I’ve come to understand the relationship between God and his people as a joint enterprise between God and man.
The original purpose and impetus come from God, but a large part of the practical work is done by human agency and therefore compromised by human
thoughts and preferences.
And that’s where the flaws come from. The human contribution.
In the past, I’ve argued that case on the “social” laws of the Pentateuch; GOD’S
LAW; YOUR PATIENT TEACHER
I found it necessary to try to discern the difference between the human element in the teaching and the effects of God’s influence.
The same can be said of the history of Old Testament Israel (and also, for that matter, the history of the church).
The history of Israel, when examined carefully, is found to be full of things which God did not want.
He did not want human sacrifice, and made strong declarations against the sacrifice of children, which was the most popular form.
He demanded the death penalty for murder, on the principle of “equal recompense”. Yet we may question how much he intended the extension of the
death penalty to lesser offences like adultery and disobedience to parents. This extension looks like a human solution to the problem that Israel was
not a voluntary society, and needed some way of enforcing conformity to the rules which had been given.
Paul would have recommended expulsion, but people cannot be expelled from a territorial community except by exile or death.
He did not want slavery, and would not have wanted marriage to be undermined by loose practices like divorce and polygamy. However, educating his
people out of these practices was a slow process, and he was obliged to tolerate what Jesus called “the hardness of their hearts”.
He did not ask for kingship or a Temple, and he did not (according to Jeremiah) ask for animal sacrifice. In all these things, his people were simply
imitating the institutions of the culture in which they found themselves. Nevertheless, this did not prevent him from using these institutions for
symbolic purposes, at least for the time being.
In short, we cannot take it for granted, without qualification, that Israel is always acting in accordance with God’s will.
Which has a bearing on the question; How much “of God” was there in the wars of the Israelites?
In fact the wars of the Israelites come in different forms, which means the question is not straightforward.
In the first place, there were the defensive wars, fought to protect the very existence of the society and the lives of individual members.
The gospel advice to “turn the other cheek” was given to individuals. In the current sinful state of the world, no nation
policy for itself could expect to survive the attacks coming from outside.
It was no part of God’s purpose that he should allow his people to become extinct, and therefore he was willing to help them to defend
This was the case even in the very beginnings of the nation.
When Jacob was coming back to the land and expecting to face the potentially hostile forces of Esau, the angels of God met him on the way. He took
this as a sign that the hosts of the Lord would be supporting his own host, and called the place Mahanaim- “Two armies” (Genesis ch32 vv1-2).
Moses was praying for, and evidently receiving, the Lord’s help when Joshua was leading Israel against the attack of the Amalekites (Exodus ch17
In their settlement in Canaan, before the establishment of the kingdom, the Israelites were constantly suffering from the raids or the domination of
outsiders. The pattern we find is that the Lord “raised up judges, who saved them out of the power of those who plundered them” (Judges ch2
So he raised Ehud (to fight the Moabites), Barak (for Jabin, king of Canaan), Gideon (for the Midianites), Jephthah (for the Midianites), Saul (for
the Philistines and the Ammonites and the Amalekites), and David (for the Philistines).
That’s why they did not need kings. He was giving them men who were doing the work of kings.
edit on 28-8-2020 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)