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The Slaughters of the Book of Joshua

Updated on September 29, 2013

Old Testament Battles


Joshua as Commander in Chief

When Moses knew he was dying, he appointed Joshua as his successor to lead the Hebrew people, who often were called the children of Israel due to their common ancestor, a man named Jacob, who was nicknamed Israel by God.

Moses had led his people through the areas east of Egypt for forty years, sometimes having to fight battles against communities already settled in those territories, who didn’t want the Hebrew people, hundreds of thousands of them, coming onto their land.

God had spoken to Moses, telling him this land was destined to belong to the children of Israel. But after Moses' death, God spoke directly to Joshua, telling him to advance his people across the Jordan River and take control of the city of Jericho.

First Joshua sent two men into Jericho as spies. A harlot in Jericho took them in and kept them hidden from the authorities. In exchange, they promised her that she and her family would be spared when the Israelis attacked.

Amazingly, God stopped the waters of the Jordan River to allow the children of Israel to pass through on dry land across the stream bed.

There were certain preparations that had to take place before the battle. The medical procedure known as circumcision was very important to Hebrew society. This took place before the battle because, during the forty previous years, the children of Israel lived a nomadic life and did not have the time for many of the normal processes that took place in their society.

The battle plan for Jericho came directly from God, through Joshua. The Lord told Joshua to have his soldiers march around the city for six days, accompanied by priests blowing trumpets made of rams’ horns, and parading the ark, an sacred container that held the stone tablets on which God had written the Ten Commandments about forty years earlier.

On the seventh day, the wall around Jericho fell flat. Joshua told his people that the Lord had given them the city. They proceeded to kill everyone in Jericho except the cooperative harlot and her household.

The Lord, through Joshua, had told the children of Israel not to take certain things from Jericho, but one man did not obey.

Later, when some Hebrew soldiers were humiliated by being chased away by the men of a nearby town, the Lord told Joshua that this took place as a penalty for the disobedience of that man who took the forbidden objects from Jericho.

After the man admitted this, the children of Israel took him, his sons, his daughters, his livestock, and all his possessions to the outskirts of the Israeli encampment. They stoned the man and his children to death, then proceeded to burn them, their tent, and everything they owned.

This stopped the Lord's anger.

The Lord told Joshua to attack and take the city from which the soldiers were chased, but to do it by trickery. They were to place most of the soldiers behind the city, allowing a few to come out in front and pretend to be fleeing again from their opponents.

Afterward, when it was too late for their opponents to retreat back to the safety of their city, the soldiers came out from behind the city and killed all their opponents. Other soldiers burned the city and killed all the people there. Later, the king of that city was hanged from a tree.

Then people from all the surrounding towns feared the children of Israel. Some men came to Joshua from one town, pretending to be poor and begging for mercy. Joshua made them into slaves of the Israelis.

The nearby kings banded together to plot against Israel. They had a meeting and planned to attack, but the children of Israel, under Joshua's leadership, came upon them suddenly and slaughtered everyone except five kings who escaped.

The five kings hid in a cave, but the Israelis found them, brought them out, and humiliated them. Joshua told the children of Israel to put their feet on the necks of the kings as they lay on the ground. He told the children of Israel that God had made Israel triumph over these kings and all the other people they had conquered. Then Joshua killed the kings and hanged them on trees.

The Lord God of Israel had commanded these things by speaking to Joshua, just as the Lord previously had spoken to Moses. The Lord had fought for Israel in these battles.

The remaining kings finally assembled their great armies together to fight against Israel, but all those kings and their soldiers were slaughtered, plus all the inhabitants of their cities. No one was left breathing.

Joshua took over the whole region. He'd made war with every king, utterly destroying their cities and all inhabitants. The Lord God of Israel had given these lands to the children of Israel and wanted them to show no mercy toward their opponents who inhabited the Promised Land that God gave to Israel.

Israel drove out almost all the former residents of the Promised Land and began to divide up the land according to twelve tribes. These various tribes consisted of the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob (also known as Israel) who had immigrated to Egypt over four hundred years earlier from the same general region which now was the Promised Land granted to the children of Israel by the Lord.

God told Joshua to appoint, within the Promised Land, certain cities of refuge to which a slayer might go, after killing someone accidentally, so as to avoid being harmed by the family of the deceased person.

