W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 10-20-2021
Read: Joshua 6:20-27
Today we resume our study of “herem” the total destruction of one’s enemy: the slaying of all men, women, children, babies and animals; the burning of buildings and material goods. Nothing is taken. We are not supposed to profit from war.
The Old Testament is a faith narrative of God’s people, not a history book. That’s a point that some people of faith struggle to grasp. The stories were told in oral tradition for centuries before being written down. The stories were told as spiritual lessons to guide faith and teach spiritual truth. Sometimes details of the Biblical narrative differs from known historical facts and details. That need not cause you a crisis of faith; the 66 books of the Bible have many authors, not one author.
Christians differ on how they reconcile “herem” with the way of Jesus, i.e. “to love your enemy”. Here are three different ways that people view this part of the Bible.
Some take it literally and historical, believing that the sinfulness of the Canaanites made God’s call for their destruction necessary. They see no incompatibility between God’s will expressed to Joshua, and God’s will as taught by Jesus. The circumstances were different, they reason, and God’s word reflects that.
Some doubt that herem occurred at all. They point to archeological evidence that the two cultures: Israelite and Canaanite, integrated much faster and more peacefully than the Bible portrays. Bible stories were retold centuries later to encourage believers to have courage and to keep the faith in tough times.
Some believe that if herem occurred in the days of Joshua it was not God’s will or God’s command but human beings claiming to be acting on God’s will. The victors always write the history and they always portray themselves as faithful and heroic, and the defeated enemy as evil and deserving of destruction.
There are sincere, faithful Christians in each of these camps. And people in our church in each of these three camps. We don’t need to go to war and totally destroy one another because of it. Best advice: keep your eyes on Jesus.
Pastor Rob Nystrom