In this thread I have been discussing the wrath of God as manifest in the writings of the Old Testament, in preparation for a later discussion of the divine judgments meted out in the New Testament book of Revelation.

In a number of Old Testament narratives God asserts his raw divine power not because he is angry at the disobedience of his people but because he does not want them to be corrupted by outsiders, the “Others” who will lead them astray.  In one sense I suppose God could be said to be angry with these outsiders, but it is a little difficult to see why, since he has not revealed himself to them and they are simply worshiping the gods they and their ancestors have worshiped from time immemorial.

But in any event, the outsiders need to be destroyed to prevent them from badly affecting the Israelites.  Nowhere is this theme played out more consistently and graphically than in the book of Joshua, the sixth book of the Hebrew Bible (right after the Pentateuch).  Joshua is about the conquest and distribution of the Promised Land.  The context: God has delivered his people Israel from their slavery in Egypt through the Exodus, given them his Law, forced them to stay in the wilderness for forty years for disobedience, and is not prepared to give the land promised to the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The land is already inhabited, so the Israelites have to take it by force; in the book of Joshua they do so under Moses’ military successor (from whom the book derives its name) and then divvy it up among the twelve tribes.

Here is how…

This post gets to some of the key issues of the entire Bible, about how God is to be understood. Is he kind and benevolent? A ruthless tyrant? Both? Something else? To keep reading, join the blog! Click here for membership options