January 11, 2014

Mega Thanatos I: Half A Million Dead In Israel

Because I am insanely busy in life, I will begin to take a more streamline tactic with some of my posts. I will be presenting them in small bite-sized portions. This will allow two productive things to take place. (1) It will allow me to stretch out my source material and (2) It will allow me to go deeper on each individual point to draw out subtleties that would otherwise be missed when doing broader overviews. Hopefully this will draw more interest so people won't have to read a book when they come to the web site. So what topic will start this new approach? 

Mass deaths. Hence the title of this series Mega Thanatos. Mega/μέγας meaning great or large and thanatos/ θάνατος meaing death. Great or large death.

Mass deaths are not unknown to the Bible and some of them that entailed genocide are often used fraudulently to denounce the "supposed barbarity" of religion. It seems at time, enemies of the Judeo-Christian religions (anti-theists) take a special glee using this ad hominem attack on Christianity and Judaism. Thereby they manage to actually group it in with actual barbaric religions like Islam. Of course this mis-characterization is always unfair. Sadly, the Old Testament accounts of mass death are nearly always ripped from their proper context to make the One True God and His people look like mean vile ogres and villains. I’m here to tell you it isn’t true and I will show a few cases why in the next few posts. 

When it comes to these mass deaths it is not the numbers of dead that are necessarily the point but rather the severity of the carnage that is important. We should focus in on the transgressions that would solicit these wholesale eradications and see them for the horrid sins that preceded them. None of these deaths were by accident. They were intended by God as punishment due for the transgressions of those killed. There is no such thing as indiscriminate killing by God. If God is indeed sovereign, he knows these deaths took place and allowed them. Does this mean that mass death and slaughter in modern times are under the same theological principles? Logic would seem to dictate yes, God does indeed know they have taken place and has allowed them also. We must be careful not to draw false conclusions comparing the two. On the other hand, knowing God is sovereign and omnipotent should at least give pause to modern believers and non-believers to think and ask themselves the question: If God does allow it, why did He?

As for the biblical sources...let us begin. 

Many mass deaths arose in the period of the united and divided kingdoms of Samaria/Israel and Judah or the times of the Kings and prophets.

2 Chronicles 13:17 ~ “Abijah and his people struck them with great force, so there fell slain of Israel 500,000 chosen men.”

In the 9th century B.C. this death toll is staggering. Come to think of it, it is staggering in any age. It will not be until modern mechanized warfare (US Civil War, WWI and WWII) that we will see the likes of these death tolls in such a short time-frame again. The question obviously arises. Why so many dead if all men are created in the image of God and wishes none to be lost? For this answer we must look to the surrounding history and context.

When Abijah became king he continued the war and battles that his father Rehoboam (King of Judah in the south) fought with Jeroboam (King of Israel/Samaria in the north). In the battle above Abijah told Jeroboam that he was going to defeat him in battle because of his sins. It is here that we see God sovereignly using Abijah to punish Jeroboam. Abijah further informs Jeroboam that his apostasy and rebellion was initiated by worthless rogues and explains that it was wrong to remove God’s priests and place pagan practice in His place. You see the northern kingdom had set up high places and continued to worship false gods that had been permitted by their leadership. He then told Jeroboam that he should walk away from the battle because God was on Judah’s side. Jeroboam not only lost half a million men, he ended up losing the battle and lost some strategic cities in the process.

Those that actively snub God to chase other gods can only spell doom for themselves and that is why 500,000 die here. It is similar to what we will see in modern draconian communist states that also abandon God. Atrocious and sickening death tolls always result in the absence of God who restrains the evil of the world by His very presence in people’s live. People devoid of God are given over to horrendous evil and sins. Those that reside within these types of nations that are guilty of godlessness often fall under the judgment of these nations as a whole.

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