Jesus, Violence and the Hebrew Bible Introduction


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Jesus, Violence and the Hebrew Bible


Violence in the Hebrew Bible is a silent topic for the most part within the Christian faith. The cruelty and violence that is written about, especially about?-from isn’t the right word…from the people of God, is are almost ignored and demeaned because Christians do non’t know what to do with it. In children’s literature the violence is either watered down to simplistic cartoon violence or ignored all together. In sermons and books the violence is shrugged off and never really specifically addressed. On the other hand, sSome radical Christians use the violence to justify their own violent actionsce. All of this it stems from an inaccurate and misinformed concept of violence in the Hebrew Bible. From a secular view, violence in the Hebrew Bible is usually seen as a tell-tale of what God is like. They dismiss Christianity or Judaism all together because of the seemingly violent God and the description ofwhat his people look like. Thomais Paine speaks from this point of view:

"Whenever we read ... the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize humankind. And, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel”1

Many people on either both sides side of the spectrum take a briefquick look at the stories throughout the Hebrew Bible and conclude that God’s nature is violent and ruthless. Overall it is a confusing, “ordered bundle of biblical theologies which stand in tension with one another.”2

Christianity is a religion based on the followers of Jesus Christ, who claims to be the fulfillment of the Hebrew Bible. Jesus Christ was a character?-person? Or characteristically full of peace and love;, nothing like the seemingly violent and brutal God of the Hebrew Bible. As a result, some Christians have come to the conclusion that the God of the New Testament and the God of the Hebrew Bible are different gGods. This could not be further from the truth. It is evident that the New Testament is a continuation of what is written throughout the Hebrew Bible. The New Testament and especially the ministry of Jesus responds and brings redemption to violence all throughout the Hebrew Bible which conclusively helps bridge the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible as one overarching meta-narrative. (GREAT INTRO-good thesis statement, plus meta-narrative sounds quasi-intelligent .
Violence Rampant In Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible is full of stories that are gruesome beyond most imaginations and stain most narrative chapters. Patrick D. Miller says that “one cannot simply call the theme of violence unimportant without in effect dismissing the Old Testament.”3 The stories of war, rape, murder, genocide and blood sacrifices are hard to miss in almost every story the Hebrew Bible has to offer. There are a few that are worth mentioning explicitly to explain and exemplify whatthe kind of violence that exists in them. they consist of (rephrase-shouldn’t end with of..). The Hebrew Bible beginsstarts with a narrative story of the creation of the world, and humanity. Soon after creation, humanity is tricked into sinning by Satan? and this separates them from God. The next major event, in the fourth chapter, is the story of Cain and Abel. Within eight verses of the fourth chapter, eight verses after sin has entered the world, Abel is dead and Cain is the first of many murderers. The rest is blood-filled pages of detestable violenceoooh, good sentence . Furthermore, God completely wipes out destroys all of humankind except a small remnant with a flood; it could be considered the first genocide in the Hebrew Bible. Soon after this the narrative tells of wars of surrounding nations and Abraham’s involvement in rescuing Lot. However, the pace begins to pick-up at the end of chapter fifteen.

“On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river [d] of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates- the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”4

It sounds innocent enough with a brief glimpse but Ffrom this verse begins Israel’s pursuit for their promise land by seemingly any means necessary; especially violence. In fact, to this day, thousands years later, Israel still loves and fights for this land promised in the Hebrew Bible.

There are two major sources forof violence in the Hebrew Bible. The first is the ongoing pursuit for the promise land by Israel and the demolition of anything that stands in its path. Most nations that were destroyed (rephrase!) were because God commanded by God himselfthem to be and any mercy seems to be looked down upon as disobedience. For instance, when God told King Saul to destroy the Amalekites completely, Saul kept both the King alive and some cattle alive,; not direct mercy, but mercy nonetheless. Since Saul did not submit to God’s command of complete destruction of all that was living, he was considered disobedient and lost his kingship.5 Although it should be noted that “war was for them a natural-if unpleasant-part of the world in which they lived.”6 Throughout the Hebrew Bible God gives direct instructions on how to destroy nations completely, leaving not even women and children alive. God is directly commanding violence all throughout the Hebrew Bible to accomplish his promise to Abraham. The other source of violence is directly related tofound by God himself in punishing the evil doers. There are plenty of examples of this violence starting with the flood7;, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah;,8 the torturous and fatal plagues in Egypt;,9 the order from God for Israel to kill three thousand their own people,10 the countless innocent animal sacrifices commanded by God;, the death penalty instructions for breaking laws as simple as the Sabbath or dishonouring parents;, deaths by God brought on because of accidental or intentional improper sacrifices before God and the complete genocides of several nations including women and children and hundreds of other instances too numerous to mention. (wow, that is a long sentence…should you break it up? Or if it is a list, it should be separated by semicolons…) . Thus, sStory after story leads one to conclude that the Hebrew Bible deals with nothing less than a volatile, violent and ruthless God.
Love a Textual Theme in the Hebrew Bible

