I received the following email a few weeks ago. I thought I would post it because of some of the questions that last week’s message raised. Two of the questions asked were “Can a Christian serve in the Military?” and “Does God support going to war?” My answer doesn’t answer the questions directly, but it will give you some good stuff to consider as you think of the questions.
Here’s the email:
Hey Pastor Randy,
I just have a quick question for you about something you said in your sermon this past Sunday. (With all due respect) you said that God never contradicts Himself, yet right now I am reading the book of Joshua and He seems to contradict Himself in every line. He had already given the Israelites the Ten Commandments, the one in question being thou shall not kill. So if He had already told them not to kill, why did He tell them to wipe out all of those cities and kingdoms, leaving no survivors?
I’ve just been thinking about this a lot since you mentioned it Sunday because I read my bible every night and seem to come across this quite a bit and couldn’t come up with a suitable answer.
Here’s my answer:
Thanks for the question! I’m really glad you are thinking through these things. Let me take a stab at this question. It’s one of the hardest in the Bible.
The 6th commandment is not accurately translated as just “kill.” The word is specifically referring to the murder of a human being by another human being. Fighting a just war, such as against Hitler in WW2, is not prohibited here. Neither is capital punishment. Neither is eating meat. Murder of a person by a person is what is prohibited. The definition of murder would be very similar to our definition of murder in an American court room. Dogs are never put on trial and accused of murder because dogs can’t murder. Only humans can. By it’s definition, God can’t murder either.
Now about the book of Joshua, God did tell them to kill everyone. I know that is hard to swallow for other reasons. But those people had already come under judgment from God. They were being punished by Him. That is not the same as murder. God is not contradicting himself. We know from the rest of the Bible how God works so we can assume that they had been warned and had refused to repent.
We also know that these people weren’t peaceful, random people. They were in a constant state of war with their neighbors, including the Israelites. It’s not like the Israelites just found some random people and killed them. They had a history with each other and it wasn’t pretty. So for God to tell them to wipe them all out, it made complete sense to them.
Well, I hope this helps a little. I know it raises even more questions so feel free to shoot those to me when they come up.
6 thoughts on “Does God Contradict Himself?”
Your answer, while semantically pleasing is absolute hogwash. It’s fiddling at the margins over definitions. God, as an entity and a perfect reflection of mankind ordered others to do the killing—yes, the murdering.
I’m sure that innocents were slain in the massacre. Just because God did it by proxy, those involved in the “justified killing,” also committed murder.
He had Father do away with son and brother do away with brother.
Family were split up in this way as to protect new children from being exposed to such corruptivity.
God actually did this to protect people.
The reason contradictions are found, is because it has been poorly translated into English.
For every passage in the bible there seems to be a condtradiction that counter attacks it like the people who wrote it were bored or mentally nuts.
Sorry if I offend any Christians but the idea of God is very irrational. I used to try and believe in God but I just cannot stomach all the contradictions in the bible and I am literally shocked since no one ever taught me about contradictions.
I am VERY dissapointed in the Christian religion and feel ashamed for ignoring my doubts as Christians do not use reason judgement when explaining their *faith*.
These websites offer a great explanation as to the reasons why God punished the people of the land. And, they were without excuse, for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were not far away and stood as visual reminders of practicing ungodly heavier.
I’m sorry that some do not understand or appreciate the sovereignty of God. But “faith” is just that – a belief that often flys in the face of “evidences” or personal perspectives. However, there are two things that must be considered: #1 Whenever God seems to be a contradiction, it is only my lack (or mankinds) of understanding. After all, He is God and His ways are much higher than my ways and His thoughts so beyond mine. #2 It is unfair to put my cultural lens on passages in the Bible to try to understand it. Context is everything, and unless I fully understand or appreciate the cultural lens, it is unfair to impose my lens on the people or the laws of God.
In the same Law where God tells people not to murder others, He also says to murder any Israelite who is a false prophet leading you away to another god; thus, the problem is not with the Bible but with your superficial and shallow interpretation of what the Bible is saying: the commandment is more like “do not murder any person who is a Torah/Law-observant, holy worshipper of God, who has done nothing worthy of the death sentence; but DO execute justice (up to, and including murder) against certain rebels – both among your own people and among other peoples in Canaan whom you will displace.”
It also says that God visits the iniquity of the fathers on their progeny up to their 4th generation – thus, it is entirely possible that God judged the 3rd and 4th generation on the spot because He judged the fathers worthy of that penalty. God let David’s baby die as a judgment when he slept with Bathsheba. What had be baby done to deserve it? Nothing. It was a judgment on David that fell on the baby. God saw fit to wipe the generations from the face of the earth and chose to do so using Israel as an instrument of judgment (i.e.: whereas, at other times, He chose to do the entire job Himself – re: the flood, Sodom & Gomorrah). Another note should be that this was neither the first nor last time God would use a nation to judge another nation (the Moabites displaced the Emim [Dt 2:11], and later the Babylonians were used to judge Israel – just to name a couple).
The Command not to murder is for Law-abiding citizens; the Command to execute justice includes murder – it depends upon the circumstances surrounding each and every case (it is on a case-by-case, person-by-person basis).