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 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. http://www.o-bible.com/cgibin/ob.cgi?version=bbe&book=num&chapter=13
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. http://www.o-bible.com/cgibin/ob.cgi?version=bbe&book=num&chapter=31
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?