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God of Peace, God of War
Authored By : Bill Kochman (aka The WordWeaver)
Published On : April 20, 2012
Last Updated : April 20, 2012
Conquest Of Promised Land By Moses Joshua And Caleb, Jesus Is The Cornerstone, We Are Connected To Ancient Jewish History, Israelites Slew Men Women And Children, Ethnic Cleansing And Genocide By Modern Definition, My Difficulty With Accepting Mass Murder Campaigns Of Ancient Israelites, An Indefensible Argument To Sustain My Position, Practicing Double Standard, Israelites And The Bible Versus The Muslims And The Qur'an, Sharp Contrast Between God Of Love Of New Testament And God Of War Of Old Testament, God Desires Repentance And Healing, New Testament Anti-Violence Verses, Like Two Different Gods, War Against Spiritual Forces And Not Human To Human Combat, By Violence And The Sword Or By Love And Personal Sacrifice, King David Was Man Of War And Not Permitted To Build Temple, Moses Shed Much Blood But Was Permitted To Enter Tabernacle, O.T. Genocide Is An Embarrassing Issue For Many Christians, A Fear Of Rejection And Being Accused Of Being Antisemitic, American Christians Mesmerized By And Drunk On Israel, Reader Reactions, No Room To Show Weakness Or Political Correctness
What you are about to read may shock you. It may trouble you and shake you to your core. It may force you to take a hard look at your own Christian beliefs, and perhaps even cause you to question some of the things which you have embraced for your entire Christian life. If this series does result in giving you a spiritual jolt, then I will have fulfilled my purpose in writing it.
For quite some time now -- I can't say for exactly how long; perhaps for a few years or more -- I have been troubled by, and in a state of inner turmoil, concerning certain events which we find in the pages of the Old Testament. Many of my fellow Christians are no doubt familiar with the accounts which concern the conquest of the Promised Land -- or Canaan -- by the Israelites, under the leadership of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb. Most Christians rarely give much thought to these Old Testament stories, preferring instead to dwell upon the Gospels and the Epistles of the New Testament, and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and His first Apostles. After all, Jesus is the Foundation Stone and the Cornerstone of our Faith, as we can determine by verses such as these:
"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock [meaning Himself] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Matthew 16:18, KJV
"Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?"
Matthew 21:42, KJV
"This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner."
Acts 4:11, KJV
"And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."
1 Corinthians 10:4, KJV
"To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed."
1 Peter 2:4-8, KJV
However, while this is indeed true, at the same time, the fact remains that the Old Testament is filled with Messianic Prophecies concerning the coming Christ, and both Jesus and His Apostles were of Jewish descent. Thus, we are connected to the ancient history of the Israelites, as it is recorded in the Old Testament. In my series entitled "The Psalm 83 War False Doctrine Exposed!", I discuss some of the nations and peoples which the Israelites conquered and subdued as they took possession of the land of Canaan. However, it is exactly how they conquered those nations which troubles me to this very day.
The fact of the matter is that the Old Testament Scriptures make it very clear that the Israelites often engaged in the wholesale slaughter of men, women and children. Sometimes, however, they were permitted to keep the younger girls for themselves. That they did these things is made plain by the following sample verses:
"Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz. And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people. And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain: Only the cattle we took for a prey unto ourselves, and the spoil of the cities which we took."
Deuteronomy 2:32-35, KJV
"So the LORD our God delivered into our hands Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people: and we smote him until none was left to him remaining. And we took all his cities at that time, there was not a city which we took not from them, threescore cities, all the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside unwalled towns a great many. And we utterly destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city. But all the cattle, and the spoil of the cities, we took for a prey to ourselves."
Deuteronomy 3:3-7, KJV
"And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire. And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts . . . Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."
Numbers 31:9-11, 17-18, KJV
Whether you are a Christian or not, I would like to ask you to really stop and think about what those verses are telling us. If some modern nation were to attack another nation, and kill all of its men, women and children, and utterly destroy all of their cities, there would no doubt be a global uproar and international condemnation. That nation would be accused of ethnic cleansing and genocide within the blink of an eye. The United Nations Security Council, NATO and other world bodies would be forced to take action sooner or later, just as they have been doing with the Arab nation of Syria, and its president, Bashar al-Assad, who has been using his armed forces to slaughter Syrians who are opposed to repressive regime.
Yet, at the same time, because these historical events are found in the pages of the Bible, and because we Christians accept the Bible as God's holy, inspired Word, we have been taught that we have no choice but to accept these violent, despicable acts which were committed by the Israelites, as God's Divine Will. In fact, the Scriptures inform us that the Israelites were ordered to carry out these mass murder campaigns by God Himself, through His anointed leaders; that is, Moses, Joshua and Caleb.
Folks, I have been a Christian for my entire life. Ever since I was a young boy I have read the Bible. Like many people of my age, as a teenager, I "officially" accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at a "Jesus House" in San Jose, CA. The majority of the past forty years of my life have been solely dedicated to serving the Lord in one fashion or another. The past eighteen years have been devoted to my writing ministry and online evangelism. Yet, after all of this time, after all that I have done for the Lord, after the many years that I have spent studying His Word, I still remain greatly troubled by the ancient atrocities of the Israelites. They remain one of the most difficult things for me to personally accept in the Bible.
