The Epistemology Of Sacralized Violence In The Exodus And Conquest -- By: Matthew Rowley

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 57:1 (Mar 2014)
Article: The Epistemology Of Sacralized Violence In The Exodus And Conquest
Author: Matthew Rowley


The Epistemology Of Sacralized Violence
In The Exodus And Conquest

Matthew Rowley*

* Matthew Rowley is a pastoral intern at Jubilee Community Church, 3245 16th Ave S., Minneapolis, MN 55407.

I. The Dangerous Will Of God

How would someone know that God really commanded a Holy War, that the almighty Deity asked them to participate in exacting judgment on another human?1 As justification for this belief, this person might utter three of the most dangerous words in all of history, “God wills it.” Man has always felt a need to justify his actions by an appeal to the Deity, even if that Supreme Being is Reason. He can ground his actions in an external divine command or in the internal will to power. When read side by side, some of the commands of Muhammad, bin Laden, and Moses sound eerily similar. Violence is common to every faith system (even atheism and secularism),2 and there is an “embarrassment of riches” when it comes to

fuel within the Bible that could be seized as justification for sacralized violence in present-day conflicts.3 I sympathize with Christopher Hitchens’s assessment that “religion poisons everything,”4 even though a more accurate statement would be that “people poison everything.”5

Does the Hebrew Bible give us any help in condemning present-day violence done in the name of God?6 Can the violent texts help us reach a nonviolent reading in the present day?7 Clearly, in the pages of the Hebrew Bible, God commanded violence as an expression of obedience to his will.8

The first half of this paper aims to establish the epistemology of sacralized violence in the exodus and conquest. The second half demonstrates how this applies to the conquest as proclaimed through Moses and carried out by Joshua. In the conclusion, the epistemology of sacralized violence will be used to critique the claims of those who invoke God’s will as a justification in present-day violence. I will argue that these people cannot imitate the violent commands of the conquest because they have not experienced the miraculous context of the conquest.

1. Atheism, ethics, and the will of God. Christopher Hitchens and Doug Wilson have both stro...

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