However, there are also many instances in the Hebrew Bible that points to God’s loving and compassionate attributes, as well as and his goodness. All throughout the Hebrew Bible Israel is given certain commands to follow by God for their protection and separation. Time after time they disobey and get themselves in trouble and it is God that comes to the rescue. The Psalms are full of praises to a merciful and compassionate God. Most of the concepts of God being both loving and compassionate are textual manifestations or prayers and not actual narratives. (I don’t know the difference between a textual manifestation and narrative, I’m assuming the prof will though-otherwise explain) They do exist however, such as God using Moses to rescue the IsealitesIsraelitesm out of the slavery of in Egypt.11 The Psalms are honest prayers from God’s people(peopleone or two people? Just a question from me…how many people wrote the psalms?); there would be no reason to write that he is merciful, compassionate and good unless they had some reason to think it. God is always being patient with Israel and working with them to get his will? (I don’t like ‘things’) things done. He allows them to speak their mind and compromises as much as his character will allow-neat. He allows Rahab to live even though by her nationality she was sentenced to die with the rest of her nation.12 He keeps to his promises all through the Hebrew Bible and continues to love his people. So what does one do with such a wide spectrum of actions and characteristics of the same God? The New Testament has not even been considered yet. Many seem to just focus on the negative dismissing God as a violent, insensitive, egocentric deity. Just as many blind themselves to all the violence that does exist and think of him as simply a nice, kind, compassionate and loving God. Neither view does justice to what the Hebrew Bible represents. (oooh, I can’t wait to read more, I’m intrigued..)   

New Testament’s Message

Jesus and the New Testament on the other hand portraygive a picture of compassion, love and grace. Everyone is included in the salvation plan, and not simply just the Israelites. Jesus was (should this be is-present tense?)is considered a reflection of who God was is and was and is (is?) even accepted to be God himself. The story of Jesus dying on the cross is for the salvation of the entire world. This is Qquite the opposite of God giving genocide commands to give Israel land and punish evil-doers. However, some look at the apocalyptic prophecies and judgements in the New Testament as a picture of a violent God, and even a violentce Jesus. HoweverConversely, it would notn’t be correct to view it this way. Jesus and the New Testament writers never talked about judgement as if it was the end or the last word; rather he spoke of it as a new beginning. Walter Wink explains:

“The penitential river of fire was not to consume but to purify, not annihilate but redeem (Luke 15:1-31; 18:9-14). Divine judgement is intended not to destroy but to awaken people to the devastating truth about their lives. Jesus seizes the apocalyptic vision of impending doom and hurls it into present time, into the present encounter with God’s unexpected and unaccountable forgiveness. Judgement no longer is the last crushing word on a failed life, but the first word of a new creation.”13

This concept of judgement and how to view it is crucial in understanding how Jesus and the New Testament writers take physical Hebrew Scripture language and redeems it for the Kingdom of God. (you are brilliant, and it’s only page 3) 

Why Reconciling NT and HB is Important

Reconciling what seems to be a sharp dichotomy-I love this word! You’re hot right now… between the Hebrew Scripture’s message the message of the New Testament is vital to the foundations of Christianity. (great intro sentence) According to Christianity, the message of Christ is based on, fulfills and stems from the Hebrew Scriptures as a whole. Every Most Christians that subscribes to the fundamental teachings agreeagrees that the Bible is one complete book, Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament, talking about the same God accomplishing his purposes throughout its entirety. To separate the Hebrew Scriptures, like some early church thinkers decided to do, is to separate the story of Jesus Christ and render it insignificant. To separate it would also cause the Hebrew Scriptures to have no ending, thus causing it to lose importance significance. To defend the Christian faith, one mustneeds to accept that the Hebrew Scriptures God is the same as the New Testament God. There cannot be two different gods. The Hebrew Scriptures as they are needs to be accepted as a whole because as of scholarly research would suggest that it is similar if not exact to the scriptures that Jesus Christ himself read. Miller states that, “the language and imagery used in these passages was one of the principle factors why some early Christians, most notably Marcion, rejected the Old Testament as Christian Scripture.”14 Thus, tTo simply dismiss the Hebrew Scriptures as not speaking of the same God, as did Marcion, is to not do justice to Christ’s message at all.

