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1 Samuel 15 & Background Scriptures
Samuel Lesson #051
June 14, 2016
“Our Father, we are so very grateful for Your grace toward us. We are sinners. It does not matter what sins we have committed. We were born spiritually dead because of Adam’s sin. Every single one of us, no matter who we are or what we have done, are all under that condemnation. But the only solution that You have provided, is the death of Christ on the Cross. That is the only hope and the ultimate solution.
Father, we pray for this nation at this time because we are in desperate need of hearing the truth of the gospel and having an exhibition of Your grace and of Your unconditional love. Father, we are specifically mindful of the situation that occurred, this horrible attack that occurred in Orlando, Florida.
We pray for the chaplains and the others that are talking to the survivors and the families. We pray that there are those who understand the gospel and can minister to those folks and help them understand Your grace and Your goodness and the redemption solution of Jesus Christ.
Father, we pray that as Christians we might be able to exemplify the truth in this situation, the need to communicate grace, and that the spiritual life is the only real solution. But, in terms of a temporary solution, we need a secure nation. We are at war, not because we choose to be at war, but because a religion has chosen to declare Holy War against the West and against the United States. Failure to identify that as the problem creates myopia that is self destructive.
Father, we need to understand that what this man did was directly related to his religious beliefs, and that until we face the role of religious beliefs in these kinds of events, we will never be able to solve the problem because we cannot identify it. We pray that You will raise up leaders who can accurately identify the problem and address the problem that we might have a secure nation.
Father, tonight as we study Your Word, as we touch on themes related to this, we pray that You will help us to understand more about who You are, more about Your righteousness and justice, and that we can help others to understand what these issues are and how they apply to these contemporary events. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”
We are in a section in 1 Samuel 15 that is based on the issue of what some call Holy War. We have to raise this question, especially in light of the things that have happened just this last weekend:
What is Holy War?
- What is the difference between Holy War and jihad, if there is a difference?
- Does the Bible really advocate, or has the Bible advocated at any time Holy War?
- Is that a viable biblical term?
I want to make one comment about what happened this last weekend because we are hearing so much that is coming out that is sympathetic to the LGBT community. Since they are all human beings, it does not matter what peoples’ sins are, whether in all these sin lists we have in Scripture that include homosexuality and lesbianism and all these things, they also include sins such as gossip, slander, arrogance, and divisiveness. It may be a sin that has more extreme consequences than others, but we are all sinners. It is not about what these folks have ever done, because every one of us is in a boat where we have committed sin.
There is one pastor, whose name I will not mention, and I hesitate to even call him a pastor because he is an absolute blight on the escutcheon of the Cross. He is an enemy of the Cross. He is an enemy of grace. He has a pastorate or a church or a group of followers in Arizona.
It is not really a church, but he has published a number of things over the years that are hostile to dispensationalism. He is anti-Semitic. And he has come out and said that these homosexuals got exactly what they deserved and probably ended their life early so they will not suffer any diseases or anything.
This exemplifies a person who is not a biblical Christian. He does not understand biblical truth. He does not understand grace. He does not understand the Cross. He does not understand sin. It is just a person whose soul, like everybody elses’, has been influenced by arrogance and evil.
This is a great opportunity for people to demonstrate tremendous love and compassion. I read a report from someone just this morning. The Chick-fil-A in Orlando came in on Sunday, when they are normally closed, and cooked a full array of food and meals and took it to the folks who were standing in those enormous lines in order to give blood to help those who were injured. That is a great example of grace. They did not want publicity. They did not do it for attention. They wanted to keep it all under the radar. That is how Christianity operates. That is exemplifying the grace of Jesus Christ.
But there is going to be a lot of talk about how this is a hate crime. All crimes are hate crimes in my opinion. They will say this is related to homosexuality in some way. The evidence so far at this point seems to indicate that this guy has a problem with homosexuality. He was probably torn. He has a belief drilled into his conscience from Islam that he is going to go to wherever they go, hell, lake of fire, whatever they have, eternal judgment, because he is a homosexual.
