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Old Testament God

Discussion in 'Non-denominational' started by danswab, Oct 2, 2001.

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  1. danswab

    danswab Guest

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    I was hoping someone could help me with a struggle I have been having with God's Word. Perhaps you have read or written a book or article that addresses my problem.

    Always, when I re-read the Old Testament, I find myself questioning my faith. There are times when I read through Deuteronomy, for instance, when I find myself asking God why it is that I seem to have more mercy and a greater sense of "fairness" than He does. I've always believed the scriptures are the inspired word of God and that the law was no less a part of the inspired word. In fact, throughout Deuteronomy it clearly claims GOD is the author of the rules detailed there.

    For years I've swallowed my feelings about difficult Old Testament passages and just accepted that I mustn't fully understand some of the difficult things that I am reading but I just can't seem to ignore them anymore. My concerns with what I read in the Old Testament are as follows:

    Mercy: I have always struggled over the mandate (Deuteronomy 20) from God to utterly destroy the enemy (including children) in the lands that the Israelites took over and the forcing of tribute from other nations at the threat of violence. I have further choked down instructions on dealing with slaves (rather than prohibiting slavery). Deuteronomy 21 calls for the stoning of a drunken, rebellious son which seems extreme and not particularly helpful to his conversion. Note that the laws are clearly quoted as being from GOD not MOSES. They are cleary represented as part of the will of God. Yet they seem very foreign to me from what I know of God.

    Sexism: Deuteronomy 21 has standards for dealing with inheritance when a man has multiple wives (rather than forbidding polygamy). Frankly, it seems the prohibition against adultery only applies when the MAN has been disadvantaged - he can have multiple wives but his wife cannot sleep with another man. This seems sexist. Further, Deuteronomy 21 seems to allow a warrior to take a virgin captive to be his bride (seems wrong in itself) and then send her on her way if he is not happy with her after he sleeps with her. Deuteronomy 22 mandates that a woman who is accused by her groom of not being a virgin must be stoned to death, but if the man is lying about this capital crime (which could have gotten her killed), he is merely forced to stay married to her rather than being stoned for attempted murder (he might WANT to die after returning home with her after that, but that seems like a light sentence).

    Silly: Did God REALLY write the laws in Deuteronomy 22 and 23 mandating parapets around your rooves, prohibiting plowing with an ox and donkey at the same time, and demanding that warriors relieve themselves OUTSIDE of the campgrounds because God walks the camp at night? Wouldn't a better use of God's energy have been to carve into the stone tablets a prohibition against slavery, polygamy, cruelty, and sexism?

    These rules seem one-sided, sexist, unbalanced, cruel and very human in origin. Though I want to believe that the law and scriptures come from God, I see more sexist, sinful human influence in these provisions than Godly influence. For some reason, though I have swallowed these feelings in the past, I am really struggling with them on this trip through the Old Testament. It is affecting my attitude and my prayer life.

    There may be some way to feel better about these types of concerns if the Israelites were truly good people, chosen because of their great faith and moral strength in the face of evil, threatening neighbors. But it is obvious that they were not a particularly good or moral or faithful people (Deuteronomy 9:6). To encourage a stiffnecked nation to kill, steal from, or enslave a sinful nation to glorify God seems wrong by TODAY's evil standards, let alone what you would think GOD would mandate. Even if God's law was improving on existing conditions, why wouldn't he go all the way with the improvement and demand fairness, freedom, monogamy, mercy, etc.? It's not as if the rest of the law is EASY so why does God stop short of demanding what is right in these areas?

    I've told myself that I must be misunderstanding SOMETHING. Perhaps the Bible isn't REALLY the Word of God (but then, what is my faith founded on - a lie?). Perhaps I have improperly made God into an image of what I want him to be when He is actually must less merciful (but then, do I want to worship THAT kind of God?). Perhaps God is not perfect and is learning from His mistakes and becoming more merciful - after all, Moses talked Him out of taking action several times and Christ's experience would give God first hand experience in being human (but doesn't scripture teach Him to be ALL Wise and ALL knowing, etc).

