Friday, August 14, 2015

Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God


  1. I'm currently reading this book. Steve, what do you think of their arguments regarding the distinction between destruction vs. dispossession and their argument regarding the hyperbole of the Joshua accounts? Thanks for any thoughts or resources.

    1. BTW, I just responded to your question on the Mormon thread.

  2. i) I think destruction and dispossession are complementary. If the natives self-evacuate, they won't be destroyed. But if they stay and fight, they will be targeted. A free-fire zone.

    As you know, the objective was to clear the Holy Land of pagans, not to pursue them beyond the borders of the Holy Land. Once they got a safe distance from the borders, they'd be left alone.

    ii) Unlike the reviewer, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with the idea that warfare accounts employ hyperbole. Scripture uses hyperbole. That's easily documented. In principle, this can take two forms: hyperbolic commands or hyperbolic descriptions.

    As you know, some scholars have argued that the commands are either hyperbolic or idiomatic. I don't think that's objectionable in principle. Whether that's a legitimate interpretation is a different question.

    There can clearly be a contrast between what's commanded and its implementation–which may fall short.

    In addition, ancient Israel had porous borders, so even if the first-generation of Israelites cleared the land of pagans, that doesn't mean you wouldn't have subsequent incursions.

    Likewise, scholars note that the accounts sometimes combine sweeping language in one place, with exceptions in another place. That's evidence for hyperbole. And that's used to defend the historicity of the accounts.

    As you know, skeptics say archeology fails to corroborate wholesale destruction of the indigenous culture. But the accounts themselves indicate that the conquest was only partially successful.

  3. Thank, Steve. Makes sense to me. I respect Eugene Merrill and I wish he would have developed his objections in the review more fully to get a picture of his perspective.