Was Joshua’s Slaughter of the Canaanites Morally Justified? Part 4: Off with their Heads!

Was Joshua’s Slaughter of the Canaanites Morally Justified? Part 4: Off with their Heads! May 4, 2020

THE NINE COMMANDMENTS SHOW THAT JEHOVAH WAS A SELFISH JERK

Since we cannot harm God, or hurt God’s feelings no matter what we do, and since we can fairly easily physically harm other people and hurt the feelings of others or harm them emotionally and intellectually, it seems rather obvious that our duties towards other humans should be treated as of MUCH GREATER IMPORTANCE than our duties towards God.

So, the Ten Commandments, or rather the NINE (actual) COMMANDMENTS are ASS BACKWARDS. The four commandments concerning human duties to God should be at the end of the list, and the five commandments concerning human duties to other humans should be at the front of the list. This is the first bit of evidence (from the Commandments) that Jehovah is a SELFISH JERK.

He puts our duties to him at the front of the list, when he needs absolutely nothing from us, and he puts our duties to others at the end of the list when we have great power to harm others and to ruin their lives, and even (if we are truly evil) to “utterly destroy” them, to “exterminate” them.

 

A SECOND CLUE ABOUT JEHOVAH FROM THE FIRST FOUR COMMANDMENTS

Before I get into examining each specific commandment, there is a second general point to note about the commandments, specifically about the first four commandments, the ones that outline human duties to God:

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

(The above summary of the first four commandments is from the Wikipedia articleTen Commandments“.)

It is important to understand that the NINE COMMANDMENTS, including these first four commandments, were NOT just friendly advice for how to live a good life; they were LAWS.  Jehovah, through Moses, provided LAWS for the nation of Israel, and like other law codes, there were punishments and penalties for disobeying these laws.

But virtually all nations have laws, rules that govern human behavior, and virtually all laws are enforced by means of punishments and penalties.  There are fines for violating parking rules, and fines for speeding or violating other traffic laws.  For more serious crimes, like kidnapping and armed robbery, we put people in prison, sometimes locking criminals away for several years, even decades.  For first-degree murder, and murder with aggravating factors, we have in the past put people to death, although the death penalty appears to be on its way out (finally) in the US.

The problem is that the first four commandments are RELIGIOUS LAWS.  They require people to worship a certain god, and to worship that god in a particular way.  We in the US, believe in FREEDOM OF RELIGION.  In the USA, you have the freedom to hand out any advice and guidelines you wish about our alleged duties towards a particular deity; that is your right.  But you do NOT have the freedom to compel other people to worship YOUR god, nor to worship YOUR god in YOUR WAY.  To compel other people to worship YOUR god, or to worship in YOUR WAY, would be to deny to others their FREEDOM OF RELIGION.

So, it is obnoxious for Jehovah to insist on making LAWS that compel people to worship him alone, and to worship him only in a particular manner.  Instituting LAWS that compel people to worship a particular god, and to worship that god in a particular way deprive those people of the FREEDOM OF RELIGION.

If God wants people to freely chose to worship him and to freely chose to worship him in the most appropriate way, then God must support FREEDOM OF RELIGION.  To compel people, by LAWS and by threats of penalties or punishments to believe in a particular god, and to worship a particular god, and to worship that god in a particular way, is to make humans into the slaves of that god.

Of course people will worship Jehovah (or at least pretend to) if they will be punished for not doing so.  Of course people will worship in a particular way if they will be punished for worshiping in some other way.  But this will NOT be something that they freely choose to do, and thus this forces people to be disingenuous, to have no serious intent in their religious observances, to be cynical and lack integrity in their religious beliefs and actions.

The separation of Church and State is not merely to protect the State from being controlled and corrupted by a religious leader or group, but also to protect religious leaders and groups from being controlled and corrupted by the State.  Using Laws and punishments to compel religious beliefs or observances corrupts religion.  Removing the FREEDOM OF RELIGION from a nation turns religion into a sham, cheapens religion, and turns religious believers into fakes and hypocrites.  True religion can only exist where there is the freedom to NOT be religious, or to be religious in a way that is NOT popular or generally approved.

