A New Book about Divinely Sanctioned Violence in the Hebrew Bible Points to Ancient Tensions between Judaism and Christianity

July 25 2019

To modern readers, the injunction that appears in the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua to “drive out” the inhabitants of Canaan, which appears to command their mass slaughter, raises disturbing questions. Daniel Hawk, a professor of Old Testament at the Ashland Theological Seminary, attempts to address such questions in his recent book The Violence of the Biblical God, arguing—to put it simply—that God must from time to time condone bloodshed in trying to make His will manifest in a dysfunctional world. In his review, Shai Held praises Hawk for dismantling many commonplace but flawed approaches to these questions, but also has some sharp criticism:

In light of the many internal contradictions within the text [of the book of Joshua] and the highly stylized ways killing is described, Hawk concludes that [its] rhetoric about mass killing “contains more style than substance.” Like other recent scholars, he appeals to Deuteronomy 7. If God really wants the Israelites to “wipe out” the inhabitants of the land completely, then why does He immediately follow up with a commandment not to intermarry with them? The Israelites presumably will not marry [into] nations they have already slaughtered. The command to kill the nations of the land, then, “does not appear to be concerned with eliminating them so much as keeping Israel at a distance from them.”

The hyperbolic rhetoric of Deuteronomy and Joshua ultimately underscore [for Hawk] Israel’s commitment to radical separation from the land’s native inhabitants. The rhetoric is about mass killing, but the actual commitment is to something different—unadulterated commitment to God.

On one level, what Hawk offers represents a significant improvement over the approaches he rejects, if only because he takes the Hebrew Bible seriously on its own terms. . . . Yet on another level, Hawk’s approach is also profoundly troubling. In his account, God’s attempt to remake the world from the inside ends in “disaster,” and so, too, therefore does the Hebrew Bible as a whole. Turning to the New Testament, Hawk discovers a God who is still committed to working with kings, only this time from “outside the system.”

He [later adds], “In the New Testament, God still identifies with Israel but primarily with its travails and sufferings.” I am not sure this last statement is consistent with the rest of Hawk’s argument, but it is in any case troubling on its own terms: God identifies with Israel only when it suffers? This comes perilously close to implying that not only was Christ a Jew, but that if the Jews want God’s ongoing identification, then they must suffer like Christ.

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Read more at Christian Century

More about: Book of Joshua, Christianity, Deuteronomy, Hebrew Bible, Jewish-Christian relations, Theology

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism