Was Joshua’s Slaughter of the Canaanites Morally Justified? Part 9: Joshua

Was Joshua’s Slaughter of the Canaanites Morally Justified? Part 9: Joshua May 15, 2020

MOVING ON FROM MOSES TO JOSHUA

The evidence from Numbers and Deuteronomy indicates that Jehovah did NOT demand that advanced warnings be given to towns that Moses and the Israelites were going to attack so that people had the opportunity to leave the town and thus avoid being MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED, and that Moses did NOT order advanced warnings to be given to any of the towns that the Israelites attacked while he was leading them, and that no such advanced warnings were in fact given to towns that Moses and the Israelites were about to attack.

Now it is time to investigate whether Jehovah demanded that advanced warnings be given to towns that the Israelites were going to attack in the Promised Land, so that people would have an opportunity to leave the town and thus avoid being MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED by Joshua and the Israelites, and whether Joshua ever ordered that advanced warnings be given to any of the towns that the Israelites attacked in the Promised Land, and whether any such advanced warnings were in fact provided to any of the towns that Joshua and the Israelites were about to attack.

(watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)
Moses Blesses Joshua Before the High Priest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOME KEY OLD TESTAMENT PASSAGES

First, I’m going to point out the obvious, which OUGHT to be sufficient by itself to settle this issue, but, sadly, is not enough to convince some people:

1 When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you—the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations mightier and more numerous than you—
2 and when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy.    Deuteronomy 7:1-2 (New Revised Standard Version)

16 But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive.
17 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…    Deuteronomy 20:16-17 (New Revised Standard Version)

19 There was not a town that made peace with the Israelites, except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon; all were taken in battle.
20 For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts so that they would come against Israel in battle, in order that they might be utterly destroyed, and might receive no mercy, but be exterminated, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
Joshua 11:19-20 (New Revised Standard Version)

 

KEY POINTS FROM THE ABOVE OT PASSAGES

  • Jehovah commanded that the people of the towns in the Promised Land be SHOWN NO MERCY by the army of the Israelites.
  • Jehovah commanded that the inhabitants of the towns in the Promised Land be UTTERLY DESTROYED and EXTERMINATED and ANNIHILATED.
  • Jehovah commanded that there BE NO SURVIVORS LEFT ALIVE in the towns in the Promised Land when the army of the Israelites attacked such a town.
  • Jehovah specifically commanded that NO PEACE AGREEMENT be offered to any town in the Promised Land that the army of the Israelites were about to attack. (see Deuteronomy 7:1-2 & 20:10-18)

Why did Jehovah oppose offering “terms of peace” to the towns in the Promised Land that the Israelites were about to attack?  Because it was the duty of the Israelites to “utterly destroy” and “exterminate” and “annihilate” every living person in those towns.

What sort of peace agreement could be possible if the plan and intention is to MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTER every man, woman, child, and baby in that city or town?  Who is going to accept a “peace agreement” where part of what you are agreeing to is that you and everyone else in your town will be MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED? Nobody would accept such an absurd proposal.

The only plausible peace agreement that the Israelites could offer without disobeying Jehovah’s clear command to MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTER every living person in a town, is a DECEPTIVE agreement where they would blatantly LIE and promise that some or all of the inhabitants of the city will be spared.  Such a DECEPTIVE peace agreement by the Israelites might work once, but it would soon become widely known that the Israelites were LYING BASTARDS who, as soon as you let them into your city, will then proceed to MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTER every living person that they can find in the city.

Such a strategy would quickly become completely useless, and would also prevent the Israelites from making peace agreements in the future to avoid war with powerful enemies that they did NOT want to fight against.  In short, offering such a DECEPTIVE peace agreement would be foolish and stupid, not to mention immoral.

 

NOW FOR THE OBVIOUS CONCLUSIONS

If Joshua ordered that a town in the Promised Land be given advanced warning so that the inhabitants of that town would have a few days to flee and thus avoid being MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED by the Israelites, then Joshua would be disobeying Jehovah, because this would be SHOWING MERCY to the inhabitants of that town.

If Joshua ordered that a town in the Promised Land be given advanced warning so that the inhabitants of that town would have a few days to flee and thus avoid being MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED by the Israelites, then Joshua would be disobeying Jehovah, because if some people did take the opportunity to flee, then the Israelites would NOT be able to fulfill their duty to UTTERLY DESTROY, and to EXTERMINATE, and ANNIHILATE the inhabitants of that town.

