Thursday, August 07, 2008

Old Testament Violence (10) - Joshua at Jericho

Joshua was much more violent than God. When he was leading the people against Jericho, God gave him very precise instructions.

Then the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in" (Jos 6:2-5).
God said they should march round and shout and blast trumpets. He said they should go “straight in”. However, God did not tell Joshua to kill and destroy the inhabitants of Jericho.

Joshua told the Israelites to destroy the inhabitants of the city.
Joshua commanded the people, "Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent (Jos 6:16,17).
Joshua told the people that only Rahab should be spared. There is no record of God telling Joshua to give a command to destroy the inhabitants.

Joshua went even further and vowed that anyone who did not join in the destruction of Jericho would be under a curse.
Abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it (Jos 6:18).
Joshua went beyond what God commanded. God had told them to destroy the idols and altars, but he had not bound them under a curse. Joshua commanded Israel to destroy everything and put them under a curse if they disobeyed. Achan caused problems for Israel, not because he had disobeyed God, but because he failed to honour the vow that Joshua had made on behalf of the Israelites (Jos 7).

When Achan’s actions were revealed, God did not accuse Israel of disobedience, but failure to keep the covenant.
Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep (Jos 7:11).
There was nothing in the covenant that forbade him plundering of silver and gold that was not part of an idol. However, Achan failed to fulfil the vow made on his behalf by Joshua. The curse came because he broke this vow.

The Israelites obeyed Joshua and slaughtered the people of Jericho.
They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys….Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD's house (Jos 6:21,24).
The people of Jericho were massacred, but there is no evidence that God intended this to happen.

God’s plan was that the people of Jericho would flee the city. Those who survived the earthquake and collapsing walls would have been trembling in fear. They would have done a runner as soon as the Israelites came in over the collapsed wall. God wanted the people of Jericho to leave the city and flee the land. Joshua slaughtered them before they could flee. He was more violent than God had intended.


Anonymous said...

Interesting interpretation you have there. Was omniscient God surprised by Joshua's actions? It's a pretty big deal every inhabitant in a city is murdered. God didn't know that was coming?

You claim that Joshua was even MORE violent than the God who brought the Great Flood, once again leading to the the death of all except one family. That's pretty violent. Why would god accept such a violent leader?

Finally, why does it take YOUR interpretation to discern God's intentions and feelings? The story of Joshua clearly reads as a heroic one. Few people reading it get the idea that there was anything wrong with slaughtering the inhabitants, whose transgression was that they were on land that the Israelites wanted. Why couldn't God say that Joshua went overboard, and that he was not pleased?

God's silence says a lot more than your apologia.

Ron McK said...

Discering God's intentions and feelings does not require my interpretation. Jesus made God's heart clear. Joshua did not know Jesus, so he did not fully understand God.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute. Unless you're a polytheist, Jesus is God. Are you saying that God was defective before Jesus walked the Earth? If so, then why do you waste your time apologizing for the cruel, bloodthirsty god of the Old Testament?

Consider this:

“Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” (Numbers 31:17-18)

How do you paper that over?

Where does it say in the NT that Jesus thinks all that was a big mistake? Rather, he said that noting he said changed the law. The people who were slaughtered violated the first Commandment.

If it's valid, then the violence of radical Islamists is also justified.


[By the way, there is a serious flaw in your defense of deflation, but I'm not sure where to discuss that.]

Lodatz said...

Another classic defense of the Jericho massacre is that God had been waiting for the Canaanites to turn completely to Sin, so that he could justify their destruction and/or displacement. That's, supposedly, the whole reason he sent the Israelites to Egypt in the first place.

So, two problems:

1) If he's God, why does he need to wait until they've become ultra-sinful? Why not just nip the problem in the bud if he can see where it's going?

2) If he's God, why can he not just reveal himself to the Canaanites and steer them towards goodness and piety?

We are talking about someone who can create a world in 6 days, we should remember. Did he run out of gas?