Is there Genocide in the Holy Bible?

Is there genocide in the Holy Bible? Many atheists, Muslims and some careless Christians also ask this question after reading a few Old Testament accounts. Brother Narender Sahoo puts all those verses in context and demonstrate that there was no ethnical cleansing or genocide  but a judgement based on morals laws and each commandment of “wipe out” Canaanites or Amalekites should be read along with verses of disposing, driving out Canaanites or Amalekites as well as the commandments of not to marry them (all of which assumes that they were not totally annihilated literally).

Contents 

  • Haunting statements?
  • Why the bias?
  • Why did the Lord pass judgments against the Canaanites?
  • Couldn’t they have repented much like the city of Nineveh at the time of Jonah?
  • What about infants?. What was the exact Commandments?
  • Then why the animals too? Couldn’t they have been used by the Israelites for farming, domestication, sacrifices?
  • Were the Israelites any better OR isn’t God a racist?
  • Is it that God can do whatever HE wants?
  • Why didn’t God wipe out the Canaanites Himself?
  • With all the bloodshed, how is Christianity different from Islam?

 

Haunting statements

There are a number of statements in the Holy Bible which can shock a careless or casual reader. A number of cases of mass killings of people, apparently at God’s behest, are recorded in the Old Testament:

  1. The Flood (Genesis 6-8)
  2. The cities of the plain, including Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19)
  3. The Egyptian firstborn sons during the Passover (Exodus 11-12)
  4. The Canaanites under Moses and Joshua (Numbers 21:2-3; Deuteronomy 20:17; Joshua 6:17, 21)
  5. The Amalekites annihilated by Saul (1 Samuel 15)

The first three examples are similar in that there was no human agent involved – in each case it was God, or an angel of God, who carried out the mass killings directly.

Certain passages in the Old Testament even give believers pause. Like these:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you…you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them…. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you. But thus you shall do to them: You shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire.” (Deut. 7:1-5)

Only in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the Lord your God.” (Deut. 20.16-18)

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” (1 Sam 15:2-3)

Strong words. Reading them brings to mind horrible terms like “genocide” or “ethnic cleansing.” Could this command really come from the God of all grace and mercy, the same God who, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, “became flesh, and dwelt among us…full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14)?

Maybe not, according to some.

The mass killing of the Canaanites is the first of two cases in which the text claims that God’s people, the nation of Israel, under commands from the Almighty attacked other nations and affected the mass killings. For this reason, this case will be the focus of this study.

For the sake of convenience and for better arrangement of the content, let me first break up the question into two perspectives: atheists and theists.

Dismissing an atheist who raises such a question is very trivial. Firstly, what is the point that the atheist trying to make? An atheist is trying to say that if there is a God, then he cannot command such things as commit mass genocide… committing mass genocide is a huge moral issue and totally wrong. For an atheist to say that there is a something which is morally or ethically wrong, there has to be something which can be defined as morally right. If there is a clear distinction or a universal law which dictates that actions such as rape, molesting babies, committing mass genocide, etc is wrong, then there has to be a moral law giver, this moral law giver is called God in theistic terms. So, an atheist when raising the question on morality to prove the non-existence of God actually has to assume God’s existence in the question itself, thereby nullifying the very question.

Secondly, since an atheist doesn’t believe that the Bible is the word of God, from that position, I can again dismiss atheist queries on this topic by saying that these were mere exaggerated accounts of warfare which is very common in Eastern warfare accounts. OR, that the Israelites were simply mistaken that an All powerful deity had commanded the incident.

Lastly, nowadays, with regards to freewill, atheists such as Sam Harris and Michael Shermer believe that since all living beings are nothing but a chaotic bunch of atoms and molecules having no designer or purpose, any and all of their actions are nothing but an outcome of the chemical reactions and the firing of neurons in their brains…. In other words, all actions are determined (https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/life-without-free-will) … very much like putting a pot of water containing tea powder and milk results in “tea” as the end product. If a car rolls down a hill and rams into a bus killing people inside it, can the car be put in jail for this “error”? NO, from an atheist’s perspective, there is no difference between a car rolling down a hill and a human being doing something immoral such as a murder. If that’s the case, then the Israelites cannot be blamed or have said to have done anything wrong… since these actions were all due to some faulty chemical reactions in their brains which led to these involuntary actions by their bodies resulting in the destruction of another chaotic mass of atoms and molecules a.k.a. humans.

With the “atheist” perspective out of the picture, let’s move to the theists who may be from the Christian faith or any other worldview which doesn’t discount out the existence of God.

Why the bias

As I will lay out below, due to skewed inputs from the media, pop culture and even selective readings/preaching by Bible readers/preachers, there is a bias that builds up against the nation of Israel with many writers even saying on record that the Old Testament was fictional writings of the Jews to show that they are a better race than the rest of the world… if you read the Old Testament, nothing further can be from the truth… to refute the “Old testament is fiction issue”, there are tonnes of archaeological and extra-Biblical evidence that has proven time and again the historical veracity of the Old Testament (further information on websites such as http://www.bible-history.com/) or just reading thru the Bible, especially the prophetical books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Lamentations, a completely reversed picture emerges… just by the historical method of the “principle of embarrassment”, it stands without any doubt that the Lord not only blessed but also chastised and punished the people… the nation of Israel more than any other race on the face of this earth at any point of time.

Such a bias, I think appears primarily cause of what I refer to as “lazy mind or copy-paste syndrome” which you see prevalent in this culture wherein people tend to repeat gossip news, titillating news (dog bites man is not news, man bites dog is news) without doing any research or using the last vestiges of their common sense/wisdom… a lot of responsibility need to be attributed even to the church which in violation of Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30-31 and Luke 10:27 is very much guilty of not propagating or encouraging responsible exegesis… loving the Lord thy God only with their heart and soul AND NOT with their mind. To quote well known apologist and writer Ravi Zacharias “What I believe in my heart must make sense in my mind”.

