Tag Archives: genocide

Joshua 10 & 11 – None Remaining?

We saw last week that God expressed His Will concerning the Canaanites in terms of devotion to destruction.

  • Deuteronomy 7:2 (ESV) — 2 and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.
  • Deuteronomy 20:16–17 (ESV) — 16 But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, 17 but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded,


What does this “DTD” language mean (quick review)?

  • “The Hebrew phrase for ‘devote to destruction,’ cherem, refers to the destruction of life—human and otherwise—as an act of devotion to Yahweh. The destruction is an act of complete consecration; therefore the verb has a religious connotation: destruction is an act of sacrifice” – Michael Heiser.
  • Or to put another way, destruction can be seen as an “irrevocable surrender to God” of those things that “impede or resist” God’s Work – TWOT.
  • So there is a judicial and religious connotation to “DTD”.


But there is also a brutal implication for the Canaanites.

  • “DTD” meant their violent death.
    • Though, as we saw last week they were not innocent.


In Joshua 10 and 11, “cherem” appears ten times.

  • So ten times we are told that various Canaanite peoples were “DTD”.
  • This of course meant that they were judged and set apart/consecrated to God.


But it also meant that a lot of people died.

  • every person in it; he left none remaining” (10:28)
  • struck it with the edge of the sword, and its king and its towns, and every person in it. He left none remaining” (10:37)
  • every person in it; he left none remaining” (10:39)
  • Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining” (10:40)
  • there was none left that breathed” (11:11)


Previous chapters in Joshua were also full of this kind of language.

  • Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old…” (6:21)
  • And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai” (8:25)


We have already discussed the implications of this “DTD” in previous lessons.

  • How is it that death can be a devotion, for example.
  • And, how do we reconcile a God-sanctioned war.
  • But we haven’t addressed the amount of violence.


About all this violence and death, David Howard notes:

  • “The picture painted in this section is unequivocally one of complete and swift annihilation of people throughout the entire region” – David Howard.
  • He goes to say that the implication of these text is that “Joshua and the Israelites left no survivors in the various cities” – David Howard.


Did the Israelites really leave “none remaining”?

  • And if they didn’t, why does the text appear to say that they did?



Joshua 10:8 (ESV) — 8 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you…the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel (vs. 12)

  • BUT

Joshua 10:20 (ESV) — 20 When Joshua and the sons of Israel had finished striking them with a great blow until they were wiped out, and when the remnant that remained of them had entered into the fortified cities,

Judges 1:35 (ESV) — 35 The Amorites persisted in dwelling in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim, but the hand of the house of Joseph rested heavily on them, and they became subject to forced labor.



Joshua 10:37 (ESV) — 37 and captured it [Hebron] and struck it with the edge of the sword, and its king and its towns, and every person in it. He left none remaining, as he had done to Eglon, and devoted it to destruction and every person in it.

  • BUT

Judges 1:10 (ESV) — 10 And Judah went against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron (now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba), and they defeated Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai.



Joshua 11:3–4 & 8 (ESV) — 3 to the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites in the hill country, and the Hivites under Hermon in the land of Mizpah. 4 And they came out with all their troops, a great horde, in number like the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots…8 And they struck them until he left none remaining.

  • BUT

Judges 1:21 (ESV) — 21 But the people of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem, so the Jebusites have lived with the people of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.



Joshua 11:22 (ESV) — 22 There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the people of Israel [hill country]. Only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod did some remain.

  • BUT

Joshua 14:12 (ESV) — 12 So now give me [Caleb] this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.”


General Citations:

Joshua 10:40 (ESV) — 40 So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the Lord God of Israel commanded.

  • BUT

Judges 2:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? 3 So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.”


So what are we to do with these apparent contradictions?

  • The choices seem to be:
    • (1) Panic and question the inerrancy claim of Scripture.
    • (2) Ignore them.
    • (3) Deny them.
    • (4) Look for a possible explanation.


Clearly (1), (2), and (3) are not the way to go.

  • These choices might very well be signs of a weak and uninformed faith.
  • Our faith should be stronger, more robust and more vigorous than to ever be thrown of course by Scripture itself.


It is always more likely the case that Scriptural concerns are caused by the baggage or assumptions we bring to the way we look at Scripture.

  • We need to remember that Scripture does not neatly fit into our fleshly, self-centered, modern presuppositions.

“We cannot read the Hebrew Bible as if it were journalistic or academic history such as might be written today. Such reading would compromise the intentions, presuppositions, values, and poetics of the literature and its authors” – John Walton.