This is why you have to understand religious beliefs and why everything that I have taught you for years is driven ultimately by your understanding of God and your understanding of man’s nature and your understanding of God’s solution.
In Islam, the only way that you can have any kind of forgiveness for that kind of guilt is to commit jihad and be killed in the process and be a martyr. Immediately you are ushered into their understanding of paradise.
That is what I believe happened. I believe that this guy had this psychological tension and guilt that had built up over the years because he had homosexual tendencies. On the one hand, this violated his Islamic conscience. On the other hand, the only way he could resolve everything was to commit jihad. It was Islam/ISIS that gave him a rationale. You cannot separate what he did.
That is what the focus from some elements in our culture will do. They will try to separate what he did. It is not really Islam. He really was not involved with ISIS. They are going to come up with all that rationale. And that is hogwash. It is garbage. You have to understand what is going on here. He needed cleansing, and he felt like the only way he could do it was by going out in jihad. That was his whole strategy.
I want to talk some tonight—and we will hit this a little more in the next couple of weeks—but based on what we have in 1 Samuel 15, this whole idea of so-called Holy War and jihad, which is what you get out of Islamic theology, and whether or not this is justified, is ultimately what we are going to see.
This comes down to the same basic question we were dealing with in the third and fourth sessions in the Holocaust Special. That is the problem of evil, because the issue that comes up here is this:
If God authorizes the annihilation of a group of people, how can that be explained in light of God’s love, God’s justice, and God’s righteousness?
It is usually presented as if this is very arbitrary. God is this wicked, mean, and horrible god who authorized the slaughter of the Canaanites. We have to look at this from a holistic framework in the Scriptures. We cannot come in and look at it as it is indicated here in 1 Samuel.
We have to take time and look at what these answers are. It is basically the same answer that I covered in that last lesson dealing with the problem of evil. It relates. It is the same issue. In the problem of evil the question is what about God’s righteousness? What about His justice?
How can a righteous, just, and omnipotent God allow evil?
- If He was loving, He would end evil.
- If He is omnipotent, He would have the power to.
Because He is not:
- He is not able to.
- He does not want to.
- He really is not loving.
That is the argument. The same thing undergirds this particular issue. We need to take some time and think about this. We are going to look at the first few verses of 1 Samuel 15 in order to set the stage. This is one of those critical chapters that we have in the Scripture related to several important doctrines that are brought out in this section.
1 Samuel 15:1, “Samuel also said to Saul, ‘The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the Lord.’ ”
Here’s an observation: when the Bible says that God chose a specific group of people for a mission, that is an exclusivity. This runs in the face of all political correctness and all liberalism, whether it is religious liberalism or political liberalism. That is the idea that there is a special group for any purpose.
The whole idea of democratic thinking has been so perverted in the last 100 years as a result of the influence of Marxism, social justice ideas, and these things that say everybody ought to get the same thing. It is a distortion of the ideas of equality and liberty.
God selected Israel for a specific mission. God can do that because He is God. He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He has a right to select whom He will in order to accomplish whatever tasks He has.
The mission that God is giving Saul in 1 Samuel 15:2, “Thus says the Lord of hosts …” This is a title that relates to God’s sovereign authority over the armies. The word for “hosts” is the Hebrew word צְבָאֹות, tsebaoth, which is a plural term. The English word “host” is just an antiquated term for armies and the military. God is the Commander of the Armies. This brings to bear both the invisible armies of the angels, as well as He is the Lord over the armies of Israel.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel …’ ” Poor, poor Amalek.
What did the Amalekites ever do to deserve complete annihilation? How mean is God to have this kind of punishment?
“ ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt.’ ” Wait a minute. Do we not have a contradiction in Scripture here? Scripture says, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Did Amalek try to totally annihilate Israel?
No they did not. They did not totally annihilate Israel. So how come God is going to punish them with total annihilation? That is background.
1 Samuel 15:3, “ ‘ “Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child …” ’ ” Who is left out?
“ ‘ “But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” ’ ”
What did those poor animals do? I can understand killing the camels. They are pretty nasty creatures, but what did the animals do? Why is there this complete annihilation of all of the livestock and all of the people, men, women, children, and infants? How can a just God do this?
