Read the Bible carefully and you will interpret it correctly.

Richard Dawkins claims that God is a Cosmic Tyrant because He commanded the Israelites to kill the Canaanites. 1  Others argue that the God of the Old Testament is not the God of the New Testament.

While we discuss the issue it is important to keep a specific aspect of the Bible in mind.  The Scriptures tell us to seek God.  Why?  Because, ‘God reveals Himself in His word, as He does in His works.  In both we see a self-revealing, self-concealing God, who makes Himself known only to those who earnestly seek Him.’ 2  Let’s see how it applies to Jerusalem and the Jebusites:  

# The Jerusalem case   

We can summarise the conquest of Canaan as follows, ‘So Joshua subdued the whole region….  He left no survivors.  He totally destroyed all who breathed.’ 2  Yet when we carefully read the Scriptures, it didn’t happen that fast.  For example,

  • The king of the Jebusites joined Jabin (with other kings) and attacked the Israelite army.  Joshua defeated them.  The Israelites put Jerusalem to the sword and totally destroyed the people. 3  
  • So the king of Jerusalem was conquered. 4
  • Despite the fact that the ‘whole region was subdued,’ the tribe of Judah still had to take in more than 109 towns and villages that were part of their inheritance. 5  
  • Later it says that Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem. 6  That is after the verse that said Jerusalem was conquered. 7   
  • Judges 1:8 tells us, ‘The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it.  They put the city to the sword and set in on fire.’  That was after it was conquered by Joshua and his men. 
  • However, many years later king David fought to conquer the Jebusites living in Jerusalem. 8

#  The question is, how does that work?  

Careful investigation gives the answer.  

  • The Canaanites knew that Joshua and his army were on their way.  Joshua sent spies to inspect Jericho, the first city they conquered in Canaan.  There Rahab hid the spies and told them, ‘I know that the Lord has given this land to you, and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.’ 
  • The Canaanites also knew the history of how God helped his people, because Rahab recited the great acts of God when He delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. 8
  • So it is logical that the Canaanite women, children and elderly fled before the victorious Israelite army.  Later on they probably return to their city, rebuilt it if it was necessary, and lived there again. 
  • The text does not mention that all the towns and villages were destroyed and their inhabitants killed.  It only mentions that some of the main cities were conquered.  
  • After the three main campaigns under Joshua, each individual tribe received its inheritance.  From there it had to secure that inheritance for itself.  Scripture explains, “After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, ‘Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?’” 9 

Conclusion

When you read Scripture carefully, you will not jump to conclusions that are false.  That is what Richard Dawkins fails to do.  We, who love the Lord, need not follow his example.

References

  1. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Bantam Press, 2006, p 36 
  2. J Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, Whitaker House, 1992, p 15. Joshua 10:40  
  3. Joshua 11:12-13  
  4. Joshua 12:10  
  5. Joshua 15:20-62  
  6. Joshua 15:63  
  7. Joshua 11:12 
  8. 2 Samuel 5:6-9  
  9. Joshua 2:8-11  
  10. Judges 1:1

What was God’s design with the Canaanites?

In the former blog we wrote that the Old Testament is necessary to build our faith in God (‘Why the Old Testament is necessary for faith’).  The problem is that some people object.  They deride the God of the Old Testament as a cruel, vindictive, tyrannical and murderous God.  So the question is how to reconcile that aspect of God as part of God’s faithfulness? 

The accusations against God mainly revolve around His commands about the Canaanites.  Deuteronomy 7:1-2 says, ‘…and when God has delivered them [the Canaanites] over to you, and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally.’   

The first issue is whether God hated the Gentiles (the Canaanites were Gentiles)? 

# God did not hate the non Jewish people (Gentiles).  

In the following examples in the Bible, God sent ‘missionaries’ to Gentile nations because He cares: 

  • He sent Joseph to Egypt, where he became second in command below Pharaoh.  Joseph loved the Lord.  It is virtually impossible that his faith escaped the Egyptians. 
  • Daniel was an exile in Babylon where he rose to a very high position.  He was one of king Nebuchadnezzar’s trusted advisors.  The king said to Daniel after he interpreted the king’s dream, ‘Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries.’ 1  
  • On a later occasion, with Daniel’s three friends 2 and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a tree, 3  the king said about the miraculous God, ‘How great are His signs, how mighty His wonders!  His Kingdom is an eternal Kingdom; His dominion endures from generation to generation.’ 4  
  • God sent Jonah, the prophet, to Nineveh to tell them that God will destroy them if they don’t turn away from their sin.  Jonah refused and fled, but via a big fish that  swallowed him, God directed him back to Nineveh.  The people listened and there was a great revival.  God cares for Gentiles.
  • Naaman was the commander of the army of Aram.  He was a valiant man but had leprosy.  A young Israelite girl whom they captured, told him about the prophet who could cure him of his disease.  He travelled to Israel and was cured.  Naaman exclaimed, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.’ 5  Logically he probably told his people and his king that he was healed by the God of Israel. 

God never hated the Gentiles or excluded them from His grace and mercy.  The miracle of the New Testament message is that God will, through Jesus, create one new people out of Jews and Gentiles.  If so, then the obvious question, why destroy the Canaanites?

# Why did God want the Canaanites destroyed?

  • God promised Canaan to Abraham and his descendants, but He allowed the Canaanites 400 years to repent of their immorality, child sacrifice and idolatry.  They didn’t. 6
  • God will always protect His people.  When the Amalekites attacked the Israelites on their way out of Egypt, God promised retribution. 7  
  • God’s first command was that His covenant people would worship Him only.  The Canaanites were not examples of moral living, ‘These Canaanite cults were utterly immoral, decadent, and corrupt, dangerously contaminating .…8  
  • God promised blessings upon the Israelites if they obeyed Him9 and curses if they disobeyed Him. 10   The Israelites agreed to the Covenant.  They knew the decrees of God very well. 
  • The problem is that sin is, simply said, delicious.  To serve the Canaanite gods had some very attractive alternatives, like immorality, debauchery, et cetera.  

