The Conquest: God’s Dark Side?—Joshua 1–11

Here is the eighth in a series of Bible studies that present the Bible as being in the side of pacifism. In this essay, “The Conquest: God’s Dark Side?” I consider one of the Old Testament’s most often-cited “problem texts”—the story of the conquest of the land of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership. This conquest, infamously, includes extraordinary and indiscriminate violence. While trying hard to take this story seriously and to respect its integrity in the biblical account, I also suggest that we need to (1) read it in the context of the broader biblical story that culminates in the witness of Jesus, (2) note important points of continuity between Joshua and Jesus (such as a rejection of human warrior-kings as the center of politics and a commitment on God’s part to intervene on behalf of the vulnerable and oppressed), and (3) pay close attention to the points of discontinuity (especially concerning the use of violence) that lead to an affirmation of Jesus’ revelation as superseding the understanding of God in Joshua.

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