A Summary of Show Them No Mercy in 4 Parts: View Number 4 (Spiritual Continuity) and My Conclusion
Tremper Longman III presents the Spiritiual Continuity view of the Canaanite annihilation. First, I would like to say that I love Longman’s analysis of chosen biblical background material. Whether one agrees with his view, there are rich insights to be gained here. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this section of the book.
What Longman means by spiritual continuity is rather well explained. He sees a transformation from the old era of physical battle versus God’s enemies (and therefore, Israel’s) to a new one of spiritual warfare. Jesus is seen as the Divine Warrior found in the Old Testament but He has “intensified and heightened the battle.” The enemy is cast no longer as a flesh and bone one but a spiritual one. Weapons of war are transformed from physical ones to spiritual ones.
While there are those who look to the Old Testament depiction of God vs. the New Testament Jesus and see incredible dissimilarity, Longman sees continuity. Violence from the hand of God is still present in the New Testament in examples such as Jesus’ casting out demons and the running off of the cliff of the herd of pigs, the depiction of the Second Coming of Christ and the vanquishing of the Anti-Christ and those who follow him as well as the end-time judgment. However, most of the violence that should rightly be poured out on sinful man is instead poured out on Christ on the cross.
In the author’s view, the destruction of the Canaanites is a preview of the final judgment. The question to be asked shouldn’t be why God did this to them but why does He allow any of us to live. From Adam to the present, each generation has merited God’s immediate destruction, however, God has chosen to show mercy and grace.
I think this is a good answer to the question of the Canannite annihilation but it lacks some things. For one, the true battle has always been behind the scenes in the spiritual realm rather than moving in that direction. Both testaments testify of this and so it is a stretch to say that the battle has moved from the physical to the spiritual.
Another is that it doesn’t adequately explain why the Canaanites were specifically targeted. I believe another view (previously summarized) does this more justice as it highlights that the land was given to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and thus the inhabitants were squatters in effect. Another point is that God utilized Israel as His tool of judgment against the Canaanites. As Merrill stated it was a specific act of God for a specific time and specific reasons, never to be repeated again.
In conclusion, I hope that you liked my analysis of these views and that it motivates you to think more deeply about the issue of genocide today and the charge that genocide was committed in the Old Testament in the name of God by well-meaning but grossly mistaken and evil people. Again, I refuse to use the term genocide for what happened to the Canaanites due to the fact that the word genocide is not a neutral term but one loaded with meaning. As such, even in its use, it would charge God with doing evil or point the finger at biblical heroes as doing evil in His name.
Buy the book as it is worth every penny. I was not paid or compensated in any way for this review. A paperback copy was bought with my own money. I would rate the book 4 out of 5 stars. It is an excellent read.