The Bible and ethnic cleansing

Phil Johnson at Pyromaniacs (not the ID Philip Johnson) addresses the tough apologetics question of the conquest of the Promised Land, when the Israelites were commanded to kill all the inhabitants of the land. How can a loving God command the inhabitants of the land to be slaughtered? We are rightly offended by similar actions taken today: the holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia. So how do we answer this? See Truth and Apologetics for a good answer.

The basic answer I have given on this one is:

  1. This was a picture not of Israel’s righteousness but of God’s holy judgment on an exceedingly wicked group of people. We, likewise, are deserving of judgment.
  2. Even in the midst of the conquest there mercy was shown to at least one repentant inhabitant of the land: Rahab the prostitute, who is listed in the genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:5).
  3. The command was limited in space and time and not repeated at any time afterward. Even during the conquest, the command was limited to hostile nations in a specific area. The Old Testament has plenty of counterexamples of commands to safeguard the rights of aliens.
  4. I don’t completely understand, but don’t have to.

Grace and Peace

4 thoughts on “The Bible and ethnic cleansing

  1. I wonder about the idea that in that era tribal wars abounded. It was common for tribes to slaughter each other. And typical Biblical style is taking something from the culture and infusing it with a transcendent view.

    A while back I met a fellow who wrote a lengthy study on this and if I can find the link again I will post it here. I’m glad some folks are trying to deal with this. It gets little attention in church.


  2. geochristian


    Thanks for your comment. Yes, it was common for tribes to slaughter each other back then, though that didn’t always happen. Humans have changed very little in the 3500 years since then.


  3. geochristian


    Thanks for your comment.

    There were crusaders who used passages such as what I referred to as justification for bloodshed, just as there are white supremacists who use the Bible to justify their hatred. This is something we Christians need to be aware of, but you also need to see that the almost universal consensus of the Church is that this twisting of Scripture is wrong.

    Atheism (e.g. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.) has a far worse track record for bloodshed than does Christianity. I’m not saying that atheism leads automatically to mass murder, but I will say that atheism doesn’t have the ethical brakes built into it that Christianity does.

    The much more common outcome of Christianity consists of things like taking care of the sick, downtrodden, persecuted, and poor.


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