Redeemed Natures: Chapter Two – Addressing The Old Testament (Part 2 of 2)

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Addressing the Old Testament

(Part 2 of 2)

God’s use of Government to carry out His Will

When discussing this topic, the question always arises:  how do we handle passages in which God blesses, or sanctions, war as carried out by the Israelites in the Old Testament?

This question is extremely important in this discussion, and I will attempt not to skirt the validity behind asking it;  though, I will be upfront like I said earlier, and admit to you that the Old Testament does not, by itself, support the nonviolent ethic I advocate for.  Instead, I believe that it points to it in glimpses of God’s perfect Will amidst these difficult passages, and this Will is made apparent in Christ’s teachings.

I cannot for the sake of length, and for the sake of my own sanity, go through every instance of battle in this section. However, I would like to highlight some passages that would do adequate justice to attempting to answer this valuable question.

Exodus 17:8-13

“8 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.” (ESV)

To begin in our understanding of this passage, we must first recognize that the Israelites at this point were not trained and professional warriors; they needed God’s help.  Moses trusted that God would aid them in battle, and so he devoted himself to the Lord in recognizing this need for help, and raised his arms and his staff throughout the whole battle, with the help of Aaron and Hur when his arms and body grew weary.

This passage communicates both the real intervention of God in Old Testament warfare, as well as the need and call for his people to have faith in Him, and to give Him the Glory.  Moses did not arrogantly think that they could do this without God, or His blessing, he knew that God was absolutely essential to overcoming this early enemy that was trying to crush the people that God desired to lead to the promised land.

Deuteronomy 1:41-45

“41 “Then you answered me, ‘We have sinned against the Lord. We ourselves will go up and fight, just as the Lord our God commanded us.’ And every one of you fastened on his weapons of war and thought it easy to go up into the hill country.

42 And the Lord said to me, ‘Say to them, Do not go up or fight, for I am not in your midst, lest you be defeated before your enemies.’ 43 So I spoke to you, and you would not listen; but you rebelled against the command of the Lord and presumptuously went up into the hill country.44 Then the Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do and beat you down in Seir as far as Hormah. 45 And you returned and wept before the Lord, but the Lord did not listen to your voice or give ear to you. 46 So you remained at Kadesh many days, the days that you remained there.(ESV)

Preceding this passage, is the information regarding how the Hebrews sinned against the Lord.  In verses 19-40, we see that the Israelites were told to go and take possession of the land that God had promised to them, the hill country of the Amorites, and they were hold that they needn’t fear, for the Lord was with them.  Upon exploring this new land, the Israelites became fearful of the fortified cities, and the civilization dwelling there, so they refused to take possession of the land, even though the Lord said that He would give it to them. Because of this, the Lord punished them by saying that because of their disbelief in His mighty power, they were not permitted to enter the land, and were instead told to wander in the wilderness (Deut. 1:40).

It is here where the Israelites, recognizing their sin, decide to go up and fight themselves, relying on the Lord’s previous blessing which they did not trust the first time.  Concerned for His people, the Lord told Moses to tell them to not go up and fight, for the Lord will not be with them.  Moses conveyed this very important message to the people, and they chose to proceed with the conquest anyway, without the Lord’s blessing.  

They did not win this battle, for God was not with them.

Matthew Henry, an 18th century minister and theologian, accurately wrote in his well-renowned commentary of the Bible, that:

“An unbelieving heart was at the bottom of this.  All disobedience to God’s laws, and distrust of His power and goodness, flow from disbelief of His word, as all true obedience springs from faith”(pg. 183)

Therefore, this account conveys the truth of the first account mentioned in this section from Exodus 17:8-13; The Lord’s blessing, and faith in that blessing, is absolutely essential for the involvement in battle.  Without the Lord’s blessing, the army will succumb to the power of the enemy.

1 Samuel 13:8-14

8 He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. 9 So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10 As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. 11 Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, 12 I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” 13 And Samuel said to Saul,“You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”” (ESV)

Like the preceding account, this account indicates that the Lord detests when humanity takes these things into their own hands apart from the Lord’s blessing.  The context of this passage was that the Philistines were preparing for battle, and Saul sought the blessing of the Lord over this battle through Samuel, the Prophet.  But Saul, after waiting the amount of days prescribed by Samuel, took the matter into his own hands on the final day by offering a burnt sacrifice to the Lord which he figured would bless him in battle.  After doing this, Samuel arrived.

