In this episode, Kurt revisits the Conquest account with Dr. John Walton & Harvey Walton, co-authors of The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant, Retribution, and the Fate of the Canaanites.
Here is the link to the fundraiser for Ed Komoszewski: https://www.gofundme.com/ed-komoszewski039s-medical-expenses?d=179284968
Here is the link to Dr. John Walton and Harvey Walton’s new book: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-World-Israelite-Conquest-Retribution/dp/0830851844
Intro: Deeper Roots Conference and our Fundraiser
KURT: Well a good day to you, and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. I am your host Kurt Jaros and I am delighted to be with you here yet again. This is episode 59. Episode 59 and I’m very pleased to be revisiting a topic that we had, I believe last autumn with Dr. Paul Copan. We were talking about the supposed genocide commands and the conquest account. But before we jump into that, I want to bring your attention to a couple announcements here. We are just two weeks away from the Deeper Roots conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I hope if you haven’t yet made plans that weekend that you would come join us as we deepen our faith through understanding, equip believers to share that faith and to connect believers to one another. The speakers are Jay Warner Wallace, Tim McGrew, Lydia McGrew, Rob Bowman and a host of others and I think it’s going to be a great time. A lot of fun and if you are interested you can go to defendersmedia.com and click on the Deeper Roots conference image there, right there on the homepage so you can learn more.
Also for those of you who have been listening now for a few weeks, we are undergoing a small capital campaign, a fundraiser to bring in further money for the podcast so that we can have an advertising budget, pay our tech guy Chris, and for a couple other things but I really want to draw your attention right now actually to a fundraiser and we’re going to, we’re going to share this link on the website. It’s a fundraiser for a Christian apologist named Ed Komoszewski and he’s written a number of books including Reinventing Jesus and Putting Jesus in his place and he’s interacted with various New Testament scholars. Ed has a history of medical problems sort of, you could call them medical mysteries even that, even the Mayo Clinic hasn’t been able to help diagnose what’s going on and so, there is currently a fundraiser going on to help cover his medical expenses because they’ve, there’s just, it’s really gotten out of hand for him sadly but here’s the great thing.
There is currently a sort of fundraising auction right now and the winner of this fundraising auction I have confirmation will win one dinner with Christian apologist, David Wood. So for those of you don’t know, David Wood is an apologist with Acts 17 Apologetics and he specializes in studying Islam and debating Muslims on why Jesus is in fact the Messiah and so if you want to get a dinner with David Wood, you can click on the GoFundMe link that we’re going to provide at our website and we’ll even share about it on social media. If you participate in that donation auction, the winner will get a chance for dinner with David Wood. So, it’s awesome that he has been willing to agree to this and I hope that you will pledge and give your support to Ed to help cover his medical expenses.
All right now let me transition into today’s topic. So, we are revisiting the conquest account and looking at the supposed genocide commands. It’s really a controversial subject for many people. My position, I have been sympathetic to Paul Copan’s view and if you want to learn about that you can go back into our archive and find that episode. If you go to our website veracityhill.com click on episodes and you won’t see all of the episodes that we’ve got. Just scroll down, I know it was towards the beginning of the show when we did that episode and I’m sympathetic to that view. Nevertheless, after my interview here with Dr. John Walton he’s provided for me some things to think about and I hope that as you listen to this interview with Dr. John Walton and Harvey Walton, co-authors of this recent book, The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant Retribution and the Fate of the Canaanites which is published by InterVarsity Press. I hope that you will be challenged to think about these issues as well.
Interview with the Waltons on the Conquest Revisited
KURT: Thanks for joining me on the show today. So, you’ve got this book it just came out last week. The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest and tell us a little bit about your motivation to, perhaps even inspiration for writing this book.
JOHN WALTON: Well it’s obviously a topic that people find very confusing and problematic today. They read about the conquest and, you know, it used to be that people somehow didn’t get upset about it, but in today’s world there’s a lot of sensitivity to these sorts of things and with the skeptics saying things like, you know, this is a genocidal God. He’s a moral monster. How can you even worship a God like this who would do such horrible things? You know, we would never condone this, you know, all of those things have made it problematic even for people who don’t get persuaded by the skeptics, still, they start to feel a little uneasy within themselves and so I think it’s one of the bigger problems that Christians are struggling with today.
