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R-Rated: Preaching Holy War

3 ways to help our readers understand these R-Rated passages.

R-Rated: Preaching Holy War

Is God a genocidal maniac? Many people fear the holy war passages of the Old Testament make him out to be. "Show no mercy." "Utterly destroy them." "Do not leave alive anything that breathes." Those are some pretty drastic marching orders. At first glance, God can look like an ancient military commander who's lost his marbles in war, suddenly unleashing rapid machine-gun fire on a conquered village of unarmed civilians.

Do these passages depict genocide? Are Jesus' grandparents carrying out vicious massacres at his Father's command? How do we reconcile these tough passages with the goodness of God and help our people understand them well? How do we preach on holy war? Here are a few angles I've found helpful.

Military cities

The cities Israel takes out are military strongholds, not civilian population centers. Say the word city today and most of us think of metropolitan centers flooded with civilians: houses, restaurants, businesses, ...

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August 04, 2015  7:38pm

Great exegetical work. worth every minute

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Tim S

August 04, 2015  1:53pm

There are helpful insights in this article, but these are still very difficult passages. Archaeology doesn't really back up the accounts so far. So that supports the exaggerated nature but I'm not sure what that does to the authority of Joshua as Scripture. If we simply try to make Joshua more palatable to our liking, what's to stop us from doing that with all Scripture? I think it might be better in the long run to simply let these passages stand as they are, not explaining away our concerns with unknowable historical generalities. Let them stand but honestly wrestle with them in light of the rest of Scripture. Let the rest of the canon put these passages into a fuller context. Let Scripture interpret Scripture. Let the words of Jesus call us to love our enemies even though Joshua says what it says. I think I'm more OK with that.

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