Past representations of Genocide

Right, this is another ‘back of the mind’ project that peoples thoughts just finally forced out.
This idea had its roots years ago when I was in a church youth group, and unlike other people I used to occasionally read the Bible. One of the things I noticed was that Moses ordered a genocide against the people living in Palestine at that time. It was not just a war of conquest but a war of extermination.
It was worse than the Nazi attack on Russia because the SS only wanted to kill communists, Jews and anyone who resisted. Whereas Moses wanted everyone dead. I found this quite disturbing, but I don’t think I ever asked anyone about it, and so was never able to get the standard reply. Cos there must be a standard reply for anyone who asks about the killing and the raping and the stoning and whatever else right? Without knowing what the standard reply is I can make up some replies and see how they fare.

First of all you could say that those people deserved to die, that they must have been doing wicked things etc, but if this was so then aside from the question of why these things would deserve the death of the entire population including the children, why did God not merely tell the Israelites to capture the cities, and then instruct the people in the right way?

You could say that God has changed his mind on the question of mass killing of entire populations, and ethnic groups, but that back then he was OK with it. This raises the problem of God changing over time when he is supposed to be unchanging.

You could say that Moses was doing his own thing, and that it was not infact divinely inspired which raises the problem of why it is in the Bible, presented as though he’s doing the right thing.

Related to the previous point if you were a Christian you could more or less reject all that Old Testament stuff as basically the wrong way of doing things and say that only the New Testament teachings have to be regarded. But I can see no Biblical authority for disregarding the Old Testament laws, and using it for instance as only a source of prophesy to the birth of Christ.
Infact according to the the New testament itself, Jesus says in Matthew 17:
“Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them but to make their teachings come true.”
I suppose you could try to wriggle out of the Old Testament laws for almost all Christians by saying that they were only for God’s chosen people (the Jews) but not for us. However this isn’t that kind of theological discussion. The essential point is that Jesus endorsed every aspect of Moses’s teaching as divinely instructed, so anyone who follows Jesus must think that those teachings are good teachings.

The genocide

The genocide is hidden in plain view, in the Bible:

The roots of the Israeli genocide starts numbers 13 when they scout ot the land that they’ve ‘been given by god’

13:30 Then Caleb made signs to the people to keep quiet, and said to Moses, Let us go up straight away and take this land; for we are well able to overcome it.
Then there is a fraterisation incident in numbers 25.

25:1 Now when Israel was living in Shittim the people became false to the Lord, doing evil with the daughters of Moab:

25:5 So Moses said to the judges of Israel, Let everyone put to death those of his men who have had relations with the women of Moab in honour of the Baal of Peor.

Numbers 31 is where it starts to turn rather nasty.

31:7 And they made war on Midian, as the Lord gave orders to Moses; and they put to death every male.
31:8 They put the kings of Midian to death with the rest, Evi and Reken and Zur and Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian: and Balaam, the son of Beor, they put to death with the sword.
31:9 The women of Midian with their little ones the children of Israel took prisoner; and all their cattle and flocks and all their goods they took for themselves;
31:10 And after burning all their towns and all their tent-circles,
31:11 They went away with the goods they had taken, man and beast.
31:12 And the prisoners and the goods and everything they had taken, they took to Moses and Eleazar the priest and the people of Israel, to the tent-circle in the lowlands of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.
31:13 Then Moses and Eleazar the priest and the chiefs of the people went out to them before they had come into the tent-circle.
31:14 And Moses was angry with the chiefs of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds who had come back from the war.
31:15 And Moses said to them, Why have you kept all the women safe?
31:16 It was these who, moved by Balaam, were the cause of Israel’s sin against the Lord in the question of Peor, because of which disease came on the people of the Lord.
31:17 So now put every male child to death, and every woman who has had sex relations with a man.
31:18 But all the female children who have had no sex relations with men, you may keep for yourselves.

So at this point, killing most of the people is only a totally fair retibution for the fact that those people had friendly relations with the Isralites but still the young women are kept for sex.

2:25 From now on I will put the fear of you in all peoples under heaven, who, hearing of you, will be shaking with fear and grief of heart because of you.

[I would be afraid.]

2:31 And the Lord said to me, See, from now on I have given Sihon and his land into your hands: go forward now to take his land and make it yours.
2:32 Then Sihon came out against us with all his people, to make an attack on us at Jahaz.
2:33 And the Lord our God gave him into our hands; and we overcame him and his sons and all his people.
2:34 At that time we took all his towns, and gave them over to complete destruction, together with men, women, and children; we had no mercy on any:
2:35 Only the cattle we took for ourselves, with the goods from the towns we had taken.

