Home ~ Biographies ~ Comparative Essays ~ Change Over Time Essays ~ FAQs
Why Ancient Civilizations and Cities Disappeared
Howard E. Vos
"Often the question is asked, What caused cities and empires of the ancient Near East to disappear? Usually the answer includes a number of naturalistic factors such as earthquakes, invasions, economic upheaval, and drying up of water supply. Although those phenomena are significant...the basic reason...is moral and spiritual, and naturalistic explanations are merely secondary.
(First) is the fact that God chose Israel to be His peculiar people...Deut 7:6: "The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth." Apparently it became an established principle in all of God's dealings with the Gentiles that they were to be judged in a way commensurate with their action toward Israel...
(Second), it must be observed that God cannot condone the pride of nations. He is a jealous God and will not allow any other to get glory due Himself...Isaiah 10:12-13 "I will punish the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks" ...Moreover, according to the first and second commandments, God cannot allow idolatry to go unpunished...Deut 7:1-5 "When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee...and when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them...for they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire."
(Third), in the counsels of divine justice there seems to be a quota of iniquity allowed to a given nation before it is punished either in a minor way or by obliteration. In Genesis 15 God discussed with Abraham the Hebrew inheritance of the land of Canaan. God said: "But in the fourth generation they (the Israelites) shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the amorites is not yet full" (v. 16).
One may question that those ancient enemies of Israel were as evil as the Bible claims that they were, but even a superficial glance at Canaanite religion alone ably demonstrates their iniquity. Base sex worship was prevalent, and religious prostitution even commanded; human sacrifice was common; and it was a frequent practice--in an effort to placate their gods--to kill young children and bury them in the foundations of a house or public building at the time of construction: Joshua 6:26 "In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn..."
Howard E. Vos, "An Introduction To Bible Archaeology" Revised ed.
(Chicago: Moody Press, 1953) pp. 17-19.