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.
- 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.
- Daniel 2:47
- Daniel 3:1-30
- Daniel 4:1-37
- Daniel 4:3
- 2 Kings 5:15
- Genesis 15:15, 18-21
- Exodus 17:8-16
- M F Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, Chicago, 1988 revised edition, p 203
- Deuteronomy 28:1-14
- Deuteronomy 28:15-68
People often wonder why the Old Testament is such a large part of the Bible? Does it have any function, besides all the wars, intrigues and the ‘incomprehensible’ prophetic books? The answer has to do with the Good News of God’s Kingdom.
# What is the Good News of the Bible?
- It is simply that we can become part of God’s Family through Jesus’ blood. That means we become God’s blood relatives and will receive ‘an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.’ 1
- What will we inherit? Eternal life, with God who loves us, on the new heaven and earth. 2 It will be a wonderful life of joy, peace and love with food, health, friendship, lodging, safety, et cetera.
- The issue is: how do we know that this glorious fantastic future will become a reality? The answer is in the Old Testament.
# The history of the Old Testament explains the Good News.
- For example, we understand that Jesus was the Lamb of God who died on behalf of our sins, because the Old Testament tells us that a lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the people.
- We understand that Jesus, the last Adam, takes us back into God’s presence, because the Old Testament tells us the first Adam caused us all to be expelled from God’s presence.
- There are many more such explanations and also specific promises in the Old Testament that build our faith in God.
# Three Old Testament promises
- God gave Adam and Eve a promise. The Seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. 3 It refers to Jesus who was born of the virgin, Mary and who defeated the devil on the Cross. 4
- God gave Abraham a promise. Through him all people on earth will be blessed.5 It refers to one of Abraham’s specific descendants, Jesus. He would be a blessing to all people. 6
- God gave David a promise. His throne will endure forever. 7 It refers to King Jesus who sits on the throne at the right hand of the Father. 8
# The Old Testament shows God is faithful.
- God’s promises to Adam, Abraham and David were fulfilled in the New Testament. Without the Old Testament we wouldn’t know that God is completely trustworthy.
- He gave the promises, and despite the devil’s efforts to thwart those promises, they happened: Jesus was born, He was sacrificed on the Cross, He was resurrected. Now He sits at the right hand of God the Father. 9
- The history of the Old Testament covers around 4,000 years. Yet it all converged on Jesus, the focus of God’s plan. If there was no Old Testament record, there was no reason to believe in Jesus or the Kingdom.
The Old Testament proves that God is dependable to the tee. What He promises, will come to pass. When God speaks in Scripture, it will happen. That is why the Old Testament is such a large part of Scripture. It gives us faith in God’s promises.
- 1 Peter 1:4
- Revelation 21:1
- Genesis 3:15
- Matthew 1:21-22; Luke 2:6-7
- Genesis 12:3
- Matthew 28:18-19
- 2 Samuel 7:16
- Acts 2:29-33
- Philippians 2: 5-11
We want to ask an interesting question in this blog: when Jesus was on earth, did He know when creation happened? It is rather logical that He did, as He created the sun, moon and stars, the timekeepers (the New Testament repeats three times that Jesus is the Creator 1). Let’s look at what Scripture reveals.
# Jesus’ references to the age of the earth
- When they questioned Him about marriage, He answered “Haven’t you read…that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female.…” 2
- In Mark 13:19 He said, ‘Pray that this will not take place in winter [the coming persecution], because those will be days of distress unequalled from the beginning, when God created the world….’
# If Jesus referred to the ‘beginning’ twice, did He know when it all began?
- As a Jew, Jesus knew the Old Testament Scriptures very well. To illustrate it, He was twelve years old when His parents left Him, by mistake, in Jerusalem after the Passover. When they went back to look for Him, they found Him in the temple, ‘…sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.’ 3 By the time His active ministry began at the age of 30, He must have known a lot more. The Jewish Scriptures, the 39 books of the Old Testament, provide the date of creation.
# The date of creation
Let’s look what the Old Testament reveals about the age of the earth:
- Daniel’s prophecy in chapter 9:24. Basically the Holy Spirit revealed to Daniel that from the crucifixion of Jesus backwards to the decree to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was 483 years. 4
- The exile in Babylon lasted 70 years. 5
- The times of the kings of Judah were about 390 years.
- It was 480 years from the building of the temple by Solomon till the Exodus. 6
- Backwards from the Exodus to the covenant with Abraham was 430 years. 7
- From Noah to Abraham was 427 years.
- The combined lifespans from Adam to the flood was 1,656 years. Genesis 5:3-32; 9:29; 11:10-26 give the ages of the patriarchs. The genealogies were very important to show the human bloodline of Jesus: born of a woman, Son of Adam, Son of God. 8 (After Jesus the New Testament no longer gives genealogies. When you are spiritually reborn by the Holy Spirit, God becomes your Father. Your human genealogy isn’t necessary for God’s records.)
- If you add up those dates, the creation happened around 4,000 years before Christ. 9
# We live about 2,000 years after Jesus.
- The 4.000 years before Christ plus the 2.000 years after Christ add up to 6.000 years. Therefore Biblical chronology shows that the heavens and earth were created about 6,000 years ago.
- The secular world and many theologians ridicule that date. They accept the findings of ‘science:’ the earth is 4, 5 billion years old.
- Their opinion of Jesus and the age of the earth is the same as that of the teachers of the law, Pharisees and others who called Jesus’ disciples, ‘…unschooled ordinary men.’ 10
The Old Testament reports thousands of years. It does not mention millions or billions of years anywhere. In Psalm 90:4 it is written, ‘…a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by.’ From this it is obvious that the idea of millions or billions of years does not come from the Bible, but from an outside source. Not even eternity is measured in billions of years, because there are no timekeepers in eternity.11
- John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:2
- Matthew 19:4
- Luke 2:46
- Nehemiah 1,2
- Daniel 9:2
- 1 King 6:1
- Exodus 12:30
- Luke 3:23-38
- NB! The above dates are a very abbreviated version according to FN Jones in his book, The Chronology of the Old Testament, Master Books, 1993-2005. There are other similar books like Usher’s and Thiele’s. Since it requires an intensive study, we only summarised the main points.
- Acts 4:13
- Revelation 21:23; 22:5