God Behaving Badly 2

God Behaving Badly 2 May 23, 2011

Sometimes I’m a bit surprised by what people say about God. I know of no humans who don’t get irked or who don’t get angry in a good sense, though I’ve seen some who get too angry too easily while others don’t get irked easily enough. But for some reason God’s getting angry, or expressing wrath, is bad behavior. I do wonder if our anger doesn’t correspond in some ways with something inherent to God and that means anger can’t simply be assigned to a fallen world.

In a chp called “Angry or Loving?,” David Lamb, God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?, asks this very question about the Old Testament. He can’t map all the OT texts but he gives a good map to the whole by sampling passages.

The biggest and most common mistake is to say the God of the OT is angry but the God of the NT is loving. The only people who say such things don’t read the Bible.

How do you explain the “anger” of God?

David examines Uzzah’s being struck dead by God for touching/steadying the altar when it was being moved. Seems a tad overdone, no? David says “Not if you look at the text in its context.” (I’ve got the text after the jump.)

He explains: first, YHWH’s anger results from how the Israelites were to carry the ark. Read Numbers 4:15 if you can. Clear disobedience. Second, they treated the ark of the covenant as cargo by pulling it on a cart when they were told to carry with sticks through the rings on the shoulders of priests. The ark represented God, and God is royalty, and they asked God to ride — as it were — in the trunk or the bed of the truck. Third, they had been so negligent of their relationship with YHWH they had lost the ark to the Philistines. Finally, they learned their lesson; never did this again; God never “broke out” like this again with them over the ark.

But there’s more:

In the OT God is described as “slow to anger” — and this theme highlights the significance of the previous incident with Uzzah; it’s rare and only after patience. God has a “long nose” — the term used for slow to anger. And David asks us to think about what gets God angry: God wants the elimination of oppression, violence and injustice and is angry when those are present in our world. Who can question the wrath of God against these things? Only a radical progressive who can’t stomach any kind of justifiable anger or an apathetic arrogant human who doesn’t seem to care because of assurance of being on God’s side. In fact, these injustices require the justice of God, including the anger and wrath of God.

Thus, God’s anger is justified against Egypt: the most powerful nation in the world with a Robert Mugabe-like figure atop it’s “pyramid” of power, and oppressing Israelites relentlessly. So God is angered — but only after 400 years! Thus, he asks “WWJW?” Who would Jesus whip? The money-changing, unjust arbitrators of power and religion.

And, yet, as David Lamb ably shows: in the OT the theme is the behavior-shaped, abundant and relentless hesed/love of God.

If we don’t get angry at relational breakdown and injustices, as YHWH did, we are not true followers of YHWH.

2 Samuel 6:1-8

1 David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. 2 He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. 5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.

6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.

8 Then David was angry because the LORD’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.

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  • rjs

    Don’t you mean that “oppression, violence and injustice” get God angry rather than the “elimination of oppression, violence and injustice” gets God angry? Or am I missing the point?

  • Scot McKnight

    Thanks rjs … fixed it.

  • Peter

    Really enjoyed this chapter; I had anticipated a bit of a light wash-over regarding the Uzzah affair, but now that I’ve read his explanation I find it very satisfying.

  • Tim

    Please tell me that Uzzah’s death isn’t the soft-ball case from David Lamb’s book that Jesus Creed will be using to “examine” God’s anger.

    Maybe try the more than 14,000 Israelites killed capriciously at Korah (Numbers 16) rather than just one man who touched the most Sacred artifact of the OT (being improperly carried as it was).

  • Tim

    *correction*

    Should not be “at” Korah, but rather following Korah’s challenge of Aaron.

  • Susan N.

    I ordered this book last week, but it hasn’t been delivered yet. The issue for me isn’t one of denying that God can be angry and still be essentially loving. My beef is more a rejection of the way God’s anger is taken as man’s justification for retribution, and an overemphasis on the OT God which doesn’t factor in the Person of Christ. Jesus indeed got angry (money changers in the temple, Pharisees’ and religious leaders’ hypocrisy). But, he never killed anyone or did any violence to any person. Is it James who said that the anger of man will not result in the righteousness of God? I get so angry at times when I witness or experience an injustice. Whether I say or do the “right” thing in response to that anger can be judged entirely opposite, depending on who is umpiring. My husband describes this as the “justice for you, grace for me” mentality. I sure hope God does get angry at the injustice in the world, and that He is much better at responding to it rightly than I (or any other human being). On the other hand, if we are the body (hands and feet of Christ in this world), what are we to do with the anger we feel? Is it an aspect of God’s divine image burning in us, or is it just human sinfulness rearing its ugly head? Just as with interpreting God’s “angry” actions in the OT, or Jesus’ anger in the NT, discerning whether my anger is a holy or unholy thing is where the rubber meets the road on this issue, for me.

    Also, anger is an emotion (feeling), not the behavior. It’s something that I think is very tricky to unleash and then “manage”. Much easier to “grow” than love and peace, healing and restoration. These thoughts are probably way out there, and off track. But this is where my thinking about God’s anger takes me, and what it really boils down to for me as a Christian.

  • Well said, Susan N.

  • Kaleb

    Scot,

    I can get on board with the idea that we have anger as a natural response to situations or people that we feel betray us in some way. If this is a natural emotion I would assume that God feels something like this to. The problem is does God take this anger out on whole people groups including children. I am fine that if God is angry with an individual that is one thing, but to think a whole people group, which includes infants and newborns, that is a lot tougher pill to swallow.

    The other issue I have is that Jesus taught us that we should be able to think of God as father. Jesus teaches us to think about God that way. I am would sincerely like to know how to reconcile a father’s love with the idea that if you do not respond in the right way equals eternity in Hell? I agree people deserve to be punished for all the injustice/wrong doing/self centered acts we all partake in, but how can I reconcile the thought of Father with the idea of never ending punishment. Was punishment suppose to be corrective for parental use? I am a father and even if my child did horrible things my love would remain. There might be consequences, but my heart would always be open to them. I am confident God is much greater in his love than I; this is why I am hopefull for those who die in their sins. I am not sure why Jesus would give us the example of parental love if we were not suppose to truly think of God in those terms? I would love to hear your thoughts on this to help me wrestle with this.

  • Kwesi Adarkwa

    Scot, have you read Thom Stark’s ‘The Human Faces of God’? It deals with the same questions. What do you think of it, if you’ve read it?

  • And David asks us to think about what gets God angry: God wants the elimination of oppression, violence and injustice and is angry when those are present in our world.

    The example in the previous paragraph re: Uzzah and the Ark would seem to demonstrate that the above list is not exhaustive.

    And that is part of the issue. Few people (even “radical progressives”) object to God’s anger at “oppression, violence and injustice.” Many do object to God’s anger when (and this is obviously an over-simplification) God’s ego appears to be bruised.

    That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate the clear way that this was demonstrated to be disobedience and that God is truly “slow to anger,” I just wish that this kind of thing had been included in the list of things that anger God.

  • scotmcknight

    Kwesi, I’ve not read it but dipped into it here and there.

  • Andy W.

