9.24.08, Joshua 6:21

21 They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.

Herem

This is the one of the most difficult passages in Scripture, where everything is destroyed in Jericho.  We usually shy away from issues like this, but we need to wrestle with this, for the sake of our own faith as well as our apologetic to the rest of the world.  And this will not be our only confrontation with this idea in the book of Joshua…

The word used in this passage is herem, with means “to be devoted or consecrated to the Lord, as if to destruction”.  This is what occurs at Jericho, where every living thing is destroyed, except Rahab and her family.  This is a very confusing and difficult idea for us to digest, because it seems so contradictory with our understanding of who God is…how are we to make sense of this?

First, the theological answer.  Remember from Romans that the wage or consequence of sin is death – so in reality, all of us deserve the same punishment as the people of Jericho – we have reaped herem for ourselves.  It is terribly cynical, but the honest truth is that’s what we all really deserve, each and every one of us, as a consequence for our disobedience and sin.  And the fact is that these terrible things do not occur all the time to all of us because God’s universal grace protects us all and keeps this universe together.

But this is how I have come to grips with this idea, when I take the concept of herem and apply it to my life – not in killing things of course, but dying to myself.  You see, that definition of herem, “to be devoted or consecrated to the Lord, as if to destruction”, perfectly describes our spiritual state:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

You see, we are herem – when we become Christians, we completely die to ourselves, are wrecked for God, crucified with him, set apart only for Him and His purposes, as if to destruction.  But the beauty is that we do this not for destruction, but so that Christ may live in us, and we may live through him eternally!  It is through Christ that we finally can make sense of herem, that things that are devoted to destruction can be given new life.

I am herem.

Questions

1. Have you ever had a discussion with someone about how God could allow or even command destruction?  What was your response?

2. There is no single nor easy answer to the question of herem – despite the above explanations, do aspects of herem still not make sense or sit well with you? (this is completely okay to admit!)

3. Do you feel like you are herem for God, completely sold out to whatever he wants?  If not, what do you think is the biggest obstacle to living in this way?

3. Another definition of herem is “consecrated”, or “set apart”, which again points to us as Christians.  Think about your daily life – what practices, habits, or mentalities mark that you are consecrated and set apart for God?  In other words, can others tell that you are herem?

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8 thoughts on “9.24.08, Joshua 6:21

  1. many questions, no easy answers – i’ll try to avoid heavy theology, because those fall dangerously close to non-answers.

    – what about non-Jewish people before Christ, who lived in Africa and had no way to hear about God through Israel or through Jesus? i’ll try to answer this without being heretical… there is this idea of “agnos”, or ignorance/unbelief. it is referred to in several texts, ezekiel, acts, 1 timothy, where God has a specific type of mercy for those who acted in complete ignorance. although i don’t think this means that everyone outside of the middle east during these time periods will be saved, i am comforted by the idea that God acknowledges their situation. perhaps they will be judged by the inborn conscience that we read in romans? but be sure, God will deal with them in the most just, and more merciful, way we could imagine – that’s his character. hopefully this will give some peace!

  2. – what about grace? how can the same grace that we hear about in the NT destroy entire cities? is this grace selective?

    there are a few points to this – first, the story of grace is not completed yet! so talking about God’s grace by looking only at jericho is like opening a book and summarizing its plot by only looking at one page! just wait – we’ll discuss full grace very soon in a coming devotional!

    now, about selectivity, this really depends on your theological standpoint. i am what you call an arminian/calvinist, meaning i just let God do what he’s going to do. hopefully the above post answers some of that, that God’s grace does extend universally, even upon those who had no chance to hear the gospel and acted in complete ignorance.

    but there is an element of selectivity to God’s favor, and it was upon the people of israel, and then transferred to the church. but the nature of this favor is not that we get the best food and best cars…the nature of this favor is to imitate the life of Christ, a life of tremendous victory…and great suffering.

    i guess what i am trying to say is that God’s selective grace upon a people or a group does not mean they will never suffer! so when someone suffers, we shouldn’t assume that it is because God doesn’t care for them or love them…

  3. – what is the relationship between devotion and destruction?

    whenever you love someone, or are truly devoted to them, there is necessary self-sacrifice, or even self-death. when people swore fealty to kings, they would proclaim, ‘my life is yours’. even wedding vows reflect this death to self, that you are bound to someone even if things get worse, sicker and poorer!

    so i think the relationship between devotion and destruction is that if we are truly devoted to God, then we have to be willing to die to ourselves (or be destroyed). you cannot say, ‘God, i am completely yours…but i don’t want you to mess around with my future. and i won’t go to india. and i must get married.’ in essence, when you accept Jesus’ Lordship, you are saying, ‘God…anything….anywhere…whatever’, just like you would say to someone you are head of heels in love with.

  4. – what about the relationship between Christianity and other social sciences, like anthropology? how can we find some understanding between the two when they are so different (absolute vs. post-modernism)?

    unfortunately, there is never going to be a perfect fit between the two, because for a Christian, faith will have to come first. they will never be at the same level, Christianity and anthropology, because one is a study of humans, and the other is an answer to universal reality! so it’s completely understandable if there are some jagged edges between the two.

    and yet, just because faith comes first, does not mean you cannot be an anthropologist! instead, your faith can inform your observations and studies and give you insights that others cannot hope to make. you know from anthropology that people are incredibly diverse from culture to culture, but that some constants remain the same in every time, every place in the world: relationships, love, death, a desire to create and express, religiosity, some idea of morality, an awe/fear for the supernatural, stuff like that…

    now…maybe all of these universal desires have a primary source, that we want these things because we were born with a NEED for them, in the same way that we want to drink water because we thirst! perhaps we long for relationship because we were born to be in relationship with someone perfectly loving. maybe we draw things on cave walls and make pottery in imitation of a Creator. maybe every culture develops some moral code because deep down, they know there is something not right between them and others and God…

    this in essence is what paul does in acts 17, in athens – he observes greek culture, and reveals the intersection of God with their culture!…and that’s what you can do too!

  5. I think it’s very difficult for some of us to admit that we human beings are all sinful and disobedient. e.i) my roommate or my mom believes that they are both very decent people. How can i illustrate that deep down we are all sinners?

  6. In reference to the question about God’s favor and selective grace, how is it that God allows some people to die without being saved. Each person has to accept Jesus as his/her savior to be saved, but God already knows who has been/will be/won’t be saved…

  7. in terms of getting individuals to see falleness, it’s helpful to establish universal sin first, that every family of every generation has never been able to avoid sin. all of human history is a history of sin, and those sins are committed by people exactly like us.

    also, people usually tell themselves, “hey, i’ve never killed anyone or stolen, i’m a pretty good guy!” but that would mean that the standard of goodness is a murderer or a thief! your friends need to realize that the standard of goodness is people like mother theresa… and even they fall short. so relative to people like that, do they think they are doing just fine? is a holy God okay as long as we don’t murder each other?

    lastly…they are not being honest with you. every person has dark skeletons in their closests, things that they are desperately ashamed of. if they say they have never done anything that makes them flinch, they are not being honest with themselves. they are just thinking about the last week or month, that they haven’t done anything terrible in that time. but we reap what we sow, so at some point, they will have to come face to face with what shames them the most….

  8. the question about selectivity all revolves around word choice, words like “sends” or “predestines” or “chooses” – these words are just human inventions, and cannot fully describe how God does things. let’s put these words aside and look at larger pictures instead.

    instead of focusing on God “sending” people to hell, a much clearer conception is that we send ourselves to hell, and God intervenes. cs lewis discusses this idea in the great divorce, that hell will be a place where people do exactly as they please, which is why we see hellish things here on earth. and since this is the nature of every person, hell is a universal reality. but into this universal reality steps God and Jesus, to offer us the only way out of this mess.

    so God doesn’t send us to hell – we create hell, and God offers us heaven instead. now, God’s nature is that he is omniscient and knows a person’s heart, but that is far from God casting helpless people into a pit. we would all fall into this pit without him!

Comments are closed.

9.24.08, Joshua 6:21

21 They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.

Herem

This is the one of the most difficult passages in Scripture, where everything is destroyed in Jericho.  We usually shy away from issues like this, but we need to wrestle with this, for the sake of our own faith as well as our apologetic to the rest of the world.  And this will not be our only confrontation with this idea in the book of Joshua…

The word used in this passage is herem, with means “to be devoted or consecrated to the Lord, as if to destruction”.  This is what occurs at Jericho, where every living thing is destroyed, except Rahab and her family.  This is a very confusing and difficult idea for us to digest, because it seems so contradictory with our understanding of who God is…how are we to make sense of this?

First, the theological answer.  Remember from Romans that the wage or consequence of sin is death – so in reality, all of us deserve the same punishment as the people of Jericho – we have reaped herem for ourselves.  It is terribly cynical, but the honest truth is that’s what we all really deserve, each and every one of us, as a consequence for our disobedience and sin.  And the fact is that these terrible things do not occur all the time to all of us because God’s universal grace protects us all and keeps this universe together.

But this is how I have come to grips with this idea, when I take the concept of herem and apply it to my life – not in killing things of course, but dying to myself.  You see, that definition of herem, “to be devoted or consecrated to the Lord, as if to destruction”, perfectly describes our spiritual state:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

You see, we are herem – when we become Christians, we completely die to ourselves, are wrecked for God, crucified with him, set apart only for Him and His purposes, as if to destruction.  But the beauty is that we do this not for destruction, but so that Christ may live in us, and we may live through him eternally!  It is through Christ that we finally can make sense of herem, that things that are devoted to destruction can be given new life.

I am herem.

Questions

1. Have you ever had a discussion with someone about how God could allow or even command destruction?  What was your response?

2. There is no single nor easy answer to the question of herem – despite the above explanations, do aspects of herem still not make sense or sit well with you? (this is completely okay to admit!)

3. Do you feel like you are herem for God, completely sold out to whatever he wants?  If not, what do you think is the biggest obstacle to living in this way?

3. Another definition of herem is “consecrated”, or “set apart”, which again points to us as Christians.  Think about your daily life – what practices, habits, or mentalities mark that you are consecrated and set apart for God?  In other words, can others tell that you are herem?

8 thoughts on “9.24.08, Joshua 6:21

  1. many questions, no easy answers – i’ll try to avoid heavy theology, because those fall dangerously close to non-answers.

    – what about non-Jewish people before Christ, who lived in Africa and had no way to hear about God through Israel or through Jesus? i’ll try to answer this without being heretical… there is this idea of “agnos”, or ignorance/unbelief. it is referred to in several texts, ezekiel, acts, 1 timothy, where God has a specific type of mercy for those who acted in complete ignorance. although i don’t think this means that everyone outside of the middle east during these time periods will be saved, i am comforted by the idea that God acknowledges their situation. perhaps they will be judged by the inborn conscience that we read in romans? but be sure, God will deal with them in the most just, and more merciful, way we could imagine – that’s his character. hopefully this will give some peace!

  2. – what about grace? how can the same grace that we hear about in the NT destroy entire cities? is this grace selective?

    there are a few points to this – first, the story of grace is not completed yet! so talking about God’s grace by looking only at jericho is like opening a book and summarizing its plot by only looking at one page! just wait – we’ll discuss full grace very soon in a coming devotional!

    now, about selectivity, this really depends on your theological standpoint. i am what you call an arminian/calvinist, meaning i just let God do what he’s going to do. hopefully the above post answers some of that, that God’s grace does extend universally, even upon those who had no chance to hear the gospel and acted in complete ignorance.

    but there is an element of selectivity to God’s favor, and it was upon the people of israel, and then transferred to the church. but the nature of this favor is not that we get the best food and best cars…the nature of this favor is to imitate the life of Christ, a life of tremendous victory…and great suffering.

    i guess what i am trying to say is that God’s selective grace upon a people or a group does not mean they will never suffer! so when someone suffers, we shouldn’t assume that it is because God doesn’t care for them or love them…

  3. – what is the relationship between devotion and destruction?

    whenever you love someone, or are truly devoted to them, there is necessary self-sacrifice, or even self-death. when people swore fealty to kings, they would proclaim, ‘my life is yours’. even wedding vows reflect this death to self, that you are bound to someone even if things get worse, sicker and poorer!

    so i think the relationship between devotion and destruction is that if we are truly devoted to God, then we have to be willing to die to ourselves (or be destroyed). you cannot say, ‘God, i am completely yours…but i don’t want you to mess around with my future. and i won’t go to india. and i must get married.’ in essence, when you accept Jesus’ Lordship, you are saying, ‘God…anything….anywhere…whatever’, just like you would say to someone you are head of heels in love with.

  4. – what about the relationship between Christianity and other social sciences, like anthropology? how can we find some understanding between the two when they are so different (absolute vs. post-modernism)?

    unfortunately, there is never going to be a perfect fit between the two, because for a Christian, faith will have to come first. they will never be at the same level, Christianity and anthropology, because one is a study of humans, and the other is an answer to universal reality! so it’s completely understandable if there are some jagged edges between the two.

    and yet, just because faith comes first, does not mean you cannot be an anthropologist! instead, your faith can inform your observations and studies and give you insights that others cannot hope to make. you know from anthropology that people are incredibly diverse from culture to culture, but that some constants remain the same in every time, every place in the world: relationships, love, death, a desire to create and express, religiosity, some idea of morality, an awe/fear for the supernatural, stuff like that…

    now…maybe all of these universal desires have a primary source, that we want these things because we were born with a NEED for them, in the same way that we want to drink water because we thirst! perhaps we long for relationship because we were born to be in relationship with someone perfectly loving. maybe we draw things on cave walls and make pottery in imitation of a Creator. maybe every culture develops some moral code because deep down, they know there is something not right between them and others and God…

    this in essence is what paul does in acts 17, in athens – he observes greek culture, and reveals the intersection of God with their culture!…and that’s what you can do too!

  5. I think it’s very difficult for some of us to admit that we human beings are all sinful and disobedient. e.i) my roommate or my mom believes that they are both very decent people. How can i illustrate that deep down we are all sinners?

  6. In reference to the question about God’s favor and selective grace, how is it that God allows some people to die without being saved. Each person has to accept Jesus as his/her savior to be saved, but God already knows who has been/will be/won’t be saved…

  7. in terms of getting individuals to see falleness, it’s helpful to establish universal sin first, that every family of every generation has never been able to avoid sin. all of human history is a history of sin, and those sins are committed by people exactly like us.

    also, people usually tell themselves, “hey, i’ve never killed anyone or stolen, i’m a pretty good guy!” but that would mean that the standard of goodness is a murderer or a thief! your friends need to realize that the standard of goodness is people like mother theresa… and even they fall short. so relative to people like that, do they think they are doing just fine? is a holy God okay as long as we don’t murder each other?

    lastly…they are not being honest with you. every person has dark skeletons in their closests, things that they are desperately ashamed of. if they say they have never done anything that makes them flinch, they are not being honest with themselves. they are just thinking about the last week or month, that they haven’t done anything terrible in that time. but we reap what we sow, so at some point, they will have to come face to face with what shames them the most….

  8. the question about selectivity all revolves around word choice, words like “sends” or “predestines” or “chooses” – these words are just human inventions, and cannot fully describe how God does things. let’s put these words aside and look at larger pictures instead.

    instead of focusing on God “sending” people to hell, a much clearer conception is that we send ourselves to hell, and God intervenes. cs lewis discusses this idea in the great divorce, that hell will be a place where people do exactly as they please, which is why we see hellish things here on earth. and since this is the nature of every person, hell is a universal reality. but into this universal reality steps God and Jesus, to offer us the only way out of this mess.

    so God doesn’t send us to hell – we create hell, and God offers us heaven instead. now, God’s nature is that he is omniscient and knows a person’s heart, but that is far from God casting helpless people into a pit. we would all fall into this pit without him!

Comments are closed.