(A Response to Anthony Rogers’ video “Killing Babies for Allah” and his allegation that the Qur’an 17:4-7 is directly sanctioning the killing of babies in warfare)
by Sadat bin Anwar, MDI Canada
I was expecting the AnsweringMuslims.com team to be slightly peeved after David Wood’s mediocre and dispiriting performance at Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park a few days ago. Admittedly, Wood’s not-so-pleasant reception by the Hyde Park Muslims, was not exactly helpful to him winning any Islamophobic brownie points with the larger audience that was present, but since when has Speaker’s Corner been about anything more than a shouting match? Debates at this extraordinary and unique venue have been won and lost on the merits of one’s vocal chords, charisma, megaphone amplification capability, witty one-liners, ability to deal with unruly hecklers, and even well-timed jokes. Moreover, Wood was not lecturing a group of evangelicals in Texas; this was London, England, and everyone knows that British Muslims are not the soft and pushover American Muslims that David Wood and his ilk are used to dealing with back home.
Repeatedly and rather mercilessly heckled into the ground by questions about God commanding the killing of babies in the Bible, Wood’s usual demagoguery and lines of attack against Islam and Muslims (presently on a free loose in the more congenial American climate) met a premature dead-end at Speaker’s Corner, and the usual hot air we are accustomed to watching Wood blow evaporated rather quickly into the crisp London air. It was not Shari`ah in Britain that shut him down though, just in case he is planning another persecution-of-American-Christians type video rant; no, it was good ‘ol British democracy, in the raw, that shouted the two American missionaries down (Wood was accompanied on the ladder-podium by Speaker’s Corner veteran Jay Smith, who alas proved of little assistance to him; London Muslims have been embarrassing him for the better part of the past 20 years).
In response to the above misadventure and acting in as cannon fodder for the humiliated Wood, his colleague from Answering Muslims, Texan Anthony Rogers, has produced an 8-minute video-blog entitled “Killing Babies for Allah”. In this video, he goes about trying to prove, in a summarized format, how the Qur’an also approves of killing babies in the name of God, a la the Bible. By extension and inference, I assume that Rogers also wishes to prove that the Qur’an authorizes the killing of babies in God’s name, in a manner similar to that of the Bible. This he does not explicitly state in his video, but he does in the comments section, and it strikes me as being a reasonable inference from the types of arguments and evidences that he presents in the video. Rogers also mentions on the Answering Muslims blog that he is withholding other evidences for a future debate, and for the sake of keeping his video short. That is understandable, and likewise my response is only intended as a response to the arguments and evidences that Rogers has presented in his 8-minute video-blog (although I make no promise to refrain from sharing some personal musings and thoughts here and there, as they may relate to the topic). It should be noticed at this point, however, that even in the absence of the Speaker’s Corner heckling which Rogers appears to be crying foul about at the end of his video, he nowhere actually denies that the Bible does indeed have God commanding the killing of babies in warfare. The silence is telling, some very valid question about the Bible were raised, one which points towards some significant differences in the concepts of God’s compassion, forgiveness, fairness, and justice as envisioned in Christianity and Islam.
STRIKE 1- NO EXPLICIT COMMANDMENT IN QUR’AN (17:4-7) TO TARGET-KILL WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN WARFARE
At the beginning of his video, Rogers states that “Proving from the Islamic Sources [emphasis added] that the God of the Qur’an is very much in the business of directing His servants to kill animals, women, and children is child’s play.” He then goes on to quote from what I guess he considers to be his best ammunition, and in fact the only Qur’anic passage that he references in the video: Surah 17, verses 4-7. Rogers may have considered this to be the most appropriate passage to use to try to prove his argument, since the passage does not contain a commandment to kill a specific child (eg. the near-sacrifice of Ishmael/Isaac by Abraham, or the killing of a specific child by Khidr), but according to Rogers contains a general commandment and/or approval by God to target-kill babies and other innocents in warfare, as in the Bible. What the verses actually say, however, is exactly as Rogers quoted, and nothing more:
4. And We gave (Clear) Warning to the Children of Israel in the Book, that twice would they do mischief on the earth and be elated with mighty arrogance (and twice would they be punished)!
5. When the first of the warnings came to pass, We sent against you Our servants given to terrible warfare: They entered the very inmost parts of your homes; and it was a warning (completely) fulfilled.
6. Then did We grant you the Return as against them: We gave you increase in resources and sons, and made you the more numerous in man-power.
7. If ye did well, ye did well for yourselves; if ye did evil, (ye did it) against yourselves. So when the second of the warnings came to pass, (We permitted your enemies) to disfigure your faces, and to enter your Temple as they had entered it before, and to visit with destruction all that fell into their power. (Yusuf Ali translation)
If I were to just end my writing at this point and turn the “evidence” cited above over to the unbiased and objective reader, I think it would speak for itself. Ask yourself if you see anything in the above Qur’anic verses that would explicitly and clearly authorize or command the target-killing of babies in warfare. That is not to say that the above verse, especially if taken in isolation, does not contain ambiguity and room for the possibility of killing of babies in warfare. But to state or to even imply that the above passage somehow mirrors the clear and unashamedly explicit commandments/authorization for killing children and women that is to be found in the Bible is really to grasp at straws. It is comparing apples and oranges, and it actually highlights and reveals the great discrepancy that exists between the two Books on this topic. Let us quickly refresh our memory with the biblical example that Williams cited at Speaker’s Corner—that is, 1 Samuel 15:3:
Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.
On the theological scale, it is true that one could make somewhat of a comparison between Christianity and Islam on the issue of God taking the lives of babies and innocents. In the final analysis, God is the Sovereign Creator, the Giver of Life. He can take that life away, either directly or through the use of His agents (the wind, water, angels, etc). That is a point that I am ready to concede. On a theological and philosophical level, were God to actually command the Jews to kill all the Amalekite children and animals, their fulfilling this command would be seen as a meritorious and virtuous act, much as we consider Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his innocent (but willing) son to be a virtuous act. It is another matter, however, if God chooses to exercise compassion and mercy, which in turn is a reflection of His Divine attributes and nature. Perhaps this is what our conversation should turn to at this point. Suppose that God could have commanded Muslims in the Qur’an to target-kill women and children (as is attributed to God in the Bible); but did He? In the only one instance that I can think of in which God directly and explicitly commands the killing of an innocent child (Ishmael/Isaac), He exercises His mercy even in that instance by rescuing that child.
In short, what Rogers has cited from the Qur’an thankfully falls far short—in terms of sheer mercilessness, vengeful anger, and brutality—of the content and language of biblical verses like 1 Samuel 15:3. As to the question of God’s justice, it can certainly be argued that the Author of life can choose to take life away, as He pleases, even though commanding the killing of babies in warfare strikes me as a particularly merciless and brutal commandment. I am happy that it is not to be found in my Qur’an, while it is certainly a problem for modern-day Christian apologists who constantly sing about the love and moral superiority of the Christian (version of) God over that of the Muslim (version of) God. In short, such biblical passages would keep me awake at night, if I was a Christian.
On a bit of a side-note, even if I were to allege that the Christian God is unjust in commanding humans to kill babies, it would not be so much on the basis that God does not have the right to take those babies’ lives (either Himself directly or through the use of His able agents), but more on the basis that God has demanded something of His righteous human servants which is greater than the burden that they can bear. In order to carry out a divine commandment to kill a human baby, one must either be a complete saint, or the very opposite—an unbalanced, mentally unstable person whose soul is given to evil inclinations. The Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him, would fall into the first category. Due to his high standing as a prophet and saint of God, and in order to demonstrate the perfection of submission to God for countless future generations of submitters to come, God asks him to sacrifice his only son. Abraham, with difficulty, does submit to this commandment, which God in His Infinite Knowledge knew that Abraham was able to burden and perform.
For the same God to make such demands of laypeople would be unjust, however, because it is indeed a burden greater than we can bear. For David Wood, however, it is apparently not. In a not-yet-published-but-recorded-by-the-Christian-side debate that Wood had with Adnan Rashid a few years back, he conceded that, if God told him to kill babies in the final Armageddon, he would do so. For most Muslims—and I would venture to add most Christians—this is not the case. We would not be able to submit to such a commandment for one simple reason—we are not able to. Since the majority of us are neither perfect saints/angels, nor are we maniacal killers with a penchant for murdering the babies of our own species, we would not be able to murder children. God has on the one hand programmed it into our very conscience and genes to not be able to murder innocent babies (that is, for the vast majority of us who are mentally sane and balanced, and without a penchant for such horrific brutality); He will not on the other hand command us to act against the very nature and programming that He has given us, and then credit it to us as a sin if we are unable to perform this unbearable and impossible task. Again, I can only speak for myself here, not necessarily for Wood. He clearly has a different assessment and estimate of what he would be capable of carrying out in the name of his (Christian) God.
I hope my above explanation will make it clear why I do not consider it unjust if God wipes babies out through the agency of the wind, the water, cancer, famine, AIDS, or even through the agency of His angels, however I do draw the line and consider it unjust if He commands us human beings to kill human babies (as a general commandment, a specific commandment to the Prophet Abraham notwithstanding). This is not because I deny God the Sovereign His right to take away the lives of human babies, with or without explanation or justification provided to us mortals, but rather because I consider such a general commandment to laypeople to be a burden greater than that which they can bear, and this surely contravenes (in a number of ways) His Divine Attribute of Justice and Mercy towards His servants. Please understand the distinction I have tried to make. God having me brutally killed by a wild animal could be and would be completely just, according to my theology. God commanding my mother or wife to brutally murder me—and if she does not, it will be considered sinful on her part—is another matter entirely, and it would be unjust according to my theology, which is based on the Qur’an. (Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity.—Qur’an 2:286)
Thankfully, the Qur’anic passage quoted by Rogers—Qur’an 17:4-7– contains no such explicit commandment to target-kill babies, as much as Rogers might want to try to read between the lines and find such a thing. He should leave doing tafsir (Qur’anic commentary) to the professionals.
STRIKE 2—NO EXPLICIT COMMANDMENT, AUTHORIZATION, GLORIFICATION, OR EVEN MENTION OF KILLING BABIES AND WOMEN IN TANWIR AL-MIQBAS (IBN `ABBAS)
In the Qur’an 17:4-7– which we saw contains no such injunction, commandment, or even permission to indiscriminately murder women and children—Rogers certainly realizes the rather important missing details, details which he is eager and desperate to fill in. This is why he turns to a secondary source, namely the tafsir of ibn `Abbas, Tanwir al-Miqbas. Below is the relevant portion that he quotes:
(So when the time for the first of the two) the first of the two punishments; it is also said that this means: the first of the two corruptions (came, We roused against you slaves of Ours) Nebuchadnezzar and the host
of the king of Babylon (of great might) of tremendous fighting skills (who ravaged (your) country) who killed you in the streets in the middle of your country, (and it was a threat performed) a decreed threat that surely
takes place, that if you do such-and-such I will do this to you. Thus they stayed in captivity of Nebuchadnezzar for 90 years until Allah helped them with Koresh from Hamadan [Persia].
(Then we gave you once again your turn against them) through Koresh’s defeat of Nebuchadnezzar; it is also said that this means: and We had pity on you and thus gave you once again your turn against them, (and We aided you with wealth and children and made you more in soldiery) We made you more in men and numbers,
(Saying): If ye do good) if you confess Allah’s Oneness, (ye do good for your own souls) the reward for that
is Paradise, (and If ye do evil) and if you associate partners with Allah, (it is for them (in like manner)) the
punishment for that is upon them. They remained in comfort, merriness, abundance of men and numbers,
and triumph over the enemy for 220 years until Allah roused against them Titus. (So, when the time for the second (of the judgements) came) the second of the two punishment or the second of the two corruptions
((We roused against you others of Our slaves) to ravage you) by killing you and taking you as captives, i.e. Titus the son of Espianos [sic] the Roman, (and to enter the Temple) Jerusalem (even as they entered it the first time) even as Nebuchadnezzar and his host entered it the first time, (and to lay waste all that they conquered with an utter wasting).
The gist of Rogers’ point is as follows: The Qur’an, according to ibn `Abbas, is referring to Nebuchadnezzar and Titus as “Our [ie. God’s] Servants”, and hence all of their actions—including the indiscriminate killing of Jewish civilians—is sanctioned and authorized by Allah, and therefore the God of the Qur’an does command (or authorize) the killing of innocents and babies in warfare.
I might require the help of a professional logician to point out all the logical fallacies that have been committed in the above argument, which is a paraphrase but I am certain it is a fair representation of Rogers’ argument. Theoretically speaking and for the sake of argument, let us assume that the God of the Qur’an commands or perhaps approves of or condones the killing of babies in warfare; however the “evidence” and the arguments that Rogers has presented thus far does not establish that. In other words, even if the conclusion is true, it would be true for all the wrong reasons and based on premises that themselves have not been established with any amount of certainty. In short, we have no good reason to believe Rogers’ conclusion about the God of the Qur’an.
Let us consider the most obvious fact first. Ibn Abbas’ commentary, like the original Qur’anic verse being commented on, does not indicate any explicit commandment, authorization, approval of, or even mention of the killing of women and children. Again, it could be alleged that ibn `Abbas is ambiguous, and that such ambiguity could lend itself to war crimes (to use modern parlance) such as the deliberate target-killing of babies. One could make that argument, if looking at ibn `Abbas’ commentary in isolation. But how anything he wrote could be construed as an explicit order, command, authorization, or glorification of the killing of babies, as in 1 Samuel 15:3, is beyond me. One could make a general statement in support of the general U.S. war effort against Nazi Germany, without explicitly endorsing or approving of the fact of the carpet bombing of Dresden which killed thousands of German school-children. One could even go so far as to explicitly endorse the invasion and subsequent occupation of Nazi Germany by the Allies, but again without endorsing the specific event of the carpet-bombing of Dresden. The two events are interrelated, but not necessarily the same one thing.
The next problem with Rogers’ argument vis-à-vis ibn `Abbas is that Muslims are not required to believe in his tafsir, especially if there is no isnaad (authenticated chains of narration) that establish his opinion on the matter as being factual. Rogers and Wood can provide a long list of ibn Abbas’ virtues and scholarly precedence amongst the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), none of which will be disputed by this writer; however none of this can change the Religion. The fact remains that, in this Religion of Islam, Qur’anic commentary provided by ibn `Abbas without isnaad does not automatically become or inform our theology.
The third problem with Rogers’ use of ibn `Abbas is the contested authenticity of the work being cited. Tanwir al-Miqbas, which is what I believe Rogers is quoting from, is attributed to ibn `Abbas; it is not definitely from him. If I am wrong about the source of Rogers’ quotes, he can correct me.
Fourthly, there is no ijmaa` (consensus, or even a semblance of consensus among the scholars) on the issue. Rogers only threw a handful of names of modern commentators on the Qur’an, not even beginning to cite any classical commentators. Even among the modern commentators that he made quick mention of, we see that Muhammad Asad, for example, did not share the view that Titus was a righteous servant of God. Asad says that the second period of Jewish iniquity and transgression mentioned in the Qur’an (17:4-7) is “probably” referring to the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus, but note that Asad himself does not assign this as the definitive meaning of the text. Secondly, had Rogers quoted the rest of Asad’s commentary on the same passages, he would have seen that Asad did not consider Titus to be one of God’s righteous servants, even though the Arabic term ibaadal-lanaa (“servants of Ours”) is used for (possibly) Titus and his army. Asad says,
The term `ibad, rendered by me above as “bondmen”, denotes every kind of “created beings” [emphasis added] (in this case, obviously human beings) inasmuch as all of them are, willingly or unwillingly, subservient to God’s will.
Elsewhere (footnote for chapter 13:15), he makes it clear that classical commentators also believed that non-believers were subject to God’s will, in a general sense. They too are, in a sense, servants of God, but disobedient servants of God.
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Uthmani, who served as the grand mufti of Darul-Uloom Deoband in India, states: “Disbelievers too are among the servants of God, but not among the accepted ones.” The late Mufti’s comments on Qur’an 17:4-7 shed further light on the terminology that is used in it:
About the first event (5), the Holy Qur’an said: When the people of Faith start letting them be seduced to discord, sin, disobedience and disorder, Allah Ta’ala shall set upon them such servants of His as would break into their homes killing and plundering. At this place, the Qur’an has used the expression: (‘ibadal-lana: Some servants belonging to Us) and not: (‘ibadana: Our servants) – even though it was brief. There is wisdom behind it. Is it not that the attribution of a servant to Allah is, for him, the greatest conceivable honour? This is similar to what we have explained at the beginning of this very Surah under our comments on the first verse: (asra’ bi’abdihi: made His servant travel at night). There it was said that certainly great was the honour and nearness the Holy Prophet was blessed with during the night of the Mi’raj. But, when the Qur’an describes this event, it does not mention either his blessed name or some attribute. It simply said: (‘abdihi: His servant). This tells us that the ultimate perfection a human person can have, and the highest station he can occupy, is that Allah Ta’ala chooses to cherish a servant by calling him ‘His’ servant. In the verse under reference, the people who meted out the punishment to the Bani Isra’il were kafirs, or disbelievers after all. Therefore, instead of calling them: (Our servants), Allah Ta’ala has broken the element of attribution and connection and said: (some servants belonging to Us). Thus, a hint has been given here that all human beings are nothing but servants of Allah as created, but because of the absence of ‘Iman or faith, they are not the kind of accepted servants who could be attributed directly to Allah Ta’ala.
In short, the Qur’an is saying that some servants or bondsmen of God were allowed to punish and destroy Jerusalem. This is all we have, from the Qur’an, and from ibn `Abbas’ commentary. And this is being compared to:
Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (1 Samuel 15:3)
But of the cities of these peoples, that Jehovah thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth. (Deut 20:16)
Rogers’ theology, as a biblical inerrantist, absolutely requires him to believe that the Christian God commanded the Jews to kill everything that breathes in the various cities that they conquered. How does this “take no prisoners” policy compare to the Qur’an or with Islamic teachings? Even tyrants like Nebuchadnezzar and Titus took captives to serve them?
Ibn Kathir, one of the great classical commentators of the Qur’an who is often singled out and preferred by Wood and his colleagues, puts it very well:
The earlier and later commentators differed over the identity of these invaders. Many Isra’iliyyat (reports from Jewish sources) were narrated about this, but I did not want to make this book too long by mentioning them, because some of them are fabricated, concocted by their heretics, and others may be true, but we have no need of them, praise be to Allah. What Allah has told us in His Book (the Qur’an) is sufficient and we have no need of what is in the other books that came before. Neither Allah nor His Messenger required us to refer to them [ie. the identity of those who He used to punish the Jews]. Allah told His Messenger that when (the Jews) committed transgression and aggression, Allah gave their enemies power over them to destroy their country and enter the innermost parts of their homes. Their humiliation and subjugation was a befitting punishment, and your Lord is never unfair or unjust to His servants.
So according to ibn Kathir, and probably just about any other scholar that is dead or alive, it is not at all a matter of faith for us to have to positively identify and affirm who these invaders were, let alone their modus operandi.
STRIKE 3 – SECULAR HISTORICAL ACCOUNTS OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR AND TITUS DO NOT REFER TO THE MODUS OPERANDI OF “KILLING EVERY CHILD”, “KILLING EVERY ANIMAL”, “KILLING EVERYTHING THAT BREATHES”, OR “MAKE NO PEACE TREATY WITH THEM”
Even if we assume that ibn `Abbas’ commentary is from him, even if we assume that ibn `Abbas is correct in his historical interpretation of Qur’an 17:4-7, and even if we assume that Nebuchadnezzar and Titus were righteous servants of God (despite their being pagans, which is a far greater sin in Islam than even wanton violence) and everything they did was directly commanded to them and authorized by God, we still will not end up with the brutality that is explicitly endorsed by [the Christian interpretation of] God in the Bible. True, if we assume all these unproven assumptions to be correct and connect the dots the way Roger wants us to, we would end up with a verification of the biblical idea that God does (or has commanded in the past) human beings to kill human babies in warfare. So there would be a theological stalemate between the Bible and the Qur’an on the issue of God commanding human beings to slay some babies in war. Even so, would the Qur’an ever be able to compare to the brutal methods of warfare endorsed and ordered by God in the Bible?
That charge would still ring hollow in light of the historical evidence that we have, since at no point in time did Nebuchadnezzar or Titus ever will or command or authorize the indiscriminate killing of all civilians, children, and animals in the territories that they conquered, as the Bible does on more than one occasion. In other words, even if Nebuchadnezzar and Titus were righteous Muslims commanded to war by Allah, we still do not find any general directive from them to:
(1) Kill all children, taking no prisoners
(2) Kill all women, taking no prisoners
(3) Kill all other non-combatants, taking no prisoners
(4) Kill all animals
(5) Offer no peace treaty to the occupants of the cities they are attacking
(6) Kill everything that breathes, basically
Rather, at the most, we might conclude with the aid of secular historical documents relating to Nebuchadnezzar and Titus that the Qur’an is, albeit indirectly, approving of the killing of some babies in warfare. This would not only be a quantitative difference from the killing of babies in the Bible, but a qualitative one as well; think of the moral difference between, say, a drone attack that kills some civilians versus dropping a nuclear bomb on an entire city. In fact, even in the event of dropping a nuclear bomb on a city, the intent may not necessarily be to kill all life-forms. A more fitting analogy might be a drone attack versus dropping 10 nuclear bombs on a city.
The latter is clearly more analogous to and indicative of the genocidal intent of a variety of biblical passages relating to warfare.
Notice here as well that, although Rogers had originally stated that he would prove from Islamic sources that the God of the Qur’an commanded the killing of babies and innocents, he has managed to bring non-Islamic secular history in through the back door. Although he does not explicitly identify these sources, he implies that sifting through the historical record on these two personalities (ie. Nebuchadnezzar and Titus) would easily reveal that they indiscriminately killed civilians. That is probably true, when we consider the nature of pre-modern warfare and the difficulty in identifying non-combatants, however what we are specifically looking for is evidence that either one of these two historical characters ordered the specific target-killing of all babies or civilians in their conquests.
What appears at first as a monumental task and impossible challenge should in reality not be so great. Since the Qur’an is, according to the interpretation attributed to ibn `Abbas, as further interpreted by Rogers, condoning the actions of Nebuchadnezzar and Titus in relation to two specific events (the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar from 597-587 BC, and the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 AD), these are the two events that we should have a look at and examine the historical record on.
In regards to the first—the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar—I will default to the Bible as our historical source, instead of secular historical accounts; this is simply due to the fact that it will be seen as more historical, more reliable, and more accurate by Rogers, who considers the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God. I need only quote from 2 Kings 24 in order to make my point here:
He carried all Jerusalem into exile: all the officers and fighting men, and all the skilled workers and artisans—a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left. Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. He also took from Jerusalem to Babylon the king’s mother, his wives, his officials and the prominent people of the land. The king of Babylon also deported to Babylon the entire force of seven thousand fighting men, strong and fit for war, and a thousand skilled workers and artisans. (2 Kings 24:14-16)
As we know, this period of the Jews’ history is known as the Babylonian Exile. There could have been no Babylonian Exile or Captivity of the Jews unless there were Jews left alive to be exiled and/or taken captive. So even if the God of the Qur’an had directly commanded Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Jerusalem, He obviously did not command or inspire Nebuchadnezzar to slay all the children, women, and everything else that breathes. To the contrary, Rogers should assume that, according to the Qur’an (aided with further details provided to us by the Bible), Allah in fact commanded Nebuchadnezzar to leave tens of thousands of Jews alive and to exile them to Babylon instead of killing them. Regardless, notice how this pagan Persian king, according to the Bible’s very own testimony, has more compassion and honour in his treatment of his enemies than the God of the Bible has. I do not think anything more has to be said of Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Jerusalem and its dissimilarity to the rules of warfare (or more accurately, genocide) as laid down by God in 1 Samuel 15:3, Numbers 31:17-18, and so on.
As for Titus’s conquest of Jerusalem in 70 AD, it is not reported in the Christian Bible, and therefore we must turn to secular historical accounts. The best known of these accounts is certainly The Wars of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, who was a Roman historian and an eyewitness to the event. Like all historians, his accounts are also sometimes called into question and he is accused of being biased in the favour of Titus, however his account is arguably the best we have to go on. He was an eyewitness, a practicing Jew himself, and is considered a respected and important witness by all students of Roman and Jewish history. For instance, James Lewis of The American Thinker, an American right-wing online magazine, just days ago stated that “[Josephus] saw both sides and could write a history for the ages” (The American Thinker, November 29, 2012). Lewis and The American Thinker are, of course, no enemies of Israel and Jews.
According to Josephus’ writings, arguably our best source for the Jewish wars, we can clearly discern why and how Titus, despite his brutality at times, was still more humane and compassionate than the God of Bible, and certainly far from genocidal towards his enemies. Titus and the Romans were in fact reluctant to attack and raze the city in the first place, and they made repeated efforts for peaceful reconciliation which were rejected time and time again by the Jewish extremists who had taken over the city. This can be contrasted with Exodus 23:32 in which God states that He will wipe out the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites and that the Hebrews should make no peace or covenant with them. (Admittedly, the possibility of a peace treaty is allowed in other instances in the Old Testament, but not in the case of the nations/peoples mentioned in Exodus 23). According to Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Exodus 23:32 is definitely including peace treaties in the list of prohibitions. Yet we see in Josephus that Titus made repeated attempts and appeals to the Jews of Jerusalem:
I then came to this city, as unwillingly sent by my father, and received melancholy injunctions from him. When I heard that the people were disposed to peace, I rejoiced at it; I exhorted you to leave off these proceedings before I began this war; I spared you even when you had fought against me a great while; I gave my right hand as security to the deserters; I observed what I had promised faithfully. When they fled to me, I had compassion on many of those that I had taken captive; I tortured those that were eager for war, in order to restrain them. It was unwillingly that I brought my engines of war against your walls; I always prohibited my soldiers, when they were set upon your slaughter, from their severity against you. After every victory I persuaded you to peace, as though I had been myself conquered. When I came near your temple, I again departed from the laws of war, and exhorted you to spare your own sanctuary, and to preserve your holy house to yourselves. I allowed you a quiet exit out of it, and security for your preservation; nay, if you had a mind, I gave you leave to fight in another place. Yet have you still despised every one of my proposals [emphasis added], and have set fire to your holy house with your own hands. And now, vile wretches, do you desire to treat with me by word of mouth? To what purpose is it that you would save such a holy house as this was, which is now destroyed? What preservation can you now desire after the destruction of your temple? Yet do you stand still at this very time in your armor; nor can you bring yourselves so much as to pretend to be supplicants even in this your utmost extremity. O miserable creatures! what is it you depend on? Are not your people dead? is not your holy house gone? is not your city in my power? and are not your own very lives in my hands? And do you still deem it a part of valor to die? However, I will not imitate your madness. If you throw down your arms, and deliver up your bodies to me, I grant you your lives; and I will act like a mild master of a family [emphasis added]; what cannot be healed shall be punished, and the rest I will preserve for my own use.” (The Wars of the Jews, Book VI, chapter 3)
The above is reported to have been said by Titus after the conquest, or immediately before the conquest was completed. In Book VII, chapter 5, after the conquest, Titus actually rejects the petitions of the inhabitants of Antioch to eject the city’s Jews, and ensures that they remain there with all their previous privileges. In short, Titus attempted to renew peaceful relations and to return things to the status quo. He did want a peace treaty, something which the God of the Bible did not allow for and explicitly denied in Exodus 23. Rogers should assume, if he wants to assume anything at all, that the God of the Qur’an commanded or inspired Titus to offer terms of peace (several times) to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
As can also be seen from the quote above– and more to the point–Titus did not have a policy of indiscriminately massacring civilians or non-combatants. At times, he even complained of the violent excesses of the Jews towards themselves. The Sicarri and the Zealots, in fact, only agreed on one thing: to kill any Jew who was inclined towards peace with the Romans. Jewish-on-Jewish massacres took place in the city and droves of dead bodies were dumped off of the city walls everyday. Josephus writes:
… when Titus was going [on] his rounds along those valleys, he saw them full of dead bodies, and the thick putrefaction running about them. He gave a groan and, spreading out his hands to heaven, called God to witness that this was not his doing [emphasis added], and such was the sad case of the city itself.
The pagan Roman leader, at this point, appears to have a better understanding of the true nature and character of God than the scribes who penned 1 Samuel 15:3 or Exodus 23:32.
Ironically, one of the instances that horrified and further angered the Roman army against Jerusalem was the report of the killing of a Jewish baby by her mother, who then proceeded to eat it. Josephus records:
This sad instance was quickly told to the Romans, some of whom could not believe it, and others pitied the distress which the Jews were under; but there were many of them who were hereby induced to a more bitter hatred than ordinary against our [Jewish] nation. But for Caesar, he excused himself before God as to this matter, and said that he had proposed peace and liberty to the Jews, as well as an oblivion of all their former insolent practices; but that they, instead of concord, had chosen sedition; instead of peace, war; and before satiety and abundance, a famine. That they had begun with their own hands to burn down that temple which we have preserved hitherto; and that therefore they deserved to eat such food as this was. That, however, this horrid action of eating an own child ought to be covered with the overthrow of their very country itself, and men ought not to leave such a city upon the habitable earth to be seen by the sun, wherein mothers are thus fed, although such food be fitter for the fathers than for the mothers to eat of, since it is they that continue still in a state of war against us, after they have undergone such miseries as these. And at the same time that he said this, he reflected on the desperate condition these men must be in; nor could he expect that such men could be recovered to sobriety of mind, after they had endured those very sufferings, for the avoiding whereof it only was probable they might have repented.
Titus clearly did not adhere or subscribe to the idea of “Blessed is the one who takes your babies and smashes them against the rocks!” (Psalm 137:9), or else he might have rejoiced at this report instead of becoming horrified and angered by it. While Titus did clearly see himself as a vehicle of God’s wrath upon the Jews, he does not at any point consider the dashing of babies’ heads or indiscriminate killing of all survivors to be a specific part of the deal. That is not to say that civilians were not killed—some quite brutally—but Titus does not appear to have issued this as a specific directive to his soldiers. At times, he even complains of his inability to restrain his soldiers’ passions and excesses; this fact of history is immortalized in the famous weaved tapestry design by Charles Poerson which appears at the top of this article, in which Titus can be seen riding on horseback, rushing to stop the carnage. For example, according to Josephus, when some of Titus’ soldiers were caught cutting open the stomachs of some of the dead Jews in search of gold that they had swallowed, Titus immediately threatened future violators with death. This was not implemented effectively and such abuses continued, but it certainly speaks volumes for the personal military discipline of Titus. Contrast this with 1 Samuel 18:27, according to which David cuts off the foreskins from the penises of 200 dead Philistine men, and in the very next verse it is said that the Lord was with David. Titus, on the other hand, considers it an unpardonable violation of the dead to mutilate their bodies, even when great material wealth is to be gained thereby. Although neither the Qur’an nor any Qur’anic commentaries would compel us to commit to the idea (nor does the present writer endorse such a theory), there is certainly a stronger argument that can be made for the divine inspiration of Titus than for the divine inspiration of (at least some of) the biblical scribes.
Ironically, the most well-known and shocking instance of the specific target-killing of babies during the Jewish wars is that at the hilltop fortress of Masada, at the hands of the Jews themselves. As is well known, 960 of its inhabitants committed mass suicide, although the application of the term “suicide” to the hundreds of babies and infants who had no choice in the matter seems a bit stretched. The conquering Romans were again shocked at how fathers could have slain their own children and wives. Similar occurrences happened elsewhere as well, including Ein-Gedi where the maniacal Sicarii massacred 700 of the settlement’s inhabitants, and during the siege of Jerusalem itself when the Sicarii set fire to a large stockpile of the city’s dry food supply.
Lastly, I will wrap up with the most important point, which should be obvious by now: Titus did not command the killing of all women, children, non-combatants, and animals. There is sufficient evidence that prisoners were taken and many of their lives spared, and that is not in dispute.
On the same day it was that the sons and brethren of Izates the king, together with many others of the eminent men of the populace, got together there, and besought Caesar to give them his right hand for their security; upon which, though he was very angry at all that were now remaining, yet did he not lay aside his old moderation, but received these men [emphasis added]. At that time, indeed, he kept them all in custody, but still bound the king’s sons and kinsmen, and led them with him to Rome, in order to make them hostages for their country’s fidelity to the Romans. (ibid, Book VI, chapter 6)
According to Josephus, the total captives from the Jewish wars were 97 000. The captives from Jerusalem were obviously much less. Paul McDonnell-Staff puts the number of women and children captives from Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple at 6000 (“A War of Logistics: The Siege of Jerusalem, 66 AD”, in Ancient Warfare 4.2 (2010), pgs. 36-41)
We have seen that the Qur’an nowhere explicitly commands the believers to slay babies or non-combatants in battle. Such a commandment intrinsically strikes the human soul as being unjust; it would be just as reasonable to ask a human being to jump over the moon. For God to command us to specifically target-kill human babies runs contrary to our very human nature and DNA, which in turn has been programmed into us by God our Creator. Only a perfect saint/angel or, conversely, an evil soul whose inner conscience has been destroyed, would be able to carry out such a command. (I will leave it to the reader to decide which category David Wood falls into.)
Secondly, we have seen that, even on the strength of secondary commentaries on the Qur’an, there is no real consensus on who is being referred to in Qur’an 17:4-7. (Some commentaries even consider “the second transgression” or the second period of iniquity to be that of the Medinan Jews who rejected the Prophet Muhammad and their subsequent political treason against the Muslims; in that case, too, we see that the Jewish tribes were ultimately either expelled, or the fighting men in the case of the Banu Qurayza killed while their women and children were spared.)
Thirdly, we have seen that, even if ibn `Abbas’ commentary is correct in identifying Nebuchadnezzar and Titus as the “servants belonging to God” in 17:4-7, it (the commentary) makes no mention of the indiscriminate killing of babies or civilians, much less any endorsement of it.
Fourthly, even if we go outside of Islamic sources (while Rogers initially stated that he would limit himself to Islamic sources, and this was supposed to be “child’s play” for him to do), we find no historical evidence of the idea that Nebuchadnezzar and Titus ever abided by the genocidal rules of warfare as laid down in certain portions of the Bible, particularly 1 Samuel 15:3 in regards to the Amalakites. To the contrary, Nebuchadnezzar exiled many if not most of Jerusalem’s inhabitants, as testified to in the very Bible itself. Similarly, Titus decreed after the conquest of Jerusalem that captives not be killed (although many of them would be killed later). According to Josephus, Titus also practically begged the Jews to spare Jerusalem and their Temple from destruction, made attempts to restrain some of the violent excesses of his soldiers, bemoaned the barbarity of the Jewish factions in Jerusalem towards their own people, absolved himself of blame in front of God in regards to some of the more violent excesses of the war, personally intervened to stop the mutilation of the Jewish dead by threatening the violators with death, and ultimately took a large number of prisoners/captives from Jerusalem back to Rome, many of whom were spared. In other words, thankfully for the Jews that he was fighting, Titus contravened each and every command in 1 Samuel 15:3 and Deuteronomy 20:16. That was a noble thing to do, and it is quite possible that Allah-God inspired in him this element of leniency.
The truth be told, Rogers may have fared better by positing some form of hard Calvinism which attributes everything to God and made that the main premise in his argument. Since God directly wills everything, he could have argued, He must have also willed that the rapist rapes, and the serial killer murders innocents, and so on. Within this framework, he could have better argued that Allah directly willed and commanded Nebuchadnezzar and Titus to do what they did, including their brutality and excesses (which still does not rival the “Kill everything that breathes” policy that we see in the Bible).
No matter how you connect the dots, though, we are still a far, far cry from the genocidal and targeted-killing of babies advocated by Yahweh/Jesus in the Bible. While refutations and counter-refutations on this topic may continue perpetually, Muslims still await a single Qur’anic verse, a single authentic hadith, or even a single fatwa that endorses the idea found in the biblical verse below:
… in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes [emphasis added]. (Deut 20:16)
The heckling continues. Fortunately, we do take prisoners.
Categories: Christianity, Responses to anti-Islamic Polemics
Of course, even if we were to concede that, despite the text,
Saul only attacked fortified military encampments, and not popu-
lated settlements (which is really a false dichotomy, as we’ve
seen), the reality that Copan seems to be wholly unaware of is
that in the ancient world, if an army was invading a certain terri-
tory, the first thing that inhabitants of non-fortified settlements
did was precisely to flee to the fortified cities for protection!
Blow the trumpet through the land;
shout aloud and say,
“Gather together, and let us go
into the fortified cities!”
Raise a standard towards Zion,
flee for safety, do not delay,
for I am bringing evil from the north,
and a great destruction. (Jer 4:5-6)
So even if we accept this untenable picture that all of the cities
attacked by Saul were just military encampments with no civilian
populations, that’s precisely where the noncombatant inhabitants
would have run once the invading army began poring through the
Finally, the whole logic of Saul’s rejection is based on the fact
that he was ordered to kill everything that breathes in Amalek
and failed to do so. This is important. Copan says that when the
text says to “utterly destroy [herem]” and “not spare” the Amalek-
ites, putting to death “both man and woman, child and infant, ox
and sheep, camel and donkey,” it doesn’t mean that literally. Co-
pan claims that this is just metaphorical language for a definitive
defeat against a military encampment. But if that’s the case, then
Saul was obviously successful! The text says he spared only one
man, the king (in order to humiliate him), and the livestock, which
Saul intended to offer as a sacrifice to Yahweh. If “kill everything
that breathes” was just a metaphor for a decisive military victory
against a military target, then Saul was clearly obedient to Yah-
weh’s command. Why then is Saul rejected for his failure to obey?
This doesn’t work on Copan’s quasi-reading of the text. Saul’s re-
jection only makes sense if the herem command was to be taken
Copan concludes his discussion of the Amalekites by pointing
out that herem warfare was only applied to the Canaanites and
the Amalekites (174). Let’s get this straight. Copan first argues
that this herem war against the Amalekites was just a battle
against the military, not against civilians. Then he argues that Is-
rael only engaged in herem warfare against the Canaanites and
the Amalekites. My head is spinning. So if herem warfare was war-
fare only against the military, and Israel engaged in herem war-
fare only against the Canaanites and Amalekites, then whom did
they fight in all those other, non-herem battles? Ghosts? Demons?
Lawyers? The fact is, Israel never took soldiers as captives. If they
won the battle, they always killed the men, but sometimes took
women and children captive. So if herem warfare is just killing all
the men, then herem warfare is all Israel ever engaged in. But that
would be ridiculous, as even Lawson Younger recognizes. What
was unique about herem warfare was precisely that women and
children were to be killed along with the men.
