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August 17, 2007 / Daniel

Is God Unjust? 3

Here’s more on God’s command for Israel to destroy the Canaanites.   


The Hebrew impression “herem” is very similar to our concept of quarantine. In a quarantine, a certain area is set aside for a special purpose. Usually, this is because this area has been contaminated by some sort of pollution. We quarantine an area making it off-limits to healthy people because if they were to enter the area the contamination would be greatly hazardous to their health. When I was growing up in the Scottsbluff-Gering area, there once was a severe train wreck in Scottsbluff that required the authorities to evacuate the whole northwestern end of town. Evidently, this train was carrying Benzene, a chemical that was somewhat hazardous to human health. Instantly that whole area was quarantined. Nobody could enter it. Nobody could go home to gather their possessions. It was off-limits until qualified people with the right equipment were able to enter to clean it up. Until the contamination was removed, the area was a threat to human life. In the same way, the land of Canaan had been contaminated by a wicked, pagan culture. If left untreated, the area was hazardous to Israel’s spiritual health. We can see this idea very clearly in Leviticus 18. In this chapter, God forbids several different gross sexual sins. He tells Israel:

Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you (Lev. 24-28).

In other words, God tells His people that the Canaanites had, spiritually speaking, polluted the land. It was defiled. If left untreated, the land was dangerous to spiritual well-being. Thus, God decided to quarantine the area—to set it aside for complete destruction in order to purify the area. Notice how He warns Israel that if they follow in the ways of the Canaanites, He would do the same thing to them that He did to the Canaanites. They would be vomited out of the land just like the Canaanites.

Sin Insults God

This will not make sense to us unless we realize why sin demands God’s judgment. Sin is an insult to God’s glory. God is the most precious, most beautiful being in all of existence. He is the essence of love, the wellspring of joy, and the foundation of justice. We were made to know God and to delight in Him. This will bring us the most joy and satisfaction in life. Sin robs us this joy that we were made for. And more importantly, sin robs God of His glory. For this reason, God has to pour out His judgment on sin.


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