Understanding war and violence in the Hebrew Bible is vital to society everywhere because so many governmental foundations were originally based on biblical principles. Many wars, crusades and murders are performed done? in the name of biblical traditions because of lack of understanding in what they are doing there or what they are suggesting their meaning. By bringing the New Testament and the message of Jesus into the category of scripture with the Hebrew Bible, it will make redeem of many disturbing passages in the Hebrew Bible and bring reconciliation and redemption of these texts with the lives of those that read, study and base their lives of them.
4 Theories That Exist

There are a few theories in the Christian faith that try to make sense of all this theviolence while keeping in mind that it is supposed to be the same God that sent Jesus(rephrase)! violence. Four different theories that are represented by C.S. Cowles, Eugene H. Merrill, Daniel L. Gard and Tremper Longman III in Show them No Mercy, 4 Views on God and Canaanite Genocide summarize fairly significantly the four existing views in the Christian faith. The first view by C.S. Cowles is one that makes the most sense to the sympathetic reader but does not do justice to the Bible as a whole. When his view is all said and done hise main argument is that the Hebrew Bible cannot be fully trusted. He argues that Israel was no’t actually acting on what God commanded but what they thought he commanded-huh???rephrase and thus created text that was not actually true but only what they thought was true..15 This view is not helpful to the Christian or even Judaic faith which believes that what is written in the Hebrew Bible is inspired, true and infallible. To successfully argue these points one needs to keep the continuity between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. The second view by Eugene H. Merrill tries to justify the violence in the Hebrew Bible by these four reasons: “(1) the irremediable hardness of the hearts of its victims; (2) the need to protect Israel against spiritual corruption; (3) the destruction of idolatry; and (4) the education of Israel and the nations as to the character and intentions of the one true God.”16 (do you need numbers?) He concludes that the Canaanite genoicedgenocide was a righteous and holy act because of these reasons. However, these four reasons also do not do justice to war in the Hebrew Bible. All throughout the Hebrew Bible God shows his power by being able to harden the hearts of those he pleases.17 To claim that this kind of violence was necessary because their hearts were too hardened, is to place the blame potentially right back on God himself. If violence was necessary because of Merrill’s second point, it also didn’t seem to work very well-rephrase…maybe “ this does not adequately explain the issue”?. because Israel was just as corrupt as any all the other nations around them. The Hebrew Bible is full of stories thatand laments of how corrupt Israel’s corruption really was, so the outward violence toward on the other corrupt nations did no’t work to save them from internal corruption. If the violence was necessary just to destroy idolatry it also was not a very good successful attempt because Israel was full of idolatry that God continually reprimanded them for. Finally, Merrill’s last point does not hold ground when reading throughout the Hebrew Bible. No education was given to the other nations when they were exterminated from existence. They were slaughtered and in some cases with no reason but simply because they were in Israel’s way. The only education that Israel, or the other nations, would have been given was that of a violent God who wants his own way and who favours one nation over another. If this is righteous and holy, then no wonder Jesus’ message stood in direct contrast to that of the Hebrew Bible.

In addition, tThe third and forth theoriesy do not do aid in clarifiying the violent a very good job of making sense of the genocides either. Daniel L. Gard’s view, which is the third, helps in many ways explain why holy war or genocides exist at all in the Hebrew Scriptures, but fails to give valid reasons as to how these genocides should not exist anymore besides saying that they did not have permission from God. .(run on sentence) Anyone can claim permission from God to commit murder, and worse yet, genocide; that is why an unmovable theological conclusion needs to be made that genocide is no longer part of how God operatesworks. The forth view by Tremper Longman III is a difficult one to grasp because of his dismaying conclusion that genocide or “herem warfare was worship.”18 However, he also provides interesting data and research that help prove some vital points in the task of explaining violence throughout the Bible. It would be redundant to explain how considering genocide as a valuable form of worship would be a disaster in any religion. All four views add a strong voice to the discussion of violence and genocide throughout the Bible, but all of the fall short of the complete picture. There are parts that will be helpful while constructing a valid argument, but one must still do just that and not be satisfied with any of those views. A fifth view would be in order.

Comprising a fifth view is a difficult task if one wants to be honest with both themselves and the text. Many questions are seemingly left unanswered and sensitive nerves are touched because it is addressing the death of innocent human lives. Thus, tThe fifth view borrows concepts from the first view but comes to a different conclusion and as a result takes a different path to get there.

