they do to us and themselves, that is what God teaches us to do. Christians are NOT to demean, insult or otherwise cut down a persons belief BUT at the same time we are to REASON with the world AS GOD WOULD!
THIS IS THE OPINION OF THE SKEPTIC WHO READS THE BIBLE OUT OF CONTEXT WITHOUT THE SPIRITS GUIDANCE OR ANY “COMMON SENSE” THROWN IN FOR GOOD MEASURE!
“Whenever we read … the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize humankind. And, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.” Thomas Paine
While I can agree with”Thomas Paine” on things dealing with American Freedom (i.e. “Common Sense”), HE’S A LOON when anything Spiritual comes up. Any one with that same Common Sense can see that the Bible is an HONEST reflection of the Sin of Adam and Eve and its results down through the years NOT THE CAUSE OF IT!
This is blind reasoning at best, like believing that a book you just read about “Auto accidents” is the cause of your wreck that day!
The Bible REVEALS sin and it’s punishment for what it is, in an HONEST and straightforward manner not like the truth-less, white-washed world that atheists live in without absolutes.
It’s the reality most of us do not want to see…but there it is in black and white type!
“The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart.”–Dt.28:28
“So that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children whom he shall eat.”–Dt.28:55
“And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.–Num.21:6
“I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hands of them that seek their lives: and their carcases will I give to be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.”–Jer.19:7
“And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain.”--Dt.2:34
Wow, that’s a LOT of violence and what a way to start my page about a loving and caring GOD OF CREATION !?
But the SELF APPOINTED “VIOLENCE PATROL” has spoken, so all of us Christians can now “GIVE IN” and concede the point…Right?
Let’s look at the Bible from a new perspective for a change and see what God was really trying to get across to us in being HONEST about what happened in the Old Testament!
Being HONEST gets you no where with skeptics but so what, it’s not like they’d know it if it bit them anyway!
When dealing with the problem of violence in the OT we tend to follow one of two approaches:
We tend to Concentrate more on the many passages where God is depicted as loving – much of Isaiah, Hosea, Micah, Deuteronomy.
We tend to Explain how the idea of God as a violent punishing war monger is all part of the historical and cultural conditioning of the author and that we can ignore it in good faith, especially in the light of the NT.
Neither of these approaches does justice to God’s entire REVELATION. There are in the OT roughly three hundred passages which talk of people doing violence to each other, either a report or a threat or a command, or a lament.
There are roughly a thousand passages which talk of God’s violence or wrath; either a report of his slaying someone, or his threatening people with violence or descriptions of him as a man of war.
On this page, I will deal with the REASONS BEHIND VIOLENCE AND WHY PEOPLE FIGHT ONE ANOTHER, ALL REVEALED IN THE BIBLE CLEARLY!!!
To ignore the violence in the OT is like making a study of Churchill and completely ignoring the fact that he was English. Violence is not peripheral to the Bible it is central, in many ways it is the issue, because of course it is the human problem. The central icon of our faith depicts an act of mob violence against an innocent victim.
The Bible is in fact the story of the slow, painstaking and sometimes faltering escape from the idea of a God who is violent to a God who is love and has absolutely nothing to do with violence. We must remember that people do not simply desire what others have, they desire what others desire.
The proof of this which every parent knows is to watch two toddlers in a nursery full of toys. One picks up a teddy bear and begins carelessly to play with it. The other will soon enough turn from what he is doing and focus his attention on that teddy. He will try to take it off the first one, who in turn will stubbornly cling to it. The result will always be tears. In the space of a few minutes, an object which neither of them was really that keen on becomes an object of intense desire.
Affluent parents may solve the problem by buying another identical teddy, but one can be sure that their attention will soon move to another object. The whole of advertising, the fashion industry, art criticism and many other things are based upon this. We could say that Armani clothes are more desired than C & A because their cloth and cut are better.
That does explain why frayed and patched jeans were so popular and why it is that the things our grandparents called ‘dungarees’ are highly desirable, even mandatory fashion items. The explanation is that because one person deems these things desirable, I too find them so, regardless of quality or usefulness.
Why were we quickly pulling down ‘ugly’ Victorian buildings in the sixties and now putting preservation orders on them and hailing them as architectural masterpieces?
So imitation is the very nature of desire.
Because this imitation is largely unconscious Girard calls it by the Greek term mimesis (mimicry).
Remember: The model becomes the rival.
Almost all human conflict is the result of people modeling themselves, (albeit unconsciously) on others and then entering into rivalry with others. All human conflict is about wanting what someone else has and desires – money, land, prestige, a spouse, a friend, power etc. every human society is threatened by this desire which becomes rivalry which leads to conflict.
(It is no accident that the last two commandments warn against this mimetic desire. Covetousness is the reason why people kill, commit adultery, steal and bear false witness against each other, and if the Decalogue wants to stop those it will have to attack their root cause – desire. The ten Commandments display an anthropological understanding which is remarkably spot on.)
Developed societies have quite sophisticated mechanisms for keeping this from getting out of hand. In a society with no police force and no judiciary, the basic mechanism to stop this internal violence is scapegoating and sacrifice. A group achieves initial unity by falling on a scapegoat (from inside or outside) and uniting against him and killing him. So all against all becomes all against one.
Because all the internal tensions disappear when this mechanism kicks in, the experience is one of the scapegoat bringing peace, so the whole thing takes on an air of holiness. It seems that ‘good’ violence is used to drive out ‘bad’ violence. Very likely, because peace seems to be the result of the death of the scapegoat, he is then considered divine. Scapegoating is still the way many groups bring about peace – politicians threatened by unpopularity start a war to unite people against a common enemy. Tensions in the workplace are solved like this, sometimes even in the church.
Whenever this happens people are
a) Always unconscious of what’s going on.
b) Always assume that God is on the side of the mob or the many and bringing about peace by killing the ostracized the victim.
c) Always assume that the victim is guilty and that God is therefore against the victim.
The opinion of God and the opinion of the crowd are therefore identical. So When Jesus says “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”, this is not just piety or Jesus being kind. Some people even seem to think that Jesus is telling a kind of little white lie to excuse them, just as sometimes people excuse the appalling behavior of children by saying:
“They’re only kids.” None of them have any idea that they are caught up in a process of scapegoating frenzy. They have no idea that the unity of purpose between the Jewish and Roman authorities is the result of this frenzy. It seems the only sensible thing to do. The Jews explicitly believe that they are doing the work of God. The Romans believe this killing is necessary to keep public order, so it amounts to the same thing.
This process is at the basis of all human culture.
The Bible comes to birth in a society where this scapegoating mechanism is fully operational, but it is the genius of Biblical revelation that it slowly unmasks this process and shows it up for what it is and offers an alternative. Societies use one sort of violence to expel another sort. The violence expelled is deemed ‘bad’, the violence used to expel it is deemed ‘good’.
This is basically what we mean by myth. Not fiction, nor the product of a primitive imagination. Myth tells of a violent event, but tells it from the point of view of the society which benefited from that event, and therefore veils and vindicates the violence
No one in a society where myth holds sway is aware that the facts have been tampered with or colored, so people in such societies are not hypocrites. But the more biblical influence works on a society, the less myth is likely to work. The OT, slowly at first, tells of these events, but tells them from the point of view of the victim.
This is not universally clear in the OT, but is dazzlingly clear in the Gospels. The central event in world history is the Son of God becoming the victim of this process, and then rising. In the passion story Caiaphas says:
“It is better that one man should die for the people, rather than that the whole nation should perish”. (Jn:11:50)
His is the voice of everyone, every individual, every society which has tried to solve its problems by scapegoating; the voice of reason, the voice of political common sense, the voice which speaks up for the ‘common good’. It is the voice of pogroms, ethnic cleansing and final solutions, and has been heard countless times in history and has resulted in untold human suffering. But it is not the voice of the gospel.
The gospel speaks with another voice, with the voice of the victim.
That’s why the Gospel as well as being a unique piece of theology is a unique piece of anthropology.
But let’s start in the garden of Eden.
Adam gets into trouble because he imitates and acts upon the desire of Eve, HE ALLOWED HIMSELF TO VIEW WHAT WAS IN HIM SINCE SHE “REFLECTED” HER TRUE DESIRE TO HIM, INSTEAD OF LETTING GOD’S IMAGE OF DESIRE SUPERSEDE WHAT SHE DESIRED.
The Bible makes clear that HUMAN desire INSTEAD OF GOD DESIRE is the start of the problem. The serpent paints God as a rival, and when they are found out Adam and Eve blame each other and the serpent for their wrong doing.
The very next development is the violence which begins to emerge from the rivalry between Cain and Abel. Bear in mind that this story came into being in a culture where HUMAN sacrifice is common and is the way of securing divine favor(THEY THINK) when all else fails.
One man; Abel, performs a blood sacrifice (Of an animal) which works. (When the Bible says that it was pleasing to God it means that it was religiously and socially effective.) The next performs a plant sacrifice (Giving to God a work of YOUR CREATION, SWEAT, LABOR WITHOUT BLOOD!) which doesn’t.
He then kills the first man.
The obvious conclusion in this culture is that this is an act of sacrifice – this is a holy act pleasing to God. But the biblical account is written to show that this is in no way an act of religion, just a murder, and that God has nothing to do with it.
The issue here is that ancient people were aware that blood sacrifices ‘worked’ – of course because they are a reflection of the initial scapegoating violence which prevent the group turning on each other. If we want to find out the purpose of sacrifice, we have to observe what happens when it fails.
The purpose of sacrifice is to prevent what happens when it fails. Cain’s bloodless offering failed to extinguish his resentment. If a mob unites in order to lynch someone and the victim escapes, that mob will start blaming each other for the escape and a huge fight will ensue.
What happens here is basically the same. When animals fight, generally they have an instinct which will stop them fighting to the death. Human beings all too often seem to lack this instinct, this is illustrated both by personal homicides and by wars which escalate and claim millions of victims. When a conflict results in blood, vengeance becomes necessary. And that vengeance can quickly spiral out of control.
In our society we have police and a judiciary to stop that happening or to nip it in the bud when it does. But we cannot comprehend how dangerous the threat of violent revenge is for primitive peoples. Our text shows this clearly in 4:23-24. Lamech says to his wives; I killed a man for wounding me, a boy for striking me. Sevenfold vengeance for Cain, but seventy-sevenfold for Lamech.
The possibility of this awful bloodshed, the result of anger which wells up from inside and cannot always be explained is always just round the corner. Once this begins it cannot be stopped, so it must at all costs and by all means be prevented. Sacrifice exists to do precisely that. Human sacrifice is the obvious way and even in societies as developed as ancient Greece or the Aztecs, right up to the arrival of the conquistadors, it was part of daily life.
All the anger and violence could be ritually directed against one victim, and that victim as it were takes on the violence of the whole group, he dies to keep the rest of the group alive.
People scorn as primitive, the idea that ‘If we do not perform this sacrifice disaster will befall us’. But of course it is literally true, not just theologically. If the rivalry and latent violence within the group is not channeled onto something safe – i.e. the sacrificial victim, it will erupt and engulf the community – disaster.
If God is the protector of the community it is perfectly understandable that people consider the sacrifice to be his will. If the result of the sacrifice is peace it is understandable that people say that God has accepted the sacrifice. People have claimed that there is a huge difference between human and animal sacrifice. From our point of view as modern westerners maybe, but not from the point of view of sacrificial societies.
If the victim is human he is always somehow marginal to the community – a foreigner, a stranger, a child, (Remember uninitiated children are scarcely members at all). He may be a prisoner of war – some societies waged war almost continuously and none of the usual reasons could be adduced, the war was to provide prisoners and therefore a continual supply of sacrificial victims.
He may also be the king, which may seem strange, but royalty too is marginal. The queen is certainly not one of us. The novelty of Princess Diana was that she was “just like one of us”. In true pastoral societies the domestic animals are members of the community albeit marginal, and therefore they are perfect sacrificial victims The thing with anyone marginal is that no vengeance can result from their death since they do not have blood relations with anyone in the community.
(In the light of this we can see that the Psalmist’s My sacrifice is a contrite spirit is not just a helpful pious thought. If the violence that results from rivalry is prevented by sacrifice, the non-sacrificial alternative is to find another way of making sure people don’t get as far as that violence.
A contrite spirit, a humble spirit, a forgiving spirit is the only possible alternative antidote to this. This will achieve what sacrifice tried to achieve – the end of violent scapegoating rivalry. In the end it is far more effective, since it diffuses the root cause of the rivalry.)
Cain receives a mark to ensure that he will not be the victim of the scapegoating process (This was an act of God’s GRACE TOWARD HIM). Criminals very often become such victims in the modern world. In prisons very often child murderers are tortured or murdered themselves by the other inmates.
Clearly they are not exacting justice; they are making him the victim of their own base desires, but often hiding behind the mask of some sort of self-righteousness. When a mob beats a thief to death in Nairobi, they are not doing that because they are all totally opposed to theft and want to rid the world of this scourge, they are projecting their own shadow nature onto the thief and refusing to own it.
This is what God has in mind here. Mobs and vigilante groups usually fall into the trap of perpetrating evil much worse than the evil they seek to combat. Structurally what they are doing is scapegoating.
The beginning of culture is shown up for what it is – murder.
Cain then is the founder of civilization. Many societies have a foundational story involving violence and killing but mythologized to make it all seem good. Rome and Thebes in the ancient world for instance.
Perhaps the United States is a good modern example. Until recently the founding myth was one of good Christians with a manifest destiny given by God to tame and civilize and set up a republic which would be a laboratory for democracy. Native Americans were bad and uncivilized so if violence was done to them it was all with the best of intentions.
No one would call what was done to them theft or murder or genocide. Now that the story has been de-mythologized we see it for what it is, one group grabbing the land of another and killing them in the process, but even in living memory Hollywood portrayed the myth as if it were history.
Anywhere else, the story of Cain would have become just such a foundational myth, but the Bible will not allow that. We can begin to understand Cain only when we look at that of Abraham.
The Sacrifice of Abraham
Human sacrifice was a fact of life among people in the ancient Near East much more than we moderns realize. We are familiar with the fact that the people of Israel worked out their identity in contrast to the people around them, and that the constant temptation, into which they repeatedly fell, was to be exactly the same as those people – mimesis!
Think of how we believe Christianity to be a religion of peace, but for most of its concrete history it has been practiced in a climate where war between groups and states has been the norm of social life. Standing where we do we find it scandalous that Christians (IN NAME ONLY) have waged war and committed violence and used torture in the name of God.
We must realize though that if this is the culture in which the Church lived it takes an awful long time for people to escape completely from that culture, even when they hear the Gospel every day. The Roman Empire was controlled by violence. With the conversion of Constantine and the Edict of Milan in 313 Christianity became the religion of the empire, and the empire was subsequently evangelized.
But this is never a one way process and all too often, the empire instructed the Church rather than vice-versa. The same was true of Israel’s dealing with human sacrifice, and nothing illustrates the seeming contradiction better than the dilemma of Abraham sacrificing his son, and the perplexity of the reader who isn’t really sure where God stands in all this.
Difficult as it may be, this story provides a ringside seat which enables us at close quarters to view and feel the dilemma concerning human sacrifice which troubled Israel for many hundreds of years. Let us note two things.
When Abraham eventually has a close encounter with the living God on the Holy mountain God makes it quite clear that he does not want this human sacrifice. Abraham is called the father of faith i.e. the initiator of the process by which people would realize that God did not require violence toward each other. The movement from human to animal sacrifice is an essential part of the process of our growth in faith.
It takes the veil of animal sacrifice and shows that it is trying to hide the violence of human sacrifice. Thus the first paving stones are laid on the way that will lead away from sacrifice of any kind.
The Golden Calf. Exodus 32
The business of sacrifice plays no part in the giving of the covenant. The words of the Decalogue, while making it clear that people must worship only Yahweh, do not mention at all the main way in which he would be worshiped for the next thirteen hundred years, i.e. sacrifice.
It is very important to note this, that while the manual of Israelite religion, Leviticus, is a very precise sacrificial instruction book, the foundational document is totally un-sacrificial. Moses ratified the covenant with a sacrifice in 24:3-8, but this does seem to be almost an afterthought. Moses reads the covenant and the people say
All the words Yahweh has spoken we will carry out. (24:3) We have seen that sacrifice is a way to preserve peace and harmony in a community. The premise of the Decalogue is that obedience to these words will make a harmonious community. So these are really two forms of religion which are incompatible, or if people really obey the Decalogue, they won’t need sacrifice. But of course the sacrificial urge is still strong.
Perhaps this is part of the reason the people resort to the Golden calf. Moses leaves something of a vacuum that “EVIL” would soon fill….. The dilemma of the Golden Calf helps to explain why after so long, Christians can still have a sacrificial view of their faith, i.e. they can still need scapegoats.
Moses takes hold of the sacrificial frenzy let loose by the golden calf and simply redirects it, getting the Levites to slaughter three thousand. He, NOT GOD proclaims that those who do the killing – who carry out his bidding – are on Yahweh’s side, and the narrator suggests the same; And Yahweh punished the people for having made the calf. (32:35) We are very suspicious of this and cannot see how the God who delivers the Decalogue and says Thou shalt not kill could be behind this vial incident.
We must note that the two great lessons learned about sacrifice in Genesis have been reversed. God made it quite clear to Cain that he did not approve of the slaying of his brother, and to Abraham that he did not want him to slay his son. Here the Levites consecrate themselves by doing precisely that:
You have consecrated yourselves to Yahweh, one at the cost of his son, another of his brother, and so he bestows a blessing on you today. (Ex 32:29)
We must also note that this is the beginning of the Levitical priesthood. The priests who will have control of the sacrificial preisthood play the key role in the violence here. we have already seen that sacrifice is a way of channeling violence.
Moses breaks the tablets, seemingly a mere angry reaction, but would it not make more sense for him to hold them aloft and remind the people that this was what God wanted, and that what they were engaged in was a very poor second best? Think hard about this one…..OK, up he goes again to get God to produce a copy of the tablets. Yahweh said to Moses:
“Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones and come up to me on the mountain, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke.” (34:1)
By asserting the identity between the two tablets the author has made it all but impossible for the reader to miss the obvious, that the two versions are utterly different. The new set of commandments is largely preoccupied with the maintenance of rituals and procedures.
The violent incidents are rather like liberating or revolutionary governments being constrained to use violence against people and to lock them up in the cause of freedom. No matter how convinced the perpetrators are of the necessity, some people will always see through it.
Israel tried sacrificial solutions to resolve social tension, but she was least able to operate these things well. If we wonder how Moses and Aaron got from the Decalogue to sacred slaughter, it also helps us to understand how we got from the Gospel to the Inquisitional Murder of Innocent people in the name of Dogma’s The Inquisition was a powerful tool to the Catholic Church BUT it destroyed a very fragile bond, because the LIE it was trying to defend was subverting the way they defended it through violence.