    Frankly, in light of the recent terrorist activity, doesn't the Deutoronomy view of God more closely match the terrorist characterization of a vindictive God who would reward those who kill infidels than it would the merciful God who died on the cross for them?

    This struggle is not about why is there so much suffering in the world. I think I understand the answers to that. This is about why GOD would make, as a part of his law and word, a set of rules that foster suffering. Why does God's word appear to ADD to the injustice of the world. Why does God's Word seem to be from a human, sexist, origin rather than from the finger of God as it REPRESENTS itself as being.

    I've prayed for guidance and patience. I'm sure that EVERYONE struggles with these issues at times. There must be a good resource to turn to. If you know of any, please point me in the right direction. Not one Bible commentary adequately addresses the issue. The Christian bookstores don't seem to have any material on it. The library is useless.

    Thank you for your assistance.


     
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  2. Josephus

    Josephus <b>Co-Founder Christian Forums</b> Supporter

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    It really isn't a struggle, though I can understand why it is easy to be confused.

    God is a God of judgement as he is of mercy. Not just in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament we see God as both a lion and a lamb. In Revelations, we see God's wrath poured out on the earth. We know prophecy has to be fulfilled and many "innocents" will die. But when you realize that the death of the innocent is insignifigant compared to the death of the lost without their righteousness being in God. We must believe that God is a perfect executor of His justice, and that somehow that which might seem unfair...somehow, probably because we aren't taking all variable into account like the infinite God can, those actions must be - fair.

    And indeed we do find the answers when we look with that mindset: the people in Canaan were given hundreds of years to repent before God used the Israelites to judge them.

    And how can it be that God sees it fair when he says WE will be placing judgement over angels?

    Just some things to think about to understand that there is more here than meets the eye at first, second, or even third glance. :) God is amazing!
     
  3. ZoneChaos

    ZoneChaos Senior Veteran

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    On thing to understand also is that in that day you hada system of cultures that do not exist to day. Not, to deminish God, but God aside for a moment, the culture of the day also demended that enemies be annihilated. That was the accepted way, not only of the Israelites, but of the enmies as well. Back then it was natural order, to wipe out the eemy, and every trace of them, so as not to leave open the possibility of revenge.

    Now, it is possible, and I beleive that the Israelites, and possibly other poeple did not agree with this philosophy, but never the less had to accept it becasue other people did... kill or be killed. At that time a weal nation was a non-existant nation. As God's poeple, they could not be weak, becasue God ha da plan for them



    Here again there are other circumstansed to consider. Think about how man had to multiply from the beginning: Incest, was manditory for survival. Also, in order to sped up the process, multiple wives were taken to increase offspiring.

    After the fall, man was still closer to the original creation than we are today, physically. Man lived longer, whihc is a sign of increased health. I beleive that part of that was an increases defense against disease, mutation, etc...

    Many Laws God gave the Israelites, such as do not eat pork, were done so, so keep the healhy. On the flip side of that, things which now are forbidden, were not so, becasue man could tolerate it.



    Society back them had man dominant in everything.. from the beginning man was always dominant. Man was the provider, not a woman. Man was the teacher, not the woman. Man, taking care of many wives coulf fit into this, becasue it would be one man responsible for many women.. and for his family. However, if one woman had many men, then you would have many men responsible for one woman. That does not fit with a culture and society centered on dominant male figures.



    Again, yes it does seem wrong to us.. but the only other choice for the woman would be slavery. Again we are dealing with a cultural system here. Woman were taken care of. In this case the default is slavery, unless intervines by another.



    First.. sleeps with her, in mairrage. Why the miarrage didn't work.. who knows. It is not fair to assume that the soldier, or whoever is a vile person who only wants sex and will get it any way he can. Most people are honorable, and it is better to assume that their intentions were honorable, rather than dishonarable. Second, also notice that if the man rejects her, she is given freedom, and not placed back into slavery, as would have been her original place.



    Chapter 22, in dealing with sex is all about intent. R4ea dth surrouding verse and you will see diffeent punishements for both men and women, for different axcts, whoich all center arounf intent. IN this particular case, death is warranted becasue the woman knew she was not a vrgin and had sex, but the man did not know she was a virgin.