Men, Women, and Children
Now we come to one of the most problematic and misleading ar-
guments of Copan’s entire book—the argument that Canaanite
women and children weren’t (necessarily) killed in Israel’s con-
Copan begins by stating that Evangelical scholar Richard Hess
offers a convincing argument that the Canaanites against whom
Israel’s herem warfare was leveled were not civilians but military
leaders and their soldiers (174). But in fact, there is nothing con-
vincing about Hess’s argument to this effect; it is based on a num-
ber of spurious moves which seek to distort the archaeological
record to the advantage of those who are embarrassed by the
genocidal narratives in Joshua. I’ll examine Hess’s argument in
more detail below. But for now, let’s look at the “example” that
Copan cites to prove that the Canaanites targeted were military
leaders and their soldiers and not civilians. Copan notes that Deu-
teronomy 20:10-18 declares a “ban,” a “dedication to destruction”
with the word herem. So far so good. But then Copan claims that
this word denotes the destruction of all soldiers involved in bat-
tle, and not the civilians (174)! Here Copan cites an essay by Rich-
ard Hess as a source. Here’s what Hess says:
The above mentioned herem “ban” appears in Deut
20:10-18 as a guideline for Israel’s engagement
with enemies on the territory that God had given to
the nation. This “ban” required the total destruc-
tion of all warriors in the battle and (in some way)
the consecration to Yahweh of everything that was
77 Richard S. Hess, “War in the Hebrew Bible: An Overview,” in War in the Bible
and Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century, 25.
The first thing to note is that Copan has claimed much more
than Hess has, despite the fact that Copan cites Hess as his source.
Hess claims that all the warriors are to be killed and that “every-
thing that was captured” (i.e., the noncombatants) was to be con-
secrated to Yahweh “in some way.” But Copan makes the much
bolder claim that the noncombatants were not to be killed. The
fact is, however, that Deut 20:10-18 is unequivocal in contradict-
ing Copan’s claim, and unequivocal in its statement of just how
the noncombatants were to be consecrated to Yahweh, despite
Hess’s pretense that it’s somehow unclear. Neither of them actual-
ly quote Deut 20:10-18. If they did, it would be immediately ap-
parent to their readers that their statements contradict the text.
Hess further obfuscates the text by referring to the noncombat-
ants and livestock, etc. as “everything that was captured.” In fact,
the text forbids the capture of the noncombatants and livestock,
and demands their total destruction. Now at first you’re going to
think I’m wrong, because the text will speak clearly of taking
women and children as captives. But keep reading:
When you draw near to a town to fight against it,
offer it terms of peace. If it accepts your terms of
peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in
it shall serve you in forced labor. If it does not
submit to you peacefully, but makes war against
you, then you shall besiege it; and when Yahweh
your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all
its males to the sword. You may, however, take as
your booty the women, the children, livestock, and
everything else in the town, all its spoil. You may
enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which Yahweh
your God has given you. Thus you shall treat all the
towns that are very far from you, which are not
towns of the nations here.
But as for the towns of these peoples that Yah-
weh your God is giving you as an inheritance, you
must not let anything that breathes remain alive.
You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the
Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the
Hivites and the Jebusites—just as Yahweh your
God has commanded, so that they may not teach
you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for
their gods, and you thus sin against Yahweh your
God. (Deut 20:10-18)
Remember that Copan said that this text shows that the tar-
geted Canaanites were military leaders and their soldiers, and not
civilians. But in reality, the precise opposite is the case. The text is
clear and unequivocal. It is the noncombatants outside the land of
Canaan, the noncombatants outside the borders of the Promised
Land, who are to be spared and taken as spoil into forced slavery.
Conversely, the text clearly and emphatically states that those in-
side the land of Canaan, those inside the borders of the Promised
Land—they are to be utterly wiped out, shown know mercy, not
spared, and not taken as spoil. Once again, Copan makes his ar-
gument with no regard for the actual biblical text.
And what this text displays is something I pointed out earlier.
Israel always killed all of the adult males (soldiers). That applies
both to herem warfare (inside Canaan) and non-herem warfare
(outside Canaan). In both cases, all the soldiers are to be killed. So
again, when Copan attempts to argue that in herem warfare, only
the soldiers are to be killed, he’s effectively removing any distinc-
tion between herem and non-herem warfare. Yet, as we saw, in the
same breath he feels the need to argue that we shouldn’t be too
upset at herem warfare because Yahweh only applied it to the Ca-
naanites and the Amalekites! Copan obviously didn’t think this
To understand how herem warfare worked, let’s look at Judg-
es 20-21. These chapters tell the story of how all of the Israelite
tribes attacked the Israelite tribe of Benjamin because the people
of a Benjamite city refused to give up a small group of rapists for
punishment. Sanctioned directly by Yahweh, the allied Israelite
tribes attack the Benjamite soldiers and almost wipe them out
entirely. Out of about 26,000 Benjamite soldiers killed in battle
that day, six hundred Benjamite soldiers escaped and took refuge
at the Rock of Rimmon. Meanwhile, the allied Israelite tribes
turned back and attacked the Benjamite villages, totally annihilat-
ing the entire civilian population of Benjamin—all of the women
and all of the children. Think about that. If there were 26,000
men, imagine how many women and children Israel slaughtered!
Is this hyperbole? No it isn’t. How do we know? Chapter 21.
In chapter 21, after the Israelites killed all of the Benjamite
men, except for the six hundred who escaped, and ruthlessly
slaughtered all of the women and children, they realized what
that meant: Uh-oh! “There must be heirs for the survivors of Ben-
jamin, in order that a tribe may not be blotted out from Israel”
(Judg 21:17). The tribe of Benjamin is going to be blotted out! It’s
not going to live on, because the few hundred remaining Benja-
mite men no longer have any wives or children to carry the tribe
forward. Big problem!
So the Israelites hatch a plan. Since they had vowed not to give
any of their own women to the Benjamites, they decided instead
to attack another Israelite town (one that, for some strange rea-
son, refused to participate in the massacre of their Benjamite
kinsmen that day), kill everybody in it, except for some virgins to
capture and give as wives to the surviving Benjamite soldiers.
And that’s what they did:
So the congregation sent twelve thousand soldiers
there and commanded them, “Go, put the inhabit-
ants of Jabesh-gilead to the sword, including the
women and the little ones. This is what you shall
do; every male and every woman that has lain with
a male you shall devote to destruction [herem].”
And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-
gilead four hundred young virgins who had never
slept with a man and brought them to the camp at
Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan. Then the
whole congregation sent word to the Benjamites
who were at the rock of Rimmon, and proclaimed
peace to them. Benjamin returned at that time; and
they gave them the women whom they had saved
alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead. (Judg 21:10-
Note first, that this text clearly involves the killing of noncom-
batants: non-virgin women, all the males in the entire city (young
and old), and all of the young girls who weren’t old enough to be
married, including the infants. They only spared the virgin girls of
The whole point of attacking this town was to find virgin girls
to give to the Benjamites. Note that the herem never applied to
those virgin girls. And the text specifically says this when it stipu-
lates to whom the ban (herem) applies: “every male and every
woman that has lain with a male you shall devote to destruction
[herem].” The herem never applied to the virgin girls, as stipulated
in the text. But all of those to whom herem did apply were killed.
What this story in Judges 20-21 tells us is that, contrary to
what Copan and others want you to believe, (1) Israel had no
compunction about killing women and children, and (2) herem
warfare clearly necessitates the slaughter of anyone who is desig-
nated for destruction. Recall what Lev 27:28-29 stipulates about
human beings designated as herem to Yahweh:
Nothing that a person owns that has been devoted
to Yahweh, be it human or animal, or inherited
land-holding, may be sold or redeemed; every de-
voted thing is most holy to Yahweh. No human be-
ings who have been devoted to destruction can be
ransomed; they shall be put to death. (Lev 27:28-
This text clearly states that any human designated as herem to
Yahweh is to be put to death; they cannot be spared. Remember,
Leviticus 27 is not a hyperbolic warfare text; it is a legal text.
I should note that to Christian apologist Matt Flannagan’s
credit, he doesn’t buy Copan and Hess’s argument that civilian
slaughters aren’t in view in herem warfare. In his review of Co-
pan’s book, Flannagan writes:
While I agree that the language of these texts is hy-
perbolic . . . here I am not entirely convinced by
Hess’s position. The command of Deut 20:16 to
leave alive nothing that breathes occurs in a con-
text where civilian populations of cities have been
mentioned only a few verses earlier in Deut
78 Matt Flannagan, “Is God a Moral Monster? A Review of Paul Copan’s Book,”
While Flannagan’s hyperbole argument is just as wrong as
Copan’s and for the same reasons, he is exactly right here. Deu-
teronomy 20 says that civilians outside Canaan’s borders are to
be spared and taken as slaves, whereas civilians within Canaan’s
borders are to be killed. Now back to Copan’s argument that this
isn’t the case.
One of Copan’s principle moves, following Hess, is the claim
that whenever we see “men and women, young and old” identi-
fied as targets of slaughter, we don’t need to take that literally.
Copan quotes Hess, saying that the phrase “men and women”
appears to be stereotypical for describing all the in-
habitants of a town or region, without predisposing
the reader to assume anything further about their ages
or even their genders. It is synonymous with “all, eve-
79 Richard S. Hess, “The Jericho and Ai of the Book of Joshua ,” in Critical Issues
in Early Israelite Religion (Eisenbrauns, 2008), 39.
80 Ibid., 46.
81 Richard S. Hess, Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary, 43, 45.
Later Copan will make this claim again, arguing that when the text
says that “women” and “young and old” were targets for destruc-
tion, this was mere “stock” language in the ancient Near East that
meant “everybody,” even if women and other noncombatants
weren’t actually present. He says that the text does not necessi-
tate that noncombatants were actually there, even though it iden-
tifies them (175). Here he quotes Hess again, who identifies the
construction “from man unto woman” as a “stereotypical expres-
sion for the destruction of all human life in the fort, presumably
composed entirely of combatants.”80
Where does Copan get this idea that the language of “men and
women, young and old” was “stock ancient Near Eastern lan-
guage” just meaning “all”? Does he derive this from the ancient
Near Eastern warfare literature? No, he doesn’t. We already saw
the ancient Near Eastern warfare literature, and in not one case is
“men and woman, young and old” or any similar phrase used in
this way. The only text we saw that identified women and chil-
dren as objects of slaughter was the Mesha Stele, and there it is
absolutely clear that the language is intended literally. In fact, in
his commentary on the book of Joshua, Richard Hess makes clear
that Israel’s herem warfare was a “political ideology that Israel
shared with other nations,” and that, although in some cases non-
human spoil could be taken, “its one common element” was “the
complete destruction of the inhabitants.”81
Copan is able to offer no evidentiary support for this claim
that “from man unto woman” meant “all.” On Copan’s reading,
“from man unto woman” can just refer to “male combatants.” How
Particularly ludicrous is this claim, that “from man unto wom-
an, from young unto old,” is a stock phrase that can be used for
the “inhabitants” of a town, “without predisposing the reader to
assume anything further about their ages or even their genders.”
Anything further than what? Anything further than that they are
identified as children, adults, or elderly? Anything further than
that they are identified as male and female? So, I take this to mean
that the reader would not have had the freedom to interpret any
of the victims as ageless (immortal) or hermaphrodites. So when
it says that they killed “young and old, male and female,” we
should not take this to mean that they killed transvestite vam-
pires, because we’re not supposed to take it to mean “anything
further” about their ages or genders. Note also that Hess and Co-
pan both rightly identify the victims of the herem warfare as “in-
habitants.” Yet, as we’ll see, in the same breath they want to argue
that Jericho and Ai were makeshift military forts, temporary, or
“semipermanent.” But if that were the case then they wouldn’t be
“inhabitants,” which is always and only used to refer to the popu-
lation of a city or region. And the account of Ai specifically uses
the word “inhabitants” when it recounts that Israel killed twelve
thousand “men and women” that day.82
82 Copan follows Hess in arguing that “twelve thousand” should be translated
“twelve squads.” Hess, “Jericho and Ai,” 46, bases this argument off of the fact that
the word for “thousands” (’elef) is translated in Num 31:5 as “clans.” But “clans”
does not mean “squads,” and, moreover, it is an extremely rare translation of ’elef,
and the same word is used twice in the same sentence in Num 31:5, and its meaning
is undeniably “thousand.” That is the word’s normal meaning. Furthermore, Hess
wants to read “twelve thousand” in Josh 8:25 as “twelve squads,” i.e., of fighting
men, but this translation is absolutely precluded by the fact that the text says
“twelve thousand, both men and women,” unless Hess wants to claim that women
were fighting in the military! If it merely was a reference to squads of soldiers, the
phrase, “both men and women” would hardly have been employed.
So why do they make this argument? It’s not because any of
the literature supports their claim that “from man unto woman”
could just mean “male military personnel.” It’s because the ar-
chaeological evidence makes it clear that, contrary to the claims
of the text, Jericho and Ai weren’t inhabited in the period in ques-
tion. Hess admits this, so he imagines this scenario in which the
abandoned cities were being used as makeshift military forts.
That’s why he has to say that “from man unto woman” could just
mean “whoever happened to be there.” Not because there’s any
philological (linguistic) support for this claim, but because he is
forced to admit that these cities were in reality uninhabited, con-
trary to the text.
The reality is Israel clearly did engage in the killing of women
and children. Numbers 31 is a clear, undeniable example. They
spare the women and children, and then are given orders to exe-
cute all of the non-virgin females and the male children, orders
which they carry out. And there are other clear examples, show-
ing that when the text says they killed the noncombatants, it isn’t
just being “hyperbolic.” It means what it says.
For example, Numbers 21:2-3, distinguishes between the mili-
tary and the civilians, and says Israel killed both. They make a
vow to Yahweh, saying that if Yahweh will give them victory
against Arad’s forces, then as an offering they will in turn go and
attack all of the towns and kill the noncombatants. Yahweh gives
them victory against Arad’s forces, and then they annihilate the
townships in turn.
And we’ve already noted the example in Judges 20-21.
“Meanwhile, the Israelites turned back against the Benjaminites,
and put them to the sword—the city, the people, the animals, and
all that remained. Also the remaining towns they set on fire” (Judg
20:48). Here it doesn’t even use the phrase “men and women.” It
merely uses “the people,” but what does that mean? As we’ve
seen, it literally means that they killed all of the women and chil-
dren. We know this because then they had the problem of having
to find new wives for the surviving Benjamite soldiers so that the
tribe of Benjamin could continue! If it weren’t for the subsequent
narrative in Judges 21, Copan would just want to claim that “the
city, the people, the animals, and all that remained” was just
“stock ancient Near Eastern language” meaning “all,” without nec-
essarily referring to the slaughter of noncombatants. Again, in
Judges 21, the text identifies “every male and every woman that
has lain with a male” as targets for destruction. But really the text
is probably just being metaphorical, using “stock language.”
What these texts and numerous others show is that if this lan-
guage was “stock language,” it was stock language that meant
what it said.
Now Copan follows Hess as Hess feigns to provide evidence
that the phrase “from man unto woman” just meant “all,” without
necessarily intending to refer to actual “men and women.” I’ll
quote from Hess, since that’s the original source:
The actual expression is translated, “men and
women,” literally, “from man (and) unto woman.”
The phrase occurs elsewhere seven times, refer-
ring to the inhabitants of Ai (Josh 8:25), Amalek (1
Sam 15:3, here without the waw [“and”]), Nob (1
Sam 22:19), Jerusalem during David’s time (2 Sam
6:19 = 1 Chr 16:3), Jerusalem during Ezra’s time
(Neh 8:2), and Israel (2 Chr 15:13). In 2 Sam 6:19
(= 1 Chr 16:3) it describes the joyful occasion of
David’s entrance into Jerusalem with the ark of the
covenant and his distributing food to all the on-
lookers. Except for Saul’s extermination of the in-
habitants of Nob in 1 Sam 22:19, where children
are specifically mentioned (unlike the texts about
Jericho, Ai, and elsewhere), all other appearances
of the phrase precede or follow the Hebrew kol “all,
everyone.” Thus, the phrase appears to be stereo-
typical for describing all the inhabitants of a town
or region, without predisposing the reader to as-
sume anything further about their ages or even
their genders. It is synonymous with “all, every-
83 Hess, “Jericho and Ai,” 39.
Copan adds to this that the same thing can be said of other pas-
sages in the book of Deuteronomy (174). He quotes two passages:
“we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the
men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor”
(2:34); “utterly destroying the men, women and children of every
Before we examine Hess’s thoroughly untenable argument,
let’s take a moment to point out a classic apologetic inconsistency
here. Recall back when Copan was discussing the Mosaic law.
We’ve seen that the Mosaic law often uses masculine language
when it issues its directives. But Copan kept insisting, in his ar-
gument that the Mosaic law was but wasn’t really patriarchal, that
even if it just said “men,” the women were assumed to be included
too! Now he’s arguing the exact opposite. Even if it says, “men and
women,” it just means “men.” My head is spinning.
But let’s examine Hess’s claims in the quote above. First, the
idea that “from man unto women” only occurs seven times in the
Hebrew Bible is a strange one. Sure, that particular construction
may only occur seven times, but there are all sorts of various
ways to say “men and women,” meaning that men and women are
actually identified hundreds of times in the Hebrew Bible. Let’s
examine the actual texts that Hess cites to prove that “from man
unto women” was a “synonym” for “all, everybody.” We’ll find that
in no case does the phrase mean “whoever happens to be there.”
It refers to scenarios where both men and women are literally
Hess cites Nehemiah 8:2 (which has nothing to do with war-
fare; its setting is a political assembly). Here’s the text:
All the people gathered together into the square
before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to
bring the book of the law of Moses, which Yahweh
had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra
brought the law before the assembly, both men and
women and all who could hear with understanding.
Does this text support Hess’s claim that “from man unto woman”
could refer to a situation where women weren’t actually present?
No. The text says “from man unto woman” precisely because it
means to relay that both men and women were present. In his in-
teractions with me, Hess further clarified his argument stating
that “from man unto woman” is used in cases where women need
not be present, whereas another construction, “men and women,”
is used only in cases where men and women are required to be
there. But this is false. Ezra 10:1 uses the latter construction
(“men and women”) but the setting is virtually identical to that of
Neh 8:1-2 (quoted just above). It is a political gathering convened
by the leaders, and it is said that “men and women” were present.
What this shows is that the two constructions are essentially syn-
onymous. But let’s look at the remaining texts Hess cites:
When David had finished offering the burnt-
offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed
the people in the name of He Who Raises Armies
[“Yahweh Sabaoth”], and distributed food among
all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both
men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion
of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people
went back to their homes. (2 Sam 6:18-19)
Once again, this text describes a political gathering where both
men and women are literally present. It says “both men and
women” because it is describing a scene where all of the inhabit-
ants of the city come out to see the king; this text cannot be used
to justify Hess’s claim that “from man unto woman” could be used
even if women weren’t actually present. If women weren’t actual-
ly present, then that phrase would hardly have been used. The
text could say, “the men of the city,” or “the sons of Israel,” or even
“the people.” But it doesn’t. It says “from man unto woman.” Now
unless Jerusalem was a city with no female inhabitants, it’s clear
what “from man unto woman” means, i.e., what it says. Next text:
They entered into a covenant to seek Yahweh, the
god of their ancestors, with all their heart and with
all their soul. Whoever would not seek Yahweh, the
god of Israel, should be put to death, whether young
or old, man or woman. They took an oath to Yah-
weh with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with
trumpets, and with horns. (2 Chron 15:12-14)
Here, the phrase is used precisely to indicate that the terms of the
oath apply to everybody, in other words, that women and chil-
dren are not exempt from the demands of the oath and the conse-
quences of an infraction. Once again, this text cannot be used in
support of Hess’s thesis. Next text:
Nob, the city of the priests, he [Saul] put to the
sword; men and women, children and infants, ox-
en, donkeys, and sheep, he put to the sword. (1
Neither does this text support Hess’s thesis. The city is not a mili-
tary fort; it’s a city of priests. Priests had families (they weren’t
Roman Catholic . . . or were they?). Saul kills all the priests who
opposed him and supported David, then he killed all of their
wives and children. This text, far from supporting Hess’s thesis,
not only contradicts it, but shows that when the text speaks of
killing “women” and “children,” it means what it says. Next three
Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all
that they have; do not spare them, but kill both
man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep,
camel and donkey. (1 Sam 15:3)
The total of those who fell that day, both men and
women, was twelve thousand—all the people of Ai.
Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of
the sword all in the city, both men and women,
young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys. (Josh
Thus, despite Hess’s strained attempt to argue that “from man
unto woman” could refer to everybody without necessarily actu-
ally indicating that women were present, every text he cites in
support of his claim has contradicted him. We therefore have no
reason, whatsoever, neither textual nor philological, to follow
Hess when he makes this untenable claim. Thus, when Joshua 6
and 8 say that all of the men and women in Jericho and Ai were
killed, we have every reason to believe that the texts intend to say
that men and women were killed.
Note, moreover, that Hess’s list of seven occurrences allows
him to exclude other synonymous constructions which give clear
indication that not only were women present, they were killed.
For instance, “David struck the land, leaving neither man nor
woman alive, but took away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the
camels, and the clothing, and came back to Achish” (1 Sam 27:9).
Is “neither man nor woman” just “stock language” here, meaning
“all” but not necessarily “women”? No it isn’t, as we’ve already
seen. Verse 11 explains exactly why David killed all of the males
and females inhabiting the settlements he was raiding: so that
they wouldn’t tell on him to Achish, exposing David’s treachery (a
treachery which is presented in the text as a positive thing, by the
way). I suppose if v. 11 weren’t in the text, Copan would just read
this as “stock ancient Near Eastern language” too.84
84 This text allows for neither a synecdochal reading nor a hyperbolic reading,
as is also the case with Judges 20-21, Numbers 31, and numerous other texts. Sure,
sometimes “all” was an exaggeration, but other times it meant just what it said. And
given the herem ideology that underwrites the conquest narratives through and
through, it’s clear what the Deuteronomistic portion of Joshua is trying to portray.
Joshua, like Josiah, was perfectly obedient to the command to root out the Canaanite
contagion from the land.
Now, I need to make one further point in criticism of Hess’s
argument. He states that “children are specifically mentioned” on-
ly in 1 Sam 22:19 (Saul’s extermination of the inhabitants of Nob),
and he claims that children are not specifically mentioned in “the
texts about Jericho, Ai, and elsewhere.” Of course, this isn’t true at
all. In 1 Sam 22:19, two words are used: children (‘olel) and in-
fants (yanaq). These same two words are used in 1 Sam 15:3, to
identify children and infants as subject to Saul’s Yahweh-
mandated massacre of the Amalekites. Moreover, Josh 6:21 iden-
tifies “young and old” as objects of the herem slaughter. The word
“young” here is na’ar, which is another (masculine) word for
child, covering a range from infancy to adolescence. So children
are specifically identified as objects of slaughter at Jericho (which
Hess and Copan claim was only a military fort inhabited entirely
by soldiers, with the exception of Rahab and her whole family),
and among the Amalekites.
Copan concludes this section by reminding his reader that any
Canaanite who embraced Israel’s God would find that “mercy”
was within their reach (175). Right! Which is precisely what Deut
7:2 must mean when it says, “and when Yahweh your God gives
them over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly de-
stroy them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mer-
cy.” We’ll address this claim of Copan’s further when he makes it
again a little later.
Uninhabited Ghost Towns: Jericho and Ai
Copan begins his discussion of Jericho and Ai with a serious dis-
tortion of the archaeological data. He notes that the battles at Jeri-
cho and Ai both describe the destruction of noncombatants and
claims that an ordinary, untrained reader is not going to be able
to recognize the “fact” that this common ancient Near Eastern
warfare language is really describing strikes against military forts,
not strikes against noncombatant inhabitants. He then states that
the archaeological record proves that there were not any civilians
living in Jericho or Ai (175).
What Copan is doing, following Hess, is twisting the archaeo-
logical data. He is right that there is no archaeological evidence of
a civilian population at Jericho and Ai; there is no archaeological
evidence of any population of any kind. What he fails to mention is
that at Jericho, there weren’t any walls either. The walls and city
were destroyed in 1550 BCE, well over a hundred years before
the conservative dating of the conquest, and more than three
hundred years before the consensus dating of the conquest. In
other words, Jericho wasn’t fortified at the time of the alleged
conquest, rendering it not very helpful to function as a makeshift
And as we’ve seen, the notion that the phrase “from man unto
woman, from young unto old” is “stock ancient Near Eastern lan-
guage” for “all” is something that Copan and Hess have fabricated
out of thin air—neither the comparative nor the biblical literature
support this claim.
The reality is that the battles at Jericho and Ai depict an attack
on a civilian population. These are folk narratives, developed by
the Iron Age inhabitants of Canaan to explain these ruins, and
picked up later by royal propagandists to create a myth of nation-
al origins and to reinforce the Deuteronomistic message under-
writing the Josianic reforms. They were written to correspond to
the order given in Deuteronomy 7 and 20, namely, to slaughter all
of the inhabitants of Canaan. So when the narratives talk about
the destruction of women, children, and the elderly, and Copan
says that that doesn’t necessarily mean women, children and the
elderly were actually there (175), Copan is missing the boat. The
text does want the hearer to envision a destruction of noncombat-
ant populations, because that is the text’s agenda. The lack of ar-
chaeological support for the text cannot be distorted into evi-
dence that the text doesn’t mean what it says.
Next, Copan follows Hess’s argument that the word for “city”
(‘ir) has the special meaning “military fortress.” Let’s go to Hess to
get a clear picture of what he’s arguing:
The first issue is what it means for Jericho to be
called an ‘ir, often translated “city.” This term pos-
sesses the more general meaning, “population cen-
ter.” The noun occurs 13 times in the 6th chapter of
Joshua to describe Jericho, both with and without
the definite article. The term does not always de-
scribe a large metropolis. Its first appearance in the
book of Joshua describes the small town of Adam
in 3:16 as the point where the waters were
stopped so that Israel could cross the Jordan River.
It describes the village of Bethlehem south of Jeru-
salem (1 Sam 20:6). Elsewhere, it is used to identi-
fy tent encampments (Judg 10:4, 1 Chr 2:22-23). Of
special interest, however, is the connection of ‘ir
with the fortress. At Rabbah of Ammon, the term is
used to designate the citadel (2 Sam 12:26), and
the same term is used to describe the fortress of
Zion in Jerusalem that David captured (2 Sam 5:7,
9; 1 Chr 11:5, 7). The evidence suggests the ‘ir can
at times designate what is primarily a fort.85
85 Hess, “Jericho and Ai,” 35.
‘ir referred to a fortified settlement, but this does not mean
that it necessarily referred to a military fort absent noncombatant
inhabitants. Let’s look at the two texts Hess cites in support of his
claim that ‘ir had the sense of “fortress,” by which he means, mili-
tary citadel absent noncombatants. (Copan references the follow-
ing two texts also.)
Hess cites Rabbah in 2 Sam 12:26 and Zion (i.e., Jerusalem) in
2 Sam 5:7. Here’s what 2 Samuel says about the city of Rabbah:
Now Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites,
and took the royal city. Joab sent messengers to
David, and said, “I have fought against Rabbah;
moreover, I have taken the water city. Now, then,
gather the rest of the people together, and encamp
against the city, and take it; or I myself will take the
city, and it will be called by my name.” So David
gathered all the people together and went to Rab-
bah, and fought against it and took it. He took the
crown of Milcom from his head; the weight of it
was a talent of gold, and in it was a precious stone;
and it was placed on David’s head. He also brought
forth the spoil of the city, a very great amount. He
brought out the people who were in it, and set
them to work with saws and iron picks and iron
axes, or sent them to the brickworks. Thus he did
to all the cities of the Ammonites. (2 Sam 12:26-31)
The king and his men marched to Jerusalem
against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land,
who said to David, “You will not come in here, even
the blind and the lame will turn you back”—
thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Neverthe-
less, David took the stronghold of Zion, which is
now the city of David. David had said on that day,
“Whoever wishes to strike down the Jebusites, let
him get up the water shaft to attack the lame and
the blind, those whom David hates.” Therefore it is
said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into
the house.” (2 Sam 5:6-8)
The only point that really needs to be made in response is that
Rabbah and Zion are not just called “cities.” The “city” in each case,
referred to the population center or the houses surrounding the citadel
or fortress. But in both cases, the fortresses are not just called “city,”
rather, the word ‘ir is qualified by another, distinguishing it from the
‘ir around it. At Rabbah, the stronghold is called the “royal city.” At
Zion, it is called a “stronghold,” or “citadel.” But significantly, when
Jericho and Ai are identified as cities, they are not qualified in these
ways. Moreover, as Hess reminded me in his response to my first edi-
tion, Rabbah’s “royal city” was very small, too small for a population.
The same is true of the stronghold at Zion. These strongholds were
not designed to contain a population. But Jericho and Ai were. Ai was
larger than Jericho, but Jericho itself was about nine acres. Israeli ar-
chaeologist Yigael Yadin estimates that ancient military cities in this
region had a population of about 240 persons per urban acre. This
means Jericho would have had a population of about 2160 persons (if
it weren’t a ruin at the time). Yadin further states that in such cities,
only about 25% of the population were soldiers. The strongholds at
Rabbah and Zion were too small to hold such a population, too small
indeed to contain livestock, which Joshua 6 and 8 state clearly were
present at Jericho and Ai.
Hess claims that except for Rahab and her family, “no other non-
combatants are singled out. In fact, only the king and his agents who
pursue the Israelite spies are mentioned otherwise. Thus, the text itself
specifies no one else who would function as a noncombatant.”86 In
fact, the text specifies no one else who would function as a noncom-
batant, except for the women, the children, and the elderly: “Then
they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city,
both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys”
(Josh 6:21). What Hess means, of course, is that the text does not
identify by name any of the noncombatants who were slaughtered in
Jericho, therefore we should assume that there were no noncombat-
ants at all.
86 Ibid., 36.
Copan too thinks it’s significant that the text identifies kings
killed in battle, but that it doesn’t identify any particular noncom-
batants killed (176). I’m not sure whether to take them seriously
here. Are they seriously suggesting that if noncombatants were
killed we should expect the text to identify them by name? I’d like
him to point me to a single ancient text that identifies civilians
killed in battle. Civilians were unimportant. Recall the Bulletin of
Rameses II which referred to the noncombatants merely as
“chaff,” for which the Pharaoh had no regard whatsoever. The
kings were the real prizes; that’s why they’re named. Besides,
what are the Israelites going to do, go in and take a census?
Now, let’s examine Copan’s use of the above argument from
Hess. Picking up and taking off with Hess’s argument that ‘ir could
signify a fortress with no civilian population (although in the ex-
amples he cites, the word ‘ir is qualified by other words, distin-
guishing the fortresses from the actual ‘ir, a population center),
Copan makes the stronger claim that Jericho, Ai, and several other
cities in Canaan were used primarily for government edifices and
official business, while the remainder of the land’s population,
women and children included, resided in the country outside the
fortified city. But this claim is fabricated. It’s true that many in-
habitants lived outside of the fortified cities in the surrounding
country, but it isn’t true that these fortified cities were inhabited
only by government officials or military forces. There is no evi-
dence to support this claim, and the biblical text itself frequently
contradicts this claim, as we’ve seen. Jericho was nine acres in
size; it would have consisted of a population of a few thousand.
Archaeologist Yigael Yadin estimates that in such cities, only 25%
of the population were soldiers.
Copan then makes the claim that the Amarna Letters—a col-
lection of correspondence letters between the Egyptian pharaoh
and his vassal kings in Canaan and other regions, dating to the
fourteenth century BCE (i.e., the century prior to the alleged con-
quest)—indicate that fortresses such as Shechem and Jerusalem
were not only distinguished from, but also under the direct do-
minion of—the population centers, i.e., the non-fortified settle-
ments in the surrounding countryside (175). Now to support this
claim, Copan quotes Hess’s article, “The Jericho and Ai of the Book
of Joshua,” incorrectly citing pp. 29-30; Hess’s essay begins on
page 33. From what I can gather, Copan meant to reference pages
39-40, because that is where Hess discusses the Amarna Letters,
but, unfortunately for Copan, what Hess says there does not sup-
port Copan’s claim that Jerusalem and Shechem were under the
control of the non-fortified settlements in the countryside sur-
rounding them. Rather, what the Amarna Letters tell us is that
Jerusalem and Shechem were under the direct control of Egypt, in
fact, under the control of the Pharaoh. The vassal kings of Canaan
lived in these fortified cities, along with civilian inhabitants, as
we’ve already established.
It’s also worth noting that the Amarna Letters do not contain
correspondences between Egypt and the kings of Jericho and Ai.
Why is that? Well, probably because Jericho and Ai were ruins,
and had no vassals. Hess argues that the ruins of Jericho and Ai
were used as makeshift forts, but the text is unmistakable. The
text does not depict them as makeshift forts. Of Ai, the text uses
the word “inhabitants,” and identifies “both men and women,”
twelve thousand of them, as objects of the slaughter. So is it a ruin
used as a “makeshift fort,” or is it a city with “inhabitants,” and
“twelve thousand” “men and women”? The Israelites are also said
to have taken “livestock and spoil” from the city. Again, if there
was livestock in the city, then there would have been civilians
there to tend to them. And what “spoil” would a makeshift fort
occupied solely by soldiers have for Israel to take?
Finally, Note also that Joshua 8:17 says that “There was not a
man left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel; they left
the city open, and pursued Israel.” Note this carefully. All of the
men left Ai to pursue Israel. What happens next? A hidden squad of
Israelites enters Ai after all the soldiers had left and set it on fire.
All of the men of Ai are out of the city, and are now surrounded by
Israelites. The Israelites they were pursuing turned back against
them, and the Israelites who set the city on fire came out and at-
tacked them from the other side.
And Israel struck them down until no one was left
who survived or escaped. But the king of Ai was
taken alive and brought to Joshua.
When Israel had finished slaughtering all the
inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where
they pursued them, and when all of them to the
very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Is-
rael returned to Ai, and attacked it with the edge of
the sword. The total of those who fell that day, both
men and women, was twelve thousand—all the peo-
ple of Ai.
Note very carefully the second to last sentence above. After the
Israelites finished killing all of the men (remember, “all the men of
Ai” had left the city to chase after Israel), the Israelites go back
into the city and “attacked it with the edge of the sword.” If Ai was
only populated by male soldiers, whom did Israel attack with the
edge of the sword, now that all the men were dead? The next
verse makes it crystal clear: “The total of those who fell that day,
both men and women, was twelve thousand—all the people of Ai.”
Now, another argument that Copan makes, again following
Hess, is that the “kings” of Jericho and Ai weren’t “kings” like the
kings of Jerusalem, Hazor, and other Canaanite cities with civilian
populations. (Hazor, one of the cities that the book of Joshua
claims to have conquered and put to sword and flame, was inhab-
ited by about 20,000 people.) What Hess claims is that the word
for “king” (Hebrew: mlk) could sometimes mean “military com-
mander,” not “king” in the ordinary sense. This is in fact an in-
credibly important argument for Hess to make if he wants to
make the case that Jericho and Ai were not inhabited by civilians,
since ordinarily, a king oversaw a civilian population.
Hess recognizes the importance of making this argument
when he writes that “the strongest textual objection to the image
of Jericho as a fort occurs with the appearance of the king of Jeri-
cho. The king, Hebrew melek, is mentioned three times in Joshua
2:2, 3 and 6:2. Jericho’s king is referred to five additional times in
the book of Joshua (8:2; 10:1, 28, 30: 12:9). It is possible that a
traditional king is intended in this account.”87 So, according to
Hess, if we are to understand the “king” of Jericho as the same
sort of king as all the other kings of Canaan, then this is funda-
mentally problematic for his thesis that Jericho was just a military
fort. So Hess must make the argument that the king of Jericho was
a “king” in a very different sense. The argument he makes is in-
credibly convoluted, and utterly tenuous, so bear with me as I un-
87 Ibid., 39.
Referencing the Amarna Letters (mid-fourteenth century BCE
correspondences between Egyptian officials and Canaanite rulers
and officials, written in Akkadian cuneiform), Hess begins by not-
ing that the Akkadian term “king” is used throughout to refer to
the Pharaoh. The Akkadian word is šarru, and its logographic Su-
merian equivalent (also used in the letters) is LUGAL. The kings of
Canaan, in their letters to Pharaoh, address him thus: ana šarri
beliya, “to the king my lord.” However, this same word is some-
times used for the Canaanite kings themselves. For instance, the
king of Hazor refers to himself as šarru of Hazor (“king of Hazor”).
Hess then, rightly, concludes that “king” could be applied both to
Pharaoh (as a “king of kings”) and to the kings of Canaan, who
were vassal kings to Pharaoh. (Think of Herod, who was a vassal
king of Rome, reigning over Judea. In other words, he was a king
who answered to a higher power, but a king nonetheless.)
But here is where Hess goes awry. He takes the logic of a vas-
sal king and stretches it: “The term ‘king’ in the Canaan of Joshua’s
time could envision a local leader who recognized the sovereignty
of a leader of many towns and cities, such as the pharaoh.”88 Actu-
ally, all Canaanite kings were vassals of Pharaoh, not vassals of
just any old “leader of many towns and cities.” The whole land of
Canaan was under Egypt’s dominion. Hess says that the word
“king” “could envision a local leader who recognized the sover-
eignty of a leader of many towns and cities, such as the pharaoh,”
using intentionally ambiguous language, as if perchance one of
these kings could be a vassal to somebody other than Pharaoh.
This is shrewdly phrased, so that he is able to make his next point:
88 Ibid., 40.
The same may be true for the melek of Jericho. He
may also have maintained his position at the
pleasure of city-state rulers in the hill country,
whether of Bethel, of Jerusalem, or a coalition such
as Joshua 10 describes. In his capacity as the gov-
ernor of a fort, he would have held primarily mili-
tary responsibilities to govern the troops placed at
his disposal and to maintain security.89
Hess states this initially as a suggestion, a possibility. Of course,
there is no precedent for this scenario whatsoever. There is no
evidence anywhere for the use of melek to describe somebody
who was a vassal king to other vassal kings, who were in turn
vassals to Pharaoh. But Hess throws it out there, as a possibility.
Now Hess then proceeds to make an argument that mlk
(“king”) could mean “military commander” (an argument which
we’ll critique point by point presently), but he never does make
the argument that mlk could be used for a vassal of vassals. Yet,
after his other, irrelevant arguments,90 he states again what he
initially suggested (block quote above), but this time as a fact,
without ever substantiating it or providing a precedent for such a
use of mlk. Here’s what he says after a single page of unconnected
90 His arguments are in fact irrelevant because none of them substantiate his
claim that the melek of Jericho could have been a vassal to other vassals. The only
evidence he provides is for figures who were appointed directly by Pharaoh.
