Admin Note: This is our first guest post from Mormon Heretic.
When most of us hear the word “jihad” or “holy war”, we immediately know that a jihad is not what God wants. Most of us feel the same when we hear the word “crusade.” Really, does anyone think God wants people to fight in his name?
In the book of Joshua, Joshua claims to be commanded by God to destroy everyone and everything in what is now the land of Israel.
“And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.
So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded. And Joshua smote them from Kadesh-barnea even unto Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even unto Gibeon.” (Joshua 10:40-41)
In an interesting twist, the prophet Jonah wanted God to destroy the city of Nineveh, yet God felt those people were to be spared. Were the Ninevites really more righteous than the Jericho-ites? Does God command genocide, yesterday, today, or in the future?
First, let’s go back about 400 years or so before the time of Joshua, to the time of Joseph, Israel, and the 12 tribes. Israel and his sons left the “chosen land” of their own free will. They were not forced out of the land by foreign invaders. They were forced out by drought.
As we know, Joseph was sold into Egypt as a slave, and then ended up saving the whole family of Israel. Israel, and his sons freely settled in Goshen, Egypt. They liked the place so much, that they had no desire to leave.
Probably due to changes in the government, and the Israelites growing numbers, the Israelites were later viewed as a threat, and ended up becoming slaves to the Egyptians, so the nation of Israel (which was formerly just a really big family) longed to return to the “promised land.” Of course, this brings up the whole Exodus story, and wandering for 40 years, etc.
So they left the “promised land” for 400 years, which was resettled by 6 nations. I’d say that if Israel really wanted the land back, they should have returned after the 7 years of drought-they’d have a much stronger claim than waiting 400 years.
Ok, so now the land is occupied by these six “squatters.” Are they are just supposed to get up and leave because Moses/Joshua said so? A modern equivalent would be the Muslims claim that God wanted people to fly planes into the world trade center. Just as Christians and Jews just don’t understand “God’s will,” from the Muslim point of view, these six squatter nations didn’t understand “God’s will” telling them to pick up and leave the promised land.
How did Joshua negotiate? Cleon Skousen justifies Joshua’s actions by saying,
“each city or tribe was given the opportunity to submit peacefully and become citizens of Israel with the condition that they would follow the rules and laws set forth by the new central kingdom, including giving up their idolatry and immorality.”
Excuse me? They’ve lived there for at least 300 years, and now Joshua tells them to submit peacefully? What kind of negotiation is that? It sounds suspiciously like Jihad or Crusader “convert or die” kinds of negotiation. If someone gave me that kind of a choice, I’d probably put up a fight too.
Some scholars claim that Joshua and Moses never existed. The accounts of the Old Testament (especially those of the Pentateuch) were not written until centuries after their narratives had ended. Most of these were carried on through oral tradition and were later compiled into a written and collaborated form.
Scholars, such as William Dever of the University or Arizona, claim that (http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/11/18/1679514.aspx) the Land of Canaan was not taken over by conquest – rather, the Israelites actually might have been Canaanites who migrated into the highlands and created a new identity for themselves. “Joshua really didn’t fight the Battle of Jericho,” Dever said. These scholars say the Exodus never happened, but was invented to create a new identity for a new group of people, with the new religion of Yahweh.
I know there is some problems of dating the city of Jericho to the time of Joshua. However, in my mind, it seems as if Joshua (or whoever he really represents) is glorifying war. From that point of view, I have no reason to doubt that the Israelites probably used God as a weapon to destroy their enemies, whether they were fellow Semites or the six heathen nations. I see this reasoning as very similar to the Crusades, and Jihad, and have no reason to doubt whether genocide happened in the time of Joshua. It seems that the story of Jericho is a way the Jews used God to justify atrocities.
My take is that Joshua was a prophet. He felt he was inspired. However, I do not feel that God wanted all the inhabitants killed. I do not think God ever commands genocide, and I feel that this action was wrong by Joshua.