When we try to paint these awful accounts in rosier colors or explain them as being products of a primitive culture we miss the point of them. The Bible tells of these things precisely to show that this is what tends to happen even in a society committed to peace and justice and truth.
And it happens in the name of truth. If it happened within living memory of Sinai, we should not be surprised that it happens in around the world today. The Bible is not just a set of instructions about repudiating violence. It is the story of the sometimes very painful, often backsliding process by which people come to repudiate violence.
In our own society the police and the judiciary are the people charged with the control of violence, they are therefore particularly vulnerable to it. In Israelite society the priests served the same function, which is why there are such precise instructions about how to enter the presence of the holy.
See the prescriptions in Ex 28:31. The Hebrew priests vested themselves for the sacrifice like members of a bomb squad preparing to diffuse a ticking bomb, and they had good reason to do so. If it does not work exactly to diffuse the latent violence in the community the results can be disastrous.
Moses and Korah
In Numbers 16 – 17 an incident occurs which shows just how easily violence can be masked under the canopy of the sacred. Basically Korah and his group question the authority of Moses, they want a slice of the action too, so Moses challenges them to a sacrificial competition.
This is the sort of power/authority struggle that goes on in human communities. It can be very destructive – as the fractious history of Protestantism shows very clearly,as well as the BLOODY HISTORY of Catholicism.
Moses immediately interprets this challenge as muttering against Yahweh. In this way his use of authority is like that of the medieval papacy dealing with anyone who opposed it’s authority.
In vv 29-30 Moses says that if the men die a violent death it will be proof that they hold Yahweh in contempt. The rebel leaders are then immediately swallowed up by the earth and fire consumes the other 250. It all seems clear enough, God has spoken.
We can be fundamentalist and take this at face value, it was necessary then, it doesn’t happen now. Or with Marcion we could say that the God of the OT was bloodthirsty and not the God of Jesus. Or we can say this is certainly not the God we know and preach, so this could not possibly have happened, and let’s hope none of our members ever read it and question us about it. Or we can say that this story hides real violence behind a sacred screen.
Probably Moses somehow manages to convince those loyal to him that the rebels really are murmuring against God, whips them up into a fury, and they become a mob who attack the rebels, and like all mobs they believe that the violence they have done is really God’s violence.
A peace and unanimity descends over the camp – no one will even think of challenging Moses now, so this peace must come from God. What happens here is not very different to the burning of witches and heretics in the middle ages. Someone challenges the sacred authority of the Church, that must be a challenge to God, that person must be killed.
Except that the Bible has a built-in lie detector.
On the following day the whole community of Israelites were muttering against Moses and Aaron saying: You (NOT GOD ) are responsible for killing Yahweh’s people! Now the community was banding together against Moses and Aaron. (17:6-7)
Imagine in the Church there is someone who continually challenges the authority of the Pastor, at the church meeting. He writes letters to him and to the leadership about the way that he does things and how there should be much more involvement. The Pastor is convinced that he is a crank, but also doesn’t like having his authority challenged, and, of course, he has on his side the church dogmas and church laws.
On his side the man has documents from the leadership on ministry. One Sunday it comes to a head. During the sermon he stands up and challenges him. The Pastor calmly but firmly tells the man to stop causing trouble and to sit down and say his prayers like the other 900 people who come here to church every Sunday. In a fit of rage the man storms out of Church and, not looking where he is going, walks straight under a bus and is killed.
When the ensuing commotion dies down the Pastor stands up and says:
“Well, I think God has made his will clear enough” He casts a spell over the congregation, a fearful awe takes them over and they wonder if he might be right.
Then someone stands up and says:
“No, this has nothing to do with God’s will, if you had handled this man better from the start he would never have got into such a state and this would never have happened, so it is not God, but you who are responsible for his death.”
The spell is broken..Why?
Because the TRUTH is clearly seen!.
And if we who read this today are disturbed and perplexed by what we read it is precisely because that lie detector is also at work in us. This is not the last word about the way God deals with challenge, we have also read the gospels, and Paul’s hymn to love. We do not believe that God brought about the killing, we will not fall for that; and neither will the Israelites, nor the final editor of Numbers. This whole idea of God killing people is exposed for what it is, a sham, but the only way the Bible can unmask it is to get inside it, go along with it, pretend to tell the myth of sacred violence and then challenge it. When John says that The light shines in the darkness he means that even in this barbaric darkness of seeming sacred violence, God’s light shines, showing it up as a lie.
If the Bible didn’t tell these stories we would never have the equipment to unmask it. That’s why all this literature is bound between the same two covers. Because having read: God so loved the world . . . we know that the one who kills these rebels cannot be God, and must be a projection of human violence and let’s NOT forget SATAN has power to control the earth’s disaster’s as well,it is within his power to perform these things in order to DECEIVE THE MASSES and give God a bad name.
Whatever the human author(s) of Numbers is trying to tell us, the divine author of the whole Bible makes his message shine through it. Part of what we mean by divine inspiration is that these texts reveal to us something which neither the author nor the reader wishes to have revealed.
A mother told how once, toward the end of the war(WW II ), she and her friends went to the cinema, and the newsreel showed footage of the German campaign on the Russian front, and how the German soldiers were freezing to death in their thousands. She told how many people in the cinema were crying for the Germans. The film maker wanted to make anti-German propaganda and whip up enmity against them. But because the mother and her friends were also imbued with the Biblical spirit which automatically sympathizes with victims, it’s effect was the opposite. In a Society which was not shaped by Judeo-Christian revelation, such a reaction to the plight of one’s enemies is highly unlikely.
Elijah on Mt. Carmel.
For all his success, Elijah falls into a trap, of violence. He uses the sacrificial energy which the prophets of Baal have whipped up and turns it against them. They are not just killed because they worship the wrong God.
This has been the most climactic moment of Elijah’s life so far, the thing he had worked for and hoped for.
The threat by Jezebel to kill him has to be taken seriously, but he has been in grave danger all along. Why should this precipitate emotional collapse at the most successful time in his life?
Perhaps it the text’s way of telling us that this victory isn’t everything and that the act of violence at the end of it does not bring about peace (which structurally it should do) but results in inner turmoil,why?
Because this is not God’s heart for the wicked to perish. Surely if Elijah has fully carried out God’s will, he should have a bit more inner strength than that. Here the Bible is disarmingly honest. A story which is like so many other victory stories suddenly takes an unexpected turn.
