There are many Christians who use Old Testament "holy wars" as a justification for war in our day. This is a mistake. These wars were not "military" in the modern secular sense. They were religious and priestly.
Old Testament "holy wars" are also used as an excuse for not following the "pacifist" commands of Jesus. Another grave mistake.
I believe the Bible should be used as a blueprint for all political policies. I don't believe it should be mis-used, however.
Bible scholars often divide Old Testament laws into three categories:
• "ceremonial," and
• "civil" (or "judicial").
The category of "judicial law" presupposes that God commanded mankind to form empires or "states." This is a mistaken assumption. When we hear the phrase "separation of church and state" we understand a priestly or religious institution ("church") and a "secular" institution of power and violence ("state"). Go through the Bible from cover to
cover. You will never hear God say to man, "Form a State." The formation of "the State" was and is an act of rebellion against God's commandments against murder, theft, and vengeance. "The State" does what we all know is sinful if it were to be done in our families, businesses, churches, and charities.
There really is no "judicial law." Only "moral" and "ceremonial" law.
The "ceremonial law" is priestly law. It is generally about cleansing from sin, or making "atonement" for sin. And this generally involves the shedding of blood. The "ceremonial law" was fulfilled by Christ when He shed His blood on the Cross. In our day, no other blood has any power to atone for sins.
In the Old Covenant, before Christ shed His blood God required the shedding of blood of both man and beast to atone for sins. Some sins required more than the shedding of the blood of a dove or lamb. They required the shedding of the blood of the perpetrator himself. Today we call these ritual acts of bloodshed “capital punishment,” or in the case of entire nations in the Promised Land, "holy war." Old Testament wars were acts of cleansing or atonement on a national scale.
Neither “capital punishment” or "holy war" are required or even permitted under the New Covenant.
Christians who justify modern secular militarism and imperialism with Old Testament "holy wars" also use Romans 13 as an excuse for war in our day. This too is a mistake.
|The word “sword” in the Bible does not usually (if ever) refer to individual penal sanctions (e.g., “capital punishment”). When the Bible says God is going to send “the sword” against a people, the reference is to an army, which will invade and plunder and/or take captive. The shedding of a criminal’s blood performed the functions of all other ritual acts of bloodshed, prefiguring the atonement for sin secured by Christ’s blood in His execution. “The Sword” often refers to national “capital punishment” (i.e., a shedding of blood), which is the sacrifice of a sinful people who will not accept the Lord’s sacrifice
and righteousness by faith. The sword of vengeance, which belongs to God, is the warfare whereby God slaughters a disobedient people in a fiery sacrifice, relegating these idolatrous self-sacrifices and their dreams of Empire to the “dung-heaps” of history.
||1. cf. Romans 13:4
2. Genesis 9:4-6
3. Numbers 35:31,33; Deuteronomy
4. Ezekiel 35:5-6
5. Romans 12:17-21; #81:
32:43 [NIV]; Judges 20:40; Isaiah 34:5-8; Jeremiah 46:10; Ezekiel 39:17-20; Zephaniah
1:7-8; Matthew 23:35 + Revelation 19:3
7. Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 16:27; Zephaniah
God Sends Evil
Is War Ever "Just?"
This thesis is a linchpin.
If true, it destroys both war and capital punishment as legitimate functions of "the State," and effectively destroys the necessity or even legitimacy of "the State."
If false, it is still true that all legitimate social functions (which would include vengeance, war, and capital punishment if this thesis is false) can be carried out by the Family (patriarchy) rather than the State (polis).
Gary North,Chapter 46
Inheritance and Dominion
An Economic Commentary on Deuteronomy
LIMITS TO EMPIRE
The Whole Burnt Offering and Disinheritance
The Israelites were told to show no mercy to the nations inside Canaan's boundaries (Deut. 7:16). These nations had practiced such great evil that they had become abominations in the sight of God. "For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee" (Deut. 18:12). The language of Deuteronomy 20:10-18 indicates that every living thing inside the boundaries of Canaan was to be killed: "thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth." With respect to the first city to fall, Jericho, this law applied literally (Josh. 6:15-21). But it did not apply literally to the other cities of Canaan. After the destruction of Jericho, the first city inside Canaan to be defeated, cattle became lawful spoils for the
Israelites. "And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it" (Josh. 8:2). The word "breatheth" did not apply to Canaan's cattle; it applied only to the human population. "And all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe" (Josh. 11:14).