That is the question we have to ask, and we cannot answer that question in isolation.
On the map, the green is the land of Canaan. That is the land God promised to Israel. In the south is the territory that is occupied by Amalek. The Amalekites are basically a people that do not have a specific location. They had a few cities, but they moved around a lot. They were somewhat like the Bedouin, except they were more organized. They were almost like land pirates. They are down in the south.
We have the Wadi of Egypt, Wadi el-Arish. This is the southern boundary of the land God promised to Israel. The groups that are located around here:
- Amalek—generally in the southern area.
- Edom—over to the southeast.
- Moab—to the east.
- Ammon—to the east.
We know that Edom, the Edomites, are descendants of whom? Esau. The Amalekites are also descendants of Esau. Keep that in mind—this is a family affair.
The Moabites and the Ammonites are the descendants of the two sons of Lot, from committing incest with his two daughters, who initiated it and got Lot drunk.
So that gives us the basic geographical orientation.
This map shows us a blue line. That is Saul’s line of attack against the Amalekites in the south. We will get back to that attack later.
Now when we look at 1 Samuel 15:3, we have to understand what it means to utterly destroy. That is not the best translation, although that is what it ultimately indicates. It is a total and absolute annihilation of every man, woman, child, and all livestock. It is the Hebrew word cherem. I softened that a bit. I do not have the guttural sound (heth in Hebrew). I said herem not cherem (the correct pronunciation).
Does anybody hear a word that sounds familiar? The word “harem.”
That is a cognate from this word. It means to isolate. You have a sheik that has a harem. All those women are isolated and kept away from everybody else. That is the basic idea in that word. It means to ban anyone else from the harem with women. It is to ban anyone else from being involved with them. They are to be devoted exclusively, set apart almost.
It borders on that idea of being set apart or sanctified or consecrated to something. It implies, in some cases, complete destruction. That is another meaning. So we have to understand this whole thing, but first let’s get to the background on the Amalekites.
To understand why God is doing this, we have to understand the historical relation of Amalek to Israel. We have to understand the role the Amalekites played since the time of the Exodus, and a few other things for background, and in answering this question:
Who were the Amalekites?
- In 1 Samuel 15:3 God uses this word cherem, which is sometimes translated ban or to devote. It refers to the complete annihilation of a people, and what some will refer to as Holy War.
I do not think that is a biblical concept or a biblical term. And I do not like it. I will either refer to this as the “ban” or I will refer to it as “cherem”, the Hebrew word. When cherem is called for, then that is something unique and distinct in God’s plan that we have to understand.
- We have to understand the background: from whom did the Amalekites come?
They are the descendants of Esau through his wife Adah. Remember, Esau is the older twin brother of Jacob. Jacob came out second. Esau came out first. He was ruddy. He was given the nickname Edom, which is a cognate of Adam. When God created Adam from the dust of the earth, He named him “man.” Adam is a word that sounds like the word for red. That would have referred probably to his skin color. Esau is also called Edom and his descendants are the Edomites.
- In Genesis 36:12, Esau had a wife, Adah.
- In Genesis 36:16, Adah was his wife.
Adah is a Canaanite woman. The lineage of Esau is related to the Canaanites through his wife, Adah. She is also specifically identified as a Hittite in Genesis 36:2.
And in Genesis 36:12, “Now Timna was the concubine of Eliphaz, Esau’s son, and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz. These were the sons of Adah, Esau’s wife.” So through Adah, Esau has a son, Eliphaz. Timna has a son, Amalek. “… and she bore Amalek.” So Amalek is Esau’s grandson.
Genesis 36:16, “Chief Korah, Chief Gatam, and Chief Amalek. These were the chiefs of Eliphaz in the land of Edom. They were the sons of Adah.” These are three tribal groups or clans that are descendants from Esau.
These sons are located off to the southeast, the territory of Edom. Now who is a famous Edomite in the New Testament? Herod the Great.
By the time of Herod the Great, the territory is moved up into the area of Judah, but at this time it is down south. This is the area around Petra.