Elijah has then to go to Horeb to be re-educated. If not, Yahweh just looks like a bigger and better version of Baal, just another God who enjoys knocking his enemies’ teeth out. At this crucial point in the religious life of the nation, God’s spokesman must be pushed in another direction.
At Horeb, the Earthquake, Wind and Fire are the conventional guises of God, the expected backdrop to a theophany. This sort of God and the God who is happy for people to murder his enemies are quite at home with each other. But, instead, he gets the sound of a gentle silence, God is in this sound,A STILL SMALL VOICE,THE CALMNESS OF GOD’S PERFECT PEACE. One thing is clear.
This is a different statement about God. Elijah’s zeal is admirable, but he hasn’t got it all right, and this incident moves understanding on a little. The whole of the narrative has been telling us that God is encountered at the edge, in the unexpected place; not in the center.
This passage draws all that together and helps us reach some conclusions. There does seem to be some sort of repudiation of violence here. So the author tells us the gruesome story of the massacre not to praise Elijah or hold it up as an example for imitation, but to lead us on to Horeb and to get us to see that this is not what God is like at all. Remember that the Bible is not simply the rejection of violence, but the story of the process by which people came to reject it.
The Prophet Micaiah I Kings 22:1-28.
Deuteronomy 18 : 20
“But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.”
This passage gives an almost textbook definition of what a prophet is. The court prophets give Ahab a favorable answer, but they are functioning as a group, not as individuals. Jehoshaphat is not convinced, no doubt aware that their answer is the product of mob-dynamics rather than any desire for the truth. Ahab is honest enough to say that he doesn’t like Micaiah because he only gives unfavorable prophecy.
Having been used to doing his wife’s bidding and to the ways of the prophets of Baal, Ahab cannot imagine why a prophet would not just be a voice to give support to the king’s plans, whatever they may be. In front of the kings we find All the prophets in a state of ecstasy before them (v.10) the ecstasy is probably the result of preparing for war. Then we hear:
Zedekiah, son of Kenaanah, who had made himself some iron horns, said: “Yahweh says ‘With horns like these You will gore the Aramaeans till you make an end of them.’” And all the prophets cried ecstatically in the same veins saying: “March on Ramoth in Gilead! Success is sure for Yahweh has already given it to the king!” (vv. 11-12)
The author wants us to see what is going on here. the prophets are really like a group of warriors gearing up for battle, and Yahweh in fact says nothing of the kind.
Enter Micaiah, who is told in no uncertain terms by the king’s messenger to give a favorable message. The author spares no effort in getting us to see through the nature of false prophesy. He must speak the same as all the others. He’s being instructed to speak with the voice of the mob. The author is also showing us how difficult it is for Micaiah to say anything else, how enormous the pressure to conform. Micaiah’s first words are exactly the words of the other prophets; Success is sure for Yahweh has already given it to the king.
He is ridiculing them and possibly also the king and the king knows this. Possibly that little sentence had already become a chant, a war cry, a slogan. The king recognizes this straight away and urges him to stop playing around and simply tell the truth. So he does and tells the king that the military campaign will not be a success and that Yahweh revealed how he would put a deceptive spirit into the mouths of the prophets.
This ability to stand out of the crowd is something which typified the prophets. The pressure to conform is almost irresistible, both socially and psychologically, and yet he can rise above it. Here we see the true religion of Yahweh as something which involves individual choice and is not simply a function of the group.
Approximately 100 of the Psalms make explicit mention of the enemies, of the individual being attacked by a crowd. Here, for the first time in history is the voice of the individual victim being allowed to rise above the voice of the mob, who ordinarily assume that right, and therefore God is on their side.
In the psalms God is always on the side of the victim against the mob, although sometimes the aggressor seems to be God himself – an understandable human reaction to great suffering NOT REALIZING that Satan is deceiving them to believe it is God. This, along with the praise of God is the main business of Israel’s prayer, and this is quite unique among the religions of the world. If we take the Psalms as revelation, and therefore that in them God is teaching us how to pray, then the plight of the victim of mob violence seems to be one of God’s main concerns.
Nowhere is this made clearer than in the suffering servant of Isaiah. Here somehow the crowd confess that they had scape-goated this victim/servant. They assumed that God was punishing him: We thought of him as someone being punished, struck with affliction by God. But they realize that not only was God on the side of this victim – something unique in the OT, but that through him God brings about healing: that this one who is cursed is actually the source of their peace. We have been healed by his bruises.
It is possible that the prophet who saw these things happening in various ways in his own life and the lives of his people realized that some day there would be an individual for whom this would become truer and more real than ever before. He realized that the story was not over yet, that this was not just a reflection of things past but also of things to come.
Leonardo da Vinci designed a helicopter some three hundred years before the first one was made. He knew that scientifically it was possible, but no one at the time had the technical competence to make his plans real. That had to wait. This prophesy too had to wait for someone to come along who would make it really happen, whose life and death would make all it said come true,that someone was JESUS,THE PRINCE OF PEACE!
WHO WERE THE INHABITANTS OF THE PROMISED LAND AND WHY WERE THEY DISPOSSESSED BY GOD ?
“GOD’S HATRED OF THEIR PRACTICES WAS WELL FOUNDED AND THEY HAD TO BE ERADICATED WITH “EXTREME PREJUDICE!
“And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.”–Genesis 15:7
It would be some four hundred years later and four generations after beginning their sojourn in Egypt (Genesis 15:13,16, covering the generations of Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Moses) before the promise of inheriting the land would be fulfilled.
HERE IS SOME WELL FOUNDED HISTORY FIRST
God’s promises come with a cost. He would give them the land, but they would have to fight to conquer it. He would not fight for them; he would fight with them. This divine aid would, however, only be available if they obeyed him as their Commander-in-Chief (Exodus 23:20-23).
It took a little more than a year after Israel left Egypt before they reached the southern borders of the promised land at Kadesh Barnea (Numbers 13:26).
From there the spies were sent forth and, when they returned, convinced their fellow countrymen that the inhabitants of the land were too strong to be dispossessed.
Apparently chastised by the message of Moses, they changed their minds and decided to begin their conquest. However, because the spies had brought back a message of fear, God did not go up with them; they were routed by the Amalekites and the Canaanites (Numbers 14:42-45).