Jericho was the representative example of God's total wrath against covenant-breakers who follow their religious presuppositions to their ultimate conclusion: death.(3) Jericho came under God's total ban: hormah.(4) This was the equivalent of a whole burnt offering: almost all of it had to be consumed by fire. In the whole burnt offering, all of the beast was consumed on the altar (Lev. 1:9, 13), except for the skin, which went to the officiating priest (Lev. 7:8). Similarly, all of Jericho was burnt except for the precious metals, which went to the tabernacle as firstfruits (Josh. 6:24).(5) Nevertheless, because God wanted His people to reap the inheritance of the Canaanites, He allowed them to
confiscate the cattle and precious goods of the other conquered Canaanite cities. This illustrated another important biblical principle of inheritance: "A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just" (Prov. 13:22). Canaan's capital, except in Jericho, was part of Israel's lawful inheritance. The Canaanites had accumulated wealth; the Israelites were to inherit all of it. This comprehensive inheritance was to become a model of God's total victory at the end of history. Their failure to exterminate the Canaanites, placing some of them under tribute instead (Josh. 16:10; 17:13), eventually led to the apostasy of Israel and the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, just as Moses prophesied in this passage (vv. 17-18; cf. 7:1-5; 12:30-31).
The annihilation of every living soul in Canaan was mandatory. "And thou shalt consume all the people which the LORD thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them: neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee" (Deut. 7:16). This was a model of God's final judgment. But it was a model in the same way that Jericho was a model: a one-time event. Jericho was to be totally destroyed, including the animals; this was not true of the other cities of Canaan. Similarly, the Canaanites were to be totally annihilated; this was not true of residents of cities outside Canaan. In this sense, Jericho was to Canaan what Canaan was to cities outside the land: a down payment ("earnest") on God's final judgment -- final disinheritance -- at the end of time. This earnest payment in history
on the final disinheritance is matched by the earnest payment in history on the final inheritance. This is surely the case in spiritual affairs.(6) Debates over eschatology are debates over the extent to which these earnest payments in history are also cultural and civilizational, and whether they image the final judgment, i.e., to what extent history is an earnest on eternity.(7)
James B. Jordan
Judges: God's War Against Humanism
17. Then Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they struck the Canaanites living in Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. So the name of the city was called Hormah. Now we see Judah making good her bargain with Simeon. The destruction of Canaanite Zephath was total, so that the place was called Hormah.
This is not the only “Hormah,” for we read in Numbers 21:1-3 of a place that was also “devoted to destruction,” and as a result was called Hormah.
Hormah means “placed under the ban, totally destroyed.” To be placed under the ban is to be devoted to death. Just as the Nazirite was devoted to God in life (for instance, Samson, Samuel), so the banned person or city was devoted wholly to God in death. To put under the ban means to curse and to devote to total destruction.
The preeminent example of a city devoted to total destruction is Jericho, the story of which is recorded in Joshua 6:15-19. Everything living was to be killed, all the treasures brought to the house of God, and the city was to be burned with fire. No personal booty was allowed.
More light is shed on this matter in Deuteronomy 13:12-18. The apostate city is to be banned, and “then you shall gather all its booty into the middle of its open square and burn the city and all its booty with fire as a whole burnt sacrifice to the LORD your God; and it shall be a ruin forever. It shall never be rebuilt” (v. 16).
From this we learn that it was God’s fire, lit by Himself from heaven (Lev. 9:24; 2 Chron. 7:1), kept burning perpetually on the altar, which was used to ignite the city placed under the ban. (See also Gen. 22:6 and 1 Ki. 18:38.) The fact that God starts His fire shows that the sacrifice is His sacrifice, the sacrifice that He Himself provides to propitiate His own fiery wrath. Man has no hand in it, and only an ordained priest may handle it. Man is impotent in his salvation, so that man cannot even light the sacrificial fire. If he dares to do so, God destroys him (Lev.