    Here’s where I struggle:
    God strikes down someone for touching the Ark yet when we touch and kill very God, in Jesus, he says “forgive them for they know not what they do”. Hard to fit those 2 together without some serious mental gymnastics.

  • Scot McKnight

    Andy W., of course, you’ve observed the irony here: at the very cross where Jesus absorbs the violence, where Jesus absorbs the sin, and where Jesus absorbs death — and undoes each into peace, goodness and life — is the place where he forgives.

    All acts of forgiveness are rooted in the one of act of God’s taking our place in the cross so that we are called to forgive, like Christ, on the basis of what God has done to forgive us.

    I’m not sure any mental gymnastics are needed. Punishment for sin– death — is seen overturned and unleashing a new order of grace.

  • Ron

    “Only a radical progressive who can’t stomach any kind of justifiable anger or an apathetic arrogant human who doesn’t seem to care because of assurance of being on God’s side. In fact, these injustices require the justice of God, including the anger and wrath of God.”

    Scot, Is this you speaking or Lamb?

    Ron

  • I don’t find this explanation for Uzzah’s death very satisfying. For one thing Uzzah’s death seems to be very arbitrary. Why didn’t the men who loaded th Ark into the cart get struck down? They certainly had to touch it. In any event, if God’s wrath had to fall on someone, it should fall on David, not Uzzah.

  • Kwesi Adarkwa

    Thanks, Scot. Would it be too much to ask you to do a review at some point? It’s the most compelling book I’ve read that challenges the inspiration of the scriptures. I know it would be really helpful to a lot of people. Blessings!

  • Scot, how do you handle the subject of God’s immutability? I never really think of God as “angry” in terms of an emotional rise within him. I think some times people react to an image of God as a being who is controlled by some emotion like father who strikes his children when his temper flares only to be overly kind and loving hoping to make up for his moment of depravity.

    Is there a word that is more helpful than “anger” that might help us avoid this reaction?

    I try to think of anger in terms of God’s holiness. When something offends holiness it isn’t an emotional outburst that corrects it, it is holiness itself. Sin is the absence of holiness and isn’t “defeated” the way an army might be. It is more like light infringing upon darkness. Sin cannot exist in the presence of holiness like darkness cannot exist in the presence of light.

    Also, when emphasizing God’s sloth towards anger it is just as helpful to point out his expedient forgiveness and love.

  • Andy W.

    Scot # 13. I get all that. It turns everything upside down.
    The 1st is: You break the rules = punishment, wrath, death
    The 2nd is: God breaks (changes) the rules in Christ = mercy, grace, life

    God’s anger and justice are not just in the world’s way; He shows mercy to all!!

    We still live in the 1st and God is offering the 2nd!

  • EricW

    So was the pre-incarnate Son in 100% agreement with YHWH when YHWH did those things in the Old Testament? Did the Son, perhaps, carry out those acts of YHWH?

  • Andy W.

    #19 EricW

    That’s what I mean by mental gymnastics. I personally think a lot of what is attributed to God in the OT is a bi-product of the culture/place/age in which the OT was written. The narrative of the ANE culture was – the God’s are angry and need to be appeased. How much of what is written came through the filter of this narrative is hard to determine. All I know is that Christ gives me a clear view of who God is.

  • Good point, Larry #15. The men who loaded the ark onto the cart, and David, who was in charge of that operation, could have been liable to the expression of God’s anger that was demonstrated on Uzzah. So, even in that demonstration there was restraint. God’s anger was toward all involved, though it was demonstrated on upon one. I don’t think that was lost on David, which is why he stopped the entire operation and learned how to do it in the way God required.

  • MatthewS

    Andy #18, The 2nd is: God breaks (changes) the rules in Christ = mercy, grace, life

    I don’t think God is breaking the rules. I think he is completing the rule, satisfying the rule. The Law brings a curse to those who break it. Jesus perfectly kept it on our behalf. He became a curse for those who failed to keep it (all people). Rule 1 is still in effect but Christ absorbed the punishment, wrath, and death. This is how God is both just and yet able to justify us:

    from Rom 3:
    God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

  • Scot wrote: “The biggest and most common mistake is to say the God of the OT is angry but the God of the NT is loving. The only people who say such things don’t read the Bible.”

    Low blow, Scot. And untrue. I probably wouldn’t put it exactly like that (OT=Angry/NT=Loving), but that’s close enough. But those of us who recognize differences between the God of the OT and the (mostly) God of the NT don’t invent them, or imagine they exist. Those differences are so stark precisely BECAUSE of the example of Jesus we find in the Bible.

    Jesus, the express image of God, instructed his followers to love their enemies, prefaced with “You have heard it said, ‘an eye for an eye…” And how does God, allegedly, instruct his followers to deal with their enemies? To kill their children (1 Samuel 15:3).

    I plan on reading this book. But if your review really does capture Lamb’s approach to reconciling the “apparent” differences between the angry, wrathful God of the OT and the God we find represented in Jesus, I expect to be very disappointed.

  • EricW #19, I think the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have always been in perfect agreement, and that the Son was as much a part of the acts of YHWH in the OT as was the Father. In all, there was the understanding of the divine plan of the cross. The cross was not an idea the Son came up with after an angry disagreement with the Father; it was mutually agreed upon, just as the acts of God in the OT.

  • DRT

    This chapter (and the future ones) are set up as a dualism. Is god angry or loving? That argument forces the tactic of looking at the preponderance of the evidence for a weighing of the victor. The issue I have is that I don’t view it as a dualistic choice, but a location on one of many continuum’s.

    There are indeed many places where god is slow to anger, and I suppose that this is one where we can say that his striking down of Ussah was a long time coming, but in the end he let his violent self win over the forgiving self.

    So the question of this chapter is “angry or loving”. I think this is a win for god in that he is not a god who is characteristically an angry god, rather he is a slow to anger god who is loving. But the fact remains, once he gets mad, he is violent.

  • rjs

    Wyatt,

    No – God does not tell the Israelites to “kill their children.”

    He tells them to wipe Amelek out – “Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

    Now you can argue that this is also unjust and an indication of the angry OT God – but it reflects a communal and covenant view of persons as part of a community. Rampant individualism is not there. To read scripture, the OT and I would argue, even the NT work of God through Christ, we need to wipe out the individualistic mindset.

  • John W Frye

    When Yahweh commanded the killing of idolatrous peoples including women and children, we enter the hard reality of communal or societal sin. The last thing we can do is read Western individualism into the ANE cultures. There was no “I think, therefore, I am” mentality and autonomy was an alien, a foreign concept as well. Achan stole the goods and his whole family was stoned. This is community involved in sin like we cannot imagine, but it was “the way of life” in the ANE. I recall one man sinning and the whole human race implicated. Welcome to the world of the Bible.

