dimanche 3 avril 2016

Why God: All Your Old Testament Killings and Decisions (Part 2)

Image result for god judgementHere is the second part of my commentary to the post that was entitled "Questions to God/Allah/ or whoever is in charge". See Part 1 here.

Question 3: According to the bible and many other books, You asked people to go kill others. Like when you asked Joshua to conquer Jericho remember? You had just given the 10 commandments where it clearly stipulates : Though shall not kill… Then you sent people to kill… Why not do it yourself? You could literally just snap a finger and have this whole earth gone in half of a millisecond. So if you Really needed that whole city gone you could have done it without having humans do that. So is there a reason they had to do that? Was it to prove to you that they were faithful? Was there no other way to test their faith?

In dealing with morality or the divine moral command issued to humanity, there is a principle that runs through out the Bible that could be framed as this, 'God does not contradict Himself'. In 2 Timothy 2:13, we read that "If we are faithless, He [God] remains faithful, for [God] cannot deny Himself." This lead us to the biblical text you mentioned which was spoken in mount Sinai by God to Moses stating in the book of Exodus 20:13, "Thou shalt not kill." Let me remark that the word used for "kill" literally means "murdering". The Greek version of the original text for the word 'kill' use the word "phoneuō" which means literally "to be a murderer". Many biblical versions of this verse keep that nuance such as this one from the Bible Basic English (BBE version), "Do not put anyone to death without cause." This defang the argument that those God ordered the execution or put to death in the Old Testament were about innocent killing. God never ordered a murder for it goes against the ethical construct He has advocated to the Israelite.

You raised two questions. Let me answer answer them by order:

a) Why order Killing
With this in mind, we are now capable of exploring the primordial example you raised about the killing that happened in Jericho as a mirror image of all the others. Historically, Jericho was not a citizen city but a military outpost. Those in the Jericho city were in modern language enemy combatant.  Moreover, Jericho was part of the Canaanite territorial land that God sent Israel to take over. Why then did God ordered the removal of the first inhabitants of the land while destroying their military forces? The answer for that is found four hundred years before the destruction of Jericho, for God informed Abraham that the land that his posterity will inherit was currently inhabited by a nation of Amorites which unfortunately were accruing their evilness and sins. It is clear from the text that God would only remove that nation from that land if  their evilness reaches a irredeemable peak and not anytime sooner than that. As Professor Paul Copan from Palm Beach Atlantic University put it and i quote, "God was willing to wait over 400 years because 'the sin of the Amorite was not yet filled up' (Genesis 15:16)".

From this historical perspective, God's command to remove the Canaanite including Jericho was based on a judgement and not on a capricious divine acts. The sins refereed above in Genesis of the Canaanites were as follow: Idolatry, Incest, Adultery, Child sacrifice, Homosexuality, Bestiality among other sexual deviations. An academic paper on it was written and can be read in full here. The punch-line here is that this was no innocent killing or murdering of the innocent, but rather a form of an old fashion capital punishment.

b) Why using Humans?

The subsequent question raised was why not do it Himself. Why use human being to serve moral judgement? The answer to this is not that God doesn't act to execute judgement Himself, He does sometimes. But in all culture and societies, God has always partnered with humans in order to bring law and order in any given society. We are reliably informed in the Bible that, "Let everyone put himself under the authority of the higher powers, because there is no power which is not of God, and all powers are ordered by God. For which reason everyone who puts himself against the authority puts himself against the order of God: and those who are against it will get punishment for themselves." - Rom 13:1-2

And this divine collaboration with humanity when it comes to executing judgement with the sword was forcefully expressed in this manner two thousand years ago:
"For rulers are not a cause of fear to the good work but to the evil. If you would have no fear of the authority, do good and you will have praise; For he is the servant of God to you for good. But if you do evil, have fear; for the sword is not in his hand for nothing: he is God's servant, making God's punishment come on the evil-doer"  -
Romans 13:3-4 (BBE)

Question 4:While we are still on the Israelites, why did you leave them to be slave for so many years? Were they being punished? For what? And when you decided to save them , Why all that struggle? Like you knew the pharaoh wouldn’t believe the plagues you sent, You could have sent an angel to talk him, better yet, you could have talked to him you know, like you used to with Abraham. Annnd then when the Israelites were free, again you let them struggle to get to Canaan. You couldn’t have transported them , like in the Harry potter books, Poooof and reappear at the desired location?

a) How did Israel became slave?

Israel became slave for no fault of themselves. Actually, Israel as a nation grew and even prospered in Egypt under different Pharaohs because of the good memories of the service of a particular Israelite called Joseph offered to the kingdom of Egypt. But history being what it is, good deeds get forgotten with time and ignorance tends to precipitate unlearned leaders to take devastating decisions. This is exactly what happened in Egypt. Here is a brief account of it that might interest you in the Book of Exodus 1:8-11
"Now a new king came to power in Egypt, who had no knowledge of Joseph. And he said to his people, See, the people of Israel are greater in number and in power than we are: Let us take care for fear that their numbers may become even greater, and if there is a war, they may be joined with those who are against us, and make an attack on us, and go up out of the land. So they put overseers of forced work over them, in order to make their strength less by the weight of their work. And they made store-towns for Pharaoh, Pithom and Raamses.
 b) Why did God took time before the rescue?

