The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 📚 Ecclesiastes 1:9 KJV
Hey guys! Welcome back to the PSALMS to God podcast. This is your host Ree, and we’re talking about prophecy this season.
For this episode, which is long overdue, I had planned to discuss the spiritual parallels between the Exodus and the final days as well as the parallels between the 10 plaques of Exodus and the signs of the times at the end. But with everything happening, it didn’t feel right. Don’t worry we’re going to get there but we need to talk about something else first. We’re still in Exodus though—well, sort of.
On October 7, a few days after I did the rough cut of the aforementioned episode, Hamas launched an attack on Israeli citizens and in response Israel officially declared war on Hamas. In the aftermath, countless civilians have been killed. Millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced. Hospitals are running out of supplies. Crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank have increased as well. It’s a humanitarian crisis and quite disturbing to watch play out.
A little history on modern Israel before we dive in to a really difficult topic.
As far back as World War I there was The Balfour Declaration, which expressed British support for establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. It wasn’t until after World War II and the Holocaust that others cosigned the support. In 1948, a group of western nations formed Israel in the land of Palestine. At that time there were two separate countries: Israel and Palestine. Tension existed from the start, particularly over Jerusalem as it contains a holy landmark in the same place for both Jews and Muslims (and Christians technically). In 1967 Israel invaded Palestine in the 6 days war and essentially took control of their land. Palestinians have been fighting for their independence ever since.
I’ve known this history for quite a while and I always likened it to the Europe taking over the Americas, displacing the native tribes. Many of those settlers were fleeing persecution from the Catholic Church. After slavery, there was a similar attempt to relocate descendants of slaves in Liberia… There is a history of persecuted people fleeing to go somewhere else; we often call them refugees. Few of those cases (like the US and Israel) result in a massive coup de tat where the refugees become the rulers of the land and start displacing the original inhabitants….
But I asked myself, where does one go when they persecuted at home? And then as a black American, I asked myself when does one land become home? At what point does someone go from being an immigrant to a native?
It’s wild to hear people go from talking about being a survivor of the holocaust or the descendants of holocaust survivors, to advocating the genocide of a whole people group. The entire creation of modern Israel is due to the sympathy most people have for the jewish people who have experienced antisemitism and of course the Holocaust. As a black person descended from people enslaved in the US, I get the hardship of being scattered all over with no real home. However, as a black person I also empathize with the Palestinians who are being treated as second class citizens in their own home. I would never wish the treatment my ancestors faced on another person.
Leviticus 19:34 says: “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
But when you go back and read the origin story of ancient Israel… it doesn’t sound much different from the creation of modern Israel. In Genesis 17:8, GOD promises Abraham that his descendants will inherit the land of Canaan—note Abraham had descendants other than Israel: there is Ishmael, widely accepted to be the father of Arabs, his children with Keturah, and of course the descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau. According to the Bible in Genesis 10:13, the Philistines (this is the Arabic/Hebrew word to describe Palestine) descended from Mizraim (Egypt) not Canaan. Nonetheless, when Israelites are taken out of Egypt to receive the promised given to Abraham they are commanded to kill everyone in the land. This command is seen in both Deuteronomy 20:10-17 an Joshua 6:21. This is still the story of immigrants who were oppressed displacing natives.
It angers me that most believers right now are talking about this strictly from a prophecy standpoint. Is this or is this not a prophetic event? Subconsciously, the discussion is how does this affect me. But truthfully, this should be an apologetics discussion—for those unfamiliar with the term apologetics is “the religious discipline of defending religious doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse.” The discussion should be on how does God’s instruction to genocide a group of people fit in with his character. It should be followed by a discussion on how we know God is NOT calling anyone to commit genocide in 2023.
To be honest, I don’t feel worthy of this task. I’ve been trying for weeks to write this episode. There are are thoughts and ideas swirling in my head but I’m not sure if I can articulate them well. But since no one else seems to be having this conversation, I felt like I should share these thoughts.
First, I want to draw you the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. This is one of the times God Himself destroys an entire city for its wickedness. The penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). God often gives us numerous chances to repent (Jesus says forgive 70x7 times in Matthew 18:21-35) but if we never repent, the end result is death. But let’s take a step back. In Genesis 18, God tells Abraham His plans for Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham is appalled that God would kill the righteous (or innocent) with the wicked. Abraham asks God if He would spare the city for 50 righteous people and bargains all the way down to 10. God says He would spare the city for 10 righteous people. I don’t know how big the city was but even if there were only 1000 people in the city 10 people is only 1%. For God to say kill all the Canaanites, I think it’s safe to say there were no righteous people among them.
