God's Command to Exterminate the Canaanites

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Archlute

Puritan Board Senior
Bob,

Have you had opportunity to read Meredith Kline's Structure of Biblical Authority? I believe that he addresses this very issue in that work, and it was extremely helpful to me in thinking through the theological significance of the OT holy wars.

The problem with Islam is that, being a perverse and truncated religion, it interprets the OT for today apart from the illumination given by the first advent of Christ. Whereas we can see those OT purgings as typological actions pointing to the coming final judgment of all mankind with the final inbreaking of God's kingdom presence, Islam has no proper interpretive grid, and therefore tries to make direct application of those examples as befits their Quranic grid.

I skimmed the thread, and noticed his work in your bibliographical listing, but thought that I would point out the work to you again, in case you hadn't had the time to take a good read of it the first go around.
 

ColdSilverMoon

Puritan Board Senior
How can the Christian theologically and ethically justify God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites?

Shouldn't we also include the question, "How can the Christian theologically and ethically justify God's command (to the Assyrians) to exterminate Israel?"

Wouldn't the answer be the same to both? When a nation's wickedness reaches its apex, God sends another nation to destroy it. If God is just in sending rain for forty days and forty nights, then He is just for sending foreign power to exact a penalty from a wicked nation.

I think Pastor Klein's comments (along with others) really nails the issue. God used the Israelites to execute His justice on the Canaanites the same way He used the Assyrians to execute His justice on the Israelites. As it says in Romans 2, we often "despise" the forbearance and longsuffering of God. It is perfectly just for God to physically smite us after any sin; that He does not simply demonstrates His mercy and kindness. So it is perfectly just for God to order the destruction of men, women, and children due to their sin.

I also agree with Scott - God made a covenant with His people and part of fulfilling that convenant entailed destroying all the wicked people in the land. So His faithfulness to His people and His justice were closely linked in the Conquest of Canaan.
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
Bob,

Have you had opportunity to read Meredith Kline's Structure of Biblical Authority? I believe that he addresses this very issue in that work, and it was extremely helpful to me in thinking through the theological significance of the OT holy wars.

The problem with Islam is that, being a perverse and truncated religion, it interprets the OT for today apart from the illumination given by the first advent of Christ. Whereas we can see those OT purgings as typological actions pointing to the coming final judgment of all mankind with the final inbreaking of God's kingdom presence, Islam has no proper interpretive grid, and therefore tries to make direct application of those examples as befits their Quranic grid.

I skimmed the thread, and noticed his work in your bibliographical listing, but thought that I would point out the work to you again, in case you hadn't had the time to take a good read of it the first go around.

Hey Adam,

Thanks for highlighting Kline's work. Yes, I found his insights helpful. His "intrusion" theology is reflected in my statement above that reads, "Eschatological judgment intruded into human history in a unique way, which only finds its equal at Calvary (Rom. 3:25; Gal. 3:13) and at the Second Coming (Rev. 6:16; 14:10)."

I also agree with you about Islam. In many ways, it's another of the devil's counterfeits, borrowing bits and pieces from Judaism and Christianity but distorting the truth in the end. It's greatest failure is to have substituted Mohamed for the true Final Prophet.

Your servant,

-----Added 2/19/2009 at 05:42:59 EST-----

How can the Christian theologically and ethically justify God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites?

Shouldn't we also include the question, "How can the Christian theologically and ethically justify God's command (to the Assyrians) to exterminate Israel?"

Wouldn't the answer be the same to both? When a nation's wickedness reaches its apex, God sends another nation to destroy it. If God is just in sending rain for forty days and forty nights, then He is just for sending foreign power to exact a penalty from a wicked nation.

I think Pastor Klein's comments (along with others) really nails the issue. God used the Israelites to execute His justice on the Canaanites the same way He used the Assyrians to execute His justice on the Israelites.

I do agree that there's a certain parallel between the Israelites' conquest of Canaan and the Assyrians' conquest of Palestine. In both cases, God used one people to judge another. There is, nevertheless, a certain dissimilarity between the two. In the former, God gave direct special revelation commanding the Israelites to exterminate every man, woman, and child and to possess the land as a royal grant since Israel was God's son. In the latter, God providentially moved the Assyrians to carry out his judgment against Israel. But we have no record that he gave the Assyrians special revelation to that affect. Here's where we need to beware of applying Israel's divinely given mandate to ourselves as a nation in the 21st century. Wasn't this the mistake made by the crusaders?
 

Archlute

Puritan Board Senior
Typological or not, they "were what they were" in history and must be interpreted as such.

