I shared this message for an Apologetics session for Saturday PM, a ministry of CITAM Valley Road on Saturday 7th May, 2022
The talk (focusing on Joshua 6:15-25) was a conclusion to the study of Joshua that they have been doing. It raises questions around God’s character and how we make sense of God commanding Israelites to ‘murder’ Canaanites. Some conclude that this is genocide. In the talk, I argue it is not that easy E.g., the act on Canaanites is not an ethnic cleansing of sorts but an act of divine judgement based on the fact that they had been given 400 years to repent. Also, we see God forgiving Rahab, a non-Israelite in Joshua 2, while we see him judging Achan, an Israelite in Joshua 7. It’s not straightforward to call it genocide gven also the wide divergence in how various biblical interpreters have defined what’s hapenning in Joshua 6, and other similar “violence texts” in the Old Testament. I also engage with some critical viewpoints that emerge from this ‘problem’ i.e. that God’s character can be doubted or that we should reject the Bible as an objective standard of morality. I invite us to three things:
- Expand our vocabulary of God – God is not just someone to ensure everything goes smooth in our lives, but he is also a God of justice, and even a ‘God of War’. Such difficult passages invite us to consider a big picture view of God.
- Enter the biblical world – by understanding how ancient cultures functioned, we can develop new eyes to consider some of the problematic issues going on in the passage such as violence and the taking of spoils from foreign lands.
- Explore our response to the passage – eventually, since Joshua has to do with God’s covenant to give his people land, our response to his covenant can either be with faith (like Rahab in Joshua 2) or with faithlessness (like Achan in Joshua 7).
Given the reality of God’s revelation as progressive, we can approach the book of Joshua in a beneficial way. Thus, when we consider the book of Joshua, the reality of warfare, the conquest of Land and the covenant of God, then we may make the following New Testament connections:
- Christians are not commanded to engage in warfare. The New Testament speaks of warfare mainly in spiritual terms and not in physical terms (Matt 5:43–44; Luke 6:27–36; Eph 6:10-13).
- Christians are not commanded to conquer the lands of other people. Rather, the land that the Lord has promised to us is a new heaven and a new earth, the physical and spiritual abode of God’s covenant people (Heb 11:8-10, 13-16; 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21).
- God is faithful to his covenant and invites his people to respond by faith, with the understanding that there are consequences – like for Achan and Rahab and their households – for covenant fidelity and unfaithfulness.
God of War: Can we Reconcile a Good God and the ‘Murder’ of Canaanites?
Can we reconcile?