We are left with choice (4) – look for a possible explanation.

  • And here, we will look for an explanation in an ancient Near Eastern context.


ANE contextual explanation:

What are we trying to do?

  • “When we compare the literature of the ancient Near East with the Bible, we are ultimately trying to recover aspects of the ancient cognitive environment that may help us understand the Israelite perspective a little better. By catching a glimpse of how they thought about themselves and their world, we sometimes discover ways that the Israelites would have thought that differ totally from how we think” – John Walton.
  • The fact that there were ways in which Israelite thinking was totally different from ours is very difficult for many Christians to compute.


One area where this ANE thinking differs from ours is in the use of military language.

  • And it will be here that we will find a possible solution to our problem.


Along with the OT examples under discussion, we need to look at examples outside the OT.

  • This list is lifted in its entirety (verbatim) from Paul Copan’s Is God a Moral Monster?


ANE Examples:

Egypt’s Tuthmosis III (later fifteenth century) boasted that “the numerous army of Mitanni was overthrown within the hour, annihilated totally, like those (now) not existent.”

  • In fact, Mitanni’s forces lived on to fight in the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries BC.


Hittite king Mursilli II (who ruled from 1322–1295 BC) recorded making “Mt. Asharpaya empty (of humanity)” and the “mountains of Tarikarimu empty (of humanity).”

  • The “Bulletin” of Ramses II tells of Egypt’s less-than-spectacular victories in Syria (around 1274 BC). Nevertheless, he announces that he slew “the entire force” of the Hittites, indeed “all the chiefs of all the countries,” disregarding the “millions of foreigners,” which he considered “chaff.”


In the Merneptah Stele (ca. 1230 BC), Rameses II’s son Merneptah announced, “Israel is wasted, his seed is not,”

  • another premature declaration.


Moab’s king Mesha (840/830 BC) bragged that the Northern Kingdom of “Israel has utterly perished for always,”

  • which was over a century premature. The Assyrians devastated Israel in 722 BC.


The Assyrian ruler Sennacherib (701–681 BC) used similar hyperbole: “The soldiers of Hirimme, dangerous enemies, I cut down with the sword; and not one escaped.”


The similarity between the Israel’s OT language and claims and their neighbors is obvious.

  • Does it teach us anything that will help us?


Scholars’ Take:

Scholars suggest that Scripture, like ANE military historiography, is hyperbolic.

  • “Scripture is similar to other ancient historiography in that it may use large numbers hyperbolically in military contexts” – David M. Fouts (JETS 40/3).
  • “Again, the sweeping words ‘all,’ ‘young and old,’ and ‘men and women’ were stock [ANE] expressions for totality, even if women and children weren’t present” – Paul Copan.
  • “Joshua’s conventional warfare rhetoric was common in many other ancient Near Eastern military accounts in the second and first millennia BC. The language is typically exaggerated and full of bravado, depicting total devastation” – Paul Copan.
  • “The author was being hyperbolic here in order to reiterate the theological point made many times in the book that God was indeed giving Israel the entire land” – David Howard.


Can something be hyperbole and historical?

  • Yes.
  • “The use of figurative language, including numerical hyperbole, does not mitigate the historical reliability of an account” – David M Fouts (JETS 40/3).
  • Remember, this is an ANE military account NOT a report from Afghanistan.
  • They had different literary conventions and concerns.
  • It is we moderns who are concerned today about getting casualty reports with exact numbers.


In fact, Richard Averbeck says:

“Yes, it is true that conservative evangelical scholars naturally give the text the benefit of the doubt in terms of historical, theological, and compositional integrity. Guilty as charged! But evangelicals do not see this as an intellectual or methodological weakness. No, it is a strength and, in fact, a critical procedural advantage because we patiently stay with the text, allowing the (re)working of our understanding as we do our research”.


Do Joshua and his book mislead the reader?

  • “Not at all. He was speaking the language that everyone in his day would have understood. Rather than trying to deceive, Joshua was just saying he had fairly well trounced the enemy” – Paul Copan.


In fact, the ANE reader of Joshua and Judges would not be troubled at all with Joshua’s words from Joshua 23.

  • Joshua 23:12–13 (ESV) — 12 For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, 13 know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.
  • Joshua himself “matter-of-factly assumes the continued existence of Canaanite peoples that could pose a threat to Israel” – Paul Copan.
    • The same Joshua that “left none remaining”.


