Sunday, August 03, 2008

Old Testament Violence (6) - Spiritual Protection

God did not tell Israel to kill or destroy them the Canaanite. The only thing they were to destroy was the altars and Asherah poles.

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God "Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same (Ex 34:11-16).
God repeated his warning about mixing with the people of the land. They must not make treaties with them because this would lead to compromise.

This passage are quite clear. Firstly, God had declared judgment against the Canaanites. They have lost their right to live in the land and will be evicted. God would execute that judgment by forcing them out of the land. The Canaanites would flee leaving most of their wealth behind. God did not say that they should be slaughtered. There judgement was being “driven out” of the land.

Secondly, God declared that he would bring this judgment himself. The Israelites would reap the benefit, but they were not to inflict it.

God had a good reason for expelling the Canaanites. Their wickedness has increased enormously, so their land was full of evil spirits. Canaan had become the haunt of every foul demon and bad spirit. The children of Israel had already demonstrated a vulnerability to the practices of the people around them, so God was running an enormous risk by bringing his people into this land without any spiritual protection.

In the Old Testament age, there was no cure for evil spirits. When King Saul was attacked by a spirit, he could be calmed by David’s singing, but he could never escape their torment (1 Sam 16:14-23). Jesus had not yet died for sin, so evil spirits had not been defeated. The Holy Spirit had not come on all people, so evil spirits could not be cast out. The only way to keep safe from evil spirits was to keep separate from people who carried them.

Going into a land that was a stronghold of evil spirits was not a good idea. In the hostile spiritual environment of Canaan, the children of Israel needed serious protection from spiritual attack. The only protection from evil spirits was to keep separate from the people who carried them. Forcing out the inhabitants of the land would get rid of the demonic powers they carried.

God did not want the inhabitants of Canaan killed, because eviction was more effective for dealing with evil spirits than destruction. If the people possessed by spirits were killed, the evil spirits would remain in the land and seek out other victims to control. The most vulnerable person would be the soldier who killed their previous home. Fighting hand to hand with people carrying evil spirits is very dangerous. Evicting them is risky too, but not as bad, because most demons will leave with the people who carry them.

If the Israelites had allowed God to expel the inhabitants of Canaan, they would have got rid of most the demonic activity that dominated the region. Because Joshua slaughtered many of the inhabitants of Canaan, he allowed an army of evil of spirits to remain in the land. This is one reason why the people of Israel were so easily led into evil. By slaughtering the Canaanites, Joshua opened his people to spiritual defeat.

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