  • Katie

    Kwesi, I just ordered that book and can’t wait to read it! There is another book I just read and loved, “Show Them No Mercy” by Gundry – it allows 4 theologians to argue their beliefs that help us reconcile the differences, or supposed differences, of the God of the Old Testament and the New Testament. I’m still not resolved and have ordered more books – “The Unholy in Holy Scripture – The Dark Side of the Bible”, “Divine Presence and Violence- Contextualizing the Book of Joshua” and the classic, “Holy War in Ancient Israel” – von Rad. If we can’t stomach parts of the Old Testament, we have to research it. No option. I know atheists that became atheists because of the violence and genocide found in the Old Testament. I hope someday I can challenge them with some explanations.

  • John W Frye

    Right on, RJS, in comment #26.

  • EricW

    @28. Katie:

    ISTM, per my somewhat rhetorical questions at 19., that whatever violence or anger we may ascribe to God in the Old Testament must be fully ascribed to the Son as well, at least according to basic Trinitarianism as I understand it.

  • RJS,

    You’ll notice I didn’t use quotation marks.

    According to Samuel, God did indeed instruct Saul and the Israelites to “utterly destroy” the infant children of their enemies, the Amalekites, as well as their entire families, and all their livestock. So I’m quite confused by your claim that God did no such thing.

    As far as your suggestion what we need to eliminate an individualistic mindset in order to understand the Bible and the work of Christ, I agree, but I fail to see how that has any bearing on this issue. Is it individualistic to simply care about your fellow human beings? Because I do. And somehow, I doubt that the mothers of the Amalekite babies would have found much consolation in knowing their children were being run through with Israelite swords because it was all part of God’s “greater plan” to redeem the world.

  • rjs

    Wyatt,

    The command is to utterly destroy the Amalekites. You can argue that this in itself is inherently unjust. But to separate out the infants is to miss the point of the command, to pull at the heart strings in our culture.

    The infants were not innocent bystanders but part of “the Amalekites.” Nor were the women and children considered innocent bystanders.

    I am not saying that I am comfortable with this – or that I find no problems in the nature of parts of the OT. But to phrase the problem as you did is simply a distortion of the text.

  • keo

    “I recall one man sinning and the whole human race implicated. Welcome to the world of the Bible.”

    Nicely put, John W. Frye @27!

  • T

    I think the context for this passage is key, as Scot and the author argue. And, yes, Uzzah was not the only guilty party here, which to me is part of the mercy of God’s response. And, yes, I’m glad that the comparison to the crucifixion of Christ (and his intercession for his killers) was drawn, in order to see a fuller picture of this God. But I think we also need to draw the analogy to the story of Ananias and Sapphira. That story seems to have a very similar “moral” to it, and with a similar actions by God. That story, it seems to me, makes the NT/OT divide much more narrow, at least as it pertains to the Uzzah story.

    JoeyS, I agree that God’s immutability is important, but I don’t think that means that God doesn’t “feel” anger or anyone of a number of feelings that the scriptures describe God as having. Rather, while men can get carried away by anger to the point of acting in ways that is inconsistent with righteous character, God does not. His character remains the same. But character can remain the same and feel different things in different contexts, just as Jesus himself wept in one context and rejoiced in others. His character didn’t, won’t change, and that’s what immutability is about, IMO. But that means, to me, that the same kinds of things that angered him in the OT, anger him now, even if that anger has been largely directed toward the Lamb so that we may live.

  • RJS – I see what you’re saying. But God didn’t simply say “Destroy the Amalekites.” According to Samuel, God specified that those who might otherwise be considered “innocent,” even suckling babes, must also be killed. The fact that children are listed is part of the reason I have a very hard time believing God gave the command.

    Is it more likely that A) God clearly instructed the Israelites to utterly destroy their enemy, including the women and children, or B) Samuel and Saul lived in a time and culture where violence was the way you solved problems, they could not bring themselves to think of winning by any other means, and so they attributed their own desire to utterly destroy their enemy to the god they worshiped?

    Can we learn anything about how Jesus viewed children? (I think we can.) What about how he taught people to view “the enemy?” (It seems clear to me.) Does Jesus ever affirm these kinds of things found in the OT? (I don’t think he does).

    My approach to this is not a humanistic one, nor is it, (contrary to Scot’s claim) the result of failing to read the Bible. In fact, Scot’s writing has only further inclined me toward my present view. It is rooted in the words and example of Jesus.

  • Tim, #4. Uzzah is one of several examples I use. More problematic than 14,000 in Num 16 is 185,000 in 2 Kings 19:35, which I discuss on p. 102 in the chapter on violence.

    Mark, #10. I don’t claim to be exhaustive. I couldn’t be in a 5000 word chapter. I discuss both negative and positive examples of God’s anger, and Jesus’ anger in the NT. Sometimes it’s easy to understand (God’s anger at oppression), but I selected Uzzah because it is one of the more problematic texts. It seems random.

    Joey, #17. I discuss immutability in ch. 7 (flexible or rigid?), but not really in the context of anger. Love to hear your thoughts about the chapter.

    Wyatt, #23. I certainly hope you’re not disappointed, but let me know how you feel after reading it.

    DRT, #25. Ultimately, I argue that God is both loving and angry. In fact, as the ultimate act of love, God gives the cup of his wrath to his son to drink so that I don’t have to.

    Anyone, feel free to check out my new blog (DavidTLamb.com).

  • Jon G

    I picked up the book and am glad I did. Lamb does a great job of making the case for consistency between YHWH in the OT and NT.

    As to Uzzah, I think he’s on to something as to the reason for blowing the brother up being Israel’s taking their ‘marraige’ to YHWH for granted. HOWEVER, God’s slowness to anger towards Israel, was certainly not a slowness of anger towards Uzzah so I, ultimately, find that explanation unfulfilling.

    Is it possible that there was something else going on?

    Perhaps the idea that God is SO holy that anything unclean coming into his presence must be destroyed? And when Uzzah touched the Ark, someone not clean (atoned for)crossed into a holy realm which he couldn’t possibly bear the weight of?

    I think the idea that we are kept from God’s full presence until we are able to engage with that presence is an underlying current throughout the Bible that isn’t addressed enough. And it sure seems to fit with the case of Uzzah and the fact that the Ark had to be handled with poles.

  • Kaleb

    The fact of the matter is we have a God who says love your enemies and to pray for those that persecute you. If you truly believe that Jesus is God and he taught this rule to all; then there will always be gymnastics to explain the same God who taught his followers in the O.T the exact opposite command of killing your enemies and snuffing out those that persecute you. I am not sure how people stop reading the O.T in light of the revelation of Jesus when it comes to these passages? Do we really have to believe that God ordered these in light of who God reveals himself to be in Jesus? If we do have to believe these Jesus obviously does not agree with them because he explicitly says you have heard it said, but I say… I don’t think God corrects God. Apparently we should only read the O.T in light of Jesus when it lines up with our grounded dogma that every apparent ‘bad’ act was ‘commanded’ by God. It seems that Israel interpretted their circumstances and I do not see how you can avoid that given the disparity between the way Jesus taught and corrected popular belief on how the chosen should be in the world.

  • Jon G

    Kaleb (#38)and others,

    I wonder if the point to the Genocide in the OT isn’t about “killing your enemies” but rather “purging the land”. If Israel was to be a kingdom of priests, then the Promised Land was their Temple. And if the Temple was the one place in which God’s very presence interacted with His creation, and if God could not be in the presence of Sin, then killing off the wicked inhabitants of the Promised Land could be viewed as “cleansing the Temple”.

