Thursday, June 5, 2014

God Versus Religious Pluralism (Joshua 23:7, 8)

Joshua 23

King James Version (KJV)

That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them:
But cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done unto this day.

Unlike the religiously pluralistic society that considers all gods equal and a viable option for worship, the Christian society opposes all false religions as evil and unworthy of respect. Civil rulers are to oppose public worship of false gods and attempts to seduce others to do the same. So-called holy books that promote the worship of false gods are to be burnednot to be protected under the pretext of free speech. Idols are to be annihilated—not to be valued under the pretext of artistic expression. False gods are not to be revered in daily conversion.

Some thoughts by commentators:

Adam Clarke:
Have no civil or social contracts with them, (see Joshua 23:12), as these will infallibly lead to spiritual affinities, in consequence of which ye will make honorable mention of the name of their gods, swear by them as the judges of your motives and actions, serve them in their abominable rites, and bow yourselves unto them as your creators and preservers; thus giving the whole worship of God to idols: and all this will follow from simply coming among them. He who walks in the counsel of the ungodly will soon stand in the way of sinners, and shortly sit in the seat of the scornful. Nemo repente fuit turpissimus. “No man rises to the highest stages of iniquity but by degrees.” Nero himself, under the instructions of Seneca, was a promising youth.
Disclaimer: we do not endorse Clarke's Arminianism

Matthew Poole: 
Come not among these nations, i. e. avoid all familiar converse and contracts, but especially marriages, with them, as it is explained, ver. 12, and as the Hebrew word intimates, being oft used of coming or going in to a woman. Neither make mention of the name of their gods, to wit, unnecessarily and familiarly, lest the mention of them breed discourse about them, and so by degrees bring a man to the approbation and worship of them. Compare Exod. xxiii. 13; Deut. xii. 3; Psal. xvi. 4 ; Eph. v. 3. Nor cause to swear by them; nor require nor compel the Gentiles to swear by them, as they used to do; especially in leagues and contracts, which therefore the Israelites are here implicitly fordidden to make with them. Neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto themneither give them any inward reverence, or outward adoration. Here is an observable gradation, whereby he shows what notable progress sin usually makes, and what reason there is to look to the beginnings of it, forasmuch as a civil and common conversation with their persons was likely to bring them, and indeed did actually bring them, by insensible steps, to the worship of their gods. So it is no wonder if some things not simply and in themselves evil be forbidden by God, as here the naming of their gods is, because they are occasions and introductions to evil.

John Calvin: 
That you come not among these nations, etc
He distinctly admonishes them that it will be impossible rightly to discharge their duty if they be not carefully on their guard against all sources of corruption. This it was very necessary to enforce upon them. For they were surrounded on all sides by the snares of Satan, and we know how great their proneness to superstition was, or rather how headlong their eagerness for it. First, then, he warns them that intimate intercourse with the nations may involve them in fellowship in crime; for the term mingling used in this passage is equivalent to what is termed by St. Paul, being yoked. (2 Corinthians 6:14) In short, he first removes the incitements or allurements to idolatry, and then declares his detestation of idolatry itself. It is to be observed, however, that he does not expressly mention either bending of the knee, or sacrifices, or other rites, but designates all perverse modes of worship by the terms naming them and swearing by them. Whence we infer that God is defrauded of his honor when ever any particle, however small, of all the things which he claims for himself is transferred to idols. He accordingly concludes that they are to adhere to God alone; in other words, they are to be bound to him out and out.

John Gill:
Ver. 7. That ye come not among these nations, those that remain among you,.... That remained unsubdued, or that were suffered to dwell among them, being tributaries to them; with these they were not to converse freely and familiarly, nor to carry on trade and commerce with them, nor enter into any alliances or marriages with them, and not even attend any of their feasts, and especially their idolatrous ones:

neither make mention of the name of their gods; not in common conversation, and still less in any religious matters; never with any reverence of them, or in any respectable manner; but always with indignation and contempt, calling them dunghill gods, and the like, as they often are in Scripture:

nor cause to swear [by them]; neither swear by them themselves, nor cause others to swear by them, as Abarbinel; or a man his neighbour, as Kimchi; no, not a Gentile, as Ben Melech; so it is said in the Misnah {p},

"he that vows in the name of an idol, and confirms in his name, (which Bartenora interprets, swears by his name,) transgresses a negative precept.''

Maimonides {q} also says,

"he that vows in the name of an idol, and swears by it, is to be beaten--he that swears by it himself, or causes a Gentile to swear by it; for it is forbidden to cause a Gentile to swear by his fear (or idol), and even to cause him to make mention of it, though not in the way of an oath, it is forbidden:''

neither serve them; by offering any sacrifice or incense to them, or by praying to them, or offering them praises on any account, or by performing any religious service in any instance or form whatever:

nor bow yourselves unto them; give them any adoration or worship, external or internal.

Matthew Henry:
They must especially take heed of all approaches towards idolatry, the sin to which they were first inclined and would be most tempted,v. 7. [1.] They must not acquaint themselves with idolaters, nor come among them to visit them or be present at any of their feasts or entertainments, for they could not contract any intimacy nor keep up any conversation with them, without danger of infection. [2.] They must not show the least respect to any idol, nor make mention of the name of their gods, but endeavour to bury the remembrance of them in perpetual oblivion, that the worship of them may never be revived. "Let the very name of them be forgotten. Look upon idols as filthy detestable things, not to be named without the utmost loathing and detestation.’’ The Jews would not suffer their children to name swine’s flesh, because it was forbidden, lest the name of it should occasion their desiring it; but, if they had occasion to speak of it, they must call it that strange thing. It is a pity that among Christians the names of the heathen gods are so commonly used, and made so familiar as they are, especially in plays and poems: let those names which have been set up in rivalship with God be for ever loathed and lost. [3.] They must not countenance others in showing respect to them. They must not only not swear by them themselves, but they must not cause others to swear by them, which supposes that they must not make any covenants with idolaters, because they, in the confirming of their covenants, would swear by their idols; never let Israelites admit such an oath. [4.] They must take heed of these occasions of idolatry, lest by degrees they should arrive at the highest step of it, which was serving false gods, and bowing down to them, against the letter of the second commandment.(3.)