Monday, December 01, 2014

God and Violence (2)

God is a god of defence. He works with his people to defend against spiritual and physical attack. However, he is primarily a God of peace, so he always looks for a peaceful outcome. When Moses was leading the people to the promised land, God instructed him to make peace with the people whose land they would pass through (Num 20:17; 21:21-22). If these requests were declined and the Israelites were attacked physically or spiritually, God came to came to their aid in the resulting war.

God sometimes stirs nature to destroy armies, but even then, his first option is peace. This was the case at the Red Sea. God could have destroyed the Egyptian people at any time, if he wanted, but he didn’t. He sent Moses to do prophetic signs that would make Pharaoh release the Israelites. Only when Pharaoh’s army went after the Israelites intent on killing them did God call on his angels to flood in the Red Sea to destroy his charioteers. The rest of Egyptians carried on living.

During the time when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, a host of evil spirits flooded the land of Canaan, because they knew God has promised it to Abraham, and they wanted to get there first. God did not want to start a war with the Canaanites, but he had to drive the evil spirits out of the land. The only way to do this was to drive out the Canaanites possessed and controlled by them.

God’s plan was to send his angels to stir up natural events that would fill the Canaanites with fear and terror, collapsing city walls and massive hailstones from the sky, dangerous hornets (Joshua 6:20; 10:11; Deut 7:20). The people living in the land would be filled with such fear and terror, that they would flee the land, carrying their evil spirits with them.

I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run (Ex 23:27).
This very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven. They will hear reports of you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you (Deut 2:25).
You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out. The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear. Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God (Deut 7:19-21).
No one will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as he promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go (Deut 11:25).
Unfortunately, Joshua did not understand God’s plan and started a war against the Canaanite kings. This tight contact allowed the evil spirits to stay in land by jumping across to the victorious invading armies.

More at Violence in the Old Testament.


Jeff said...

Can you clarify more your perspective that Joshua misunderstood God's plan? This isn't the typical interpretation of such passages, even by those who embrace non-violence. Can such a perspective stand up with a consistent grammatical-historical hermeneutic?

Ron McK said...

Time will tell, Jeff.
You need to read the link at the end of the post which has a broader explanation. To get the really big picture, you need to read the book Kingdom Authority at