If Joshua ordered that a town in the Promised Land be given advanced warning so that the inhabitants of that town would have a few days to flee and thus avoid being MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED by the Israelites, then Joshua would be disobeying Jehovah, because if some people did take the opportunity to flee, then the Israelites would NOT be able to fulfill their duty to LEAVE NO SURVIVORS ALIVE.

If Joshua ordered that a town in the Promised Land be given advanced warning so that the inhabitants of that town would have a few days to flee and thus avoid being MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED by the Israelites, then Joshua would be disobeying Jehovah, because he would be making a promise to the inhabitants of that town that he would hold off on attacking it for a few days, and that promise would, in effect, be a PEACE AGREEMENTit would be an unconditional PEACE AGREEMENT (because nothing is being demanded of the town in return), but it would still amount to a promise of temporary peace by Joshua and the Israelites to the inhabitants of that town.

In short, providing advanced warnings to towns in the Promised Land that were about to be attacked by Joshua and the Israelites would clearly involve DISOBEYING the commands of Jehovah concerning how the Israelites were to deal with those towns in the Promised Land.

 

NOW FOR THE ICING ON THE CAKE

The above points are adequate to show that Jehovah did NOT demand that Joshua provide the towns in the Promised Land with advanced warnings before Joshua and the Israelites attacked those towns.  The above points are also adequate to show it to be UNLIKELY that Joshua ordered that advanced warnings be given to any of the towns in the Promised Land that he and the Israelites were about to attack, or that any such advanced warnings were provided to such cities and towns.

However, some people have extra thick skulls and demand more evidence than this.  I will now provide some additional evidence, but I consider this to be ICING ON THE CAKE, not essential to supporting my point of view that NO advanced warnings were provided to the towns in the Promised Land that were attacked by Joshua and the Israelites (according to the Book of Joshua).

Joshua Chapter 6

1 Now Jericho was shut up inside and out because of the Israelites; no one came out and no one went in.   Joshua 6:1 (New Revised Standard Version)

20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat; so the people charged straight ahead into the city and captured it. 
21 Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys.   Joshua 6:20-21 (New Revised Standard Version)

There is no mention of a demand by Jehovah to give advanced warning to the inhabitants of Jericho so that the inhabitants would have an opportunity to flee and thus avoid being MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED by Joshua and the Israelites.  In fact, the first verse indicates that the city was “shut up inside and out” and that “no one came out and no one came in”.

There is no mention of Joshua ordering that the inhabitants of Jericho be given advanced warning so that the inhabitants would have an opportunity to flee and thus avoid being MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED by Joshua and the Israelites.

Finally, there is no mention of there being an advanced warning so that the inhabitants would have the opportunity to flee and thus avoid being MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED by Joshua and the Israelites.  And yet, we are told that “all in the city” including “men and women, young and old” were “devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword”.  So, Joshua and the Israeilites carried out Jehovah’s command to kill every living person in that city.

Joshua Chapter 8

24 When Israel had finished slaughtering all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and when all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai, and attacked it with the edge of the sword. 
25 The total of those who fell that day, both men and women, was twelve thousand—all the people of Ai. 
26 For Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the sword, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.  Joshua 8:24-26 (New Revised Standard Version)

There is no mention of Jehovah demanding that advanced warning be given to the inhabitants of Ai so that they would have the opportunity to flee the city and avoid being MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED by Joshua and the Israelites.

There is no mention of Joshua ordering that advanced warning be given to the inhabitants of Ai so that they would have the opportunity to flee the city and avoid being MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED by Joshua and the Israelites.

There is no mention of any advanced warning being given to the inhabitants of Ai so that they would have the opportunity to flee the city and avoid being MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED by Joshua and the Israelites.

And yet, we are told that “all the people of Ai” including “both men and women” and numbering “twelve thousand” people were MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED by “the edge of the sword” so that they were “utterly destroyed” by Joshua and the Israelites.

Notice a pattern here?  No advanced warnings, yet the inhabitants of towns were MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED, and no survivors were left alive.  Sound a bit like the MERCILESS SLAUGHTER of entire towns by Moses and the Israelites?  It is the SAME MO: No advanced warnings, yet the inhabitants of towns were MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED, and no survivors were left alive.

There is plenty more MERCILESS SLAUGHTERING left to go in the Book of Joshua.  I’m just getting warmed up here.