NOTE – An ANE contextual understanding of things like the sun standing still and military language can help clear the way to the Gospel for the skeptical seeker.



Joshua 6 – God-Sanctioned War

Last week we spoke about the Fear of God and the Divine Warrior.

  • We saw that fear of God, submission, worship and obedience are intimately related.
  • We also argued that Jesus is the Divine Warrior – the Angel of the Lord.
  • And that the Divine Warrior – the Cloud Rider – is a polemic against Baal.
  • Today we will talk about the Conquest of Canaan that the Divine Warrior legitimizes.



Throughout history, God’s name has been evoked to justify too many wars and atrocities.

  • Or if not in the name of God, in the name of a moral and just cause.
  • In the OT, and particularly Joshua, all of these claims are put forward to justify the Israelites conquest of Canaan.


Here is one such justification of the conquest:

“She cannot attain her ‘great moral ends’ without increased political power, an enlarged sphere of influence, and new territory. This increase in power, ‘befitting [her] importance,’ and ‘which [she is] entitled to claim,’ is a ‘political necessity’ and ‘the first and foremost duty of the State…What we now wish to attain must be fought for,…Conquest thus becomes a law of necessity’ – Barbara Tuchman quoting General von Bernhardi from The Guns of August.


This particular claim was made by one of the general’s of the Kaiser’s German Army just before the beginning of World War I.

  • We can say with certainty that this justification was complete nonsense.
  • And yet, why is the God sanctioned war of the Israelites not?


Dale Ralph Davis says the following of Joshua’s Conquest:

  • There are many “dilemmas with the conquest”.
  • And to deal with them we “must see the Old Testament’s view”.


So Davis raises two questions.

  • (1) What are the dilemmas of the conquest?
  • (2) What is the OT’s view?


Dilemmas of the Conquest:

One need only look at a few texts of Joshua to see the dilemma.

  • Joshua 8:24–25 (ESV) — 24 When Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai and struck it down with the edge of the sword. 25 And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai.
  • Joshua 10:29–30 (ESV) — 29 Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Makkedah to Libnah and fought against Libnah. 30 And the Lord gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel. And he struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left none remaining in it. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.
  • Joshua 10:34–35 (ESV) — 34 Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Lachish to Eglon. And they laid siege to it and fought against it. 35 And they captured it on that day, and struck it with the edge of the sword. And he devoted every person in it to destruction that day, as he had done to Lachish.
  • Joshua 10:40 (ESV) — 40 So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the Lord God of Israel commanded.


According to the author of Joshua, “the Lord God of Israel commanded” the destruction “with the edge of the sword” all those in the cities they fought against.

  • We are told they left “none remaining”.
  • We are told that “both men and women” were killed.
  • We are told that all inhabitants were to be “devoted to destruction”.


So that is the dilemma.

  • God commanded the killing and displacement of a people – men and women (children?).
  • Israel is killing people because God told them to do so.


BTW – A Texas mother, Deanna Laney, said exactly the same thing as the reason she murdered 2 of her children.

  • She killed them on God’s orders.
  • She was found not guilty by reason of insanity.


So having understood the dilemma, we need to now examine the OT’s take on the conquest.


OT View of the Conquest:

Peter S. Williams says an apologetic for the Conquest begins with two important things.


First –

  • ANE Context – For the Conquest to be properly understood, it must be understood within the context and setting in which it takes place.
  • To read it any other way is not to read it with integrity.
  • Specifically, the context includes:
    • (1) Yahweh is the one true God
    • (2) He owns and creates life.
    • (3) He uses nations to bring judgment against other nations.
    • (4) Good and evil are real and He opposes evil.
    • (5) There exists a spiritual world every bit as real as the physical world in which good and evil are at war with one another.


Second –

  • God’s Character – Yahweh has a certain character that requires our trust.
    • He can do nothing inconsistent with that character.
    • He can’t lie.
    • He can’t murder.
    • If He takes life, He is justified in doing so because He is its author.


Paul Copan sums these up well this way:

“God’s commands to Israel to wipe out Canaan’s idols and false, immoral worship illustrate the cosmic warfare between Yahweh and the dark powers opposed to his rule. Yahweh—“the Lord of hosts” (cf. Ps. 24:7–10)—is a “warrior” (Exod. 15:3) who opposes all that mars the divine image in humans, all that threatens human flourishing, and all that sets itself in opposition to God’s righteous reign. ‘Yahweh wars’ aren’t simply a clash between this and that deity; they represent a clash of two world orders: one rooted in reality and justice, the other in reality-denial and brute power; one representing creational order, the other anticreation” – Paul Copan.