Another critical flaw that I see which is also responsible for the bias is that the Bible is treated as a religious book… if a person attempts to read the Bible without any religious or atheistic bias in mind, the picture appears is that of a book which chronicles world history and the history of the nation of Israel in particular and also documents how God intervened and guided human affair. In other words with the mostly chronological sequence of events and archaeological evidence in place, the Bible, especially the Old Testament should be put across a book on history which a reader can go through to understand parts of world history and the history of the nation of Israel in particular. What can be said is that no other nation or culture on the face of this planet has better documented record of its inception and history.

In my frequent interactions with Muslims and atheists, one of the top points that they think they can score on is when they show such verses to show that Christians are very violent OR that Jesus who is also God of the Old Testament is a violent deity… after taking a moment to stifle my laughter on their sheer ignorance and stupidity, I point out that unlike the Quran which is a mix of random verses which are eternal commands by Allah, the Holy Bible is a historical narration and what you see is a descriptive narration and not a prescriptive narration… there are commands such as the 10 commandments which are meant for all time but there are points such as ceremonial laws which were meant for a particular time and place.

Lastly, if someone still insists on the current applicability of the killing of the Canaanites, then let’s refer to Joshua 1:4, this has clearly demarcated the physical boundaries of the commands… it was not universal and clearly the command was against the Canaanites in particular residing in a specific geographical area and not against all infidels globally such as in Quran 9:5 or 9:29… Canaanite tribes (especially the Hittites) greatly exceeded the boundaries that Israel was told to conquer. And since, as we will see, He punished Israel when they committed the same sins, what happened to the Canaanites was not genocide, but capital punishment.

Coming back to the original question…. Let’s break this up into smaller questions:

  1. Why did the Lord pass judgments against the Canaanites?
  2. Couldn’t they have repented much like the city of Nineveh at the time of Jonah?
  3. What about the infants?
  4. Then why the animals too? Couldn’t they have been used by the Israelites for farming, domestication, sacrifices?
  5. Were the Israelites any better?
  6. Is it cause God can do whatever HE wants?
  7. Lastly, one of the questions which always used to haunt me is like the first three instances quoted in the beginning of this article, why didn’t God wipe out the Canaanites himself?
  8. How is Christianity different from Islam

As we look at difficult issues such as this one, we must remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9; Romans 11:33-36). We have to be willing to trust God and have faith in Him even when we do not understand His ways.

 

Why did the Lord pass judgments against the Canaanites?

 

Passages like Deut 9:4-6 (“it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you”), Deut 18:12 (“because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you”) and Lev 18:24-25 (“Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants”) clearly claim that God was judging the Canaanites. The wrath of God against sin and His righteous judgment of sinners are important biblical principles. These were Biblical passages on the wickedness of the Canaanites.

Let’s briefly delve into the wickedness of the Canaanites:

 

Incest: Like all Ancient Near East (ANE) pantheons, the Canaanite pantheon was incestuous. Baal has sex with his mother Asherah[1], his sister Anat, and his daughter Pidray,[2] and none of this is presented in a metaphorical or in a negative or a condemning manner… meaning that this was acceptable.

Although early Canaanite laws proscribed either death or banishment for most forms of incest, after the fourteenth century BC, the penalties were reduced to no more than the payment of a fine.[3] In the larger ANE context, it is helpful to consider that in an Egyptian dream book, dreams of having sex with your mother or your sister were considered good omens.[4]

 Adultery: Canaanite religion, like that of all of the ANE, was a fertility religion that involved temple sex. Inanna/Ishtar, also known as the Queen of Heaven, “became the woman among the gods, patron of eroticism and sensuality, of conjugal love as well as adultery, of brides and prostitutes, transvestites and pederasts.”[5]. Pederasts were those who practiced pederasty which is a homosexual relation between an adult male and a prepubescent male. As University of Helsinki professor, Martti Nissinen writes, “Sexual contact with a person whose whole life was devoted to the goddess was tantamount to union with the goddess herself.”[6]

The Canaanites even remake the God of the Bible, El, after their own image and portray Him ceremonially as having sex with two women (or goddesses). The ceremony ends with directions: “To be repeated five times by the company and the singers of the assembly.”[7] About this John Gray comments, “We may well suppose that this activity of El was sacramentally experienced by the community in the sexual orgies of the fertility cult which the Hebrew prophets so vehemently denounced.”[8]

Question that arises is as per atheist writers who describe the God of the Bible as indulging in sexual jealousy of the worst kind, with this denigration of the God of the Bible by the Canaanites, it was not just that the Canaanites were “worshipping other gods”, The Canaanites took seriously the testimony of the Old Testament witness of Yahweh and His revelation, if for no other reason than intentionally to transform the scriptural depiction of Yahweh into a castrated weakling who likes to play with His own excrement and urine.[9] Wonder what our Dawkins would feel his wife left him and eloped with a statue made with her own hands and then told everyone that Dawkins plays with his own excrement and urine.

Child sacrifice: Molech was a Canaanite underworld deity[10] represented as an upright, bullheaded idol with a human body in whose belly a fire was stoked and in whose outstretched arms a child was placed that would be burned to death. The victims were not only infants; children as old as four were sacrificed.[11] Kleitarchos reported that “as the flame burning the child surrounded the body, the limbs would shrivel up and the mouth would appear to grin as if laughing, until it was shrunk enough to slip into the cauldron.[12]

Archaeological evidence indicates that the children thus burned to death sometimes numbered in the thousands.

Homosexuality: No ANE text condemns homosexuality. Additionally, some ANE manuscripts talk about “party-boys and festival people who changed their masculinity into femininity to make the people of Ishtar revere her.”[13]

Let us also remember that the problem with the Canaanite city of Sodom wasn’t just sex among consenting adults: the men of Sodom, both young and old, tried to rape the visitors (Gen. 19:5).

