Re: asa-digest V1 #445

James K. Huggins (
Fri, 13 Jun 1997 09:18:29 -0400 (EDT)

Janet Rice writes:

> That is precisely the question - how does one reconcile a God who loved the
> world enough to send his son as the redeemer - and not just to the Jews,
> but to all mankind - with the OT God who orders the extermination of entire
> populations?

As others have pointed out ... by considering the whole of Scripture.
Consider the following points (in no particular order):

1. God's plan to save the entire world, not just the Jews, can be seen
throughout the OT. Consider God's call to Abra(ha)m (Genesis 12:3):
"I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse,
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you."
Notice ... "all peoples" will be blessed, not just Abraham's descendants.
Also, notice that the preceding chapter, Genesis 11, is the story of
the Tower of Babel. So the notion of a "people" (which could as easily
be translated as "ethnic group") didn't exist until Genesis 11.

2. God's commands to exterminate entire populations are carefully
measured. Recall that during the Exodus wanderings, God carefully
instructs Israel *not* to do anything aggressive towards the surrounding
peoples; rather, they are to simply pass through their territory,
compensating them for anything they might consume along the way.
When Israel gets to Caanan, the rules change.

Why do the rules change? Because the Caananites are so wicked that
(a) they deserve death, and (b) leaving them alive would allow them
to mix & mingle with Israel, corrupting their worship of God in the
process. Regarding (b): recall the warning of Joshua to Israel just
before the disbanding of Israel's army of conquest (Joshua 23:12-13):
"But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of
these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with
them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the
LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you.
Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on
your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this
good land, which the LORD your God has given you."
The book of Judges is full of examples of this coming to pass.

Regarding (a): notice what God says to Abra(ha)m regarding the return
of his descendants to Caanan (Genesis 15:16):
"In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here,
for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full
This suggests (at least to me) that God's decision to annihilate the
Amorites was not a hasty one; further, the Amorites had four generations
to repent from their sin. They bear the responsibility for their own
deaths in that regard ... as well as the responsibility for their
children's deaths.

What's different in the NT? Mainly, Israel is no longer a nation-state,
and so can't operate as OT Israel did. So of course we don't have
examples of genocide.

But there are plenty of things in the NT that are just as troubling. In a
Bible study that I participated in a few years ago, a non-Christian was
completely blown away by the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5); in
particular, the "cruelty" of God killing them for such a seemingly minor
offense. She rarely came to Bible study after that (though there were
other reasons involved in that decision as well). So, suggestions that we
stick to the NT to avoid the "troubling" parts of the OT seem a little
misguided to me; there's just as much "trouble" in the NT.

--Jim Huggins (