Second, comes the issue of how we perceive innocence righteousness. We don’t have the full story of anyone. You’ve seen the true crime stories where someone’s neighbor turned out to be a murderer and the neighbors never knew. (The flip side of this is true too, there are people we think are horrible who are actually doing more good than we are!) Back in college I was trying to convince a marine to donate to March of Dimes. I asked the marine, what if your donation saves the life a baby who grows up to become a marine?” And he was convinced to donate. We don’t know who anyone is going to become. The most hated people on the planet—take hitler for instance—were all children once. They had a mother and father, friends, and maybe siblings at some point. If we were to take a Time Machine and kill Nazi war criminals before they were able to become Nazis, wouldn’t that prevent the Holocaust (and the subsequent occupation of Palestine, too)? For those with knowledge of who those people would become you would be a hero. But for those who only knew them as they were you would be a monster who killed an innocent. Also, if you killed someone before they could go down the wrong path would you be saving their soul? I ask these questions not because any human has the knowledge, right, or power to do these things but because an omniscient God does. God knows everybody inside and out. I myself have told God that if I’m too weak to make it through the end times to take me out before because I’d rather die young and live again in the kingdom than to live a long time and never get to the kingdom.
Third and last is the fact that Satan talks to people too. Everyone thinks God is on their side. Everyone says the other side is wrong and wicked. It is easy for people to say they’re doing something in the name of God even if God has nothing to do with it. In the Old Testament there were harsh consequences for disobeying God; the punishment for everything was death. If not the death of the person, the death of an animal. Messiah took that punishment for all of us. He brought second, third, and fourth chances to the forefront (these are also found in the Old Testament if you look for them). When Messiah finds people in sin, He says repent, He says go and sin no more. No where in the New Testament are people commanded to kill. Ecclesiastes 3:3 says there is a time to kill and a time to heal…Messiah ushered us in to the time to heal.
So, I encourage you to pray and reflect. And I ask pastors to start talking about what matters!
Notes from Preparing for the Episode
A Little History
In school, we were taught this narratives about the Pilgrims, who were being persecuted by the Catholic Church, braving the Atlantic Ocean and the “New World” to build their own country. This discussion always glossed over the fact that there were people already living here—whole tribes and civilizations that the settlers killed and displaced. This isn’t so different from the history of modern Israel…
The modern state of Israel was created by the UN in the late 1940s, after WWII and genocide of millions of Jewish people. Survivors were resettled in Israel, which was already home to the Palestinians. In 1967 Israel violated the established borders and took over most of the land. Several wars have been fought since then, however the general state of things is that Israel occupies the territories Palestine has left and tensions exist between the two groups.
It sounds to similar to the colonial origins of the US, right?
As a black person in the US, I understand the feeling of discrimination, and as a descendant of slaves I understand the pain of being treated like a second class citizen. With recent events leading to yet another war between Israel and Hamas (the group claiming leadership of Gaza), I found myself struggling to finish the episode I was planning to release. At first I thought it was because an episode on the Exodus would stoke the fires of Zionism and perhaps give the wrong message. However, as I kept wrestling with how to proceed, I realized that it was more than just the modern concept of Zionism. The Biblical creation of Israel is eerily similar to what we’re seeing today and that brings up a whole ‘nother set of questions.
The Original Israel
Back in Genesis 17:8, YHWH promises Abraham that he will be a father of many nations and that his descendants will inherit the land of Canaan (also known as The Promised Land, the Land of Milk and Honey, Zion, and Israel). Abraham leaves his family home of Ur to travel to Canaan where he lived with the Canaanites. Abraham was an immigrant. His son Isaac lived in Canaan for his whole life, but married a woman from his father’s people in Ur. Isaac’s son Jacob, the namesake and progenitor of the Israelites also takes a wife (or rather wives) from Ur. Jacob was a second generation citizen—I say citizen instead of Canaanite because Canaanite refers to a bloodline that became a nation. Jacob and his descendants flee to Egypt during a famine and are in Egypt for about 4 generations before the Exodus…
The original formation of Israel as a nation doesn’t sound so very different from the other origin stories we’ve discussed: a displaced people displacing people.
The Struggle of Finding Home
One thing I can relate to is the struggle of finding a true “home.” Despite taking wives from Ur, Isaac and Jacob grew up Canaan. This is the equivalent of a first or second generation immigrant in the United States. Sure there will be aspects of their ancestors’ culture in their lives, but there will also be Americanization in them as well. The longer the family stays the more “American” the descendants will be. Jacob spent some time in Ur and ended up fleeing after upsetting Laban, but we aren’t told if he felt “at home” in Ur. Had he and his descendants stayed in Canaan through the famine, the Israelites would have been in the land for almost 7 generations. At that point they probably would have lost all ties to Ur and been considered “locals.”