Bestiality: Probably the ultimate sexual depravity is intercourse with animals. Hittite Laws: 199 states, “If anyone has intercourse with a pig or a dog, he shall die. If a man has intercourse with a horse or a mule, there is no punishment.[14] As with incest, the penalty for having sex with animals decreased about the fourteenth century BC.[15]

There should be no surprise that bestiality would occur among the Canaanites, since their gods practiced it. From the Canaanite epic poem “The Baal Cycle” we learn: “Mightiest Baal hears / He makes love with a heifer in the outback / A cow in the field of Death’s Realm. / He lies with her seventy times seven / Mounts eighty times eight / She conceives and bears a boy.”[16]

There were absolutely no prohibitions against bestiality in the rest of the ANE.[17] In fact, in an Egyptian dream book it was a bad omen for a woman to dream about embracing her husband, but good things would happen if she dreamed of intercourse with a baboon, wolf, or he-goat.[18] In short, their sexual fantasies involved everything that breathes.

The Canaanites had been reveling in debasements like these for centuries as God patiently postponed judgment (Gen 15.16). Here was no “petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty, ethnic cleanser” (to use Dawkins’s words). Instead, here was a God willing to spare the Canaanite city of Sodom for the sake of just ten righteous people (Gen. 18:32), a God who was slow to anger and always fast to forgive (note Nineveh and the story of Jonah, for example).

 

But is there not a limit? Indeed, what would we say of a God who perpetually sat silent in the face of such wickedness? Would we not ask, Where was God? Would we not question His goodness, His power, or even His existence if He did not eventually vanquish this evil? Yet when God finally does act, we are quick to find fault with the “vindictive, bloodthirsty, ethnic cleanser.”

 

Couldn’t they have repented much like the city of Nineveh at the time of Jonah?

 

This was no ‘spur of the moment’ decision by God. In Genesis 15:13-16, God tells Abraham that his descendants will be slaves in a foreign country for 400 years but that they will return to the land of Canaan after “four generations”. The reason given for this delay is because “the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure”. Similarly, the judgment on the Amalekites was given in Deut 25:17-19 but fulfilled only under Saul in 1 Samuel 15:2… a gap of 300 years. But, during this intermittent period, do we see evidence of God sending witnesses to the gentiles?

At the time of Abraham there is evidence that the Canaanites had some knowledge of the true God:

  • The judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were close to Canaanite territory, and the deliverance of Lot were evidence of God’s judgment against sin (Genesis 18-19).
  • Abraham lived among them and was a wealthy and powerful man (he was even able to rescue Lot from the united forces of four kings according to Genesis 14). His faith in God should have been a witness to the Canaanites.
  • The mysterious Melchizedek was king of Jerusalem and also “priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). He must surely have taught his people about the true Creator God (Genesis 14:19).

It seems that over the period from Abraham to Joshua, the Canaanites had gradually rejected what they knew about God and moved deeper into sin. It was only when their sin reached a certain level of severity that God decided to use the Israelites to bring judgment on them.

Probably the clearest sign that the warnings had gone out to the Canaanite kingdoms is seen in Joshua 2:8-13; in the words of Rahab the prostitute who gave shelter thereby saving the lives of the 2 spies sent by Joshua ”Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, 9 and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. 12 Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, 13 and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.

Rahab the prostitute was able to discern from what she and other Canaanites had heard about Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and victories over other Amorite kings, that God was giving the land of Canaan to the Israelites and, because of her faith in God demonstrated in her statement and her rescue of the Israelite spies, she was saved from destruction and included in the nation of Israel. She even became an ancestor of King David and, eventually, Jesus Christ! Sadly, she is the only Canaanite we read of coming to faith in God, although surely others had the opportunity.

Let’s not forget the Gibeonites in Joshua 9 who literally bent over backwards in literally tricking the Israelites to spare them… why did they do this? Just like Rahab and the other tribes living in Canaan, the Gibeonites had heard of the juggernaut tribe of Israel.

We see many such instances strewn across the length and breadth of the Scriptures, refer to the words of the soldier at the time of Gideon (Judges 7:13-15), the Lord in His mercy had even revealed to the soldiers of the Midianites in a dream that they would be defeated by Gideon but still they persisted in their war with the Israelites resulting in an utter defeat.

Even during the time of Solomon we see Queen of Sheba in 1 Kings 10 where she comes to visit him having heard of the blessings of the Lord on him.

 

Unlike us, God knows the future. God knew what the results would be if Israel did not completely eradicate the Amalekites. If Israel did not carry out God’s orders, the Amalekites would come back to trouble the Israelites in the future. Saul claimed to have killed everyone but the Amalekite king Agag (1 Samuel 15:20). Obviously, Saul was lying—just a couple of decades later, there were enough Amalekites to take David and his men’s families captive (1 Samuel 30:1-2). After David and his men attacked the Amalekites and rescued their families, 400 Amalekites escaped. If Saul had fulfilled what God had commanded him, this never would have occurred. Several hundred years later, a descendant of Agag, Haman, tried to have the entire Jewish people exterminated (see the book of Esther). So, Saul’s incomplete obedience almost resulted in Israel’s destruction. God knew this would occur, so He ordered the extermination of the Amalekites ahead of time.

In regard to the Canaanites, God even clarified the reason behind the command to totally eradicate them from the land… God commanded, “In the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them — the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites — as the LORD your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). The command to eradicate was given so that the corrupt practices of the Canaanites do not defile Israel too… much like a single rotten fruit in a fruit basket soon infects the entire basket. The Israelites failed in this mission as well, and exactly what God said would happen occurred (Judges 2:1-3; 1 Kings 11:5; 14:24; 2 Kings 16:3-4). God did not order the extermination of these people to be cruel, but to prevent even greater evil from occurring in the future.

Inspite of all their horrible abominations, the Lord was long suffering and patient… when their iniquity was “full,” divine judgment fell. God’s judgment was akin to surgery for cancer or amputation of a leg as the only way to save the rest of a sick body. Just as cancer or gangrene contaminates the physical body, those elements in a society—if their evil is left to fester—will completely contaminate the rest of society.

