In Part 6 of The Just War, we looked at God’s First Command For Government or, more specifically, the first recorded command for government. It was that capital punishment was to be carried out for the crime of murder.
Some opponents to capital punishment argue, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” There is a deceptive circular reasoning in that argument that capital punishment is wrong and so therefore capital punishment is wrong. However, if capital punishment is right, then the argument is a non sequitor.
We also saw very real clues that capital punishment existed from the very beginning, else why was Cain so afraid that someone would kill him?
How would God have dealt with criminals if Adam and Eve had not sinned? Would God Himself have judged people? Or, would He have organized a government to carry out his wishes? Again, we only have clues to go by, but one of them is the nation of ancient Israel.
God dealt directly with Cain. We also saw in Part 4 that God dealt directly with the Egyptians. Israel did not draw one sword, nor did they fire one shot of an arrow. We also saw that God said He would send His angel before Israel to drive out the inhabitants. In fact, nowhere in Exodus does it seem to say that Israel would have to fight at all. I’m still waiting for someone to point that verse out to me.
In the Book of Deuteronomy, however, we find something quite different. In Dt 7:2, we read, “Thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them”.
I see a parallel between how God dealt with murder over time. God dealt with Cain Himself, while later generations were delegated the authority to deal with murderers. Why did God seemingly change in His dealings with Israel?
Rebellion. Lack of faith. Sin affects everyone. Sometimes it affects our descendants even after we are long gone. The original generation of the Exodus moaned, grumbled and complained. On more than one occasion, they threatened to stone Moses and Aaron! Then, they initially refused to enter the Promised Land. So, when God became angry and swore they would not enter the Promised Land, several of them tried to enter it anyways!
When my daughter was young, it often exasperated me how she would take things for granted. She did not appreciate most of her blessings, it seemed to me. Then, she started working. She began to realize that money doesn’t just flow into the house like tap water. She had to work for money, and it made her begin to appreciate things a little more.
When you read Exodus, it’s hard not to think of them as grown children. God led them out of slavery, He gave them His Law, He fed them, He gave them water, but they still complained. They not only lacked faith, they lacked appreciation.
So, making them work a little for their blessings not only imposes a penalty for sin, but it becomes a lesson as well.
Speculation? Perhaps. As we saw previously, the Book of Judges makes no apologies for God continuing to use war to test Israel because of their disobedience (Jdg 2:20 – 3:2).
However, that doesn’t always mean that war was approved of by God. There were very specific circumstances in which war would be blessed. This is the real difference between a “just war” and an “unjust war”. If God doesn’t approve of it, it is by definition an unjust war.
So, why was the Canaanite invasion a just war in God’s sight? Simple. He was the One Who authorized it!
Another lesson in all of this is that God keeps His promises. He swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob certain blessings about their descendants, and He came through. Israel’s sins got in the way, though, so He chose the next best method of fulfilling those promises. His will cannot be broken, but there are consequences for bad choices.
There was another drawback to doing it this way, though. Israel eventually succumbed to the notion that they were responsible for their own welfare and benefit. And so, we once again see a rejection of God because they wanted to become like all the pagan nations around them.