Given the value our culture places on religious tolerance it can be very difficult for us to accept the intolerance we find attributed to God in the Old Testament. Why was God so negative towards Canaanite religion back in ancient times? Why did he forbid Israelites to mix with it? Why did he pass the death sentence on those who practiced it within the boarders of the Promised Land? Surely a God who issued such judgements cannot be just?
We can find this God very difficult to understand. Surely these judgements, judged by our standards, were the epitome of injustice? But before we rush to judgement it is important to get the full story. Before we take offence at judgements cherry picked from the Old Testament it is important to understand the context in which they were written. For if time is taken to read the Old Testament more fully, one may encounter the following verses:
Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft,
2 Kings 10-11
He desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice his son or daughter in the fire to Molech.
2 Kings 17:17
They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger.
They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons.
They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood.
And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough?
Why was God so intolerant towards Canaanite religion, and towards Israelites who indulged in it? Because, amongst other things, he wanted to smash the system of human sacrifice embedded within it. Unjust? Or just karma?