Classic: Genocide in the Old Testament

June 21, 2016
Darrell L. Bock, Robert B. Chisholm, and Gordon Johnson

Download

Subscribe

Topic Time Codes

00:16
How can a good and compassionate God and genocide in the Old Testament go together?
03:53
Distinction between genocide and holy war
06:12
Four ways different scholars deal with this issue
10:05
Relevant passages to the discussion
18:12
Why the concept of divine judgment is paramount to the discussion
21:17
The concept is grace is incomprehensible apart from a proper understanding of judgment.
25:35
Q&A: Does God order moral purging today and if he doesn’t, what is the justification of war; when do we know that it’s right or wrong?
30:36
Q&A: Destruction of Jericho
35:13
Exhortation to avoid the trap of letting a secular worldview skew the way we understand judgment, sin, and grace

Transcript

Recorded Voice
Welcome to The Table podcast, where we discuss issues of God and culture, brought to you by Dallas Theological Seminary.
Dr. Darrell Bock
As I said, our topic today is related to Old Testament concerns, and you can see the two panelists that I have. Probably neither of them need a great deal of introduction. Bob Chisholm, who I often refer to as my cohort in crime; we both have a deep love for sports, and sports and theology do go together on a regular basis, and we're able to determine that. And then Gordon Johnstown, who, both Bob and Gordon teach, of course, in Old Testament. So I asked them, what topic do you think we should cover? And we went through a whole list of things; we'll be having them back for some of these others. But we thought the place to start, in light of our new atheism culture engagement chapel earlier in the semester, was to talk about genocide. Because the view of God in Scripture and from Scripture is an issue that comes up regularly in public discourse. This is one of those academic discussions, the waves from which, or the fallout from which, pictures the way people think about God. Let me just take you through a little paradigm here, a little logical paradigm, and you'll see how this works. And then I have a quote from Richard Dawkins, who's noted for his theology.

It says, "God is good and compassionate." Of course, that's where the church starts. "And the Old Testament is a faithful record of God's dealings with humanity." So we see God interacting with humanity in relationship, through covenant, and through his commitment as creator. "The Old Testament describes events that are identified as genocide," and the dark cloud begins to come over the universe as we raise this. "Genocide is always evil." And so the question becomes, how can you put all that together? You can't have the last statement – "Genocide is always evil" – and "God is good and compassionate." How can you put those two things together and make it work? Well this is how one person puts it together – this is how Richard Dawkins puts it together: "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction." Interesting opening part of the sentence. By the way, this is in his book, The God Delusion. This is page 31, for those of you who want to have your devotions in this later. "Jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak, a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

That is a mouthful in a whole lot of ways. And that's where we want to start. We want to talk about the way in which our culture takes particularly the event of holy war in the entry into the land. It's the _____ passage we want to focus on as the focus for this discussion. And think about how we think about this both Biblically and in light of the way the culture sees it, which oftentimes is framed probably not as pointedly as this, but often has a gut reaction to these kinds of stories in the Old Testament, the gist of which comes down to, if that's the God you're asking me to believe in, no way.

So how's that for putting a simple issue out on the table? Gordon, there are some things you want to say to us as we think about this topic in general, and orient ourselves to it. What are some of the concerns that you want to express as you think about this topic, in walking into it?
Gordon Johnston
Just three preliminary thoughts, just brief thoughts, in terms of how we frame it, frame our discussion. First of all, I think it's important, and we need to acknowledge the difficulty and the moral dilemma. We don't want to trivialize the issues. We don't want to offer superficial justifications or excuses, or to deny that this kind of thing happened. We dare not minimize or deny the reality of these passages any more than modern historical revisionists try to deny the Holocaust. We also need to recognize that no society or civilization has the moral high ground on this. Some Canadian scholars who have studied the history and sociology of genocide all the way back into antiquity have shown that there have been hundreds of examples of genocide all throughout world history. Our own country was founded upon the scourge, the purging of the Native American Indians. So we need to approach it with humility and introspection.