91 Ibid., 41.
Thus, a noun from the root mlk carries the sense of
a commissioner responsible to his overlord for the
military security of a region. This is identical to the
melek of Jericho, who was responsible for the secu-
rity of the region but was also answerable to his
superiors in the hill country.91
This is nothing but a sleight of hand trick, because Hess never es-
tablished any precedent for the use of mlk as a vassal to other
vassals in the hill country. He tries to establish that mlk could be
used for a military commander who was a vassal to Pharaoh (and
this argument itself is incredibly tenuous, as we’ll see), but he
never establishes that it could be used for a vassal to other vas-
sals. Why? Because it wasn’t used in that way, ever. He stated it
first as a suggestion, then a page later stated it as a foregone con-
clusion, a statement of fact, without any substantiating evidence.
Regardless of the word’s usage, Hess has not presented any ar-
gument about the existence of this hill country administrative
network; he has merely speculated about its existence.
Now, let’s examine Hess’s argument that mlk could be used as
a designation for a military commander, not a sovereign over a
group of people which included noncombatants. This is a convo-
luted argument, which involves a few considerable leaps.
But first allow me to clarify something. The noun forms of mlk
are malku (in Akkadian) and melek (in West Semitic, including
Hebrew). These words both mean “king,” in the traditional sense,
with no exceptions. Now in Akkadian, malku can mean “foreign
king,” because in general they liked to use šarru for their own
kings, and malku for other kings. But it’s important to reiterate
that malku and melek simply meant “king.” Look in any Akkadian
and West Semitic dictionary, and that’s what you’ll find. There is
no dictionary that will offer “military commander,” or “commis-
sioner” as a definition of malku or melek. And in the Hebrew Bible
also, melek means “king” as traditionally understood every time.
So Hess has his work cut out for him to argue otherwise.
Also, in Akkadian there is another word from the mlk root that
is listed separately from mlk as “king” or (in its verb form malaku)
“to rule” or “to reign.” This other Akkadian mlk means “counselor”
or “advisor” in its noun form (maliku) and “to give advice,” “to
consider,” or “to deliberate” in its verb form (malaku). Now to
First, Hess says that “The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary [CAD]
observes distinctive West Semitic uses of verbal forms of malaku.
In the Amarna correspondence, it often appears with the sense of
caring for someone or something.”92 Hess quotes one example,
from Amarna 149.8: li-im-il-ik [should consider] šarru [the king]
ana ardišu [his servant] (“the king should care for his servant”).
That is the translation in the CAD. William Moran’s translation is,
“May the king give thought to his servant.” This is actually a better
translation, because it shows the connection to malaku’s ordinary
sense of “to consider.” Thus, “the king should consider his serv-
ant” has the sense of, “the king should not neglect his servant’s
needs,” or simply, “care for” his servant. Simple enough.
92 Ibid., 40.
But Hess takes this verbal meaning and stretches it to suit his
own agenda. He writes, “This sense is not far removed from the
image of the melek of Jericho. He also takes care to protect Jericho
by hunting the Israelite spies.”93 This is a wholly untenable, and
very strange, extrapolation. Hess is not only blurring the lines be-
tween mlk as “advisor/to consider” and mlk as “king/to rule,” he’s
committing an etymological fallacy. One cannot take a verbal
meaning and conclude that whatever that meaning is must also
have a corresponding noun form. But that’s what Hess is doing.
He wants to argue that because mlk (verb) here means “care for,”
it must have a corresponding noun which is constrained in mean-
ing by the usage of the verb, such as, “carer,” or “one who cares.”
That’s not how it works, and Hess should know better. Related
verbs and nouns can develop independent semantic ranges based
94 Ibid., 40-41.
Hess’s next false move is similar. Hess writes,
At Ugarit, this verbal root carries the sense of
“rule” or “hold power,” similar to the general He-
brew sense of the term. However, it is used not on-
ly of sovereigns but also of anyone holding influ-
ence over others. Thus, at Ugarit, in the 13th centu-
ry, there appeared the phrase, hazannu ali u akil
eglati la i-ma-li-ik: the town’s mayor and the over-
seer of the field do not have authority over him
(Sivan 1984: 248). Thus, this root may have ap-
peared as a verb in West Semitic during the 14th
and 13th centuries, with the sense of a ruler or
administrator, though not necessarily the sole-king
who answers to no one.”94
Here Hess makes two mistakes. First, he says that the use of the
verb form of mlk here is applied to a mayor and overseer of a
field, indicating that mlk could be a verb applied to someone other
than a king. Well, problematic for this claim is precisely what the
text itself says: “the town’s mayor and the overseer of the field do
not have authority over him.” The text expressly denies that the
mayor and overseer have mlk over the man.
Second, again with the confusion between verbs and nouns.
Although malak (the Hebrew verb form of mlk) is never used in
the Hebrew Bible to refer to the rule or reign of someone who
isn’t a king, it is not really controversial to say that this verb could
potentially be used to describe the power that a particular non-
regnal authority figure might exercise (although Hess provides no
examples; he only postulates that it might have been used this
way). But even if it were used thus, that does not automatically
mean that the noun form melek could be applied to such a person.
Again, it doesn’t work that way. Melek meant “king,” even if (po-
tentially) malak could be used to describe the authority of a
mayor or other authority figure. That doesn’t mean the mayor
could appropriately be identified as a melek. Hess’s argument is a
Now comes Hess’s final and most important argument. He ar-
gues that mlk in its noun form could be used as a designation for a
bureaucratic administrator. This argument is complex, yet again
based on a number of tenuous moves and unsubstantiated as-
sumptions. I’ll quote Hess at length:
In one of his many letters, Rib-Addi of Byblos re-
fers to the murder of Piwuri, a commissioner of the
pharaoh ([Amarna] 131.21-24). The term that de-
scribes Piwuri is LÚ.ma-lik LUGAL. Piwuri was
known to have control over an Egyptian garrison of
troops and he exercised official roles as the phar-
aoh’s representative in Gaza, Jerusalem, and By-
blos. In other words, he served as a powerful royal
administrator throughout most of Canaan. To leave
no doubt, Rib-Addi introduces his concern about
Piwuri with a general statement that his enemies
have attacked the commissioners of the king. . . .
What is significant about this line is that the word
for “commissioner,” written logographically as
MAŠKIM, is followed by a Glossenkeil [a gloss marker]
and the term ma-lik. . . . As with many of the exam-
ples of the gloss marker in the Amarna corre-
spondence, what follows is a synonym of the pre-
ceding logogram. . . . Often, the synonym is a West
Semitic word, and this appears to be the case in the
Piwuri text. Thus, a noun from the root mlk carries
the sense of a commissioner responsible to his
overlord for the military security of a region.95
95 Ibid., 41.
I’ll break this down to make it easier to follow. Piwuri is with-
out doubt a man who has control over a military garrison and
works in the region of Canaan. The question is, what words are
used to describe Piwuri? He is identified as a commissioner
(MAŠKIM), certainly. He is also identified thus: LÚ.ma-lik LUGAL.
What does this mean? LÚ means “man.” The LUGAL is the logograph
for šarru (“king”), but it is not referring to Piwuri; it is referring to
Pharaoh. When maliku comes before LUGAL and drops the “u” in a
simple construct, it means “ma-lik of the King,” i.e., “ma-lik of
Pharaoh.” So the question is, what does ma-lik mean?
Hess points out that later, when Piwuri is called a MAŠKIM
(“commissioner”), the word MAŠKIM is followed by a gloss with the
word ma-lik. Now, frequently (though not always) in the Amarna
Letters, when a word appears in a gloss like this, it is a synonym
for the word directly preceding it. So Hess argues we should un-
derstand MAŠKIM and ma-lik to be synonymous. We know what
MAŠKIM means, so the question remains, what about ma-lik?
Hess claims that ma-lik should be identified with the West
Semitic noun melek (“king”), making “commissioner” and melek
synonymous. If Hess is correct, this would be the only example of
this use of West Semitic melek, and this use is found nowhere in
the Bible. Hess is making a huge leap from a gloss in a single text.
The problem is, as we pointed out earlier, in Akkadian there
are two separate nouns from the root mlk. There is malku, which
means “king” (but not “commissioner”) and there is maliku which
means “counselor,” or “advisor.” Hess argues that it’s the former
word, and not the latter. Well, he doesn’t argue so much as assert.
First he says of the glosses in the Amarna Letters that “often, the
synonym is a West Semitic word, and this appears to be the case
in the Piwuri text.”96 Of course, Hess provides no argument here;
he simply makes the assumption necessary to get his conclusion.
But contrary to Hess’s attempt to read the ma-lik gloss as a
West Semitic word, rather than Akkadian, Anson Rainey, in his
seminal multi-volume work on the use of Canaanite (West Semit-
ic) words in the Amarna Letters, identifies this exact gloss as an
Akkadian gloss, not as West Semitic.97 But Hess does not engage
97 Anson F. Rainey, Canaanite in the Amarna Tablets: A Linguistic Analysis of the
Mixed Dialect Used by the Scribes from Canaan (vol. 1; Brill, 1996), 36.
98 Ibid., fn.9.
99 William L. Moran (trans.), The Amarna Letters (Johns Hopkins, 1992), 212.
Moreover, the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary also identifies ma-
lik in the passage in question as Akkadian, with the meaning
“counselor,” and not as West Semitic. Hess notes this, and simply
asserts with no real argument that the CAD is wrong: “The deci-
sion of CAD to group this with the regular Akkadian lexeme,
maliku, is unwarranted. The meaning ‘counselor, advisor’ does
not apply here. Like the verbal form, the West Semitic usage is
distinctive.”98 First, why does Hess think the meaning “counselor,
advisor” does not apply here? A king’s commissioner was certain-
ly one of the king’s counselors/advisors. Sure, they’re not precise-
ly synonymous, but they’re no less synonymous than “commis-
sioner” is to “king!” (They are more so, in fact.) This is an incredi-
bly tenuous argument based on hair-splitting.
Neither does Hess engage William Moran, the editor and
translator of the seminal volume on the Amarna Letters, who
rightly translates the Piwuri passage thus: “They have attacked
commissioners : ma-lik. MEŠ (counselors) of the king. When
Pewuru, the king’s counselor, was killed, he was placed in . . .”99
Finally, the verbal form of mlk is not really as distinctive in the
Amarna Letters as Hess wants to make it. Malaku already meant
“to consider,” so its use, “to consider someone’s needs” is hardly a
clean break from its normal Akkadian meaning; it’s entirely de-
rivative. And it most likely is not connected to the West Semitic
“to rule/to reign.” Its usage seems much more likely to be deriva-
tive of the Akkadian meaning, as Rainey, Moran, and CAD confirm.
Thus, in short, Hess has made an incredibly tenuous argu-
ment, based on a number of unsupportable assumptions, that in
one solitary text, a commissioner is also called a king, but he’s
failed to substantiate this claim. In reality, the commissioner is
identified as a counselor/advisor. But even if Hess is right, that
hardly counts as evidence that the melek of Jericho should be un-
derstood as a “military commander” rather than a “king,” when all
of the other uses of melek, not only in Joshua, but in the entire He-
brew Bible, mean “king.” Hess doesn’t even consider the biblical
usage in his equation; indeed, he is obliged to dismiss it in order
to make his thin case. The fact that Jericho is said by the text to
have been populated by “men and women, young and old,” and all
sorts of livestock, and the fact that Ai is said to have been popu-
lated by “twelve thousand men and women” who are identified
expressly as “inhabitants” tells us definitively that what the ac-
counts intend to portray is two cities with civilian populations
governed by traditional Canaanite kings.100 Hess must make this
series of extremely tenuous moves because he cannot accept that
the story of Jericho is an etiological folktale with no real historical
100 We should note also here that in his commentary on Joshua, Hess refers to
the people in Jericho as “citizens.” “Citizens of Jericho,” he says (Hess, Joshua, 136.).
But didn’t Hess also claim that Jericho was just a makeshift military fort with no
population? I’m confused. Does it have “citizens” or doesn’t it?
Regarding Jericho, Copan again tries to distort the archaeolog-
ical data for his own apologetic purposes. Copan keeps referring
to the “archaeological evidence,” but fails to mention what the ev-
idence actually tells us. Jericho wasn’t fortified. How could the
walls come tumblin’ down when there weren’t any walls to begin
with? Moreover, how could a tiny regiment of soldiers such as
Copan and Hess fabricate (“one hundred or fewer”) hope to do
anything with Jericho, without fortifications? Once again, Copan’s
presentation of the evidence is selective.
Copan goes on to say, as we’ve already noted, that the battle
accounts in the book of Joshua don’t identify noncombatants, nei-
ther women nor children (176). Except of course for the battle of
Jericho (“both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and
donkeys,” Josh 6:21) and the battle of Ai (“twelve thousand,”
“both men and women,” Josh 8:25). Further, as we’ve seen, Deu-
teronomy 20 mandates the slaughter of women and children. This
is clear because it distinguishes between the cities inside and out-
side the land of Canaan, saying that in the cities outside the land
of Canaan, the noncombatants may be taken as chattel slaves,
whereas in the cities inside the land of Canaan, the noncombat-
ants are to be killed. Finally, as we saw with Judges 20, the text
does not explicitly identify women and children as the objects of
slaughter—it just says “the city, the people, the animals, and all
that remained” (20:48). But it’s clear from the rest of the story
that when it says “the people,” it meant all of the noncombatants,
because there were no women and children left to carry on the
tribe of Benjamin. Therefore, even when the text doesn’t express-
ly identify “women and children,” we can take it for granted that
“the people” is meant to include women and children.
Let’s just reiterate what’s really going on here. Copan points
(selectively) to the archaeological evidence and wants us to be-
lieve that the lack of evidence for civilian populations indicates
that these cities were military garrisons. He fails to mention that
there is also no evidence of a military occupation, and he fails to
mention that in the case of Jericho, there weren’t even any walls!
Yet the text says there are walls at Jericho, and it says there are
civilians. What the text is trying to depict (derived from Iron Age
folktales) is a real battle at a real city that was really populated
and really important. But what the archaeological record shows is
that Jericho was entirely uninhabited and that it had no fortifica-
tions. Therefore, Copan’s attempt to argue that Rahab and her
family were essentially the only non-military personnel living in
this military fort (176) is just a waste of ink. Rahab is a fictional
character in a fictional story. She didn’t hide the Israelite spies in
her room in the walls of Jericho, because there were no walls of
Jericho. Copan would do much better to follow Evangelical schol-
ar Douglas Earl, who recognizes the fictional nature of these con-
quest narratives and argues that they are hagiography—stories
told not for their historical value but for their moral value. Of
course, he would then be subject to all the same criticisms I’ve
made of Earl’s hagiography thesis. But he’d at least be that much
closer to being honest with the data.
An Offer You Can’t Not Refuse
In a subsequent section, Copan attempts to argue that the Canaan-
ites got what they deserved because they rejected “the one true
God” (177). Of course, as Copan seems to be unaware, this idea
that Yahweh was the “one true God” is thoroughly anachronistic.
Even Rahab, who makes the confession that Yahweh is “indeed
god in heaven above and on earth below” doesn’t identify Yahweh
as the “one true God.” That’s monotheistic language that was
anachronistic even in Josiah’s day!
But Copan, in an attempt to justify the slaughter of the Ca-
naanites (which didn’t really happen anyway, according to him),
makes an additional spurious argument, belied by Rahab’s own
speech. Copan says that while Rahab and her family acknowl-
edged the “one true God,” Jericho and the rest of the Canaanites
refused to do so. He alleges that Rahab and the Gibeonites are ex-
amples that being devoted to destruction (herem) was not “abso-
lute and irreversible” (177).
Well, first of all, this isn’t true. Neither Rahab and her family
nor the Gibeonites were ever consecrated to the ban. Rahab and
her family were expressly excluded from the herem, because of the
deal she had made with the spies. And Gibeon only secured their
lives by trickery, not by “faith.” The etiological tradition about the
Gibeonites (Joshua 9) is aware of the distinction in Deuteronomy
20 between those inside and those outside the borders of Canaan.
So the Gibeonites come to Joshua and tell him that they are from
outside Canaan’s borders, and ask for a treaty. Joshua makes the
treaty, only to realize later that they had lied to him—that they
really lived inside the borders of Canaan, and should therefore
have been subject to herem warfare. But because Joshua had
made a treaty, it was binding. So instead of massacring the Gibe-
onites, Joshua enslaves them. Of course, as already mentioned
above, Gibeon didn’t even exist in this period. The Gibeonites
were, however, slaves in Josiah’s day, and so this story functions
as an ancient justification for their enslavement.
But what about this claim that only Rahab and her family
acknowledged God? This is belied in Rahab’s own words:
I know that Yahweh has given you the land, and
that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the
inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you. For
we have heard how Yahweh dried up the water of
the Sea of Reeds before you when you came out of
Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the
Amorites that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon
and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. As soon as we
heard it, our hearts failed, and there was no cour-
age left in any of us because of you. Yahweh your
God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth
below. (Josh 2:9-11)
According to Rahab, the whole land has acknowledged that Yah-
weh is giving the land to the Israelites, and everyone is terrified.
Copan then cites what the Gibeonites told Joshua as evidence that
they acknowledged Yahweh’s sovereignty: “Your servants have
come from a very far country because of the fame of Yahweh your
God; for we heard the report of him and all that he did in Egypt”
(Josh 9:9). What Copan fails to mention here is that the Gibeonites
Now Copan proceeds to argue that, contrary to Deuteronomy
20, the Canaanites had every chance to make peace treaties with
Israel. Here’s what Deuteronomy 20 says, just so we’re clear:
When you draw near to a town to fight against it,
offer it terms of peace. If it accepts your terms of
peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in
it shall serve you in forced labor. If it does not
submit to you peacefully, but makes war against
you, then you shall besiege it; and when Yahweh
your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all
its males to the sword. You may, however, take as
your booty the women, the children, livestock, and
everything else in the town, all its spoil. You may
enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which Yahweh
your God has given you. Thus you shall treat all the
towns that are very far from you, which are not
towns of the nations here. But as for the towns of
these peoples that Yahweh your God is giving you
as an inheritance, you must not let anything that
breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them—
the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and
the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just
as Yahweh your God has commanded, so that they
may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things
that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against
Yahweh your God. (Deut 20:10-18)
So it’s pretty clear—unequivocal, I’d say. Israel can make treaties
with those outside of Canaan, but they can’t make treaties with
the Canaanites. Copan acknowledges that the majority of scholars
contends that the allowance of peace treaties in Deuteronomy 20
applies only to non-Canaanite cities, whereas peace treaties with
Canaanite cities were prohibited (179). Of course, this is the ma-
jority view for good reason: because that’s what the text says. So
what evidence does Copan provide to support his claim that Israel
could offer peace treaties to Canaan? He offers four arguments,
each one a failure.
First, he points us to the Gibeonites (Joshua 9). They secured a
peace treaty with Israel, didn’t they? We’ve just discussed this
story. The Gibeonites were only able to secure a treaty with Israel
by lying to Joshua, claiming not to be Canaanites. Once Joshua
found out about their deception, it was too late. He was already
bound by the treaty. This is not an “exception” to the rule. This
narrative assumes the rule, in fact, reinforces the rule. What it as-
sumes is that Joshua would not have made a treaty with them if
they had told the truth about where they were from. This etiologi-
cal narrative relies on Deut 20:10-18 and Deut 7:2 (“Make no cov-
enant with them and show them no mercy”).