History is not self interpreting, however. You cannot know "what they were" apart from a Scriptural explanation of things. That is exactly why the Chronicles of Israel have been placed at the end of the Jewish order of the OT, because they are a theological explanation of the Israel's earlier history set forth in a manner that is not fully found in the Books of Samuel or the Kings of Israel.

In the same manner, the Gospels and Epistles give interpretation to what came before, and as God's final word, also assist us in understanding what is, and what is to come (although as through a dark glass, as well knew the apostle Paul).

We should also be aware that questioning whether or not they were typological is to deny the significance of Christ's illuminating words on the road to Emmaus that the OT as a whole (which is what the Law, Prophets, and Psalms represent - the three divisions of the OT) speaks of Him in His coming, person, works, and reign.

-----Added 2/19/2009 at 05:52:56 EST-----

It's greatest failure is to have substituted Mohamed for the true Final Prophet.

Amen!
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Bob,

Have you had opportunity to read Meredith Kline's Structure of Biblical Authority? I believe that he addresses this very issue in that work, and it was extremely helpful to me in thinking through the theological significance of the OT holy wars.

The problem with Islam is that, being a perverse and truncated religion, it interprets the OT for today apart from the illumination given by the first advent of Christ. Whereas we can see those OT purgings as typological actions pointing to the coming final judgment of all mankind with the final inbreaking of God's kingdom presence, Islam has no proper interpretive grid, and therefore tries to make direct application of those examples as befits their Quranic grid.

I skimmed the thread, and noticed his work in your bibliographical listing, but thought that I would point out the work to you again, in case you hadn't had the time to take a good read of it the first go around.

This is what I was trying to ask about.
 

Archlute

Puritan Board Senior
Bob,

Have you had opportunity to read Meredith Kline's Structure of Biblical Authority? I believe that he addresses this very issue in that work, and it was extremely helpful to me in thinking through the theological significance of the OT holy wars.

The problem with Islam is that, being a perverse and truncated religion, it interprets the OT for today apart from the illumination given by the first advent of Christ. Whereas we can see those OT purgings as typological actions pointing to the coming final judgment of all mankind with the final inbreaking of God's kingdom presence, Islam has no proper interpretive grid, and therefore tries to make direct application of those examples as befits their Quranic grid.

I skimmed the thread, and noticed his work in your bibliographical listing, but thought that I would point out the work to you again, in case you hadn't had the time to take a good read of it the first go around.

This is what I was trying to ask about.

That's what happens when I skim threads....
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Well, it seems the thread has conceded to the holy war concept, even though it cannot be sustained exegetically from the Scripture.
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
Well, it seems the thread has conceded to the holy war concept, even though it cannot be sustained exegetically from the Scripture.

I confess that I'm really not familiar with other arguments from a Reformed position. Would you mind pointing me towards a few resources from Reformed authors that take issue with the holy war concept?
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Well, it seems the thread has conceded to the holy war concept, even though it cannot be sustained exegetically from the Scripture.

I confess that I'm really not familiar with other arguments from a Reformed position. Would you mind pointing me towards a few resources from Reformed authors that take issue with the holy war concept?

I was wondering also how to learn more about this: Rev Winzer would you then believe that the wars aren't part of the typology of the land, and that they aren't involved with the way the world was before Christ?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I confess that I'm really not familiar with other arguments from a Reformed position. Would you mind pointing me towards a few resources from Reformed authors that take issue with the holy war concept?

It's not a distinctively reformed position, but a well accepted fact with interpreters as a whole, that Israel was not fighting to convert people to her faith, but God was fighting to claim rightful possession of His land and to uproot those who wrongfully occupied it. Victory did not depend on the use of the sword, but on the mighty acts of the Warrior-Leader.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I was wondering also how to learn more about this: Rev Winzer would you then believe that the wars aren't part of the typology of the land, and that they aren't involved with the way the world was before Christ?

They certainly are a part of the typology of the land as a land of promise "given" to Israel, but really have nothing to do with the status quo of the world before Christ. There was no imitation of other nations, as liberal scholars aver, who point out that all warfare was religious by nature. If anything, the Israelites show an averseness to serve in the Lord's military campaign, and must be encouraged at every step to follow Him by faith into the battle. And when the conquest is mostly accomplished, they are more than willing to retire before the day is done.
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
Well, it seems the thread has conceded to the holy war concept, even though it cannot be sustained exegetically from the Scripture.

