Why in the Old Testament does God demand so much violence and war of the Jewish nation?
by R.C. Sproul
One of the most difficult episodes for us to handle as people who live on this side of the New Testament are the Old Testament records of what is called the herem. This is where God calls Israel to embark in what we could call a holy war against the Canaanites. He tells them to go in there and wipe out everyone—men, women, and children. They were forbidden to take prisoners and were to utterly destroy and put the ban, or curse, upon this land before they occupied it for themselves.
When we look at that, we shrink in horror at the degree of violence that is not only tolerated but seemingly commanded by God in that circumstance. Critical scholars in the twentieth century have pointed to that kind of story in the Old Testament as a clear example that this couldn’t be the revealed
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Word of God. They say that this is the case where some bloodthirsty, ancient, seminomadic Hebrews tried to appeal to their deity to sanction their violent acts and that we have to reject that as not being supernaturally inspired interpretations of history.
I take a different view of it. I am satisfied that the Old Testament is the inspired Word of God and that God did in fact command the Jewish nation to institute the herem against the Canaanites. God does tell us in the Old Testament why he instituted that policy against the Canaanite people…
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