Decoding God's Changing Moods

The ancient Scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam reveal a pattern--and if we read it correctly, there may be hope for reconciliation and religious harmony

Sèbastien Dèsarmaux / Godong / Corbis

Symbols of the three Monotheistic religions.

The ancient Israelites got straightforward guidance from Scripture on how to handle people who didn't worship Israel's god, Yahweh. "You shall annihilate them — the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites — just as the Lord your God has commanded."

The point of this exercise, explained the Book of Deuteronomy, was to make sure the "abhorrent" religions of nearby peoples didn't rub off on Israelites.

Yet sometimes the Israelites were happy to live in peace with neighbors who worshipped alien gods. In the Book of Judges, an Israelite military leader proposes a live-and-let-live...

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