Secondly, we need to affirm that all war is horrific. However, since we live in a fallen world, some wars are necessary and morally justified. The question is, was the conquest justified? And so that enters into the issue of just war theory. Third, I think we also need to carefully distinguish genocide, which is typically defined as ethnic cleansing and the systematic and planned attempt to exterminate an entire racial group, ethnic group or political group. We need to distinguish genocide, which is aimed out of racial hatred, from holy war, which was not ethnic cleansing, but moral purging. Holy war, the conquest, was not imperialistic or a mere land grab. It was not genocide, not ethnic cleansing. It was holy war. It was herem. It was for the purpose of moral purging. So I think it's important for us to frame those questions. And the scholars that have done the work on the history and sociology of genocide – what happened with Israel in the conquest is in a total different category from the typical kind of genocide that we're talking about.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Bob, when we think about how Old Testament scholars talk about this area and engage it, what are some of the different ways that they come at this?
Robert Chisholm
Well if you go back to the four propositions that you stated, some people deny number one: God is not good. And it's not always in the radical Dawkins-like form. There are many Old Testament theologians who argue that God has a dark side. They talk about the demonic in Yaweh. So they see God as not entirely good, as we would define it.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So there's a Yaweh that has a positive and negative – there's almost a dualism in God?
Robert Chisholm
Yes. And scholars who take that position will usually argue that the concept of Satan evolved later to sort of deliver God from his dark side, as it were.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So we cut Satan away, out from God, and made him a separate character?
Robert Chisholm
Yeah. What others are doing, like Eric Seibert in his book, Disturbing Divine Behavior, returning to what I would call a neo-Marcionite approach. He was a heretic in the early church who sort of rejected the Old Testament. And Seibert's thesis is, when you see God described or speaking in the Old Testament, you can't assume that's the real God. That's the textual God. He may represent what Israel thought about God, but that's not necessarily correct. So we're kind of limiting the truth within the Canon. And he uses a hermeneutic Jesus – a peaceful Jesus hermeneutic. We see God in Jesus. And when God in the Old Testament doesn't look like Jesus, that can't be the real God. Of course, he runs into a real difficult problem when he gets to the book of Revelation, and Jesus comes riding out of heaven as a warrior to annihilate his enemies. And of course, that's the battle against evil in the abstract. But it's kind of hard to think about evil in the abstract; it's usually embodied.

So that's one way of handling this. Others that I know, evangelicals are explaining it more along the lines of accommodation. God met the people where they were at, and he operated this way in history, even though it wasn't in accordance with his ideal. And we see the ideal in Jesus, and we move beyond this. But God accommodated himself to that situation. I personally believe that – I want to work with that fourth propositional statement. All genocide is evil. I would say all human-on-human genocide is evil. The fact of the matter is that God did order the destruction of an entire culture. But that's not the first time he's done something like this, and I know you want to get into the bigger picture. Think about the flood and also think about hell.

So I think it's important to look at this from God's perspective and what the text reveals about that, and to realize that when we're talking about God judging human beings, that's in a different category as Gordon, I think, mentioned. That's in a different category. God is the creator of life. He gives children as a blessing. And as the creator and the giver of blessing, he has the authority, the right to take that away. As Job said, "The Lord gives; the Lord takes away." He's the only one in the universe that has that right. So it is wrong – always wrong – for human beings to do this kind of thing, but God is in a different category as the creator and the sovereign judge, and he has good reasons for doing this. But we do need to begin to think corporately, and we need to look at things from God's perspective, which I think we will do. But I'll let you decide when we do that.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well the first thing I want to do before we take a look at the big picture is, let's talk about some of the passages that are relevant in setting up thinking through the bigger picture. What happens with this particular event, it seems to me, is, we extract it out of the Scripture. We lose its context for everything else that's going on around it. And as a result, it looks like – it can be portrayed as a capricious act that doesn't make any kind of sense at all.
Robert Chisholm
I experienced this the other day at an emotional level. I was with my daughter at Hunger Games II, and I saw what the Capital, the forces of the Capital, were doing to District 12, and the thought ran through my mind – probably because I knew we were going to be doing this today – "This is kind of like what the Israelites were ordered to do to the Canaanites." And it's very, very disturbing on an emotional level. But we've got to get beyond that. We can't deal with it just at that level.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So what are some of the passages that orient us to what is going on here, as we think through what's getting ready to happen, what God is asking Israel to do?
Robert Chisholm
Well I'll start, and feel free to dive in, Gordon, if you feel that you want to supplement this. I think Genesis 6, if you go back to the flood, the text says that the earth was ruined. It was ruined. Human beings had ruined the earth. How? Because of their violence. And talk about genocide – the Lord comes and wipes out the entire race, with the exception of Noah and his family. And so there's something about sin, radical sin referred to here as chamas – violence – that has corrupted the earth, and the Lord has to do something about this. The earth that God has created has been corrupted.