Still we see in all the instances of “mass killings”, the love of God in the form of clear witnesses, time given to repent and salvation by grace through faith:

  1. Flood: Noah was the witness to the known world before the flood, we read in 1 Peter 3:20 “who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.” A clear timeline of 120 years was given – Genesis 6:3 and even the name Methuselah, the man who had the max known lifespan, his name meant “at his death, the flood will come”… just imagine, every time anyone called his name, it served as a reminder to mankind of the incoming judgment. To be saved from the flood, all that was needed was to enter the Ark… but except the close family of Noah, no one chose to enter the ark.
  2. Sodom and Gomorrah: As seen in Genesis 18, Abraham bargains with God to spare the cities even if 10 were found righteous but even that minimal number was not found amongst the depravity… 2 Peter 2:7 says that Lot was the righteous witness to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
  3. Egyptians and the Red Sea: The 10 plagues were possibly the greatest witness of the presence and power of God… the repeated pleas of Moses to Pharaoh to repent resulted in nothing. In this instance, we see possibly the clearest sign of the heart of God to embrace all who reach out to Him… Exodus 12:38 “A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds—a great deal of livestock.”

Contrary to the vitriolic rhetoric of someone like Richard Dawkins, the God of the Bible is a God of justice, long-suffering, and compassion.

 

You can’t read the Old Testament prophets without a sense of God’s profound care for the poor, the oppressed, the down-trodden, the orphaned, and so on.  God demands just laws and just rulers.  He literally pleads with people to repent of their unjust ways that He might not judge them.  “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel. 33.11)

On another occasion God saved some thirty-two thousand people who were morally pure (Num. 31:35). Finally, the battle confronting Israel was not simply a religious war; it was a theocratic war. Israel was directly ruled by God and the extermination was God’s direct command ( Exod. 23:27-30; Deut. 7:3-6; Josh. 8:24-26). No other nation either before or after Israel has been a theocracy. Thus, those commands were unique. Israel as a theocracy was an instrument of judgment in the hands of God.

The book of Revelation teaches Christ will come to earth and literally destroy millions because of the rebellion and unbelief of man’s heart. In fact, the tribulation period, which is described for us in Revelation 6-19, will among other things, demonstrate the true nature of man and just what lengths he will go to in his sin and rebellion when left to himself. Christ spoke of this time in Matthew 24. So the Old Testament is not alone in demonstrating God’s wrath and judgment against sin.

Nothing could so illustrate to the Israelis the seriousness of their calling as a people set apart for God alone.  Yahweh is not to be trifled with.  He means business, and if Israel apostasizes the same could happen to her. As C. S. Lewis puts it, “Aslan is not a tame lion.”

 

What about infants? What was the exact commandment??

 

Probably the most difficult part of these commands from God is that God ordered the death of children and infants as well. Why would God order the death of innocent children? (1) Children are not innocent (Psalm 51:5; 58:3). (2) These children would have likely grown up as adherents to the evil religions and practices of their parents. (3) These children would naturally have grown up resentful of the Israelites and later sought to avenge the “unjust” treatment of their parents.

While the Bible reads that such a command was given, it may well be the case that no women or children were actually killed. All of the battles would probably have involved only soldiers where women and children would likely have fled. As Jeremiah 4 indicates, “At the noise of horseman and archer every city takes to flight; they enter thickets; they climb among rocks; all the cities are forsaken, and no man dwells in them” (Jeremiah 4:29).

Moreover, Deuteronomy 7:2–5 uses the phrase “utterly destroy” immediately followed by “you shall not intermarry among them,” highlighting the fact that, at least in some instances, the biblical authors may have employed the rhetorical exaggeration (e.g., “all that breathes,” “utterly destroy,” etc.) common to ancient Near East military accounts. This leaves open the possibility that these phrases may express some degree of hyperbolic language, and thus, that no non-combatants were actually killed. The text nowhere explicitly narrates any women or children actually being killed in these battles. Judges reveals that this widespread killing never literally happened, since there were quite a few Canaanites remaining. Even within Joshua we read, “There were no Anakim left in the land” (11:22); they were “utterly destroyed” in the hill country (11:21). Yet later in Joshua, Caleb asked permission to drive out the Anakites from the hill country (14:12–15; cf. 15:13–19). Joshua’s military campaign in Canaan simply wasn’t a territorial conquest, but a series of disabling raids on military outposts.

In Numbers 31 (after Midianite women had intentionally seduced the men of Israel), we’re told, “[Israel] fought against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every man”. If literally true, why do we see Midianite multitudes in Judges 6:5? They were “like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels”.

In 1 Samuel 15, Saul was commanded to “utterly destroy” the Amalekites. Stereotypical sweeping language was used: “Put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (15:3). On a literal reading, Saul carried this out—except for King Agag, who was then killed by the prophet Samuel (vv.7–9, 33). Yet this didn’t literally happen; the Amalekites were far from destroyed.

Exaggerated language is abundant. In 1 Samuel 27:8–9, the same sweeping language of Chapter 15 is used: all Amalekites were wiped out—again! We’re told David invaded a territory full of Amalekites—the same territory covered by Saul. So, 1 Samuel 15 and 27 cannot both be literally true. What’s more, in 1 Samuel 30, a large Amalekite army attacked Ziklag (v. 1), and David pursued this army and fought a long battle with them, with four hundred Amalekites fleeing (1 Sam. 30:7–17). That’s not all: the Amalekites were even around during the reign of Hezekiah (1 Chron. 4:43).

So here’s the question: Why is it that virtually every time a narration of “genocide” occurs, it is followed by an account that presupposes it did not happen? Scripture took shape, and the Old Testament canon was formed. The final compiler or editor—who was certainly not mindless—saw no problem with side-by-side affirmations of “total destruction” and many surviving hostiles. He didn’t assume both to be literally true but this text was a historical account in the truest sense by a person living in that day and time… for whom such exaggeration was not a contradiction but a celebration.

