Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Conquest of Canaanite Cities (Joshua 6, 8)

The following quotes are taken from

"Destruction of Ai (Joshua 8:1-29)"

"Killing at Jericho - "When the people heard the sound of the horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the city from every side and captured it.  They completely destroyed everything in it – men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, donkeys – everything."  (Joshua 6:20-21 NLT)

            These passages occur after Joshua began to lead the Israelites into the promised land of Canaan, the land that God had promised to give them.  You can read the full chapters here (to get a sense of the whole story, it would be best to read Joshua chapters 1-8):

            As mentioned in previous blog posts, these events were the fulfillment of what God had been telling the Israelites and the surrounding nations: the Israelites would take possession of the land of Canaan, the land that God had promised them, and the people of Canaan were to be killed if they did not repent and turn to God.
            So why did God command the destruction of Canaan, including the cities of Jericho and Ai?  The Hebrew word used in Joshua 6:17 is charam, meaning "the complete consecration of things or people to the Lord, either by destroying them or by giving them as an offering" [1].  Only God could decide when this type of devotion occurred, and it was always in response to a grievous sin that the person or people had committed against the Lord.  For example, when the Amalekites murdered all of the sick, weak and elderly people who were straggling behind the Israelites on their way out of Egypt, God commanded their destruction, and this same term - charam - is used (Deuteronomy 25:17-19; 1 Samuel 15:2-3).
            As mentioned in the previous blog post "The Promise of the Conquest of Canaan", these nations would have a very powerful and destructive influence on Israel if they were permitted to live among them.  As it happened, the Israelites failed to fulfill God's command and remove all of the surrounding nations - they intermarried with them and adopted their practices, which ultimately led to their destruction and exile to Assyria and Babylon centuries later (2 Kings 17; 2 Chronicles 36:14-21).  They broke their covenant with God and abandoned him, and so he withdrew his protection from them, as he had sworn he would.
            As for the destruction of Jericho and Ai, these were situations in which the people involved were in direct opposition to God.  They practiced incest and child sacrifice by fire - God gave them 400 years to repent, but they refused (Genesis 15:13-16; Deuteronomy 12:31).  They had full knowledge of God and what he had done for the Israelites (Joshua 2:8-11), but they neither repented nor offered a peace treaty with the Israelites; instead they were determined to fight them.  If they had repented and sought a peaceful solution instead of war, they would have been spared (Jeremiah 18:7-8).  The fact that God spared the Canaanite woman Rahab and her family, who allied themselves with the Israelites, proved that no one had to die (Joshua 6:25).
            As in previous passages, the command to kill the women and children is a difficult issue.  We must remember that the children would have grown up following the same customs and practices as their parents; they also would have been taught to hate Israel and seek their destruction, and would have been lost for eternity.  God took their lives in childhood to prevent this from occurring.
            As in previous passages, it should be noted that God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), and he takes no pleasure in the death of anyone (Ezekiel 18:32).  However, there comes a time when his patience runs out and he abandons those who have rejected him to their fate.  The conquest of Jericho and Ai was such a time. 

[1] Footnote in the Holy Bible, New Living Translation (NLT).  This term (charam) occurs in the following verses: Exodus 22:20; Leviticus 27:21, 28-29; Numbers 18:14; 21:2-3; Deuteronomy 2:34; 3:6; 7:2, 26; 13:15-17; 20:17; Joshua 2:10; 6:17-21; 7:1, 11-15; 8:26; 10:1, 28, 35, 37, 39-40; 11:11-12, 20-21; 22:20; 1 Samuel 15:3, 8-9, 15, 18-21.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Promise of the Conquest of Canaan (Exodus 23:20-33)

The following quote is taken from

"The Angel of Death - "My angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites; and I will wipe them out."  (Exodus 23:23 NAB)

            This verse is part of a larger passage in which God gave instructions to the Israelites regarding the land that he had promised to give them.  You can read the entire chapter here:

            This passage is part of the speech in which God revealed the Law to Moses and the Israelites on Mount Sinai, after God had saved the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.  God warned the Israelites not to live amongst the nations in the land he was giving them, or else they would entice the Israelites into sin by encouraging them to worship idols, and thus break the covenant that they had made with God, who rescued them.
            Why would it have been such a threat for the Israelites to live among these nations?  These ancient nations were incestuous, barbaric and cruel.  They engaged in sexual intercourse with members of their own families, including parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, aunts/uncles and in-laws; and sex with animals.  The Canaanites especially engaged in cultic prostitution: each man and woman were forced to participate in the ritual at least once, which was believed to stimulate the fertility of the crops, animals and humans [1].  The prostitutes (male or female) would engage in sexual intercourse on a public altar or in front of a shrine, with whomever would give them money in exchange.  The Canaanites would give their firstborn daughters to the local pagan temples for this purpose.  They also practiced human sacrifice, sacrificing their children to their god Molech by burning them to death (Leviticus 18) [2].  "You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods" (Deuteronomy 12:31, NIV).
            It was for these reasons that God pronounced his sentence of judgment upon them.  "Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled.  Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants" (Leviticus 18:24-25, NIV).  God gave these nations 400 years to repent (Genesis 15:13-16).  Though the nations had knowledge of God and what he had done for the Israelites (Joshua 2:8-11), they refused to make peace with the Israelites or repent and turn to God.  If they had, God would have not destroyed them.  "If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned" (Jeremiah 18:7-8, NIV; see also Jonah chapter 3).

[1] Exploring the World of the Bible Lands, Roberta L. Harris, 1995.  Pg. 53, 73, 89.
[2] A History of the Ancient World (Fourth Edition), Chester G. Starr, 1991.  Pg. 88, 156.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Prophecy Against Edom (Ezekiel 35)

The following quote is taken from

"God Promises More Killing -  "I will make Mount Seir utterly desolate, killing off all who try to escape and any who return.  I will fill your mountains with the dead. Your hills, your valleys, and your streams will be filled with people slaughtered by the sword.  I will make you desolate forever. Your cities will never be rebuilt. Then you will know that I am the LORD."  (Ezekiel 35:7-9 NLT)

This chapter concerns God's prophecy against the nation of Edom.  You can read the entire chapter here:

            The nation of Edom was descended from a man named Esau (Genesis 36), the twin brother of Jacob, who was the father of the tribes of Israel.  From the time that Jacob tricked Esau and stole his birthright and blessing (Genesis chapters 25 and 27), the two nations were enemies.  The Edomites refused to let the Israelites pass through their land when the Israelites were journeying to the Promised Land, and came out against them with their army (Numbers 20:14-21).  Throughout Israel's history, they and the Edomites were often at war.
            In this passage, God pronounced his judgment on the nation of Edom, and gave clear reasoning for why they had brought this judgment upon themselves.  “‘Because you harbored an ancient hostility and delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity, the time their punishment reached its climax, therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you.  Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you" (Ezekiel 35:5-6, NIV).
            Even though the Edomites were related to the Israelites by blood, they had no compassion on them as they were being conquered by the Assyrians and Babylonians, and even assisted those nations in destroying Israel.  To add insult to injury, the Edomites rejoiced in the Israelites' misery (Ezekiel 35:15; Obadiah 1:12), plundered and looted Jerusalem after its destruction (Obadiah 1:13), and mistreated those Israelites who survived the destruction of Jerusalem, cutting them down and handing them over to their enemies (Obadiah 1:14).  Because of all this, and because of their utter contempt for God, they would eventually cease to exist as a nation.  "Then you will know that I the Lord have heard all the contemptible things you have said against the mountains of Israel. You said, 'They have been laid waste and have been given over to us to devour.'  You boasted against me and spoke against me without restraint, and I heard it.  This is what the Sovereign LORD says: While the whole earth rejoices, I will make you desolate.  Because you rejoiced when the inheritance of Israel became desolate, that is how I will treat you" (Ezekiel 35:12-15, NIV).

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Prophecy Against Judah (Jeremiah 15)

The following quote is taken from

"God Kills Some More - "Then the LORD said to me, "Even if Moses and Samuel stood before me pleading for these people, I wouldn't help them.  Away with them!  Get them out of my sight!  And if they say to you, 'But where can we go?' tell them, 'This is what the LORD says: Those who are destined for death, to death; those who are destined for war, to war; those who are destined for famine, to famine; those who are destined for captivity, to captivity.'  "I will send four kinds of destroyers against them," says the LORD.  "I will send the sword to kill, the dogs to drag away, the vultures to devour, and the wild animals to finish up what is left.  Because of the wicked things Manasseh son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, did in Jerusalem, I will make my people an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth."  (Jeremiah 15:1-4 NLT)