You see the same thing in Leviticus 18, where the Canaanites – and there, you have a description of primarily sexual sins that violate boundaries created by God. And toward the end of Leviticus 18, it says that the land is vomiting out the Canaanites. And then the Lord warns Israel, it will vomit you out as well if you do the same kinds of things. So there's something about the land vomiting out its inhabitants when they violate God's standards, in a very radical way that's contrary to his holiness.

And then I think of Isaiah 24, which is talking about a future judgment upon the earth, and the inhabitants of the earth have violated the everlasting covenant, which I understand there is a reference to the Noahic covenant. And once again, the earth has been defiled. And it's the same verb that's used in Numbers 35 for the land being defiled when a person is murdered in your territory, and you have to do something about that. You have to seek justice or go through a ritual to purify the land, because bloodshed defiles the land. And when you look in Isaiah a little bit further, chapter 26, the earth is going to reveal its bloodshed. So the earth has been defiled by violence and bloodshed. And I think we need to look at what the Canaanites did in this larger context. What humanity did in Genesis 6 brought the judgment of the flood. Isaiah 24 is talking about a future judgement on the earth that we read about in more detail in Revelation. So those are important texts. Also Genesis 15-16, where the Lord says to Abraham, I'm going to give you this land, but not right away, because the iniquity, awon, of the Amorites has not yet reached full measure. So the Lord is very fair; he's waiting. He realizes that these people are on a trajectory that's going to lead to judgment.

So to me, those are key texts that help us understand what's going on with the Canaanites in the larger Biblical theological context.
Gordon Johnston
And with the big picture as well, with the Genesis 15, we can also go back to Genesis 9 to 11, where you have Genesis 10 to 11, you have the table of nations. But before that, you have Ham, who is stated twice to be the father of the Canaanites, who commits such a vile act against his father Noah, that Noah not only curses him, but all of his descendants. And by the time you get to his descendants that are in the land now at the time of Abraham, they are these heinous, wicked reprobates. And they're still practicing those same kind of detestable crimes by the time of Moses and Joshua. So you've got about a 2,000 or 3,000-year period in which the degradation of the Canaanites is just so embedded and so ingrained in their culture and their society, that you get the impression that there was just something that was almost irredeemable about this culture.

Ancient Eastern texts talk about the Canaanites not only practice but prized child sacrifice. If you were a firstborn son, you were going to be sacrificed. Homosexuality, incest, adultery, temple prostitution – the whole culture was reprobate. There's even a text from Mari in which – the king of Mari – in which he talks about thieves and Canaanites were lumped together. So even in the ancient near East, people viewed the Canaanites as just a horrendous lot.

One of the texts – there's two or three texts that are used in terms of the conquest itself. There's annihilation texts in which every man, woman and child is to be annihilated. There's also, though, driving-out texts, or texts in which it talks about, God's going to strike the fear upon the Canaanites. When they hear what Yaweh did to Jericho on high, and when the Israelites come, it's going to strike the fear and the Canaanites will flee before you. So some of their lives would be spared; there'd be some survivors. And there's even examples in which Canaanites that would repent, would be brought into the covenant community. So Rahab, for example, she's a repentant Canaanite when she hears what Yaweh's done. By the way, all the men in Jericho could have done the same thing. Could have repented and come to Yaweh.