    Also, in this particualr case, an investigation is done befroe judgement is made against the woman, incolving both her, her husband and her parents. The crime in this and all verses in the portion of scripture is knowing ly having sex when you know you should not.



    Alarm bells go off in my head here, when I read what you wrote.

    First, this verse is not sayhing what you are implying. Second, this verse is clarifying to the Israelites that it was noy by their righteousness that they were able to get the land thet had, but is ws by God's Righteousness (9:4). Third: the alarm bells. I am feeling a bit like you want what you say to be true. Maybe I am wrong, but I am being honest it waht I feel. Your post for the most part is neither positive not negative, yet what you state above is indicitive of those who are usually anti- something wether it be they are agaisnt inerrancy, or what hever you. Just as a warning, be sure you know scripture before you attribute a meaning to it. The verse is not what you think it is.

    I am not judging you, but simply letting you know that what you wrote has put me on guard. ;)



    You are closest in your seconf scenario, but to be more accurate, God is more than just merciful. God is also judge. Judgement comes after mercy has been expended. God is not Omnibenevolent as some may think.
     
  4. danswab

    danswab Guest

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    Josephus, thank you for taking the time to respond. I have little doubt that part of my problem is that, being human, I am looking through the glass darkly. I believe, however, it would be improper for me to quickly dismiss my concerns based on that rationale - I will learn little of God (and be able to convey even less to others) if I dismiss my concerns that conveniently. After all, God gave us minds to question such things. Someone in a pagan religion with similar concerns about spiritual or doctrinal issues might never question the shortcomings of their doctrines (and come to Christ) if they satisfy themselves simply by saying "God must know more than me and I just have to accept my religion as is." There must be better answers.

    God is a God of both mercy and justice - you are correct. But recall that mercy TRIUMPHS OVER judgment (James 2:13).

    As for your comment that "the people in Canaan were given hundreds of years to repent before God used the Israelites to judge them" - of this I have little doubt. However, the 5 year old son of a stubborn pagan whose grandfather was also a stubborn pagan is hardly responsible for their behavior and should not be slaughtered for it. His ancestors may have shown no mercy (and therefore deserve judgment), but he is hardly in a position to be responsible for that. His 15 year old sister should not be taken captive, given a month to mourn the slaughter of her parents, and then force to be the wife and sex partner of her captor (and divorced if he is not pleased). This just doesn't sound like God talking.

    I appreciate the feedback and will continue to try to struggle through this.
     
  5. danswab

    danswab Guest

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    Zone, thank you for your response. However, I must tell you that I think you have very much missed the point of my questions.

    You commented that it was the CULTURE of the time to destroy your enemy and that this was the environment the Israelites worked in. That may have been, but this was GOD telling the Israelites to do it (and to kill CHILDREN as well), not some man bound by the culture of the time. Further, it may have been the culture of these people to steal, to sacrifice children, to kill, to lie, to commit adultery and to worship other gods. Just because it was the culture of the time did not give the ISRAELITES reason to "fit in" with that culture. God, I thought, was different (hence his beautiful, but difficult code that He gave us to live by). God was providing a better way, I thought. Why demand change in the areas He did (thru the commandments such as do not commit adultery) but leave these brutal or sexist portions of the culture in place?

    You also stated that the multiple wives and male dominated society had to do with survival and growth of the nation. This was not the second generation after Adam or the second generation after the flood. Procreation was not an issue and never (to my knowledge) discussed as one in the scriptures for that period of Bible history. Even with Adam, God gave him Eve, not many EVES (though Adam may have chosen to do so himself as a sinful man). Are you saying that God's word is relative? Are you saying that God changes with the times? Was it okay for mormons to have multiple wives while in the wilderness of their initial history? Is it okay for me to do so now if I believe my circustances dictate? Or is this just another man made double standard passed off as God's will?

    You state that the slave girl taken captive and force to be a wife had no other choice but slavery. Nonsense! She could have been adoptive and treated with dignity. Or she could have been granted her freedom from the beginning. She could have been give choice in the marriage before the marriage was consumated (so that it was not just HIS choice after the fact). That is how I would assume a merciful God would demand we act. But this law appears to be written by a man for man's sinful purpose.