It would be some forty years later, after this unbelieving generation had all died, that the final conquest of Canaan would begin.
The Inhabitants of the Land Genesis 15:18-21
” In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
Exodus 3:8, 17; 23:23
The discrepancies may be accounted for within the context. The Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, and Rephaim in the Genesis list all resided on the east bank of Jordan and had been defeated before the main conquest of Jordan began. The Hivites, omitted in Genesis, were a small sub-tribe living on the northern outskirts of the promised land, close to Mt. Hermon (Judges 3:3).
The Girgashites, omitted in the majority of the lists, while living east of the Jordan, were not conquered until the Israelite invasion of the west bank had commenced.
The Borders of the Promised Land
While many texts give a general description of the promised borders, the most complete description of the land which Abram’s seed was to inherit is found in Deuteronomy:
“Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites [the Nebo ridge on the east bank of the Jordan], and unto all the places nigh thereunto [the Jordan valley, east of the river itself], in the plain [in Hebrew, Arabah, the Great Rift of the Jordan valley south of the Dead Sea], and in the hills [the Judean hills], and in the vale [in Hebrew, Shephelah, lying between the coastal plain and the Judean hills], and in the south [the Negev], and by the seaside [the Mediterranean coastal plain], to the land of the Canaanites [particularly the Plain of Sharon and the Jezreel Valley], and unto Lebanon [in the north, but how far north?], unto the Great River, the River Euphrates. Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.”–Deuteronomy 1:7,8
Three Staged Invasion
The conquest of the promised land took some six years and was accomplished in three stages:
The territory east of the Jordan river.
The southern flank.
The land in the north of Canaan.
After being rebuffed by the Amalekites in their abortive attack near Kadesh Barnea in the Negev, the wandering tribes were directed thirty-eight years later up the Great Rift valley northward along the Dead Sea. Here, at the time of the fall harvest, they crossed the river Arnon to do battle with Sihon, King of Heshbon.
“And the LORD said unto me, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee: begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land” (Deuteronomy 2:31).
Within six months the twelve tribes had taken possession of the trans-Jordan, except for the lands inhabited by Edom, Moab, and Ammon (as well as the isolated sub-tribe of the Girgashites).
It was here that Moses died after viewing the promised land from Mt. Nebo, and it was here that Balak, king of Moab, sought to enlist the aid of the prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites. It was shortly after his failure that the tribes of Israel, now under the command of Joshua, amassed themselves at the banks of the Jordan in preparation to pass over.
It was in the spring of the year, just prior to the Jewish feast of Passover, and the river Jordan was in flood stage (Joshua 3:15). These raging flood waters probably gave those dwelling west of Jordan a feeling of security.
A landslide upriver at the town of Adam, however, dried up the torrent so that the Israelites could pass over dry shod. Crossing the river, they set up camp in a box canyon by the name of Gilgal.
The crossing of Jordan is seen by many Christians as the passing over of the death sentence when Christ and his church raise the billions of humanity back to life once again. This erasure of the original curse will also be traced as far back as the first man named Adam.
Gilgal provided an ideal staging ground for the next step of the invasion. Here the nation’s dependency on heaven-sent manna ceased (Joshua 5:12), for here there was ample pasturage for their flocks in the fertile Jordan valley, an abundant source of clean water from the river, as well as the protective mountain cul-de-sac for protection from enemies. It was here that they awaited instructions from God as to how to claim their promised heritage.
An angel from the Lord instructed Joshua to begin the conquest at Jericho, a prosperous Canaanite city located not far from the Jordan, between the river and the cliffs of Quarantania. It was built on a foundation set in alluvial soil which would have become greatly moistened by the overflowing floods of spring.
This geological sub-strata is similar to that of Santa Rosa, California, the city which suffered the greatest damage in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
The tribes of Israel were instructed to march around the city for seven days with the priests blowing a loud blast on seven ram’s horn trumpets,from which we derive the word jubilee). This was to be followed on the seventh day by seven encirclements and seven blasts of the seven trumpets.
The city had been living in fear of an attack (Joshua 6:1) and it is likely that the unusual events, particularly of the seventh day, would have brought crowds to the city wall to see what was happening. The synchronic noise, the accumulated weight on the walls, and the unstable dampened alluvial foundation may have all contributed to the miracle power of God in bringing down the thick stone walls.
The trumpet soundings of six days followed by seven blasts on the seventh day are suggestive of the picture given in the book of Revelation where seven trumpets appear in parallel with the seven churches and seven seals, followed on the seventh day by the seven plagues which topple the antitypical Jericho, the great Babylon. The further connection with the trumpets being ram’s horns, or “jubilee” trumpets, blown by the priests may be of further significance since the great seventh thousand-year day of humanity is known as “the year of jubilee.
The thrill of victory was soon met with the bitterness of defeat. The sin of covetousness by a single Israelite resulted in a stunning defeat to Joshua’s army by the army of the city of Ai. God had commanded that nothing be taken from the spoils of Jericho, but Achan, a man of Judah, took a Babylonish garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a fifty-shekel wedge of gold. The three items may hold a symbolic meaning relative to the remnant of fallen desires from which mankind needs to rid itself in the kingdom age.
1. A Babylonian garment illustrating the ritual ways of attaining justification practiced in antitypical Babylon. The Vulgate translates it as a purple garment while the Septuagint calls it “a garment of different colors.” Some suggest that it was the royal robe of the king of Jericho, while others speculate it was a robe kept in the temple for the king of Babylon when he would come on royal visits to this important trade center.
2. Two hundred shekels of silver illustrating the greed of Achan and the temptation of materialism. Its placement under the other items (Joshua 7:21) suggests that it is greed and selfishness which lie at the foundation of all the other faults.
3. A wedge of gold. The Hebrew expression is “a tongue of gold” and probably refers to a golden phallic image or idol, representing the difficulty that many will have in the kingdom giving up the many cherished idols of their former lives.
God’s Secret Weapon
Ambush was a standard tactic in Old Testament warfare. It was by one ambush, strategically placed between the cities of Ai and Bethel, that resulted in the fall of both these hilltop strongholds. Their defeat gave Joshua’s forces a foothold in the southern highlands of Samaria. From there a prolonged campaign in the north conquered the territory as far north as Tyre and Sidon on the coasts of present day Lebanon.
