Why did God command Israel to kill villages of men, women and children? Why permit Polygamy? There are passages in the Old Testament that confused me for years.

Simply explained; God was working in the culture of the day.

Imagine a world with no police, no health systems, no insurance and no banks. When there’s no justice system, anarchy reigns. If someone wants your house, they kill you to get it. The rules change and a survival of the fittest mentality is adopted. In essence, tribal culture is born.

In such a culture logic says you must completely destroy your enemy because:

1 – Any enemy left alive will seek revenge. Children grow up and tribal feuds continue for generations (because Israel didn’t completely destroy the nations before them God said they would have a ‘thorn in their side’ – to be tormented – for generations to come, this was not a punishment as much as a practical reality of the day.)

2 – Reputation. The more feared you are, the more allies you make and the less enemies attacks you.

3 – Israel was one of many up and coming nations, they would be destroyed within a year had they not annihilated their enemies. Remember, their enemies were also bent of wiping out Israel; men, women and children. Political diplomacy did not exist like it does in today’s world.

Polygamy is a side effect of anarchy. The biggest tribe wins and so more warriors are needed. This is why newly-weds were given a year off military duty in ancient Israel (unfortunately it wasn’t due to sentimental romance, it was practical. Get pregnant.)

It’s important to understand Israel did not create this culture, they lived in it. It’s important to understand God didn’t create this culture, humans did. God never intended mankind to exist in anarchy.

Since ancient times our world has changed for the good. We live in a very different culture in the west today. It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like. Despite corruption, war and injustice, we are a far shot away from such a violent tribal mentality.

As history unfolds we see some of Gods ideals come into view. The Roman Empire dominated the world and a widespread justice system formed. In A.D. 390 Christian Emperor Theodosius the Great repented for slaughtering innocent people, introducing a new concept to the Roman Empire: No man, great or small, is above the law.

Such little progressions, over time, changed the world we live in. Much of our modern day justice system is founded on Christian principals. History reveals a God who leads us out of anarchy and into order. 

Today God doesn’t command us to genocide, it was never His plan… and thank God for that!

2 Responses

  1. Dawn Salisbury

    That’s really good Matt. I’ve got a book called How Christianity Changed The World and it covers 15 areas of society where Jesus has changed the world for the better and we just taken for granted. Great explanation for old testament theology it makes sense : ) : ) : )

    • mattguddat

      That’s cool Dawn, yeah I actually have that book and have read it. It’s an awesome book. You have inspired me two write a review of it!


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