Joshua 10 contains some dramatic historical records about Joshua’s conquest of the promised land. Many Christians today may struggle to understand or explain how or why YHWH instructed Joshua to wipe out all the inhabitants. What about grace? What about forgiveness? Why would God do wipe out whole people groups?
First, let us be sure our mind is set on the right perspective. If this is what God said to do, then it was right. If we don’t understand or agree, that means we are wrong… and not God. Perhaps there is specific context which helps explain it or perhaps our view of God is wrong.
We must always take care not to redefine God in our image or the image of our modern culture. Instead, we should always be seeking to redefine ourselves in his image. While there is surely a place for grace and mercy, let us be clear that the Bible speaks volumes about YHWH also providing righteous judgment.
So if he said to wipe everyone out, then he is right to do so. If we struggle with that, then we should pray to ask him to show us more understanding and we should study more the scripture. We should not simply disregard it because it is confusing. It still tells us about YHWH even today. YHWH does not change.
We should not assume that everyone who breathes is in a relationship with YHWH. Clearly we see Biblical examples where he wipes out whole groups. This is different than when he disciplines his own people. These people did not know him. They lived ungodly lives, offensive to him in his holiness.
Joshua’s Conquest of Southern Palestine
29Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Makkedah to Libnah, and fought against Libnah. 30The LORD gave it also with its king into the hands of Israel, and he struck it and every person who was in it with the edge of the sword. He left no survivor in it. Thus he did to its king just as he had done to the king of Jericho.
31And Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Libnah to Lachish, and they camped by it and fought against it. 32The LORD gave Lachish into the hands of Israel; and he captured it on the second day, and struck it and every person who was in it with the edge of the sword, according to all that he had done to Libnah.
33Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish, and Joshua defeated him and his people until he had left him no survivor.
34And Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Lachish to Eglon, and they camped by it and fought against it. 35They captured it on that day and struck it with the edge of the sword; and he utterly destroyed that day every person who was in it, according to all that he had done to Lachish.
36Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron, and they fought against it. 37They captured it and struck it and its king and all its cities and all the persons who were in it with the edge of the sword. He left no survivor, according to all that he had done to Eglon. And he utterly destroyed it and every person who was in it.
38Then Joshua and all Israel with him returned to Debir, and they fought against it. 39He captured it and its king and all its cities, and they struck them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed every person who was in it. He left no survivor. Just as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir and its king, as he had also done to Libnah and its king.
40Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded. 41Joshua struck them from Kadesh-barnea even as far as Gaza, and all the country of Goshen even as far as Gibeon. 42Joshua captured all these kings and their lands at one time, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. 43So Joshua and all Israel with him returned to the camp at Gilgal.
It is ok to question when we get to difficult scripture. But let us always start with the perspective that YHWH is right and it is our understanding that may need to change rather than starting with the assumption that YHWH was wrong and now he has changed somehow to fit our view of him.
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