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Help! - Thoughts On Canaanites


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Hi everyone - Ive been thinking a lot about the slaughter of the canaanites in the old testament, and how it seems to go against everything that is in Gods character. I just cant imagine him ordering new babies to be slaughtered! Ive done some reading on the matter, and here are some of the explanations Ive run across -

 

1)It was a "just" and good thing for God to do, we just dont know why

2) God didnt really "do" it, He is just "allowed" it when he got completely fed up with the canaanites, and their lack of submission, and lack of love.

3) The Canaanites were so evil, we cant even understand the kind of evilness in todays world - antyhing we have today pales in comparisson - therefore God was juistified.

4) Bible words such as "ALL" the canaanites, and "all men, women, and children" were just expressions, and God didnt really mean "ALL".

5) God didnt order the killing - the writers of the OT simply got it wrong.

6) The Bible is progressively revealing Gods character and people progressively understand more of Gods character - people in OT times still had a faulty understanding of God, and when they killed the canaanites, it was easy for them to conceive of a God who ordered this. But as God is progressively revealed, (especially through Christ) we understand it would be impossible for a God with love and goodness as His character to order these things - the OT writers got it wrong, but it was based on their current understanding.

 

Of all of the above, number 6 seems to appeal to me the most... (well, number 5 appeals the most, but in temrs of explanation, number 6 seems pretty good!) Any thoughts on this?

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A 7th possibility: It is a mythic way for the people who were really the Canaanites to re-invent themselves. The Hebrews were the Canaanites. The violence represents the struggle to become a new people.

 

I think I heard this in the NOVA program, The Buried Secrets of the Bible. You can watch it online. I haven't followed up with further research.

 

Studies of hunter-gather tribes have observed that up to 60% of the men can expect to die at the hands of another because of tribal warfare.

 

5) would be the only view that I think is not incredibly insulting and limiting of God.

 

I'm not sure I understand the difference betweenyour 5) and 6). At first I felt you were talking dispensationalism then you arrived at 5).

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Perhaps an 8th possibility

 

from Understanding the Old Testament, Bernard Anderson.

 

Joshua was written by the Deuteronomistic historians who rewrote Israel's history and traditions before and just after the fall in 587 BCE. Writing centuries after the battles narrated and with an agenda of establishing a religious nation-state it would have been easy to exaggerate the stories. In Biblical support of this view compare Judges 1 with Joshua. Both accounts are of the same events. Judges 1 is thought to be older fragments closer to the actual events. Perhaps the source material for Joshua.

 

Because the Biblical account is ambiguous and the archaeological evidence "blurred" scholars have several views. Three are

 

1. Gradual Infiltration - those who support this view the story of "Joshua's swift conquest is the product of religious imagination of the Deuternomistic historians who sought to stress Yahweh's mighty power."

 

2. Military Invasion - American scholars like this. :) Deuteronomistic historians "intended to proclaim to the Israelite community the dramatic story of the victory of Yahweh, the Divine Warrior. ...attributing to Joshua feats that were carried out by others ... reporting modest gains as decisive victories."

 

3. Peasant revolution - against taxation and interlocking control of Canaanite city-states. The story of Rahab (Joshua 2) might be read as "outside agitators" joining with other Canaanites against the royal structure." Difficult to find any point of contact with scripture or archaeology. Popular with liberation theologians I suspect.

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Thank you both for your responses! Glintofpewter - The mythical angle is quite interesting, and I will have to look into this further. You asked the difference between 5 and 6 - from my reading, the people who believe point 5 (as above) just have decided a good God would not order mass killing, and therefore the writers got it wrong - period. Those who believe in point 6 believe the authors got it wrong, but seek to offer an explanation - that our God is a God who has revealed himself slowly throughout time, and until the arrivel of Jesus, people did not understand the truly loving nature of God - therefore the writers of the OT sometimes misunderstood God, and thus wrote faulty things such as he ordered a mass killing.

 

The other poster - those are interesting angles, although Im american, I dont like that military-style perspective!

 

The whole issue of the killing of the cannaanites has really gotten to me...

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Guest billmc

I sometimes attend a Southern Baptist church with my wife. Last Sunday, the Sunday School lesson was on how Samuel raised an ebenezer to God for helping the Hebrews kill the Philistines. An 'ebenezer' is a stone monument that means "God helps."

 

I personally found the passage and the notion nauseating. These people were erecting a memorial to thank God for helping them to kill their enemies. I don't see any way to reconcile this with the teachings of Jesus. The SS teacher thought it was a laudable notion, but if I were to erect an ebenezer, it would be for divine love.

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I sometimes attend a Southern Baptist church with my wife. Last Sunday, the Sunday School lesson was on how Samuel raised an ebenezer to God for helping the Hebrews kill the Philistines. An 'ebenezer' is a stone monument that means "God helps."

 

I personally found the passage and the notion nauseating. These people were erecting a memorial to thank God for helping them to kill their enemies. I don't see any way to reconcile this with the teachings of Jesus. The SS teacher thought it was a laudable notion, but if I were to erect an ebenezer, it would be for divine love.

 

Yes, the idea that God would help in genocide is nauseating. When I hear this kind of thing I am reminded of Lincoln's statement that our concern should be that we are on God's side.

