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There are stories in the Bible about ancient days which relate to genocide. A lot of Christians deem that the collection of different books, commonly known as the Old Testament, has got a truthful evidence of God’s treatments to his people in a good way. However, there are Old Testament texts, which are a bit worrying, in which the Israelites’ God is seen to be mandating the genocide. A philosopher, known as Wes Morriston, has criticized various Biblical stories relating to genocide, like God’s destruction of other nations, leaving Israel. Morriston also criticizes the opinion of other philosophers, like Copan Paul, who tend to support the Biblical stories of genocide, although Morriston was not specific in his criticisms against various Christian arguments.
Morriston pointed out his criticisms on the issue of Canaanite genocide. Canaan was initially the land, given to the Israelites by God. The Canaanites were the ones who have been living in that country, just before Moses and Joshua led the Israelites to occupy the land. This happened shortly after the Israelites were moved out of Egypt and had travelled along the desert before they finally landed in Canaan.
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As it is commonly known, Moses, who was leading the Israelites, was acting always under the instruction from God. He told the Israelites that there shall come a time when all Canaanites will be destroyed in their land. He further said that there shall not be agreement between them, and in the process of destruction they will show them no mercy. These words are clearly depicted in the books of Deuteronomy, chapter seven, verses one to two.
However, a difference must be drawn between those who had inhabited the nearby cities, and those who lived in the cities, which were far away from that, which was given to the Israelites. Those Canaanites who lived in the further cities, had all the men killed by the Israelites, and their women, children, livestock and other commodities were taken away. For the case of the Canaanites, who lived around the city, they were to destroy them all and leave alive nothing that breathes. This is clearly shown in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter twenty, verse sixteen.
For this case Morriston argued that if Paul and Matt’s arguments are to be followed, then the above story will make no sense and should not be taken as a serious offense. By just mentioning that you will kill, is already an offense and it is assumed that you have already killed.
Wes Morriston also points out the hyperbolic words, used in the Bible, and tries to remove the imperialistic party line, which was common in the ancient days. Such text books would have been read by the literate people in those days, who knew how to read and write, or such books be cited, in order to be implicit as hyperbolic by those at audible range. Most likely, it can be seen that this was used to discourage division of nations along tribal lines.
In the above story, there are more general points that could be made. Various historians have also said that the genocide instances or events that have been seen in the Bible are likely to have not happened. All the critics, including Morriston, are happy to hear this because they also believed that most of the Biblical stories are not facts.
Although the Bible stories may not be seen as facts, the force of criticizing it still stands. This is because the moral characters depicted out of the Bible stories, are facts and there are those Christians, who take the ethical influence of the Bible to be more serious. If anyone wishes to amend the scriptures in the Bible, so that It can lose Its original meaning and make no sense historically, then it is good for the critics like Wes Morriston.
In justification of the above arguments, there are those people who still want to preserve the Biblical history as it was initially, by maintaining its moral authority and accuracy. It will be difficult for them to do so, because there are so many repugnant passages that have developed in the Bible. Therefore, the basic strategy is to admit that God had some ethically forceful reasons, in condoning or imposing the acts. The first difference of this policy mentioned at the beginning, is to make an apology for both implicit and explicit ethical reasons, as it was done by Swinburne, when he was defending his article of spiritual infection, while he was justifying the implicit genocide in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter twenty, verses seventeen to eighteen.
Although the Canaanites had done wrong things, which God thought that they might influence the Israelites religion, God was not justified to offer such punishment to the Canaanites, as claimed by Swinburne. Normally, a person with an infectious disease cannot be killed, even if such a person has refused to be isolated. Such a person may be killed, if only there are no other ways of preventing the infectious disease from spreading to others. Just refusing to be isolated is not a sufficient reason for such a person to be killed. Such a person can only be killed under extreme circumstances. This requirement has weakened by the influential vigor of Swinburne’s likeness. There was no need to kill the Canaanites, due to the spiritual disease they were suffering from. This was not the final solution for God. If their mistake was worshiping false gods, then God of Israelites should have shown them, that He was the true God and could heal them of their disease, rather than killing them. From the critics’ view, God would not work under any given constraints of logical possibility. Thus, there is no sufficient ground to think that God will allow genocide due to initial ethical reasons.
Morriston criticizes the Swinburne’s argument, that there are so many people living in this world today, including him, who anguish over spiritual infectious disease, and they want to spread it around to other people. He argued that killing such persons as a solution to stop the spread of the disease is not logical.
Morriston also argued that even if eliminating spiritual infection by killing Canaanites was sufficient reason, other Biblical writings also condemn the act of genocide. He mentioned out that the Scripture that Swinburne uses to depict the feeling that the people of Canaan engaged themselves in ritual prostitution refers to a very long period, after the Canaan conquest. The statement is also a contradiction because the Israelites availed such prostitutes soon after that, too. Indeed, the Israelites have been turning away from God many times, but they returned to him after the calamity stroke them. Given the above facts, it shows that genocide was not God’s aim to His desired end.
In the Bible, the book of Deuteronomy, narrative describes a heavenly ruling, or judgment, which precedes the authority to do violence to Amalekites for several years. According to the book of Deuteronomy, Yahweh had already decided to order and lead Israelites to attack Amalekites, for the reasons that they had attacked a few Israelites, who had lagged behind on their journey out of Egypt. The Amalekites’ transgression had no relation in any way with the Israelites, who were waiting for an order to pact with the Amalekites. Instead, it was the urgent need of Israelites to get out of Egypt and settle in Canaan.
I don’t agree with the intention of God, because punishing a different generation for sins committed by the earlier generation is not morally upright. The sins that Amalekites had committed several years before, and other consequential sins committed by them, have been noted by God. It seems the nation was getting worse from generation to generation, and God have now decided to erase the identity of Amalek by destroying them using the Israelites. What God is weighing up for, is the reality, that long time ago the Amalekites had attacked the Israelites from the back, destroying the weak and the old. Now, several years later, the Israelites under the leadership of their first king, destroy the Amalekites.
I have focused on the reasons why God punished Canaanites. However, it is also necessary to discuss the reasons for God not to do so. The most important reason is because of the dignity and worth of a human being. It is also important to know that Canaanites, like the Israelites, are children of God, and they were created in the image of God. A supernatural being could not deal with His children in such a manner, even though they had committed a big crime. Furthermore, God could have not used Israelites to destroy Canaanites. He should have used other means, like natural calamity, to destroy that particular nation.
There are many contradicting stories and events in the Bible. According to the above discussion, I have found out that God was not justified in using people to destroy other nations. For instance, God would have used His own sight or natural calamity to destroy the Canaanites.
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