    Granted, this is still a hard pill to swallow, but at least we see consistency with the rest of Scripture. I don’t think God was suggesting that Israel kill their enemies so much as He demanded purity for His presence to effectively interact with His Creation. In the NT, we find that, by being “in Christ” that purity is given to us as well.

  • Kaleb

    Jon G,

    Thanks for the thoughtful response! I have not thought about it those terms. The only push back I would have to that is that when Jesus says love your enemies, I really think he means those that are his enemies too. If Jesus really reveals the full heart of God to us in the most tangible form, as I believe he does, I think we have to seriously contemplate that God commands us love those who are engulfed in sin, destruction, and who break the shalom that God dreams of for this world. In loving these ‘enemies’ we display for the world who God really is. This seems to stand in stark contrast to a God who commands his people to utterly destroy or purge the land of all living things. If God really doesn’t change personalities this does not fit. I understand the holliness thing. Jesus seems to be very forgiving of those in the N.T; even before his death. I wonder if Jesus could give out forgiveness and an extra ordinary amount of mercy before the fullfillment of his sacrifice; why could he have passed out that same forgiveness in advance in the O.T the groups that needed it most? I grew up beleiving every act of the O.T was from God as Israel claimed, but the story does not seem to add up when taking in the whole.

  • LCG

    I’m reading both Lamb’s book and Thom Stark’s book. About 70% thru both. I’m rather disappointed with Lamb’s book. He’ spends a lot of time showing that God is a loving God (maybe people don’t get that and that’s fine) but what I was interested in is how that squares with the commands of Jahweh in Joshua in ridding the land of the Canaanites. Not only these commands to brutally kill their enemies but what does it do to the Israelites who do the killing, who behead or spear women and children? What kind of people did they become just as a result of apparently carrying out Jahweh’s command, if it really was Yahweh’s command. Stark seems much more willing to face those questions head on and wrestle with them rather than package up the answers into neat, tidy answers. Lamb is a good writer, especially for the lay person, and he does some of the pasages are problematic but I feel (at least so far) he has not been willing to wrestle with some of the really tough questions. Stark does seem willing to wrestle with them and while they may not be the answers we have been taught as evangelicals we need to at least consider them as possibilites, and that we may not have an explanation for everything and MAYBE there are liberties taken with the truth in certain circumstances by the OT authors for various reasons. That was very typical in ANE writing apparently. Would be interested in Scot’s take on the two books.

  • I totally agree with you, Kaleb. I strongly suspect Jesus would have been laughed out of the camp (or worse) by many of those in the Old Testament for suggesting they should love their enemies instead of killing them.

    And as far as “purging the land” goes, what a great euphemism for killing people…right up there with “kinetic military action” and “collateral damage.”

  • LCG wrote: …MAYBE there are liberties taken with the truth in certain circumstances by the OT authors for various reasons. That was very typical in ANE writing apparently.

    I think you’re onto something there.

  • EricW

    Well, if “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” didn’t just begin with the Incarnation, but is true of the Eternally Existent Son, and if the Son and the Holy Spirit and the Father are one substance with each other, then what God is and does in the Old Testament is what Jesus does and is in the Old Testament, and what Jesus does and is in the New Testament is what God does and is in the New Testament, and what God and Jesus do and are in the Old Testament are what God and Jesus do and are in the New Testament.

    Right?

  • Rob

    Wow, i wrote a brief post on this exact topic which I think is a really important one for the church today. It’s a sort of “good cop, bad cop” theology… http://goo.gl/JrdNz Thanks for bringing up this subject!

  • Jon G

    Wyatt,

    Although my choice of words may have been poor, I don’t think you are getting my meaning…perhaps it is my fault, so I’ll try to push back to you with a challenge.

    I believe that you are looking at God through a very limited lens. One that says, it is only loving of God to overlook Sin. If we learned anything from the “Love Wins” debate it is that God’s Judgement is anything but unloving – when enacted TOWARDS Sin. In other words, it WOULD BE unloving of God to let sin run free in Creation.

    In Genesis 15:16 we see God telling Abraham that his offspring will return to the Promised Land many years later, that he can’t yet inhabit the land because “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet compete.” Then He gave them 400 years to get their act together. Based on the text, we can then assume that the iniquity of the inhabitants of the Promised Land, at the time of Israel’s entrance, WAS indeed complete. The inhabitants of the Promised Land were not “innocent” and thus the judgement handed to them was not unwarranted. It would have been unloving towards the rest of the world to let them live.

    Still, this was not the main thrust of my argument. I was saying that God and Sin can’t be in the same place at the same time without one of them getting obliterated (and it ain’t going to be God). If God’s plan to rescue the world was to come through Israel, then the first part of His plan had to be to atone (wipe clean) His priests and temple that were responsible for carrying out that plan.

    In the book of Joshua (same name as Jesus, btw), we see Israel, for the most part, doing this…and they were successful and prosperous for having carried out God’s orders. However, they didn’t fully carry out their duty in cleansing the land and they ended up paying for it in the book of Judges where remnants from the Caananites infiltrated the Israelite society thus turning them away from God (although they were also responsible for their own actions).

    Because of this failure to “cleanse” God couldn’t effectively use Israel as He intended – to show His love for ALL of Creation. So in steps a better Joshua (Jesus) who carries out what the first Joshua couldn’t…creation of a temple free from sin that allows God to show His love for the world…this time eternally.

    If you don’t think God in the NT is serious about sin in the presence of his temple, go talk to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5).

  • Kaleb

    JON G #46,

    The inhabitants of the Promised Land were not “innocent” and thus the judgement handed to them was not unwarranted. It would have been unloving towards the rest of the world to let them live.

    I hope you don’t live out this sort of love in your life. The fact of the matter is that no one is innocent so I hardly think this is a good defense of babies being slaughtered by Israel. Could the Israelites have adopted them and raised them in their tradition? But I guess that would not be showing them enough of the ‘love’ you say they needed. I agree with you Ananias and Sapphira seemed to have been judged, but I don’t think you can equate punishment for a particular sin with the infantcide and genocide that occurs in other passages.

  • Andy W.

    # 46 Jon G,

    I hear what you’re saying and this is the line of thinking I was taught growing up, especially this line:

    “I was saying that God and Sin can’t be in the same place at the same time without one of them getting obliterated (and it ain’t going to be God).” We have plenty of examples in both OT and NT of this simply not being true:
    – Adam and Eve
    – Abraham
    – Moses and many other profits
    – The entirely earthly ministry of Jesus and interestingly he actually seemed to hang out with the worst of sinners and outcasts and instead of death they received His healing.

    Sin is to be taken dead seriously for “the sting of death is sin! (1 Cor 15:56). To choose sin is to choose death! The abundant life is only to be found “in” Christ. His judgement is not punishment for sin, but rather the making things right in my life and in the world and the very healing that I (we) so desperately need. Now, some may not welcome this and choose to live in darkness…they are choosing death.