Some of the children of Israel made an altar in their new territory, which at first was thought to be sacrilegious but later was excused, when they explained that they did not mean to compete with the original tabernacle that held the Ten Commandments.

When Joshua was old and saw his death approaching, he summoned the children of Israel and spoke to them. He warned them that they'd better continue to have faith in God, because if they did not, many bad things would happen to them.

Before Joshua died he recited to the children of Israel, in Chapter 24 at the end of the Book of Joshua, God’s summary of the history of the Hebrew people, going back to the time of Abraham and his father. Joshua’s parting words warned his people never to forsake the Lord.

Whether taken as a lesson to put faith in God in times of stress, or as the literal truth of things that occurred three thousand years ago, the Book of Joshua will have modern meaning to those who must confront serious challenges and uncertainties. Sometimes the best way to do that is to accept the will of God.

Old Testament Condones War


Biblical Justification of Killing?

Most religious people consider love and kindness when they think of God. Some parts of the Old Testament seem to justify the Israelis attacking and slaughtering other peoples who oppressed them and threatened to do the same to them. The Old Testament deems some people inherently bad. God in the Old Testament is kind to the good people but ruthless toward the bad.

Many people all over the world have wondered why the Old Testament part of the Bible shows God as a being who would command the Hebrews to slaughter others to the point of genocide. All through history, including modern times, people have felt justified, usually on some sort of religious ground, in murdering women, children, and defenseless old people along with soldiers of the enemy.

Not always did Israel strike blows against God's enemies. Sometimes Israel itself became an enemy of God, when the people went their own ways mindless of God. At those times, God caused enemies to conquer Israel and enslave the people.

Today, after Islamic terrorists have attacked so many defenseless people, the world takes a dim view of any faction that would pretend to be doing God's will by killing. Yet the Old Testament shows this happening without condemnation, but instead with praise.

The more the religious biblical scholars strain to find meaning and justification for the God-ordered killing of innocent children along with enemy soldiers, the more it becomes apparent that the Old Testament was a parable, like an action movie put into words to dramatize what happens to people who fail to worship God. But the dramatization would go overboard in making its point. From this there is a further step to make the entire New Testament into a movie-script episode in which good triumphs over evil in a miraculous way.

The killings of the Old Testament add fuel to the fire of the atheists' rebellion against religion. There has been no external, objective explanation from any theologian or scholar who supports religion. Only internal arguments are made, presupposing certain beliefs and attempting to know the mind of God. This type of argument violates the rules of logic. Therefore, the killings of the Old Testament are a fish bone in the throat of religion.


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    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 

      4 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      The Book of Joshua was no parable. It is record.

      After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord spoke to Joshua son on Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, “My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses.” 1:1-3

      Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city (Jericho), both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys. 6:21

      Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed; take all the fighting men with you, and go up now to Ai. See, I have handed over to you the king of Ai with his people, his city and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king; only its spoil and its livestock you may take as booty for yourselves. Set an ambush against the city, behind it.” 8:1-2

      Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the sword that is in your hand toward Ai: for I will give it into your hand.” 8:18

      And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them (See 12:7-24 for a list of Kings of the “Holy Land”), for tomorrow at this time I will hand over all of them slain, to Israel; you shall hamstring their horses, and burn their chariots with fire.” 11:6

      God does not make war. The God who makes war is not God at all. God does not order the death of women and children. No land is holy if it is gotten through killing people. There never was a covenant between God and the Israelites. God does not select nations to kill for him and reward them with land. Stop teaching that there was a covenant or a “Holy Land.” Do not teach the Old Testament, there is no justification for it.

      The Book of Joshua (first oral tradition) was written down as a political statement used by the Rabbis to motivate their army and justify their claim to the “Holy Land” by Divine right. In reading the Bible from beginning to end, Christians must read the Jewish version of events before they even get to the story of Jesus. The Old Testament is a false claim of Divine right. Christians do not need Judaism to be Christian. Teach only the New Testament, a God of peace, not war.

      God does not order a Holocaust. The Holocaust of the Jews by the Germans is documented in Holocaust museums around the world. It is time for the Jews to acknowledge the Holocaust of the Canaanites by the Jews within the Holocaust museums.


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