A few assumptions must be asserteddisregarded thrown out to accurately access a new view. First, genocide and mass killings throughout the Hebrew Bible were not seen as joyous acts because they were taking life. There was joy from the victories won but surely not because other human life was being destroyed. Susan Niditch brings up this point in her book,

“A Rabbinic tradition relates that God’s ministering angels sought to chant in jubilation after the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea.  Their song, however, is stayed by God.  “The work of my hands has drowned in the sea and shall you chant songs?” God does not “rejoice in the downfall of the wicked” (bMeg 10b; bSan 39b).  In the eyes of the Rabbis, the Egyptians deserve their fate, but they too are God’s creations, God’s children…the joy experienced in the liberation of one’s own people, a victory made possible by God’s war against an oppressive tyrant, is tempered by sorrow for the enemy.” (Niditch 150)

This needs to be stated to show that Israel was simply not just on a rampage killing whomever they wished. The focus was never on the glory of war itself and all its glories, instead all through the Hebrew Bible it is obvious that the focus was on the instrumental value of war and how it accomplished God’s purposes of giving the promise land to Israel.19 There was deep grief in killing off those created in God’s image by those doing the killing and God himself. Loraine Boettner helps put it into example through some examples:

“There is, however, in the Scriptures no glorification of war or of the warrior as such.  On several occasions the Israelites were refused permission to take booty or to glory in their achievements.  David, the foremost warrior in the Old Testament, was forbidden to build the temple of Jehovah because he had shed so much blood.  War was looked upon as a grim and terrible necessity in the hands of God for the restraint and punishment of national sins.  It was to be avoided if possible, and it was never to be glorified.”20

This does not answer the question of why it existed or how you can connect it with the Jesus of the New Testament but it does give a starting point by eliminating a senseless and ruthless society known as God’s people. Understanding why war existed with Israel is something that is a bit harder to understand.

State of Israel

“War was a normal state in the ancient world of the Near East.”21 It was inevitable that Israel would be a fighting nation. The land that they were convinced they were promised was strategic land for all the surrounding nations around them. They never even ownedhad the land in the first place, they had to run out, kill or destroy the people that already occupied the land. Peter Craigie, a scholar on violence in the Hebrew Bible pushes this point in saying that “it is evident that without the use of force the state of Israel would not have come into existence.”22 In that time, war was how you accomplished anything. So Israel was technically like everyone else. Yet, they attributed their violence to God, either by command or direct intervention. Kingdoms can only exist through war. No physical kingdom will ever thrive stay alive by being nice and non-aggressive to everyone around them. and being non-aggressive. (What about Canada..hahaha) War though was the way that God chose to act through humanity, it was not perfectly necessary but it was decided upon. God was acting through humanity at that time and war was “emergency measures evoked by human sin.”23 Whether or not God asked Israel to fight, or not they still would have been involved in war and they still would have been killing. Israel responded to God’s allowance and participation in violence powerfully and was able to stand up for themselves in a world that was conquering each other all around them.24 In many ways when Israel is violent “human wickedness is allowed to be seen as what it is in order that God’s dealings with Israel may be properly understood.”25 Israel’s violence is natural in that time and God is working with them in their time and in their context. Gradually, their context changed and so did the ways that God worked with and through them. As Wood states ““the sacred texts of the ancient Israelites and of the Early Christians are ambiguous about war because they faithfully reflect the deep ambiguity felt by those struggling to relate their faith in the Lord of history to the brutal realities of inevitable and pervasive conflict.”26

Gradual Revelation of Israel, Understanding Violence in the HB

Israel, noticeably through its documents, was constantly falling in and out of a relationship with God and war “grew out of an effort of the Israelites to relate their faith in Yahweh the Lord/King/Warrior to historical realities.”27 The reasons for the wars and violence seen all throughout the Hebrew Bible cannot easily be summarized. However, one can attempt to explain but the motivation behind Israel’s participation can be. John Wood elaborates, “If the possession of land makes a nation of the people of God, then Israel’s wars were designed to pave the way for the fulfillment of her destiny.  Thus, Israel’s motives were not those of greed, desire or exploit, but sprang from the conviction that the land was hers by right.” 28 It is also important to note that war descriptions and violence descriptions were never to glorify or highlight certain men or nation’s strength. In fact it was quite the opposite; “Warrior-god traditions are revelatory, but they reveal the splendour of God, not of war.”29 Another way to understand it is that ““Israel’s wars can be conceived as an agency which God made use of at one time for his own purposes and without in any way sanctifying the participants.”30 If these events happened in today’s society today, perhaps the writing and the focus would be different. Richard Sklba explains that “in another age different symbols could have been used to express this but the ever-present military facets of Israel’s life in Canaan provided a readily available and extremely apt metaphor to the writers to express God’s power.”31 War was neither glamorous nor looked forward to, but to the Israelites, was a natural and logical step to follow their God in their culture. Walter Wink says that “God was working through violence to expose violence for what it is and to reveal the divine nature as non-violent…only by being driven out by violence could God signal to humanity that the divine is non-violent and is opposed to the kingdom of violence”32