The problem was that Saul knew that Samuel would eventually come, but he was scared of the approaching battle so he did not trust Samuel to come in time, and therefore, he did not trust that God would Move in time.  It was then that we read in verses 13-14, that Samuel communicated to King Saul that his kingdom, which would have lasted through his sons, is now going to end with him.  Samuel even informed Saul that God has already selected a new King to come along in due time; one that would honor the Lord (this would be King David).

Habakkuk 1:1-11

“1 The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.

2 “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? 3 Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. 4 So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth.  For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.”

5 “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded.  For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.  6 For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. 7 They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. 8 Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on.  Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour. 9 They all come for violence, all their faces forward.  They gather captives like sand.  10 At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it.  11 Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!”(ESV)

This Oracle, or divine revelation, that Habakkuk saw was foretelling the way in which God would use the Babylonians (Chaldeans) to judge Judah (the lower Kingdom of the ancient Israelites for a time) for its wickedness and violence.  It is in this passage where we see that God used an evil pagan nation to carry out His Will of punishment against the rebellious and destructive Judah.

It is a common thought to assume that God only works through good governments when we read about his involvement in the ancient Israelite governments, as well as when we read Romans 13 and apply it to our own government.   However, it is important to remember that both in this passage in Habakkuk, as well as in the passage in Romans 13, the writers were referring to God using pagan and ungodly nations to carry out His will.

The relevance of this passage to our discussion is that again, we see that God works through Government, and it is Just.  What is peculiar however, and what really aids in the discussion of this topic, is what happens in the next passage we will study.

Habakkuk 2:6-12

“6 Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own—for how long?— and loads himself with pledges!  7 Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble?  Then you will be spoil for them.  8 Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.  9 “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm!  10 You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples;  you have forfeited your life. 11 For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond. 12 “Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity!(ESV)

The Lord revealed this to Habakkuk in response to Habakkuk’s complaint about Judah being punished by the Chaldeans, as seen in Habakkuk 1:12-17, in which he exclaims to the Lord:  “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” (Habakkuk 1:13 – ESV).  The NKJV MacArthur Study Bible notes on this scene state:

“In response to Habakkuk’s second complaint (1:12-2:1), the Lord announced that He would judge the Chaldeans as well for their wickedness. His reply included: 1) the instructions to write it down, as a reminder that it would surely occur (vv. 2,3); 2) a description of the character of the wicked in comparison to the righteous (vv. 4,5); and 3) the pronouncement of 5 woes describing the Chaldeans’ demise (vv. 6-20).” (pg.1319)

Therefore, it is seen that even in specific instances of God using a pagan nation and peoples to carry out His will, they are still to be punished for their wrongdoing, and likely, for their treatment of the people of Judah.  This idea is seen in the Exodus, which we studied before, as we see how God used Pharaoh in the Exodus of the hebrews to carry out His will, and then later punished Pharaoh and his people for doing things as a result of God hardening their hearts.  For another example, Isaiah 10:5-19 speak of God using the Assyrians to carry out his wrath on godless nations, however, he then punishes them for boasting about their conquest.

The conclusion that we can draw from these examples is the repeated element throughout:  God’s blessing over battle, and killing, was essential for these battles to be won, or for these battles to bless the Israelites.

To apply this section to the thrust of my argument, even within this Old Testament understanding, I would not be willing to enter a military that would not have the special relationship with God like the ancient Israelites did (which rules out every modern government) because I would be expected and commanded to enter battles as they come up, without for sure knowing what the will of God is.  And even if I think that I know what the will of God is, I may only be acting on my own desires, as the Israelites did when they sought to take the promised land without the Lord’s blessing, as we studied in Deuteronomy 1:41-45.  Or even if it Is the Will of God for a nation to go to war and capture another nation, they still may be held accountable to God for their actions.  Therefore, to reiterate my point: as a Christian, in trusting God to carry out his Will, I would never want to align myself with a human institution that may force me to violate my allegiance to God.

