Act of God or human interpretation?

The people of the half-tribe of Manasseh were numerous; they settled in the land from Bashan to Baal Hermon…(and)… were brave warriors, famous men, and heads of their families.  But they were unfaithful to the God of their ancestors and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria (that is, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria), who took the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh into exile. He took them to Halah, Habor, Hara and the river of Gozan, where they are to this day. (1 Chronicles 5v23-26)

So, to summarise….

  1. we learn that the half-tribe of Manasseh who although proven warriors for God in the past now worship the gods of the fertility cults that are around them.
  2. next, we have the interesting take on events in which God is credited as prompting the Assyrian king to overrun the half-tribe of Manasseh so they are forced into exile.
  3. then, lastly, the conclusion that what the half-tribe of Manasseh has done is so dispicable that these people will never return from exile as a result.

Okay, firstly, the fact that the half-tribe of Manasseh has fallen away from God is not news. Syncretism – the amalgamation of different religions and cultures – was commonplace and a problem for all of the tribes of Israel who often hedged their bets by worshipping many dieties. Not that this was right but being chaste to the one God was a steep curve for many of them and is for us today who also struggle with the love of self and possessions.

Next , the narrator credits God as orchestrating the exile of the half-tribe of Manasseh when other explanations keep God both good and consistent in His Love of Creation. While it’s an easy assumption to presume that God made the people pay the price because of their idolatry  – this sort  of thinking renders God less than loving as it suggests the Divine is prepared to set aside human freewill to effect a punishment. It also neglects the more obvious explanation that in worshipping other gods, the half-tribe of Manasseh moved away from God and isolated themselves to the point where they were overrun by others.

And lastly, the inference that the half-tribe of Manasseh committed an unforgiveable sin. Or put another way, that because the strayed from God, their punishment was final and total. Surely, if this was the case then what is the point of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. Or is it that everything points to the cross of Christ – to the God of forgiveness – to the dead who will rise to life eternal and know the true God where bodies, minds and hearts are reborn imperishable and will never stray again. This is the God of love and of such things is His Provision.



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