So, because the first four commandments are presented not as good advice, but rather as LAWS for the nation of Israel, they were an attack on FREEDOM OF RELIGION by Jehovah, and thus an attack on the practice of religion with integrity and sincerity, and thus Jehovah unleashed a powerful force in support of religious hypocrisy and cynicism

By making the first four commandments part of the foundational LAWS of the nation of Israel, Jehovah showed himself to be a tyrant, a dictator, a totalitarian, in relation to religion, and an enemy of true and sincere religious belief and practice.

 

“OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!” JEHOVAH SCREAMED FROM HIS THRONE

The punishments that Jehovah prescribed for failure to obey his RELIGIOUS LAWS were not just small fines, like you might receive for a parking violation.  The punishments for failure to obey one of the first four commandments were much more severe than a small fine.  So, not only is Jehovah shown to be a tyrant for issuing the first four commandments as RELIGIOUS LAWS, but he is shown to be a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant for insisting on the most EXTREME punishment for violations of these RELIGIOUS LAWS: death.

The fourth commandment prohibits any work on the seventh day of the week, as a RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE:

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 
Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 
10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.     Exodus 20:8-11  (New Revised Standard Version)

The reason given for resting on the seventh day of the week is PURE BULLSHIT, of course.  God, if God exists, is all-knowing.  God knows that the universe began to form about 11 to 14 billion years ago, and that the earth did not begin to form until about 4.5 billion years ago.  So, the claim that “heaven and earth” were created in less than one week is just a big fat LIE (assuming that Jehovah is God and thus all-knowing).

But setting that problem with Jehovah’s character aside, we still have the problem that this RELIGIOUS LAW was enforced by the most extreme penalty:

15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death.   Exodus 31:15 (New Revised Standard Version)

2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy sabbath of solemn rest to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.   Exodus 35:2  (New Revised Standard Version)

The Sabbath-Breaker Stoned (Numbers 15). James Tissot c.1900

 

Someone might be tempted to try the old “Locker Room” talk justification of Jehovah: 

“Jehovah was just being hyperbolic here.  He obviously wouldn’t be so cruel a tyrant as to have people killed for doing a bit of work on the Sabbath day.  He didn’t mean that literally.”   

Except that Jehovah did in fact mean exactly what he said, as we can see in the following OT story:

32 When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day.
33 Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron, and to the whole congregation.
34 They put him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him.
35 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp.”
36 The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.   Numbers 15:32-36  (New Revised Standard Version)

Some poor old man was gathering some sticks, probably to cook up a bit of soup or stew for himself, perhaps for his wife, and he gets arrested and hauled off to Moses for judgement.  Now we are no longer talking philosophical abstractions or lofty sermons, we are talking about one particular man, and the threat of punishment for committing the terrible “crime” of gathering sticks.  Jehovah doesn’t hesitate to demand the death penalty: “the congregation shall stone him outside the camp.”  So, here we see the character of Jehovah revealed plainly as a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant, who rules with an iron fist.

The “locker room” talk justification is clearly bullshit, at least in the case of the fourth commandment.

The first commandment is another rule which ought to be purely voluntary, but instead Jehovah established it as RELIGIOUS LAW:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 
you shall have no other gods before me.   Exodus 20:2-3  (New Revised Standard Version)

This is a law which Jehovah demanded be enforced by the most extreme punishment: the death penalty:

20 Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the Lord alone, shall be devoted to destruction.   Exodus 22:20  (New Revised Standard Version)

Will the lame excuse of “locker room” talk work to justify Jehovah in this case?  Nope.  Once again, we see Jehovah revealed as a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant.  Jehovah spells out in detail the extreme and violent intent behind this law:

12 If you hear it said about one of the towns that the Lord your God is giving you to live in,
13 that scoundrels from among you have gone out and led the inhabitants of the town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods,” whom you have not known,
14 then you shall inquire and make a thorough investigation. If the charge is established that such an abhorrent thing has been done among you,
15 you shall put the inhabitants of that town to the sword, utterly destroying it and everything in it—even putting its livestock to the sword.  Deuteronomy 13:12-15  (New Revised Standard Version)

Here we see the same advocacy of indiscriminate mass-killing that Jehovah commands concerning the Canaanites, but here it is directed towards his own “chosen” people, the Israelites.