  • Jon G – my comment about “purging the land” was not consciously directed to you, although I realize now that you are the one who used it. I’m sorry, I meant no offense.

    With respect to me “looking at God through a very limited lens,” you may be right. Honestly, I don’t feel compelled to to defend everything that was written about God by every person in the Old Testament.

    My lens, if you want to call it that, is Jesus. And from what I can tell, Jesus called his followers to treat their enemies much differently that did some of those in the Old Testament. From my perspective, all this talk about the God of the Old Testament, the God who supposedly told Moses to kill people who gathered sticks on the Sabbath, the God who supposedly instructed the Israelites to slay the children of their enemy, the idea that this is the same God who was Jesus, who instructed his followers to love their enemies, and to suffer the little children to come to him? I’m sorry, but that just strikes so as so much handwaving.

    No, God doesn’t want you to kill anyone. He didn’t want the Israelites to do it (though that seems to be what his disciples were expecting), and he doesn’t want us to either. At least that’s what Jesus said, who wept over Jerusalem because of their history of violence, and their failure to know the things, even then, that made for peace.

    Maybe it’s just my imagination, but it seems that most of the comments here defending the historical violence of Israel don’t have too much say about Jesus. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

  • Jon G,

    And by the way, as far as God occupying the same space as Sin, he came right down into the center of it, almost as if to say: “No, you’re wrong. This is where I do my work.”

  • EricW

    @41. LCG:

    I’m reading both Lamb’s book and Thom Stark’s book. About 70% thru both. I’m rather disappointed with Lamb’s book…. Stark seems much more willing to face those questions head on and wrestle with them rather than package up the answers into neat, tidy answers. Lamb is a good writer, especially for the lay person, and he does some of the pasages are problematic but I feel (at least so far) he has not been willing to wrestle with some of the really tough questions. Stark does seem willing to wrestle with them and while they may not be the answers we have been taught as evangelicals we need to at least consider them as possibilites,…”

    Is this perhaps relevant to the subject of the previous post (and the 6 prior ones in the series), The End of Evangelicalism 7?

    I.e., is Evangelicalism going to die because its leaders, fearful of sliding down a slippery slope of absolutist inerrancy, can’t or won’t wrestle with the hard questions, but will only give glib or pat or unsatisfactory (to many) answers?

  • As a result of your posts based on this book, I have purchased it for myself. It arrived this afternoon and I look forward to reading it soon. Thanks!

  • Isn’t a big component of this our hermeneutic? This kind of discussion seems to almost always center on the EVENTS recorded in Scripture, and we debate the morality/ethics of how God acted in the event. Fair enough. But isn’t that different than the message of the TEXT?

    In other words, an anti-war TEXT can be full of narrative descriptions of wartime EVENTS. And can present those war narratives heroically, patriotically, all the while making a case overall against war. I bet we can think of any number of books or movies.

    This doesn’t make these issues disappear, but surely it would help to work hard on the message(s) of the Early Prophets’s texts as opposed to the events that were prophetically recorded in order to make the text’s points. Haven’t seen Lamb’s book, wondering how does with overall message of the text?

  • Tim

    David Lamb@36,

    “Tim, #4. Uzzah is one of several examples I use. More problematic than 14,000 in Num 16 is 185,000 in 2 Kings 19:35, which I discuss on p. 102 in the chapter on violence.”

    I appreciate your response, but I am at a total loss as to how exactly you’ve arrived at this conclusion. Perhaps because 185,000 is a larger number than 14,000 and change? How does this logic hold? The morality/immorality of killing isn’t to be arrived at by applying simple arithmetic to the numbers slain.

    In the Numbers 16 scenario, you had a completely abrupt, capricious, murderous response to a relatively sympathetic population of Israelites. In the 2 Kings 19 scenario you have God killing the Assyrian soldiers camped right outside Jerusalem’s door with intent to go to war. Killing enemy soldiers bent on conquering one’s people isn’t in even remotely the same league as slaughtering whole families capriciously.

    David, to be honest, I’ve looked over your book in Google Book preview. Granted, the whole text isn’t available, but I think I’ve got a flavor for your approach. It’s my personal impression that you aren’t tackling the more problematic issues in the OT. It’s like your pitching yourself soft-balls and then smiling as you hit them out of the park. Other works engage the hard-hitting issues that don’t lend themselves to such ready answers. Those books hold more interest for me. Hopefully, some day, one of them will grace the forums of Jesus Creed.

  • DRT

    As David Lamb said earlier in the thread, he does conclude that god is both loving and angry. Rather than justify a god who is not, he admits he is. I think that is the inherent problem some of us have.

  • After briskly reading over the comments, I didn’t see anyone bring this up, so forgive me if I’m be redundant here, but didn’t the church confront this issue head on in its early years during the controversy over Marcionism. I’m not as up on the details of church history as I wish I were, but since Marcion’s views were rejected and condemned as a heresy, I’m assuming there were reasons given for rejecting them. Does anyone know what they were?

  • Tim

    DRT,

    Was your comment to me? In any case, righteous (i.e., just) anger is not what I am talking about here. Anyone “admitting” that God has this trait is hardly any shocking concession. What I am arguing is that passages such as Numbers 16 entail depictions of God’s anger that are more capricious and tyrannical than the “righteous”, “just”, or even “slow to anger.” David Lamb’s book seems to pick the easily dispensed low hanging fruit and more or less ignores the truly problematic passages. That’s his prerogative of course, but it renders him unable to answer the question posed in the title of his book.

  • DRT

    Tim, my comment was not to you directly, more of an overall observation. I understand you view (I think) but he will address your view in “violent or peaceful”.

  • DRT

    Gordon#56, He does briefly deal with Macionism, but rejects its primary conclusion as heretical in concord with the church.

  • Thanks DRT. What I was specifically wondering about, though, was what the reasons given by the historical church were for rejecting Marcionism as heretical when it first arose.

  • It seems that Marion taught that YHWH, the “God of the Old Testament,” was actually a different god than the god of the New Testament, the God of Jesus.

  • Tim

    DRT,

    “He will address your view in “violent or peaceful”.”

    I hope so DRT. We’ll see when Scot posts on it further in the series, though the example of 2 Kings 19 David Lamb chose to give is somewhat less than confidence inspiring. I hope the other material he reviews in that chapter is harder hitting.

  • Lyn

    Sorry, won’t read all 60+ comments, but it seems to me that God is God and God can do whatever God wants. Hello fellow gnats.

  • JohnC

    Great observation Lyn. That’s not even close to the point at hand. God can in fact do what he wants. But no being can do evil and still be called good.

  • Lyn

    So if God is evil, don’t worship God.

  • Tim

    DRT@58 (continued),

    I know this is getting off-topic for this thread, but “Violent or Peaceful” is available on Google Book Preview and I’m reading through it now.

    Genesis 22 is a soft-ball.

    Judges 19 has nothing to do with God and everything to do with general lawlessness of the people – as summarized in the concluding passage of Judges 21:25 “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”

    2 Kings 2:23-25 (Elisha, the boys, and the Bears) is harder hitting, but I swear I lost 5 IQ points reading the absurdly specious justifications for it. Here are a couple gems:

    “It was reasonable to assume that Elisha’s life was in danger. It is certainly not unthinkable that they were planning to rough him up a bit.”