Matthew,

What do you have in view when you speak of "the holy war concept"? Obviously, Israel's conquest of Canaan involved "war." Moreover, it was sanctioned not by general moral principles that one might use to justify a "just war" (i.e., protection against aggression; punitive action for a broken treaty, etc.) but my a direct and specific word from God identifying the peoples to be destroyed and the geographical territory to be obtained. Furthermore, God demanded complete genocide of peoples within the sacred space. The Hebrew herem has religious significance and is the flipside of the idea of sanctification. The land of Canaan and its inhabitants were "devoted to destruction" (cf. Deut. 7:2; 20:17; Josh 6:17; 1Sam 15:3). For this reason, when God commanded the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites, He was calling upon them to engage in a religious activity. This leads Tremper Longman, an Reformed OT scholar, to remark, "Battle is portrayed as an act of worship in the Hebrew Bible.” In the context, he was referring to Israel's battles that were divine sanctioned.

Is there somethihg else you have in mind by "holy war" that dissuades you from adopting the concept?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Is there somethihg else you have in mind by "holy war" that dissuades you from adopting the concept?

The Psalms present the conquest in its true light, as God's conquest, not man's, Ps. 44; the Israelites were not fighting for God, but God was fighting for them. There is no sense in which the faith of Israel was being propagated by means of the sword, which is the essential idea of the holy war. The conquest was a manifest token of God's continued loyalty to the purpose which He has for His creation, Ps. 136.
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
There was no imitation of other nations, as liberal scholars aver, who point out that all warfare was religious by nature. If anything, the Israelites show an averseness to serve in the Lord's military campaign, and must be encouraged at every step to follow Him by faith into the battle. And when the conquest is mostly accomplished, they are more than willing to retire before the day is done.

Okay, it seems that you want to distance Israel's conquest from Canaan from pagan military operations which claimed divine sanction. You're correct that nearly all nations in the ancient world claimed some kind of sanction from their deity (or deities) for aggression. This is what Islam does today. That kind of "holy war" is in fact "pseudo holy war." The Israelites, on the other hand, did have a word from God and their conquest of Canaan was extremely religious in significance.

I also agree with you that Israel's own part in the conquest greatly lacked in devotion, courage, and obedience (though there certainly were exceptions). Victories won were God's doing and often despite Israel's lack of faith. Moreover, the people of Israel never completely carried out the divine mandate, allowed the peoples of the land to co-exist with them, eventually adopted their idolatrous ways, and, in the end, were themselves expelled from the land by God. That's why a Greater Son of Yahweh was needed to secure lasting rest for the true Israel of God whose kingdom is not of this world and whose weapons are not carnal but spiritual.

Nevertheless, I believe God's sanctioned war against the Canaanites and securing of Canaan as sacred space carries important typological significance. In that regard, I would recommend the book God is a Warrior (1995) by Tremper Longman III and Daniel G. Reid.

-----Added 2/19/2009 at 07:33:18 EST-----

There is no sense in which the faith of Israel was being propagated by means of the sword, which is the essential idea of the holy war.

The phrase "holy war" apparently means different things to different people. To Islamic Jihadists and European Crusaders it probably carried the meaning you have in view and which you reject. In my "apology" for the extermination of the Canaanites above (post 29), I didn't give the propagation of Israel's faith as one of the components of the herem or divinely sanctioned conquest of Canaan. My idea of a real "holy war" is one that is genuinely sanctioned by God, which makes the conquest of Canaan somewhat unique in history though the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah may also be viewed as divine instrusions of judgment.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Nevertheless, I believe God's sanctioned war against the Canaanites and securing of Canaan as sacred space carries important typological significance. In that regard, I would recommend the book God is a Warrior (1995) by Tremper Longman III and Daniel G. Reid.

Yes, that is a good work to recommend, but it must be understood that the authors take over the "holy war" language as a part of accepted terminology fixed in the vocabulary of scholarly works treating the subject. The chapter on God as an enemy suffices to show how the Lord was not ipso facto on the side of Israel, and repudiates any idea that Israel was fighting God's battles for Him.
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
Nevertheless, I believe God's sanctioned war against the Canaanites and securing of Canaan as sacred space carries important typological significance. In that regard, I would recommend the book God is a Warrior (1995) by Tremper Longman III and Daniel G. Reid.

Yes, that is a good work to recommend, but it must be understood that the authors take over the "holy war" language as a part of accepted terminology fixed in the vocabulary of scholarly works treating the subject. The chapter on God as an enemy suffices to show how the Lord was not ipso facto on the side of Israel, and repudiates any idea that Israel was fighting God's battles for Him.

Thanks, Matthew. Your qualifications are helpful and important.

Your servant,
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Thanks for raising the thought provoking question, Bob; it is good to see again just how radically different is the biblical picture of religion from the natural man's concept of it.
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks for raising the thought provoking question, Bob; it is good to see again just how radically different is the biblical picture of religion from the natural man's concept of it.