The Shechemites – we read Joshua 8, Joshua 24. The Israelites renewed covenant at Shechem. And so there's this possibility the people of Shechem may have turned to Yaweh. And then when David takes Jerusalem – and this is beyond the conquest – when David takes Jerusalem, the Jebusites that survived the battle get folded into the covenant community as Gentile proselytes. Zechariah 9 actually says, it's almost foreshadowing Gentile inclusion in new covenant.

But you also have a set of texts on the conquest that are the herem texts. Bob alluded to herem. Herem can be translated sacred, sacrilege, devoted to the ban, off-limits. And the cities of the Canaanites that were consigned to herem, there was something so abominable about what had happened in these places that Yaweh permanently consigned them to be off-limits, and to be destroyed and wiped off and scourged off the face of the earth. Something had happened in those cities by this Canaanite culture that was so gross – and again, it's not ethnic cleansing; it was moral purging – that they had to be wiped off the face of the earth.

We've got a couple of examples like that today. We've got Chernobyl in Russia, where there was a nuclear meltdown. Now, it's not a moral off-limits, but it's off-limits radioactive. Something happened there that's made that place, for all intents and purposes, permanently off-limits. And we've also got Auschwitz. It was not consigned or burned or destroyed, but it stands as a permanent reminder that sites like that and others, something horrific happened at these locations, and these, for all intents and purposes, are off-limits except for memorial, to stand as an eternal reminder for the degradation of man, what man can do to man.
Darrell Bock
Now, there are several themes that this run through texts raise. One is the idea of the earth being – reacting to what's going on on it, almost as if the earth is sacred space, and speaks as a respecter of life.
Gordon Johnston
Yeah, Leviticus says it even vomits.
Darrell Bock
That's right. And so the picture is of a creation of a special space which is reacting to what's going on, which underscores the second theme that you raised, Gordon, which is the idea that there's something so severe here that it needs to be dealt with. God decides to judge it, just like with the flood. The third idea that I think is really important in this conversation is the picture or comparison of the flood with this particular act of how the land is taken, and then the judgment at the end. There's almost a typology that's at work here.
Gordon Johnston
2 Peter 2 and the book of Jude make that very same point, that what happened in the past foreshadows what's going to happen in the future.
Darrell Bock
So your picture of Auschwitz as a memorial is important. What we're talking about in the way the land was taken is a very peculiar passage in the Old Testament. It is not representative in one sense of everything that goes on through it, but it's a particular example of how God deals with sin if he just deals with sin. And if we think about it that way and we come to a text like Romans 3, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and we ask ourselves, "What do people deserve from the creator God?" All of a sudden the picture begins to change.

And I think what struck me about this when we talked about it yesterday when we were preparing for this was that this really is a worldview issue in question. If you have God in the picture, and the idea that we as creatures are responsible to a God to whom we are accountable, then this kind of an event can make some sense. But if you pull God out of the picture, if you say there is no God, or God doesn't exist, or you don't define God that way, or you can't define God that way – when you pull God out of the picture, you secularize this discussion – you're going to end up where Dawkins is. Because there's no context for making the judgments that are involved and the moral condition that causes the earth to react, or that says this is particularly serious and needs to be dealt with, and/or the reminder that in the end, we're all going to be held accountable to God.
Gordon Johnston
And this is where the Auschwitz example, the memorial – there's something about Auschwitz when one visits it, or the Holocaust museums, that gives one pause. Because you realize that there's something lurking that's deep and dark in the human heart, that this kind of sin was not just unique to one civilization or to one city or to one society. Leviticus and Deuteronomy say this has got to be dealt with because this kind of sin is so seductive and so enticing, that if you allow it to exist, it's going to get you, too.
Darrell Bock
And the flip side of this is that, I think, that if you recognize how serious sin is to God, as pictured in this kind of comprehensive judgement, which is coming in the future as well, then you also realize on the flip side of it, how marvelous grace is. That grace is – we're not entitled to salvation. I don't qualify to be saved by default; I'm born as a human being, and God owes me salvation. Grace really does mean unmerited favor – something that you are gifted, not something that you earn in any way, shape or form. And these darkest parts of the Old Testament, I think, set a backdrop for understanding how grace comes into the picture, at least that's a way of thinking about how to put this piece in the larger Biblical story puzzle.
Gordon Johnston
And there was even grace shown to the Canaanites. There was opportunity when they heard about Yaweh, to turn, to fear, to trust in him and to become part – they were welcomed into the covenant community. So there was even grace in the midst of this judgment. One of my students last night – we were talking about this – said, "Isn't this striking? Isn't this so like God? That in the darkest possible abyss, that's where he causes to make the glory of his light shown."
Robert Chisholm
I think there's a tendency today to shy away from the concept of the wrath of God. And I think that's probably a symptom of the fact of what you said. We don't really appreciate and understand how vile and awful we are. And the fact is, we are alienated from God by our sin. We are alienated from him. And he has every right to destroy us, but yet in his grace poured out through Jesus Christ, he's decided to give us an opportunity to be redeemed. And I think that we need to revisit some of these old doctrines that have fallen on hard times – depravity, the wrath of God – because you're never going to fully understand the Gospel and appreciate it until you start here.
Darrell Bock
Jesus said at one point in Luke – I have to come to Luke at some point – Jesus said in the exchange that takes place with the sinful woman who anoints his feet, that the one who is forgiven little loves little. But the one who is forgiven much loves much. And when I talk about this passage with students, I say, sometimes we may not feel spiritually connected to God as we ought to be. And it may be because we're taking our salvation a little bit for granted. That we're loving little because we really think, "You know, God really more owes me than needs to forgive me." Whereas the person who really feels a sense of forgiveness really senses that God has rescued me out of the abyss.

