Wars of the Old Testament

Recently I explored the relationship between the Old Testament and New Testament, beginning with the question, Is the God of the Old Testament Christian? That article still has people talking, most recently on Malcolm Chamberlin’s blog. The conversation has prompted me to make some clarifying comments, one of which I would like to repeat here:

…the wars of the ancient near east were a primary mode through which Israel in general, and its kings in particular, wrestled with issues of faithfulness. The high waters marks were where Israel totally relied on God (for example, the Red Sea crossing and the destruction of the walls of Jericho). The low water marks were where Israel took matters into its own hands and made alliances with Pagan powers and their gods. Seen in this light, the crucifixion and resurrection of the messiah was the climax of this process. Here, finally, was a king who trusted God completely.

You’ll see here that I have weaved the Old and New Testaments together into a continuous narrative. But it’s a narrative which significantly undermines the legitimacy of theocracy understood as military-religious dominance. It suggests Jesus is not irrelevant to the Old Testament wars, it suggests he is the messiah in a very concrete way, just not a way that will make the powers happy. Now, how much do we trust God?

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