The Sabbath School Lesson Study: Does God Play Favorites?

The Sabbath School Lesson Study: Does God Play Favorites? Long answer short, is No, He does not play favorites. In fact, God extends His love to all who will come to Him through His Son- The ,Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks Matthew for such a powerful article. May this help us to live and love like Jesus!.

There are so many dangerous ideas in this article that I can’t talk about them all. But I’ll focus on 1 or 2. First the idea that Israel went from oppressed to oppressors after their liberation because they felt entitled to “occupy” someone else’s land is ridiculous. Our living God have all those peoples in Canaan chance after chance to accept Him and be spared but they rejected Him. Also, the Canaanites participated in horribly cruel practices like child sacrifices. God was ending the injustice of Canaan. And the thought that God is unjust because He ordered this evil to be put to an end goes against who God and Jesus have taught. Example is the flood. Do you (author) believe the flood story? Weren’t millions of people including women, children, and elderly destroyed in the flood? They had the gospel preached to them and chose to reject it, and so the consequence was the same as the consequence of the canaanites who also could have turned from their false gods upon seeing the true God, as rahab did and became part of the lineage of Jesus!

Second point, God has made it clear that He wills all to he saved. He chose the Jewish people to be a light to all and He never gave them free reign to do as they pleased. Evidence of this is Egypt, Babylon, and Rome. The idea that parts of the Bible are added to advance the privileges of few is so dangerous that if true it would destroy the entire Bible. How do you know what parts are God inspired and what let’s are not? You, and I are far too flawed to use our view of right and wrong to determine what parts are “authentic” amd which are not. I don’t like the idea of hell…can I remove that too? Someone doesn’t think the idea of not divorcing is from God, can we remove that? Someone else doesn’t think the flood happened, can we remove that? Even though Jesus said the end would be as in the days of Noah?

God is love, amd even the parts we do not comprehend are motivated by love. As the Bible says, judge nothing before it’s time. One day we will see the why’s and wherefores of all God did. But for now, the cross is all we need to know to know that even when God destroys, it’s in line with His character. Blessings

Thanks, @PapaAfful.

There is much to applaud, here, in your essay.

I especially felt the force of this statement:

As friends of mine once said…

… the fear of a Black planet takes many forms.

However, that said, I agree with @Yoyito: Your theology on the conquering of Canaan is incoherent.

You say:

…God gave the order for Israel to commit genocide, which incomprehensibly targets women and children. Any god who commands such barbarous acts should forfeit the right to be worshipped. One reason Jesus came the first time was to show us who God is, which is different from the ethically-challenged caricature often found in the Old Testament.

As in your previous coverage of the Canaanite narrative, you leave out a conversation between God and Abraham in Genesis 15:13-16:

Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

The conquest of Canaan, then, was not something the Israelites dreamed up, but something God designated, before there ever were Israelites. You have not shown how we should differentiate between the possible veracity of these two statements:

  1. God told the Israelites to kill the Canaanites.


  1. The Israelites decided to kill the Canaanites.

Of course, as David so adroitly notes,

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

This means that God cannot commit genocide. It affirms those who did what He commanded did not do so, either.

If God wants to treat the Amorites, you, or me the way kids with these…

…treat these…

… that is His complete and total prerogative.

Put another way, the Christ you say finds the Old Testament God an “ethically-challenged caricature” is not only, in fact, the Old Testament God, but He is also going to kill a lot of women and children when He returns. Would you call His Second Coming an act of genocide, speciecide, or judgment?

Again, I would commend to readers, “The Conquest and the Ethical Question of War,” from the “Intro to Joshua” in the International Bible Society’s NIV Study Bible. It is easily the best commentary I’ve ever seen on the submission of Canaan. At six short paragraphs, there is no fat; every sentence packs a punch.

Changing topics, you also say this, Matthew:

Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But in Psalm 51:5, David admits “I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

If these are both true statements for all people, then everyone has a sinful orientation, and no one chose it.