Second, Copan points to the story of the repentance of Nine-
veh in the book of Jonah. Copan says that just as the Ninevites re-
pented at the preaching of Jonah, the Canaanites could have re-
pented when Israel invaded, unless, says Copan, the Canaanites
were already beyond moral and spiritual repair (177). Copan
misses the important distinction here. The Ninevites repented at
the preaching of Jonah. By way of contrast, no prophet was ever
sent to Canaan, ever. Only military spies were sent. How do we
know the Canaanites would not have repented had a prophet
been sent to them? Yahweh wouldn’t even send them a prophet
back in Abraham’s day when they weren’t yet allegedly beyond
redemption. Why? Because he wanted the land for his people.
Now, as for this claim that the Canaanites were beyond redemp-
tion, two things: Clearly they weren’t! According to Rahab, they
were all terrified of Israel’s god. I’d say that’s grounds for a good
turn-or-burn homily. Clearly the Gibeonites (if we are reading the
narrative historically, rather than as the propaganda literature
that it really is) weren’t too far gone. Moreover, the Ninevites
were pretty far gone themselves, according to Jonah. Jonah 1:2
says that the Ninevites were so wicked that the stench of their
wickedness rose all the way up to Yahweh’s heavenly nostrils.
Clearly they were at least wicked enough that God was at the
ready to wipe them out! Recall Copan’s talk of a certain “moral
threshold” that had to be crossed before Yahweh was willing to
obliterate people. Well, apparently the Ninevites had crossed it.
Yet Yahweh sent them a prophet, and they repented. Bad move on
Copan’s part pointing to Jonah, because all that does is to remind
us that the Canaanites never got a fair shake.
Of course, both the narrative of Jericho and that of Jonah are
fictional; they are theological and ideological in nature, and they
have clashing ideologies! The book of Jonah was written as a cri-
tique of the nationalist ideology represented in books like Joshua
101 See Stark, Human Faces of God, 1-6, 107.
Now for Copan’s two arguments that Canaan did in fact get a
fair shake. First is the argument that the Canaanites were offered
peace treaties. Copan quotes Josh 11:9: “There was not a city that
made peace with the sons of Israel except the Hivites living in
Gibeon; they took them all in battle.” Copan then claims that, as
with Pharaoh who hardened his heart against Moses, so too the
Canaanites were beyond redemption. Copan contends that God
turned them over to their own hard hearts, and he cites Josh
11:20 as evidence (180).
Of course, as we’ve come to expect, that’s not at all what the
text says. It doesn’t say their hearts were already hard or too far
gone. It says God hardened their hearts:
For it was Yahweh’s doing to harden their hearts
so that they would come against Israel in battle, in
order that they might be utterly destroyed, and
might receive no mercy, but be exterminated, just
as Yahweh had commanded Moses. (Josh 11:20)
And why does it say he hardened their hearts? Not because they
were too far gone, but rather so that God’s prior orders to Moses
to take possession of the land would be fulfilled. In other words,
according to the text, in order to take their land from them and
give it to his people Israel, Yahweh prevented the Canaanites from
making peace with Israel. Note that the text does not say that Is-
rael offered them peace treaties. That was, after all, expressly for-
bidden. What the text says is that Yahweh made sure they didn’t
even attempt to make peace (like the Gibeonites did by decep-
tion), so that he could give the land over to the Israelites.
The text doesn’t say here, as it does with Pharaoh, that they
hardened their own hearts, and that Yahweh reinforced that
hardness. It says that Yahweh hardened their hearts. That’s all it
says. To read anything else into the text is to rewrite the Bible.
Moreover, if God could harden their hearts, why couldn’t he
soften their hearts? Why was the policy expressly to “show them
no mercy”? Wouldn’t mercy have softened their hearts, especially
with a little divine help? If the Israelites did offer peace treaties to
the Canaanites, they were false ones, thanks to Yahweh’s med-
dling. They made them an offer they couldn’t not refuse. I’m with
Copan; I don’t like the Yahweh of the Bible either.
Now Copan’s second argument that the Canaanites (actually,
just the people at Jericho) got a fair shake. Here he follows Hess,
but he cites the wrong book! He cites Hess’s Joshua commentary,
but Hess only makes this argument in his essay, “The Jericho and
Ai of the Book of Joshua.” We’ll quote Hess to see what’s going on:
The seven-day, sevenfold march around Jericho
(Josh 6:1-17) serves as a prelude to the invasion of
the fort. . . . [This] is exemplified by the verb used
to identify the march around Jericho, nqp, which
also occurs in Ps 48:12 and 2 Kgs 6:14. In Psalm 48,
a pilgrim walks around Jerusalem in order to ad-
mire its gates and defenses. In 2 Kings, the Arame-
ans surround Dothan in order to capture Elisha. In
Joshua 6, the Israelite army, unable to surround
Jericho, symbolically does so each day for seven
days. As the army marches each day, it inspects the
defenses and especially the gates to learn whether
the fort’s leader has relented and decided to open
Jericho to the army. On each day for seven days the
Israelites prepare to enter if the leader will allow it.
The sevenfold refusal, a number of perfection and
completion in the West Semitic world, indicates to
everyone that they will never find a peaceful set-
tlement because the leader of Jericho remains ad-
the above was written by christian thom stark. the above was a review of paul copans book. i hope you now know that yhwh of christianity is a sick animal who needs to be slaughtered like christmas turkey.
Now, Hess’s reading of the text here is utterly eisegetical. The text
says no such thing as that the march around Jericho was an “in-
spection” or any kind of offer for the king to open up the gates and
let them in. Hess is reading that into the text, and can provide no
textual support whatsoever to substantiate it. But this doesn’t
stop Copan from picking up on Hess’s reading and running away
with it. But as Copan does so, he makes a series of additional mis-
takes in his attempt to restate Hess’s argument.
First, Copan claims that the Hebrew word naqap (meaning
“encircle, surround, walk around”) connotes certain “ceremonial”
features, such as the use of rams’ horns and shouting (177). Here
he cites 2 Sam 6:15-16 in support of this utterly wrong and very
strange claim. In fact, the Hebrew word naqap connotes no such
ceremonial features. It just means to encircle or to surround or to
close in upon. It carries no connotation of any sort of ceremony.
What’s stranger still is that the text Copan cites here as evidence
(2 Sam. 6:15-16) doesn’t even use the word naqap, nor any syno-
nym. There is no encircling or walking around anything anywhere
in this text. There is a ceremonial march into the city, but no
march around. Yet Copan wants us to think that the word “march
around” connotes a ceremony. It doesn’t.
Second, he points, as Hess does, to Psalm 48:12-13. It reads:
“Walk about Zion and go around her; count her towers; consider
her ramparts.” Copan claims that the word naqap here refers to
an “inspection” that is being conducted (178). Again, not even
Hess says this. Hess gets it right: “a pilgrim walks around Jerusa-
lem in order to admire” the city. The Psalm (which is poetry) is
extolling the glories of the city, calling upon the people to walk
around and see how beautiful and strong it is. There is nothing
formal whatsoever. Copan also cites 2 Kgs 6:14 as evidence that
naqap implied a formal inspection. Once again, not even Hess says
this. Hess says, “In 2 Kings, the Arameans surround Dothan in or-
der to capture Elisha.” The text has nothing to do with an inspec-
tion, or a ceremony, or anything like that. All it says is that an ar-
my surrounded a city at night, before attacking it. Does Copan
even read these texts before he cites them?
Third, going back to Jericho, Copan claims that each march
around the city provided a formal occasion for the inhabitants of
the city to avoid the herem slaughter. And again, not even Hess
says this. All Hess says is that it’s an opportunity for Jericho to
open its gates and let the Israelites in. Perhaps Hess means to im-
ply that Jericho would then be spared, but he has the sense at
least not to come out and say this, unlike Copan. Because the text
says no such thing. This is pure eisegesis. Deut 20:10-18 and 7:2
both say that no treaties are to be made with the Canaanites; ra-
ther, they are to be utterly destroyed. Copan’s imaginative inspec-
tion/ceremony/silent-sermon reading of the Jericho march is a
pure fiction. In sum, Copan’s attempt to circumvent the clear
statement in Deuteronomy 20 that treaties with the Canaanites
weren’t allowed has been a failure.
A More Refined Mass-Slaughter
Copan’s next argument is that Israel wasn’t as brutal as its ancient
Near Eastern neighbors. He recalls Richard Dawkins’s claim that
Israel participated in “ethnic cleansing.” Dawkins referred to the
conquest battles as “bloodthirsty massacres” that were under-
gone with a “xenophobic relish.” Copan claims that this is wrong-
headed. To prove this, he embarks upon a summary of the charac-
ter of Israel’s warfare, asserting that Israel was not the blood-
thirsty maniacs that Dawkins claims they were (178).
I’ll note first that Copan again displays he doesn’t understand
what “ethnic cleansing” means. For everything Dawkins gets
wrong, he gets this exactly right. Second, Copan notes that the
Neo-Assyrian texts brag about flaying live victims, impaling ene-
mies on poles, heaping up piles of bodies, gouging out the eyes of
enemy troops and cutting off their ears and limbs, and displaying
their heads around the city.
Right! The Israelites, who slaughtered women and children en
masse were never as brutal as all that!
This very day Yahweh will deliver you into my
hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your
head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philis-
tine army this very day to the birds of the air and
to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the
earth may know that there is a God in Israel. . . .
Then David ran and stood over the Philistine; he
grasped his sword, drew it out of its sheath, and
killed him; then he cut off his head with it. (1 Sam
On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner
took him and brought him before Saul, with the
head of the Philistine in his hand. . . . David took the
head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem.
(1 Sam 17:54-57)
David rose and went, along with his men, and killed
one hundred of the Philistines; and David brought
their foreskins, which were given in full number to
the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-
law. Saul gave him his daughter Michal as a wife. (1
And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until even-
ing; and at sunset Joshua commanded, and they
took his body down from the tree, threw it down at
the entrance of the gate of the city, and raised over
it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this
day. (Josh 8:29)
When they brought the kings out to Joshua, Joshua
summoned all the Israelites, and said to the chiefs
of the warriors who had gone with him, “Come
near, put your feet on the necks of these kings.”
Then they came near and put their feet on their
necks. And Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid
or dismayed; be strong and courageous; for this is
what Yahweh will do to all the enemies against
whom you fight.” Afterwards Joshua struck them
down and put them to death, and he hung them on
five trees. And they hung on the trees until evening.
He [Josiah] slaughtered on the altars all the priests
of the high places who were there, and burned hu-
man bones on them. (2 Kgs 23:20)
[Judah] came upon Adoni-bezek at Bezek, and
fought against him, and defeated the Canaanites
and the Perizzites. Adoni-bezek fled; but they pur-
sued him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs
and big toes. (Judg 1:5-6)
So David commanded the young men, and they
killed them; they cut off their hands and feet, and
hung their bodies beside the pool at Hebron. (2
Those last two, by the way, use the same word for “cut off” used in
Deut 25:12: “You shall cut off her hand; show her no mercy.” This
is the passage that Copan tried to tell us should be translated,
“Thou shalt give her a Brazilian wax; show her no mercy.”
Next Copan claims that a number of Israel’s wars were defen-
sive, not offensive. This is obviously true, but most of the battles
he cites were offensive, not defensive. He gets the first one right:
the Amalekites attacked the Israelites as they were coming out of
Egypt; this was a defensive battle, which they won. But of course,
Yahweh then tells them that once they settle down in the land,
they’re to go back and retaliate against the Amalekites, killing
their women and children. This battle was not defensive.
He notes that in Numbers 21, the king of Arad attacked the Is-
raelites and captured some of their soldiers. Of course, Arad at-
tacked them because they were invading his land with intent to
take it from him, so such an attack can hardly be characterized as
aggressive. And of course, how did the Israel’s respond? By mak-
ing a deal with Yahweh that if he would give them victory over
Arad’s military, they in turn would slaughter all of Arad’s non-
combatants, which is what they did, with Yahweh’s approval.
Copan notes that in Num 21:21-32/Deut 2:26-35, the Amorite
King Sihon refused to let Israel pass through his land peacefully,
and came out to attack them. What Copan fails to mention is that
Deut 2:30 says that the reason King Sihon refused to let them pass
through is because Yahweh had hardened his heart, so that Israel
could engage him in battle, kill all his people (“in each town we
utterly destroyed men, women, and children”), and take his land
for themselves—land, mind you, that wasn’t even within the bor-
ders of the Promised Land! I’m not sure but I think that by defini-
tion a genocidal war for land isn’t a defensive war.
Same goes for King Og of Bashan, whom Copan cites next as an
example of a defensive war. It was a “defensive war” in which Is-
rael killed all of the noncombatants and stole their land.
Copan next cites that battle against five Midianite cities, which
ends with Israel (undeniably) slaughtering tens of thousands of
male children and non-virgin women, while sparing 32,000 virgin
girls as chattel. How was this a defensive war? Because a small
number of Midianite women had led a small number of Israelite
men after other gods. So in order to defend themselves against
their own spiritual weaknesses, they slaughter tens of thousands
of men, women, and children. I can see how that would be justifi-
able, in an alternate universe where being impaled by swords is
how human beings achieve orgasm.
Finally, Copan cites the Israelite attack against the five Ca-
naanite kings (the ones hung from trees in order to terrorize the
populace/reader). This was defensive because the kings had at-
tacked the Gibeonites, with whom Israel was in treaty. Of course,
Copan forgets to mention that the reason they attacked the Gibe-
onites was because Israel—who was invading their land with in-
tent to kill them all, and their children, and steal their land—had
just made Gibeon their ally.
So of all the battles Copan cites as an example of a “defensive
war,” not a one really qualifies. That’s not to deny Israel engaged
in defensive wars (of course they did), but that is really just a big
red herring. The whole conquest was one big act of aggression.
Next, Copan fallaciously claims that all of the divinely mandat-
ed wars after Joshua’s day were defensive wars. He also includes
the battle to defend the Gibeonites (Josh 10-11) as defensive. He
then further fallaciously claims that, although some offensive bat-
tles took place in Judges and in the monarchical period, these bat-
tles are not portrayed as ideal or commendable (178). First, as
we’ve seen, the battle to defend the Gibeonites cannot be con-
strued as “defensive” since it’s within the context of a massive of-
fensive war. Their defense of Gibeon was part of their offense. Se-
cond, it simply isn’t true that Israel never fought an offensive war
after the conquest period with Yahweh’s approval. They did so all
the time. David was constantly fighting offensive wars, even be-
fore he was king, and he did so expressly with Yahweh’s approval
on a number of occasions. David would, before going into battle,
inquire of Yahweh to get the go ahead, and Yahweh gave him the
go ahead. This is contrasted with Saul, who kept inquiring of
Yahweh and got back nothing but static. And as we’ve already
seen, the Israelites, together with the Judeans and the Edomites
went up and attacked Moab, in order to defend the territory they
had seized from Moab, and this battle was waged with Yahweh’s
explicit approval, and his promise that they would win very easi-
ly. Of course, they lost, and Moab maintained their independence
for another two hundred years.
Copan wants us to believe that in all of the ancient world, Is-
rael was exceptional—a more civilized group of barbarians. As
usual, the truth is that while some were worse than Israel, many
were better. It’s all just standard fare.
The Slaughter of the Midianites
We’ve seen this text a number of times already: Numbers 31. In it,
the Israelites kill all the male soldiers of five Midianite cities, and
then execute tens of thousands of boys and their mothers and
(now-widowed) sisters. They spare the 32,000 virgin girls, to be
made chattel. So for all Copan’s arguments that Israel certainly
wouldn’t kill women and children, he can’t deny they did so here,
en masse. So what does he do with this text? Certainly now it’s
time to give in, Copan! Right?
Instead, Copan argues that because a few Midianite women
seduced a few Israelite men to worship another god, then the
Midianites had it coming. He makes some other humorous claims
1. Commenting on the slaughter of all the boys, Copan claims
that the execution of all the males is not the norm (179). In
fact, however, it isn’t unusual: “and when Yahweh your God
gives the city into your hand, you shall put all its males to the
sword” (Deut 20:13). This was the policy for any city outside
of Canaan. Of course, as we know, the policy for any city inside
of Canaan was to kill everybody, male and female alike.
2. Copan wants us to bear in mind that the Israelite men who
were led astray by the Midianite women were executed also
(179). So we have a handful of Israelite men on the scale adja-
cent to tens of thousands of Midianite boys! I suppose since
men weigh more than boys, and since Israelites were worth
more than foreigners anyway, it just might even out.
3. Copan claims that the young virgin girls were spared because
they weren’t involved in the seduction of the Israelite men—
they had not “degraded themselves” in that way (179). This is
of course ludicrous. First of all, only a handful of Midianite
women were involved in the seduction to begin with, so that
doesn’t explain why Israel killed tens of thousands of women
who had no involvement. Second, the boys weren’t involved in
the seduction either, yet they were all killed. Third, it’s not like
these virgin girls would not have been practitioners of their
parents’ religion. This whole argument is profoundly incoher-
And that’s the sum of Copan’s moral defense of the slaughter of
the Midianite women and children. If he can argue this for the
Midianites, I don’t see why he can’t argue it for the Canaanites.
Well, in fact, in his next chapter, he will, and much worse.
Driving Them Out Is Still Genocide
Here Copan argues that the real vision of the conquest was not to
kill all of the inhabitants of Canaan, but just to drive them out of
the land, displacing them (180). It’s true that some texts speak of
“driving out” the Canaanites, but we need to note three things. (1)
There are multiple traditions at work here, and the primary pic-
ture painted by the Deuteronomist is that of herem warfare, de-
voting entire populations to destruction. (2) Even where driving
out is in view, they are to be driven out by violence. (3) This is still
genocide. Go back to the start of this chapter and check the defini-
tion. The point of driving people out of their land is to destroy
them as a people. This will become clear in a moment. But first,
after telling us that “driving out” and “destroying” aren’t the same
thing, Copan proceeds to tell us that they are the same thing. Co-
pan uses the example of God’s threat to destroy Israel, just as he
had done with the Canaanites. According to Copan, this means
that the obliteration is not literal, but instead that the Canaanites
will be removed by God to another land, going against critics who
cite ‘abad (perish/annihilate) and shamad (destroy) (180).
I’ll note first that the verb abad (perish/destroy) is the same
verb used in the Mesha Inscription, where the king of Moab says,
“Israel is destroyed [abad], destroyed forever.” So now Copan is
saying that the word can just mean “driven out,” in which case,
there’s no hyperbole in Mesha’s statement, since he did in fact
drive Israel out of the territories he mentioned in the text. (Of
course, abad cannot mean “driven out.”)
Second, Copan says that expelling Israel from their land is not
a literal annihilation. But he’s wrong, and the text he cites to
prove his point actually contradicts it. He quotes Deut 28:63,
which uses both of these verbs (abad and shamad):
And just as Yahweh took delight in making you
prosperous and numerous, so Yahweh will take de-
light in bringing you to ruin and destruction; you
shall be plucked off the land that you are entering
But here’s what the whole passage says:
Yahweh will scatter you among all peoples, from
one end of the earth to the other; and there you
shall serve other gods, of wood and stone, which
neither you nor your ancestors have known.
Among those nations you shall find no ease, no
resting-place for the sole of your foot. There Yah-
weh will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes,
and a languishing spirit. Your life shall hang in
doubt before you; night and day you shall be in
dread, with no assurance of your life. In the morn-
ing you shall say, “If only it were evening!” and at
evening you shall say, “If only it were morning!”—
because of the dread that your heart shall feel and
the sights that your eyes shall see. Yahweh will
bring you back in ships to Egypt, by a route that I
promised you would never see again; and there
you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies
as male and female slaves, but there will be no
buyer. (Deut 28:64-68)
The text says that they will be reduced to a very few people, scat-
tered throughout the nations, and become worshipers of other
gods. In other words, they will cease to exist as Yahweh’s people.
The “people” of Israel will be destroyed, utterly. This is genocide.
Remember that genocide also includes the forcible relocation and
integration of children into other cultures—the destruction of a
people’s culture and their removal from their land is the destruc-
tion of a people. This is a bad thing. And this, at the very least, is
what Yahweh wants Israel to do to the Canaanites. Of course,
Yahweh also orders Israel to slaughter any Canaanite that gets in
their path, not to take any prisoners, to utterly destroy them all
alike—men, women, and children, and to “show them no mercy.”
Copan comments that when Babylon “destroyed” Jerusalem,
all of the Jews who cooperated were spared, citing Jer 38:2, 17
(180). Of course, in Jeremiah 38, Israel is encouraged to surrender
to save their lives, but in the case of the Canaanites, Israel is in-
structed to take no prisoners, but rather to kill them (Deut 20:16-
17), and to “show them no mercy” (Deut 7:2). Nevertheless, Co-
pan continues, it was only those who resisted who were “at risk,”
while those Canaanites who fled would escape (180-81). Yes, flee-
ing Canaanites could escape, if they were able to escape. Of
course, who is the least likely to make a successful escape but
pregnant women, small children, the elderly, and the infirm? But
at least the strong young people could get away and become for-
eigners in another hostile territory, scattered and dispersed. Of
course, the reality is that if anybody was going to flee, they would
most likely flee to a fortified city, only to find themselves staring
down the edge of an Israelite sword a few days later.
Copan claims that all this proves that complete annihilation
was not what the text really intended to convey and that the Ca-
naanites were actually “encouraged” to escape (180-81). I’m not
sure where in the world Copan gets the idea that the Canaanites
were “encouraged” to escape. Perhaps he’s importing that from
Jeremiah 38 where Israel is encouraged to surrender to Babylon.
But no such encouragement is ever given to the Canaanites. Yah-
weh said he would drive them out with pestilences (a promise he
doesn’t seem to have made good on). But that’s not “encouraging”
the Canaanites to escape. That’s striking them with plagues and
forcing them out—whoever survived at any rate.
And again, as for the claim that “utter annihilation wasn’t in-
tended,” well, it’s nonsense. You don’t have to kill every last living
soul in order to annihilate a people or nation. Survivors of such
atrocities often wish they hadn’t survived, and are haunted with
guilt because, for instance, their child died and not them. Regard-
less, Copan claims that the text of Joshua offers no suggestion that
the “just wars”103 of Joshua involved the killing of civilians. Copan
reminds us that in “Joshua” and in Judges, a plethora of Canaan-
ites continued to live in the land, alongside Israel. Copan then re-
iterates that, generally speaking, the Canaanites were to be ex-
pelled, not slaughtered wholesale (181).
103 I hope that Copan is not trying to make a reference to official “just war” the-
ory here, because if so, the conquest of Canaan fails to meet every single criterion of
just way theory.
Sure, the biblical text gives no indication that the (somehow)
“just wars” of Joshua were against noncombatants, except every
indication that they were against noncombatants (Joshua 6, 8;
Deuteronomy 2, 7, 20; and so forth).
Furthermore, Copan is again ignoring the fact that Joshua is
composite. The Deuteronomist wrote the portions depicting a to-
tal annihilation (1-12), while the Priestly Writer (13-22), who was
not writing in Josiah’s day, did not share that agenda. Thus, the
picture is different. But make no mistake, both sources depict
genocide; it’s just that the Deuteronomist’s depiction of genocide
is more total, for propagandistic purposes.
Yet Copan continues to try to make this case, this time with
one of his most strained arguments yet. He pits Deut 7:2 against
Deut 7:3-5 and posits an imaginary tension. Verse 2 says that the
Canaanites are to be totally and utterly destroyed, then verses 3-5
go on to prohibit the Israelites intermarrying and making treaties
with the Canaanites. He then asks why there’s this talk prohibit-
ing intermarriage and peace treaties if Israel is supposed to kill
them all anyway (172). According to Copan, the prohibition of
making covenants with the people of the land is an indication that
the prescription to kill them all should not be taken literally. After
all, if they’re all dead, how could they make a covenant with them!
This argument is, to be frank, ridiculous. Copan doesn’t actual-
ly quote verse 2 here. Right after it says, “make no covenant with
them” it says, “show them no mercy.” To make a covenant with
them, or to intermarry with them, would be to show them mercy.
The opposite of showing them mercy is to kill them. What the text
is doing is holding up herem and covenant-making/intermarriage
as alternatives. If they didn’t kill everybody, then they would have
made a covenant of peace with them. They are not to do this; ra-
ther, they are to kill everybody. To posit that there is any tension
here whatsoever is incredibly asinine.
Neither does Copan mention Deuteronomy 20. There a dis-
tinction is made between the people of the land of Canaan and
those outside the borders allotted to Israel by Yahweh. Those in-
side the borders are to be utterly destroyed and no covenant is to
be made with them. Conversely, Israel is permitted to make cove-
nants of peace with the people outside the allotted borders. Co-
pan keeps stretching to make a case for a figurative understand-
ing of herem, and he keeps failing (neither Younger nor Hess sup-
ports him in this).
A further problem with Copan’s claim that Deuteronomy can
be read as depicting an incomplete annihilation of the Canaanites
is found in the verses immediately preceding and following a text
Copan cites in support of his claim. Copan says that God had told
Israel that the removal of the Canaanites from the land would be a
gradual process, and here he cites Deut 7:22 as evidence of this
(171). Here’s what Deut 7:22 says: “Yahweh your God will clear
away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able
to make a quick end of them, otherwise the wild animals would
become too numerous for you.” Yet the very next verses say:
But Yahweh your God will give them over to you,
and throw them into great panic, until they are de-
stroyed. He will hand their kings over to you and
you shall blot out their name from under heaven;
no one will be able to stand against you, until you
have destroyed them.
And here are the two previous verses:
Moreover, Yahweh your God will send the pesti-
lence against them, until even the survivors and the
fugitives are destroyed. Have no dread of them, for
Yahweh your God, who is present with you, is a
great and awesome God.
So much for Copan’s claim that total physical annihilation isn’t in
view. Deuteronomy 7 says that even if there are survivors and
fugitives (i.e., people who escape), Yahweh will kill them dead
with plagues! Of course, Yahweh didn’t make good on this prom-
ise, but it’s clear that the picture here is one of total annihilation.
Finally, Copan claims that “the root of the dilemma Israel
faced wasn’t ‘the people themselves, but their idolatrous way of
life’” (172).104 But that’s not at all what the text says. The text says
the people were to be killed so they wouldn’t influence the Israel-
ites to serve other gods. Copan more than once quotes passages
which command Israel to destroy the altars and cultic objects of
the Canaanites, and he claims that this means the real emphasis
was not on killing people but on destroying the cultic objects. This
is a blatant false dichotomy. The emphasis is always and only on
both; and it was the people that were the greater threat, since
they might “teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do
for their gods” (Deut 20:18).
104 Quoting R. Gary Millar.
Just as Moses Commanded
Copan notes that the book of Joshua says that Joshua did all that
Moses commanded. Moses said that Joshua was to “utterly de-
stroy” the Canaanites and to “let nothing that has breath remain
alive.” Copan notes that Josh 11:15 states that Joshua fulfilled the
command: “Just as Yahweh had commanded Moses his servant, so
Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing un-
done of all that Yahweh had commanded Moses.” So, Copan ar-
gues, the Bible plainly says that Joshua did everything Moses
commanded him. Thus, Copan claims, if Joshua fulfilled Moses’s
commands, and if the language of Joshua’s destruction of Canaan
was actually standard ancient Near Eastern hyperbole, a genre
language with which Moses himself was acquainted, then obvi-
ously Moses must not have meant for Joshua to engage in a literal
total annihilation of the Canaanites. As with Joshua, Moses was
simply abiding by the literary practices of his time (182).
Of course, the text that claims Joshua fulfilled Moses’s com-
mand to the letter is part of the same Deuteronomistic corpus in
which Moses’s command features (and nowhere outside of that
corpus). Once again, Copan fails to recognize that multiple
sources are at work, and fails to recognize the Deuteronomist’s
agenda in painting Joshua as the ideal leader who perfectly obeys
the Law of Moses. And of course, as we’ve seen, the exaggerated
rhetoric of ancient Near Eastern warfare literature was written
with an agenda, and its intent was to be believed, in order to in-
cite terror and inspire obedience to the king and his deity. That’s
precisely what’s going on here, as Joshua is used as a symbol of
Josiah, just as modern-day politicians cast themselves in the im-
age of George Washington (Bush) or Abraham Lincoln (Obama).
It’s propaganda, written by the elite ruling classes in order to
serve their imperial agendas (as Younger concluded). It is em-
phatically not innocuous hyperbole the likes of which the average
citizen was expected to see straight through. This is a totalizing
vision concocted by a propagandist under the employ of a king
instituting a totalizing reform (a violent reform which, coinci-
dentally, began its campaign in the same region as Joshua’s cam-
paign began). And this is what biblical scholars have been saying
for well over a century. Pity that Copan (who seems to think Josh-
ua wrote Joshua) doesn’t even mention what biblical scholars are
Scripture and Archaeology
Before his summarizing conclusion, Copan devotes an inadequate
page and a half to a discussion of the archaeological evidence. It is
replete with egregious errors. Here are just two:
(1) According to Copan, the archaeological evidence tells us
that extensive destruction of the Canaanite cities did not actually
occur, and that gradual integration of the Israelites into Canaan
did take place. He says that only three of the cities (he insists that
they are citadels) were actually put to flame: Jericho, Ai, and
Hazor (182). No, this isn’t the case. The archaeological evidence
tells us that Jericho was burned in 1550 BCE (more than three
hundred years before Copan’s date for the conquest) and that Ai
was an uninhabited ruin from 2400 BCE to about 1000 BCE
(twelve hundred years prior to and two hundred and fifty years
after the alleged conquest), with no destruction level at all any-
where in that time span. The archaeological evidence does con-
firm a destruction level at Hazor from the thirteenth century (the
right period if the conquest happened), but of course, we don’t
know whether the Israelites destroyed Hazor, or the Egyptians, or
somebody else. Many scholars conclude that battles such as the
one at Hazor provide the historical kernel for the development of
later legends about a conquest, such as the legends about Jericho
and Ai, which cannot be historical. And of course, although Copan
insists that these cities were military forts, what he fails to men-
tion is that Hazor (the only city of these three that was actually
destroyed in the right period) had a population of about 20,000,
most of which were civilians!
(2) According to Copan, if we were living in the Late Bronze
Age (1400-1200 BCE) and we came across an Israelite and a Ca-
naanite standing side-by-side, we wouldn’t have been able to tell
them apart. He rightly notes that they were indistinguishable in
manner of dress, in architecture, in tableware, pottery, and lan-
guage (182). So far so good. Unfortunately, he continues with the
claim that this should not surprise us because “the Egyptian influ-
ence” on both the Canaanites and Israelites was very strong (182).
Wrong answer! That’s actually the opposite of what the evidence
tells us. The material culture in Canaan and Israel shows no dis-
tinctly Egyptian influences. What actual archaeologists will tell
you (and tell Copan, if he asks them) is that the lack of Egyptian
influence on Israelite material culture, and the fact that it is iden-
tical to Canaanite material culture, indicates that Israel did not
come out of Egypt, but rather was always in Canaan, only emerg-
ing as a people with a distinct identity in Iron I. That’s also one of
the factors that many scholars think explains the strong antipathy
toward everything Canaanite: it was Israel’s way, psychologically,
of distinguishing itself from its Canaanite past.
Copan claims that the language of herem warfare both pro-
vides and “hopes for exceptions,” citing Rahab, and concluding
that herem was not unconditional (183). Actually, the language
neither provides nor “hopes” for exceptions. Certainly Copan
hopes for exceptions, but this idea that the language “hopes for
exceptions” is a complete fabrication with no evidence to substan-
tiate it. The contrary is in fact the case. Rahab was not an excep-
tion to the ban because she was never placed under the ban, in the
same way that the 400 virgin girls from Jabesh-gilead in Judges 21
were not an exception to the ban because they were never placed
under the ban (Josh 6:17; Judg 21:11).
Imad said: “That isn’t a punishment, it’s actually a blessing in disguise.”
So if Allah gives a kid a one way ticket to his back garden he’s good cause he’s doing the kid a favor. If Yahweh does the same he’s wicked. Anyone smell the famous double standard?
“So if Allah gives a kid a one way ticket to his back garden he’s good cause he’s doing the kid a favor. If Yahweh does the same he’s wicked”.
Problem is unlike us you have no textual evidence that the children cursed by Elisha and Yahweh are going to the back garden. In fact if they were cursed it’s unlikely they will.
The other problem of course is that you have a problem with the Messengers of God killing and plundering in the Qur’an but none when it the Messengers of God are reported doing the same thing in your own fairy tale book.
“Anyone smell the famous double standard?”
Yes, I do. What I also smell here is the famous bovine feces, known colloquially by another vulgar term I won’t repeat here.
My question “And then the messengers kill, rape, pillage and enslave those who don’t believe their message. Is that justice?”
Imad’s reply: “I don’t know. You tell us. According to your holy book your messengers made a habit of doing this. Sometimes they even use bears”
My guess is our honest answer would have been “yes”. You still don’t know? I thought Islam had all the answers? Are you studying the fatwas? Maybe you are still infected by political correctness and secularism. Or maybe you are doing the takiya thing.
My guess is our honest answer would have been “yes”.
Should be “my guess is your honest answer would have been “yes”.
“My guess is your honest answer would have been “yes”.”
I was asking for your honest answer, not mine. I know I’ll never get one though, so just give it up.
“So if Allah gives a kid a one way ticket to his back garden he’s good cause he’s doing the kid a favor. If Yahweh does the same he’s wicked”.
Problem is unlike us you have no textual evidence that the children cursed by Elisha and Yahweh are going to the back garden. In fact if they were cursed it’s unlikely they will.
The other problem of course is that you have a problem with the Messengers of God killing and plundering in the Qur’an but none when it the Messengers of God are reported doing the same thing in your own fairy tale book.
“Anyone smell the famous double standard?”
Yes, I do. What I also smell here is the famous bovine feces, known colloquially by another vulgar term I won’t repeat here.
I don’t really know what “messengers” you are talking about in the Bible which are equivalent to the Quranic messengers. This repeated cycle of messengers coming to preach, judge and go to war with the unbelievers is not what the God of the Bible is doing if you take the trouble to read the Bible as history. I think Mohammed fooled the pagans in to believing this because they had no Bible to read. It seems that in Islam the history of the world is the apocalypse from beginning to end.
Responding to Mansubzero,he said:
““”Then in John 21:25:”But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
This has nothing to do with what Jesus did in the presence of his disciples. This is something that was done in the presence of “many” in Jerusalem. Therefore the lack of written evidence is incomprehensible – unless it never happened in the first place.
“So I don’t see why Luke and Mark would not have known about it yet decided not to say it.”
Because it would have strengthened their case for the resurrection of Jesus, yet they chose not to say it, which means it probably never happened.”
First of all the gospel of John,as you most probably know,was written by two authors,One gives the conclusion found in John 20:30-31,the other wrote John 21:25:”But there are also many other things which Jesus did…”John 1-20 says Jesus is God,so the author of John 21 accepts it.For him Jesus is God.So who raised the dead saints in Matthew?It was God.
Secondo,Mark was written for believers,they didn’t have to be convinced the resurrection was true,that’s a good reason not to mention the resurrection of the dead saints.In fact Mark doesn’t mention the virgin birth nor the ascension of Jesus into heaven.
John doesn’t mention the virgin birth nor the ascension.Matthew doesn’t mention the ascension..The only one is Luke. But both Mark and John say Jesus is God so the virgin birth is implied.
And also John was written for believers so he didn’t have to convince them that Jesus is God or that he resurrected..So not mentioning the dead saitns coming to life is not as mysterious as you think it is.
YOU stupid dumb cockroach, you are replying 2 imad not me. go worship the birth of your dead meat god. look at my reply ,it is UNDER imads reply.
“For him Jesus is god.So who raised the dead saints in Matthew?It was God.”
YOU silly gimp. the father was beating the crap out of jesus in the trinity, remember? remember jebus died as a not all knowing , not all powerful diety otherwise his “sacrifice” would have been bs, according to you people. so you have 3 persons in the trinity, one of them is INCAPACITATED and getting his ass kicked in. jebus is dysfunctional. the SAINTS rise WHEN jebus DIES. in an other reading , THE SAINTS EXIT WHILE jebus is DEAD on the cross. and the events AROUND jebus causes the guards to say ” truly this is the son of a god”
it was a REACTION . a reaction CREATED because of jewish DISBELIEF . DISBELIEF = having jebus crucified and murdered.
33When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” which is translated, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, “Behold, He is calling for Elijah.” 36Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down.” 37And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. 38And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
One wonders how one is to DERIVE from these words that DEAD saints popped out of their GRAVES. seriously, read the TEXT by itself and can you see that the QUAKE rocked graves/tombs? can anyone see it? one can interprete ” truly this was son god” to mean
” hey, i can’t believe “the son of god” DIED so qucikly, others take longer to die LOL”
you get me? the CENTURION SAW jebus breathed his LAST, and that SIGHT CAUSES him to say “truly…” NOTICE WHERE THE focus is? it is on jebus. but notice what we see in matthew? the focus IS AROUND jebus and what is hAPPENING around him.
one WONDERS if mark can have the centurion focus on jebus’ dead body, why TAKE OUT WHAT WAS happening around jebus like the earthquake and the dead bodies of saints?
this is a serious question.
we can’t trust the bull s hit that mark was written for this or that group because christian apologists tell us. we don’t know where this unknown bum was writing his account and we don’t know how many of the jebus stories/versions were known to the christian listners. h
“they didn’t have to be convinced the resurrection was true,that’s a good reason not to mention the resurrection of the dead saints.”
don’t be a stupid bum. marks gospel portrays the deciples as doubting arse holes. if you take marks ending, peter and jebus don’t kiss and make up because the WOMEN DON’T TELL ANYONE anything because they were afraid. BEING AFRAID CAUSED them to keep thieir mouths ZIPPED . jebus , according to matthew, says ” oh yee of little failth , why r u so afraid ” LOL. so there was every reason for the ressurection of the dead saints to be mentioned because of doubting deciples ect. by your logic there was no reason to mention jebus’ crucifixion or jebus’ visits to the deciples, because the listners didn’t have to be CONVINCED about his visits to the deciples. if they belived the saints made visits and they believed jebus made visits and didn’t need to be convinced about these visits then the gospel writers WASTED time and space and material. how many disbelievers said truly this was the son of a god when jebus turned water into wine?
why did john the dumb bum WASTE space by including a water into wine miracle?
why did dumb john WASTE SPACE by including STORIES already FOUND IN MARK? lol
“In fact Mark doesn’t mention the virgin birth nor the ascension of Jesus into heaven.”
you don’t even know if he believed in either of them. you don’t even know if news reached him about these stories. mark mentions that jebus drove out traders from the temple and mark mentions many other stories which matthew and luke have repeated in thier accounts. tell me something, why bother repeating what your LISTNERS ALREADY know ? lol?
“John doesn’t mention the virgin birth nor the ascension.