So things have developed now. Everyone is being killed, but happily for them the cattle are still being left alive.

Then in Deuteronomy 7 and 9 is like that conference that the Nazis had to decide on how the holocaust was to proceed. It is here that they go totally beyond the ordinary tribal conquest rules of kill all the men, and take the women. The rule now is kill everyone and destroy everything. The peoples to be exterminated are listed, and the justification for extermination given.

7:1 When the Lord your God takes you into the land where you are going, which is to be your heritage, and has sent out the nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you;
7:2 And when the Lord has given them up into your hands and you have overcome them, give them up to complete destruction: make no agreement with them, and have no mercy on them:
7:3 Do not take wives or husbands from among them; do not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons.
7:4 For through them your sons will be turned from me to the worship of other gods: and the Lord will be moved to wrath against you and send destruction on you quickly.
7:5 But this is what you are to do to them: their altars are to be pulled down and their pillars broken, and their holy trees cut down and their images burned with fire.
7:6 For you are a holy people to the Lord your God: marked out by the Lord your God to be his special people out of all the nations on the face of the earth.
Deut 20:10 says that if you decide to attack a city that’s outside the area of territorial conquest (ie a raiding party) then you should give then a chance to surrender first and if they do then you enslave the people. if they do not then you must kill the men but you can do whatever you like with the women and children.

20:10 When you come to a town, before attacking it, make an offer of peace.
20:11 And if it gives you back an answer of peace, opening its doors to you, then all the people in it may be put to forced work as your servants.
20:12 If however it will not make peace with you, but war, then let it be shut in on all sides:
20:13 And when the Lord your God has given it into your hands, let every male in it be put to death without mercy.
20:14 But the women and the children and the cattle and everything in the town and all its wealth, you may take for yourselves: the wealth of your haters, which the Lord your God has given you, will be your food.
20:15 So you are to do to all the towns far away, which are not the towns of these nations.

Then in Deut 20:16 it goes on to say that for cities which are in the areas that are going to be settled everyone must be killed because otherwise there is a risk that some of their cultural practices might be adopted.
In 20:17 Five different peoples are listed for extermination. This is genocide. There’s just no other way to put it. They’ve been given orders for a campaign of extermination

20:16 But in the towns of these peoples whose land the Lord your God is giving you for your heritage, let no living thing be kept from death:

20:17 Give them up to the curse; the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, as the Lord your God has given you orders:

20:18 So that you may not take them as your example and do all the disgusting things which they do in the worship of their gods, so sinning against the Lord your God.
If you’re going to pick up a bible and look at this stuff there is a difference in the translations that you might need to be aware of e.g:

Deut 21:10 says in the King James version:

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; The thou shall bring her home to thy house; and she shall shave her head and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shall go 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 shall let her go whither she will; but thou shall not sell her at all for money, thou shall not make merchandise of her, because thou has humbled her.

Well that was very nice.

But the Today’s English Version translation is somewhat more blunt:

When the lord gives you victory in battle and you take prisoners, you may see among them a beautiful woman that you like and want to marry. Take her to your home, where she will shave her head, cut her fingernails, and change her clothes. She is to stay in you home and mourn for her parents for a month; After that, you may marry her. later if you no longer want her, you are to let her go free. Since you forced her to have intercourse with you, you cannot treat her as a slave and sell her.

But it doesn’t stop with Moses – it only starts there. Moses merely makes the template for others like Joshua to follow.

Joshua was a ruthless madman. After the destrucion of Jericho, where “With their swords they killed everyone in the city men women, children, young and old.” It wasn’t enough so “They also killed the cattle sheep and donkeys” Joshua 6:21.

This was the the start of a systematic extermination of the people of the area.

8:24 Then, after the destruction of all the people of Ai in the field and in the waste land where they went after them, and when all the people had been put to death without mercy, all Israel went back to Ai, and put to death all who were in it without mercy.
8:25 On that day twelve thousand were put to death, men and women, all the people of Ai.
8:26 For Joshua did not take back his hand with the outstretched spear till the destruction of the people of Ai was complete.

