Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How can the Bible Tout Peace When it Once Called For Genocide? - An Analysis Part 1

On the one hand, I could say that the answer to this question is quite simple.  Simply compare Jesus to Muhammad…

Jesus never harmed anyone or anything.  As Isaiah, describes the Messiah “A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;” Isaiah 42:3.

       Muhammad conducted war, beheaded captives, raided caravans, and added captured women to his haram.

Jesus’ immediate followers, likewise, were harmless.  They spread the message of the Gospel through reasoning and arguments of persuasion.

              Muhammad’s successors conducted war, beheaded captives, raided caravans, and added captured women to their harams.

The answer is pretty straight forward.  There is nothing about the life of Muhammad that would even remotely suggest that he was a man of peace or that the “religion” that he founded is one of peace.

One may also look to the Quran and the Hadiths to confirm a general call to violence on the part of Islam. This is countered by verses that serve as calls to peace also found in the Quran.  In similar fashion when the Christian argues on behalf of a peaceful Gospel, the Muslim apologist counters “But look at the violence when Israel conquered the land of Canaan.  That was not peaceful".  Furthermore, if Jesus is the Messiah of peace whom “a bruised reed He will not break” how can that claim be made when in the end He will vanquish His enemies violently”?

Most Christians tend to avoid these objections.  Personally, I’m skeptical that anyone who would present these objections is really interested in determining truth and/or is so entrenched in Islam that He would be unwilling to objectively reevaluate his own faith anyway.  I hope that such is not the case and with that in mind, I present as my intention, to address these objections and demonstrate that they are fundamentally unfounded.  In this essay I will attempt to address the former objection and in a subsequent essay, I will address the latter objection.

Why the call in the Bible to genocide?

The Muslim is correct when he makes the claim that God told Moses that when the Children of Israel were to enter the Land of Canaan they were to completely kill all of the people of the land.  Clearly, in Deuteronomy 17:16-18 it says

 Only in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall [k]utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the Lord your God.

This is a reality.  This is a part of the very ugly, down and dirty truth that is found in the Bible.  But it is a necessary part of the Bible narrative.  So I rhetorically ask “Why did God command the Children of Israel to do something as utterly cruel as annihilating the inhabitants of the land?  I will attempt to answer this, first of all, by addressing the nature of the people who were in the land, second of all, by addressing the purpose behind God wanting the Children of Israel to occupy the land and lastly, by the nature of the warfare that was used in taking the land.

A.      The nature of the people who were living in the land.

The first hint that we get about the nature of the people who were living in the land is found in Genesis 15.  It tells something about, not only the people, but something very wonderful about God.  In Genesis 15, God makes a covenant with Abram (whose name would be changed to Abraham).  As part of the covenant God says to him

“Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go 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.”
(Genesis 15:13-16

Here we see God telling Abraham that his descendants would spend 400 hundred years in Egypt.  The Amorites who were in the land at the time of Abraham’s dwelling there were deeply involved in idolatry and all sorts of perverse behavior.  But the sin among them had not yet reached its peak.  They were not beyond redemption.  The 400 years of the descendants of Abraham dwelling in Egypt was the time necessary for the Amorites to reach their peak of corruption. Here’s where we see something wonderful and compassionate about God.  Notice His patience.  He knew that the Amorites would get worse and worse.  He just didn’t want to utterly destroy them then and there.  Some of the Amorites at the time of Abraham were redeemable and not deserving of death.  The compassion of God also wanted to give them time to repent.

I will not, at this point, get into the other aspects of this covenant.  They are very significant.  But they are not presently germane.

So, at the time of the Children of Israel’s (Abraham’s grandson’s) invasion of the land, the Amorites had become as corrupt and irredeemable as they could be.