    &

    “The text, however, doesn’t suggest death was the result; it simply states they were “mauled” or “torn.” If these youths were killed, the text would make that clear.”

    Go ahead and read 2 Kings 2:23-25, then go back and read David Lamb’s apologetic treatment of the passage. Bang head on wall. Go back, re-read both in sequence. Bang head on wall again. Repeat until the sweet embrace of unconsciousness relieves your frustration.

    Moving on, the David Lamb’s method of dealing with the mass genocides during the Canaanite conquests in Joshua by shifting the focus to a “driving (them) out” is a total whitewash. Does David Lamb deal seriously with the “herem” passages in Joshua? The bashing of babies heads against rocks? No! Just a whitewash by shifting the focus to part of the story, then a big “nothing else to see here, move along folks.” Then he moves on to Yahweh’s slaughter of Assyrian soldiers in a time of war (which I’ve already commented on – and if there is any moral fault to be had in his killing of hostile soldiers, it would have to be bad sportsmanship *tongue in cheek)

    I think that’s enough for now. I find I am now thoroughly disappointed in this yet another apologetic OT work promoted on Jesus Creed. Please, please, please can we get something in here that takes the hard issues seriously? I’m starting to feel the apologetic echo chamber closing in…

  • Jordan

    This is an important post on an important topic, for both believers and non-believers, and this sounds like a great book to read. I appreciate the pushback by those who don’t want to settle for quick answers. I definitely understand the desire to reconcile OT God’s thinking and behavior to that of NT Jesus, not only for Trinity-Unity reasons, but also as we understand how to be like Jesus in this century (in all the ways we should act like Him as God’s children, while also not acting like Jesus in others, violating His unique position and role as God’s unique Son-Lord-Sacrifice-Judge).

    However, I wonder if we not only see God in a biased way in the OT as overly angry, but also see Jesus in a biased way in the NT as overly merciful. There are enough hard teachings of Jesus to possibly even things out (for better or worse). For example, Jesus warns those who “mess” with his children that “whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea!” (Matt. 18:6 HCSB). The nation and people of Israel were God’s adopted children (by grace), and He was intensely protective of them and His plans for the world as Jesus was in the NT. Before we respond that Jesus didn’t actually kill these people in Matt. 18 as God did in the OT, we might remember that Jesus’ example were only potential persons, so he described a potential response. Also, while the OT response was (at known minimum) immediate, physical, earthly punishment and death, Jesus’ example might have even included later-on, permanent, eternal punishment and death.

    Second, take Jesus’ words to Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Capernaum. We wonder about God’s response to Sodom and Gomorrah—although we don’t wonder about it as much as other stories like the Joshua conquests because we get more examples of Sodom and Gomorrah’s extremely bad way of life than we do of the Canaanites in Joshua’s situation. I bet that if more light were shed on the Amalekite’s (communally learned and inherited behavior), as archaeologists and historians attempt to do, we would understand God’s severe response better, as well as His potentially *merciful* dealing with the Amalekite children (i.e. the idea mentioned in “The Case for Faith”—not necessarily I—that God was possibly sparing these little children of living with horrible memories of their community’s behavior, their parents’ tragic loss, the potential that the children might grow into these same, horrid behaviors (as well as revenge) and perhaps steer themselves towards potential eternal punishment, and the possible idea that the younger children might also be under the “age of accountability” and instead given the chance for eternal life that their parents and community were unwittingly—or purposefully—teaching to rebel against.) But back to Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Capernaum. Jesus said: 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes long ago! 22 But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until today. 24 But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you” (Matt. 11:21-24 HCSB). Those are harsh words indeed. Sodom—under God’s OT response—will fare better than you? And Jesus talking about “judgment day” eternal punishment rather than just immediate, physical punishment?

    These are just a few examples that we could go through in the Gospels, let alone in Paul, Peter, or John’s writings, but let’s look at one more. Several people have referred to Jesus’ merciful crying over Jerusalem, which amazingly shows Jesus’ grace and “motherly” instinct (Hen with chicks under wings), but the second part of that passage continues: “…yet you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will never see Me again until you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 23:37-39 HCSB). I don’t exactly know what their fate will be, although we saw the physical, historical fate of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans a few years later (and throughout the centuries of dispersion), but in light of the Jerusalemite’s (I made that term up) eternal fate, I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of “you will never see Me again until you say…”

    I am not a “wrathy” type person, more of a Barnabus than even a Paul, and I am really just countering some healthy push-back by others for sake of discussion, however I do believe that Jesus is far more serious and intense about punishment and justice than we often realize. Who talked about Hell and punishment more? Here’s a final thought. I have understood much of the stories in the OT as God using certain things or doing certain things in an immediate, physical way, to show the eventual, eternal significance in the NT. When dealing with the Moses plagues and Joshua conquests, for example, I see God capping off a big picture story of salvation in an immediate, physical way—God rescues His people out of horrid slavery and punishment, dealing a crippling blow to those forces holding them in oppression and slavery, and guiding them through the Wilderness of life on the way to the Promised Land of Eternity, by which he judges and punishes those won’t inherit it. In this case, God uses immediate, physical, earthly punishment and judgment on a smaller scale (one land) to picture what Jesus (of all people) promises will happen one day with eventual, eternal, spiritual punishment on a larger scale (much of earth).

    I believe that these and other examples make an attempt for a unified OT-NT case for God and Jesus’ sense of punishment and justice, with the NT only promising to raise the bar. On both counts, you also see incredible examples of God’s OT grace, as well as with Jesus in the NT. Now there are plenty of other OT situations that I am still dealing with, but I want to be able to understand and explain them as well. In the end, I go back to my belief that there is much that Jesus wants us to do (praying, loving, forgiving others), while there is much that only He should do (Lord-over, Judge-over, Punish-over). And in the end, I also agree with those who say, I learn my fullest experience of God’s heart and amazing grace through Jesus. That much I do know and point people to!

    Feel free to push-back. I am just a learner…

  • Samuel was wrong. He does not record god speaking to him as on other occasions. Samuel initiated this attack on the Amalekites himself, to advance his own agenda. He misrepresented God badly.

    http://getrad2.blogspot.com/2008/08/prophet-samuel-8-saul-and-amalekites.html

  • Gordon, #56,

    Marcion was the first recorded (it would appear) to have noticed the apparent disconnect between divine descriptions in the OT and Jesus related texts. As far as I am aware (I might be wrong) his denunciation was not for noticing this disconnect, but for the solution he proposed, which was to produce a new “harmonised” single voice authoritative text, which would have excluded much or perhaps all of the OT writings.

    Once again, I would come back to some of Thom Stark’s suggestions for how we interact with Marcion… but I fear that would be venturing off topic.

  • Tim #66, last para;

    I’m right with your there mate. If there is an echo in this chamber, I’m receiving it in stereo.

