On October 7, 2023, Palestinian terrorists associated with the Hamas movement crossed the border from the Gaza strip into Israel and massacred or took hostage hundreds of Israeli kibbutz (settlement) residents. This is a progressive, Christian blog, but I am not about to thump you with how Jesus would react.
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF), has responded with weeks of heavy air, sea and ground attacks. In general, the Palestinians oppose years of Israeli occupations and border blockages. Israel had previously endured frequent, random rocket attacks from Gaza. As I write this, the northern half of Gaza is almost completely without clean water, food, decent shelter, electrical power, and communications systems including internet access. Israel claims with some evidence that Hamas operates from civilian facilities such as schools and hospitals, although Hamas denies this. Israel claims an existential crisis and that the IDF is only acting in self defense when its bombardments kill or injure civilians used as Hamas' shields. Indeed, thousands of civilians on both sides have been harmed. Visit your favorite news site or network for more info.
Consider the Pentateuch, i.e., the written version of the first five books of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). As translated into English (New Revised Standard Version), God delivers the Hebrews out of Egyptian slavery and leads the people through the wilderness for forty years so that the people may settle in the promised land (promised by God in exchange for obedience, essentially the modern Israel). As the Hebrews migrated, they laid waste to many kingdoms and cities.
In particular, Deuteronomy 20:16 - "But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive." Taken literally, God supports the people in various battles, but is particularly forceful when fighting for the promised lands. The promised lands are not some uninhabited Eden. In order to possess the promised lands, the Israelis must "blot out" the current residents.
Realistically, we may interpret much of this as having been written by the victor. The victor writes the history books. If the Israelites won, it must have been the will of God, right? Scripture, therefore, provides an epic tale that begins with God's promise of the final destination, while in fact there may be much dramatic license, and the texts may have been written after the victories. There is little independent, historical evidence of Exodus and the subsequent journeys.
I also point out Amalek, a king who plays a big part in Exodus 17. Verse 16 says, "The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." Most kings and lands come and go throughout the Pentateuch, but there are references to Amalek sprinkled around, to the extent that we may today consider Amalek a metaphorical struggle. The Pentateuch also refers several times to Canaanites, who can be loosely defined as people disliked by the ancient Jews and whose lands are in the same general area as Gaza.
With support from historian John J. Collins, I suggest that the overarching desire of the Israelis was to establish and maintain order. For example, the word of God may not have required a patriarchal society, regardless of the literal reading. It may instead be that the people of 3000 years ago found a way to establish order that involved patriarchy. Likewise, it is hardly likely that any Pentateuchal war resulted in the total annihilation of either side, no matter how strongly God demanded it, and the slaughter just makes the story work better, with a resulting pure, Jewish society.
When I read the Pentateuch, I feel like I am reading a news report from the Hamas/Israel conflict. Disclaimer: the majority of Palestinians are Muslims, but I have little familiarity with the Koran. Just the same, I feel like both sides are fighting a Biblical battle.
But, it's 2023. There is no justice achieved by a Hamas attack that captures and violates partiers at a music festival, etc., etc., etc. I suspect over the next few weeks, we will learn details of the Hamas incursion that are even more horrific than we have heard so far.
Again, it's 2023. How many babies can Israel kill to get to the Hamas cowards using the babies as shields, before the Israelis can no longer claim they are just trying to keep order? How literally can the Israelis recall the Torah before they are simply seen as bloodthirsty zealots?
Both sides have slipped off the moral high road. There is no justice or order or righteousness to be found in Gaza today, no matter how much they follow the Biblical script.