So I think this is a very, very important context for the totality of the story. And I think the lesson in this conversation is, in part, that when you take a portion of the Bible and isolate it from the rest of the story of what's going on, the risk is, you miss the context of what is happening in that piece. And this is one of the values of being able to study the Bible as a whole. One of the things we do here, as we say, we expose students to all 66 books of the Bible. There's a reason for that. That story as a whole helps to frame certain things that are happening within the Bible. And if you lose that context, you're going to lose how that story actually works – not only in a Biblical kind of thinking, but in a worldview kind of way, as you think about what's going on.

We do have the mics set up here for questions. So we prayed hard about this before we set up the mics today on this topic. But if you have a question for the panelists, do feel free to come up, because it is one that we want to probe. And I'll just let you start right off.
Audience Member
Do you think that God orders moral purging today? And if he doesn't, then what's the justification of war? When do we know that it's right or wrong?
Darrell Bock
Now, I was supposed to issue a –
Robert Chisholm
The first part is, I don't believe God orders moral purging today. How would we even know that he was ordering it? Through whom would he make such an order? I don't believe that he is doing that today. When you study the New Testament, read the book by Longman and Reid, God is a Warrior. The New Testament takes the whole warfare idea to a spiritual level. We are not warring against flesh and – we are engaged in a heavy-duty spiritual battle against the forces of darkness, the spiritual forces of darkness who work through human agents. But that's the war we're in – the war against sin. And we need to speak out against sin, but it's fought in a different way according to the New Testament.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, and I think the important here is what we were saying earlier. This particular event in the Old Testament is a peculiar event. It's an unusual event. It's a one-time thing that's done to set a tone and to make a statement, and also to set up the moral purging that is coming, that human beings won't be directly responsible for, that will be the act of God. And that right exists only with God. This is part of the portrait of what it means – if I can say it this way, this is the hard side of the second coming. The hard side of the second coming is, there will be a tribulation. There will be a judgment. There will be an accountability that's rendered. There will be people confined permanently, separated from God, realizing all that that means. I actually think that one of the key definitions of hell is knowing that God exists, and you missed out on him. To know that permanently is part of what hell is all about. That is coming, and that is a part of the backdrop. And the more we lose that backdrop, as we've said, not only do we lose our sense of accountability to God as creator, but we also lose a very important ground for appreciating what the Gospel is all about on the other end.
Robert Chisholm
Now, the second part of the question regarding, is there such a thing as a just war today? I think that's beyond the scope of our discussion this morning. We'd want to set that up a little bit differently, I think. So we're not – I'm not dodging that part of your question. That's a very complicated issue. There is a new IVP book out, edited by Heath Thomas and some others on holy war from a Biblical perspective. I haven't read it yet, so I'm not endorsing it. A publisher gave it to me a couple weeks ago at ETS, was promoting it, and it looks interesting. So there are other things written on the subject.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And one of our graduates, Tim Demi, who has served in the Naval Academy for years as a chaplain, has written a book on just war. And at some point in the context of the podcast, we will discuss just war and pacifism within the Christian movement. Because these are obviously two tradition strands within the Christian movement that need discussion and reflection. I'll just say as an aside, as a note about how seminary has changed, I went to seminary in the '70s, in the midst of the – we had just come out of the Vietnam War. I spent four years here, and we never discussed the issue of war and pacifism directly in any of the classes that I was in. The first question I got asked when I went overseas to Aberdeen by a lady who moved into the house that we moved out of – she was Scottish – when she found out I was a minister, the first question she wanted to ask me is, "What do you think of nuclear weapons?" And as she's asking me the question, I'm reflecting on my four years at seminary and going, you know, we never discussed this question in seminary, and it's very, very interesting. I'm thinking this while I'm formulating my answer. It's very, very interesting that the moment she finds out I'm a minister, from a public square point of view, that's the first question she wants to ask me as a minister.