I’m confident these are not new ideas for someone as knowledgable as you. So, I’m not clear why you have written statements, like these, so readily deflected by common biblical logic.

The issue isn’t whether homosexuality comes naturally to some people. The issue is whether the practice of homosexuality is something of which God approves, or does not approve. Whatever happens next, in this area, must be generated by solvent responses to that question.


Assuming the lands that God had promised to the Israelites were populated with the worst of the worst idolitors why didn’t he wipe them out himself? Why did he ask the Israelites to murder the men, women and children of these lands so that it could be their land? He annihilated Sodom and Gomorrah without the armies of Lot or Abraham!


I agree with your last statement.
If you would like to understand this hidden reason why the Israelites spent 38 years in the wilderness, why only then (the point in time when the sin of the Amorites reached full measure) the Israelites had the legal right to invade and conquer Canaan, how this timing depended on Noah cursing Canaan and on an ancient king named Abimelech making a covenant with Abraham, here is a fascinating explanation:

Thanks, @palmel.

The Bible does not say.

Perhaps God felt that the only way the Israelites would come to value the land they’d occupy would be if they had a direct hand in its cleansing.

Or, perhaps, had they not undertaken the task, with God’s blessing and assistance, neighboring nations would not have come to respect or fear them. They would have merely seen the Israelites as interlopers; people who found an empty countryside and squatted on it.

There may be other reasons but, again, this is merely my thinking on the matter. To my knowledge, the Bible does not address your question.

I did address this.

One reason is that this is what God wanted to do with Canaan. It was His, as were the people who occupy it, (Psalm 24:1) as were the people who were about to occupy it. Because it was all His, it was His to dispose of as He wished.

This is what I meant by the example of the M-80s and plastic army men: When the kid decides he wants to tape a few plastic army men to an M-80, then light the fuse, it’s his right, because they’re his M-80s, and his plastic army men.

The other reason is in Genesis 15:16: "The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure."

God was going to set up a holy nation, dedicated to His rule of law. To do this, he was going to kick the current tenants off the land. There was no way the Israelites would have maintained a godly society in the midst of those nations’ moral abuses. (For more detail on this, see an outline, “The Abominations Of The Canaanites” by David Padfield.)

However, first, God was going to give those heathen groups 400 years to get their acts together and repent. We can presume the 400-year period was full of moments like those we see in the Old Testament: Calls to change, like the one documented in the book of Jonah’s trip to Nineveh, followed by remorse, followed by repentance…followed by reversal, followed by revelry and roistering. (We see this pattern play out amongst the Israelites, themselves, in the OT history, as well.)

Ultimately, God decided the sin of the Amorites—and the other Canaanite tribes—had reached its full measure.

Enter: Israel.

Abraham interceded on behalf of Sodom & Gomorrah, but they came up short. God then destroyed them.

In His prophecy against Babylon, from Jeremiah 50, God says this in vs. 39 and 40:

“So the desert creatures and hyenas will live there and ostriches will dwell there. It will never again be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation. As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah along with their neighbors,” declares the LORD, “no one will dwell there; no man will abide there.”

In other words, God did not send the armies of Lot or Abraham to conquer Sodom & Gomorrah, because he did not intend for them to possess it. His fate for that city was permanent desolation; a destiny it acquired and has held.

If you haven’t, again, I’d strongly suggest that you read the document I forwarded: “The Conquest and the Ethical Question of War.”


Thank you.

I appreciate you sharing this chronology. I’ll take a look at it and find out what I can learn.

Please also consider my reply to @palmel’s kind post, and see if there is anything in it you decide is useful.


For me the question is - who puts these commands to “kill every man, woman and child etc.” into Gods mouth? - the guys who killed “every, man, woman and child”. Unless we’re hearing the echos of His voice, it makes no sense based on what has happened next,

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I have been listening on and off now for a long time brother Quartery rail against the ABSG. I have no recollection of him ever contacting my office and asking us any questions about some of the issues he sees.

Yes, these are reprints from years ago because I sometimes have the problem of people who were assigned to write ABSGs, unfortunately, not coming through, some not even telling me they were not coming through even after the due date. A while back two in a row did this to me (about 12 years ago I had four in a row do this to me! Man, that was a stressful time), which explains these two reprints, something that I do not like doing.

And as far as getting the pandemic and George Floyd in this year… well, the fact is, due to the worldwide nature of this publication and the vast logistics involved in getting it into about 120 languages, I am right now editing an ABSG for 2024. That’s how far in advance, even at this stage in the process we must work, which is already a few years after we first made the assignment.

Of course had he contacted my office he might have known these things.

Clifford Goldstein, Director
Adult Bible Study Guides


I write a monthly column on a variety of topics for Spectrum. Occasionally, my essay focuses on some aspects of the Sabbath School Guide. When I do I address the issue as forthrightly as possible, as I do in the present essay and the one before on Isaiah. It is unfortunate that you view such criticism as rail[ing], and pick on the tangential comment of reissued studies as cover for a larger problem: making the studies relevant.

My core thesis in this current essay is that the studies project a God who has historically covenanted or entered into “agreements” with a few, to the exclusion of his other created beings. And that this postulation undergirds much of the strife we have in society. This is the debate I seek to foster in an age of increasing polarization.

That assigned study authors seem to frequently miss their deadlines (some not even bothering to communicate their reasons to you) appears to be a process issue specific to your operation. And it seems to me that if you are already editing an edition three years ahead, there should be some contingencies in place to avoid having to reissue two quarterly studies in a role 18 years removed.

IMHO, I think a lot of things about the production of the Sabbath School Study Guides are woefully dated and long due for an overhaul.


Easier said than done, I’m afraid.


The issue of viewing the Genesis genocides as literal history is that we assume that historical writing at that time was the way we do it now.

In fact, if one examined parallel literature of the ANE, one finds that the activities attributed to YHWH are very similar to how other cultural groups and tribes described those of their own gods. They were gods of war, who wiped out their enemies if the people had pleased their gods, and would cause defeat at the hands of their enemies, if they had offended their gods. Sounds very similar to much of the OT narratives along these lines. YHWH fit the picture of a tribal, warrior god. Something of cultural convention comes shouting through all of this, not historical literalism. And, God worked with these limited understandings.

Secondly, Jesus himself comes and overturns much of this picture of God. When his disciples asked him if they should call fire down from heaven upon those who rejected him…Samaritans, who were idolatrous, half breed enemies…Jesus rebuked them, telling them that they had no idea what spirit was moving them. Even though what they were saying has OT support.

The reality is that Jesus totally overthrew the picture of God, which found its expression first in the Hebrew Scriptures, as a warrior for his select group, frustrating the hopes, beliefs, and expectations that his countrymen had, and blowing up their picture of God as a tribal warrior. It got him killed.

It is amazing how we still don’t see Jesus as the lens through which to view the OT, citing those stories as the normative picture of God. They are not. Jesus is. His throne was a Roman cross, his crown of thorns. This is how God conquers for all who come to him in faith. Self giving love.




So, is the answer that we must edit the Bible so God fits our ideas of morality?
Or, is the answer that we accept the accounts as written and be forced to consider the idea that God is some sort of hypocrite, and perhaps even abandon Him entirely? (Some believers in times past have been so horrified by God’s instructions and actions against ancient Israel’s enemies that they have concluded that the OT YHWH and Jesus are in fact two separate gods.)
Or is the answer that we are not perceiving these stories in a way that is consistent with God’s nature and plan?

Below is some information about (what is to me) a strange Hebrew word that is often applied to people whom God ordered the Israelites to annihilate during their conquests. The word is chêrem or herem. It has a curious range of meaning including: to place under a ban, declare accursed, sacrifice to God or devote to destruction.
(If you are studious, it can be found in Strong’s concordance as H2764.)
An NIV footnote says chêrem is ’a Hebrew term referring to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord (often by totally destroying them)’.
It appears that ancient peoples promised their gods the lives and possessions of their enemies as a sort of sacrifice before waging war in an attempt to solicit a favorable outcome from their gods before a battle.

Most pertinent to this article are the following examples: Num 21:2, Deut 2:34; 3:6; 7:2; 13:15,17; 20:17; Joshua 2:10; ‪6:17‬,18,21; 7:1,12; ‪8:26‬; 10:1,28,35,37,39,40; 11:11,20; ‪22:20; Judges 1:17‬ (some refer to the killing of specific individuals such as enemy kings, and some to destroying entire populations of regions or cities and the dedication of their treasure, such as Jericho and Ai).

But, fascinatingly, the term is also used regarding God’s own people. In Ex 22:20 it speaks of the punishment for an Israelite sacrificing to another god, in Lev 27:28,29 it states the irrevocability of anything or anyone dedicated to the Lord and in Num 18:14 it concerns the offerings reserved for priests and Levites.
In Is 43:28 it is applied to ‘Jacob’ or the northern kingdom of Israel. It sounds cruel and final but, in the very next chapter, looking forward, God says of the same people that He will pour out His Spirit on their descendants and bless their offspring. Similarly, in Jer 25:9 it is used of Judah, the southern kingdom, as God says they have not listened to His prophets and will now be ‘utterly destroyed’ by going into Babylonian captivity. But, as you know, they weren’t annihilated there but emerged from exile 70 years later.

Hard for my mind to make sense of a word applied to the fate of Israel’s slaughtered enemies, to certain offerings dedicated to God, and to wayward but eventually forgiven Jewish believers. Perhaps the word implies that there are certain things that must be left with God because we are not wise enough to deal with them.

Every theological system is based to a degree on informed assumptions - on suppositions about the nature of man, and the nature of God and God’s plan for humanity. If you wish to read further, I ask that you temporarily suspend some of your suppositions.

Paul told Timothy that God ‘desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth’. Paul also said the living God is ‘the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe’.
So, can we agree that God wants the Canaanites to be saved? The question we must then ask ourselves is: Will God achieve what He desires?
And what did Paul mean by that last phrase, ‘especially of those who believe’? I take it to mean that to Paul, those who believe now in this age are especially blessed. Does that mean that others (‘all men’) will come to belief and salvation later?

In Luke 8, Jesus was preaching to large crowds in ‘every city and village’ when He told the parable of the sower. The disciples asked Him what the parable meant. Before Jesus explained it, He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but to others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Mark (in chapter 4) adds, ‘lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them.’ (See also Matt. ch 13.)
Jesus said He came to seek and save that which was lost, which I think we can assume means everyone. But can you entertain the idea that Jesus has a plan, part of which was that during His life on earth He did not intend to save everyone He came in contact with? And so the fate of all will not be determined in this life and age? Is this view in accord with Paul’s statement about believers?

I believe that God’s plan for humanity is being unfolded in stages over several ages. The Bible speaks of past and future ones. In the NT we have 4 references to the age to come (Matt 12:32, Mk 10:30, Lk 18:30 & Heb 6:5) and one reference to the ages to come (Eph 2:7). I believe the Canaanites who died at the hands of the Israelite warriors, like most people who have lived down through history in our age, have not been included in God’s first or initial draft of believers, which the Bible calls the first-fruits. (See Rom 8:23, James 1:18, Rev 14:4.)
As you may know, the offering of first-fruits was made in the spring, right after Passover, in the hope of a much greater harvest to follow in the autumn.

The apostle John tells us that God is love. Not just any type of love but agapé love, self-giving, self-sacrificing love for, I believe, all of us, for His entire creation.
Jesus said that we are to love, bless and pray for our enemies and those who persecute us that we may be like our heavenly Father. We are told that Jesus is the express image of the Father and He is the same yesterday, today and forever. So, does it not follow that God loves the Canaanites, also?