This is interesting because it actually gives numbers of people killed. After that it’s like no one bothered keeping score, but if every town they attacked had roughly the same population then you would come out with a figure of around 100,000 dead in the campaign which proceeded as follows:

10:28 That day Joshua took Makkedah, and put it and its king to the sword; every soul in it he gave up to the curse without mercy: and he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho.
10:29 Then Joshua and all Israel with him went on from Makkedah and came to Libnah, and made an attack on it;
10:30 And again the Lord gave it and its king into the hands of Israel; and he put it and every person in it to the sword, till their destruction was complete; and he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.
10:31 Then Joshua and all Israel with him went on from Libnah to Lachish, and took up their position against it and made an attack on it,
10:32 And the Lord gave Lachish into the hands of Israel, and on the second day he took it, putting it and every person in it to the sword without mercy, as he had done to Libnah.
10:33 Then Horam, king of Gezer, came up to the help of Lachish; and Joshua overcame him and his people, putting all of them to death.
10:34 And Joshua and all Israel with him went on from Lachish to Eglon: and they took up their position against it and made an attack on it; 10:35 And that day they took it, putting it and every person in it to the sword, as he had done to Lachish.
10:36 And Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron, and made an attack on it;
10:37 And took it, overcoming it and putting it and its king and its towns and every person in it to the sword: as he had done to Eglon, he put them all to death, and gave it up to the curse with every person in it.
10:38 And Joshua and all Israel with him went on to make an attack on Debir; 10:39 And he took it, with its king and all its towns: and he put them to the sword, giving every person in it to the curse; all were put to death: as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir and its king.
10:40 So Joshua overcame all the land, the hill-country and the South and the lowland and the mountain slopes, and all their kings; all were put to death: and every living thing he gave up to the curse, as the Lord, the God of Israel, had given him orders.
10:41 Joshua overcame them from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza, and all the land of Goshen as far as Gibeon.
10:42 And all these kings and their land Joshua took at the same time, because the Lord, the God of Israel, was fighting for Israel.
10:43 Then Joshua and all Israel with him went back to their tents at Gilgal.

11:10 At that time, Joshua went on to take Hazor and put its king to the sword: for in earlier times Hazor was the chief of all those kingdoms.
11:11 And they put every person in it to death without mercy, giving every living thing up to the curse, and burning Hazor.
11:12 And all the towns of these kings, and all the kings, Joshua took, and put them to the sword: he gave them up to the curse, as Moses, the servant of the Lord, had said.
11:13 As for the towns made on hills of earth, not one was burned by Israel but Hazor, which was burned by Joshua.
11:14 And all the goods taken from these towns, and their cattle, the children of Israel kept for themselves; but every man they put to death without mercy, till their destruction was complete, and there was no one living.
11:15 As the Lord had given orders to Moses his servant, so Moses gave orders to Joshua, and so Joshua did; every order which the Lord had given to Moses was done.

“Their destruction was complete, and there was no one living.” How did he do it? Well basically the Israelites were one big tribal grouping and they just picked each independent city off one by one. If they had all come to each other’s aid in the beginning it would have been impossible. Cities would have had other cities attack them but the Israelites were swarming like bees – there’s no way anyone could stop them.
The first place to start for genocide is the Old Testament. I don’t know of an older account of genocidal practice. Does this make genocide a Jewish idea? Try saying that and see where it gets you. Well they probably weren’t the first to do this kind of thing, but their writings promoting it are in the most influential book of all time.


I went in search of some kind of response to this and found this on the website where the bibles are hosted:

As to the extermination of foes, Israel had to remember that punitive war was in the interests of religion and morality and therefore her soldiers were to act, not as murderers, but as God-appointed executioners of divine judgment upon gross idolatry and iniquity (Deuteronomy 7). War was to be viewed as divine surgery for the cutting off of evil wickedness that would defile the rest of the world. God still uses nations today to execute wrath on evil according to Romans 13.

So here far from apologising for the genocide it is being promoted, it is justified on the basis of divine retribution for sin among these peoples. But all that “gross idolatry and iniquity” means is that they had a different religion. So they were being punished for not following the commands of a God that they’d never even heard of.

And how does this square with the Israelites being God’s chosen people? Those other people never even had a chance. They were just sitting on this piece of land that the Israelites wanted, and therefore they were somehow worse than other people because of that. It’s not even an argument. It’s just so obvious that it’s something we should find unacceptable.

It is interesting that Moses does have to provide some sort of explanation as to why they’re killing everyone rather than taking them as slaves and ‘wives’ as was the usual practice.

What would you do about Moses today? What if the UN heard that a tribal leader had urged his tribe to wipe out all the members of some other tribes, saying that it was the will of God? I think there would be a call for intervention. Peacekeepers would be called in. So basically we have one rule for the past and another for the present. You can go into court and swear to tell the truth by placing your hand on a tale of mass murder, but if those same events happen today then it’s an outrage.

The only conclusion I can reach out of all this is that if most people in the West worship a Judeo-Christian god then they worship a god of genocide. Either that or they don’t believe their holy books!
God has sinned, and his sin is most grievous. The question is whether God can ever be forgiven for these acts of genocide?