So this idea about how violence works in our world, et cetera, is a very, very important kind of question to think through and wrestle with. So I'm making a commitment to you that at some point, we will come back and we will discuss pacifism and just war, because it is a very, very important concept with as many conflicts as we have to deal with on a regular basis in our world, to think through where that fits theologically is a very, very important thing to think through. Mikel, come on up and ask a question.
Mikel Del Rosario
I have a question historically about Jericho. Paul Copan wrote an article in Philosophia Christi years ago called "Yaweh Wars," in which he suggested that Jericho was actually like a military installation, and that there were no civilians there, and the words that are used there are kind of broad terms for, women and children may not have even been there, or maybe they were administrative personnel for running this garrison or whatever. Some people have kind of used that to not sidestep the issue, but kind of dodge a specific charge against genocide in terms of the Canaanites. What's your take on that? I haven't heard anybody interact with him on that particular point about Jericho being a military installation.
Gordon Johnston
I'll deal with the archaeology. I actually brought a chart on this very thing. But Bob wants to make a preliminary comment. You actually made me smile, Miguel.
Robert Chisholm
Paul is a philosopher, and he actually draws on the work of Rick Hess and some others, and I was just talking with Rick about this at ETS a couple weeks ago. Rick gave a paper in our Old Testament narrative literature where he – [laughter] – it's a democracy. We believe in treating all people equally. So I'll answer your question and then let Gordon jump in. But Rick argues that yes, the Jericho situation was a military stronghold. But I asked for clarification later. Rick also acknowledges that the command, God's intention, was to wipe out the Canaanites. He's simply arguing that the historical fact of the matter was, they didn't. And Jericho would have been a different type of settlement. So if you want to get behind what Paul Copan is saying, I would look up Rick Hess' work on Joshua and other things that he has written, because he's talked about that quite a bit.
Gordon Johnston
The Jericho issue, as well as Ai, wherever that is, I think it's an important issue in terms of the scope and the extent. We typically assume that Jericho was almost this metropolis, and that there were tens of thousands of people. Kathleen Kenyon, in the '50s and '60s, excavated there for a number of years, and there's been an Austrian Palestinian excavation that's been re-excavating Jericho just the last couple of years. And there's a pottery record all the way back from the Neolithic period to the Iron age.
Darrell Bock
Which is how old?
Gordon Johnston
I don't want to get into that. The carbon 14 dates for the Neolithic – this is the first time that you had permanent cities, permanent settlements – 7000 to 4500 B.C. Chalcolithic period, 4500 to 3200; early Bronze, 3200 to 2200 – that's around the time of Abraham's coming on the scene. Late Bronze, 1550 to 1200 – that would be the time period that the Israelites would be in Egypt and coming out of Egypt. Either if you take the early date of the Exodus or the late date of the Exodus. During the early periods, Neolithic, Chalcolithic or early Bronze, there is 8,000 pieces of pottery for each one of those areas – each one of those levels – just ten percent of the excavation. So there's a robust population in Jericho all throughout the ages. Something happened around 1550, possibly the Hyksos coming in, and for about a 200 or 300-year period of time, Jericho continues to exist, but the population is meager. What Kenyon found on the site from 1550 to 1200 – again, this is only ten percent of the site that she excavated – but only 38 pieces of pottery for that 250 to 300-year period. So somebody's there, but it's not a massive population. She found one building during that site. Again, only ten percent of the population. The city of Jericho itself – how many of you have been to Israel? One of the surprises, when you go to Israel, is what? How small Jericho really was. It's not even as big as our city block that we're sitting on. So there were people destroyed there. There were people destroyed at Ai. But we may be talking about a smaller scale of destruction. That doesn't make the issue of the annihilation go away, but what it does do, it may reel it in in terms of the extent and scope that we're talking about.
Darrell Bock
Dr. Bailey?
Mark Bailey
Thank you. I don't have a question; I have a compliment to thank you for your prep. Thank you, men, for dealing with a difficult issue. I was reading in Genesis, and I think the comment is warranted here in light of not only the flood, not only the conquest, but even the Exodus and what God did with the Egyptians. You have the same kind of divine judgment upon sin. But I was reading, and it really helped me to understand a timing question in the confirmation of the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. He says in verse 15, "As for you, you shall go down to your fathers in peace. You will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation, they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete." So there was a time in which that kind of holy war by God would not have been appropriate. And when you get to the conquest, then their iniquity has come to full measure. And so I think in the arguments of Dawkins and others, that blatant or indiscriminate genocide is not even tolerated by the Scripture. But the timing issue of God, there was a time when judgment was appropriate. And then in the conquest, there was certain people like Edom, the descendants of Esau, who were not to be annihilated like those particular nations among the Canaanites. But I thought the Genesis 15 passage would be a helpful punctuation to what you were all talking about with regard to divine prerogative at a divinely designed time. When sin was at its full, judgment was warranted. But the Genesis 15 passage has been very helpful for me.
Darrell Bock
And it underscores the core point that we're trying to make in discussing this, which is, if you take the event of how the land is to be purged by itself and extract it from the larger Biblical story and context, then you're not going to be able to really assess and evaluate what's going on. The other thing that I think – I hope you walk away with from this chapel is, we have so secularized the way we view life. And we have so – I'm going to coin a word – libertized the way we make moral decisions as a matter of individual choice, that we have lost sight of the sacredness of life in the process, and the destruction that sin does to life in a fallen world. And because of that, the idea of judgment almost seems like an imposition upon humanity, rather than a form of just desserts.