The Bible, in both testaments, includes several people resurrected from the dead and brought back to mortal life. During His ministry Jesus raised three Himself. In essence they were given another chance at salvation (even though they may not have needed it). So do you think God is not only able but wants to resurrect the Canaanites also to give them a chance at salvation in the future?

I believe it was never God’s plan to convert the Canaanite nations in this age. So, even though His actions and directions appear cruel to us now, His nature is agapé love and His plan and resulting actions always ultimately align with that nature.
I think that placing those people ‘under the ban’ or them becoming ‘devoted to the Lord’ was one step on their path which will one day result in their salvation.

I agree with the points you made in your response to palmel.
There is much we do not understand now about God’s reasons for the actions He undertook Himself and directed the Israelites to perform. I believe someday all will be explained to us.

Regarding the fate of Sodom, I have an anecdote to share.
Several years ago I asked a friend of mine about Jesus’ words in Matthew in which He said that it will be more tolerable on the Day of Judgment for Sodom than certain residents and towns such as Capernaum. (10:11-15; 11:23-24). She said she had never read those verses. She was a middle-aged, third generation Adventist. She was also a career woman with several kids. In my almost 20 years as an Adventist I had never considered those verses either.
I realized that most all of us lead very busy lives and we largely depend on the perspective of our group to define our theology. If certain Biblical statements are a challenge to that theology, the thing most often done is to ignore them.
Only later, when I had the gift of free time did I begin to ponder such Biblical statements.

At any rate, it appears that the residents of Sodom will not be punished as severely as others who have received more light. In Luke 12:47-49, Jesus said that the servant who knew his master’s will but disregarded it will be beaten with more stripes than one who did not know it. And ‘to whom much is given, much shall be required’.
This idea of varying punishment (the aim of which I believe is always correction and then reconciliation) runs counter to the accepted Christian idea that the Day of Judgment will simply reveal who is saved and who is lost and the lost will be cast into infinite torment or be annihilated by fire.

I believe part of this misunderstanding is because of verses like Jude 7, which states that Sodom and Gomorrah ‘…serve as an example by suffering the punishment of eternal fire.’ I have found that the Greek word poorly translated as eternal is aionios which literally means pertaining to an age (Greek: aion).

Here are some literal (and I believe more accurate) translations of Jude 7b:
Sodom and Gomorrah…
‘provide an example by undergoing the just requital fire from the Age.’
‘experiencing the justice of fire eonian.’
‘an example of fire age-during, justice suffering.’
‘an example from fire pertaining to the ages (or: of eonian, or age-lasting fire; of a fire of undetermined duration whose quality and character are of the Age [of the Messiah]).

As you can see, some literal translations assert that the statement in Jude is referring to the next age, the Age of the Messiah as some Jews have called it, or as we say, the Millenium.

Down through history Sodom has been the poster child for depravity. The city may never be rebuilt, but I believe that God will punish the residents of Sodom not infinitely, but rather in the next age, and in accord with what they had an opportunity to understand, and with the ultimate aim and result their reconciliation to Him.

Thanks, @frank_merendino.

You make a great observation, here, Frank, about this being a depiction of deity that is contemporaneous with others.

However, I believe your conclusion, which you merely assert — this is “not historical literalism” is false.

I often refer to the IBS’s essay, “The Conquest and the Ethical Question of War,” on this topic, but this time I’ll quote what it says about this matter:

“Joshua is the story of the kingdom of God breaking into the world of nations at a time when national and political entities were viewed as the creation of the gods and living proofs of their power. Thus the Lord’s triumph over the Canaanites testified to the world that the God of Israel is the one true and living God, whose claim on the world is absolute.”