10 thoughts on “Genocide

  1. Your post is long and I didn’t read all of it, but I assume I get the general idea. I will answer.

    The people who were supposed to be killed were those who would inevitably attack the religion of the Israelites. Moses was trying to get a rather pathetic group of former slaves to behave based his religious teachings. This was a fragile thing, very easy to be corrupted and destroyed by outside influences. The Midianites actually acted on this directly and tried to corrupt the Israelites, so they had to be destroyed. You asked why these people couldn’t be instructed to change their ways. Unlike the unfounded optimism of Christianity and modern culture, the Old Testament recognizes that most people are hopeless. Decent people must find some means, any means, to remove the corrupt masses from their lives.

    The other nations living in Israel at this time were well aware that the Israelites were coming to take the land. They could simply leave, they could stay and surrender and become laborers (not quite slaves), or they could fight. The law of the Torah was designed to encourage these people to leave, or if they didn’t leave, then to surrender.

    It is important to understand that the Old Testament is tribal and recognizes that most tribes are worthless. Unlike modern culture, the Old Testament RIGHTLY assigns no intrinsic worth to human life. People acquire value by being part of a sound culture. If people aren’t part of a sound culture, then they have less value than animals. To verify this, visit a local mall and a local farm and tell me which creatures seem more reasonable, the humans in the mall or the animals on the farm.

    • Thanks for your comment! First off, as a moral nihilist I take no position on the rights and wrongs of genocide. My point was merely that people in the Abrahamic religions would tend to think that God was against it or at least that it’s not religiously permissible, whereas I believe that is not the case.

      Your response indicates that you don’t have a particular problem with genocide therefore the main thrust of the post would be lost on you.

      Moreover I believe that for 99 people out of 100 if you asked them if they condemn genocide they would say “yes”. The post was to challenge them on that basis. You might say “not necessarily” but I don’t know if you really live that belief.
      You say “Decent people must find some means, any means, to remove the corrupt masses from their lives.” That seems like quite an extreme statement and I don’t know whether you would stand by it in reality? If you went down to said mall and someone started shooting would you call out “Hey brother, is this a random thing or are you just removing the corrupt masses from out lives?”

      I don’t care so much what your response is on this, but rather that it is logically consistent.

      On the issue of “People acquire value by being part of a sound culture”, that may well be true subjectively although it is hard to argue objective value. If you have a means of doing this please let me know.

      • This seems like a good topic for discussion for now, though I will look through the rest of your blog next shabbat.

        There are (at least) 3 Abrahamic religions. Most of your experience with Abrahamic religions probably comes from Christians, but please don’t let this distort your overall view. Unlike Christianity, both Islam and Judaism understand that genocide is sometimes required.

        There is no way for me to “live this belief” since there is no practical implication for my regular life.

        On the other hand “Decent people must find some means, any means, to remove the corrupt masses from their lives” is something that I do apply to my life. I interact with the modern world as little as possible. I have no television. I work from home and I homeschool my kids.

        If I was in a mall (a very unlikely event) and someone started shooting, I would simply run for my life. I value my life and don’t care about what happens to the masses.

        I don’t believe in objective value. I don’t even believe in objective truth. I am a relativist. However I can give a fairly objective definition of “sound culture”. A sound culture is one where people actually care for each other and help each other. Note that how they treat outsiders is absolutely irrelevant. Such a culture is objectively sound in the sense that humans are tribal and a sound tribe is one that has the attributes required for its own survival. Cooperation within the tribe is the key for tribal survival.

        Now a question for you. You say you are a moral nihilist. So would you kill a friend to take his money if you could get away with it?

      • It seems to me that if I was to ask the average Jew or or average Muslim “is genocide sometimes required?” They would say no. In fact I think if you went to Israel and promoted that idea you would probably be arrested. If I am correct in this why is this the case?

        I think it is possible for a person or a small group of people to commit genocide in this day and age however I don’t feel at liberty to explain how, nor do I recommend it.

        If your definition of a sound culture is true then that means that a whole lot of sound cultures have been annihilated by coming up against corrupt western culture.

        I think I’ve already answered your question about whether I would kill a friend and the answer is “no”. Infact I wouldn’t even kill a stranger to take his money if I could get away with it. So how am I still a moral nihilist? Well aside from the issues of cultural normativity and having to do killing, I’m technically an Informationist and killing someone would destroy their information and before I did that I would have to know whether the destruction of their information that is identical to mine would be outweighed by the benefit that I would gain from the reallocation of their wealth to me.