It is also interesting that only a Calvinist framework of a Sovereign God combined with mans utter depravity can happily comport with the canaanite extermination.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
To what degree can it be said that Israel actually 'fought' the war?

Deut 1:8 Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.

Repeatedly God tells Israel that He has already gone before them and all they had to do was possess it. It seems to me that Israel of the OT, unlike Islam, took possession of a land that had already been conquered on their behalf. Can this really be called a war at all?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
That's the difficulty I have as well in calling it a holy war; I suppose if the language is retained it can only be with a complete overhaul of the concept.

To what degree can it be said that Israel actually 'fought' the war?

Deut 1:8 Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.

Repeatedly God tells Israel that He has already gone before them and all they had to do was possess it. It seems to me that Israel of the OT, unlike Islam, took possession of a land that had already been conquered on their behalf. Can this really be called a war at all?
 

Thomas2007

Puritan Board Sophomore
How can the Christian theologically and ethically justify God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites?

In my view Israel was a duly constituted government and God sovereignly judged the various nations that he ordered justice to be executed against. I see no problem with this, the civil magistrate has the power of the sword to execute justice and engage in lawful warfare.


At face value, God’s command seems to encourage unwarranted aggression and violence, which are violations of the sixth commandment (Exo 20:13; Deut 5:17), as well as the theft of property, which is a violation of the eighth commandment (Exod 20:15; Deut 5:19). Furthermore, God’s command to exterminate every man, woman, and child seems to be at variance with the Old and New Testament teaching that we should love our enemies (Exo 23:4, 5; Lev 19:17, 18, 33, 34; Prov 24:16-18; Mat 5:43-48; Lk 6:27-36) and the stipulation that every soul shall be judged for his own sin, not for the sins of others (Deut 24:16; Ezek 18:20).

I don't understand how you arrive at this. If the State of Indiana executes a murderer I don't argue that, "at face value this activity violates the sixth commandment."

It seems to be consistent with God's election to me and sovereign execution of His Justice.
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
How can the Christian theologically and ethically justify God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites?

In my view Israel was a duly constituted government and God sovereignly judged the various nations that he ordered justice to be executed against. I see no problem with this, the civil magistrate has the power of the sword to execute justice and engage in lawful warfare.

At face value, God’s command seems to encourage unwarranted aggression and violence, which are violations of the sixth commandment (Exo 20:13; Deut 5:17), as well as the theft of property, which is a violation of the eighth commandment (Exod 20:15; Deut 5:19). Furthermore, God’s command to exterminate every man, woman, and child seems to be at variance with the Old and New Testament teaching that we should love our enemies (Exo 23:4, 5; Lev 19:17, 18, 33, 34; Prov 24:16-18; Mat 5:43-48; Lk 6:27-36) and the stipulation that every soul shall be judged for his own sin, not for the sins of others (Deut 24:16; Ezek 18:20).

I don't understand how you arrive at this. If the State of Indiana executes a murderer I don't argue that, "at face value this activity violates the sixth commandment."

It seems to be consistent with God's election to me and sovereign execution of His Justice.

Thomas,

Did you get to read post #29? If you read that post, you'll realize that my questions, which you cite above, were but rhetorical devices to set the stage for an answer. Note carefully the phrase "at face value" and the word "seems." In sum, I do believe a Christian can justify (biblically and ethically) God's command to exterminate the Canaanites. If I really believed God contradicted himself, I doubt I'd be allowed on this discussion board. :)

Your servant,

-----Added 2/21/2009 at 02:10:55 EST-----

That's the difficulty I have as well in calling it a holy war; I suppose if the language is retained it can only be with a complete overhaul of the concept.

To what degree can it be said that Israel actually 'fought' the war?

Deut 1:8 Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.
Repeatedly God tells Israel that He has already gone before them and all they had to do was possess it. It seems to me that Israel of the OT, unlike Islam, took possession of a land that had already been conquered on their behalf. Can this really be called a war at all?

Men,

I affirm that God gets the ultimate credit for any victories the Israelites won in or outside of Canaan. After all, the battle is the Lord's (). Nevertheless, we need to beware of trying to be more biblical than the Scripture writers themselves.

First, Israel's conquest of Canaan (as well as their conquest of peoples on the way to Canaan) did involve real "wars" in which the Israelites used real weapons. In a few cases, God supernaturally intervened. But in many cases, God did not deliver them the victory while the Israelites sat back passively and observed.

Second, as I pointed out in a post above (#45), Israel's wars against the inhabitants of Canaan were divinely sanctioned in a more direct and specific way than any "just war" might find sanction today. God specifically told them to exterminate a particular people, men, women, boys, and girls. Such specific revelatory sanction and exhaustive scope is, I think, somewhat unique in history.

Third, the Hebrew term herem, used in the context of these wars, has religious significance and is the flipside of the idea of sanctification. The land of Canaan and its inhabitants were "devoted to destruction" (cf. Deut. 7:2; 20:17; Josh 6:17; 1Sam 15:3). For this reason, when God commanded the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites, He was calling upon them to engage in a religious activity. The land of Canaan was to become "sacred space," pointing back to Eden and forward to the New Earth. Accordingly, I agree with Tremper Longman when he writes, "Battle is portrayed as an act of worship in the Hebrew Bible.”

Fourth, did they every attribute any victories to Israel? Consider the following texts:
ESV Joshua 12:1 Now these are the kings of the land whom the people of Israel defeated and took possession of their land beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise, from the Valley of the Arnon to Mount Hermon, with all the Arabah eastward:

ESV Joshua 12:6 Moses, the servant of the LORD, and the people of Israel defeated them [inhabitants of Bashan].

ESV Joshua 12:7 And these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the people of Israel defeated on the west side of the Jordan
I could multiply examples from Judges, Samuel, and Kings. Yes, I affirm that "the battle is the Lord's" (1 Sam. 17:47). I doubt any Bible-believing Christian who would apply the term "Holy War" to Israel's conquest of Canaan would deny that. Nonetheless, Israel did eventually, through the leadership of David and Solomon, subdue the land, and in most cases they obtained their victories not as passive bystanders but as active warriors.

In sum, when Israel engaged in warfare in faithful obedience to God's command, they engaged in what might, in my opinion, be properly termed "holy war." Similarly, the Christian is called to engage in spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10ff.) not as a passive bystander but as one who "works out his salvation with fear and trembling" in the confidence that "it is God who is at work in him both to will and to do in accordance with God's good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13).

Your servant,
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
How can the Christian theologically and ethically justify God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites?

In my view Israel was a duly constituted government and God sovereignly judged the various nations that he ordered justice to be executed against. I see no problem with this, the civil magistrate has the power of the sword to execute justice and engage in lawful warfare.



I don't understand how you arrive at this. If the State of Indiana executes a murderer I don't argue that, "at face value this activity violates the sixth commandment."

It seems to be consistent with God's election to me and sovereign execution of His Justice.

Thomas,

Did you get to read post #29? If you read that post, you'll realize that my questions, which you cite above, were but rhetorical devices to set the stage for an answer. Note carefully the phrase "at face value" and the word "seems." In sum, I do believe a Christian can justify (biblically and ethically) God's command to exterminate the Canaanites. If I really believed God contradicted himself, I doubt I'd be allowed on this discussion board. :)

Your servant,

-----Added 2/21/2009 at 02:10:55 EST-----

That's the difficulty I have as well in calling it a holy war; I suppose if the language is retained it can only be with a complete overhaul of the concept.

To what degree can it be said that Israel actually 'fought' the war?

Repeatedly God tells Israel that He has already gone before them and all they had to do was possess it. It seems to me that Israel of the OT, unlike Islam, took possession of a land that had already been conquered on their behalf. Can this really be called a war at all?

Men,

I affirm that God gets the ultimate credit for any victories the Israelites won in or outside of Canaan. After all, the battle is the Lord's (). Nevertheless, we need to beware of trying to be more biblical than the Scripture writers themselves.

First, Israel's conquest of Canaan (as well as their conquest of peoples on the way to Canaan) did involve real "wars" in which the Israelites used real weapons. In a few cases, God supernaturally intervened. But in many cases, God did not deliver them the victory while the Israelites sat back passively and observed.

Second, as I pointed out in a post above (#45), Israel's wars against the inhabitants of Canaan were divinely sanctioned in a more direct and specific way than any "just war" might find sanction today. God specifically told them to exterminate a particular people, men, women, boys, and girls. Such specific revelatory sanction and exhaustive scope is, I think, somewhat unique in history.

Third, the Hebrew term herem, used in the context of these wars, has religious significance and is the flipside of the idea of sanctification. The land of Canaan and its inhabitants were "devoted to destruction" (cf. Deut. 7:2; 20:17; Josh 6:17; 1Sam 15:3). For this reason, when God commanded the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites, He was calling upon them to engage in a religious activity. The land of Canaan was to become "sacred space," pointing back to Eden and forward to the New Earth. Accordingly, I agree with Tremper Longman when he writes, "Battle is portrayed as an act of worship in the Hebrew Bible.”