The Canaanite Conquest

One of the most problematic scenes in the Old Testament is what is referred to as “the conquest of Canaan”, which was recorded predominantly in the book of Joshua.  In reading about the subject, many authors have expressed deep confusion and concern about this passage, choosing instead to call this scene “The Canaanite Genocide”.  

Preston Sprinkle struggles with this conflict in his book “Fight” when he says:

“The most glaring concern comes when the Old Testament sanctions wholesale slaughter of the Canaanites. Israel’s “warfare policy” has raised an ageless ethical problem for anyone who looks to the Old Testament for moral guidance.

For instance, God commands Israel to save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the LORD your God has commanded. (Deut. 20: 16– 17; cf. 7: 1– 2)

God tells Israel to slaughter everyone living within the borders of the Promised Land. We have a term for this sort of thing. We call it genocide.” (Kindle Locations 465-471)

Deuteronomy 20:16-18

“16 But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, 17 but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, 18 that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God.(ESV)

Deuteronomy 20 serves as the initial instruction to the ancient Israelites on how they are to come to possess the promised land, which is carried out throughout the book of Joshua.  In this passage, The Lord commanded the Israelite people to destroy these pagan nations that were dwelling in the land that God had promised to Israel.  This passage is hard to honestly grapple with because God ordered the killing of whole people groups, which doesn’t seem to jive with the message of Jesus.

The traditional approach to this command is the true statement that these pagan nations would corrupt the newly freed Israelites who were still re-learning, or learning, about the one true God after being steeped in a powerful pagan culture for 400 years.  These ancient ancient Israelites were still heavily into idol worship, as seen in the creation of the Golden Calf in Exodus 32:1-6.  They even had the audacity to say of this newly created idol that “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” in verse 4.  Aaron, a main leader, even led them in offering sacrifices to the “god” that they had just created out of the gold jewelry that they had on hand.  To place this new and growing civilization in a land and culture that was just as steeped in paganism as Egypt, would more than likely quickly derail the Spiritual renewal that God was working through Moses to establish.

Eugene H. Merrill, in a book titled “Show them no Mercy: 4 views of God and Canaanite Genocide” which lets each author defend their approach on the matter, says the following:

“The option of making covenant with such people or undertaking marriage with them or even of showing mercy and sparing them for some other reason can never be entertained. They will induce Israel to follow their gods and embrace their abominable forms of worship (7:4). Instead, they and their worship apparatus must be exterminated (7:5). The introduction of Yahweh-war legislation so early in Deuteronomy can be explained by its near juxtaposition to the commandments to have no other gods and to desist from making and worshiping pagan idols (Deut. 5:7–10).” (Kindle Locations 1231-1235)

I cannot deny the truth of dramatic spiritual corruption, or possibly an annihilation of the ancient Israelites by the hand of these nations had God not intervened.   And while I struggle with the concept of God commissioning the slaying of so many, I cannot help but hope that if there was but one person who was redeemable, or who could be redeemed, that God would spare them.  We see this in how he spared Rahab the prostitute and the relatives within her house in Joshua 6:5, as well as when Abraham kept asking God if he would spare the righteous of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:27-33.  Yet still, though the canaanites must have been extraordinarily corrupt, they are human lives nonetheless.

The reason why I struggle with this specific scene from the Old Testament is because I have a New Testament understand of who God is.  As I have mentioned before, the Old Testament does not represent the perfect Will of God, but rather God working with His people at that time, under that Covenant, which was all about getting His people the land, and establishing them as a nation set apart from the world.   On this perspective, C.S Cowles wrote in “Show them no mercy”:

We cannot pretend, as we read these genocidal “texts of terror,” that Jesus has not come. In him we see the complete and undistorted “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). (Kindle Locations 1524-1525)

Therefore, Christ, being the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), as well as representing the fullness of God (Colossians 2:9), is the lens in which Christians should interpret Scripture’s application to their lives.  This implies of course that the Christian should follow the ways of Christ, and adhere to His teachings when they appear to conflict with these troublesome passages in the Old Testament.  John C. Maxwell contributes the following wisdom in his covering of Deuteronomy within “The Communicator’s Commentary” when conveying the use of war in Deut. 20, and warfare in general throughout the Old Testament by writing the following:

“In Deuteronomy 20, war is an instrument of divine policy; Israel could not have survived without it.  But war does not always have the stamp of divine approval.  Even in the Old Testament, David is denied the privilege of building the temple because his hands are stained with blood (1 Kings 5:3).  One of the features of the coming Messianic kingdom is the abolition of war (Isa. 2:4; Mic. 4:3).  That our society today still resorts to war proves nothing except that men are terribly resistant to the grace of God.” (pg. 247)

War is not the perfect Will of God, and while nations may wage war, the Christian should live as an example of what’s to come in the Messianic Kingdom.  It is the Christian’s calling and responsibility to be counter-cultural when Christ calls them to go against the grain.

Conclusion

It is my hope that through the examples and arguments given, that I have handled the question of the Old Testament on this matter honestly.  I do not expect my handling of this chapter to be immediately satisfying to the reader, as this issue is incredibly complex, and has been discussed throughout Church History at various times, and with various unique views represented.  Nor do I view this work as the best contemporary work on the matter.  I merely hope to add to the growing resources that are advocating for a radical interpretation of Christ’s teachings of nonviolence.


Works Cited

Cowles, C. S.; Merrill, Eugene H.; Merrill, Eugene H.; Gard, Daniel L.; Gard, Daniel L.; Longman III, Tremper; Longman III, Tremper (2010-04-24). Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views on God and Canaanite Genocide (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) (Kindle Locations 1231-1235 , 1524-1525, ). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Henry, Matthew. “Deuteronomy 1:19-46.” Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary On The Whole Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997. 183. Print.

MacArthur, John. “Notes on Habakkuk 2:2-20.” The MacArthur Study Bible: New King James Version. Nashville: Word Bibles, 1997. 1319. Print.

Maxwell, John C. “19.” The Communicator’s Commentary – Deuteronomy. Ed. Lloyd John. Ogilvie. Vol. 5. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1987. 247. Print.

Sprinkle, Preston (2013-08-01). Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence (Kindle Locations 465-471, 488-494). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.

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Redeemed Natures: Chapter Two – Addressing The Old Testament (Part 1 of 2)

Click Here to see all the posts in this series

Addressing the Old Testament

(Part 1 of 2)

“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.”  Gen. 6:11 (ESV)

In nearly every instance where the subject of Christian Nonviolence/Pacifism is discussed or brought up, someone in the room has the understandable question: “What about all of the violence in the Old Testament?”.  Their question is reflective of a broader question, which is: how do we reconcile the call of Jesus to love our enemies with the call of God (the Father) in the Old Testament to slay them?

Before I go on, it is important to note that I do not believe that the Old Testament by itself teaches the ethics of non-violence as portrayed by Jesus, but I do believe that the Old Testament is heading in that direction, and because I believe Jesus is God, I interpret all Scripture through his message and teachings.  In his book “Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence”, evangelical pastor Preston Sprinkles says the following on the subject of how to address these hard differences between the Old Testament and the message of the New Testament:

“Not everything in the law was intended to embody God’s ideal ethic— His perfect way of doing things for all people of every age. The law, rather, was intended to meet the Israelites where they were and set them on the right path toward the ideal. Many laws given in Exodus through Deuteronomy, in fact, were not God’s ideal moral code— His Edenic ethic, if you will. Rather, they were glimpses of God’s ideal that would be revealed fully in Christ. In other words, the law of Moses was designed to guide a particular nation, living in a particular land, for a specific time and in a specific culture.  What we have in the law of Moses is a moral code that both accommodates to and improves upon the ethical systems of the surrounding nations.” (Sprinkle – Kindle locations 488-494)

As an example of his argument, Sprinkle uses the issues of polygamy, slavery, and divorce to show how God tolerated His people’s flawed views, but that He also worked to improve them, and how the new testament continues that transformation of culture.  However, as tempting as it would be to just say “Eh, different times, different revelations”, that still would leave too many stones unturned.  Sprinkle recognized this as well, and he did a good job in addressing the hard questions and passages surrounding this argument.