- As we look at this we see that the Amalekites also settled in the area of the Negev.
According to Numbers 13:29, “The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South.” “The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.”
The Hebrew word for south is Negev. In the United States we had the Civil War between the North and the Negev. Negev is just the word for south. The Negev in Israel is “down south.” The Amalekites dwell in the Negev.
“The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains.” That would be in the center part of the land of Canaan, the ridge that runs down from north to south.
“The Canaanites dwell by the seas.” Along with the Philistines they were living along the sea coast in the Shephelah area in Israel and along the banks of the Jordon.
Part of the problem with studying the pre-Israel period is that you have all these “ites:” the Amorites, the Jebusites, the Amalekites, and the Canaanites, along with several other groups.
In Judges 12:15 we see that this is during the judgeship of a minor judge named Abdon: “Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the mountains of the Amalekites.”
By that period, the Amalekites had taken over part of that center area in the hill country of Samaria. This is what later becomes the Northern Kingdom. They have made greater incursions there.
This shows that Amalek has been a continuous problem with the Israelites. The Amalekites have opposed Israel from the beginning. That is the next point that I want us to see.
- The background for this is Exodus 17. We are going to be in Exodus and Leviticus and Numbers. What has happened up to this point is the Exodus event has occurred. The Israelites have left Egypt, and they have crossed the Red Sea.
According to this map, that area is to the north. The traditional location of Mt. Sinai is down in the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. I do not think that is where it was located, but this gives us an idea of the area.
If you look at these small yellow triangles with a circle in the middle, these are alternate sites that various people have suggested. The traditional Mt. Sinai is too far in terms of what the Bible says about the distance they traveled, how long it took them to travel from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea.
When they would probably travel about the same rate of speed as a caravan, which was between 5–10 miles a day, they could not get from the traditional Mount Sinai to Kadesh-Barnea in the length of time the Bible says. It would just be too short.
So Mt. Sinai is probably located up this way, which makes more sense. Where Rephidim is located on this map is very close to Mt. Sinai, Jebel Musa (J. Musa), which is the traditional site, but it would be easier for the Amalekites if it were further north in the Sinai Peninsula.
If we look at Exodus 17, the first part of it talks about the problem at Massa and Meribah with the lack of water. But while they are there they are attacked by Amalek. Think about this for a minute: How many Israelites are there?
Based on the numbers given us in the book of Numbers, related to the number of men that were of fighting age, you have 600,000 to 650,000 males. If you have one woman and two children for every family, you just multiply 650,000 by 4 and you have about 2.5 million people. If they were having more than two children, and remember they were extremely prolific during the years that they were in Egypt, then they probably had a lot more children. You could have as many as 3.5 million Israelites.
Think of a city one-half the size of Houston. If Moses has to move them every single day, then it is a very slow operation. You are not making a lot of progress, but you are going to be attacked by a huge army that is an existential threat.
So how many Amalekites are there? Not a couple of thousand. You have got a large army that is attacking, and this puts everybody at risk. The Israelites marshal their army, which probably, based on those numbers, would be 200,000 to 300,000 that are out there fighting the Amalekites.
Exodus 17:9, “And Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.’ ”
Moses has his staff. This is the same staff that turned into serpents in front of Pharaoh, and that he used to split the Red Sea. He is going to hold this up. He says that he “will stand on top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.”
Exodus 17:10, “So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek, and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.”
Hur is another leader among Israel. That is where Lou Wallace came up with the name “Ben Hur,” meaning son of Hur. If you remember the story, his whole name was Judah Ben Hur, which is Judah son of Hur, a descendant of this line.
Exodus 17:11–12, “And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.”
Aaron and Hur stood on each side of Moses, and as long as Moses held the staff up, Israel was winning. But if he got tired and the staff began to come down, as it got lower and lower, the tide turned. What happened is that Aaron and Hur stood on each side of Moses and held his arms up. As long as his arms were up, God gave them the victory until we read:
Exodus 17:13, “So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”
Now this is the critical verse in Exodus 17:14, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.’ ”
God’s promise here is that He is going to obliterate Amalek from the face of the earth because Amalek stands in opposition to Israel and God’s plan to take His people to the Promised Land.
Then He announced that He is going to annihilate the Amalekites in Exodus 17:15, “And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-LORD-is-My-Banner ...”—the Lord is the One who stands over me and protects me.
Exodus 17:16, “for he said, ‘Because the Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war with Amalek from generations to generation.’ ”
This is a long-term conflict. How does this then develop?
Numbers 24:20 is talking about one of the oracles of Balaam. Balaam looks at Amalek and pronounces an oracle: “Amalek was first among the nations, but shall be last until he perishes.” This is another prophecy of the total destruction of the Amalekites.
In Deuteronomy 25:17–19, God is speaking to the Israelites. He says, “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt 18 how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God. 19 Therefore it shall be, when the Lord your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.”
That event at Massa and Meribah at Rephidim, where the Israelites fought the Amalekites, that is your benchmark for understanding what God is doing against the Amalekites. They attempted to obliterate and annihilate Israel.
Deuteronomy 25:17, “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt,”
Deuteronomy 25:18, “how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God.” That is some more information that we did not get in Exodus.
Deuteronomy 25:19, “Therefore it shall be, when the Lord your God has given you rest from your enemies all around in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.”
This is our third prophecy about total obliteration, wiping it out. That is the Hebrew word that means “blot out.” It means to blot out or wipe out or eradicate. Amalek will be wiped out from under Heaven.
We have a couple of references in the book of Judges. Judges 3:13 shows Amalek is in an alliance with Eglon, the king of Moab. Remember Eglon the king of Moab? That is “Fatty.” He was the corpulent king that was killed by Ehud, the left-handed assassin. We are told about this alliance.
Judges 3:13, “Then he (Eglon) gathered to himself the people of Ammon and Amalek, went and defeated Israel, and took possession of the City of Palms.” What is the City of Palms? It is Jericho. Jericho is the City of Palms.
Judges 6:3 is the episode leading into the introduction of Gideon. “So it was, whenever Israel had sown, Midianites would come up; also Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them.”
The Midianites, Amalekites, and other peoples are invading into Israel. This is when Gideon goes and hides in the wine press.
Judges 10:12 is the lead in to Japhthath’s episode. “Also the Sidonians and Amalekites and Maonites oppressed you; and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand.”
What we are seeing here is that again and again and again it is the Amalekites who are attacking and trying to destroy and wipe out Israel. This is the background. This has created a long-term adversarial relationship with Israel.
When you look at 1 Samuel 15, the king of the Amalekites at that time is a guy named Agag. Agag is mentioned one other time in the Scripture in book of Esther. You have the anti-Semite, Haman, who seeks to destroy and obliterate all the Jews in Persia and gets permission to do it.
Haman is described as an Agagite. He is a descendant of Agag. As a result of that, in Jewish history the Jews will refer to all of their enemies as “Amalek.”
- The Nazis were Amalek.
- Islam and those who are attacking the Jews are always referred to as Amalek.
- All of their enemies are Amalek.
The Jews do that to this day. You will read something and they will say that they are being attacked by Amalek again. Wait a minute. The Amalekites got wiped out a long time ago. But they use that title to refer to all of their enemies.
So what happens in 1 Samuel 15 is that because of the Amalekites’ past aggression against Israel and their hostility to Israel, God is going to totally destroy them. He announced that to Moses. He reaffirmed that again in Numbers. He restated that several more times. This is what God is going to do. He is going to wipe out the Amalekites. So what is this thing that we call Holy War?
Is there such a thing as biblical Holy War? In Islam you have a thing called jihad. What is the relationship? Where does that come from? Is jihad a heretical perversion of this so-called idea of “Holy War” in the Bible? I think it is, but let’s break this down.
- The term Holy War is not used in the Bible.
From the research I was able to do—which was not exhaustive. I did not go out and write a PhD dissertation on the topic—but from the research that I did, the term Holy War does not really appear until you get the idea of jihad with Islam. The concept of Holy War comes from the Latin word sacra for holy and bellum for war. That becomes a common term during the period of the Crusades, which is roughly 1,000 years after Christ.