KURT: So now before we get into some of the details of how you’ve interpreted these controversial passages, first I want to take a preliminary step and this is one of things I really appreciate about your methodology. It’s about looking at the text as an ancient document. Guide us through what you mean by that.
JOHN WALTON: This is part of the Lost World Series and in The Lost World Books, that’s one of the hallmarks of the series that we recognize and really each book in the Lost World Series talks about this. So, this book starts out by explaining all of that. That, you know, we’re in our world and the Bible was written in a very different world. And my usual phrase, it’s written for us but it’s not written to us and therefore we have to do some work to try to identify with that original audience. And so that idea of trying to cross the barrier and understand the text in its own terms. Yeah, my basic premise for that is that the author was the channel of God’s authority and therefore if we want to get God’s purpose and God’s authority, we have to go through the author and therefore understand the language and the ideas in that culture.
KURT: And at least for me I found that that mantra of yours, which is a very good one, can help us to divest ourselves of bad hermeneutical baggage. We come to the text as 21st century Americans and we think the text means one thing or we’ve been trained to think a certain way and that’s just not placing ourselves in that context, so it’s a great methodology.
JOHN WALTON: Right, we tend to impose our own culture, our own ideas, our own questions, our own searches. We impose those on the text and try to drag it out of the text and when we do that, we’re just not, we’re not getting what the text itself is doing.
KURT: Ok, so now let’s jump in a little bit to how you’ve interpreted and understood these controversial passages and let me start off by saying this, so the way that I’ve seen the debate on this issue at least in the apologetic world, is you might get someone like William Lane Craig whose position is that well, you know, if God commands and who are we to judge what God has to say? You see this also in a lot of reformed camps, but really our sense of morality comes from God himself. So if we think there’s some problem we’re probably the ones that haven’t quite understood what’s going on from an ethical standpoint. Now on the other side of things you might get a position advocated by Paul Copan that this rhetoric is from, you know, its ancient near-eastern war rhetoric and so that I know is something that you do talk about in this book and one of the aspects that I think that’s going to be very controversial and for which you devote two parts of your book is the claim that it’s really not about sin. I don’t know, maybe you probably even go a bit further than that to say that the Canaanites weren’t guilty of sin or guilty of breaking God’s command. So could you guide us through some of those thoughts of yours?
JOHN WALTON: Well I think I would agree that what God does is what God does and that we shouldn’t think we can stand in judgment on it, yet at the same time, I don’t think we should try to domesticate it. We shouldn’t try to explain why it’s justice and why it’s okay because then we’re still trying to evaluate it in reference to our own sensibilities and our own ideas of what would be just and what wouldn’t be. We should just stop trying to evaluate it in terms of justice or goodness. We should accept what God does as what God does. So, neither justifying nor defending or any of those things. At the same time, we have to understand what it is that God’s actually doing and what it says.
HARVEY WALTON: I was going to say that we have to, if we are going to, before we try to talk about even beginning whether or not we should try to justify God we have to talk about what it is that God is doing and whether or not this is seen as being about war or about justice or about ethics and it’s… a lot of what we are trying to talk about is not what is going on here. That if you look at how the original audience would have understood what they were being asked to do and what God was having them do and why, what they were, what they were being asked to do and what God was telling them to do. How they would have understood what was going on. That it’s not about justice or morality really at all. It’s about their establishing the place where the covenants will be carried out and kept and it’s mostly about using terms that would be familiar to them to define what their conception of the Covenant that they’re establishing ought to be and that has to do with the way they think about what war is and what war does. About what enemies are and what enemies do and about how they’re all going to relate to the land. Both with foreigners living in it, themselves living in it. Who the land belongs to, who will be administered to. Those aren’t really even relevant to the debate of how can God do what he does. It’s not what the story is about but that’s not what it’s about then we can’t expect to be getting answers to those questions when we look at the Bible and any answers we get, it’s kind of just our own philosophy that isn’t really grounded in what the Bible is talking about at all.
KURT: Now I know for some people this is going to be a shocker if you will, and so some of them are going to say and I know you deal with this in your book, what do you do about the numerous passages that talk about the sins of the Canaanites? Doesn’t the Bible talk about the sins of the Canaanites?