The purpose of this chapter is to attempt to communicate that while the Old Testament does not, by itself, support nonviolence, it does communicate the following: God’s perfect will as revealed in the Scriptures, the way God dealt with the Israelites back then and for that purpose,  instances where things were done that seem to be contrary to that perfect will, and it point us to the full revelation of the nonviolent ethic through Christ.  

I will break this chapter up into five segments:

  1. Starting at the beginning: Cain and Abel
  2. The Great Flood
  3. Egypt, Captivity, and Liberation
  4. God’s use of government to carry out His Will
  5. The Canaanite Conquest

Starting at the beginning: Cain and Abel

The Lord created the heavens and the earth… everything was created to be “good”.  God created a Man named Adam, a Woman named Eve, and they lived together in a perfect paradise of plentiful harvest, and they had the opportunity to live like this for the rest of their lives.  They only had to follow one rule: Do not eat the forbidden fruit.  But we all know the story…they ate the forbidden fruit.

This act of disobedience broke their chances of staying in this perfect paradise, and their punishments for eating the apparently tasty looking fruit made life harder for them.  But God did not break communion with them; He still desired to care for them, and to love them.

Later on in their story, they had two sons, Cain and Abel; Cain worked the fields, and Abel tended to the livestock.  These two desired a relationship with God as well, so they wanted to make an offering to Him of the best things in their respective responsibilities;  Cain brought some of his fruits and veggies, and Abel brought in the best animal he could.  (Gen. 4:3-7)

But Cain’s offering was not accepted…And this is where the fallen nature of man comes in; instead of being distraught that God did not accept this sacrifice, Cain became angry.  This anger is reflective of Cain’s heart at the time;  if Cain truly loved God, he would be upset with himself that his sacrifice was not accepted, and he would plead with God to show him what to do to make it right.   The motive behind his sacrifice must not have been pure, and this is most likely why the Lord did not accept his sacrifice.  And so, Cain’s focus turned to his brother as he became enraged that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted.  This then led to what we all know happened:  the first murder in human history happened when Cain killed Abel in a field out of jealously and rage (Gen. 4:8).

One would think that God would simply smite Cain for what he had done, and the situation would be resolved; after all, Adam and Eve did have many other Children (Gen. 5:3-4).  However, God doesn’t do this, but instead punishes Cain while letting him live:

“9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”  -Gen. 4:9-12 (ESV)

In this passage, God punished Cain by taking away the ease of his labor in working the ground; making it harder for Cain to do what Cain knew how to do best.  This would serve as a regular reminder of the wrong which he had done, along with the second punishment he received, which was for Cain to be seen as a fugitive, and for him to be a “wanderer on the earth”. We see in this punishment that God is neither a God who is unforgiving, or a God who never punishes those he loves; God recognizes the wrong, forgives the wrongdoer, but at that time before Christ, Cain had a real earthly punishment that he had to receive upon himself.

The story could end there, but it doesn’t.  God’s Grace extends even further past what we could imagine when the following conversation between Cain and God transpired:

“13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.” Gen. 4:13-15 ESV

We see here that not only did God spare Cain’s life, but He also protected it from others.  This is undeserved Grace in clear form, and it is in this that we see that although Cain took a life, and according to the Old Testament laws that would come later, he deserved death, God spared his life, and protected it; God boldly declared that even the life of a murderer was worth saving.  

God declared, in this instance, that retributional killing is against His perfect will.  It is in this example that we can see the perfect will of God apart from a culture that had been corrupted by generations of paganism and barbarism.

The Great Flood

I would like to briefly touch on the context surrounding the bible verse that I placed under the title for this chapter.  To refresh yourself, please read it again below:

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.” – Genesis 6:11 ESV

This verse is within the greater context of God becoming disgusted by the evil ways of man, and these ways included their use of violence.  Contrary to all of the rainbows and happy animals that we remember on the flannel-graphs of our Sunday school classrooms, the story of “Noah’s Ark” and the Flood is actually a pretty problematic story for the Christian to consider;  God was willing to kill all of the earth’s inhabitants, except for one family, in order to start over because he was disgusted by the corruption of humankind; their godlessness and their violence.  