If there is a town of Israelites where some of the inhabitants have disobeyed the first commandment, then not only were those religious rebels to be killed, but also their elderly parents, their teenage sons and daughters, their young children, their babies, and…even their livestock

If Jehovah openly promotes the slaughter of men, women, children, and babies who are Israelites, just because some adults in a town have disobeyed the first commandment, then clearly he wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to command the slaughter of the Canaanites, men, women, teenagers, young children, and babies.  Jehovah LOVES BLOODSHED.  Jehovah is a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant.

Jehovah also emphasizes the command to be MERCILESS towards those who encourage people to worship other gods:

6 If anyone secretly entices you—even if it is your brother, your father’s son or your mother’s son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend—saying, “Let us go worship other gods,” whom neither you nor your ancestors have known,
7 any of the gods of the peoples that are around you, whether near you or far away from you, from one end of the earth to the other,
8 you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Show them no pity or compassion and do not shield them.
9 But you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
10 Stone them to death for trying to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  Deuteronomy 13:6-10  (New Revised Standard Version)

So, if your wife or one of your children suggest worshiping another god, you are to show them “no pity or compassion” but to turn them in right away, and be the first one to throw a stone at them to kill them.  Jehovah is one cold-hearted bloodthirsty tyrant.  (Dictators and Tyrants love to turn family members and neighbors against one another, and to create great fear of being turned in to the authorities by someone close.)

The above cases, however, concern people who preach or promote worship of other gods, but the first commandment is more directly concerned with the act of just worshiping other gods, so perhaps preaching or promoting worship of other gods is viewed by Jehovah as a particularly egregious violation of that commandment, and that the act of simply worshiping another god, without trying to persuade others to join in, would not be treated with such severity.

Jehovah might not demand the indiscriminate slaughter of entire towns, but he does demand the death penalty, even for those who disobey the first commandment by simply worshiping another god (without preaching or promoting such worship to others):

2 If there is found among you, in one of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, and transgresses his covenant
3 by going to serve other gods and worshiping them—whether the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden—
4 and if it is reported to you or you hear of it, and you make a thorough inquiry, and the charge is proved true that such an abhorrent thing has occurred in Israel,
5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or that woman who has committed this crime and you shall stone the man or woman to death.  Deuteronomy 17:2-5  (New Revised Standard Version)

So, it is not just preaching or promoting worship of other gods that brings on the wrath of Jehovah, but simply the act of worshiping some other god, and thus violating the RELIGIOUS LAW known as the first commandment.

The third commandment is yet another RELIGIOUS LAW instituted by Jehovah:

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.  Exodus 20:7  (New Revised Standard Version)

Anyone care to guess what punishment Jehovah demands for violating this RELIGIOUS LAW?  That’s right: the DEATH PENALTY.  Big surprise.

Here is an OT story that reveals, yet again, how Jehovah is a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant:

10 A man whose mother was an Israelite and whose father was an Egyptian came out among the people of Israel; and the Israelite woman’s son and a certain Israelite began fighting in the camp.
11 The Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name in a curse. And they brought him to Moses—now his mother’s name was Shelomith, daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan—
12 and they put him in custody, until the decision of the Lord should be made clear to them.
13 The Lord said to Moses, saying:
14 Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands on his head, and let the whole congregation stone him.
15 And speak to the people of Israel, saying: Anyone who curses God shall bear the sin.
16 One who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; the whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. Aliens as well as citizens, when they blaspheme the Name, shall be put to death.
[…]
23 Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel; and they took the blasphemer outside the camp, and stoned him to death. The people of Israel did as the Lord had commanded Moses.    Leviticus 24:10-16, & 23  (New Revised Standard Version)

Three of the first four commandments are clearly to be enforced by the DEATH PENALTY, on the insistence of Jehovah.  What about the second commandment?  Is this commandment also to be enforced with the threat of death?