JOHN WALTON: Some of the passages that we think talk about the sins of the Canaanites don’t. Sometimes we haven’t translated them as well as we should. Sometimes we’ve taken passages that are more generally about the kinds of things that people would do in contrast to God and they’re not really things that the Canaanites specifically are being accused of doing. In other words, they’re stereotypes, okay? So, we have some translation issues, we have stereotype issues and remember also that the Canaanites- they’re not under the Covenant. They’re not accountable to the Covenant. They don’t know the Covenant. And God doesn’t hold them accountable for that. God doesn’t punish nice because they worship idols. Everybody in the ancient world worshiped idols including unfortunately, often the Israelites but they weren’t supposed to but the other people wouldn’t know any different and God doesn’t hold them accountable for that and punish them for that. So, lots of the passages that are presumed to talk about the sins of the Canaanites, we re-evaluate and try to show how really something else is going on. That’s really what a good chunk of the book is about. Trying to evaluate those passages.
HARVEY WALTON: There’s also, there’s also a lot less of those passages than people think there are. We were shocked when we went through the text trying to find these to talk about how little there is. I mean, we knew we knew that there wasn’t much, but even I thought there was going to be more than what we actually found. There is surprisingly little about the about the sin of the Canaanites and it’s really only based in three or four passages which are ultimately about something else. They’re usually contrasted, they’re always contrasted with Israel. It’s, the people did these things if you do these things you’re going out of the land that’s what it always is and it’s designed to kind of contrast a ideals of covenant fidelity against non-covenant fidelity which is relevant for the Israelites because they’re going to be punished for not following the Covenant but the Canaanites aren’t under the Covenant so they’re not really being punished.
KURT: So, let me let me ask then, let’s take one particular passage that at least I had in mind here. So, Genesis 15:16 which I know is one of the verses you guys tackle. That one seems to say though that God is waiting to punish the Amorites, I guess maybe some translations say Canaanites. Mostly Amorites and that their time has not been yet fulfilled. I’m paraphrasing.
JOHN WALTON: Yeah but sure.
KURT: But basically that, you know, their wickedness has gotten – I know Dr. Walton you’ve often talked about the scales and so the scales needs to get heavier before God will bring punishment to them.
JOHN WALTON: Well and there are numerous significant problems in that verse. First of all, it talks about, translations talk about the sin of the Amorites. The word there is avon. Avon can sometimes refer to guilt or to wrongdoing, but in Genesis we’ve seen numerous passages already, up to Genesis 15, where it refers to what God is going to do not what people have done. So Cain says my avon is too much for me to bear. That’s not his sin that’s too much for him to bear it is what God is doing to him.
HARVEY WALTON: His exile.
JOHN WALTON: His exile, right. The, I guess it’s Lot and his family are worried about the avon know the angel say the avon of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will overtake you. That’s not the sin, that’s the judgment that’s coming on them so avon is what God is doing not what people are doing. So, the avon of the Amorites is what God is going to do to the avon of the Amorites that is drive them out of the land. Okay. so, the avon of the Amorites and it’s usually translated has not yet reached its full measure. The phrase they translate “not yet” doesn’t refer to a situation that’s building from point A to point Z as it progresses. It talks about rather than its reached a plateau and it’s not going anywhere. It’s a status quo and so the idea that it is, that it’s growing, that it’s getting worse it’s not expressed by that Hebrew term. So, the avon being brought against the Amorites is kind of on hold. It’s not going anywhere and the full measure is not, it doesn’t mean full measure. It means a recompense. Again, used very rarely and we talk about where it’s used. And so the, what’s it’s saying is that this destiny of calamity that’s going to come on the Amorites and they’ll see it as calamity is not yet being measured. It’s on a status quo. It’s on hold. It’s not building at all. Furthermore, it mentions the Amorites not the whole laundry list of peoples of the land and not the Canaanites and you have to ask the question, “Who are the Amorites in Genesis 15?” And you don’t have to look far you just go back to Genesis 14. And when Abram fights against the kings of the East, he needs some help who comes along to help him? It’s the Amorites. It’s his neighbors. They’re his friends. They’re his allies and so the Amorites are not the big bad guy in that Genesis context the Amorites are his friends and allies. So, when God says that he’s going to give Abraham the land in 400 years, that’s Genesis 15, this verse says, talks about not 400 years but the fourth generation which means after Abraham’s lifetime. Abraham’s little worried he’s going to have to kick his own friends out of the land and God’s us not to worry you know it’ll be after your time fourth generation. Because right now the avon, the destiny of calamity for the Amorites, your buddies and friends and allies is on hold. It’s a status quo. It’s not being tallied.