There is no equivalent term in the Hebrew. It is called “the ban,” cherem. That is not a term that is ever translated anywhere as Holy War. It is just something put under “the ban.” It is something devoted to God. This term seems to be a perversion or misunderstanding that grows out of an allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament. It is misapplied to what was going on in the Middle Ages. It was also misapplied and distorted by Mohammad in the Quran.
- The biblical term is cherem. If you find this difficult to understand, do not worry about it. It took me a long time to work through this. This is an inductive study.
What does the Bible say about it? It is not as overtly expressed as some other things. What we get from our modern post-enlightenment is “we know more than anybody else does in society.” This is judgmentalism that comes out of Protestant liberalism toward the God of the Old Testament who would authorize something like this. There is a lot of garbage on this whole idea that needs to be peeled back.
I went to a couple of different sources for an understanding of this word. The first source is the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. That was put together and came out in the late 1970s by evangelical scholars. It is a good source. The key thing that you need to notice is the first sentence:
“The basic meaning is the exclusion of an object from the use or abuse of man and its irrevocable surrender to God.”
It is very close to the idea of qadosh, to set something apart to the use of God. We are going to see that this stands as a picture for understanding sanctification. That is an application of understanding this kind of warfare because it is going to relate to spiritual warfare in the Christian life.
“The basic meaning is the exclusion of an object from the use or abuse of man and its irrevocable surrender to God. The word is related to an Arabic root meaning “to prohibit, especially to ordinary use.” The word “harem,” meaning the special quarters for Muslim wives, comes from it. It is related also to an Ethiopic root, meaning “to forbid, prohibit, lay under a curse.” Surrendering something to God meant devoting it to the service of God or putting it under a ban for utter destruction.
It is like a whole burnt offering. When you put that animal on the altar, everything is burned up, all the smoke, everything goes up to God. No humans eat from it. The fellowship offering they ate from part of it. But nothing is left for man in the whole burnt offering. It all goes to God.
That was the idea. We will see this when Joshua attacks Jericho:
- The Israelites are prohibited from any plunder.
- They cannot take any women.
- Everything is killed.
- Everything is destroyed.
- No one can benefit from it.
Unlike jihad or these other perversions of this concept, there is no individual benefit to anybody. Everything goes to God. It is set apart for God.
The NIDOTTE is the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology Exegesis. This is a five-volume set that came out in the late 1990s. This is the opening paragraph summary:
“Consecration for service to God is dealt with in Leviticus 27:28 (persons and things); Joshua 6:18; Micah 4:13 (objects). Whatever is devoted to the Lord, be it human being, animal, or property, is considered most holy by God and is therefore not to be sold or redeemed by substituting something else. According to Numbers 18:14 and Ezekiel 44:29, all such objects are to be given to the priests for the support of the religious ceremonies. The gold, silver, bronze, and iron from Jericho, for instance, were so designated (Joshua 6:19).”
It is not to go to the benefit to make anybody wealthy. That is the idea. What is the first word? “Consecration.” When you hear a word like consecration or sanctification, we need to think, “Okay, there is an application here related to the spiritual life.”
- As such, the core idea of consecrating something to God informs us that the doctrinal application is going to relate to sanctification.
Some things are set apart for God’s use. That is the idea in the Christian way of life. Where we are going to see an area of application from the Old Testament concept of cherem is in the New Testament concept of spiritual warfare.
In the Church Age the only authorized warfare for the believer, other than to defend your national entity, is spiritual warfare. That is the individual believer’s battle to grow spiritually.
Unlike Islamic jihad or the heresy of the Christian Crusades, fighting in a cherem did nothing toward salvation or spiritual life or spiritual status. It did not make them holier. It did not improve their spiritual life. It did not guarantee them a place in Heaven. (That is what happens in Islamic jihad. They are guaranteed a place in Heaven).
You have none of that in cherem. That was part of what was promised by the Popes to the Catholics who went on the Crusades. It was that they would have indulgences. Their sins would be cancelled out. It was the same kind of idea that you have in Islam. But none of those ideas are part of biblical truth or biblical Christianity.
