Why did God command Israel to kill villages of men, women and children? Why permit Polygamy? There are passages in the Bible 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 to come (because Israel didn’t completely destroy the nations before them God said they would have a ‘thorn in their side’ for generations to come – to be tormented – this was not a punishment as much as a practical reality of the day.)
2 – Reputation. The more feared you are, the less your enemy attacks you.
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. It is important to understand this was not Gods plan for mankind, nor is it today.
Since ancient times our world has changed for the good. We live in a completely 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 one, small or great, is above the law.
Such little progressions, over time, changed the world we live in. History reveals a God who leads us out of anarchy and into order. Much of our modern day justice system is founded on Christian principals.
Today God doesn’t command us to genocide, it was never His plan… and thank God for that.