KURT: So, is this, do you think that this issue of interpretation really comes down to translation?
JOHN WALTON: Oh absolutely.
KURT: We just have been given poor translations over the centuries?
JOHN WALTON: I don’t want to be so uncharitable about, toward my fellow translators. These are very complicated Hebrew issues, okay?
HARVEY WALTON: There are reasons why they translated that way the interpretation that the Canaanites have a tally of sin that’s being increased until they’re finally booted out of the land. That is very old. Second Temple period old. And one of the reasons why they interpret it that way–I think it might even be in the Septuagint why they interpret it that–way is because the second temple Jewish community tried to read the paradigm of the exile that they themselves experienced into pretty much every narrative of the Old Testament. So, they weren’t looking at trying to figure out what the message in Genesis would have meant in the time of Genesis, at the time of Moses or Abraham or whoever wrote it. They were interpreting and they chose to interpret it that way because they saw a command of God followed by disobedience, followed by punishment. Specifically, the form of punishment of being expelled from the land as a universal paradigm for how God acts and they read it into every story of the Bible. We see it in the hell they interpreted the conquest. We see how they interpreted the flood, how they interpreted even Adam and Eve. They saw this everywhere and it was part of their theology that they understood and because the Hebrew words are, sometimes they don’t occur anywhere else and sometimes they, their meaning changes based on the context in which they’re used, there’s a logic for how, for why they translated it that way but when we want to look more in the text and context. When we’re not just trying to put a stamp on what the Septuagint translators thought or what the rabbi is in the Second Temple period thought because we don’t do that. We look at the Bible and say it’s the Bible that has the authority, not the not the 2nd-century rabbis and so we have to pay attention to what it means in context and sometimes that means that we have to re-examine even their interpretations and translations that go back for centuries.
HARVEY WALTON: Think of the example we have experienced salvation and so we tend to read salvation all the way back through. Our experiences into the whole of the Canon and we call it salvation history and we read the text that way. They were experiencing exile and so for them it was a history of exile and so they’re reading exile back into all of the passages. It’s kind of how people have done hindsight metanarratives throughout history. They read their experiences and issues into a wide range of texts.
KURT: Well now, I guess, maybe on the other hand so you wouldn’t say that that’s necessarily a bad thing, right? I mean, even the disciples sort of readback say prophecy about the Messiah.
JOHN WALTON: We all do it, you know, it’s, again it’s a question of are you going to ask the question, “What do these texts mean to mean in my current experiences?” Or you going to ask the question “What did it mean in its original context?”
HARVEY WALTON: Well it’s even more than that, it’s are you going to read the text as what does it mean to me? Or what did God mean when he said it? It’s a question of the Bible’s authority and God’s authority being either used to represent what it legitimately is. I mean, one of the, one of the core tenets of Protestantism is that we read scripture alone. We read what the text says. We don’t, we’re not supposed to be imposing these narratives on it. That’s what the Catholic Church did and if the idea wasn’t that we would just replace the medieval Roman narrative with whatever one was more palatable to us. The idea was that we would, if we saw God’s authority in the text that was created and communicated, then we have to look at what it’s saying. We can’t figure out how to make what we could kind of construe it to say or pick out of it fit into what makes sense to us.
KURT: So, I want to keep going on the topic of translation and one of the Hebrew words in this debate on the supposed to genocide commands is, my Hebrew is well zero I haven’t studied it. So it’s a herem yeah sure okay good I’m glad I’ve got the big guys here to help me out with that so and it’s, it’s to utterly destroy and so, what your take here on this word and how is it perhaps been misunderstood or more accurately maybe mistranslated?