Fourth, did they every attribute any victories to Israel? Consider the following texts:
ESV Joshua 12:1 Now these are the kings of the land whom the people of Israel defeated and took possession of their land beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise, from the Valley of the Arnon to Mount Hermon, with all the Arabah eastward:

ESV Joshua 12:6 Moses, the servant of the LORD, and the people of Israel defeated them [inhabitants of Bashan].

ESV Joshua 12:7 And these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the people of Israel defeated on the west side of the Jordan
I could multiply examples from Judges, Samuel, and Kings. Yes, I affirm that "the battle is the Lord's" (1 Sam. 17:47). I doubt any Bible-believing Christian who would apply the term "Holy War" to Israel's conquest of Canaan would deny that. Nonetheless, Israel did eventually, through the leadership of David and Solomon, subdue the land, and in most cases they obtained their victories not as passive bystanders but as active warriors.

In sum, when Israel engaged in warfare in faithful obedience to God's command, they engaged in what might, in my opinion, be properly termed "holy war." Similarly, the Christian is called to engage in spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10ff.) not as a passive bystander but as one who "works out his salvation with fear and trembling" in the confidence that "it is God who is at work in him both to will and to do in accordance with God's good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13).

Your servant,

I concede your point as long as it is understood that their are limits to how far we can draw a parallel between Israel's conquest of Canaan and the conquests of Pagan nations. After all, if Israel had been obedient, as at Jericho, she would have suffered no casualties. It is hard to call such a conquest a 'war' in the exact same sense as other wars.
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
In my view Israel was a duly constituted government and God sovereignly judged the various nations that he ordered justice to be executed against. I see no problem with this, the civil magistrate has the power of the sword to execute justice and engage in lawful warfare.



I don't understand how you arrive at this. If the State of Indiana executes a murderer I don't argue that, "at face value this activity violates the sixth commandment."

It seems to be consistent with God's election to me and sovereign execution of His Justice.

Thomas,

Did you get to read post #29? If you read that post, you'll realize that my questions, which you cite above, were but rhetorical devices to set the stage for an answer. Note carefully the phrase "at face value" and the word "seems." In sum, I do believe a Christian can justify (biblically and ethically) God's command to exterminate the Canaanites. If I really believed God contradicted himself, I doubt I'd be allowed on this discussion board. :)

Your servant,

-----Added 2/21/2009 at 02:10:55 EST-----

That's the difficulty I have as well in calling it a holy war; I suppose if the language is retained it can only be with a complete overhaul of the concept.

Men,

I affirm that God gets the ultimate credit for any victories the Israelites won in or outside of Canaan. After all, the battle is the Lord's (). Nevertheless, we need to beware of trying to be more biblical than the Scripture writers themselves.

First, Israel's conquest of Canaan (as well as their conquest of peoples on the way to Canaan) did involve real "wars" in which the Israelites used real weapons. In a few cases, God supernaturally intervened. But in many cases, God did not deliver them the victory while the Israelites sat back passively and observed.

Second, as I pointed out in a post above (#45), Israel's wars against the inhabitants of Canaan were divinely sanctioned in a more direct and specific way than any "just war" might find sanction today. God specifically told them to exterminate a particular people, men, women, boys, and girls. Such specific revelatory sanction and exhaustive scope is, I think, somewhat unique in history.

Third, the Hebrew term herem, used in the context of these wars, has religious significance and is the flipside of the idea of sanctification. The land of Canaan and its inhabitants were "devoted to destruction" (cf. Deut. 7:2; 20:17; Josh 6:17; 1Sam 15:3). For this reason, when God commanded the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites, He was calling upon them to engage in a religious activity. The land of Canaan was to become "sacred space," pointing back to Eden and forward to the New Earth. Accordingly, I agree with Tremper Longman when he writes, "Battle is portrayed as an act of worship in the Hebrew Bible.”

Fourth, did they every attribute any victories to Israel? Consider the following texts:
ESV Joshua 12:1 Now these are the kings of the land whom the people of Israel defeated and took possession of their land beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise, from the Valley of the Arnon to Mount Hermon, with all the Arabah eastward:

ESV Joshua 12:6 Moses, the servant of the LORD, and the people of Israel defeated them [inhabitants of Bashan].