This passage is part of the larger prophecies of the book of Jeremiah.  You can read the entire chapter here:

            In the book of Jeremiah, God sent his message of doom against the nation of Judah; those who were not killed during the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians were going to be taken into captivity, and Jerusalem (including the First Temple, the one built by King Solomon) would be destroyed.  The prophecies were fulfilled shortly after Jeremiah's warnings, circa 586 BCE.
            The reason for the Babylonian captivity is because the people of Judah had completely turned away from God, choosing to worship idols instead (Jeremiah 16:10-13), and had even defiled God's Temple by placing idols inside of it and worshipping them there (Ezekiel 5-8).  The reference to King Manasseh's wicked deeds was because of his idolatry and child sacrifice (2 Chronicles 33:1-9).  On top of that, the people were constantly committing murder, foolishly thinking that God did not see or care what they did (Ezekiel 5:5-7, 7:23, 8:17-18, 9:9-10).  "Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations.  Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again" (Ezekiel 5:8-9, NIV).
            The charge of idolatry is a very grievous sin, which God does not take lightly (see Exodus 20:3-6, 23; 23:13, 23-24; 34:17; Leviticus 19:4; 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:15-28; 5:7; 6:14-15; 8:19; 12:31; 17:2-7; 27:15; 29:17-18).  God warned the Israelites on several occasions that if they committed idolatry, it was a crime that warranted the death penalty.  The Israelites' covenant with God demanded that they worship and serve him only.  They were not supposed to worship other gods or fashion idols for themselves.  God had warned them that if they did these things, it would lead to their destruction: "If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 8:19, NIV). 
            Why is idolatry considered such a serious crime?  The severity of the judgment, capital punishment, is due to the severity of the sin.  God is the only God, the Lord and creator of all the universe.  When anyone bows down and worships or pays tribute to a false god or idol, they are taking credit away from God and giving it to something undeserving of that credit.  "I am the LORD; that is my name!  I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols" (Isaiah 42:8, NIV).  The crime of idolatry was so serious that it was often referred to as adultery against God (Ezekiel 6:9).
            The people of Israel and Judah had been given multiple warnings by God through many prophets over the course of nearly 300 years, and they still did not repent and turn to God for forgiveness.  If they had, they would have been spared, and all of the death and destruction could have been avoided.  "If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned" (Jeremiah 18:7-8, NIV; see also Jonah chapter 3).
            As in previous passages, it should be noted that God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), and he takes no pleasure in the death of anyone (Ezekiel 18:32).  However, there comes a time when his patience runs out and he abandons those who have rejected him to their fate.  The conquest of Judah by Babylon was such a time. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Micah and the Danites (Joshua 19:47; Judges 17-18)

The following quotes are taken from

"The Danites Kill The Next Town - "But the territory of the Danites was too small for them; so the Danites marched up and attacked Leshem, which they captured and put to the sword.  Once they had taken possession of Lesham, they renamed the settlement after their ancestor Dan."  (Joshua 19:47 NAB)

"Micah Kills A Whole Town - "Then, with Micah's idols and his priest, the men of Dan came to the town of Laish, whose people were peaceful and secure.  They attacked and killed all the people and burned the town to the ground.  There was no one to rescue the residents of the town, for they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby.  This happened in the valley near Beth-rehob. Then the people of the tribe of Dan rebuilt the town and lived there.  They renamed the town Dan after their ancestor, Israel's son, but it had originally been called Laish.  (Judges 18:27-29 NLT)  (Note that God approves of this slaughter in verse 6.)"

            This quote in the book of Joshua is actually a brief parenthetical statement that interrupts descriptions given of the land that was assigned to each tribe of Israel after they had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.  It refers to a larger story that took place later, and is described in the book of Judges, chapters 17-18.  You can read the whole story here:

            To quickly summarize, these events took place during the time period of the Judges.  The book of Judges is a story of the breakdown of a society without God.  The book ends with this sentence: "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit" (Judges 21:25, NIV).  The Israelites had ceased following God after they entered the promised land of Canaan, and though judges ruled over them for a time, the conditions of the nation of Israel continued to get worse.
            In this story, a man named Micah set up idols in his home, and invited a Levite to stay with him and be his personal priest.  Later, the tribe of Dan sent representatives to scout out the land to find a place to settle, because they were unsuccessful in claiming the land that God had allotted to them in the book of Joshua.  Instead of following God's command and settling in the land that he had given them, they decided instead to strike out on their own, and conquer a city named Laish (aka Lesham).
            Not only were they disobeying God by choosing to conquer a city that he had not given to them, they also learned that Micah had idols in his home and a Levite acting as his priest, and a large group of them went to his house, stole his idols and took his priest into their service, threatening Micah with death if he tried to stop them (Judges 18:14-26).  After that, they attacked and murdered the peaceful people of Laish, burned their city to the ground and settled there, where they set up the idols they had stolen from Micah and worshipped them for hundreds of years, until the land was taken captive.  
            First of all, we need to examine this passage in a historical context.  It is important to note that the Bible does not always approve everything that it records.  Just because there is an act of violence recorded in the Bible does not mean that God approves of that act of violence.  Some parts of the Bible, particularly the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament), are books of history.  The book of Judges is one such book, describing the nation of Israel during the period of the judges (circa 1380-1050 BCE).  The book of Judges is not part of the Law (Torah) given to the Israelites, and does not contain instructions on how to live a life that pleases God (such as Paul's letters in the New Testament).  It is a book of history.
            This story is another example of the disintegration of the Israelite culture in the book of Judges, where "everyone did as they saw fit" and no one honored or obeyed God.  Micah, the Levite and the Danites all committed idolatry, and then the Danites murdered the inhabitants of a peaceful city, something that God had not commanded them to do (the Levite's promise of God's approval in verse 6 was false; idolaters are incapable of hearing messages from God.  See Jeremiah 14:14).  It was because of their evil deeds, such as idolatry and murder, that Israel and Judah were eventually overthrown and taken into captivity.  "A voice is announcing from Dan, proclaiming disaster from the hills of Ephraim.  Tell this to the nations, proclaim concerning Jerusalem: 'A besieging army is coming from a distant land, raising a war cry against the cities of Judah.  They surround her like men guarding a field, because she has rebelled against me,' declares the LORD.  'Your own conduct and actions have brought this on you.  This is your punishment.  How bitter it is!  How it pierces to the heart!" (Jeremiah 4:15-18, NIV).

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Prophecy Against Moab (Jeremiah 48)

The following quote is taken from

"You Have To Kill - "Cursed be he who does the Lords work remissly, cursed he who holds back his sword from blood."  (Jeremiah 48:10 NAB)

You can read the entire chapter here:

            It is important to note that this verse is not a blanket command, given to any and every person in any given situation.  This was a very specific directive given to a very specific group of people: the Babylonian army, whom God allowed to conquer Moab.  Verses such as these must be considered within the passage they appear in, and should not be taken out of context.
            Why was judgment pronounced on Moab?  The Moabites were an ancient nation who were descendants of Lot (Abraham's nephew) and one of his daughters (Genesis 19:30-38).  They were often hostile towards Israel; their king, Balak, hired a man named Balaam to curse Israel because the Moabites felt threatened by them, but God caused Balaam to bless Israel instead (Numbers 22-24).  Shortly after this, the Moabite women enticed the Israelite men into sex and worship of false idols, causing a plague that killed 24,000 people (Numbers 25:1-9).
            Even so, God prevented the Israelites from going to war against Moab later on, because he had given the land of Ar to the descendants of Lot as their possession (Deuteronomy 2:9).  But because of their hostility against Israel, Moabites and Ammonites were not permitted to enter the assembly of the Lord (Deuteronomy 23:3-6).    
            The hostility continued - King Eglon of Moab oppressed Israel for 18 years during the time of the judges (Judges 3:12-30).  Moab battled against Israel during the time of King Joram, and their king, Mesha, sacrificed his own son on the city wall (2 Kings 3).  Moabites raided Israel every spring during the time of the kings (2 Kings 13:20).  In short, Moab and Israel were enemies, constantly at war.
            The reason for Moab's destruction was because they had "defied the Lord" (Jeremiah 48:42).  "We have heard of Moab’s pride - how great is her arrogance! - of her insolence, her pride, her conceit and the haughtiness of her heart" (Jeremiah 48:29, NIV).  Even so, God said that in days to come, he would have mercy and restore the fortunes of Moab (Jeremiah 48:47).  If anyone repents and turns to God, he shows mercy (Jeremiah 18:8).