God was not interested in simply giving commands to the Israelites for them to follow through with but instead he wanted to have a relationship with them and work with them to accomplish the promises that he gave them. This is difficult for God to do because that means divinity needs to interact on a constant basis with humanity. This is never a clean mix, and it is bound inevitable that anyone looking at the relationship would be misleadmisled. Wood brilliantly explains this relationship and what it would look like:

“To act in history means that Yahweh works in the world as it is, not as if in some ideal world.  At times Yahweh intervened in Israel’s behalf through some miraculous act in nature.  But more often, humans beings were the means whereby he accomplished His purpose, because to work in the world requires that human means be employed…..In a complex and sinful world could there be any other way?  Since so much of history is the history of warfare, if God is involved in history, he must be involved in some degree of warfare.  There is no escaping this conclusion given the Biblical understanding of the nature of God.  ”33

One might argue that if God was fully in character than he could find a way to work out everything without using violence. This ideal though works against any sort of free will concept of humanity and almost eliminates any role that humanity could play in it. God working out his plan can be clearly seen throughout the entire Christian Bible. Israel is a key part of this plan and has a particular role. What is evident throughout the Hebrew Scriptures is the gradual and continual process by which God uses and works with Israel of who war is aan indispensable part of their culture.34 The violence of the Hebrew Bible was necessary to for the gradual understanding of the meaning of violence and for God’s plan to be accomplished and seen.35

Israel Same as Everyone Else and Fails Like Everyone Else

It would be incorrect to think that Israel was any purer of a nation or that they somehow were a better nation. What should be pointed out is that “idolatrous nations showed more compassion toward defeated enemies that the Israelites did.”36 Israel was in equal standing before God as all the other nations. Cowles comments that the “Canaanite genocide was executed by fallible and sinful Israelites as prone to idolatry, disobedience, and wickedness as the people they destroyed.”37 Israel had a different part in God’s plan but certainly did not have a different standing with God. Israel was chosen as a nation to accomplish a mission, but it was obvious that as a nation they never completed it (I don’t like that it ends with ‘it’. They were supposed to be a blessing to all nations but instead they only magnified the sinfulness of humankind by their inability to stay in covenant with God or follow his commands. It was Israel’s job as part of the covenant to be a blessing to all nations38 and to fully obey God.39 As the prophets and narratives show, Israel failed miserably at all of its jobs. It is this point where the New Testament must enter into the dialogue.comes in

. (I’m learning so much!)

Jesus Christ as Climax of Israel and Responds to Violence

Jesus Christ, as seen in the New Testament, is considered to be the climax of Israel’s life. He alone accomplished what Israel as a nation was supposed to accomplish. Thus, hHis life summed up Israel’s life. Israel was able to accomplish its tasks of being a blessing to all the nations but only through Jesus Christ. It seems that with time also that Jesus gradually understood his mission from being to just Israel to eventually all of mankind.40 Underlying this process is an understanding that the treatment that others received from God’s people was being reversed. With this in mind, it is evident that Jesus responds to a lot in the Hebrew Bible, but more specifically Jesus and the New Testament writers respond to violence and violent traditions throughout it.

Slaughter of the Canaanites vs. Story of Canaanite Women

One of the most quoted stories to prove the brutality of violence throughout the Hebrew Bible is that of the slaughter of the Canaanites.41 The list of reasons that scholars have come up with for why such a command or promise is given is too numerous to mention. They range from being the inevitable outcome of a promise, to following the natural way of their society, to being a misrepresentation of what God actually said, to finally being a call to herem or holy war. No matter what view one holds, it is obvious that such a command is brutal and seemingly unnatural for a caring and loving God. If left with simply the Hebrew Scriptures it becomes difficult to understand a caring and compassionate God. Without the New Testament we are left with an unanswered dilemma of God being violent and ruthless with no hope for change.

The New Testament, specifically Matthew, arguably responds directly to the slaughter of the Canaanites that helps bring the hope of Jesus’ message even to the condemned Canaanites. Grant LeMarquand has an unpublished paper on this topic that is beneficial to help bring an understanding to this idealprinciple. In his paper he argues that “Matthew deliberately invokes the story of Israel’s conquest of Canaan in his re-telling of the story of the encounter between Jesus and the women from regions of Tyre and Sidon (15:21-28)”42 The interaction that Jesus has with the Canaanite women is significant because all throughout the Hebrew Bible the Canaanites are the enemies of Israel. Canaanites were the ones that Israel was supposed to stay away from because any contact with them could cause them to stumble and lead them into idolatry. The Canaanite woman is not just another sinner that Jesus interacts with but a symbol or representation of Israel and God’s enemies.43 It is also significant that the story of the Canaanite women takes place directly between the two stories in Matthew of Jesus feeding the multitudes44 since many people point to those stories having similarities two the Exodus narrative. More specifically the first feeding has twelve baskets left over which matches with the twelve tribes of Israel.45 As LeMarquand so beautifully explains, the second feeding has baskets left over too, and certainly there must be symbolism in the second. LeMarquand in speaking of this continues:

