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Collateral Damage

Or is it a sacrifice?

Judges 9:42–49 (ESV)

On the following day, the people went out into the field, and Abimelech was told. He took his people and divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. And he looked and saw the people coming out of the city. So he rose against them and killed them. Abimelech and the company that was with him rushed forward and stood at the entrance of the gate of the city, while the two companies rushed upon all who were in the field and killed them. And Abimelech fought against the city all that day. He captured the city and killed the people who were in it, and he razed the city and sowed it with salt.

When all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the stronghold of the house of El-berith. Abimelech was told that all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem were gathered together. And Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him. And Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a bundle of brushwood and took it up and laid it on his shoulder. And he said to the men who were with him, “What you have seen me do, hurry and do as I have done.” So every one of the people cut down his bundle and following Abimelech put it against the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about 1,000 men and women.

Abimelech demolishing Shechem and sowing it with salt (which ruins the soil for agriculture) is a great evil. And this was no ordinary city; it was where the LORD promised the land of Canaan to Abraham.

When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. — Genesis 12:5b–7 (ESV)

So, here they are in the promised land, and they destroy the actual place of the promise fighting over who sits on a throne over that promised land—and it’s not even a real throne.

Then, just to make sure the irony is lost on no one, they fulfill Jotham’s prophesy (curse, really).

Sin is madness.

A thousand men and women dying is a great tragedy. Wars often have horrible consequences like that. We tend to view these tragedies as unintended consequences, the collateral damage inherent in war.

But what if they’re more like sacrifices on an altar—part of an insane human sacrifice ritual to the god of greed?

Caveat: this analogy isn’t perfect, and may not apply to all war, nor to all the casualties in any particular war.

But in the heat of battle, people often lose track of the spiritual warfare behind the battle.

And what the battle represents.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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