This is a difficult one since God's way of thinking is mind-boggling to us but when looked from the rear-view of history it all make sense, however without the benefit of hind-sight it just doesn't make much sense to us who makes our judgement mostly based with immediate information with no broader political, cultural, economical and geographical context.

Long before Israel came into existence, God predicted the outcome of the future enslavement of Israel to their founding father Abraham in a night vision.
"And [God] said to Abram, Truly, your seed will be living in a land which is not theirs, as servants to a people who will be cruel to them for four hundred years; But I will be the judge of that nation whose servants they are, and they will come out from among them with great wealth." - Genesis 15:13 
It would be preferable that Israel simply grew in power and wealth in Egypt until they were order to go to Canaan to possess it after the Canaanite sins had reached their paroxysm. However, God also predicted that their incubation process would not be painless as He correctly anticipated the advent of a new pharaoh who will not be kind to the Jews. Tactically, it probably would have made sense for God to do most of what you suggested but it would not have made sense from a strategic point of view. For when Israel left Egypt, they had learned so many lessons about wealth possession and dispossession, about being welcomed as a foreigners and what it means to be outcast as a foreigner, the value of having a land that you call your own and etc. All these lesson which could have never been seared in their national consciousness just through a good life. We can all relate to it as we know that most of the successful people tell us that it is through their hardship that they became who they are and that without that they would have never be nor accomplish a fraction of what they have. 

c) God's method works?
Finally, God's methods have more far reaching impact than the immediate feel good experience that we all crave but that have no redemptive value to our souls and future. Here is how God put it Himself about their walk in the desert instead of being pouff up like Harry Potter in Canaan. 
"And keep in mind the way by which the Lord your God has taken you through the waste land these forty years, so that He might make low your pride and put you to the test, to see what was in your heart and if you would keep his orders or not. And he made low your pride and let you be without food and gave you manna for your food, a thing new to you, which your fathers never saw; so that he might make it clear to you that bread is not man's only need, but his life is in every word which comes out of the mouth of the Lord. Through all these forty years your clothing did not get old or your feet become tired. Keep in mind this thought, that as a son is trained by his father, so you have been trained by the Lord your God. " - Deuteronomy 8:2-5
God is not in the magical business. He does miracles not magic tricks. God is interested in training us and only through diverse forms of experiences can He draw the best out of us and teach us meaningful lessons about life and His intended destiny for us. This logic is the same as the one used for humbling the hardened heart of Pharaoh through a series of miracles, and His prodigious miracles in Egypt is still spoken about up-to this day as a lesson on God's power and greatness. It also gave certainty to the witnesses that what was wrought wasn't just the results of sheer chance, or mere bad luck that had happened to Pharaoh or any other naturalistic explanation that could have crept in with time in the minds of the Israelite making them to doubt the existence of God's power.
"Has God ever before taken a nation for himself from out of another nation, by punishments and signs and wonders, by war and by a strong hand and a stretched-out arm and great acts of wonder and fear, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes?  All this he let you see, so that you might be certain that the Lord is God and there is no other." - Deuteronomy 4:3-35
 And Israel did also benefit of this divine reputation of what God did in Egypt later on as they were conquering their enemy combatant land. For all wars are waged both physically with material logistic as well as psychologically to weaken the enemy resolve. We have a testimonial of some of the Canaanite tribes who refused to fight against the Israelite and preferred to make an alliance with them so that they could live together. What do you think made that conquering easy? Hear the Canaanite from Hivites explain their reasons in their own words:
"And the men of Israel said to the Hivites, It may be that you are living among us; how then may we make an agreement with you? And they said to Joshua, We are your servants. Then Joshua said to them, Who are you and where do you come from? And they said to him, Your servants have come from a very far country, because of the name of the Lord your God: for the story of his great name, and of all he did in Egypt has come to our ears," - Joshua 9:7-9
We see through this that in the end that whatever God initiated in Egypt was working and made the conquest of the land easier, cost effective and less time consuming. God knows what He does even if at first glance it doesn't makes sense to our collective human brain. Allow me to end this with this quote:
"O how deep is the wealth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! no one is able to make discovery of his decisions, and his ways may not be searched out. Who has knowledge of the mind of the Lord? or who has taken part in his purposes? Or who has first given to him, and it will be given back to him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. So be it." - Romans11:33-36
or as this other version puts it: 

"Yes, God's riches are very great! His wisdom and knowledge have no end! No one can explain what God decides. No one can understand his ways. As the Scriptures say, "Who can know what is on the Lord's mind? Who is able to give him advice?" "Who has ever given God anything? God owes nothing to anyone." Yes, God made all things. And everything continues through him and for him. To God be the glory forever! Amen."

P.S: I think that the reading of books like this could assist for detail on Holy Wars in the Bible.

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