I was posed a question about why God “killed an entire city for no reason”. Speaking about Jericho. I responded with, “they disobeyed God’s law”. But honestly I don’t have all the facts and before I said anything more, I thought about turning to you. Please help!
The qualifier in this saga seems to be what is referred to in Genesis 15:16 as the “iniquity of the Amorites.” The nations that occupied Canaan had become so hideously debauched, so degenerate in custom and practice, that the judgment of God became imminent. We are told in the Mosaic account that God is preparing to act and His longsuffering is about to end.
For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. (Leviticus 18:25)
In the larger context of the writings of Moses, the Amorites are viewed by God as representative of the whole of Palestine. Further, it was as if they had become so saturated with corruption that the very earth itself spit them out.
Paul says in Romans 11-22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you.
This should be a warning to those today that live a debauched life that God is a judge who will bring his wrath down on those that have defiled his laws and become less than animals killing their own children given over to unnatural lusts and fighting against the Holy Spirit and denying the resurrected Christ. etc etc they the whole people had become dead inside and evil outside hence the punishment. Hope that helps I can elaborate more if you need more.
I don’t have the Catholic view, but here is a podcast on violence in the Old Testament by Pete Enns, which gives one explanation:
Back then the Israelites were much more vulnerable to giving in to the influences of the world which surrounded them, and would include all of the excesses of the time. They were more vulnerable because they didn’t have many generations behind them whom would have built a solid foundation of religion. In order for them to survive in the land in which God wanted them to settle, the worldly influences had to be destroyed. Practically, that meant destroying those influences that would have ruined the Israelites chances of carrying on as God’s people. Symbolically, the destruction of every living thing would have been understood as a cleansing in order for something new to take it’s place without being tainted by the old.
This destruction was predicted by God: ‘Then the LORD said to Abram, "Know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and will be slaves there, and they will be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation which they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.’ Genesis 15:13-16
“Rahab came to them on the roof and said: "I know that the LORD has given you the land, that a dread of you has come upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are overcome with fear of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the waters of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and how you dealt with Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites beyond the Jordan, whom you doomed to destruction. At these reports, we are disheartened; everyone is discouraged because of you, since the LORD, your God, is God in heaven above and on earth below.” – Joshua 2:8-11
It’s not like the people of Jericho were massacred by unknown invaders. They knew who the Israelites were and the power of Yahweh. They also knew the Israelites had come to claim their inheritance. It was an opportunity for them to get rid of their pagan gods and worship Yahweh. Unfortunately they chose neither to accept Yahweh or forfeit the land to the Israelites. They could have requested to cohabit with the Israelites on the same land and worship the same God. I don’t think our Lord would have objected to that. After all, the Israelites were meant to be “a light to the nations”.
Furthermore, the people of Jericho were barbaric. Some of their religious practices were offering up young children as a sacrifice to their gods, fornicating with temple prostitutes etc.
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