Ambush, however, was also a tactic used by the entrenched cities of the land. The lush croplands of the Jezreel and Sharon valleys provided ample hiding places for the armies arrayed against Israel. It was for just such contingencies that God provided Israel with a secret weapon–swarms of hornets:
“And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee” (Exodus 23:28).
More than just a nuisance, these stinging insects would evoke cries of pain from the hidden enemy forces, revealing their location.
So it will be in Christ’s kingdom when man does battle against his seven spiritual foes (Proverbs 6:16-18). God will reveal the secret sins in man’s heart, but it will be up to him to achieve the victory over them (Psalm 19:12).
A Gradual Conquest
God did not promise swift victory.
The land was to be claimed piecemeal.
“I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land” (Exodus 23:29,30).
Nature abhors a vacuum. If Israel’s foes had fallen before the invaders were ready to use the land for farming or grazing, the ground would soon be overspread with weeds and inhabited by wild beasts. This further illustrates the methods God uses in helping mankind overcome their fallen propensities.
Jesus used a parable to demonstrate this principle:
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26).
It is not enough that man rid himself of sinful and impure thoughts, but he must replace these with the principles of righteousness and the desire to implement these.
Caleb and the Conquest of the South
When the spies entered the land at Kadesh Barnea, they penetrated as far as the cities of Hebron, a confederacy of four sheikdoms ruled by Anak and his three sons, Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, all men of gigantic stature (Numbers 13:22). Hebron (whose name means “confederacy”) was then named Kirjath-arba, or Cities of the Four, named for these four rulers.
Now at age 86, Caleb requests permission of Joshua to conquer the city whose inhabitants had earlier struck terror into the hearts of the spies (Joshua 14:13,14).
Seeking to inspire others with similar zeal, he offered the hand of his daughter Achsah in marriage to any warrior who would take on the neighboring city of Debir, also known as Kirjath-sepher, or city of the book for its being the center of learning for the Canaanitish culture.
Caleb’s younger brother, Othniel, accepted the challenge. Because Debir was in the desert of the Negev, he also requested water and was given “the upper and nether springs” (Joshua 15:19).
After the death of Joshua, Othniel became the first judge of Israel.
Conquest of the entire south progressed at a rapid pace and soon Israel was master of the entire area, though the failure to drive out pockets of resistance, particularly in the Philistine controlled Gaza strip, became the source for not only continual conflict but a temptation for assimilation and the practice of idolatry.
When Joshua neared the time of his death, the Lord listed the lands yet to be conquered (Joshua 13:1-6), but he was given the task of dividing the land among the nine and a half tribes who were to reside west of the Jordan as though it were all subdued. The actual job of distributing the inheritance was left to Joshua, the leader, and to Eleazar, representing the priesthood (Joshua 14:1).
Two tribes were not given a territorial inheritance: Levi (Joshua 13:14) and Simeon, who was to dwell in the tribal lands of Judah (Joshua 19:1). These two sons of Jacob had been the ringleaders in the slaughter of the Shechemites after the rape of Dinah and were condemned for this act by Jacob on his death bed:
“Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel” (Genesis 49:5-7).
The tribe of Levi redeemed itself by standing with Moses after Israel’s sin with the golden calf. They received a special inheritance of service to God and were given 42 cities with surrounding pasturage within the tribes of their siblings plus six cities that were to serve as “cities of refuge” for those fleeing punishment in cases of manslaughter.
Simeon, on the other hand, was given no special honor and produced none of the heroes of faith, save perhaps Judith in the Apocryphal account of deliverance from the Assyrian general Holofernes.
The completion of the six years of conquest started Israel in her experiences as an independent nation with her own homeland, an existence that was to continue for nearly a thousand years, first under judges and then under kings, until its termination in the invasions of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
In this warfare of conquest we find a rich treasure trove of lessons applying to mankind’s conquest of individual sin and the claiming of their rich and eternal resurrection inheritance –their “promised land.”
Now the question is how can Israel be a “light to the nations” while taking-up arms against them? How can God be both a God of peace and a God of war?
The ancient Israelites reachedno consensus about holy war, just war, and pacifism. Yet Scripture faithfully records their long and difficult debates,for the diversity of viewpoints arose out of a deep-faith in God who had brought the people out of Egypt.
Ronald Wells, writing in 1991 about the wars of America : said “While the history of war is not the history of humankind, humankind’s history cannot be studied fully without reference to war.
Moreover, the way in which a nation wages war reveals a greatdeal about its basic values.
Thus, the illuminating qualities of warshould be of greater interest to the historian of society than the actualstuff of warfare, such as armaments, battles, and tactics. To examine anation’s experience of war, and its response to it, is to learn something fundamentalabout a nation’s values and its social order”Though the history of war is not the history of the Old Testament, wecannot understand the Old Testament without reference to war. It may be too much to claim that one can find war and conflict on every page of the Hebrew Bible, but not by much.
War was almost a daily part of ancient Israelite life, primarily because of that nation’s size and location. Here was a nation no larger than the state of Vermont located in the strategic Syria-Palestinian corridor—and all the surrounding nations coveted it. Egypt in the south and various Mesopotamian empires in the north-northeast saw that territory as a buffer zone to protect themselves from encroaching armies bent on conquest and pillage
The Old Testament scholar Norman Gottwald observes the Israelites’ preoccupation with war “imparts a vigor to the biblical records but also often casts about them an aura of somber realism and a sense of the fragility of human life.”
It is difficult for Americans to fathom what it IS like for citizens of this tiny country to live with the prospect of large, invading armies camped out on their doorstep on a regular, unrelenting basis EVEN TO THIS DAY. Consider that Bethel, an important city to ancient Israel, was destroyed four times in the two-hundredyear period from the time of the Judges to the establishment of the Davidic monarchy.
For comparison, consider the city of Philadelphia being destroyed four times since the Declaration of Independence. America’s “dean of biblical archaeology,” W. F. Albright, noted over half a century ago that under these conditions “one can hardly be surprised…[that] Israel became martially minded.”
states that there is a “time for war and a time for peace.” In these times of warfare, we often ask, “How should we respond? What should be our attitude?”
We will find biblical answers for these questions when we explore the ultimate issue: What does the Word of God say about warfare? When a nation goes to war, God’s people need to fully understand their heavenly Father’s viewpoint about this matter.
Naturally, God is not excited about war. He does not enjoy bloodshed and vengeance. However, He is dealing with a world of people who have a fallen nature—sinful, wicked and vile.
Romans 3:10-11,15-17 describes mankind without God: “…there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God. . . . Their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known.”