JOHN WALTON: Right, I mean, I utterly destroy is a common translation. Sometimes also put under the ban those kinds of things and again this obviously is a word that’s at the very core of the whole conversation, and therefore, you can’t just make broad sweeping statements about the problems of a “genocidal God” if you’re not going to take a careful look at the language and what it means. You know, we’re not the first ones to come up with the, with the interpretation of the word that it means to “eliminate something from human use.” You will find that in [inaudible] you know, I mean the ultimate commentary in Leviticus. So that’s, of course, the direction that we pursue. It stands up to scrutiny in terms of usage to eliminate something from human use. So, cities that are under herem are eliminated from human use. Animals that are herem have to be killed because they’re not for human use. The people of the land cannot be intermarried with, cannot be enslaved because they are not for human use. They’re all eliminated from human use but the main thing that they want to eliminate from human use is the identity of the Canaanites. The Canaanite identity does not belong in this land of Yahweh’s and Israel’s. It will be detrimental to Israel and it doesn’t belong there. So, it’s the Canaanite identity that has to be eliminated. Now sometimes that’s going to mean that the people who refuse to be cooperative, there’s going to be war and they are going to be killed. There’s no way to sugarcoat that, okay. But the idea was God didn’t give a command to slaughter everybody. God gave a command to clear out the land of a Canaanite identity. Remember they didn’t have to do anything to the Canaanites who lived outside the land.
JOHN WALTON: This is not against them. It’s to preserve the land as a place of covenant order, and that covenant order will be anchored by the presence of God and Israel will be there as the host to the presence of God. Identity destruction is something that they normally do in the process of war in the ancient Near East we see the Assyrians do it, we see the Babylonian to do it.
KURT: We see Isis doing it today.
JOHN WALTON: Quite probably, yes. Well, we did it too when the allies in World War II destroyed the identity of the Third Reich.
HARVEY WALTON: They killed all the leaders, knocked down all the monuments, burned all the flags, dismantled the military and reestablished the entire government and they didn’t go in and murder every single German that they could find. I’m not even sure they murdered every single Nazi they could find, you know, it’s, whatever it took so that nobody could have that identity of the German Reich anymore and when Sennacherib comes to Hezekiah, he says that he has put to herem all of the surrounding nations. That their gods couldn’t save them and Hezekiah as God won’t be able to save them either. The reason why they do this is because they don’t want the conquered people to have anything to be able to rally around, to revolt against the Empire. It’s a pragmatic issue and so that’s part of what they want to do to the Canaanites when they’re taking this land to live in, they are essentially doing what an emperor would do and part of that entails keeping the, keeping the local population down. It’s how you do war it would have been nonsense for them not to do it. So, it’s not inventing this new and innovative and barbaric form of warfare that they’ve never heard of before and they don’t understand why God would want to do such a thing. It’s a common practice and it’s just the way that war works in the ancient world. So, when we read these texts that’s not how we do, war, we don’t do that we do other things. But when we see these commands to Joshua, we are confused by them because it’s not what we do and so we assume that it would have been equally confusing to them but they wouldn’t have understood why they were doing this. They’re just following [inaudible] instructions and it’s not that at all. They know exactly what they’re doing and why.
KURT: How does this, how does this command by God still have theological significance? And let me explain what I mean. For us, for some people we might think that this is just the Israelites reflecting upon their own present experience and thinking that God told them to do this, right? Maybe this is a more theologically liberal interpretation, you know, for the modernist era as opposed to a more conservative position which would say, no, God actually did say these things to that culture in which they understood it to be, you know, exaggerated or embellished language perhaps. So how can we know what is happening here? Is it just their interpretation or is this actually, is God actually speaking these things to the people?
HARVEY WALTON: Well we have to assume that God actually is speaking these things to the people because if we can go through our Bible and pick places where God is speaking and God isn’t speaking, then, you know ,why do we even bother with the Bible why not just you know go off to the other room and think about what may be God should say and what God shouldn’t say? So we have to say that he’s speaking to them, but at the same time, what he’s speaking to them about is not really about how to go about waging war. This is not God’s ideal instructions for warfare. Either for all time or even necessarily for them he’s giving it to them in terms that they’ll understand for the same reasons that he’s speaking to them in Hebrew. They need to understand the message that’s being given to them but what, the theological significance is not about what the Israelites are doing as much as it is why they’re doing it and what they’re trying to accomplish by means of doing it. The terms for warfare that, and the paradigm of warfare that’s established mostly by the use of rhetoric, mostly by the rhetoric that used to describe the Canaanites sees the war as an order bringing and an order establishing activity. So, the theological significance is it’s telling us not how war is supposed to work but about what the covenant is. That it’s, the covenant is the ideal form of the cosmic order. It’s in the terms that they would have understood because it’s communicated to them for the same reason that its uses Hebrew words again. So, the idea of, it’s supposed to help us understand what the covenant was supposed to do in the context that it.
