The original question was:
Is the Jewish God of the Old Testament, who killed the Canaanites, the same as the Jesus God of the New Testament, as there seem to be so many differences? For example: Harsh Judge vs God of Love, etc.
Answer by Simon Turpin
God in the Old Testament
Many people today struggle with “the God of the Old Testament” because He appears to them to be so judgemental. Richard Dawkins has famously said:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Richard Dawkins The God Delusion page 51
Unfortunately Dawkins, like many today, does not take time to consider the context of the Bible or even to think about his own presuppositions when it comes to these issues. For example, as an atheist he has no basis with which to question the character of any God given that he has no moral foundation upon which to do this. Morality in his worldview is a matter of opinion. It is also important to remember that when Dawkins reads the text of Scripture he does not believe any God exists, nor that God has revealed Himself to people. The characters in the narrative then are judged as if God has not revealed Himself to them. Ultimately, he is not critiquing what the Bible says but is critiquing a watered down version of the event.
As Christians, however, we need to consider our own assumptions when it comes to thinking about God’s judgements listed in the Bible. Here are several issues to consider:
1. God is the Sovereign Creator and, therefore, has the right to do as He pleases (Psalm 135:6).
2. God created a very good world without sin or death in it (Gen. 1:31).
3. The world we now live in is a fallen world due to man’s rebellion against God (Gen. 3).
4. As a consequence of the fall we are all found guilty in Adam and held justly accountable for this (Rom. 5:12-19).
5. We do not deserve God’s mercy we deserve God’s justice (Psalm 103:10; 130:3).
6. God is Holy, Just, Righteous, Gracious, Merciful, Compassionate and Loving.
7. Both Christians and non-Christians alike daily receive God’s grace (though in different ways – Matt. 5:45).
Let us now consider two Old Testament events that seem to cause people a lot of difficulty.
The Global Flood in Genesis 6
In Genesis 6:5, 11-12 we read the reason for God having to judge the world in the days of Noah:
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually … Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.
The judgement at the time of the flood was not simply because God was being capricious rather He had several very good reasons for His judgement:
1. The wickedness of man
2. Every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually
3. The earth was corrupt
4. The earth was filled with violence
5. All flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth
However, despite man’s wickedness God shows Himself to be gracious in that He gave the people 120 years to repent of their wickedness through the preaching of Noah (Gen. 6:3; 2 Pet. 2:5). Unfortunately, despite 120 years of Noah’s preaching no one outside his family listened, his contemporaries therefore were ripe for judgement.
The Destruction of the Canaanites
Some of the most difficult passages of Scripture to handle in the Old Testament are those depicting the destruction of the Canaanites. Can we simply put this down to the actions of primitive people who knew no better and believe that with the progress of revelation we can now say that this was really not God’s will? No, because we are told that Joshua did this at the request of the LORD:
“Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their Kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel had commanded.” Joshua 10:40
First of all, certain principles may help us understand these passages better, especially when it comes to understanding some of the background.
Back in Genesis 15:16 we read that “… the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” At the time of Abraham the time was not ripe for judgement on the Canaanites; God was willing to wait 430 years before He judged them. This again reveals God’s graciousness, compassion and the fact that He is slow to anger (Ex. 34:6-7; Jonah 4:2) It was only after Israel’s enslavement in Egypt that the time was right for Israel to enter Canaan because of the wickedness of the nations (Deut. 9:4-5).
It also helps to know something about the Canaanites and what their wickedness was. Genesis 9:20-27 tells us that the Canaanites are the descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham, the son of Noah, who came under a curse (Gen. 9:25). Leviticus 18:20-30 and Deuteronomy 12:31 lists adultery, bestiality, homosexual acts and child sacrifice as some of their sins. God judged them not only for their idol worship but also because of their corrupt moral practices bound up in their idolatry. God was not just picking on the Canaanites as He judged the nations listed in Amos 1-2 because of their outrageous moral acts. He also promised to “send fire” on Israel and Judah because they had not kept God’s law (Amos 2:5).
Many have chosen to see the destruction of the Canaanites as Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing. However, it is clear that the issue was religious, not ethnic, since Israel was to destroy altars, images, and sacred pillars (Deut. 12:2-3). Also, Rahab was a Canaanite who was saved (Joshua 6:25) because of her belief in the one true God, and not because of her ethnicity. The Canaanites knew of God’s judgement on Egypt and the Amorites (Joshua 2:10-11) and yet they did not do as Rahab did.
Furthermore, God’s judgement falls on those practicing evil and wickedness – whether Jew or Gentile (Rom. 1-3). What is more, God repeatedly commanded Israel to show concern for the non-Israelite in their midst (Lev.19:34; Deut. 10:18-19) because the Israelites had been strangers in Egypt. According to Israel’s civil law, the stranger living in Israel had the same legal rights as the native Israelite (Lev. 24:22; Num. 35:15). Ultimately, God is concerned with sin and not ethnicity.
Jesus in the New Testament
Firstly, it is important to understand that there is no difference between the ‘God of the Old Testament’ and Jesus in the New Testament as the New Testament identifies Jesus with the Yahweh of the Old Testament (John 12:29-43; Heb.1:8-12). The reactions of those around Jesus demonstrated that He viewed Himself as Yahweh and truly claimed to be divine. In John 8:58, Jesus said to the Jewish religious leaders, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am”. This “I am” statement was Jesus’s clearest example of His proclamation “I am Yahweh,” from its background in the book of Isaiah (41:4; 43:10–13, 25; 48:12—see also Exodus 3:14). This divine self-disclosure of Jesus’s explicit identification of Himself with Yahweh of the Old Testament is what led the Jewish leaders to pick up stones to throw at Him. They understood what Jesus was saying, and that is why they wanted to stone Him for blasphemy. A similar incident takes place in John 10:31. The leaders again wanted to stone Jesus after He said “I and the Father are one,” because they knew He was making Himself equal with God. Equality indicates His deity, for who can be equal to God? Isaiah 46:9 says: “Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me.” If there is no one like God and yet Jesus is equal to God (Philippians 2:6), what does this say of Him, except that He must be God? The only thing that is equal to God is God.
Secondly, while Jesus certainly taught much on the subject of love (Matt. 5:44; 19:19; Luke 7:47; John 13:34), in Revelation 19:11-21 we see a picture of Jesus at His second coming that firmly quashes the idea of “Jesus meek and mild.”
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:11-16
This picture of the returning Jesus ‘treading the wine press of the fierce wrath of God’ may be one of the most frightening in the Bible. However, it is consistent with the Jesus of the gospels as he spoke more on hell and judgement than anyone else (Matt. 5:22-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 23:33). It is important to keep in mind that the reason Jesus came to earth was to save people from their sins (Matt. 1:21) so that we would not face this judgement. Jesus often rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy (Matt. 23:27) and told them that they would face judgement for it (Matt. 23:38). Jesus constantly warned people to repent of their sins otherwise they would perish:
“Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-5
It is wrong to draw a dichotomy between the ‘God of the Old Testament’ and the ‘God of the New Testament’ because the fullness of God’s revelation tells us they are the same in both Old and New Testament reveals them to be the same God.
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