It shows how skewed we risk becoming if we don't think Biblically. Now, I don't say that to be harsh, because it can come across as harsh. I don't say it to be harsh. I say it because the more sacred you view life, the more you treat people with respect. And that actually is part of the core responsibility we have as creatures, is to treat the life that God has generated in this creation with a terrific measure of respect. And out of that terrific measure of respect, to make sure that you don't abuse other people. Obviously there are spinoffs that come off of all this. And we have only scratched the patina layer at the top of the archaeological dig – that little thin layer of dust at the top of this discussion. But I think it's an important way to get oriented to this conversation. So I hope you found the time that we spent with you on this today valuable. And let me close us in a word of prayer and we'll be done.

Father, we come to this topic and we are reminded of how serious it is. Whether people know you or not, they do react with a gut reaction that something is terribly amiss when judgment is necessary. But that which is amiss is not with you. That which is amiss is with us. And we're reminded of that. We're reminded of our need for you, of our distance from you, and yet at the same time, of your desire to draw us to yourself through the offer of your Son, through the forgiveness of sins, through provision of the Spirit, through the gift of life, and through the opportunity to walk with you. Help us to reflect on why these warnings exist in Scripture, that sin is very serious business, and that the opportunity for forgiveness is an expression of your deep, loving grace that comes because we so need it. We ask these things in Jesus' name, amen.
Recorded Voice
Thanks for listening to The Table podcast. For more podcasts like this one, visit dts.edu/thetable. Dallas Theological Seminary. Teach truth; love well.

Related Podcasts