Conclusion

  • God wanted to protect His people from the love for other gods that would cause them to reap the curses they agreed to in the Covenant.  God acts like a Father who cares for His children and warns them of possible dangers.
  • Also, we have an examples of the destruction of godless societies all through history.  Nations are given a chance to mend their ways, and if they don’t, they are replaced.  For example, the mighty Roman empire later crumbled under its own unrighteousness.

References

  1. Daniel 2:47  
  2. Daniel 3:1-30  
  3. Daniel 4:1-37  
  4. Daniel 4:3  
  5. 2 Kings 5:15  
  6. Genesis 15:15, 18-21  
  7. Exodus 17:8-16  
  8. M F Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, Chicago, 1988 revised edition, p 203  
  9. Deuteronomy 28:1-14  
  10. Deuteronomy 28:15-68

Does it work to ‘delete’ parts of the Bible?

We live in a divided world.  There are those who reject Scripture as the inspired Word of God.  There are those who accept God’s revelation.  Yet the Bible believers are also divided.  Some believe all 66 books are the product of God (inspired by the Holy Spirit) and some believe certain parts are not inspired.

Scripture is a library of books that tells us all we need to know about the invisible God and His plans.  It has never been updated, neither have some chapters or books been  declared redundant.  It is complete and final – a revelation from God to man about God.  1 Peter 1:24-25 says, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’  Forever!  Wonderful!

#  What happens when you chop and change God’s Word?   

  • Various churches and individuals teach that parts of Scripture are ‘wrong.’  For example, creation in six days in Genesis 1; the first couple, Adam and Eve; the talking serpent in Genesis 3; the world-wide flood in Genesis 6-8, et cetera.
  • The question: what happens when people begin to delete parts of the Bible?
  • The answer: the domino principle.

#  The domino principle

  • Scripture is a tightly integrated unit of 66 books.  They all contribute to the big picture of an invisible God who created a universe, life on planet earth and humans in His image.  His plan is to eventually live on a wonderful new earth with the people who accepted His invitation,.
  • His revelation, the Bible, is like a puzzle in which all the pieces fit together to complete the big picture.  We can liken the books and verses to dominoes that are stacked next to each other.

#  The chain reaction of falling dominoes 

If some one ‘deletes’ parts of the Bible, it causes a chain reaction.  The first domino falls and the rest follow.  Let us look at creation by God in six days.  If this ‘domino’ is pushed over, it causes a chain reaction of one domino after the other that falls.

  • Exodus 20:11, ‘For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them…’  This ‘domino’ affects other dominoes, like all the books that were written by Moses.  If Moses was wrong with Genesis 1, who says he told the truth in the rest of Genesis up to Deuteronomy?  It also deletes the promise of the Redeemer in Genesis 3:15.
  • Deuteronomy 4:32, ‘…from the day God created man on earth….’
  • Nehemiah 9:6, ‘You alone are the Lord.  You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them….’
  • Psalm 33:6, ‘By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth.’
  • Psalm 146:5-6, ‘…whose hope is in the Lord His God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them.’
  • Isaiah 45:18, ‘…He who created the heavens, He is God; He who fashioned and made the earth, He founded it….’ 
  • Jeremiah 32:17, ‘Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm.’ 
  • Jesus referred to the ‘Creator’ and creation more than once. 1
  • Acts 17:24, ‘The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth….’
  • James 3:9, ‘…[men] have been made in God’s likeness.’  
  • 2 Peter 3:5, ‘But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water.’
  • Revelation 10:6, ‘And he [an angel] swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it….’

#  The dominoes that fall eventually cause all of Scripture to fall.

No verse or chapter in the Bible stands alone, so if some one ‘deletes’ one, it affects others:

  • Jesus’ reference to God as the Creator.  If it is not true, then it means we cannot trust Jesus’ words.  Then the reports of the four Gospels are wrong.  They must be deleted.  If you delete the 4 Gospels, all the Epistles and letters based on the four Gospels must go.  If Jesus did not talk the truth, all the prophecies in the Old Testament that He would come are invalid.  Revelation also has to fall, since Jesus plays an important role in it.
  • If Genesis 1 is wrong, then all five books of the Pentateuch are wrong.  Subsequent books that build on it like Joshua, Judges, Kings, Chronicles and others all fall.
  • If Isaiah and Jeremiah were wrong about God the Creator, we have to delete their writings and their references to historical events.

# The result of falling Bible dominoes (teachings)

We see the results in people who leave the faith, because some ‘theologians’ told them that this or that does not belong in Scripture.  Those who leave understand the Falling Domino Principle: if you accept that one part of Scripture is wrong, it starts to erode your faith in the Bible and eventually in God.

#  Conclusion

The Bible is a closely related ‘package’ of 66 books.

  • The option is: believe or reject it.  There is no middle way, no grey area.
  • The issue is: what is the difference between the person who rejects the Bible and the one who is a Bible surgeon who cuts away what he perceives is detrimental?
  • The answer is: nothing!

PS!

We celebrate Easter.  Remember Genesis 3:15, ‘…the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent..’  It became true.  Today we celebrate what God promised almost 6,000 years ago.  Glory to God, the Lamb and the Spirit!

References

1. Matthew 19:4; Mark 13:19