  • This is the OT view of the Conquest.


The point of understanding these two things – Context and Character – is relevant because:

  • To characterize the Conquest as just another religiously justified war ignores the context and historical claims in which the Conquest took place.


In other words, it is certainly reasonable to argue the OT claims about God and His action in history are bogus.

  • And because of that, the Conquest was an immoral and unjustifiable military action.
  • However, given the Context and Character issues, it is not reasonable to decry the God of the Bible as a genocidal maniac.
  • This view does not honestly account for how the Conquest meshes with its Context and the Character of the God the OT reveals.


Let’s look at a couple of examples of maintaining the integrity of the Context.

  • (1) The context of Conquest as Judgment
  • (2) The context of Conquest as One-Off Event


Conquest as Judgment:

  • Genesis 15:16 (ESV) — 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
  • Leviticus 18:24–25 (ESV) — 24 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, 25 and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.
  • Deuteronomy 18:12 (ESV) — 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.


God’s act of engaging in battle is not for the sake of violence or even victory as such but to establish peace and justice” – Paul Copan.


Peter Williams makes a couple more important points about Conquest as Judgment.


(1) The conquest of the Canaanites was not genocide.

  • God didn’t use the Israelites to judge the Canaanites because of their race.
  • But, because of their wickedness.
    • Canaanite wickedness is well-documented and involved infant sacrifice.
  • Israel was merely the instrument of His judgment.


BTW – because Israel was the instrument of God’s judgment doesn’t mean that Israel was somehow qualitatively better – as the OT makes plainly clear.


(2) The fact that it was not genocide was demonstrated by at least two things.

  • (A) This same type of judgment was incurred by Israel itself.
    • Because of Israel’s wickedness they were also judged and dispossessed from the land by the Assyrians and the Babylonians.
  • (B) The fact that Rahab, a Canaanite, was saved by her recognition of the one true God.


Conquest as One-Off Event:

  • This is an oft overlooked and significant observation by Peter S. Williams.
  • The Conquest was a one-time event.
  • In other words, this was not something that took place routinely in Israel’s history.


And importantly, it was preceded by a number of significant PDA’s – “public displays of awesomeness”.

  • And these just happen to be some of the most spectacular miracles in the Bible – Peter S. Williams.
    • Yahweh split the Red Sea.
    • He led the Israelites and fed them.
    • He cut off the Jordan River.
    • He appeared as the Divine Warrior


BTW – the significance of the PDA’s can be seen in Christ’s ministry as well.


Additionally, the Canaanites knew of these things; they could have responded as Rahab did.

  • Joshua 2:10 (ESV) — 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.
  • And no doubt they heard how Yahweh cut off the Jordan River as well!


So just as Paul said about Jesus’ work in history – “this has not been done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).


These two examples – Judgment and One-Off Event – show the importance of Context to understanding the Conquest.

  • To rip the Conquest out of its context will lead to false conclusions.


And this also shows us God’s role in initiating the Conquest:

  • He covenanted with and called out a people by His own will, not because they were “better”.
  • The Conquest was not grounded in the greed of an empowered political leader.
  • The Conquest was grounded in the covenant faithfulness and holiness of God.
  • And it was obtained not by professional soldiers, but by a nation of slaves.
  • A nation of slaves set free by supernatural acts of God in history.
  • And these acts of God included miracle after miracle witnessed by the nations.



  • This is a difficult topic, admittedly.
  • We can only begin to skim the surface of all the dilemmas it raises and the answers offered.
  • But I hope that we have at least provided a beginning for you to explore further.


Miscellaneous Info:

(1) Many scholars, like Paul Copan, suggest that the cities attacked by Israel were not cities at all.

  • They were actually military outposts containing mainly soldiers.

(2) Scholars also suggest that ANE historiography engages in hyperbole as part of its genre.

  • “Scripture is similar to other ancient historiography in that it may use large numbers hyperbolically in military contexts” – David M. Fouts (JETS 40/3).
  • “The use of figurative language, including numerical hyperbole, does not mitigate the historical reliability of an account” – David M Fouts (JETS 40/3).
  • “Again, the sweeping words ‘all,’ ‘young and old,’ and ‘men and women’ were stock expressions for totality, even if women and children weren’t present” – Paul Copan.