On the Scripture Netanyahu quoted | Bleader

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

On the Scripture Netanyahu quoted

Posted By on 03.03.15 at 03:50 PM

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  • Jean de Marco/Architect of US Capitol
Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to Congress Tuesday concluded with a ringing declaration ripped from Scripture—and then a standing ovation.

"And before the people of Israel entered the land of Israel," said Netanyahu, "Moses gave us a message that has steeled our resolve for thousands of years. I leave you with his message today:"

He continued in Hebrew, then in English, "'Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.'"

His source was Deuteronomy 31:6: "Be strong and bold; fear not, have no fear or dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you." (New Revised Standard Version)

Moses was addressing the Israelites on the bank of the River Jordan. As Moses knew, he was hours from his death, and in a handful of days the Israelites, led by Joshua, would cross the Jordan without him. They'd meet little resistance.

Moses's them were the Canaanites across the river. As Jack Miles points out in his Pulitzer-winning study of the Old Testament, God: A Biography, advance scouts had given the Israelites a terrifyingly inaccurate picture of the Canaanites as bloodthirsty giants. "Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword?" they lamented. "Our wives and our little ones will become booty; would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?"

Moses was steeling their resolve. However, the Lord had no intention of letting the Canaanites turn back His chosen people. He'd reassured Moses:

"I will send forth My terror before you, and I will throw into panic all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn tail before you. I will send a plague ahead of you . . . "

The Canaanites, Miles observes, didn't stand a chance.

The Israelites, in their divinely fostered fertility, will outbreed the Canaanites and so overwhelm them as they did the Egyptians. God will afflict the Canaanites with pestilence and terror as he did the Egyptians. The difference, a large difference, is that the physical separation between those inside and those outside the covenant—a distinction that, in Egypt, was imposed by the departure of the Israelites—will come about in Canaan by the expulsion of the Canaanites. As he announces his plans for the ethnic cleansing of Canaan, the Lord does not, to repeat, seem angry with the Canaanites, but the effect is genocidal, all the same, and there is no escaping it. Unlike the Egyptians, who provoked the Lord by enslaving the Israelites and sentencing all newborn Israelite males to death, the Canaanites' only offense is that they worship their own gods and live on land for which the Lord has other plans. No matter: They are doomed.

For Miles's purpose, which is to riddle out God, what is going on here is vitally important. "The merciless new attitude toward non-Israelites bespeaks a profound change," he writes. "God is a warrior with, mysteriously, a military agenda on which Egypt seems to have been just the first entry."

On that point the faithful of the three great Abrahamic religions can agree: their God is a warrior.

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