Through the earth’s history, we have personally seen how violence begets violence, and how it consumes humanity with its enticing lure for revenge, but that revenge is never quite satisfying.  It is like when we were all children, and we do something to get back at someone if they wronged us, scared us, or whatever it is, and then that person somehow refuses to see that we are now “even”, and they retaliate back.  Violence is an enticing “cure” that never heals, and it can, in many instances, cause even more problems.  

God’s perfect will for the world and its people does include violence.  We see this with Cain, with the Great Flood, and in Revelation when violence is no more…it’s time that we Christians start acting like what God ultimately desires for us to act.  We have the Blueprints, we just keep pushing off the project until a later date…

Egypt, Captivity, and Liberation

Alright, I want everyone to get serious here:  Imagine that your people group has been in slavery for 400 years, and that you have seen the slashes and bruises on your relatives backs and bodies all of your life, and then suddenly, two guys named Moses and Aaron come along and basically tell you, “God told us to go to pharaoh and say “Let my People Go!”.

I feel like after all of that oppression, the Hebrew people desired more of a “bang” than two guys coming back and saying they’d ask Pharaoh, and when Pharaoh said no, God would intervene.  It is kind of like how the Israelites of the first century expected a militant messiah to free them from Rome, and then along came Jesus who had another motive.

In all seriousness, the story of the Exodus is very important in this topic because it informs us that God is more than capable of fighting for His people, and freeing them of their slavery without the need for them to take up arms themselves.  And while at other times, God used Israel in battle and conquest, in this instance, he chose not to.

Here are the plagues that God sent upon Egypt:

  • Water into Blood (Exodus 7:14-24)
  • Frog Infestation (Exodus 7:25 – 8:15)
  • Lice/Gnats/Fleas – depending on how its translated (Exodus 8:16-19)
  • Swarms of Flies (Exodus 8:20-32)
  • Diseased Livestock (Exodus 9:1-7)
  • Boils (Exodus 9:8-12)
  • Thunderstorms of Hail (Ex 9:13-35)
  • Locusts (Exodus 10:1-20)
  • Darkness (Exodus 10:21-29)
  • Death of the firstborn (Exodus 11:1 – 12:36)

At this point, it is important for the reader to note that each of these plagues were administered because Pharaoh refused the request of Moses and Aaron to let the Israelites go each time before each plague struck.  In knowing this, we should also look at the types of plagues poured out, and the order of them.

The first plague is in turning the water to blood.  This killed the fish and other aquatic life, and made a big stink, but otherwise, the Egyptians still had livestock and grain to keep them going.  The second, third, and forth plagues were more of a nuisance than a life altering event.  However, a great nuisance they were, and they got in the way of everyday life.

Starting at the fifth plague of diseased livestock, the plagues begin to become more drastic and life-altering, until finally with the tenth and final plague, God takes away the life from the firstborn of every family who did not have the blood of a lamb painted above their doors.  

FINALLY, Pharaoh lets the people go, and a short while later, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened again, and he ordered his men, chariots, and horsemen to chase after them to bring them back to Egypt.  The Lord put a pillar of cloud behind the Hebrews and the approaching Egyptians as He made a way for the Hebrews to cross the red sea on dry land.  The Egyptians followed, and in the morning, the Lord put a pillar of fire and cloud that caused the Egyptians to panic, and as the Hebrews were making their way across the floor of the sea, the waters came together again where the Egyptians were crossing, and the Egyptians, consumed with rage, perished in the sea. (Exodus 14:15-31)

Throughout the whole Exodus story, not a sword was raised by a Hebrew against an Egyptian…GOD freed the Hebrew people.  And this story not only communicates God’s capacity to work FOR his people, it also communicates God’s divine authority to take life from those who are defiant to His will.

Since I hold the position that I do in regards to believers of God taking life, it is easy to place myself in a box that doesn’t allow for God to take life, or administer justice violently…but I simply cannot do that if I am honestly reading the scriptures.  On this point, I could change my understanding (Lord knows that I would love to be able to write off divinely administered death), but for the moment, I stand in my statement that God has the authority to take life no matter how uncomfortable that makes me. However, even in this example, Pharaoh was given ample time and opportunity to let the Hebrew people go peaceably, and so the Grace of God shines through.  


All Works Cited from parts 1 &2 are posted at the end of part 2.