In other words, the submission of Canaan was not only a political act. It was a religious act, also. By conquering them, God was speaking to surrounding nations in their emic; what they deemed real, and would understand. In other words, God was speaking their language.


“It was also a warning to the nations that the irresistible advance of the kingdom of God would ultimately disinherit all those who opposed it, giving place in the earth only to those who acknowledge and serve the Lord. At once an act of redemption and judgment, it gave notice of the outcome of history and anticipated the final destiny of humankind and the creation.”

I’ll speak about this last sentence, at the end.

The essay goes on to say what differentiated this conquest from typical military campaigns, of the kinds that, say, the Hittites, or even the Israelites, might have otherwise advanced:

“The battles for Canaan were therefore the Lord’s war, undertaken at a particular time in the program of redemption. God gave his people under Joshua no commission or license to conquer the world with the sword but a particular, limited mission. The conquered land itself would not become Israel’s national possession by right of conquest, but it belonged to the Lord. So the land had to be cleansed of all remnants of paganism. Its people and their wealth were not for Israel to seize as the booty of war from which to enrich themselves (as Achan tried to do, ch. 7) but were placed under God’s ban (were to be devoted to God to dispense with as he pleased). On that land Israel was to establish a commonwealth faithful to the righteous rule of God and thus be a witness (and a blessing) to the nations. If Israel became unfaithful and conformed to Canaanite culture and practice, it would in turn lose its place in the Lord’s land—as Israel almost did in the days of the judges, and as it eventually did in the exile.”

This is a completely different template for war and its outcome than one frequently sees depicted in history. This is why I reject arguments that the overthrow of Canaan was, basically, “Israelite nationalism wrapped up in God language.” Such charges are ahistorical.

As I pointed out to @PapaAfful, Christ is the God of the Old Testament. There’s nothing which takes place there from which Jesus distances Himself. Where, in the New Testament, do you ever see him disclaim something God said, or did?

You say that the disciples suggested Christ call fire down from heaven on the Samaritans, because this “has OT support”? Where is that support? Like, where does God do this, after being rejected in an encounter? Please build the argument.

You say, “The reality is that Jesus totally overthrew the picture of God, which found its expression first in the Hebrew Scriptures, as a warrior for his select group.”

This isn’t true, any part of it. He first appears as the ineffable, eternal Presence that designs time, matter, and energy, and Who then shapes these quanta into an unimaginable, massive cosmos, and particularly, into life on this planet. He does so by having a conversation about it, within Himself, as the elements jump to obey Him.

When the beings He makes, akin to Himself, rebel, he doesn’t off them, but says He will condescend and step inside of the mess they have made to fix it.

He did not have to do this. Had he squashed them like bugs, as He was entitled to do, **the Bible would have ended in Genesis 3, right after Eve admits, in v. 13, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Genesis 3:14 should be a description of God’s destruction of the planet, not His redemption of it. Had He done that to which He was entitled, the entire Bible would be three-and-a-half chapters long. The fact there is a Genesis 4, at all, and anything past this chapter, whatsoever, proves

“The LORD, the LORD God, is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion and faithfulness, maintaining loving devotion to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. Yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished; He will visit the iniquity of the fathers on their children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” (Genesis 34:6, 7 NIV)

Further, those deliberations in the OT take place over roughly 3,600 years, while the events in the NT take place over less than a century. As well, God is dealing with an Israel in at least two totally different states. To anyone who says the God of the Old Testament is warlike and angry, I say

a) The OT narrative has 36 times as much content as the NT, because it covers far more time and activity.

b) The OT describes a theocracy / theo-monarchy; the NT describes an occupied nation; one might say a theocratically failed state, to whom God has, pretty much, ceased speaking.

And, most of all:

c) God is never angry in the OT without a reason; His anger is never unmerited. It is always preceded by a flagrant and grotesque seizure of the covenant by the Israelites.