    You state that Deuteronomy 22 looks to the INTENT and sees inside the heart. I believe you stated that the man who falsely accused a woman of NOT being a virgin was mistaken, not acting on purpose, and that is why he is not killed (though the accusation could have gotten her killed). Know your scripture. Reread it. It clearly states that the man "dislikes her" and "slanders her" for that reason and that the parents had the bed sheet evidence of her virginity which would have been hard for him to miss - no mistake here - just a deliberate attempt to dump a woman he did not like. Yet he gets off without attempted murder charges for falsely accusing the woman of something that could have gotten her killed. Sure sounds more like sexist man making a law than it does a just and merciful God.

    As for the bells in your head, I believe you are implying that I am anti-semetic. If that is what you were implying, that is an irresponsible leap (if not, I apologize for jumping to conclusions). I am simply repeating what has been stated time and again in the scriptures - the Jews were not chosen for their greatness but their weakness - to glorify GOD. People who were not particularly moral nor deserving of special treatment were chosen by God to GLORIFY HIM, not for their glory. Yet they were being allowed to take over the lands of others, kill children, take slaves, and demand tribute from others (some of whom were probably BRUTAL pagans, others were probably not particularly more brutal than the "existing culture" you refer to).

    God is just AND merciful, as I have always understood Him. But even more - as I said to Josephus - James 2 states that mercy TRIUMPHS OVER judgment. I simply don't see that here in Deuteronomy. I am looking for a resolution of this conflict. If you have a resource you find particularly useful, I would greatly appreciate being pointed in the right direction.
     
  6. Josephus

    Josephus <b>Co-Founder Christian Forums</b> Supporter

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    Dan, I appreciate your questions. :)



    One thing is for certain though: as human beings born into a sinful nature, we deserve death - no matter if we're good or bad, no matter how young or old we are. Death in and of itself of this body is not a punishment that matters from God's perspective. It's the result of a fallen nature. What IS punishment is having your eternal soul condemned to hell for all eternity. That is why Jesus says not to be afraid of those who can kill the body, but to fear the One who can send your soul to hell for all eternity.

    A 5 year old child would be innocent in the eyes of God in regards to eternal punishment. This is because the bible mentions a time of accountability in one's life that when they are able to make decisions concerning what is right or wrong, you will be held accountable for it. I don't know what would happen if an innocent child died, but I do know that God's judgment, when He judges, will be totally fair - and no one in the End will say that the judgment they got was unfair - because God IS fair, more so than you or I. In fact, God is PERFECTLY fair, and perfectly just. That is why those who will be rewarded will be rewarded perfect for what they deserve - no more no less, and those punished will be punished for what they deserve - no more, no less.

    Another perspective I have also added to this one is that of the historical context:

    The civilizations in which God used the Israelites as instruments of his judgement (and vice versa) to destroy them were by no means civilized to even their own children as they would sacrifice them to their own gods. I could clearly see how God could be perfect and just in telling the Israelites to destroy these cultures - especially if He gives them enough time to repent! Children, though dead, would be delivered from either being sacrificed themselves, or following the paths of their own sinful fathers - and thus putting their own immortal souls at risk for eternal damnation! I personally believe that God is smart enough to determine when someone or some culture is beyond turning back in repentence. It's like a point of no return that somehow He knows when it happens - and He tarries for as long as he can to prove himself wrong, but we all know that infinite patience is not justice, and so does God. That is why there will also be a Judgement Day to finally bring justice to those whom justice was denied in their lives. Many will also see and personally know the Mercy which they recieved and accepted for themselves while alive - and experience the truth of being "saved" from being listed with the "sinners."

    God also commanded the Israelites to treat the aliens in their country with respect and dignity - the Temple even reflected this when it was built with a Gentile Court. Had the Israelites followed God's command to completely destroy the peoples He told them to, there would have been no "captives" and no "foreign women" to be made into slaves and wives. Disobedience to one command sprouts disobedience to others, and pretty soon you have a cycle which gets worse and worse as the country falls deeper and deeper into sin - reaching that point of no spiritual return of which God seems to be the smartest to decide when that is...and he loves Israel so much that he has no choice but to use other nations to invade and finally disperse Israel in resounding scriptures that always show His heart's reasoning for sending calamity upon his own people: "that they would turn to ME in their time of distress and repent of their sin."