JOHN WALTON: So, the conquest in that sense recapitulates creation starting with non-order and then bringing about order and having that order again anchored in God’s presence and so this idea of bringing order into the land, order now framed in terms of God’s covenant with Israel and that’s what it’s trying to establish. So theologically, we don’t read this as a treatise on warfare, we read it as a recapitulation of creation because that’s how it’s intended in the text.
JOHN WALTON: It’s not an antecedent to exile because Israel was exiled from the land because of their covenant violations. That is not true of Canaan. So again, trying to position it theologically and what it’s accomplishing- this is all to preserve order within Israel for the Covenant purposes with God.
KURT: So, and I am I picked up on what I think will be your answer to this next question. So how is the conquest passage relevant to the New Testament?
JOHN WALTON: The application that we develop in the last chapter or two is not an application that has to do with warfare or jihad or genocide or holy war or the Crusades or America and the native populations or, none of those things have any relevance whatsoever to what’s going on in Joshua. Instead, when we think about the idea of God creating order and a covenant relationship and what has to be driven out from God’s covenant order to be established we can’t help but think of the idea that we are in a new covenant with God and what needs to be driven out as the old self. We have been bought with a price. We have been crucified with Christ. The old has gone, the new has come, and order in a covenant relationship requires us to drive out those old desires in those old habits, our sinful selves so that we can become the people of God the way we’re supposed to be. Those things, those old man things cannot be used. There ineligible for human use that’s what must be heremed from our lives to drive out those bad influences so that we can represent order as God’s covenant people.
KURT: All right well that’s great now before I let you guys go, we did have a caller leave a message here.
CALLER: In 1 Samuel 15:3 we have the command from Yahweh to strike the Amalekites and to devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them. Kill both man and women child, and infant ox, and sheep camel and donkey. We skip down to verse 9, some of the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, oxen, lambs and the all these delectables, fatted calf and all that was good and would not but utterly destroy them. But all that was despised and worthless they devoted destruction and when Saul was confronted by the prophet. In verse 15, Saul says, “For the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God and the rest we have devoted to destruction.” In the end, Yahweh rejects Saul. So the conclusion is, God’s command is clear about not sparing anything. Saul spares something Yahweh rejects all. The plain reading of the text implies that God means what he says about not sparing anything if he didn’t mean what he commanded then why is Saul rejected? Additionally, if we redefine what God commanded then what exactly should have Saul done to not be rejected by Yahweh? Thank you.
HARVEY WALTON: Well, notice that when Samuel responds to Saul. When he asks for a sword and he goes to do what Saul failed to do he doesn’t go through and kill all the sheep, and all the goats, and all the donkeys and all that. He just takes the king and kills the king. Now, what’s going on here? Saul is not really being punished for specifically failing to murder every living thing of the Amalekites because that never happened. Samuel doesn’t do it either. What Saul is doing is he’s misunderstanding how the herem is supposed to work.
JOHN WALTON: Herem, in this case, is a punishment for sin. We’re told what the sins of the Amalekites are. We’re told while they’re being punished; the text is very clear about that. It gives narrative that talks about their crimes and therefore herem sometimes can be imposed because there is supposed to be punishment, okay? And in this case, that’s very specifically identified, and so that makes this different from the Canaanites and we differentiate that in the book. So that’s the basis of being slaughtered. Saul of course by saving the king, is actually preserving the identity to the Amalekites even though a lot of them were killed and so again there’s the violation of what he’s supposed to be doing.
Their identity is supposed to be eliminated, okay. So, in that sense, the Amalekites were being both punished and they have a detrimental identity that needs to be eliminated. One of the things that, an example, that we used in the book is when a surgeon is going to use the operating room and do surgery, there are certain things you need to get out of that room because they’re going to be detrimental to the operation. The parents can’t stand there and watch. The janitor can’t be wiping the floor they can’t be in there. Even good bacteria are eliminated from the room, not because it’s being punished those bacteria not being punished they’re just detrimental to the success of the operation. The order that has to be established for successful surgery requires that stuff to be gone. We also used the example of eminent domain today there’s-
KURT: Getting to politics now… Well, this is ancient political-
JOHN WALTON: Eminent domain, of course, happens when the government decides that there’s a common good to be achieved by taking land away from citizens and using it for public use. Whether it’s a national park, whether it’s a new runway or whether it’s an Olympic Village or whatever it might be. And you’ve got the common good even though you have detriments to a certain percentage of the population who’s going to be displaced. Theoretically the people being displaced will capture the essence of common good and realize they can’t be there but of course, it rarely happens that way even in modern times with eminent domain. But in that sense, the land is being taken by eminent domain. God’s going to dwell there and his people are going to dwell there and the covenant is going to take its shape there and through the covenant, all the peoples of the earth will be blessed and God will be present on earth. Get with the big picture.
