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

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.

Read more at Christian Century

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

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas