Friday, March 18, 2011

The Age of Judges

So, yesterday I finished up Joshua and today I began Judges.  I've always found the beginning of Judges interesting.  If there's one thing I hear used more than anything else as far as discrediting God and the Bible, it's the conquest of Canaan (although as I type that, maybe a more recently used argument in view of Japan's predicament is why God allows disasters).  When people think of God leading Israel into Canaan all they can think of is a God sanctioned blood bath.  Granted, it was war, and war is a blood bath, but it would do us well to try to see things as the authors of these stories want us to see things.  First, the book of Judges immediately points out that Israel did not kill everyone in Canaan.  Second of all, as modern readers shaped by a knowledge of history, by WWI and WWII and Auschwitz and Vietnam and Rwanda and Darfur, we understandably have a hard time reading these biblical stories through a lens other then revulsion.  But that is not the lens used by the authors of Joshua and Judges.  Their issue is whether Israel will stay faithful to God.  That being the issue, the goal of Israel is not to murder the Canaanites but rather to remove them from the land so Israel will not be tempted to worship foreign gods in their midst.  Before the book of Judges a phrase often read is "put to the sword," a rather violent phrase, but in the first chapter of Judges, the phrase that gets repeated over and over is that Israel failed to "drive out" the Canaanites.  Now, I'm sure the Canaanites didn't like either option, but again, the motivating question for Judges is whether Israel will be faithful.  By not driving the Canaanites out of their midst, the Israelites set themselves up for failure.  They are not only surrounded by neighboring countries with foreign gods, the foreign gods are in their own villages.

I know I'm repeating myself, but I want to drive this point home.  God's goal was not to kill people.  The Israelites' job was not to kill people.  The goal was for Israel to be a faithful people and to tear down the Canaanite altars.  That is what Israel did not do.  That is how they betrayed themselves and their God.  That is what ultimately cost them a vibrant future.  That is, in fact, why the whole book of Judges exists.

Stopping point: Judges 2

PS--I put the land allotment map at the top because that's how I was taught the first land if Israel looked like, and if Israel had taken possession of all the land, that is how it would have looked like.  The problem is that both the end of Joshua and the beginning of Judges is very clear that Israel did not take possession of all the land.  So, all those nice internet maps are more of a dream then a reality.  Yet one more thing I find thought provoking.

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