      • I said Judaism and Islam, not Jew and Muslim. The average Jew doesn’t really practice Judaism. I don’t know enough about the Muslim world to comment. Islam itself very clearly allows genocide (of non-monotheists). And Orthodox Judaism has no concern at all for non-Jews one way or the other.

        There is a long lag between morality and its effect on culture. This is another point that the Old Testament stresses. Western culture was highly moral and cooperative until recently. Now it is unsound and so it is doomed. But its demise may take a century or two. The cultures that were wiped out by Western culture were less sound than Western culture was.

        I admit that my definition was a little simplistic and that there are other factors to a sound culture. But I think it generally works.

        Going back to your morality, would you steal all of your friend’s money?

      • Ok, well I wouldn’t steal all of my friend’s money but that has nothing to do with morality. What that has to do with is practical self interest and personal emotion.

        To be clear, I am culturally liberal and post christian in my ethics although I know that it has no intellectual basis i.e the kind of thing that Richard Dawkins says when he calls himself a ‘cultural christian’. At one stage I was powerfully interested in attacking liberalism intellectually, although these days I have bigger fish to fry. So I may as well make that kind of stuff public domain. It’s still all basically true, it’s just not the number one issue for me anymore. I understand that it may be important for a tiny percentage of non-religious conservatives of which you may sort of be a member and I am willing to promote it on that basis.

        The one thing I don’t understand is why people always seem to become liberal if they reject religion. Why can’t they become atheists without adopting a new religion? Is it really that hard?

      • Practical self interest and personal emotion is the basis of everything including morality. Morality is an emotion, and you seem to have it. (Not everyone does, psychopaths don’t.) So you are being intellectually dishonest, or at least inconsistent, by calling yourself a moral nihilist.

        I don’t know what you mean when you say that you are culturally liberal. Does that mean you support feminism? Because that is what I think of when I think of cultural liberalism.

        You asked why people always seem to become liberal if they reject religion. The answer, of course, is that liberalism is religion. It is just a variant of the religion of decadence/evil that affected every declining culture in history. This variant combines Plato with Protestantism. But those are details. Do you really expect people to think for themselves? That is absurd, humans are tribal meaning herd animals. You cannot change the basic nature of the species.

  2. For sure I have what may be called “moral sentiments” but this is different from morality per say as an intellectual task. It’s all to do with meta-ethics and complicated things like that. So I’m being intellectually honest.
    It is also the same with being culturally liberal, which basically means I act as a liberal but I don’t actually believe it.
    The same with feminism I don’t believe it but I act as if I do.
    When said something along the lines of “why do people always seem to become liberal if they reject religion?” It was more on an exasperation than a serious question. As far as it’s true it’s only true in this society as opposed to humanity in general. Obviously Chinese communists didn’t become liberal.
    I know that liberalism is a religion – I worked that out for myself many years ago! And I think you’re absolutely right about protestantism and Plato but I would also make a further claim that what people call ‘Atheism’ in the modern world is also a religion as far as it is anything at all. Infact I think it is a further reformation of existent protestantism and Christianity in general. Specifically it is Christianity with one less God or possibly two less depending on your view of the trinity. Liberalism and most western forms of Atheism is like if someone didn’t believe in God or Jesus but kept on believing that the Holy Spirit was in people, although of course it is never formulated in that way.
    I’ll have to do a post on the subject.
    You say that you don’t expect people to think for themselves. In that case what is the point of your trying to reach people?

    • What is my point in trying to reach people? Until recently, I thought that out of 7 billion people on earth, there ought to be at least 10 capable of understanding and I was looking for them. I have recently changed my mind on this, I no longer believe there exist 10 people capable of understanding. So I have recently cut way back on posting to the internet. My goal now is try to try to elevate at least a few people to the moral level of dogs. In this goal, I am mostly focused on local Christians.

      • Well, that’s very amusing. Actually I think there are probably millions of people *capable* of understanding what you’re promoting but only some care to and even fewer that actually believe it. Either that or you’re saying that you’re the most intelligent person on the internet – and I hope you’re not saying that!
        These things take time as I myself have found out. Think about your situation – a nobody like me trying to promote something on the internet and compare it with the situation of people with actual social and intellectual capital and there’s plenty of those people who can’t get any traction inspite of it.
        I have already profiled Derek Ellis who was Professor of Biology University of Victoria, British Columbia Canada
        Nobody listens to him either, and he has academic credentials behind him.
        So don’t feel too bad about it. Local Christians are probably a good place to start though, as they already believe one fairly outlandish myth.

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