ESV Joshua 12:7 And these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the people of Israel defeated on the west side of the Jordan
I could multiply examples from Judges, Samuel, and Kings. Yes, I affirm that "the battle is the Lord's" (1 Sam. 17:47). I doubt any Bible-believing Christian who would apply the term "Holy War" to Israel's conquest of Canaan would deny that. Nonetheless, Israel did eventually, through the leadership of David and Solomon, subdue the land, and in most cases they obtained their victories not as passive bystanders but as active warriors.

In sum, when Israel engaged in warfare in faithful obedience to God's command, they engaged in what might, in my opinion, be properly termed "holy war." Similarly, the Christian is called to engage in spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10ff.) not as a passive bystander but as one who "works out his salvation with fear and trembling" in the confidence that "it is God who is at work in him both to will and to do in accordance with God's good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13).

Your servant,

I concede your point as long as it is understood that their are limits to how far we can draw a parallel between Israel's conquest of Canaan and the conquests of Pagan nations. After all, if Israel had been obedient, as at Jericho, she would have suffered no casualties. It is hard to call such a conquest a 'war' in the exact same sense as other wars.

Ken, thanks for the concession. I agree with you and others that there are definite discontinuities between Israel's war against the Canaanites and those fought by one pagan nation against another. The latter I referred to as "pseudo holy wars" because they did not really have divine sanction, as is the case with modern Jihad.

When you refer to Israel's lack of complete obedience and resultant failure to completely exterminate every Canaanite in the land, you say, "It is hard to call such a conquest a 'war' in the exact same sense as other wars." Did you mean to say, "It's hard to call such a war a conquest"? The term "war" simply refers to an armed conflict between nations or parties within a nation. The outcome of such a conflict is not necessarily part of the definition of "war." "Conquest," on the other hand, does denote the winning of a war. The passages I cited above do indicate that Israel won some of her battles. In fact, we're told in Joshua 18:1 that Israel had gained what might be termed a provisional victory:
ESV Joshua 18:1 Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The land lay subdued before them.
The subsequent verses seem to indicate that there was still unclaimed territory. Nonetheless, at the time of Joshua's death, God had given Israel dominion over the land so that the inspired writer could say
And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:44-45; cf. 23:15).
And though Israel suffered many set-backs during the period of the judges, God eventually raised up a man after his own heart who subdued the land of Canaan more completely (1 Kings 5:3).

So I think it's appropriate to say (1) Israel fought a war, (2) the war was sanctioned via direct revelation, (3) the purpose or aim was religious, viz., that God might give Israel Canaan as an inheritance (typical of our heavenly inheritance) in keeping with his promise to the fathers, and (4) that the land was, at least, provisionally conquered by Israel through the grace and power of Yahweh. The fact that Israel's conquest was only provisional and not ultimate might hinder us from calling it a "Holy Conquest" in the ultimate sense of the term. But I see no reason why, when properly qualified, we may not refer to Israel's divine mandate to conquer Canaan for Yahweh as "Holy War."

Your servant,
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Thomas,

Did you get to read post #29? If you read that post, you'll realize that my questions, which you cite above, were but rhetorical devices to set the stage for an answer. Note carefully the phrase "at face value" and the word "seems." In sum, I do believe a Christian can justify (biblically and ethically) God's command to exterminate the Canaanites. If I really believed God contradicted himself, I doubt I'd be allowed on this discussion board. :)

Your servant,

-----Added 2/21/2009 at 02:10:55 EST-----



Men,

I affirm that God gets the ultimate credit for any victories the Israelites won in or outside of Canaan. After all, the battle is the Lord's (). Nevertheless, we need to beware of trying to be more biblical than the Scripture writers themselves.

First, Israel's conquest of Canaan (as well as their conquest of peoples on the way to Canaan) did involve real "wars" in which the Israelites used real weapons. In a few cases, God supernaturally intervened. But in many cases, God did not deliver them the victory while the Israelites sat back passively and observed.

Second, as I pointed out in a post above (#45), Israel's wars against the inhabitants of Canaan were divinely sanctioned in a more direct and specific way than any "just war" might find sanction today. God specifically told them to exterminate a particular people, men, women, boys, and girls. Such specific revelatory sanction and exhaustive scope is, I think, somewhat unique in history.

Third, the Hebrew term herem, used in the context of these wars, has religious significance and is the flipside of the idea of sanctification. The land of Canaan and its inhabitants were "devoted to destruction" (cf. Deut. 7:2; 20:17; Josh 6:17; 1Sam 15:3). For this reason, when God commanded the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites, He was calling upon them to engage in a religious activity. The land of Canaan was to become "sacred space," pointing back to Eden and forward to the New Earth. Accordingly, I agree with Tremper Longman when he writes, "Battle is portrayed as an act of worship in the Hebrew Bible.”