Thirdly, the dominant language of “driving out” and “thrusting out” the Canaanites indicates further that “extermination” passages are hyperbolic (Exod. 23:28; Lev. 18:24; Num. 33:52: Deut. 6:19; 7:1; 9:4; 18:12; Josh. 10:28, 30, 32, 35, 37, 39; 11:11, 14). Israel was to “dispossess” the Canaanites of their land (Num. 21:32; Deut. 9:1; 11:23; 18:14; 19:1). Just as Adam and Eve were “driven out” of the garden (Gen. 3:24), or Cain into the wilderness (4:14), or David from Israel by Saul (1 Sam. 26:19), so the Israelites were to “dispos- sess” the Canaanites. “Driving out” or “dispossessing” is different from “wiping out” or “destroying.” Clearly, utter annihilation was not intended; you can’t both drive out and destroy.

Also, look at it this way, lets be practical; what were the choices, if the parents were dead, what’s to be done of the children? Let them be alone to die in the desert of hunger and thirst or eaten by wild animals? OR, were the Israelites to take them alive with them? If that was the case, let’s do some maths on this… let’s assume about 1000 families in a town, with on an average 4-5 kids. This means about 5000 kids at the least. What’s to be done of them? Are the Israelites supposed to enslave children ? Adopt them?? That’s not possible cause as we see in Ruth 4:6 that the person doesn’t take Ruth to be his wife since that will spoil the inheritance of his own children. Who would want to deprive their own children and give it to other children? Assume that this still happens… I am sure that not all the kids were nursing infants, they would be grown kids perhaps 7-10 years old also, they would definitely remember that their parents were killed by the Israelites, wouldn’t they want revenge growing up? With thousands of the kids gathered from all these raids, what would have happened a few years down the line in Israel? They would have been destroyed inside out.

Lastly, even if we interpret the text to mean that children were killed, this may have been God’s way of ensuring that these children would be saved and immediately brought into His eternal kingdom. The Scripture implies that all children who die before an age of moral accountability will enter heaven (2 Samuel 12:23; Matthew 19:14). Had God allowed these children to grow up in such a vile and heinous culture, these children would likely have grown up into something like their parents and been condemned to hell after they died. God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and we are simply not in a position to question God as to what is best. Since God is the Giver of life, only He has the right to take it.

 

Then why the animals too? Couldn’t they have been used by the Israelites for farming, domestication, sacrifices?

 

As already explained above, bestiality was a norm and the Canaanites literally had sex with “everything that breathes”… let me ask you, if you are an Israelite, how comfortable will you be having a cow or a goat or a sheep around your house and children; an animal who was accustomed to having sex with humans? Also, these animals could be infected with a host of venereal diseases from copulating with humans. Let me ask you again, would you keep an animal around your near and dear ones; an animal whom you suspect could possibly have a serious venereal disease? Wouldn’t one infected animal spread life threatening disease to humans or other animals in the livestock? How comfortable would you be eating their meat or drinking their milk?

Finally, you mentioned about sacrifices? As written in Exodus 12:5, Leviticus 22:24 and Deuteronomy 17:1, the animal had to be without any blemish or defect or sick or injured. Will an animal used to having sex with humans be acceptable in the sight of the LORD?

No wonder then that the Lord in His infinite wisdom commanded to kill all that breathes which includes animals too (Deut 20:16-18).

Were the Israelites any better OR isn’t God a racist?

 

God described the sin of the Canaanites vividly in these words, “I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Lev. 18:25).

Were the Israelites somehow morally superior in God’s mind? Deuteronomy 9:4-6, God makes it absolutely clear that the Israelites are not being used because they are better than the Canaanites or morally superior, but simply as agents of His judgment. In fact, He repeats twice that it is “not because of your righteousness”… not just that from v 7 till the end of the chapter (9), the Lord even articulates in very precise terms the sins of the children of Israel and how they themselves were deserving to be punished. Perhaps God wanted to use the Israelites in this way so that they would learn the seriousness of sin, the detestability to God of the Canaanite religions and the reality of God’s judgment. These truths would be burned deeply on their consciousness as they remembered the annihilation they had been involved in.

This problem of how God could use sinful people as agents of judgment of other sinful people arises again later in the Old Testament. The book of Habakkuk focuses on this concern in the context of the impending invasion of Judah by the Babylonians. The prophet struggles with the fact that God’s people, sinful as they were, are about to be defeated by an even more sinful nation (Habakkuk 1:13). Chapter 2 details God’s response to Habakkuk as He vindicates Himself and assures the prophet that in due time he will judge the Babylonians by the same righteous standard that He was now holding against Judah. The book ends with a declaration of Habakkuk’s faith as he praises God and expresses his trust in Him (Chapter 3).

In my searching for answers, the Lord blessed me with a wonderful analogy. Let’s assume that a powerful country notices that one of its provinces had totally rejected the governance of the rulers and were now working in an absolutely debauched manner, after a lot of failed diplomacy and requests to revert to submission to the parent state, decides to send one of their generals to get rid of mischief mongers in that land and establish a righteous rule under the parent state. What if, the general after establishing control over this province then proceeds to himself rule in the same debauched manner of the earlier rulers, will the parent state not send another general to displace and punish this renegade general and establish a fair and just rule under the parent state? What if this new general also was no better, won’t the parent state send another general to totally root out the rot? Absolutely… and that’s precisely what the good Lord did.

Israel’s response to Canaanite sin is a parable of how their own sinfulness empowered them to ape the sin of the Canaanites and thereby procure God’s judgment on them. For God does not show favoritism. Israel was warned not to let the Canaanites live in their land, but to completely destroy them (Exod. 23:33; Deut. 20:16–18), lest the Israelites learn the Canaanite ways (Exod. 34:15–16). If they did not destroy them, the land would “vomit” them out just as it had vomited out the Canaanites (Num. 33:56; Lev. 18:28; Deut 4:23–29, 8:19–20).

Instead, the Israelites worshiped the Canaanites’ gods and “did evil” (Judg. 10:6; 1 Kings 14:22; 2 Kings 17:10). They had “male shrine prostitutes” (1 Kings 14:22), committed acts of “lewdness,” adultery, and incest (Jer. 5:7; 29:23; Hos. 4:13–14; Ezek. 22:10–11; Amos 2:7), and even Solomon set up an altar to Molech (1 Kings 11:5, 7–8). But instead of repenting when things went badly, they concluded that their misfortune was because they stopped burning incense to “the Queen of Heaven,” Inanna/Ishtar (Jer. 44:18). So the Lord said that Israel became “like Sodom to me” (Jer. 23:14). In short, Israel was Canaanized.

