The Bible Oriental In Its Standards Of Morality -- By: George L. Robinson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 089:355 (Jul 1932)
Article: The Bible Oriental In Its Standards Of Morality
Author: George L. Robinson


The Bible Oriental In Its Standards Of Morality

George L. Robinson

The local or Oriental color of the Scriptures is one of their recognized characteristics in many parts. By “Oriental” we mean the human element. It may consist of a mere idiom only, or a single phrase, but it will be sufficient to stamp the whole writing as of Eastern mold. In composition and style, manners and customs, geography and psychology, and even in morality and religion, the whole Bible is Oriental, especially the Old Testament. As Winckler of Berlin once observed: “He who would read the Old Testament must know Hebrew, but he who would understand the Old Testament must know Oriental.” Goethe, also, recognized a similar principle as valid in the appreciation of poetry, when he said:

Wer den Dichter will verstehen.
Muss in Dichters Lande gehen.”

Few aspects of Bible study are equally inviting. We here submit a few examples only, of its Oriental color.

To many, the books of Joshua and Judges furnish a real moral difficulty. For example, it is asked, Would Jehovah, the God of Israel, like Chemosh and other gods, be propitiated by wholesale massacres, and would he command Israel to “destroy utterly” their enemies without mercy? In defence of such an estimate of Jehovah some have argued:

1. That Israel’s wars were holy wars, and that the Hebrews were employed as the conscious instruments of divine vengeance (Deut. 7:2; 20:16);

2. That the contest was really not between the Israelites and the Canaanites, but between Jehovah and the tribal gods of the heathen;

3. That the Hebrews were the trustees of the religion of the world; and, accordingly, they regarded the Canaanites as the personal enemies of God (Ps. 139:21, 22);

4. That their sword in its bloodiest executions wrought a work of mercy for all the centuries to the very end of the world;

5. That their zeal was genuine, however mistaken it may have been and misplaced;

6. That their ruthless treatment of the Canaanites was due to the stern necessities of the time; the cult of the Canaanites being a religion of human sacrifices, licentious orgies, and the worship of a host of divinities most debasing and most corrupt; and,

7. That while exterminating the Canaanites, Israel well knew that the judgments which they were executing upon their enemies would be executed as terribly upon themselves in case of their apostacy.

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