Bedtime Stories

Someone will say, “That’s so Old Testament! We’ve moved on from there!

Why aren’t we willing to say the same about other issues that are in the New Testament?

This was today’s contribution from the Naked Pastor. Maybe he has a point.

If we, as Christians, try to brush past what happened in the Old Testament, why is it wrong to do with the New Testament?

One of the tendencies that Christians have is to try and discount or brush past those issues in the Bible that we do not understand. It is understandable. How do you defend God having Israel kill all of the Canaanites, including the women and children that is, or allowing them to participate in slavery? The Old Testament is full of God’s chosen people doing some of the most wicked things that we can conceive of. So how do you defend against that? Should you defend against it?

We see genocide occurring today and we call it horrible. Rarely do we do anything about it, but we do say it is wrong. Hitler tried to wipe out the Jews with his genocide campaign and we still see that as wrong and a tragedy and one of the motivators for the country of Israel being created again, so why not have the same outrage when we see God’s chosen people doing the same thing?

We can say it was God’s will so that makes it ok, but that rarely sits well with believers let alone those who do not believe. How many times have people claimed God has commanded them to do horrible things only to be denounced by church leaders? What if this was the case for Israel? What if they had just misunderstood what God wanted and went off in the wrong direction and countless people died needlessly? That would be horrible, but as Christians, we believe that this was a justified act.

When I hear people attacking God on this bases, the emphasis is that women and children were ordered to be killed. How can God be merciful and kill women and children? I suppose that the men being killed off is no that big of a deal, but the women and children were defenseless and thus could not be seen as an honorable kill. Maybe the defenselessness of them women and children is why they were killed. I don’t pretend to understand why they were killed instead of just forced to leave. We can see from the giving of the law and the direction to wipe out all of the peoples that were living there, that God did not want his people dwelling with those who followed other gods and customs. Every time that Israel commingled thoughts and ideas, they fell away from God and sinner. But why not spare the women and children?

If the women and children were to have been spared, they still would have been forced to leave their homes. With no one to protect them or provide for them, they would be at the mercy of anyone they encountered. The children would have been killed or enslaved by the other cultures. We know that Egypt was in need of replenishing slaves. The women would have been raped, killed, and/or enslaved as well. Which outcome is more merciful to these women and children?

What about slavery though? How bad could that have been since Israel participated in that practice as well?

I find it interesting that the first mention of slavery among the chosen people to be in regards of Abraham. One of his slaves was set to inherit all of his property when he died if he had not been blessed with Isaac. Slavery for Abraham was not like what it was for others. His slaves went into battle for him and fought along side of him. That is a big difference than how we see slavery in regards to our recent history. In Exodus, the first reference to slavery is where the slaves to the Hebrew were allowed to participate in the Passover meal if they are circumcised and have aligned themselves with God. Here we have slaves owning slaves, which seems odd and not like slavery as we know it.

Right after the giving of the ten commandments, God addresses slavery and how the people should handle this. The people had just come from a life of slavery, so slavery as they knew it was not allowed among them. Those who were freed from that oppressive life of slavery were not allowed to put others into an oppressive lifestyle. Slavery wasn’t forbidden as it was a part of the culture’s as a way of dealing with debts. Instead of leaving this up to the whim of the slave owner, God set rules up to protect the slave and guide the way this practice was handled. The treatment and life of a slave in Israel was not the same as slavery with European nations. It does not reflect slavery as it is known in the US or the sex slave trade that is going on around the world today. While the word slave is the same, the practice was different.

This is not to say that institution of slavery is a great thing or the way things should be. As Christians we are told not to be in debt to others for we are as slaves to them. We see that those who are poor and living off the support of the state are basically enslaved to them and their life is affected by the will of the programs that they depend on. Slavery exists today in many different ways, even though we do not always see it or call it as such. Not all slavery is the same as those who are slaves to debt still have more personal rights than those who are sold as sex slaves. So while slavery is a bad thing, you can still see it allowed and condoned today.

I am not trying to justify what was done or trying to explain it away as if we can not feel bad about what happened, so please do not mistake this post for that. I am saying that as mere humans, we do not understand the ways of God. We can not understand why He did what He did, but we have to know that if he is merciful then even the most horrible of events has to be more merciful than the alternatives. Our responsibility as Christians is not to justify what happened or try to defend God’s actions. We should try to understand more of what actually happened, but mainly we need to be more thankful that we are no longer under the harshness of the law.

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Filed under Bible, Christianity, Religion

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