- In the Bible there is a period of intense warfare between Israel and her neighbors, where God is authorizing Israel to destroy specific peoples because of their horrible sins and years of hostility toward God. That is the crux of cherem. There are certain people that live in specific geographical areas, the land that God promised Israel, and they are so perverted and so reprobate that they have forfeited the right to continue as a people and as a culture.
These were Canaanite groups. If we really understood, if I stood up here and described as I have come to understand what went on in Canaanite religion, some of you would throw-up. Others of you would be so embarrassed you would never want to show your face at church again. It was sexual perversion to the grossest limit of anything that is going on in this country today and much, much worse.
There were infant sacrifices: tens of thousands of babies were immolated in the arms of their idols and burned alive day in and day out. It was considered in the ancient world the worse of all the religions. God allowed them to go on for almost 600 years before He wiped them out. God did not wake up one day and say, “Okay, we are going to obliterate the Canaanites.” This was something that took place over an extremely long period of time.
- This is related to God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 where God is cutting the covenant with Abraham. In the midst of that in Genesis 15:13, “Then He said to Abram: ‘Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them for four hundred years.’ ”
He is telling Abraham you are going to go through several generations, and then your descendants are going to end up in a land that is not theirs. It is not the Promised Land. They are going to serve the people in that land for four hundred years. That is the Egyptian captivity and slavery.
Genesis 15:16, “But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” God multitasks. He is going to take the seventy or so that are with Jacob down to Israel and isolate them in Goshen. He is going to bless them with hyper fertility. They are going to grow rapidly to about 3.5 million people. He is protecting the seed.
The Egyptians have this great prejudice and hostility toward the Semites. They will not even sit in the same room and eat with them. They will not have anything to do with them. The Egyptians’ level of segregation would have made the Ku Klux Clan look like a bunch of wannabes.
The Egyptians were so hyper in their hatred and dislike of the Semites that there were no Egyptians who would marry or have sexual relations with any Semites. That would be the last thing in the world that they would want to do. This is going to allow God to preserve the ethnic purity of the Jews.
The Jews are going to come back to the land in the fourth generation because by that time, after 400+ years, the Canaanite perversion is going to reach its fullness. God is going to give them enough rope to hang themselves. They are going to destroy themselves through their own perversion.
- This is further developed after the Exodus. Let’s look at how in these three passages in Exodus, Numbers, and Leviticus:
I want to look first of all at Exodus 23. In Exodus 23:20ff, God is talking to Moses telling him how He is going to protect them, and what He is going to do in leading them back to the land that He had promised them. “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into place which I have prepared.” That is the Angel of Yahweh. That is the Angel that appears to Joshua and is the real General who leads the troops, the hosts of Israel, against the Canaanites.
Exodus 23:21, “Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My Name is in Him.” “for My Name is in Him” sounds pretty harsh.
And He is not talking to the Canaanites. He is talking to His own people. It says that if you do not do exactly as He says, then the punishment on you is going to be pretty harsh. We will see that next time when we look at Joshua 7 and what happens when Achan sinned.
Exodus 23:22–23, “But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My Angel (preincarnate Jesus Christ) will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.”
Did I mention the Amalekites? No. The Amalekites are not on the list. These are all the other Canaanite groups who are in the land.
Exodus 23:24, “You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars.” In other words, you wipe out everything.
Exodus 23:25–26, “So you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you. No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.”
He goes on to describe in Exodus 23:28–29, “And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year …” Why?
Because if I drive them out in one year, you have not settled the land yet. It is going to be progressive, just like sanctification is progressive. It will be progressive because if you did it all at one time, then the land would be barren. There would be nobody to work it or anything.
You do not want to do that, so you will take it: (Exodus 23:30), “Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land. And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea of Philistia, and from the desert to the River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you.”
This is the rationale for cherem. Because of their sin, judgment is coming; and Israel is the instrument of that judgment.
Now let’s turn over to Numbers 33:40–53. Here we are going to see again the significance of Amalek.