Similar to many other Christians, over the years I have tried to accept these Old Testament accounts of cold-blooded mass murder, and the destruction of entire cities, by the ancient Israelites as God's Will and a part of His Divine Plan. In my endeavors to try to justify these events, I have considered different possibilities. For example, I have thought, "Well, perhaps it was all necessary in order to produce the Savior; but that does not make any sense. I am not convinced that the all-powerful Creator of the whole Universe had to instruct the Israelites to murder thousands or millions of Gentiles, just so His Son could one day be born into the world in the land of Judea. This is an indefensible argument in my view, even though for a number of years I tried to convince myself that it was sustainable.
Do you honestly believe that genocide and ethnic cleansing were necessary in order to achieve God's purpose? I am very interested in your views. If it was okay for the Israelites to utterly destroy men, women and children, and to demolish their cities, then how does that make them -- or us for that matter -- any better than any other heathen nations which do the very same things? Why are we so quick to condemn other nations and oppressive governments when they engage in such despicable acts, while the Israelites are given the green light?
To drive this point home, why could the ancient Israelites kill children with impunity, while if Palestinian suicide bombers do it today, they are immediately labeled as violent terrorists? Why do we accept Israelites killing men, women and children for their God, while at the same time we are so quick to condemn Muslims when they kill people for their god, Allah? Doesn't this seem like a double standard? If we rely upon the argument that it was God's Will for the Israelites to do these things and point to the Scriptures, we run into a major problem, because the Muslims can point to their holy book -- the Qur'an -- to justify killing for their faith as well. So the question that we need to ask ourselves is if it was really God's Will for the ancient Israelites to commit these atrocious acts, or if we have simply been given a bogus bill of sale.
When one reads about Jesus' teachings concerning peace, love and forgiveness in the New Testament, it is not difficult to see the vast contrast between the God of Love which He and the Apostles promoted, who desires that all men repent and be saved, and the God of war and retribution who fills the pages of the Old Testament. As I explain in other articles, such as "The Fruits of Disobedience", "Love, Mercy, Forgiveness and Chastisement: and "Beholding the Evil and the Good", while we are told that God does afflict us when it becomes necessary, it is in the hope that His dealings with us will bring about repentance and healing in our lives. Consider these verses:
"Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"
Ezekiel 33:11, KJV
"It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness . . . For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men."
Lamentations 3:22-23, 31-33, KJV
"And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village."
Luke 9:51-56, KJV
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9, KJV
"And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed."
Hebrews 12:5-13, KJV
So as you can plainly see, the God of the New Testament does not desire to condemn and to destroy, but rather to heal and to save. In contrast, while the God of the Old Testament also displays these same characteristics as well -- at least with the Israelites -- He also appears to be quick to judge, make war, and destroy. As we have seen with the clear examples of the Israelites who utterly destroyed men, women and children in the name of God, quite often this was done without any degree of mercy being shown whatsoever. So again, the God of the Old Testament is painted as a God of War, as we see by this verse:
"The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name."
Exodus 15:3, KJV
In contrast to this picture of a God of War which we find in the pages of the Old Testament, we are given a picture of a God of Peace who desires peace with all men through Christ in the following verses that are found in the New Testament:
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."
Matthew 5:5, KJV
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
Matthew 5:9, KJV
"Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."
John 18:36, KJV
"Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."
Matthew 26:52, KJV
"If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."
Romans 12:18, KJV
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:"
Hebrews 12:14, KJV
"From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?"
James 4:1, KJV
"Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen."
Romans 15:33, KJV
"And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."
Romans 16:20, KJV
"Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."
Philippians 4:9, KJV
"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Thessalonians 5:23, KJV
"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Hebrews 13:20-21, KJV
To me personally, it almost seems as if the God of the Old Testament era is an entirely different God. He does not seem like the God of John 3:16 with whom so many Christians have become familiar. It is as if somewhere between the pages of the Old and the New Testaments, God examined Himself, didn't like what He saw, had a change of heart, and decided that He was tired of His image of being a God of War. So He decided to have a "Divine Makeover", forsook some of His Wrath and all of the merciless killing, and began to promote Himself as a God of Peace instead. I find this rather perplexing.
Now, to add a degree of balance to my previous statements, let me also mention that the New Testament likewise paints God as a God of War. However, there is a clear distinction in how this is presented. As we have seen, in the pages of the Old Testament, the Israelite army is killing men, women and children, burning down entire cities, etc. It is human warfare; human killing human. However, in the pages of the New Testament, what is primarily described is spiritual warfare; Satan versus God, the Angels of God versus the Fallen Angels of the Devil, Jesus casting out demons, etc. As we saw in the previous verses, Jesus in fact admonished against using the sword. He sent a very clear message to Peter and the other Apostles that Christianity was not to be propagated through violence and the sword, but rather through love and personal sacrifice.