 

George

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Samuel raised an ebenezer to God

Another comment from the book is that Joshua is providing reasons for the names of places.

 

In Lincoln's 2nd inaugural he suggested the Civil War was punishment for not being able to work things out without fighting.

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Its one of the things that scares me about sunday school, and what my kids are learning - Alec came home talking about how God killed everybody in the flood. I told him that I dont think God really did that - that it was people trying to tell stories about floods and why they happened, and that maybe, they got the story wrong. If Im going to keep being a believer in Jesus - and I want to be! - I just cant believe that he is part of a God who ordered all these folks murdered....so I will have to go with one of the alternative explanantions, and not accept the OT as factual.

 

This discussion is great Im getting a lot out of everyones feedback.

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so I will have to go with one of the alternative explanantions, and not accept the OT as factual.

 

 

There is likely a seed of historical truth in all of these highly mythologized stories. The role of God in them represents the point of view of the author seeking explanation. We, as humans, have a difficult time accepting randomness and instinctively look for causes, patterns and meaning.

 

Was there a major flood in Middle Eastern prehistory? Very likely. Did it cover the entire earth? No, but likely the entire world known to the observers at the time. What was the cause? God? But, why would God cause such suffering? Punishment for iniquity? Ah, now, we have a coherent explanation and a warning about unrighteous behavior.

 

George

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Its one of the things that scares me about sunday school, and what my kids are learning

 

As a former Sunday School teacher I will say that there are dangerous curricula and unaware teachers. ProgressiveChristianity.org has new excellent Sunday School curriculum. There are others.

 

If Alec is coming home talking about God killing everyone then I would get a copy of the curriculum so you can be prepared to give a good context for the story and its understanding. I have been astonished more than once that a particular story would be shared with children solely because it is in the Bible and must be good without thinking about whether it is age appropriate.

 

Teaching about Noah in pre-school and kindergarten - one can sing

 

Rise and shine

And give God the glory, glory

Rise and shine

And give God the glory, glory

Rise and shine

And give God the glory, glory

Children of the Lord

The Lord said to Noah:

There's gonna be a floody, floody

The Lord said to Noah:

There's gonna be a floody, floody

Get those children out of the muddy, muddy

Children of the Lord

 

which is a fun song about being saved from the flood and doesn't mention people drowning. As George mentioned you can later talk about how the Hebrews added a moral layer to a common story. The flood is not just something the Gods did on a whim. Humans are now morally responsible. But so is God. And God realizes that killing everyone was a mistake.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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This PowerPoint is worth reading in relationship to the conquest of Canaan.

 

The Myth of the American West

 

See particularly slides 17 & 19.

I can't figure out how to capture link so search "myth of the west cowboy ppt"

The PPT should be the first item. The url starts "faculty.utep.edu/LinkClick ..." -->> HERE Link added by JM for Dutch

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From my own childhood memories of my early religious experience, it was somewhere around age 5 or 6 that I became aware of this very sticking point, and in retrospect, have recognized it to be the very crisis point in my having been turned aside from the doctrinal path of my elders and peers, to that which I now would call Progressive Christianity, though of course there was no language or concept at that time for me to grab onto for support.

It was when my Sunday School teachers transformed my Jesus that loves me and and all the liittle children of the world, who always understood and to whom I could take any and all my problems, into the representative of a god that capriciously ordered even innocent children to be killed, and that was ready to send even me and any of my loved ones to suffer eternal torment in hell if I/we didn't accept and believe and do as the teachers of this new horrible god instructed me, that they lost me.

At the time, and for most my life, it was hard for me to accept and come to grips with the reality that many of my little peers did accept it, absorb it, integrate it into their very sense of identity...that realization brought with it the crtical importance of trying to protect my own children and grand children from such teachings, at least until I felt they had a basic foundation of sound teachings and development of critical thinking skills that would give them the tools they needed to confront those kinds of ideas with some chance of making informed choices.

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  • 4 weeks later...
"The history of the Mediterranean lands, and of western Europe, is the history of the blessing and the curse of political organizations, of religious organizations, of schemes of thought, of social agencies for large purposes. The moment of dominance, prayed for, worked for, sacrificed for, by generations of the noblest spirits, marks the turning point where the blessing turns into the curse. Some new principle of refreshment is required. The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order."

 

"It belongs to the goodness of the world, that its settled order should deal tenderly with the faint light of the dawn of another age. Also order, as it sinks into the background before new conditions, has its requirements. The old dominance should be transformed into the firm foundations, upon which new feelings arise, drawing their intensities from delicacies of contrast between system and freshness. In either alternative of excess, whether the past be lost, or be dominant, the present is enfeebled."

 

A. N. Whitehead

 

 

Myron,

 

I copied this because I thought it interacted with the false history in the Canaanite Conquest. What does it suggest that this violence, projected at one's past, is necessary 400, 500, 600 years later? Was this just the exercise of power to rewrite the past to establish or reinforce identity, even if it erased who we were? Is this the violence of dominance and privilege? A motivational narrative? Is it in anyway healthy? Even though through our modern eyes it seems less than healthy and too violent do we somehow claim it as part of our heritage? Because to do otherwise would be to make the same mistake we see in that narrative?

 

dutch

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