Fourth, did they every attribute any victories to Israel? Consider the following texts:
ESV Joshua 12:1 Now these are the kings of the land whom the people of Israel defeated and took possession of their land beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise, from the Valley of the Arnon to Mount Hermon, with all the Arabah eastward:

ESV Joshua 12:6 Moses, the servant of the LORD, and the people of Israel defeated them [inhabitants of Bashan].

ESV Joshua 12:7 And these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the people of Israel defeated on the west side of the Jordan
I could multiply examples from Judges, Samuel, and Kings. Yes, I affirm that "the battle is the Lord's" (1 Sam. 17:47). I doubt any Bible-believing Christian who would apply the term "Holy War" to Israel's conquest of Canaan would deny that. Nonetheless, Israel did eventually, through the leadership of David and Solomon, subdue the land, and in most cases they obtained their victories not as passive bystanders but as active warriors.

In sum, when Israel engaged in warfare in faithful obedience to God's command, they engaged in what might, in my opinion, be properly termed "holy war." Similarly, the Christian is called to engage in spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10ff.) not as a passive bystander but as one who "works out his salvation with fear and trembling" in the confidence that "it is God who is at work in him both to will and to do in accordance with God's good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13).

Your servant,

I concede your point as long as it is understood that their are limits to how far we can draw a parallel between Israel's conquest of Canaan and the conquests of Pagan nations. After all, if Israel had been obedient, as at Jericho, she would have suffered no casualties. It is hard to call such a conquest a 'war' in the exact same sense as other wars.

Ken, thanks for the concession. I agree with you and others that there are definite discontinuities between Israel's war against the Canaanites and those fought by one pagan nation against another. The latter I referred to as "pseudo holy wars" because they did not really have divine sanction, as is the case with modern Jihad.

When you refer to Israel's lack of complete obedience and resultant failure to completely exterminate every Canaanite in the land, you say, "It is hard to call such a conquest a 'war' in the exact same sense as other wars." Did you mean to say, "It's hard to call such a war a conquest"? The term "war" simply refers to an armed conflict between nations or parties within a nation. The outcome of such a conflict is not necessarily part of the definition of "war." "Conquest," on the other hand, does denote the winning of a war. The passages I cited above do indicate that Israel won some of her battles. In fact, we're told in Joshua 18:1 that Israel had gained what might be termed a provisional victory:
ESV Joshua 18:1 Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The land lay subdued before them.
The subsequent verses seem to indicate that there was still unclaimed territory. Nonetheless, at the time of Joshua's death, God had given Israel dominion over the land so that the inspired writer could say
And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:44-45; cf. 23:15).
And though Israel suffered many set-backs during the period of the judges, God eventually raised up a man after his own heart who subdued the land of Canaan more completely (1 Kings 5:3).

So I think it's appropriate to say (1) Israel fought a war, (2) the war was sanctioned via direct revelation, (3) the purpose or aim was religious, viz., that God might give Israel Canaan as an inheritance (typical of our heavenly inheritance) in keeping with his promise to the fathers, and (4) that the land was, at least, provisionally conquered by Israel through the grace and power of Yahweh. The fact that Israel's conquest was only provisional and not ultimate might hinder us from calling it a "Holy Conquest" in the ultimate sense of the term. But I see no reason why, when properly qualified, we may not refer to Israel's divine mandate to conquer Canaan for Yahweh as "Holy War."

Your servant,

The minor point I was trying to make is this: If Israel had been obedient, it appears from the battles at Jericho and Ai, they would not have suffered any casualties in their conquest because the Lord was on their side. This would be a 'unique' war.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Good thread!

I was thinking, "The wages of sin is death." How come it's not coming up? But it did. Thanks for the thought provoking, and in some way grounding, discussion. Any discussion that attempts to "apologize" for God's actions must take in the reality of depravity and the amazing aspect of God's graciousness toward all men, in that they are not immediately exterminated. The real question each man should ask is, "How can a holy, righteous, all knowing, all powerful and perfectly just God not destroy me this very instant?" Now, that's a question that could bear some apologia... ;)

The Context of God’s calls to Holy War
The context of the command is a sinful world under God’s curse (Gen 3:8ff). If we remember this fact, then the real question is not, “Why would God exterminate the Canaanites?” but rather “Why has God withheld judgment from so many other sinful nations?” Furthermore, God’s promise to redeem the world necessitates the destruction and removal of evil (Gen 3:15; Matt. 6:10; 2 Pet 3:13). Thus, as one scholar points out, “Holy war and the description of God as warrior need to be evaluated in the context of God’s redemptive efforts on behalf of a fallen world.”
 
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