Character of God

I would love some pointers to help me as a new Christian having just finished reading Joshua.

I watched the Bible Project video. It’s nice that it’s so accessible but I need about 100 times more before I can accept the “don’t worry, be happy” conclusion.

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Hi Russell2,
Can you be more specific about what you are looking for? Maybe mention, if you’re associated with a particular church? Or are looking for a particular perspective?
Looking for books? or some other format?
Do you have specific questions you’re looking to have answered?

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The Bible Project video basically characterises this book as alternatingly brutal and boring.

This what l found, too.

It’s particularly hard to reconcile the brutal parts with the New Testament. Love thy enemy and turn the other cheek vs “utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded” or “And they took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof, and all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining”

The Bible Project video tried to make some apologies for that but failed to actually build or support that case - understandably, given time constraints.


I think the Zondervan Counterpoints series has one on the Canaanite conquest.


Yes, Four Views on God and Canaanite Genocide: Show Them No Mercy. Three views on how God commanded genocide and one person (Cowles) who can’t believe how easily other Christians justify genocide. It’s not an uplifting read. Probably my least favourite of the counterpoints volumes I’ve looked at.


I’d recommend Gordon Matties’ Joshua commentary in the Believers Church Bible Commentary series. His walk through the text is good, but especially helpful are his separate essays on many of the issues raised by the text.

Also helpful is Douglas Earl’s Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, but it’s not cheap. He has some good papers as well, if you have library access.

This is an issue that bothers me too. A few years ago I spent a semester trying to find a better approach. That led to a dialog-format paper that makes the case as best I could, making use of what I learned from Matties, Earl and others. If those other options are too much, you could start with my paper, When God Sees Red.


Randal Rauser has a series of articles, as well as a book, Jesus Loves Canaanites, which I have not read. His articles may well be of help, and probably cover the basis of his book.

Note series on the Caanonite Genocide : Articles (in series) - Randal Rauser


Pete Enns covers this issue a bit in his book “The Bible Tells Me So” – but it’s not a scholarly book. He argues that God allowed the Israelites to tell their story and that’s why they ascribed so much of a warrior persona to God. I think this perspective can be helpful in some ways, but in others can bring up more questions than it answers.


Have you seen Tremper Longman’s approach? I especially liked how easily he showed it’s not genocide when Israelites were cut off for faithlessness, and Canaanites were saved for their faithfulness.

He sees the whole episode, following the view of Meredith Kline, as an intrusion of end time ethics. And clearly the Church is in no way at all instructed to engage in herem today.

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Keep in mind that that was a standard way to report “we defeated them” at that date, throughout the ancient near-east.


Many thanks to all. I will follow up all suggestions.

I told my wife I started Judges today and she said “be warned. It’s about to get even worse!” :hushed:.

Many years ago we went to see Lord of the Rings on the big screen. Very apologetically she said, sorry this is too violent for me, I want to leave. I normally would have been annoyed at the waste of effort and money. But in this case I told her truthfully “no worries, this is boring!”

(Honestly, i still think that: swordfight swordfight scenery swordfight my precious swordfight swordfight, and the book is even worse for all the bits the film omits, which mostly, is poetry in a made-up language! But l digress.)


It’s a trade book written for everyone, but Enns is an excellent biblical scholar.


I’m only familiar with the Biblical History of Israel he co-wrote with two others. Personally, I think we need to know how closely these events are tied to history before we can say whether they describe a genocide. If they are history recorded directly by eyewitnesses, then a few exceptions won’t escape the charge of genocide. But in that case we have plenty of other problems, including the diverse testimony in different places of Scripture about the how the conquest happened, who fought, and what the result was. If this is all from eyewitnesses, they saw surprisingly different things. And hardly any of this lines up with what archaeology has since revealed.

I think those diverse portrayals, combined with archaelogical evidence, point to not taking these stories as eyewitness testimony. There are good reasons to accept the scholarly consensus that these are post-exilic texts that retell stories from the past. I see their purpose as guiding exiles in how to maintain loyalty to God in the face of the polytheistic pressures of Babylon. In this case, genocide isn’t the right word.

So, my disagreement with Longman, at least from the little I’ve read from him, is over the starting position that the texts convey eyewitness historical detail. That assumption triggers a mountain of problems that all need solutions. It’s not much different than making a concordist assumption about the first chapters of Genesis.


Sounds more like the new age positive thinking unity church stuff than Christianity. I personally found their evil doesn’t exist mindset to be a bit creepy myself.

This is why I tell people that I could never have believed in Christianity without evolution. Evolution makes it quite clear that harsh realities are an unavoidable necessity for the very existence of life. And I find the notion of conflict between the two to be nearly incomprehensible and hypocritical. On the one hand you have Christians denouncing the inhumanity of evolution and atheists denouncing the inhumanity of such stories in the Bible. The conflict seems downright laughable to me, frankly.

As for the character of God… I reject many traditional Christian notions of God’s character… meglomaniac, purist, hard hearted, controlling, wrathful, sadistic… ruling by extreme threats and running a protection racket where you are supposed to pay in order to save you from His wrath… ??? Frankly, if it sounds so much like the devil then how do you know you are not worshipping the devil? My response to such notions is to join with Albert Camus in finding contentment in obstinate opposition to such evil and injustice no matter how hopeless…

So I will insist in believing in a God who chose love and freedom over power and control… no matter how many devil-gods may accost me with demands that I sacrifice my integrity to them. And then there is the Christian notion of a God who caring nothing for power, knowledge, status, and divinity became a helpless human infant to grow up among us perfectly blameless before being mocked, whipped and executed on a cross – giving everything to get passed all the misunderstandings and restore our life giving relationship with Him.


I haven’t read that far into these issues. His book Confronting Old Testament Controversies was interesting and showed me that there’s a fine line he and someone like Walton is walking. Which is all well and good, and it’s why I am so quick to admit that the inerrancy of Scripture is something that reasonable people can disagree about.


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