Anyone — and I’m not saying this is you, Frank — saying, then, that the OT God is mean, but the NT God (Christ) is nice is giving a superficial reading of the text, and/or a merely sentimental one. They haven’t grappled with what these two collections of texts are about, or why they have been pressed together.

The IBS text says that the war on Canaan, “at once an act of redemption and judgment…gave notice of the outcome of history and anticipated the final destiny of humankind and the creation.”

As I stated to Matthew, the returning Christ is also going to kill a lot of women and children; a lot more than He did in Canaan.

“The God of the second Joshua (Jesus) is the God of the first Joshua also. Although now for a time he reaches out to the whole world with the gospel (and commissions his people urgently to carry his offer of peace to all nations), the sword of his judgment waits in the wings—and his second Joshua will wield it.”


Textbook circular reasoning. God must be good so everything he does must be good even when it is harmful and looks evil. Good luck with your moral reasoning if that’s your foundation…


Thanks, @Cliff.

You said, about @PapaAfful:

Well, I have, @Cliff.

I don’t know if you saw it, because I did not hear back from you.

However, I recently wrote to you, at the ABSG offices, about a passage that appeared in the quarterly on Sunday, May 9; one about how eagles care for their young.

It said:

“The eagle was known for its unusual devotions to its young. It too lived on mountain tops. In teaching its young to fly it carried them upon its back to those great heights that overlook the plains of Sinai, then it dropped them down into the depths. If the baby was still too young and too bewildered to fly, father-eagle would swoop down beneath it, catch it on his back, and fly up again with it to the eyrie on the crags above. And that, says the divine voice, is ‘how I brought you out of Egypt to myself.’” — George A. F. Knight, Theology of Narration (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976), p. 128.

This is all well and good, except for one problem: The aquiline behavior Knight describes is not observed in nature.

Put another way, no one whose ever watched a Richard Attenborough nature documentary, or even Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, has ever seen an eagle fly with an eaglet on its back.

Further, by the time a young eagle is ready to fly, she is nearly the size of her parents. So, the sight of a fully grown eagle, flying with another nearly grown eagle on its back, coasting about, dropping it, and catching it — with its back — would be preposterous.

Instead, eagles learn to fly in a manner akin to how babies learn to walk: They try it out until they get it right.

A very common developmental step before flying, and one that has been documented on film and video, is called “branching.” When branching, an eaglet will stand on a tree limb, or up in its own nest, extend its wings, and let the wind catch them, sometimes fluttering, sometimes rising briefly aloft, sometimes momentarily hovering, and/or “hop-flying” from branch to branch.

What one gets is the sense that the eaglet is acquiring a kinesthetic understanding of how air works when moving through their outstretched wings and feathers. This seems somewhat akin, for example, to how a human pilot, training for her license, might practice certain controlled movements in her Piper Cub.

Branching can be observed in the following video, starting around 1:07. Notice that the bird’s parent, which leaves the nest shortly after that point — see the YouTube still frame, below — does not carry the eaglet on its back, and is essentially the same size as its offspring.

Because of these facts, there has been a long-standing debate on how we should understand the verses cited in the ABSG, especially Deut. 32:10-12.

Perhaps, the next time those texts are taught, the ABSG could explore the approaches scholars have taken, over time, to explaining them. That way, we’ll know you’ve got our back.


Thanks, @thenerdwithin.

So, two points:

A) “Come the fu@k on” is an inappropriate response from you, both 1) to me — you don’t have any kind of relationship with me which permits you to speak so casually and indifferently to me; we’re not friends — and 2) in this particular forum; it’s against the spirit of this place.

Please apologize. That is, unless you don’t care how I receive your words.

Further — and because you’re a reasonable person, you’ll appreciate the nuances of this observation — incredulity is not an argument. You’re wasting time, and words, and not getting to your point, with your foul exclamation.

I’ve flagged your comment, for attention by the moderators.

