This event is rightly unsettling. Christopher Wright offers some points to help us evaluate it ethically:
It was a limited event. The conquest narratives describe one particular period of Israel’s long history. Many of the other wars that occur in the OT narrative had no divine sanction, and some were clearly condemned as the actions of proud, greedy kings or military rivals.
We must allow for the exaggerated language of warfare. Israel, like other ancient Near East nations whose documents we possess, had a rhetoric of war that often exceeded reality.
Edmund Clowney, Sidney Greidanus, Graeme Goldsworthy, Bryan Chappell, Christopher Wright, David Murray, Christopher Ash and others have done the church a great service by their advocacy, in various ways, of a Christ-centred approach to preaching from the Old Testament.
What’s not to like?
Amid all the enthusiasm, Daniel Block sounds a note or two of caution.
Block agrees that Christ-centred preaching
‘has a long history, beginning with the apostles, the church fathers, the reformers (especially Luther), and extending to more a recent revival [of] Christ-centered preaching in some circles.
Having compiled a couple of sets relating to texts in the New Testament, I thought I’d take a look at some commonly-misunderstood texts from the Old Testament. These are discussed more fully in the Bible Study Notes.
Here’s a start:-
Genesis 18 – Abraham’s three visitors. Christian piety, both old and new, has often seen in the story of Abraham’s three visitors a picture of the three persons of the Trinity. This conjecture has been fueled by the celebrated icon of Rublev, which plays a key role in Richard Rohr’s recent (2016) book The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation. …
Biblical theology (a slightly unfortunate expression, because all theology should be biblical!) means ‘looking for, and following, the connecting themes that run through the Scriptures’ (Millar and Campbell). In other words, it is discerning the Bible’s overall story; its big picture.
How can biblical theology be used to preach Christian truth from the Old Testament?
Gary Millar offers the following options:
Follow the plan. Sometimes, a forwards trajectory is present in the OT passage itself. Ruth 4 (which traces Ruth’s descendants down to King David) and 2 Kings 11 (where that same royal line is in jeopardy) are cases in point.
137:8 O daughter Babylon, soon to be devastated! How blessed will be the one who repays you for what you dished out to us!
137:9 How blessed will be the one who grabs your babies and smashes them on a rock!
This apparent celebration of violence is, for many, impossible to countenance.
Ehrman (Jesus, Interrupted) asks: ‘Knocking the brains out of the Babylonian babies in retaliation for what their father-soldiers did? Is this in the Bible?’…