God’s Holy Ban
Holy God, I praise You for Your boundless blessings and mercy. Use Your Word to conform me to Your will.
Read Joshua 6:12-19
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“The quest for peace with justice is much more costly than appeasement … Yet we must not glamorize or glorify war, however just we may perceive its cause to be” (John Stott).
Today’s section enacts the instructions already given, and builds to a climax with the seven circuits around Jericho in the seventh day. The extra ingredient is the command to destroy everything except Rahab and her household. If this is not done, the destruction will rebound on Israel herself, an anticipation of the story of Achan to come in ch. 7.
The key word of this section is the Hebrew term herem (with a hard “h” like the Scottish “loch,” vs. 17,18). Like the related word harem, it means people or objects devoted to one person or purpose only, and forbidden to anyone else. Because of its Canaanite character, idolatry and wickedness, the Israelites must have nothing to do with anything in Jericho. This normally means total destruction, but can also have the effect of a “ban” on making treaties, trade or marriage with such a group. The one exception is Rahab and her family, because her loyalty is now with Israel.
The herem is one of the most perplexing concepts of the Old Testament. Why would God command the total destruction of Israel’s enemies? We find it difficult to think of a God of love who would command so complete an annihilation of Israel’s foes. Three possible explanations might help us. First, Israel herself would be punished for the same sins as the Canaanites, as we will see from Achan’s example. Rahab and Achan effectively change places, he becomes the Canaanite and she the Israelite. Second, God’s judgment is against sin, not ethnicity. The conquest of Canaan is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Genesis 15:16. Finally, this one-time event should not be extended into a general principle. Israel is about to enter her inheritance. In the future she must offer terms of peace before going to war (Deut. 20:10-20).
What principles of war and peace do you see in this passage? How do these apply to the conflicts we see today?
Lord, I realize it is so easy to put worldly values ahead of You. Help me always to make kingdom values first in my life.
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