Although prophets warned the northern kingdom (usually referred to as Israel or Samaria) of impending doom, they didn’t repent, and in 722 BC the king of Assyria killed or deported most of them, and filled the land with conquered peoples from other nations. Similarly, the southern tribes (usually referred to as Judah) were deported when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem beginning in 586 BC. Just as God had demonstrated his knowledge of who would repent in the Canaanite cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, before he destroyed Jerusalem He told Jeremiah that if He could find even one righteous person He would spare the entire city (Jer. 5:1).

 

Let’s see the fate of the conquerors through the ages:

Assyria – Nineveh

The city of Nineveh, the ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire, was destroyed in 612 B.C. The fall of that great city was not a matter of chance, but rather a fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

Nineveh was established by Nimrod, “the mighty hunter” (Gen. 10:8-10). It served as the capitol of the Assyrian Empire for many years.

Assyria’s conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel began approximately 740 BC under King Pul. First Chronicles 5:26 notes, “So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day.” These tribes, located east of the Jordan River, were the first ones conquered by Assyria.

Nearly 20 years later, about 722 BC, the capital city, Samaria, was overtaken by the Assyrians under Shalmaneser V. After first forcing tribute payments, Shalmaneser later laid siege to the city when it refused to pay. Following a three-year siege, 2 Kings 17:5-6 notes that, “in the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.” And in 701 BC the Assyrians marched south into Judah; however, they were unable to capture Jerusalem due to the Lord’s intervention (2 Chronicles 32:22).

The prophet Nahum predicted the destruction of Nineveh in the book that bears his name. The following items were to be a part of the destruction of that great city:

  • An “overflowing flood” would “make an utter end of its place” (Nah. 1:8)
  • Nineveh would be destroyed while her inhabitants were “drunken like drunkards” (Nah. 1:10)
  • Nineveh would be unprotected because “fire shall devour the bars of your gates” (Nah. 3:13)
  • Nineveh would never recover, for their “injury has no healing” (Nah. 3:19)
  • The downfall of Nineveh would come with remarkable ease, like figs falling when the tree is shaken (Nah. 3:12)

In 612 B.C. Nabopolassar united the Babylonian army with an army of Medes and Scythians and led a campaign which captured the Assyrian citadels in the North. The Babylonian army laid siege to Nineveh, but the walls of the city were too strong for battering rams, so they decided to try and starve the people out. A famous oracle had been given that “Nineveh should never be taken until the river became its enemy.” After a three month siege, “rain fell in such abundance that the waters of the Tigris inundated part of the city and overturned one of its walls for a distance of twenty stades. Then the King, convinced that the oracle was accomplished and despairing of any means of escape, to avoid falling alive into the enemy’s hands constructed in his palace an immense funeral pyre, placed on it his gold and silver and his royal robes, and then, shutting himself up with his wives and eunuchs in a chamber formed in the midst of the pile, disappeared in the flames. Nineveh opened its gates to the besiegers, but this tardy submission did not save the proud city. It was pillaged and burned, and then razed to the ground so completely as to evidence the implacable hatred enkindled in the minds of subject nations by the fierce and cruel Assyrian government.” (Lenormant and E. Chevallier, The Rise and Fall of Assyria).

“Nineveh was laid waste as ruthlessly and completely as her kings had once ravaged Susa and Babylon; the city was put to the torch, the population was slaughtered or enslaved, and the palace so recently built by Ashurbanipal was sacked and destroyed. At one blow Assyria disappeared from history. Nothing remained of her except certain tactics and weapons of war …The Near East remembered her for a while as a merciless unifier of a dozen lesser states; and the Jews recalled Nineveh vengefully as ‘the bloody city, full of lies and robbery.’ In a little while all but the mightiest of the Great Kings were forgotten, and all their royal palaces were in ruins under the drifting sands. Two hundred years after its capture, Xenophon’s Ten Thousand marched over the mounds that had been Nineveh, and never suspected that these were the site of the ancient metropolis that had ruled half the world. Not a stone remained visible of all the temples with which Assyria’s pious warriors had sought to beautify their greatest capital. Even Ashur, the everlasting god, was dead.” (Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, pp. 283, 284).

The prophet Jonah had gone to Nineveh and preached, saying, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). The record tells us “the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5). In response to one of the greatest stories of repentance in history, “God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).

 

Babylon

In the Bible, Isaiah 13:1 says, “The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.” At the time of Isaiah’s prediction, Babylon was one of the largest and most important cities in the world. This is what God told Isaiah would happen to Babylon:

Isaiah claimed that God told him that Babylon would be completely destroyed.

“Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, who will not regard silver; and as for gold, they will not delight in it. Also their bows will dash the young men to pieces, and they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye will not spare children. And Babylon, the glory of the kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation; nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there” (Isaiah 13:17-20).

When Isaiah wrote his prediction, the Medes were weak. Most of the Medes were ruled by other nations, and the remaining Medes were not unified (The Cambridge History of Iran, 1985, Vol. 2, p. 80). It would have been impossible for them to capture or destroy the strong city of Babylon. Isaiah’s prediction appeared to be wrong. When the Assyrians destroyed Babylon in 689 B.C., Isaiah’s prediction appeared to be completely impossible. The Medes could not fight against a city that was gone!

Finally, nearly 200 years after Isaiah wrote about Babylon, part of his prophecy was fulfilled. God told Isaiah, “Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, who will not regard silver; and as for gold, they will not delight in it” (Isaiah 13:17). The Medes captured Babylon, just as Isaiah predicted. They captured the city without a battle and did not plunder the city. However, the other details of the prophecy had not happened yet.

Isaiah said that the Medes would kill many people: “Also their bows will dash the young men to pieces, and they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye will not spare children” (Isaiah 13:18). This prediction was fulfilled several years later.