    Sorry for the extremely long run-on sentence, but I hope you might understand the thought process which is evident throughout the history of scripture and the actions of the Most High who is totally and completely in love with his creation.
     
  7. LouisBooth

    LouisBooth Well-Known Member

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    Just a small clarification from me;)

    "That is why Jesus says not to be afraid of those who can kill the body, but to fear the One who can send your soul to hell for all eternity."

    Its more of a respect fear, not the fear like a little kid of monsters under the bed fear, but the kind you would show someone in power you respect. You would address them as yes sir, no sir, stuff like that.
     
  8. Josephus

    Josephus <b>Co-Founder Christian Forums</b> Supporter

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    That's right LB. Thanks.
     
  9. LouisBooth

    LouisBooth Well-Known Member

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    Just keeping it real.......:lol: ..sorry couldn't hold that straight face too long...:)
     
  10. charitycleanslate

    charitycleanslate Newbie

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    From most of what I have read here, most of you have a pretty good grasp of the O.T. culture and what the word says. I'll admit from the start, I haven't a clue why God still allowed slaves when He could have outlawed them. Someday He will let me in on such things.

    I do want to give you something to throw into the mix so to speak. I used to have a pastor who said that you can't know what God is like by looking at the O.T. Jesus said that He came to reveal the Father and that in everything that He did, He saw the Father doing it first. He said God is good, that in Him is only light and no darkness. Because of that, we have to realize that somehow good is manifesting even in the laws that we don't understand.

    The purpose of Israel and for the purposes of this discussion, especially Judah, in the O.T. was to preserve a bloodline that would bring forth Jesus who would save the whole world. Because of that, trying to peacefully coexist with people who consistently perverted the people of Israel was not an option. Foreigners could embrace Israel and become part of it if they were circumcised but otherwise, they had to remain inferior in the eyes of the Hebrew people. (Maybe that explains the slavery part.)

    I haven't spent that much time considering these law questions. I have written a small book on the book of Exodus that looks at it from the God is good angle. It isn't a word study but deals more with human nature. If you are interested, it is a free download but you will have to get it from my blog website in my profile because this forum won't let me post links yet ;-(
     
  11. trentlogain

    trentlogain Junior Member

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    Here's one..Why was there seemingly no punishment for Aaron for his part in the idol worshipping while Moses was in the mountains?

    It makes you think. That's all I'm saying.
     
  12. charitycleanslate

    charitycleanslate Newbie

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    Aaron is a prime example of the scripture that says the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. (Rom 11:29) You can't judge a man's character by his gifts. He was allowed to live to fulfill the calling on his life to be High Priest but you didn't see him going into the Promised Land either did you?
     
  13. LJSGM

    LJSGM Senior Veteran

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    You misquoted scripture.

    Matthew 10:28

    28Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

    I'm an annihilationist in beliefs and do not subscribe to the "eternal suffering" doctrine so prevalent in the church, so I can't just let that one slide. ;) You are adding to the word of God.


    Being an annihilationist makes it much easier to understand the OT and the deep spiritual meanings behind it as well.
     
  14. LJSGM

    LJSGM Senior Veteran

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    have you ever looked into dispensationalism? The OT was the age or dispensation of the LAW. The new testament, after Jesus' sacrifice, the age of grace. Perhaps all of those laws were given to show that without Jesus, we would be dead, and a slave to sin.

    Galatians 3
    15Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed,"[g] meaning one person, who is Christ. 17What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

    19What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. 20A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.
    21Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. 23Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ[h] that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
     
  15. Knightlock

    Knightlock Junior Member

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    God did not allow slaves, he tried to free them with that law.

    God said that a person who was bought as a slave was to be freed after seven years. If you note in the scripture that God did not institue slavery as it was already in many nations at the time. His intention was to free the slaves from slavery not to keep them under it.

    In Jerermiah God says that he was angry due to the fact that israel did not free their slaves after seven years and had violated what God called his command of freedom. So God intention was to use to law to free not to keep in slavery.

    Hope this helps.
     
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