“Although the Hebrew Bible contains several different lists of nations slated for extermination and subjugation in the conquest, Deut 7:1 is explicit that the number of the nations is seven…it could be that the completeness envisioned is the completeness of the Canaanites’ opposition to Israel and Israel’s God. In any event the number seven does seem to represent the completeness of the Canaanites in some unspecified way.” 46

It is obvious here that Matthew is trying to make a theological statement. He is showing that not all hope is lost for the Canaanites and all Gentiles. Admittedly, this story of the woman gives no reason for the slaughter of the Canaanite, but it does bring great hope for their future. While the command in Deut 7:1-4 is for Israel to utterly destroy all seven nations of the Canaanites so that Israel will inherit the land, which happens to be full of bread;47 the second feeding says that all these nations will be fed and not forgotten. It is very likely that this story is directly opposing and acting in reversal of the genocide mission.48 While the mission to the Canaanites was to “show no mercy,” the Canaanite women directly asks Jesus to “have mercy” on her. Matthew is completely changing the genocidal message of Deuteronomy to an inclusive message of salvation, to even the worst of nations. The story ends with the Canaanite getting what she asked for and mercy granted to her. The biblical story also leaves us not with an unfinished or fatal story for the Canaanites but one of redemption and salvation that wouldn’t exist without the New Testament. (beautifully written-entire page!)
Acts vs. Levite Slaughter

Another parallel that should be noted is between the slaughter of three thousand by the Levites commanded by Moses49 and the salvation and baptism of three thousand on the Day of Pentecost.50 When Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai with the stone tablets with the law written on them he sees the Israelites worshipping a gold calf and acting out of control. He rallies up those that were for the Lord and commanded them to slaughter their own. As a result, three thousand people died when the law was given to Moses. Paul in the New Testament constantly refers to the law being one of sin and death and he argues that the law, while being good and holy, brings only death because no one is able to live under it perfectly.51 The first day that the law ever existed with Israel proved Paul’s writings to be true, because three thousand people who were receiving the law died because they did not follow it completely. Paul also says that while the law brings death that the Spirit brings life not just spiritually but to the mortal body.52 The salvation that is witnessed in Acts 2 is a spiritual one. The text says that three thousand souls were saved. The first day that the Spirit was ever introduced, there were three thousand souls that were saved. The parallel is clear. Luke in writing Acts is trying to communicate that the new covenant and the gospel message is different. It is a message that saves those that were lost and were once dead. The three thousand that were killed that day will not be forgotten because this is not a physical renewal but rather a spiritual one. The New Testament message acts subversively to the Hebrew Bible message of violence but not by simply making up whatever it wants but rather to what the Hebrew Bible was pointing to all along or as Jesus put it, not to abolish the message of the Hebrew Bible but to fulfill it.53


The Hebrew Bible in many ways cannot be accurately understood or assessed without the message of the New Testament. This is especially true for the presence of violence all throughout the Hebrew Bible. At almost every instance when a violent or destructive motif is made known, it is redeemed and changed by a Christological motif. 54 The Hebrew Bible’s message and story is about a nation that started with Abraham and a promise. It was a promise for land, to be blessed, to be a great and for everyone to look at them as God’s people. The text is full of Israel’s struggle to be that, God’s discipline to helping them achieve that and the obvious failure of their ability to do so; that is the entire Hebrew Bible. To end the story there does not leave one with a complete picture of God. Fortunately, the story does not end there. Jesus Christ acts as the climax of Israel’s life and accomplishes their taskdoes their job. He completes what they could not and saves them along with it. This was not a physical salvation from Roman oppression which many hoped for, but instead it was a spiritual salvation. Now Israel was free from the inability to keep the law that brought death and they were free with everyone else, including those that were enemies before. The New Testament accurately depicts a new way of living that is subversive to the Hebrew Bible stories of how the Israelites acted with their God. Jesus flipped everything upside down, instead of acting violent to try to achieve God’s promises he received violence on the cross and that brought redemption to all.55

The New Testament takes a physical Kingdom of Israel and converts it into a new kingdom, called the Kingdom of God. The physical kingdom progressed and achieved what it would by old covenant ways of violence; the only way that humanity could understand at that time. As Gerd Ludemann so accurately sums up: “If in the Old Testament faith was also oriented on a picture of God as a successful warrior for Israel (cf. Isa 7:9 [in the Syro-Ephraimite war], “If you do not believe you will not be established’), for Jesus it is oriented on individuals and the unconditional promise of salvation to them, and on the experience of healing of body and soul.”56 The new kingdom is progressing because the old kingdom was overcome by the ultimate violence that was pointed to Jesus Christ. All of Tthis does not bring a full complete understanding of why violence existed and inhabited so much of Israelite history, but it does bring hope for their future and a way of living that does notn’t discredit the Hebrew Bible but fulfills and extends its meaning.


Benedict, Marion J. The God of the Old Testament in Relation to War. Bureau of Publications: New York City, 1927

Bergant, Diane. Peace in the Universe of Order. in Biblical and Theological Reflections

Bergant, Dianne. Yahweh: A Warrior God? The Bible Today. May 1983

Boersma, Hans. Violence, Hospitality and the Cross; Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition; Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, Michigan; 2004

Boettner, Loraine., The Christian Attitude Toward War.  Presybyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 1985

Carey, George L. Biblical-Theological Perspectives on War and Peace. The Evangelical Qaurterly 57, 2 (April 1985)

Chapman, Colin. Holy War. in Zondervan Hanbook to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999)

Cowles, C. S., Eugene H. Merrill, Daniel L. Gard, and Tremper Longman III. Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views on God and the Canaanite Genocide. Edited by Stanley N. Gundry. Counterpoints. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

Craigie, Peter C. War, Idea of, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia IV, ed. By G.W.Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988)

Craigie, Peter C. The Problem of War in the Old Testament. William B. Eermans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978

Craigie, Peter, Yahweh is a Man of Wars, Scottish Journal of Theology 22. 1969

Culliton, Joseph T., ed. Non-violence – Central to Christian Spirituality Persepctives from Scripture to the Present: The Edwin Mellen Press: New York, 1982

Derrett, J. D. M. Law in the New Testament: The Syro-Phoenician Woman and the Centurion of Capernaum. Novum Testamentum 15. 1973

Eller, Vernard; War and Peace, from Genesis to Revelation; Herald Press: Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 1981

Gruyter, De. Divine War in the Old Testament and in the Ancient Near East; Walter de Gruyter: Berlin, New York, 1989

Gundry, Robert H. Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982

Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G. Sacred violence and "works of law: "is Christ then an agent of sin?" (Galatians 2:17). Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 52 Ja 1990, p 55-75.

Husted, Heidi A. When the gospel goes to the dogs. Christian Century, 117 no 23 Ag 16-23 2000, p 829.

Janzen, Waldemar. War in the Old Testament, Mennonite Quarterly Review 46 (1972)

Jones, Gareth Lloyd; Sacred Violence: the dark side of God; Journal of Beliefs & Values, Vol. 20, No. 2, 1999

Judemann, Gerd. The Unholy in Holy Scripture: The Dark Side of the Bible. Wesminister John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky. 1996

LeMarquand ,Grant; Re:The Canaanite Conquest of Jesus (Mt 15:21-28).” 10 Oct, 2005

Lind, Millard C. Yahweh is a Warrior; Herald Press: Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 1918

McDonald, Patricia. God & Violence: Biblical Resources for living in a Small World. Herlad Press. Waterloo, On. 1989

McKenzie, John L. Dictionary of the Bible . Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co.,1965

Miller Jr, Patrick D, God the Warrior. Interpretations 19. 1965

Miller Jr, Patrick D. The Divine Warrior in Ancient Israel . Cambridge Harvard University Press, 1973

Nelson-Pallmeyer Jack, Is Religion Killing us? Violence in the Bible and the Quran; Trinity Press International, London, New York; 2003

Niditch, Susan, War in the Hebrew Bible, A Study in the Ethics of Violence, Oxford university Press, New York, New York.  1993

North, Gary., ed. The Theology of Christ Resistance. Geneva Divinity School Press: Tyler, Texas, 1983

Schwartz, Regina M. The Curse of Cain. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1997

Sherlock, Charles. The God Who Fights: The War Tradition in Holy Scripture. The Edwin Mellen Press, Queenston, Ontario. 1945.

Sklba, Richard. A Covenant of Peace, The Bible Today (May 1983)

Swaim, Carter J. War, Peace, and the Bible. Orbis Books: Maryknoll, New York, 1982

Swartley, Willard M. Violence Renounced. Pandora Press: Telford, Pennsylvania, 2000

The New Oxford Annotated Bible, With theApocryphal/Deutero-canonical Books (New RevisedStandard Version). New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Volf, Miroslav. Exclusion and Embrace. Abingdon Press: Nashville, TN, 1996

Walter, Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament I, trans. By J.A. Baker . Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961

Weber, Hans-Ruedi, Power: Focus for a Biblical Theology. Geneva: WCC Publications, 1989

Williams, James G. The Bible Violence & the Sacred; Liberation from the Myth of Sanctioned Violence. Harper Collins Publishers: San Francisco, 1991

Wink, Walter. The Powers that Be. Galilee Doubleday: New York, New York, 1998

Winn, Albert Curry. Ain’t Gonna Study War No More. Westminister/John Knox Press: Louisville Kentucky, 1993

Wood, John A. Perspective on War in the Bible; Mercer University Press: Macon, Georgia, 1998

Wright, N.T. The Last Word. Harper Collins Publishers, San Francisco. 2005

Violence in the Hebrew Bible: A Christian Perspective
Nathan Colquhoun

Sex and Violence in the Hebrew Bible

Dr. Carl Ehrlich

April 04, 2006


1 Paine, Thomas. Age of Reason

2 Hans-Ruedi Weber, Power: Focus for a Biblical Theology (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1989) 22.

3 Patrick D. Miller, Jr., The Divine Warrior in Ancient Israel (Cambridge Harvard University Press, 1973) 171

4 Genesis 15:18-21

5 1 Samuel 15

6 Peter Craigie, “Yahweh is a Man of Wars,” Scottish Journal of Theology 22 (1969):185

7 Genesis 6

8 Genesis 19

9 Exodus 7-11

10 Exodus 32

11 Exodus 3:7

12 Joshua 6

13 Wink, Walter. The Powers that Be. Galilee Doubleday: New York, New York, 1998

P. 162

14 Patrick D. Miller, Jr., “God the Warrior,” Interpretations 19 (1965): 41

15 Cowles, C. S., Eugene H. Merrill, Daniel L. Gard, and Tremper Longman III. Show Them No

Mercy: 4 Views on God and the Canaanite Genocide. Edited by Stanley N. Gundry. Counterpoints. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003. P. 41

16 Cowles et. al.. P.85

17 See Exodus 7

18 Longman III 169

19 George L. Carey, “Biblical-Theological Perspectives on War and Peace,” The Evangelical Qaurterly 57, 2 (April 1985):165.

20 Loraine Boettner, The Christian Attitude Toward War.  Presybyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 1985

21 John L. McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co.,1965) P.919

22 Peter C. Craigie, “War, Idea of,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia IV, ed. By G.W.Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988) 1019

23 Waldemar Janzen, “War in the Old Testament, “ Mennonite Quarterly Review 46 (1972) 165

24 Walter, Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament I, trans. By J.A. Baker (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961) 228

25 N.T. Wright. The Last Word. Harper Collins Publishers, San Francisco. 2005

26 Wood 153

27 Wood, John A.  Perspectives on War in the Bible. Mercer University Press. Macon, Georgia, 1998. P. 154

28 John A Wood P. 157

29 Dianne Bergant, “Yahweh: A Warrior God?” The Bible Today (May 1983): 160

30 Diane Bergant, “Peace in the Universe of Order,” in Biblical and Theological Reflections, 23

31 Richard Sklba, “A Covenant of Peace,” The Bible Today (May 1983): 152

32 Waink 86, 89

33 Wood 169

34 Colin Chapman, “Holy War,” in Zondervan Hanbook to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 230.

35 Wink 85

36 Cowles 157

37 Cowles 148

38 Genesis 12

39 Exodus 19:5

40 Some scholars argue that the story of the Canaanite women is a turning point in Jesus’ ministry from being to just Israel to all of mankind. See Glenna Jackson, ‘Have Mercy on Me’: The Story of the Canaanite Woman in Matthew 15:21–28 (JSNTSup 228; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002)

41 Deuteronomy 7

42 LeMarquand 1

43 LeMarquand 2

44 Matthew 14:13-21 & Matthew 15:29-39

45 Robert H. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 295.

46 LeMarquand 5

47 Deut 8:8-9

48 LeMarquand 6

49 Exodus 32:27-29

50 Acts 2:41

51 See Romans 7:16, 8:2

52 Romans 8:11, 8:2

53 Matthew 5:17

54 Charles Sherlock. The God Who Fights: The War Tradition in Holy Scripture. The Edwin Mellen Press, Queenston, Ontario. 1945. P. 305

55 Peter Craigie, The Problem of War in the Old testament (Grand Rapids:’Eerdmans, 1978) 99

56 Gerd Judemann, The Unholy in Holy Scripture: The Dark Side of the Bible. Wesminister John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky. 1996. P.129


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