I have trouble reconciling some of the violence in the Old Testament. I detest today's Islamic violence in the Middle East, but it mirrors the destruction of the Promised Land peoples at the hands of the Jews -- both groups claim the right to do this "in the name of God." Intellectually, I can understand that God is sovereign and the Jews were his true chosen people, and that the people in the Promised Land followed false gods, etc., but to kill even the children and livestock seems overly violent. What should I study to help me sort this out emotionally?—John Roberts

A good question, and a fair question. But there is one difference between Islamic violence and OT violence. One was commissioned by God, the other not. In Canaan, the proposal was not that the inhabitants convert or be killed; in Islam's jihad, it is.

The genocide of Canaan is often described as "surgical." Repentance was out of the question for the Canaanites. The exceptions, like the prostitute Rahab, were spared. Please see also Deuteronomy 20, where God made a clear distinction between the cities of Canaan and other potential enemies to the nation of Israel. Of course today there is no church-state, so the people of God in the New Testament have no right to wage war on others. God and God alone has the right to take life away.

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