  • Jon G

    Kaleb (#47), Andy W (#48), Wyatt (#49)

    Sorry, I didn’t respond yesterday. I hope this thread hasn’t gone cold yet because I would like to address your claims.

    Kaleb – “I hope you don’t live out this sort of love in your life. The fact of the matter is that no one is innocent so I hardly think this is a good defense of babies being slaughtered by Israel. Could the Israelites have adopted them and raised them in their tradition? But I guess that would not be showing them enough of the ‘love’ you say they needed”
    I’m NOT defending the slaughter of babies. I’m merely pointing out that seeing what happened in the slaughter of babies was not about “killing Israel’s enemies” so much as cleansing the “Temple”. As I said, “it’s still a hard pill to swallow”. I never said killing them was showing them love. I said, destroying sin was showing THE REST of Creation love. The best I can explain the killing of children is that in the ANE, and certainly by the authors of the OT, people were seen in groups, not as individuals like we see them in modern-western society. So, if your father committed a crime, he brought shame on the whole family. We see evidence of this over and over, especially in the Israelite monarchs where, as the king goes, so goes the whole country. What the OT authors are seeing is THE WHOLE of the Canaanite society as wicked, and thus Genocide as properly called for. We see THE INDIVIDUAL and thus are appalled. I’m not saying it was right to kill babies, just that it was right IN THEIR minds. As to how it actually played out and whether God sanctioned the killing of babies…well I guess that comes down to how literally you take the bible.
    Andy W – “We have plenty of examples in both OT and NT of this simply not being true:
    – Adam and Eve
    – Abraham
    – Moses and many other profits
    – The entirely earthly ministry of Jesus and interestingly he actually seemed to hang out with the worst of sinners and outcasts and instead of death they received His healing.”
    I’m sorry, but I disagree. These are cases when what you claim is exactly the OPPOSITE.
    Adam and Eve sinned…and were forced to leave God’s presence. Moses couldn’t enter in to the Promised Land (the Temple) because of his sinful past. And Jesus’ earthly ministry…this is the biggest open and shut case I’ve got…also where I would like to spend some time:
    Jesus was God in the flesh. This is important so I’ll rephrase. Jesus was God’s presence in a temple. (John 2:19-21). And while the temple can be seen as a way that God interacts with mankind, it also is a barrier between God’s full, revealed glory and sinful man – in other words, it protects us from Him. (Remember the curtain being torn after the crucifixion?) So, while Jesus was, as you rightly say, hanging “out with the worst of sinners and outcasts”, He wasn’t fully exposed to them, nor they to Him (sort of like God walking around like the boy in the bubble!). Anyway, when healings did take place (God interacting with Sin) it took its toll on Jesus, but at no point did the full glory of God interact with the full sin of Man…until the cross. They were NEVER, fully, in the same place at the same time before then.
    But at the cross we see the consequence of letting the sin of the world enter in to the perfect temple which held God’s presence. What happened was that our sin went in to Jesus and God’s spirit left. Again, they couldn’t occupy the same space. And on Sunday, God went about the business of cleansing that temple one final time so that when we are a part of His perfect temple, when we are “in Christ”, we are also cleansed and God can live in us, His new temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
    Wyatt, no problem. Those were my words and I take responsibility for them. I should have realized that they carried some baggage.
    I agree, Jesus should be the lens, after all we are told in Hebrews 1:3 that He “is the exact imprint of [God’s] nature”. But I don’t think you can say that He wouldn’t use violence towards sin. The question is whether or not WE should. It is God’s right (ask Job) to take life and Jesus, while never killing certainly did become violent, especially when His temple was desecrated. Just ask the money changers He was whipping. And he wasn’t particularly gentle with the Pharisees calling them a brood of vipers and white-washed tombs, was He?
    “that this is the same God who was Jesus, who instructed his followers to love their enemies, and to suffer the little children to come to him? I’m sorry, but that just strikes so as so much handwaving”
    I think where you encounter a problem is that you think the OT God is directing His anger towards people who challenge His authority whereas the God of the NT sets aside His anger towards those who do so. What I’m proposing is that BOTH the God of the OT and NT are working towards a clean temple in which God’s full presence can interact with His Creation directly. It’s not about making people pay for being wicked (at least not primarily). This theory is much more consistent with what we see in the OT and the NT and eliminates such dichotomies that this discussion seems to thrive on . In the OT, he used the Israelites, as His representatives, to accomplish this goal of cleansing the temple…and they failed. In the Gospels, He used His own body to accomplish this…and He succeeded, partially. Now, He’s using US to finish the job until we see, in Revelation 21:22 “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God…”

    Again, sorry if I was misleading in my comments. I find it hard to write all I want to say in such a small space. Hopefully, this clears some of my thoughts up.
    Go Bulls!

  • Tim

    John G@71,

    “I’m merely pointing out that seeing what happened in the slaughter of babies was not about “killing Israel’s enemies” so much as cleansing the “Temple”…”THE WHOLE of the Canaanite society as wicked, and thus Genocide as properly called for.”

    John, do you think the state of human morality has improved since the times of the ancient Israelites and Canaanites? If not, do you then think it could be likely that there is another population of people that would deserve to be subjected to genocide? I know, I know, that’s for God to determine not mere mortals. But any population that you might see as a candidate? What about a population that wouldn’t be a candidate? Is America wicked enough to deserve being wiped out entirely? What about Iran? What about Holland?

    You know, justifying the mass genocide of a people as a necessary “cleansing” event just isn’t sane in my view. For all the positive moral principles one can derive from the Bible such as peace, love, compassion, mercy etc., the justification of mass murder of infants, children, mothers, fathers, all in the name of “cleansing” just hits me as an imbibing of pure, unadulterated, evil. Just dripping wickedness that enters ones soul. That’s my view anyway. And I suspect it is also the view of many who discuss the problems religious dogmatism introduces to our society.

  • Kaleb

    Jon G,

    Thanks for the clarifications and response. I understand the ANE view of culture and specifically the lack of individuality when it comes to sin. I agree that this is definitely present. I believe God to be outside of time and space in God’s realm of Heaven. If God is outside of time and space does it really matter what the ANE thought about the sins implicated on the rest of the community? Wouldn’t what matters is God’s view since the text say that God was the one who directed the violence? I only say this because it seems like you are defending the notion of this genocide because it goes along with the ANE view; but that shouldn’t matter if the true view was coming from God.

    I agree with so much of what you said outside of the ‘bubble boy Jesus’ thought. I think that totally misses the point that God was present with humanity and it was something that could be experienced directly. Jesus was God, not just an exterior shell containing God’s presence. I think RJS posted a link on this today on this blog about the dualistic mentality of separation between spirit/body. Otherwise we are left believing that God could not be fully present with us, but we know that he was tempted in every way as we are as assurance that he really was fully present with us in all of our messiness and especially our SIN. Even the transfiguration seems to be another event that shows that God was really present even if that presence was more like a whisper than a trumpet announcing who was with them.

    I agree that if God really did warrant such acts that there is a way he remains more than good in doing so. It does not seem to make sense though the way that Jesus continued to correct Israel’s mentality about their beliefs of the OT by saying you heard it said, but I say… He is correcting common belief of his day.

    The last thought that comes to mind is the fact that when Sodom was about to be destroyed Abraham pleaded God down to ten INDIVIDUALS. If he could just find ten righteous they would be spared. I wonder if Abraham had pushed further that God would have agreed to spare them if one were righteous before God? It seems like this same mentality is the one I embrace about the infants, women, and children. I just don’t know that these stories are part of the blessing Israel was to be for the world. It feels like they work against the larger narrative of God calling a people to God’s self to be blessed and be a blessing to the whole world and help to bring about God’s Shalom to the whole creation. It seems that Israel got the message wrong at MANY points in Scripture. Scripture is basically one story after another on how Israel totally blotched up the whole thing and God forgiving them and giving them 5th,6th,7th, and 8th chances. If they truly got it wrong so many times why should we be so willing to embrace something that seems so

  • Kaleb

    hard to swallow?

  • Jon G

    Tim #72-

    Not my point at all, but thanks for playing.

    I was making the point that the authorial intent of the OT writer was NOT a commentary on morality (they should die because they are wicked) but one of accessability (they can’t be in the temple because they are unclean and if the temple is unclean then God can’t be present). In God’s efforts to comingle with Creation, sin gets in the way and either He goes or we go…you can’t have both together.

    For the record, I’m against all baby-killing, Genocide, etc….but I’m for you, Tim. Every point you make in your post I would agree to, except that you direct it towards me. Rock on, brother!

  • Jon G

    Kaleb #73
    “it seems like you are defending the notion of this genocide because it goes along with the ANE view; but that shouldn’t matter if the true view was coming from God.”

    I’m saying that what you are reading is the ANE view. It is THEIR account of the Genocide that is being reported. That is how THEY saw what happened. I wouldn’t pretend to know how God saw it.

    “that totally misses the point that God was present with humanity and it was something that could be experienced directly. Jesus was God, not just an exterior shell containing God’s presence.” — This opens up a whole different can of worms that I won’t get into now (I’m not a Trinitarian), but I disagree. Just because God’s presence was made manifest in Jesus (1 Tim. 3:16), does not mean that He isn’t “with” us and that we can’t interact with Him directly. For instance, if I were talking to you and you were “bearing your soul” to me, would you say that I wan’t interacting “directly” with you because what was actually going on was that your mind was making your mouth move atoms around that my ear was picking up and then translating them into messages that my spirit could understand? No, what your spirit says, your body enacts and we interact “directly” with one another.

    In the same way, God, who is spirit, became a part of His physical creation in order to redeem it…how could He be anymore “present” with humanity? – other than to actually live inside of it! The key is TEMPLE, TEMPLE, TEMPLE. Eden was a temple, then Jesus was the temple, and now WE are the temple.

    I understand the desire to put my words in the dualistic spirit/body conversation, but I don’t think that is what I’m saying. They tend to propose that God designed us for one over the other, I’m saying that God designed us for both. That our spirit and body were created to coexist, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same thing. They each have different functions.

    “Otherwise we are left believing that God could not be fully present with us, but we know that he was tempted in every way as we are as assurance that he really was fully present with us in all of our messiness and especially our SIN.” So, are you saying that God can’t be with us unless He can sin? Well, if I grant you that, then I could still ask how God, the Father, indwelling a body is any less ‘human’ than Jesus, the Son indwelling a body? Or do you believe that “the flesh” of Jesus was eternal…that He was always a spirit/flesh combination and that Mary was nothing more than an incubator? If so, then I have a problem with Him representing me, not to mention that the bible mentions that he came from the line of David. I’m not saying that you’re wrong, just that it leaves me with other questions.

    “It does not seem to make sense though the way that Jesus continued to correct Israel’s mentality about their beliefs of the OT by saying you heard it said, but I say… He is correcting common belief of his day” A friend just brought this up to me the other day so I’m sure you’re right in doing the same. As I see it, Jesus wasn’t changing the OT commandments so much as correcting how the Israelites understood those commandments. I think He was pointing to the deeper meaning behind the words of the Law that they were so persistent in following. So, for example, “eye for an eye” vs. “turn the other cheek” wasn’t a reversal of the earlier command…it was a clarification. In the days when you would kill a man and he would come back and kill your whole family, “eye for an eye” would preserve as much shalom as possible. It would keep fights from escalating. In “turn the other cheek” the same principle -to preserve shalom” applies. What God was doing in the work of his priests (whether it was Israel, Jesus, or the Church today) was to preserve shalom through whatever means were available and both commandments, the OT’s and Jesus’, fit that bill. Now this isn’t a blank check to let somebody beat you and ignore it for peace’s sake, but that’s another discussion. The point is, both the Law and Jesus were promoting shalom.

    I agree with you on your last paragraph. The “why” of the destruction God ordains is something to be wrestled with. I’m not trying to offer a “God did this for the betterment of the World” solution here. I’m just trying to say that, whatever reason it was, it makes more sense to say that it was because of preparing for Him to dwell amidst Creation than “because He was punishing the wicked” because then you have to explain why individual babies are wicked.

    Thanks for the pushback, though. I appreciate your well-thought-out criticisms.

  • Luke Allison

    I feel an important principle to point out here is Jesus’ teaching on divorce in Mark 10:1-8. The Pharisees point out Deut. 24:1-4’s allowance of divorce (a certificate is viable), while Jesus states that, in the beginning (creation intent) it was never supposed to be that way. As a matter of fact, He blames “their hardness of heart” as the reason why the Law was “amended” by Moses to allow for it. Jesus’ teaching on divorce is significantly “harder” than the Deuteronomic law allowed for.

    Keep that in mind: the Deuteronomic law (“second law”) was given not as an exhaustive addiction to the Levitical Law, but rather as an “amendment” of sorts due to sin’s pervasive effects. It’s the same reason why I lean away from complimentarian roles in the Church: the reality of sin makes things much more complicated.

    Do you think that any of us are potentially missing something about the slaughters portrayed in the Scripture? Remember, the Israelites were supposed to stay completely free of all pagan influence. What happened? They repeatedly married foreign women and worshiped foreign gods. The complications of sin prompted the necessity of the slaughter. The only way to possess a land and create history was for the land to be forcefully possessed. Remember, had the Israelites obeyed the covenant from the beginning, things would have been very very different, presumably. The hardness of hearts and the reality of sin cause amendments to be made that are not part of the original design.

    Interesting question here: Is Hebrews 1:3 actually saying that “if Jesus didn’t do it, God never did it”? Seems to me you’re getting into Gnostic territory when you start pitting Jesus against God. Did Jesus really show us every single aspect of God? Or did He give us a glimpse into His heart? Was Jesus the man the exact imprint of God’s character, or is “the Son” of all eternity the exact imprint? I feel this is a huge part of the reason why so many brothers shy away from the OT’s violence and embrace Christ’s “seeming” pacifism.

    But I really do feel like many of you on this page have incredibly sentimental viewpoints of Jesus…like, “haven’t read the text in a while” sentimental viewpoints. Most of that comes from an unexamined belief in the superiority of our cultural moment. That’ll change.