B) I’m not talking about “ethnocide.” I’m not, because:

  1. I’m talking about the land being cleansed in a spiritual sense, of evil, not necessarily a physical one, of people. This is a meaning the Bible also presumes: When Rahab declared her allegiance to the True God, she was spared. When Nineveh repented in the book of Jonah, the Assyrians were spared and the land was cleansed.

  2. The text assumes a legitimate Divine dimension which “ethnocide” does not cover or address.

By your application, the 2nd Coming of Christ is ethnocide, or, worse, speciecide.

Is that what you’re claiming, also?

  1. Your use of that term is anachronistic; like asking Wilbur & Orville Wright about frequent flyer miles.

Imposing the overlay of “genocide,” “ethnocide,” etc. on the Bible is a common atheistic talking point, but these words are 20th century conceptions; they have no meaning in a historical analysis of Bronze Age conventions, except as a retrospective convenience.

You’re attempting to blanket your modern sensibilities over people who would merely sniff at your discomfort before, again, swinging the ax. Please read the International Bible Society’s NIV Study Bible essay, “The Conquest and The Ethical Question of War,” for more and better context that you are offering.

This is vitriolic, but ill-reasoned.

Seventh-day Adventists may have, in these instances, accommodated genocide, because it was politically expedient, or participated in it, because of ethnic animus. But they did neither because they’d received a divine command.

THEY don’t even claim that. So, how are you doing so?

Actually, I can tell you what kind of God I worship, and I’ve done so, here.

I agree!

So would I!

I’m not clear to what kind of theology you’re referring. The kind that you seem to imagine I possess isn’t the sort I actually have, at all.

Your statement is the victim of an unclear antecedent.

Thanks for this sober reflection.

The Rwanda Genocide is offensive, and was, because a group of people, who did not like their neighbors, went after them and killed them. They did this because they did not like their neighbors.

The story of the Israelite conquest of Canaan is not the same story. It’s not a) for the reasons I’ve already given, but it’s also not because b) the Israelites did not necessarily dislike their neighbors.

The problem was they liked them too much.

Indeed, this fact is what ultimately undermined their society on multiple levels; e.g., Solomon has 700 wives and 300 concubines, part and parcel of his allegiances with a multitude of kings. His descendant, Hezekiah, welcomes and entertains the Babylonian scouts…who later return, burn down Jerusalem, and cart off all the treasures he’d flossed in their presence.

Most of all, however, the Rwandan genocide lacks a Divine dimension. The Hutu invoke no God who accompanies or authenticates their rampage against the Tutsi and Twa.

By contrast, the Divine Fact is the basis of the biblical narrative. I’m not saying God exists. I’m saying that He does — indisputably — is an assumption of the narrative; its essential logic, and how one is supposed to understand it…if the God of the Bible exists. If He doesn’t, then Canaan is just a story of a tribal conquest, exactly like a million before or after it.

So, yes, God is good, by definition. He can take life, as He wants, because life is His property, and all living beings have it on loan. If this is an obstacle to you, conceptually, your beef isn’t with religion. It’s with property law.

That the Amalekites were a “cancer” is, again, your anachronistic overlay. When God saw them, He said, “They’re iniquitous, but I will give them 400 years to repent.” (Said no Hutu DJ, ever.)

He did. Then, He judged them.

He can do that, because He, by definition, is The Judge.

If not He, then who?


Frankly, I don’t see any further response as worth my effort. Your first complaint was about a four letter word. My first complaint was about apologetics for genocide. I think that puts the moral stakes in perspective here. Reject “genocide” as anachronistic if you want and call it something like “systematically fighting and then killing specific ethnicities in the ANE,” fine, but in that case you’re offering apologetics for THAT.

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I DO care how you receive my words. I wanted you to understand the absolute, gut-wrenching anguish and anger that comes over me when I read dehumanizing dismissals of human lives, ESPECIALLY when it is in defense of an all-good God. So, no I won’t apologize, and if speaking harshly and honestly against dehumanizing and dangerous views is against the spirit of this place, please count me out.