Friday, February 11, 2011

The Violent God?

Following the question on ZigZag yesterday, here are a few thoughts.

As mesmerizing as it may seem to some of us in the twenty-first century, the God of the OT is an Ancient Near Eastern God. That is, God reveals into a human history context that is far different and more mysterious than our own. It seems to me that it couldn’t have been otherwise if Israel and others were to have any knowledge of him. This ANE God is portrayed as a Warrior, King of the earth, and the Lord mighty in Battle, to mention just a few metaphors, or anthropomorphic―theologically packed expressions. After all, it appears that God is dealing with barbarians, thugs, and louts, which requires severe, yet contextual measures. He represents himself, therefore, as a powerful Egyptian Pharaoh or Mesopotamian King entering into Holy war and he is out to bring about redemption and justice.

The progressive unfolding of the revelation of God in Scripture adds many new metaphors that apply to an understanding of his mission for the whole world. Keeping these in mind will help us to not play off one image against another, as we seek to come to grips with the God of love, truth, justice, and mercy.


carter said...

It is ironic that the Lord tells the patriarchs and moses that the people are "blessed to be a blessing to the world" or to the nations, and then that same God tells them "no prisoners." The issue has implications for our theories of social contract in the formation of governments. Is there any historical reference that would indicate that if the Hebrew people did not annhilate the people that they themselves would be annhilated by their enemies?

Greg said...

Thanks. Yes, deeply ironic. The ANE was a formidable context, even for YHWH, who could have wiped everyone out, but chooses to work through sinful agents, who themselves become enemies, to bring about his purposes.

Not sure of an exact historical reference for this, but I assume that your question is pretty close to the way it was. Survival was primordial.

reneamac said...

Thanks for this, Greg. Your commentary reminds me of a book I read at L'Abri that was very helpful for me regarding this seemingly contradictory One--Webb's [Slaves, Women & Homosexuals] has definitely been one of the most impactful reads from my time in the Alps.

Greg said...

Thanks. Yes, Webb's book has very helpful insights. Hope you're well!