Matthew doesn’t mention the ascension..The only one is Luke.”
notice like typical evangelical BUM your are equating flying off like superman to what had happened at the tomb? as if the 2 are similar when in reality the 2 are not similar at all.
read my reply to imad to see what i mean. let me speculate, matthew doesn’t have his meat god fly off to heaven because he may have heard that other meat gods had taken off like superman, being jewish pagan he didn’t wan’t his mean god fly off like greek gods. john doesn’t mention it because jebus may have disappeared in a flash so there was no need for jebus to fly off like superman. mark doesn’t mention it because jebus soul has left his dead body and his soul is no longer on earth. see how we can make up stories?
lets look at john again
i will leave this fukin stupid discussion. i rather do my studies then waste my precious time with bums like you.
but i ask a bum like you the following
Luke 24:39 “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost [spirit] does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
John 20:26 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
does blind bum like you SEE DOUBTERS? do you see them? we see from DOUBT TO believe and according to matthew the guards became believers, so one wonder why leave out the miraculous at the location of the tomb?
notice that only after fingering your god does thomas believe?
one wonders why john LEFT out the BELIEVE of the guards who had watched jebus? why?
same with luke
if luke can STEAL WORD FOR WORD marks STORY i.e women coming to the tomb to annoint dead body, women perplexed and then 2 men appear in the tomb, why did LUKE LEAVE out the miraculous @ the crucifixion sight?
The angel Gabriel’s visit to Zacharias to announce the coming birth of John the Baptist (1:8-22).
Gabriel’s visit to announce to Mary the birth of Jesus (1:26-37).
Mary’s visit to Elisabeth in the hill country of Judah (1:39-56).
The birth and naming of John the Baptist (1:57-66).
The prophesying of Zacharias after his tongue was “loosed” (1:67-80).
HOW MANY people outside of palestine would have felt or experienced these events ?
NONE. so why did luke INFORM his readers about them?
to hell with you cross worshipper , IM OUT OF HERE
this is the pathetic dumb a ss god of christianity called jebus. he appears in a DREAM warning a people not to go back to herod. he saves his own bum by running like a bitch to egypt with his parents, but the children get slaughtered because god of christianity wasn’t clever enough to tell the people to go to herod in the FIRST PLACE.
As for Luke he seems to be writing to an unbeliever,Theophilus.So he mentions all that he thought was vital(virgin birth,Jesus is God,resurrection,ascension) and then the history of the early church.Luke-Acts is all one book,not two separate books.
As for the Midianites,the way I see it is this:In Numbers 25:1-3 says:”While Israel dwelt in Shittim the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate, and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Ba′al of Pe′or. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel; “.
It says THE PEOPLE,not just a few men as you stated several times,Then it says in Numbers 25:8 that a plague killed 24,000 Israelites,as a punishment.It was more than a few men,I say 24,000 is a city.News of such a large number of dead Israelites would have reached the ears of the Midianites,they would have said:”The God of the Israelites is God,he has great power,24,000 have died.”The logical thing would have been to ask Yahweh for forgiveness,but the Midianites did not,instead they went to battle.
I forgot to say at the beginning that the OT tells us that news of the miracles of God,notably the parting of the sea,was known to Egypt’s neighbors,so BEFORE the Midianite women decided to seduce the Israelite men,they knew about the greatness of Yahweh,yet they insulted him anyway.
Then in Numbers 31:16-17 they bring captured women and children and Moses says they have to punish by death the Midianite women who convinced Israelite men to sleep with them in honor of Baal,a false god.Plus all male children.The exact reason I don’t know,but making a guess it is that if they had grown up they would become evil and would have betrayed the israelite nation,it is only a guess.But the women and girls were spared,those who were virgins.It seems all the married women and many virgins slept with the Israelites in honor of Baal,but not all.Only 32,000 women and girls were still virgins.And since Mosaic Law is against fornication I don’t see on what basis those who say those 32,000 virgins were raped can find evidence..Nor does the text say:”Force those virgins to marry against their will.”
you dumb ass , if i were to see you i would kick your ass. mosaic law is against murder also, but moses commanded the murder of non-virgin girls and males
Numbers 31:7 They did battle against Midian, as Yahweh had commanded
Moses, and KILLED EVERY MALE. 8 They killed the kings of Midian: Evi,
Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian, in addition to
others who were slain by them; and they also killed Balaam son of Beor
with the sword.
Numbers 31:9 The Israelites took the women of Midian and their little
ones captive; and they took all their cattle, their flocks, and all
their goods as booty.
Numbers 31:14 Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the
commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come
from service in the war. 15 Moses said to them, “Have you allowed all
the women to live? 16 These women here, on Balaam’s advice, made the
Israelites act treacherously against Yahweh in the affair of Peor, so
that the plague came among the congregation of Yahweh. 17 Now
therefore, kill EVERY MALE AMONG THE LITTLE ONES, and kill every woman
who has known a man by sleeping with him. 18 But all the young girls
who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for
but here is something interesting for pagans like you
“I have been involved in several prolonged debates about the pedophilia
implications of Numbers 31:18. When I am hit with the “Moses had the
little boys killed because they could only grow up to adopt the
Midianite religion and avenge the deaths of their families”, I pointed
out that this contradicts other biblical assertions that Jews are to
raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They
are not to decide their child’s fate based on whether it seems they
will adopt the faith, they are to raise their kids in the faith and
approach the matter with a positive believing attitude.
Furthermore, we are talking about a group of men that included even
babies and toddlers. It’s funny that the apologists have more faith
in Satan to steal away the faith of these toddlers as they grow up,
than they have in God honoring his word and keeping these kids in the
faith after they achieve adulthood. But such desperate answers are
necessary when faced with an obvious proof that God’s personally
chosen spokesman (Moses) was a person who promoted pedophilia.
Given that the Israelites appear to easily fall into pagan sinful
practices with every page of the Pentateuch, the apologists steadfast
faith that these ancient brute surely despised pedophilia as much as
we do today, has no rational basis.
By the way, we are correct to say God ordered his people to rape
little girls, even if no sex was involved. The dictionary doesn’t
limit rape to sex. Kidnapping is also “rape”.
And given the bleak conditions awaiting any woman that would protest
to the point of being “set free” from a forced marriage, it was more
likely that she’d “consent” to the marriage in the name of simple
survival. This would be consent under duress and thus wouldn’t count
as genuine consent even if an apologist could prove any captive woman
in such situation would likely consent to such marriage.
And if being sent free did not mean being turned out on her own to the
wilds of the Fertile Crescent, but that she’d still be able to live on
her own under some “welfare system provided by the Israelites, then
all captive woman, being told of this right by the “good” Israelites,
would realize they can live on their own without being forced to marry
one of their family’s murders, and therefore, God’s regulation for
marrying a captive woman in Deuteronomy 21 would defeat itself. Any
woman that would rather chose to remain with her brute husband, would,
by such decision, be manfiesting symptoms of mental illness. His
group just killed off your entire family, kidnapped you, desecreated
your religion, carted you off, and now you “desire” to identify with
these brutes? not likely.
And if an Israelite chose to have sex with some of those pre-teen
captive women, calling them “concubines”, there is absolutely nothing
in the bible that would condemn this.
READ STARKS REPLY WHICH I HAVE QUOTED ABOVE.
Imad said : “Problem is unlike us you have no textual evidence that the children cursed by Elisha and Yahweh are going to the back garden. In fact if they were cursed it’s unlikely they will.”
I am curious as to what this textual evidence consists of?
“I am curious as to what this textual evidence consists of?”
Samurah ibn Jundub (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) often used to say to his companions: “Has anyone among you seen a dream?” and whoever Allaah willed would tell him what he had seen. One day he said: “Last night two people came to me and made me get up, and they said to me: ‘Let’s go.’ So I set off with them…” He mentioned things that he had seen, then he said:
“We set off, and we came to a verdant garden, in which were all the colours of spring, where there was a man who was so tall that I could hardly see his head in the sky. Around the man was the largest number of children I had ever seen…” Then among things that the two angels explained to him was: “As for the tall man who was in the garden, that was Ibraaheem. As for the children who were around him, these are all the children who died in a state of fitrah.” One of the Muslims said: “O Messenger of Allaah, what about the children of the mushrikeen?” He said: “And the children of the mushrikeen.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (7047).
Kitaabul Janaaiz, Hadith # 468, Sahih al Bukhari.
Musnad Ahmad 5/409
Al Tamheed, Ibn Abdal Barr, 18/96
Ibn Kathir , 3/31
Haashiyat Ibn al-Qayyim ‘ala Sunan Abi Dawood, 7/87
Sahih Muslim # 2635
Ibn al Athir, Al Nihaya, 2/279
THIS is what the christmas message is about. it is about what a dumb and coward god jebus/jezuz is. runs like a bitch to egypt and WARNS people NOT TO go back to herod. saves his own MEAT /flesh/ blood through the LEGS of his mother and father and because of his DUMB christian mistake, CHILDREN are slaughtered. this is the christian message and christmas message .
As for the children who were around him, these are all the children who died in a state of fitrah.” One of the Muslims said: “O Messenger of Allaah, what about the children of the mushrikeen?” He said: “And the children of the mushrikeen.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (7047).
The hadith doesn’t explain the necessity of the death of a baby or infant through natural causes. According to Islam Allah predestinates belief so that there is no necessity for Allah to cause the death of babies/infants because of their potential apostasy. We are still left with the question why the need for this “blessing in disguise”, which is still a terrible loss for the parents and a great loss of potential life.
Mansubzero, Does Allah warn of impending tsunamis, earthquakes and other natural disasters? So the blood of all who die through these things must be on his hands ?
Replying quickly to Mansubzero who has a real emotional problem,you said in essence that Jesus could Not Have had Nothing to do with the Resurrection of Dead Saint because he was on a cross?Really,God the Father and God the Son are the same God,that’s Christian theology.Besides,according to Luke and Greek grammar,as explained by Daniel Wallace,probably the greatest expert on Greek,when Jesus said “Father,forgive them,they dont know what they do” it was an order,in Greek.A command,God the Father had to do it,who can give orders to God except he himself?
As for Stark’s argument,and that rape was alright.he is ignorant,at least somewhat,he obviously never read this part of Mosaic Law:
Leviticus 19:18:”Love your neighbor as you love yourself. I am the Lord.”
Leviticus 19:33-34:”Do not mistreat foreigners living in your country, 34 but treat them just as you treat your own citizens. Love foreigners as you love yourselves, because you were foreigners one time in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
You see people like Stark willfully ignore parts of Mosaic Law that are against them.
“when Jesus said “Father,forgive them,they dont know what they do” it was an order,in Greek.A command,God the Father had to do it,who can give orders to God except he himself?”
let me see, when your meat god BREATH his last and said , ” why have u forsaken me” does that mean god the spirit IGNORED god the flesh and did not obey a COMMAND from god the flesh? was it infinite god making a command to infinite god or finite flesh to infinite diety? god forgave those who beat him to a pulp and the romans mocked jesus while he was on the cross.
had to do what? all it says “forgive them” it doesn’t say “THEY WERE FORGIVEN” does it?
and if a god says ” not my will but your will” then couldn’t the fathers WILL overide the crucifide flesh god?
since matthew, mark and john had a crucified god commanding spirit god , why did they quote the COMMAND of the jews to pilate and DROPPED your gods words to his dad?
three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?
CRIED OUT WITH A LOUD SHOUT
ENDS WITH A loud CRY
Death’s Loud Voice: Mark
And Jesus cried [aphiemi: uttered/let go/departed (“went out”)] with a loud voice [phone-megas] and gave up the ghost. (Mark 15:37)
To appreciate the image the author is conveying here, we need to be aware that just three verses earlier he had written:
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried [boao – same for the voice crying in the wilderness] with a loud voice [phone-megas], saying, . . . My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34)
And just as significantly, in two earlier dramatic scenes in this gospel, readers had been regaled with scenes of demons crying out with loud voices at the moment they were commanded to leave the bodies they had so long possessed.
And when the unclean spirit [pneuma] had torn him, and cried out with a loud voice [phone-megas], he came out of him. (Mark 1:26)
And cried with a loud voice [phone-megas] . . . and the unclean spirits [pneuma] went out . . . (Mark 5:7-13)
I think all this is a good indication that the author was intentionally using the same imagery for the moment of Jesus’ death as he had used for the expulsion of spirits from the bodies they had possessed. It is a cry of despair and defeat at the moment the spirit leaves its body.
This interpretation is reinforced by Mark’s description of how the spirit entered and possessed Jesus in the first place.
He saw the heavens parting and the spirit descending [falling down] into [eis] him like a dove . . . and immediately the spirit drove [ekballo: cast] him into the wilderness (Mark 1:10, 12)
The spirit that entered “into” Jesus (a detail that apparently embarrassed Matthew, since he changed the proposition to “epi”, meaning “lighted upon” Jesus) also “cast Jesus out” into the wilderness. The same word, ekballo, is used of Jesus casting out demons that had possessed other bodies. See this crosswalk.com list for ten such usages of the word in Mark.
Relying exclusively on the context of Mark’s text, a text that was written to be read aloud to audiences, it appears that the author described Jesus moment when his spirit (pneuma) exited his body in the same way he described the departure of other spirits from bodies — with a loud voice. On the face of it then, the loud cry is surely meant to indicate a cry of defeat, loss, pain. That would be consistent with Jesus crying out with a loud voice only moments earlier deploring the fact that even God had forsaken him. Recall that Mark’s Jesus is also the very human one who loses his temper a few times and sometimes needs two attempts and clay and spittle to complete a healing.
so jesus GETS ripped apart like the ghosts who get ripped /FORCED out from the flesh of human.
your god in flesh was giving order to god in spirit while god in spirit was ripping apart god in flesh?
you have flesh person giving the father person an order to do something while the father person is forcing himself to do something on the son?
In response to Seeker:
“War and violence are humane in Islam? So perpetual warfare, fighting and killing people till all confess the shahada, or pay the Jizay bribe is “far more humane then what is found in the bible”? ”
Yes. They are far more humane than the deliberate targeted killing of defenseless women, children, and animals that are found in the Bible. I know, I know, according to your twisted way of thinking, the latter is far more humane, but then that is just a value judgment, a perverted one at that. Let’s leave it at that.
“You claim Islam forbids the killing of woman and babies in war, even though there is no command from your god, only your false prophet who seems to know better then your god”
You must have some kind of a mental block. I already told you Surah Najm states that the Prophet pbuh speaks what he is commanded to speak from on High, he does not speak from his own desire. So a command of the Prophet pbuh IS a command from God because it is inspired by Him. By the same token, we cannot find the direct words of God in any of the four gospels and in none of the Pauline literature. All you hear is people “inspired by the Holy Spirit”. He had to rely on his creatures, the authors of the New Testament, to make his commands known. Does this mean that your god “forgot” to place commandments in his book and that the NT authors “knew better than Him”?If that’s hard for you to comprehend then just leave it at that, I’ll put it down to your lack of reasoning skills. Just don’t make me repeat it.
“You have conversed with me, so I’m one that holds that position”
That’s a bare faced lie. Just look at the comment you made about Nigeria. It’s pretty obvious you do hold that position. Take your hypocrisy somewhere else will you?
“How is that a straw man? ”
It’s a straw man because you accused me of holding a position I never did. I never said Christians killed women and babies. I said they were hypocrites for cheering the Israelites for killing women and babies and in the same breath condemn Muslims for far less serious actions.
“Name me one Christian who commenting on this blog has conveniently forgotten about the violence in the bible?”
That Alzon fellow did. He actually challenged me to show him violence in the Bible. You evidently need to improve your reading skills.
“Now are you saying a person addicted to Heroin could not sincerely take the Shahada and become a layperson Muslim? And if a Heron addict was to sincerely take the Shahada and he found it big of a burden to quit taking heroin then according to Saddat, and “Mainline” Islamist this would be unjust and immoral of God for him to order the layperson Muslim to stop taking heroin.”
Taking heroin makes a person sinful, it does not invalidate his Shahada. He remains Muslim in spite of taking heroin. The command to take heroin isn’t something that is “too much to bear”. Thousands of people get rid of their addictions and I personally know many of them. However I don’t know any normal person that would readily snuff the life out of an infant even if he was commanded to do so by his deity. Now that is a burden too great to bear, and I know that that is why God has not burdened us with it. Therefore your reasoning IS bunk.
” I don’t see how constant Warfare that turns woman into widows, and babies into fatherless orphans is moral, compassionate, and humane.”
I do. It’s far more moral, compassionate and humane than warfare that deliberately targets defenseless creatures.
“Jesus himself said “When ever they hate you, understand that they hated me before they hated you”.”
He was addressing his disciples, not idolatrous man-worshiping heathens like you and your ilk.
“and that the only enemy we as Christians are to fight is not of this world.”
ROFLMAO!!! That’s why you cheered on the Crusades earlier on right? Grab a fire extinguisher Mr Seeker, your pants are on fire! Lol!!!!
Look, my friend, don’t bother replying. This is my last post here. It’s obvious we’re going in circles and I really have better things to do with my time. In all honesty, you’re not challenging enough.
It was nice taking pot shots at you though. Hope you enjoyed your celebration of the rebirth of the Sol Invictus on Dec 25.
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To the writer, Mr Sadat Anwar:
There’s one detail here that struck me as a bit of a stretch. “The genocidal and targeted-killing of babies advocated by Yahweh/Jesus in the Bible.”
Jesus does at no point in the New Testament instruct his followers to kill babies. All Jesus does is to say that the Old Testament, the scriptures of the Jews, is authentically holy Scripture, and that it is eternal. Now, you could argue that when you say “Yahweh/Jesus” you are referencing the idea of the Holy Trinity, although I don’t see what doing that really brings to the subject specifically under discussion, or you could argue that your combination “Yahweh/Jesus” is simply a reference to the fact that the Christian New Testament endorses the Old Testament as an authentic holy scripture (although, how does that disprove only Christianity; didn’t the Quran on at least one occasion do the same?). But both of those reasons for stating that ‘ “Yahweh/Jesus” said xyz’ will be misleading to those amongst your non-Christian audience who are not familiar with the Bible, and with Christianity.
Certainly, it is a theological weak spot for Christianity, both that the Old and New Testaments contradict one another in spirit, and also that the Old Testament is accepted by Christians as scripture when it has so much death-dealing within it.
However, Christians have always, since before the New Testament was compiled, held that they were not bound by the Covenant provided to the ancient Jews, and not bound by instructions, such as those saying to pray in particular ways, avoid swine meat, or stone adulterers to death. Nor were they bound by any instructions to kill all the enemies babies – instructions which, anyway, can be regarded as specific to that moment and not as an eternal standing instruction on how to wage war. In fact, the early Christians were pacifists. Thus, to a great extent, the Old Testament is irrelevant to criticisms of Christianity, for even though Christians revere the Jewish texts, they place primacy on the teachings of Jesus, and even his Apostles, over those of the Old Testament.
Christianity is “New Testament”, and Judaism is “Old Testament”, and all of this material about killing babies (and there is a lot more that’s bad as well) is in the Old, not the New, Testament.
Talking about the “Christian Bible” advocating the killing of babies is somewhat misleading, without an appropriate disclaimer pointing out that you are merely saying that the old Jewish texts, rather than anything specifically added by “Christianity”, are doing this.
Although it nevertheless is a valid line of attack for an argument against Christianity, it is strange to see it come from a Muslim. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the Quran at one point endorse the Scriptures of the Christians and Jews? So the only difference is that the New Testament didn’t include any statements from Jesus criticising the Old Testament; a mere omission proves nothing.
Also, the Quran tells the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah, doesn’t it? How is that story different to the events of Deutronomy? Why should we assume that the women and children of Sodom were spared, or that there were no children? And if we assume that they were “wicked”, why can’t we assume that for the victims of the Jews in Deuteronomy.