God battles with people who oppose Him, who fight against Him and His followers. So, even though He hates war, God is not against it. Throughout the Old Testament, there are examples of God using warfare to carry out His plans, to punish the wicked and preserve His people (Deut. 9:4-6; Deut. 20; Jer. 5; Numbers 33:55-56).
You may think, “How could God do that?”
He says in Isaiah 55:9, “My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.” God has divine reasons for choosing to use war as a vehicle to accomplish His will.
Let’s not kid ourselves about the condition of these Nations,they were sick people with even sicker sins to their credit and do NOT make the mistake of thinking that these nations were unfamiliar with warfare and conquest,all of them were WARRING PEOPLES who took this land from other people before them-
THIS LAND WAS WET WITH THE BLOOD OF INNOCENT MEN,WOMEN & CHILDREN LONG BEFORE ISRAEL EVER WAS PROMISED THE LAND!
No pacifists were among the Old Testament righteous. In the law, loving neighbor did not exclude all possibility of killing neighbor. Neighbors who committed certain crimes were put to death. Warfare itself was at times an expression of faith and love for God. The idea that love, faith and war are inherently in conflict and mutually exclude one another is not an Old Testament idea.
The Mosaic blessings for obedience to God did not bring freedom from war, but victory in war. In the Old Testament, God is the great warrior who trains, leads and fights alongside his human servants. In the Old Testament, within certain bounds, God has given to humans the authority to take human life.
It must be said that the “bounds” that God placed upon war were very “SET” BOUNDRIES” AND ISRAEL WAS TOLD TO FOLLOW GOD’S RULES IN WAR , IF THEY DISOBEYED THESE BOUNDS IT MENT THEIR OWN DEATH (AS HAPPENED IN THE CASE OF THE SEIGE OF “AI” Which was One of the royal cities of the Canaanites (Jos_10:1; Gen_12:8; Gen_13:3).
It was the scene of Joshua’s defeat, and afterwards of his victory. It was the second Canaanite city taken by Israel (Jos_7:2-5; 8:1-29). It lay rebuilt and inhibited by the Benjamites (Ezr_2:28; Neh_7:32; Neh_11:31).
It lay to the east of Bethel, “beside Beth-aven.” The spot which is most probably the site of this ancient city is Haiyan, 2 miles east from Bethel. It lay up the Wady Suweinit, a steep, rugged valley, extending from the Jordan valley to Bethel.) In Galatians, Paul lists the acts of the sinful nature and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
He says that the acts of the sinful nature are obvious. Those that relate to warfare and bloodletting include “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy.” Paul tells us that “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19–21).
All these acts of the sinful nature can lead to deadly violence. In war, people on all sides have these behaviors or inward desires.Notice that Paul does not mention here all acts of the sinful nature. For example, he says nothing about sloth or lying. Galatians 5:19–21 is not a comprehensive sin list.
Nor does he list all of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. For example, how do we fit Samson into this list, who when the Holy Spirit fell on him slew a thousand men (Judges 15:14–19)?
How do we fit into this list David’s statement in Psalm 44 that it was God who fought alongside Israel to give them their victories?
If the fruit of the Spirit automatically rules out all forms of warfare, how then do we understand God himself, the Mighty One? Revelation shows us that even in the New Testament, God condones some forms of war (Revelation 19:11–15).
It seems that the fruit of the Spirit would have to include this side of God as well. Yet, the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 says nothing of this. So the list is incomplete.
Examining the acts of the sinful nature more closely, we notice several other interesting points. While we would agree that “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft” are universally sinful and therefore always to be avoided, can we say the same about several other acts that Paul lists?
What about hatred?
Is hatred to be universally avoided?
Are we not to hate sin?
Romans 12:9 says we are to hate what is evil.
Revelation 2:6 says we are to hate the work of the Nicolaitanes.
How should this observation affect our understanding of Galatians 5?
Notice also discord. Are there not some things with which we are to be in discord? Are we not to be in discord with Satan and the ways of this world?
Should we not be in discord with false teachers and false prophets? Discord by itself is neither good nor bad. We could say the same of dissensions and factions.
Then there is jealousy.
One of God’s names is Jealous.
Jealousy characterizes him (Exodus 34:14). So some kinds of jealousy must be godly, while others are sinful acts of the flesh.
It is in the context, of Christians loving Christians, that we should understand Paul’s vice and virtue lists of Galatians 5. Read his words carefully. He is not addressing how believers should behave toward violent unbelievers (or for that matter, toward believers who become violent). He is not addressing how believers should behave when confronted with warfare. Paul is not telling them how they are to respond to the beating and attempted murder of a neighbor.
Nor is he discussing the attempted rape of a daughter or other forms of severe violence in or out of the church. He is not writing an entire ethic that covers every situation that a Christian might face. He is simply telling Christians that they ought to get along, that they ought to love one another, that they ought to bear one another’s burdens (6:2). The whole passage specifically addresses how believers are to behave toward each other.
The Holy Spirit should govern those relationships. Among themselves, Christians should be peaceful. Loving neighbor (here the brethren) sums up the law.
Brethren who do not treat each other properly, who relate to one another through the flesh and not the Spirit, will not inherit the promises of the kingdom of God in this life. Brethren should not provoke or envy one another (5:26).
The point here is NOT to vindicate the idea of Violence and God’s O.k. with it,but to show that GOD can BOTH be a God of LOVE and a God of severe Judgement at the same time,which is a sign that HE IS COMPLETELY FAIR AND JUST; BEING NOT MORE ONE OR THE OTHER.
The Bible is very honest about WARFARE and gives the GOOD WITH THE BAD. Some pacifists argue that the very nature of warfare is such that one cannot carry it out without sin. Those who look to the Bible as the ultimate standard should immediately recognize the sillyness of such an argument. God wars in both Testaments.
In the Old Testament God ordered others to war. As we have noted, the blessings for obedience to God’s Mosaic covenant did not include freedom from war, but victory in war. In the New Testament, God continues to be portrayed as a God who wars. Those familiar with the apocalyptic portions of the New Testament know this. The Bible never portrays all warfare as inherently sinful.
When confronted with a murderous enemy, may love use deadly force to protect?
It seems to me that one could be patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, humble, polite, not self-seeking, slow to anger and have all the other attributes of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13 and still on occasion use deadly force. God does.
The use of deadly force does not automatically exclude the attributes of love.