However, during the famine, they went to Egypt and stayed for 4 generations. The people of Moses’ generation were not Egyptian; they were being oppressed there, so they knew they didn’t belong there. They would have no ties to Ur and no reason to return there, but even if they did return, there were other people living in that land. The Promised Land of Canaan had been their last home, but there were people occupying that land too. So where could they have possibly gone to live in peace but not overcrowd another people? Is this not the dilemma of all refugees?
They completely destroyed everything in the city with the sword—every man and woman, both young and old, and every ox, sheep, and donkey. 📚 Joshua 6:21 CSB
In Joshua, we learn that the Israelites killed everyone when they stormed the city of Jericho. This pattern continues as they move through the promised land as instructed (Deuteronomy 20:16–17). Many commentaries I found suggest that this was done because those cities refused the peace option God offers in Deuteronomy 20:10-12, however, to me the passage makes it clear that this was only for the people outside the borders of the Promised Land.
If you think of it from a humanitarian point of view, it’s not different than what we’re seeing today. Children and civilians being killed so that one people can possess a land already possessed by another people.
If you think about it from a strategic, or logic, point of view, the Israelites were eliminating future problems that could arise with the descendants and loved ones who had been slain.
If you think about it from a religious point of view, God instructed the Israelites to wipeout the inhabitants because they were wicked and unrighteous.
Regardless of which of these you are drawn to, there are additional questions and problems that you have to grapple with. Since I’m able to see agruments from all three view points, I thought I’d dive in a bit.
Most people probably think from the humanitarian point of view. In this mindset we seek to preserve life and decry violence. It is a peaceful way of looking at life, and probably the way life will be in the Kingdom. However in our imperfect world, it presents problems:
- Are people allowed to fight back or even kill in self defense?
- What if someone is harming someone else and reason doesn’t work?
- What if it’s necessary to harm an innocent person to take down an evil mastermind? Think about all the action movies or book storylines: if the villain takes someone (or some people) hostage, should the hero trade the very object (or knowledge) that will enable to the villain to take over the world to save the hostage(s)?
This method comes off a little heartless, but people who are logicians (like myself) sometimes distill everything into numbers and statistics and, well logic. In doing so, emotion is usually tossed to the wind. It is in this state of mind that someone will start thinking in this mindset. This view point made me think of the way ethics are debated in academic spaces. If you ever took an ethics class you’ll remember them asking about the train problem: there’s a train coming to a fork in the track, one track has 4 people standing on it, the other has 1 person on it; you alone can shift the track the train runs on but you can’t warn the people on the tracks. What do you do; who do you save? In my ethics class this question got more and more convoluted by adding information like the 1 person is your mother or the 4 people are criminals. Should it matter?
If you have a land of wicked people—let’s assume they were absolutely horrible people. It’s not difficult to think of reasons that justify war; for example, most people didn’t care about the politics of WWII, the reason people became invested in it was the discovery of the Holocaust and the crimes against humanity committed by the Nazi party. Most people would argue it was correct to stop them, by any means necessary. If an allied soldier had come face to face with an unarmed Hitler, they likely would not have thought twice about shooting him and the world would not likely have batted an eyelash.
But what about the children that attended the Nazi schools and were brainwashed into Nazi thinking? That’s where it gets messy.
- Imagine if someone had a time machine, went back to Hitler’s childhood, and killed him at say 10 years old. His parents would call for your head. You would be the villain of the story because to everyone, he would be an innocent child. However, you would have evaded a genocide and war in our timeline. You would have had information the people watching did not; the same way the Most High has information we do not.
- At what age to children stop being innocent? Can a child who has been taught racism, hate, and other bad behaviors be rehabilitated? One would argue a baby is innocent, but what would happen to a 13 year old? Would they change to your way of thought or harbor resentment that you killed their parents? If you spare the children, but kill the adults, who will take care of the children (remember we’re talking about large quantities, not singular family units)?