Numbers 33:40–41, “Now the king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the south (Negev) in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the children of Israel. So they departed from Mount Hor and camped at Zalmonah.” It gives you their travel log as they go through the Negev and leading up to coming into the land—the purpose for looking at Numbers 33:40–53.
Numbers 33:50–52, “Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones.” ’ ” You run everybody out. Kill them. Destroy all the engraved stones. That is their idols.
“Destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places.” That is where they were sacrificing children.
Numbers 33:53, “You shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you the land to possess”—because God as the Creator has the right to dispose of land the way He sees fit.
Leviticus 18:24–27, “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things.” That word translated “defile” means to become ritually unclean. It is talking about their ritual cleanness and uncleanness. It is always going to relate to sanctification. “For by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled.”
See, we get this idea that sin only impacts our soul, that it only impacts the immaterial or spiritual dimension, but what we see in Genesis 3 and we see it here, is that there is a connection between sin and the land. There is a connection between the immaterial dimension of sin, the spiritual state of a people, and the physical condition of the land and their physical blessing or cursing. The land itself is unclean.
Leviticus 18:25–26, “For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled.)” The land itself is unclean. Sin defiles a land. There is a connection there. There is a connection between the spiritual and the physical.
- The cause of God’s intervention was not because of Israel’s holiness or righteousness, but because of the evil among the Canaanites. God gave them extended grace to turn to Him from approximately 2000 BC until 1406 BC—over 600 years.
- God did not choose Israel because they were holy or because they were righteous.
- God did not choose them because they were so positive.
Just read about the Exodus generation:
- They were not that positive.
- They were grumbling.
- They were complaining.
- They were all believers, but they were rotten believers.
The only two that had any spiritual sense were Caleb and Joshua. Everybody else was a spiritual failure. The New Testament in Hebrews talks about that spiritual failure.
God says that they are stiff-necked people. He says that He does not choose them for that reason. In Deuteronomy 9:5 we read: “It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go into possess the land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God drives them out.”
God said I am not giving you the land because you have been so good. I am taking the land away from them because they have been so evil. It is a judgment on them. “God drives them out before you that He may fulfill the word which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
- From a spiritual standpoint, God is looking at this as a battle between the kingdom of Satan or the kingdom of man. Satan empowers human culture to establish his kingdom apart from God versus God’s plan to establish His Kingdom on the earth where His Presence will dwell in Israel. Biblical cherem is a type or picture of spiritual warfare that takes place in the individual lives of believers.
- During this limited period of history, from the Conquest in 1406 BC through the last period of Saul’s kingship, the rules of engagement are described in Deuteronomy 20:16–18, which applied to the Canaanites. But there is a different list of rules of engagement in Deuteronomy 20:1015, which applies to the non-Canaanite population.
Those who lived around Canaan were not to be treated in the same way. They would go to these other cities. They would give them the opportunity to surrender. If they did, everything was fine. If they did not, they were to kill all the men, but the women and children were to be taken care of. The animals were not supposed to be killed. But if they were a Canaanite in the land, everything was wiped out.
No one since ca. 1050 BC (this event in 1 Samuel 15), no one since then has been authorized to engage in cherem, no one. It never happened again in the Old Testament. This has to do with a unique and distinct situation.
We will come back next time and look at these descriptions in Deuteronomy 20, as well as review the character of God problem. Then we are going to look at examples of this in the book of Joshua, which will be kind of interesting in some other dimensions.
I want to bring in some of the things that I learned when I was in Israel on the last trip. We were walking between Ai and Bethel and all the debate that goes on in those locations, and that kind of a thing. That will be next time.
“Father, thank You for the opportunity to study these things this evening. May we be encouraged with the fact that we learn important things here. We learn about Your righteousness and justice. We learn about Your grace and Your longsuffering directed toward those who continually sin in the most perverse ways. We learn about Your grace toward Israel. Despite their rebelliousness, You still provided them with this rich land and promised to give it to them for all eternity. It is theirs forever and ever, and never to be taken away.
Father, we pray for us, that we might continue to focus on our own spiritual warfare, recognizing that we are to have a “no holes barred, no prisoners taken” mentality toward the sin in our own life. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”