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.