Most apologetics I’ve come across lean heavy on the fact that the people of Canaan were not innocent. They were pagan and enemies of God. While on the surface it seems like a simple answer, it also raises questions:
- The Israelites, though not 100% pagan, often fell into idolatry. They were not innocent either. What made them worthy to carry out this judgement? (Arguably, the answer to this would be that while Israel was not perfect, they had moments where they tried to follow God; the Canaanites had no such covenant or desire to follow the Most High and thus would have always been in idolatry)
- Our modern lens tells us to tolerate those who have differing beliefs. In some ancient religions there were human sacrifices (which even through our modern lens, may justify intolerance). However, whether justified in the modern eye or not, the Bible states many times that idolatry wasn’t to be allowed. A major shift in how lack of faith is dealt with can be seen in the Old Testament vs. the New Testament. In the Old Testament, people are often killed for disobeying God or following pagan traditions. Considering “the wages of sin are death” (Romans 6:23), it makes sense that there was such a harsh consequence. Messiah’s sacrifice, however, pays that debt if we repent. This is why we see examples of Messiah letting people go without the punishment of death (John 8:1-11). The goal with Israel was to bring light to the world; it was supposed to be a righteous kingdom everyone else could look to for an example. That responsibility has now passed on to the Church—any believer in the Most High and the Messiah. Today, we don’t stone people who violate the 10 Commandments because there is hope in their forgiveness through Messiah. They will either repent and be forgiven, or fail to repent and reap death at Judgment today. Perhaps this is the difference in weeding out idolatry in the Old Testament, and simply distancing yourself from it in this era.
- What about copycats? In wars, people always think they are right. The South tried to use the Bible to justify slavery and the mistreatment of black people. If you were to speak to Palestinians and Israelis right now, I’m sure both see their side as the right side. Essentially, anyone can claim God told them to destroy a nation or people. Anyone can claim another group is unrighteous—and to be honest, they’ll alway be right because we’re all sinners (Romans 3:23). Satan has been causing confusion since the earliest times by posing as god and encouraging people to do thing his way as opposed to God’s way. We see him duplicate and mimic God’s miracles throughout the text (think the sorcerers in Egypt during the Exodus). We see him quote scripture (Matthew 4:1-4). It takes a lot to recognize God’s truth from Satan’s lies.
I think it is both possible for God to declare the end of a people (other examples include the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the end times) as well as dangerous for people to say God told them to [insert any action]. The truth of the matter is that I do believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God. He has knowledge of all things past, present, and future, while you and I have only interpretations of information. He is the Creator. Based on the rest of the Bible which preaches justice for the poor, oppressed, foreigner, and orphan or the passage in which Abraham barters for the survival of Sodom and Gomorrah, I believe He is a just God and makes the right decisions even though I may not be able to see the full picture.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that there are countless people claiming to speak for God who are actually speaking for Satan. Sometimes they know they’re wrong and sometimes they’re deceived. Nonetheless, we are warned throughout the Bible that there will be impersonators. There are so many cults and so-called churches doing harm to people under the guise of godliness.
At this point in time, I think anyone claiming they were told to annihilate or mistreat any group of people by command of the Most High is either deceived or a liar. After the rejection of Messiah by the ancient Israelites, the gospel was to be spread to the world. All believer in the Gospel were grafted in to Israel and today Israel is not a nation but the body of Christ. The chance to be part of this body belongs to everyone. No where in the New Testament are we commanded to kill, torture, or otherwise mistreat those who reject the gospel.
References and Footnotes
- Nicole Narea. “A timeline of Israel and Palestine’s complicated history”. Vox. October 19, 2023; visited October 21, 2023
- Let’s Talk About Zionism…
- The U.S. government says Israel didn’t bomb the hospital: “Fake accounts, old videos and rumors fuel chaos around Gaza hospital explosion” by Shannon Bond of NPR
- “Why did God command the genocide of the Canaanites?”. GotQuestions.org. visited October 2023
- Andy Patton. “Why Did God Command the Invasion of Canaan in the Book of Joshua?”. The Bible Project. 2020; visited October 2023
- Don Stewart. “Why Did God Order the Destruction of the Canaanites?”. Blue Letter Bible; visited October 2023
- Dr. John Currid. “Why Did God Command the Destruction of the Canaanites?”. Reformed Theological Seminary. March 2, 2016
- William Lane Craig. “#16 Slaughter of the Canaanites”. Reasonable Faith. August 6, 2007; visited October 2023
- Leila Fadel. “Palestinians brace for more violence after reprisal attacks in the West Bank”. NPR. October 20, 2023
- “Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories”. Amnesty International; visited October 21, 2023
- Josef Federman and Issam Adwan. “Hamas surprise attack out of Gaza stuns Israel and leaves hundreds dead in fighting, retaliation”. AP. October 7, 2023; visited October 21, 2023
- Anderson Cooper. “The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper: Terror in Israel”. CNN. October 16, 2023; viewed October 20, 2023
- Lelia Fadel, Arezou Rezvani, Taylor Haney. “Loved ones of Hamas attack victims diverge over Israel's war in Gaza”. NPR. October 20, 2023; viewed October 20, 2023
Other Episodes This Season