From Our Inbox: July 2013
In the bible, particularly the Old Testament, God at times orders for the destruction of certain civilizations to the extent which one might call it genocide. However when reading the New Testament we have Jesus who declares us to love our neighbors (including our enemies). It often appears in this instance that there are two different Gods: the Angry God of the Old Testament and the Forgiving God of the New Testament. I was just wondering what your thoughts on this issue were. –K.A.
Thanks for your questions, K.A.! We just posted a resource on this exact question that I think you'll find helpful. The essay, by Old Testament scholar Richard Hess, talks about the genocide in the Old Testament and what we can make of it as Christians. He writes:
Even if the common people of Canaan chose not to join Israel as Rahab and her family, they probably did not station themselves in these forts, as they had been emptied of their armies who went to fight Israel (and faced defeat). Knowing that the Israelites were on their way to attack these forts, the average Canaanite most likely fled to the hills where they hid until the Israelite army had passed. The biblical evidence for this is that the book of Judges knows of no Canaanite extermination. It knows only that there were plenty of Canaanites around in the next generation to lead Israel astray (e.g., Judges 2:10-13).
Neither the biblical text of Joshua nor that of Judges supports any genocide. The attacks on Jericho and Ai were assaults on military targets. The major wars that Israel fought were defensive. Canaanites remained in all regions (Judges 1) and intermarried with Israelites in the following generations. This is the biblical understanding of these battles. The archaeological and extrabiblical textual evidence do not contradict it.
You can read more, including Hess’ take on several other apologetic issues raised in the Old Testament, on The BioLogos Forum.