The one exception is in the Book of Revelation, where we do see humans engaged in warfare against God. However, what we need to recognize is that this too is actually a spiritual war; because the Beast, the False Prophet and the armies of the nations who follow them are directly influenced by and deceived by the Devil and his evil minions. Consider these verses:
"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."
Matthew 11:12, KJV
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
Ephesians 6:12, KJV
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,"
Revelation 12:7, KJV
"These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful."
Revelation 17:14, KJV
"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh."
Revelation 19:11-21, KJV
So as you can see, this is not human against human, and it is not the same as what the Israelites were doing in the Old Testament with their wholesale slaughter of men, women and young children, and their destruction of enemy cities. As I have mentioned before, what I also find interesting is the fact that during the Old Testament period, although it was not the only reason, God specifically did not permit King David to build a Temple for Him, precisely because he was a man of war, and had shed blood, as we see by these verses:
"Then David the king stood up upon his feet, and said, Hear me, my brethren, and my people: As for me, I had in mine heart to build an house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and for the footstool of our God, and had made ready for the building: But God said unto me, Thou shalt not build an house for my name, because thou hast been a man of war, and hast shed blood."
1 Chronicles 28:2-3, KJV
This makes the picture even more perplexing; because on one hand, the Scriptures inform us that God's chosen leadership -- Moses, Joshua and Caleb -- instructed the Israelite army to mercilessly kill everyone and destroy everything, while on the other hand, King David is not permitted to build the Temple due to the fact that he was a man of war who had a lot of blood on his hands. The Israelites slaughtered men, women and children supposedly by God's order, so Moses had a lot of blood on his hands. In fact, as you may know, on one occasion, when the Israelites were fighting against the Amalekites, they were only winning the battle as long as Moses held his hands in the air, as we see by these verses:
"And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword."
Exodus 17:9-13, KJV
Yet in spite of the fact that Moses had so much blood on his hands, not only was he permitted by the Lord to enter into the Tabernacle -- which was the precursor to the Temple where the Ark of the Covenant was kept -- but he was also allowed to speak with the Lord face-to-face, as we see by these verses:
"And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle. And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle."
Exodus 33:8-11, KJV
In short, even though both Moses and King David were men of war who had blood on their hands, God only seems to hold this fact against King David, who earnestly desired to build the House of the Lord; a project which was ultimately left to his son, King Solomon. Exactly how we are supposed to reconcile these obviously opposing facts, I honestly do not know. Maybe it was because Moses didn't engage in battle directly himself. However, even this assumption is questionable, because just by being required to keep his hands raised in the air, and by directing the battles from afar, there really isn't that much of a difference.
Now, I realize that I am being rather candid regarding this issue, and some of my readers may even be shocked to see me making such statements. Some Christians may even consider me a heretic for seeming to doubt something that is written in the Bible. However, while few Christians will even have the audacity to talk about the ancient slaughters of the Jews -- either because they are embarrassed by them, or just because they don't quite know how to deal with the subject or how to respond to it -- I have no doubt that there are many other God-fearing, Bible-believing Christians who probably have the very same thoughts and questions as I do concerning this issue.
Maybe they simply fear rejection for voicing their concerns, as I have just done here, and so they prefer to remain kind of hush hush about it, and it has become a taboo subject in their church or denomination. Let's face it. No Christian wants to be accused of not believing in the entire Bible as the inspired and inerrant word of God. Furthermore, there are quite a few American Christians who are fearful of being accused of being antisemitic.
As I mention in other articles, I find it rather tragic how spiritually drunk some Christians have become on Israel and the Jews. They bend over backwards to please the Jews, and to demonstrate to them how pro-Israel they are. They have their shofars in their churches, they observe Jewish feast days, they call Jesus by His Jewish name, and they do whatever else they can in order to win points with the Jews. It makes me wonder if these Christians are endeavoring to win the Jews to our Christian faith, or if they are slowly being converted to Judaism instead. If they are not careful, the next thing you know, these Christians will find themselves under the bondage of the Mosaic Law again; which is precisely what the false Jewish brethren were endeavoring to do in the First Century Church as well. I discuss this issue in other articles in considerable detail.
I don't doubt that by making these remarks, and by questioning the "Divine Mandate" behind the bloody battles of the ancient Israelites, where everyone -- including young children -- was mercilessly slaughtered, I will probably receive a few pieces of hate mail, and will more than likely be accused of being antisemitic. After all, as the old saying goes, it is the hit dog that howls. It won't be the first time; and to be quite honest, I simply cannot be concerned with such things. The truth still remains the truth regardless of whether or not people are willing and able to accept it.
If there is one thing which my regular readers should know about me by now, it is that I always endeavor to speak the truth concerning the Scriptures. I do not make it a habit of bowing to political correctness in order to avoid offending my audience. I have a responsibility with the Lord to tell it like it is, regardless of whether or not it is popular and acceptable. There is no room for weakness, and I avoid compromise at all cost.
Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.
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