An inscription written on a rock cliff in Bisotun, Iran—made by Darius, king of the Medes and Persians—describes the event. In 521 B.C. the Babylonians appointed their own king and the city rebelled. Darius’ army defeated the rebel army and captured Babylon. Then the rebel king and his main followers were impaled inside the city.

 

Medes – Persian empire

The history of the rise and fall of the Medes and the Persians forms an important background for over two hundred years of Biblical history. Located in the area south of the Caspian Sea and east of the Zagros Mountains, its original domain stretched for 600 miles north and south, and 250 miles east to west. The nation first came into prominence in the ninth century b.c. and is mentioned in inscriptions concerning Shalmaneser III (about 836 b.c. ). Though under the domination of Assyria until the seventh century b.c., their rise in power was contemporary with the decline of the Assyrian Empire and in 614 b.c. the Medes captured Asshur, the capitol city of Assyria. Later in 612 b.c. in alliance with the Chaldeans they captured Nineveh resulting in the downfall of the Assyrian Empire. In the years which followed they were an important ally of Babylonia and formed various alliances and intermarriages. Toward the end of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the Persians began to become a powerful force and under Cyrus II Media was conquered in 549 b.c. and was combined with the empire of the Persians to form Medo-Persia. The combined strength of the Persians and the Medes led to conquest of Babylon in 539 b.c., with the resulting extension of their empire over much of the Middle East until the conquest of Alexander the Great in 331 b.c.

The Grecan empire after the death of King Alexander split into 4 kingdoms which then consolidated into 2 kingdoms which then merged into the single Roman empire…

The conquest was neither ethnic cleansing nor genocide. God cared nothing about skin color or national origin. Aliens shared the same legal rights in the commonwealth as Jews (Lev. 19:34, Lev. 24:22, Deut. 10:18-19). Foreigners like Naomi and Rahab were welcome within their ranks.

 

God can do whatever HE wants

 

If you have read this article from the beginning, it must have by now become very clear to you that this was not just a whim or fancy If this were true, there would be no meaning in saying that God is just and righteous in how he treats us.  It wouldn’t allow us to predict anything whatsoever about what he would do.  Yet Abraham—our father in faith—pleads for Sodom and Gomorrah by asking: “Far be it from you to do such a thing–to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25).  God does not respond by saying “Whatever I do is just by definition”.  Rather, he grants Abraham’s requests, and goes beyond them to ensure that, in this case, the innocent are not punished alongside the guilty.  The fact that God is just implies that there are some things which he won’t do, because they are unfair. To quote the wellknown scholar and debater Dr.James White “Sovereign is who God is, not what God does”.

God has the authority to do anything, precisely because, since HE is perfectly good, HE never abuses this authority, but only does what is just and right.

 

Lastly, one of the questions which always used to haunt me is like the first three instances quoted in the beginning of this article, why didn’t God wipe out the Canaanites himself?

 

It certainly seems that if God does exist, and if He were to have morally sufficient reasons for decreeing the destruction of a group of people, then the means by which he carries it out would be somewhat inconsequential. Whether God chose famine, wild beasts, pestilence, or sword (Ezek. 14:12-23), if the authority to destroy is there, then the means of judgment is incidental. Thus, if it was right for God to command the conquest, it seems right for Israel to obey the command.

But was God right? I’ve already shown that if God needed morally sufficient reasons for killing the Canaanites, he had them in abundance. However, if God is God, does He even need to justify what He does with His creation who are nothing but a speck on a speck floating in a sunbeam (partly quoting Carl Sagan)?

There’s no question that God could’ve destroyed the Canaanites directly. Some of the methods by which God destroyed people directly in the Bible:

The ground swallowed them (Num 16:31-32)

  • Plague (Exodus 32 : 35)
  • Snakes (Num 21: 6)
  • Kill directly (Num 8:17)

But he chose not to do this to the Canaanites, in order to test the Israelites:

I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the LORD as their fathers did, or not.” So the LORD left those nations, not driving them out quickly, and he did not give them into the hand of Joshua.” (Jdg 2:21-23).

They failed the test too:

So the people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. (Jdg 3:5-7).

Secondly, making the Israelites the instruments for His judgement on the Cananites, God also passed on a message to the Israelites as to what will be their outcome when they repeat the sins of the Cananites. They would have witnessed first-hand and therefore have no excuse. Israel’s response to Canaanite sin is a parable of how their own sinfulness empowered them to ape the sin of the Canaanites and thereby procure God’s judgment on them. For God does not show favoritism. Israel was warned not to let the Canaanites live in their land, but to completely destroy them (Exod. 23:33; Deut. 20:16–18), lest the Israelites learn the Canaanite ways (Exod. 34:15–16). If they did not destroy them, the land would “vomit” them out just as it had vomited out the Canaanites (Num. 33:56; Lev. 18:28; Deut 4:23–29, 8:19–20).

Instead, the Israelites worshiped the Canaanites’ gods and “did evil” (Judg. 10:6; 1 Kings 14:22; 2 Kings 17:10). They had “male shrine prostitutes” (1 Kings 14:22), committed acts of “lewdness,” adultery, and incest (Jer. 5:7; 29:23; Hos. 4:13–14; Ezek. 22:10–11; Amos 2:7), and even Solomon set up an altar to Molech (1 Kings 11:5, 7–8). But instead of repenting when things went badly, they concluded that their misfortune was because they stopped burning incense to “the Queen of Heaven,” Inanna/Ishtar (Jer. 44:18). So the Lord said that Israel became “like Sodom to me” (Jer. 23:14). In short, Israel was Canaanized.

Although prophets warned the northern kingdom (usually referred to as Israel or Samaria) of impending doom, they didn’t repent, and in 722 BC the king of Assyria killed or deported most of them, and filled the land with conquered peoples from other nations. Similarly, the southern tribes (usually referred to as Judah) were deported when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem beginning in 586 BC. Just as God had demonstrated his knowledge of who would repent in the Canaanite cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, before he destroyed Jerusalem He told Jeremiah that if He could find even one righteous person He would spare the entire city (Jer. 5:1).