Joshua Chapter 10

Chapter 10 of the Book of Joshua is a five-course meal of MERCILESS SLAUGHTER, so let’s dive in:

28 Joshua took Makkedah on that day, and struck it and its king with the edge of the sword; he utterly destroyed every person in it; he left no one remaining. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho.
29 Then Joshua passed on from Makkedah, and all Israel with him, to Libnah, and fought against Libnah.
30 The Lord gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel; and he struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left no one remaining in it; and he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.

31 Next Joshua passed on from Libnah, and all Israel with him, to Lachish, and laid siege to it, and assaulted it.
32 The Lord gave Lachish into the hand of Israel, and he took it on the second day, and struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it, as he had done to Libnah.
33 Then King Horam of Gezer came up to help Lachish; and Joshua struck him and his people, leaving him no survivors.
34 From Lachish Joshua passed on with all Israel to Eglon; and they laid siege to it, and assaulted it;
35 and they took it that day, and struck it with the edge of the sword; and every person in it he utterly destroyed that day, as he had done to Lachish.
36 Then Joshua went up with all Israel from Eglon to Hebron; they assaulted it,
37 and took it, and struck it with the edge of the sword, and its king and its towns, and every person in it; he left no one remaining, just as he had done to Eglon, and utterly destroyed it with every person in it.
38 Then Joshua, with all Israel, turned back to Debir and assaulted it,
39 and he took it with its king and all its towns; they struck them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed every person in it; he left no one remaining; just as he had done to Hebron, and, as he had done to Libnah and its king, so he did to Debir and its king.
40 So Joshua defeated the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings; he left no one remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded.   Joshua 10:28-40 (New Revised Standard Version)

OK.  So, what I see here is lots of MERCILESS SLAUGHTER where Joshua and the Israelites kill every living person in a town, including civilians, including elderly men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, teenagers, young children, and babies.

What about advanced warnings being provided to these towns?  What about giving the inhabitants of these towns an opportunity to flee and avoid being MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERED by Joshua and the Israelites?  Not so much.  Not seeing that here.

Jehovah doesn’t demand that advanced warnings be given to any of these towns.  Joshua doesn’t order that advanced warnings be given to any of these towns, and there is no indication that I can see of any of these towns actually being given an advanced warning.   Yet, once again, we see an abundance of MERCILESS SLAUGHTERING in every case.

Perhaps, (just taking a wild shot in the dark here) this is because that is PRECISELY what Jehovah commanded Moses, Joshua, and the Israelites to do!  Because Jehovah is a Selfish Jerk, and because Jehovah is a Cruel and Bloodthirsty Tyrant, and the King of Sexism and of the King of Male Chauvinist Piggery, but mostly because Jehovah LOVES BLOODSHED and killing people.

And now for dessert, a final serving of assorted MERCILESS SLAUGHTER with a single serving of Hazor flambe.

Joshua Chapter 11

 1 When King Jabin of Hazor heard of this, he sent to King Jobab of Madon, to the king of Shimron, to the king of Achshaph, 
2 and to the kings who were in the northern hill country, and in the Arabah south of Chinneroth, and in the lowland, and in Naphoth-dor on the west, 
3 to the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites in the hill country, and the Hivites under Hermon in the land of Mizpah. 
4 They came out, with all their troops, a great army, in number like the sand on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. 
5 All these kings joined their forces, and came and camped together at the waters of Merom, to fight with Israel. 
8 And the Lord handed them over to Israel, who attacked them and chased them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim, and eastward as far as the valley of Mizpeh. They struck them down, until they had left no one remaining.     Joshua 11:1-5 & 8  (New Revised Standard Version)

10 Joshua turned back at that time, and took Hazor, and struck its king down with the sword. Before that time Hazor was the head of all those kingdoms.
11 And they put to the sword all who were in it, utterly destroying them; there was no one left who breathed, and he burned Hazor with fire.
12 And all the towns of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua took, and struck them with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded.
13 But Israel burned none of the towns that stood on mounds except Hazor, which Joshua did burn.
14 All the spoil of these towns, and the livestock, the Israelites took for their booty; but all the people they struck down with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, and they did not leave any who breathed.
15 As the Lord had commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses.    Joshua 11:10-15 (New Revised Standard Version)

Once again, no mention of Jehovah demanding advanced warnings be given, no orders by Joshua to provide advanced warnings, and no indication that advanced warnings were actually provided to any of these towns.  Yet, we are told about lots of MERCILESS SLAUGHTERING, with NO SURVIVORS LEFT ALIVE.  

The stories about the Israelites attacking towns in the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua are consistent: no advanced warnings are ever mentioned, but in every case there is the MERILESS SLAUGHTER of every living person in those towns.


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