The Bible–Confusion, Controversy, and Clarification–Part 9

Let’s plunge on, considering issues in the Bible that have confused or intrigued people.


Garden of Eden


A key question here is the location for this garden. There is a reference to a total of four rivers, but two of the four are missing today. Some radar images of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers shows other rivers under the surface, so this may be a likely place for the setting of the story.


Genocide in the Old Testament


Some people, when encountering stories of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites, are horrified at what appears to be genocide waged by the Hebrews. For example, Richard Dawkins, noted atheist, says that the killing of the Canaanites was an act of ethnic cleansing in which “bloodthirsty massacres” were carried out with “xenophobic relish.” We see verses like this from Deuteronomy 2:34: “So we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the men, women, and children of every city. We left no survivor.” But there is more to the story.


First, we need to think about the Canaanite culture that the children of Israel were encountering. They were horrified by the degradation they found. Canaanites were idolaters; they practiced incest and adultery. In addition, bestiality was part of their culture. Probably most disturbing of all to the Israelites was the use of child sacrifice, in which a Canaanite baby was placed on a red hot idol to be burned alive.


There’s much more to say here, but I’ll leave that for a future blog post.