So, what was the nature of their corruption?  There is no specific history of the account of their corruption mentioned in the Bible, however, after much time had passed, the kingdom of the Children of Israel who had wrenched the land from the Amorites became divided into two separate kingdoms.  In the norther kingdom, there arose a king who became so evil that he was likened to the evil of the Amorites (1Kings 21:26).  To understand the corruption of the Amorites, therefore, one need only study the activities of that king who’s name was Ahab.  An account of the activity of Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, can be found between Chapter 16:29 and Chapter 22:40 of the book of First Kings of the Bible.  Among the things they did was to construct Ashteroth which were poles erected in honor of the goddess Asherah.  Mythology had it that she was the consort of Baal… the weather god who rode the clouds and carried lightning in his hand.  The Ashteroth were constructed all over the northern kingdom of Israel and orgies were conducted throughout the land in her honor since she was the pagan “goddess of fertility”.  Their idolatry actually led Ahab and Jezebel to murder the actual prophets of God.  Not too far after Ahabs reign, the northern kingdom of Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians and sent into exile.  As bad as Ahab was, that’s how bad the Amorites had become by the time the Children of Israel had left Egypt.  That’s why God wanted to use Israel to wipe them out completely.  They’d become a cesspool of sex, idolatry, lawlessness and murder.

Concerning the Amorites, Exodus 23:32-33 God tells Israel

“make no covenant with them or with their gods. They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”You shall 

God wanted the Amorites gone because they were thoroughly unredeemable, and their idolatry and practices of prostitution would only serve to tempt the Children of Israel to immorality.

B.      The purpose behind why God wanted the Children of Israel to inhabit the land.

Rather obviously King Ahab of the northern kingdom was not the way God desired for the Kingdom of Israel to progress.  God had given a law known as the Torah to the Children of Israel.  It was an amazing law which made supernatural demands upon the people of Israel. 

To illustrate just how amazing this law was, one of its statutes stated the following:

If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him.  If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.
(Exodus 23:4-5)

This was a practice that was unheard of and still is unheard of to this day!  Whoever heard of a man acting charitably towards his enemy?  When Israel, after having been exiled and returned to the land, and under Roman domination, Jesus told the people of His day just about the very same thing…

“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
Matthew 5:39

The point that I’m making is that much of the Law of God consisted of decrees that were outside of human nature to carry out.   Man, in his natural state is not going to “turn the other cheek”.  A unique, special sort of motivation is needed in order to implement this law on a personal level.  Certainly in the case of the above law, willful forgiveness is required as well as a renunciation of pride and the taking on of humility when one has been dishonored.  In essence one must be willing to love God so much that one is willing to obey His law regardless of one’s self interest.  One must also know the requirements of God.  Those requirements are spelled out only in God’s word, the Bible.

Human nature says “I can be a good person, in fact, I AM a good person”.  And so, God gave the Children of Israel an opportunity to try to implement His law.  Of course this law could never be implemented to perfection, but imagine that you’ve been told to shoot an arrow at a target.  How are you even going to get near the target if you don’t even know the direction that the target is in?  The law pointed in the direction, and the objective was to create a society, which, governed by the perfect Law of God, consisted of a population of people who were, at least compared to all the nations around them, compassionate and respectful towards one another.  Disputes were settled justly and in an orderly fashion.  Yes, some punishments were treated with the utmost of severity but the intent was that such punishments would never even be necessary.”? 

So exactly where is this land where this “society” was to be established?  In Genesis 15:18, while God is making His afore mentioned covenant with Abraham, He tells him.

“To your [t]descendants I have given this land,
From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates":

The land was to extend from the eastern most river of the Nile Delta to the Euphrates River.  This promise is reiterated not to Ishmael but to Abraham’s other son, Isaac in Genesis 26:2-5.  The promise is again, repeated not to Isaac’s son, Esau, but to Isaac’s son Jacob in Genesis 23:13-15.

The descendants of Jacob have never fully acquired all of this land, but the God of the Bible, who will not lie, promises that one day they will obtain all of it.  In Leviticus 26:40-45 Moses tells us that the descendants of Jacob (who is also called Israel) will be exiled from the land but would one day return from the four corners of the earth.

But why this particular parcel of land?

The land was to be located right in the middle of the trading routes as caravans took their goods from East to West and North to South and vice versa, all over the known world. 

Now imagine if you will… this land, right in the middle of these trading routes is inhabited by a people who, because they love God, are able to do these extraordinary things like carrying on acts of kindness towards even their enemies.  The traders would marvel and attribute this amazing relationship between these people to their God.  They would go back to their homes and families after their long journeys and tell their wives and families and children about this marvelous God.  People all over the world would give up their idols and pursue the knowledge of this wonderful God.