 

Then how is Christianity different from Islam

 

Now how does all this relate to Islamic jihad?  Islam sees violence as a means of propagating the Muslim faith.  Islam divides the world into two camps:  the dar al-Islam (House of Submission) and the dar al-harb (House of War).  The former are those lands which have been brought into submission to Islam; the latter are those nations which have not yet been brought into submission.  This is how Islam actually views the world!

By contrast, the conquest of Canaan represented God’s just judgment upon those peoples.  The purpose was not at all to get them to convert to Judaism!  War was not being used as an instrument of propagating the Jewish faith.  Moreover, the slaughter of the Canaanites represented an unusual historical circumstance, not a regular means of behavior.

One of the greatest difference is in the way they treated female captives. We read in Deut 21:10-14

When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.

Compare this with the verses from the Quran and the Sahih Hadiths, Muhammad actually encouraged the rape of others captured in battle. This hadith provides the context for the Quranic verse (4:24)

The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) sent a military expedition to Awtas on the occasion of the battle of Hunain.  They met their enemy and fought with them.  They defeated them and took them captives. Some of the Companions of the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) were reluctant to have intercourse with the female captives in the presence of their husbands who were unbelievers.  So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Qur’anic verse: (Sura 4:24) “And all married women (are forbidden) unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess.” (Abu Dawud 2150, also Sahih Muslim 3433)

Actually, as the hadith indicates, it wasn’t Muhammad, but “Allah the Exalted” who told the men to rape the women in front of their husbands – which is all the more reason to think of Islam differently from other religions. Note that the followers of Muhammad were more sensitive and were hesitating to rape the women in front of their husbands… until given the “halaal” sign by Muhammad. Some apologist in the vain attempt to defend the indefensible stand of Islam, say that the Arabic version of the Sahih Muslim do not contain the words “in presence of”… so, as per Islam, rape of women captives immediately after capturing them makes it fine as long as the husbands were not around to watch the act?

Note also that the husbands of these unfortunate victims were obviously alive after battle.  This is important because it flatly contradicts those apologists who like to argue that the women Muhammad enslaved were widowed and thus unable to fend for themselves.  (Even if the apologists were right, what sort of a moral code is it that forces a widow to choose between being raped and starving?)

There are several other episodes in which Muhammad is offered the clear opportunity to disavow raping women – yet he instead offers “halaal advice” on how to proceed.  In one case, his men were reluctant to devalue their new slaves for later resale by getting them pregnant.  Muhammad was asked about coitus interruptus in particular:

O Allah’s Apostle! We get female captives as our share of booty, and we are interested in their prices, what is your opinion about coitus interruptus?”  The Prophet said, “Do you really do that? It is better for you not to do it. No soul that which Allah has destined to exist, but will surely come into existence.” (Bukhari 34:432)

As indicated, the prophet of Islam did not mind his men raping the women, provided they ejaculated within the bodies of their victims. Note, these verses clearly show the code of war as followed by the Israelites which mandated that the Israelites marry the women, give them time of one month to grieve separation from their families and finally, they cannot be sold and if the Israelite doesn’t want the woman anymore, then he has to let her go free. Compare this to Islam’s code of war “capture women, rape them in front of their husbands, then retain them as sex slaves and then sell them off as sex slaves”.

The problem with Islam, then, is not that it has got the wrong moral theory; it’s that it has got the wrong God.  If the Muslim thinks that our moral duties are constituted by God’s commands, then I agree with him.  But Muslims and Christians differ radically over God’s nature.  Christians believe that God is all-loving, while Muslims believe that God loves only Muslims.  Allah has no love for unbelievers and sinners.  Therefore, they can be killed indiscriminately.  Moreover, in Islam God’s omnipotence trumps everything, even His own nature.  He is therefore utterly arbitrary in His dealing with mankind.  By contrast Christians hold that God’s holy and loving nature determines what He commands.

The question, then, is not whose moral theory is correct, but which is the true God?

 

REFERENCES:

 

[1] For the story of Baal having sex with Asherah, see: “El, Ashertu and the Storm-god,” trans. Albrecht Goetze, ed. James B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East: Supplementary Texts and Pictures Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, 1969), 519.

[2] W. F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan: A Historical Analysis of Two Contrasting Faiths (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1968), 145.

[3] Harry A. Hoffner, Jr., “Incest, Sodomy and Bestiality in the Ancient Near East,” in Orient and Occident: Essays Presented to Cyrus H. Gordon on the Occasion of His Sixty-fifth Birthday, ed. Harry A. Hoffner, Jr. (Neukirchen Vluyn, Germany: Neukirchener Verlag, 1973), 82

[4] See the Papyrus Chester Beatty III recto (BM10683) from about 1175 BC as referenced in Lise Manniche, Sexual Life in Ancient Egypt (London: Routledge, 1987), 100.

[5] Gwendolyn Leick, Sex and Eroticism in Mesopotamian Literature (New York: Routledge, 1994), 57.

[6] Martti Nissinen, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World: A Historical Perspective, trans. Kirsi Stjerna (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998), 33.

[7] John Gray, The Legacy of Canaan (Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1965), 101–2.

[8] John Gray, The Legacy of Canaan (Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1965), 101.

[9] See Ulf Oldenburg, The Conflict between El and Ba‘al in Canaanite Religion (Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1969), 172.

[10] John Day, Molech: A God of Human Sacrifice in the Old Testament (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1989), 62.

[11] Shelby Brown, Late Carthaginian Child Sacrifice and Sacrificial Monuments in Their Mediterranean Context (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic, 1991), 14.

[12] Kleitarchos, Scholia on Plato’s Republic 337A as quoted in Day, 87.

[13] Stephanie Dalley, “Erra and Ishum IV,” Myths from Mesopotamia (Oxford: Oxford University, 1989), 305

[14] Hoffner, 82. HL §§ 187–88, 199

[15] Hoffner, 85

[16] Mark S. Smith, trans. Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, ed. Simon B. Parker (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1997), 148

[17] Hoffner, 82.

[18] Manniche, 102.

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