Article of Faith: The Flawed Righteousness of the Old Testament, By Femi Aribisala
Jesus says: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9:13). If what God desires is mercy, then we need to ask why the mercy of God is not evident in Moses; the servant of God. Indeed, Christians need to ask this simple question: is the righteousness of Moses the righteousness of God?
This scripture should provide food for thought: “Moses was angry with the officers of the army, with the captains over thousands and captains over hundreds, who had come from the battle. And Moses said to them: “Have you kept all the women alive? Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately.” (Numbers 31:14-18)
How is this in conformity with loving our neighbour as our self? Surely, the righteousness of God does not include raiding foreign lands and taking virgins as booty. Have you wondered how “righteous Moses” could give this evil directive when his wife was a Midianite? Does this command to kill all Midianite women include Mrs. Moses?
For forty years, Moses lived with the Midianites after he ran away from the pharaoh in Egypt. What kind of a man then gives instructions to annihilate a people who gave him refuge for some forty years of his life and who also happen to be his in-laws? What lesson is this bible trying to teach us here? What righteousness is it trying to instil in us through this story?
Is the bible a book of righteousness or is it a book of wickedness? Is God a God of righteousness or is he a God of wickedness? Certainly, Moses directive does not suggest he knows the ways of God. If nothing else, this action shows Moses is not qualified to teach Christians the righteousness of God.
Jesus says to his disciples: “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor me. (John 16:1-3).
Do you realise that this is also a comment on the Old Testament? The word of God is from everlasting to everlasting. Jesus does not change. He is forever the same. (Hebrews 13:8). Therefore, this word applies even to the time of Moses. Jesus says people kill because they have not known the Father or him. This implies that Moses did not know that genocide is not the way God.
Jesus says: “Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32-33).
Phinehas stabbed to death an Israelite man and a Midianite woman who were fornicating. According to Moses, God was so pleased with Phinehas for this murder that he proclaimed a blessing on him:
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with my zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in my zeal. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace; and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’” (Numbers 25:10-13).
Would God bless a man for killing other men? Certainly not! Jesus says: “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” Would a man who kills another man be doing God service? Not according to Jesus. What if the person killed did something wrong? It makes no difference. As a matter of fact, James says: “Judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13).
When they brought a woman caught in the very act of adultery to Jesus and asked if she should be stoned to death, according to the prescription of Moses, Jesus refused to validate Moses. Instead, he told her accusers: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7). Jesus reproved the woman for committing adultery and warned her to sin no more. But he did not condemn her to death. This shows the righteousness of Phinehas is entirely different from that of God.
The covenant blessing Phinehas is said to have received from God for this terrible act turns out to be dubious. Phinehas became the High Priest, but there was no everlasting priesthood for him. His priesthood ended after only two generations. As a matter of fact, another priesthood was established that completely by-passed his line in Shiloh with Eli as the High Priest. Eli was not Phinehas’ descendant. On the contrary, Eli usurped the High Priesthood from Phinehas’ descendants and waged war against them.
As High Priest, Phinehas led Ephraim to sin in Bethel. Phinehas fasted, prayed and offered sacrifices to God; then he told the Israelites that God sanctioned the extermination of the Benjamites because of the rape of an Ephraimite’s concubine. He fasted and prayed, seeking the answer to one question: should I attack and kill my brother Benjamin? And God is said to have replied: “Go right ahead.” So he had them virtually wiped out.
This is like a man fasting and praying in order to ask God: “Should I kill Mr. Jones and marry his wife?” And God tells him: “Go ahead.” So he kills him in the name of the Lord and marries his wife. When somebody challenges him for this sin, he tells him to shut up: “God told me to do so.” “Shut up, the Pastor told me to do so.” “Shut up, the Pope said it is okay to do so.” When did the pastor or the pope become our righteousness?
Did God tell Phinehas that the Israelites should wipe out the Benjamites? Definitely not! However, the Israelites foolishly believed it was the counsel of the Lord. After realising their error, they then tried to make amends in a most ungodly manner: by kidnapping virgin girls from Shiloh in the bid to use them to re-populate Benjamin.
Now we can understand Jesus’ sorrowful prayer with regard to the world and his disciples: “O righteous Father! The world has not known you, but I have known you; and these have known that you sent me. And I have declared to them your name, and will declare it, that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:25-26).