 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me…     Exodus 20:4-5  (New Revised Standard Version)

Notice that Jehovah threatens the children of the offenders, openly displaying his injustice and cruelty.  The children of the idol worshipers have done nothing wrong, but Jehovah is happy to punish them anyway.  What an evil JERK.

There are a couple of good reasons that come to mind for thinking that this RELIGIOUS LAW was also supposed to be enforced by the death penalty.   First, it is one of the first four commands, which are all religious duties, and it is sandwiched between those other religious duties, all of which were clearly intended to be enforced by the DEATH PENALTY.  So, it would seem out of place to be the very second commandment, yet for this commandment to be significantly less important  (to Jehovah) than the three other duties towards God.

Second, this commandment is very similar to the first commandment.  The worship of idols was associated with the worship of other gods.  Jehovah appears to be somewhat unique in demanding worship without the use of idols.  So, if somebody was worshiping idols, then they were at least playing with the idea of worshiping other gods, since that is how other gods were worshiped.

Although I am not aware of a direct demand of Jehovah to kill any and every Israelite who worships idols, there is a story which strongly implies this is what Jehovah would want to happen.   When Jehovah first gives Moses the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets, Moses carries the tablets down the mountain and finds out that many of the Israelites have been worshiping a golden calf (an idol).

Here is what Jehovah has to say about the worship of an idol by the Israelites:

The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 
they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 
The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 
10 Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them;

So, here we have Israelites, Jehovah’s “chosen” people, worshiping an idol.  What is the first thing that Jehovah wants to do?  Jehovah wants to kill them all, the entire nation of Israel.  That means that Jehovah wanted to MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTER elderly men, elderly women, fathers, and mothers, teenage sons and daughters, young boys and girls, and babies by the thousands or hundreds of thousands.  (Sound familiar?)

Moses manages to talk Jehovah out of his initial plan to wipe out the entire people of Israel.  But part of how Moses get’s Jehovah to soften up, is by shedding some blood:

26 …Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 
27 He said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbor.’” 
28 The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. 
29 Moses said, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of a son or a brother, and so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.”   Exodus 32:26-29 (New Revised Standard Version)

So, Jehovah was willing to wipe out every man, woman, and child in the nation of Israel because some of the adults worshiped an idol.  Moses attempted to satisfy Jehovah’s wrath by ordering the indiscriminate MERCILESS SLAUGHTER of thousands of his fellow Israelites.

Moses did not give Jehovah a full meal deal, but just a little snack of death and destruction.  Moses, who knew Jehovah better than anyone, was still unsure whether the MERCILESS SLAUGHTER of thousands of Israelites would be enough to calm Jehovah down, and to save the Israelites from “utter destruction” and “extermination”.

Can there be any serious doubt that Jehovah would be delighted by the use of the DEATH PENALTY on individual cases of idol worship?  Of course Jehovah wanted the DEATH PENALTY to be used to enforce the second commandment, just as he demanded death as the punishment for the other three commandments concerning human duties towards God.

We see that the relatively unimportant duties of man to God were wrongly given highest priority, by Jehovah making them the first four of the ten commandments.  Then we see Jehovah attacking freedom of religion by instituting these religious rules as LAWS that are to be enforced by punishments, and finally we have seen how Jehovah demands the most extreme penalty for disobedience to these RELIGIOUS LAWS.

Human duties to God, if God exists, should be considered the LEAST IMPORTANT of human duties, because we can do NOTHING to benefit God, and NOTHING to harm God, so making these relatively unimportant duties into RELIGIOUS LAWS and then enforcing them by means of the PENALTY OF DEATH shows that Jehovah is a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant.

"Okay, well clarification may be good anyway."

(DRAFT) C.S. Lewis’s Moral Argument for ..."
"Michael, Lewis really does call the non-theistic view the "materialist" view. That is his label, ..."

(DRAFT) C.S. Lewis’s Moral Argument for ..."
"It looks good to me Jeff. Perhaps just replace "materialism" with "naturalism" though, for a ..."

(DRAFT) C.S. Lewis’s Moral Argument for ..."
"Yes. Ancient prophets of Israel reveal a god who approves of slavery, and treating women ..."

Evaluation of the Christian Answer to ..."

Browse Our Archives