Yes, this “experiment” failed the first time.  That’s because human nature really doesn’t allow it.  You call Adam the first Prophet, but he’d sinned.  He had given in to the temptation to be “like God” and all of us are guilty of that.  Why do we get angry when we’re insulted or dishonored?  All of us is prone to hate our enemies.  In all of history, only Jesus loved those who tortured Him, spoke ill of Him, insulted Him and ultimately crucified Him.

C.      The nature of the warfare used in taking the land.
God said to the Children of Israel through Moses…

“Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.  Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him.  But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.  For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them
(Exodus 23:20-24)
He goes on…
 I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.  I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you…  You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods.They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”
(Exodus 23:27-28, 32-33)

Put simply, clearly from this text, God is doing the fighting on behalf of Israel to clear the land of those nations whose idolatrous practices would pose as a snare to them.

How then did this “strategy” of the Angel of God going before the Children of Israel play itself out?

The first city that the Children of Israel came to was Jericho.  Jericho was a big wall enclosed city.  The city was taken because God Himself knocked down its walls.  The people of Israel rushed in, and killed everyone except a prostitute who had repented of her prostitution and her family.   None of the Children of Israel died.

The next battle was at the town of Ai.  There were two attempts on the part of the Children of Israel to take the city.  The first attempt was unsuccessful and 36 men were killed.  It turned out that this lack of success was because one man had sinned.  That man and his family were put to death and the second attempt was successful, again, with not Israelite casualties.

The third battle was against five Amorite kings.  We read about it in the Book of Joshua chapter 10.

Joshua 10:8-11

In essence, when God is fighting for Israel, if there is no sin in the Israelite camp, no Israelite dies.  Furthermore, it is God Himself, who does most of the killing.

Let’s bring us now to the 21st century.  We’ve noted that, at least according to the Bible, Moses (as well as other prophets) had foretold that the people of Israel would be scattered, understandably because of their sin.  We’re also told that they would eventually return to the land.  We’ve also learned that the land they presently occupy is only a fraction of the land that had been initially promised to them by God. 

We’ve also learned that as cruel as the Biblical call to genocide of the inhabitants of the land seemed to be, it was justified not only because of the utter depravity of those people, but evidence for that justification was manifest by God Himself doing most of the fighting. 

We’ve also noted that when there is absolutely no sin, no one dies.

Today, the people of Israel are back in the land.  Is this the time of their return?  Maybe yes… maybe no.  We do know, however, that when the State of Israel was first formed, Five Arab armies fought against a rag-tag force of a few thousand, ill armed holocaust survivors and were rebuffed.

One web-site,, gives figures for the deaths of Arabs vs. Israelis between the years 1948 and 1973.  Just counting the deaths of the specific wars during those years there were an estimated 6800 to 11,100 Israeli deaths and 35,800 to 68,600 Arab deaths, every one of which is tragic!  Even the wars and intifadas after this time have led to more Arab deaths than Jewish deaths.  In light of this data, what evidence is there that miracles were performed by Allah on behalf of the Muslim cause?  Where has Allah shown signs that He was fighting for Islam?  In contrast, anecdotes abound of instances where God has fought in this modern era on behalf of the Israelis.  One need only conduct a Google search.

Of course, Muhammad encouraged fighters to be willing to “die for the cause of Allah”.  However, the Biblical model that I’ve put forth seems to intimate that the army that is without sin suffers absolutely no losses.  In light of that, it seems that there is plenty of sin to go around.  The sad thing is that people tend to be too arrogant either to admit their sin or to question the world view that drives them on to mutual destruction.

I would pose the question, therefore… “Is Islam a ‘religion of peace’ or is it in fact, a world view, founded by a pseudo prophet, that is actually fighting against the will of the one and only true God?  I would also pose the question, what makes Muslims so sure that Jesus is merely just a prophet and what makes Jews so sure that Jesus is not the Messiah?

I hold as axiomatic that these two factions are fundamentally at war because they reject the true understanding of whom Jesus actually is.

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