HARVEY WALTON: He also asked about what Saul would have to do not to be punished. Saul is not really being punished for a technical failure to carry out the herem in its entirety. We see in Judges the Israelites didn’t do that either and for the Israelites that was its own consequence. They were then syncretized with the neighbors and broke the covenant and received the punishment for breaking the covenant but they were not, you know, specifically, “You didn’t do what I told you so I’m going to put you away and replace you with another people.” What Saul is doing is, Saul throughout his entire career does not understand how Israelite kingship works in relationship, in terms of the relationship between the king and Yahweh.
The way that he’s presented in the books of Samuel is he is a idealized ancient near-eastern King in a normal relationship with an ancient new eastern god. He’s a pious exemplar of what most of that world would have thought kingship should be and the way that he’s presented in the text is emphasizing that that’s not how kingship works in Israel. The main problem is that in Israel, Yahweh serves both the role of their patron deity, like a, like Marduk does in Babylon but he also serves to all of their emperor like Nebuchadnezzar does in Babylon and the Israelite King is a regent of the empire who has been appointed to rule over a portion of the emperor’s land. That’s what the repeated refrain throughout Deuteronomy of placing my name in the land means. It means, it’s an engineering idiom that refers to a king claiming lordship over a territory.
What Saul does is he defeats the Amalekites in victory which when the regent does this they’re supposed to say that they have done it in the name of their king and give honor to the name of their king. What Saul does is he builds a monument to himself, probably crediting the support of his patron God with victory. And then he takes all the spoils and he’s going to go, he says he’s going to sacrifice them to the God we have no reason to think he’s not going to do that that’s what they would do but in doing so, he’s essentially behaving like an independent king rather than a regent and when you do that in the ancient Near East the emperor is not happy with you and he takes you off the throne and he puts a different reagent in their place and that’s what Yahweh does with Saul. So it’s not really about specifically, failing to complete the herem. It’s the fact that he didn’t do it is a long, one of a long sequence of disloyalty to his political sovereign and this is finally the last straw.
KURT: Great roll, caller 3046, I hope that is a sufficient answer to your question, if not, feel free to follow up with me and I can see if I can get you in touch with these two Old Testament scholars. And read the book as well since they deal with a number of these difficult challenging passages. Well Dr. John Walton and Harvey Walton, thanks for joining me on today’s episode.
JOHN WALTON: You’re welcome. Great to be here.
KURT: Well I hope you enjoyed that interview with Dr. John Walton and Harvey Walton. I’m appreciative of their willingness to fit me into their schedule. I know the book has just been released last week and they’ve got a number of interviews lined up that they mentioned. So I’m glad they could squeeze me in there. You know, I would love to get your thoughts on their perspective. It seems to be a different one especially- a different one relative to other apologetic responses to this issue and so let me know what you think.
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Part of the mission of the show is to you know foster healthy dialogue because we live in a very isolated world and we’re because we don’t talk about things I think it worsens the problem that we have, especially in the political realm and so when we don’t talk about things because people don’t want to feel hurt or feel vulnerable, perhaps people are insecure with their beliefs. If we don’t talk about these things though, then we’re just left in our insecurities. We’re left, you know, not knowing what why or what reasons we have for believing something about an issue and so part of the mission of the show is to help us to learn how to defend the faith, but to make us aware of different responses to apologetic issues or just theology proper but also political issues as well and it’s good to get us thinking about these things and to talk about them in a healthy way, in a way that fosters civil dialogue.
So, I hope that this show has been a blessing to you and that you think there is a value here and you want to support us in that way we’d love to get your support. Well, that does it for the show today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and partnerships with our sponsors Defender’s Media, Consult Kevin, the Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, the Illinois Family Institute, Evolution 2.0 and Ratio Christi and I want to thank my guests yet again Dr. John Walton and Harvey Walton and if you are interested in their book we’re going to put a link to the Amazon page on our website. Again, the book’s title is The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant Retribution and the Fate of the Canaanites. Finally, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.