All men stand on God’s altar. Those who accept God’s Substitute, the very Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, can step off the altar and escape the fire. Jesus takes the fire for them. He becomes the whole burnt sacrifice. Those who refuse the Substitute, however, are left on the altar, and are burnt up by the fire of God. (See Gen. 19:24; Rev. 18:8; Rev. 20:14f.; and for further study, Heb. 12:29; Ex. 3:2-5; Heb. 12:18; Num. 11:1-3; Num. 16:35; Num.
21:6; Gen. 3:25; 2 Pet. 3:9-12; Rev. 8:3-5).
Thus, the destruction of Hormah was a priestly act, issuing from the flaming swords of the cherubic (priestly) guardians of the land, a revelation of God’s direct fiery judgment against the wicked. Not every city was to be destroyed in this fashion, but certain ones were, as types of the wrath of God. This horrible judgment, introduced here at the beginning of Judges, comes again in Judges 20:40, when it is an apostate Israelite city that is burnt up as a sacrifice to God.
Taxation in the Bible | Gary North
- R. J. Rushdoony argued that Exodus 30 -- a man's payment of half a shekel upon reaching age 20 -- was a head tax. He was incorrect. The payment went to the priests, not to a civil magistrate ("captain"). The tip-off was that it was calculated as a shekel of the sanctuary, which was a separate, ecclesiastical coin. This was blood money. It was paid on a man's entry into God's holy army, which was both priestly and civil. I discuss this in Chapter 32 of Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus (1990).
(That the army was "priestly" can be seen directly from Scripture. That the army was "civil" may be reading modern categories into the text.)
- The military was not necessarily a state function over against a Church function in the Old Covenant. Indeed, holy war was a specifically priestly function. The torching of cities is to be understood as taking God's fire off from His altar and applying His holy fiery wrath to his enemies. Thus, the torched cities were called "whole burnt sacrifices" in the Hebrew Old Testament (Deut. 13:16; Judg. 1:17, 20:40, in Hebrew).
During the holy war, the men became temporary priests by taking the Nazirite vow (Num. 6; 2 Sam. 11:11 + Exo. 19:15; Deut. 23:9-14; Judg. 5:2, "That long locks of hair hung loose in Israel. . ."). This is
all to say that the rendering of specific judgments is a sabbatical and priestly function, not a kingly one.... The sword of the state executes according to the judgments rendered by the priests....
Thus, the military duty is priestly, and a duty of every believer-priest. Both Church and state are involved in it, since the Church must say whether the war is just and holy, and the state must organize the believer-priests for battle. The mustering of the host for a census is, then, not a "civil" function as opposed to an ecclesiastical one, and the atonement money of Exodus 30 is not a poll tax, as some have alleged.
James Jordan, "Appendix D: State Financing in the Bible," in The Law of the Covenant, 231-32 (1984), at http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/: HTML, DjVu.
There is no such thing as "judicial law" in the Bible.
Biblical salvation entails not simply the establishment of the Church, but entails the restoration of the whole fabric of life, including social life. Perhaps then we should expect to find God giving us a blueprint of the perfect civil government, of the Christian state. Some people in history have thought that the Bible, in the Mosaic law, was doing just that, but in fact there is no corpus as such of judicial laws in the Bible. The reason why so many people have erred in looking at the Old Testament laws as if they were judicial laws designed for some state is that since the rebellion of man, the human race has been infected with Statism, and thus men tend to look at the Bible through glasses tinted with this Statism.
This explains why we do not find a set of judicial laws in the Bible. All the laws of Scripture, including the social laws, are religious. The social laws are God-centered. Some of them relate to Christian civil government, but there is no corpus of civil law or judicial law because the Bible is not a Statist document.
James Jordan, "Appendix E: Salvation and Statism," in The Law of the Covenant, 240-42 (1984), at http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/: HTML, DjVu.
“In the literature of Protestantism, it is assumed that the law of God comes in three categories: moral, judicial, and ceremonial. The criticism rightly shows that this category scheme is erroneous. What has been termed ‘judicial law’ is not in fact a legal code, but rather is a set of explanations of the moral law.”
James B. Jordan, “Calvinism and ‘The Judicial Law of Moses': An Historical Survey,” Journal of Christian Reconstruction 5(1978-79):19: