I had not expected reading the bible to be such a strong argument for atheism. I can certainly understand why there was such a long time when priests prevented their congregations from reading it themselves and insisted that a priest had to interpret it for them. Because this is just sort of miserable.
Current events are not helping, given:
- The modern country of Israel is bombing Gaza. Here is some background reading on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and here is some advice on how to criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic.
- There are apparently death squads roaming the hills of Iraq, and I don’t even have the heart to figure out the detailed right now.
- A police officer shot and killed an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, and the police department reacted by going above and beyond in victim-blaming and starting teargasing the entire community. For some reading on that, here is a master post of NPR reports and here are some more on-the-ground reports.
Generally speaking my faith in humanity is at a definite low point right now, and Joshua did not help at all.
The Book of Joshua
Joshua is a warlord. This book starts off with the details of the battles Joshua led as the Israelite army crosses the Jordan and starts to take over the land.
After the first few battles, though, the descriptions change to just lists. Here are all the cities who were invaded and the people who were killed, because there were too many to describe.
The third and largest part of this book gives detailed descriptions of how exactly the conquered land is divided among the people of Israel.
There’s also a call-out to the magician Balaam, mentioned in Numbers. In Numbers, he was hired to curse the Israel people but blessed them instead, and then gave a speech about the greatness and virtue of God. (It made me laugh.) Well, in Joshua, the army of Israel killed him. “Along with the rest of those put to death, the Israelites also put to the sword Balaam son of Beor, who practiced divination.” (Joshua 13:22)
Since the rest of my description is rather long, I’m going to put the rest under a cut:
So first are the battles. The first one is the battle of Jericho and it’s terrifying. The people of Jericho had seen the Israelite army coming* and had gone into siege mode: no one in or out of the city. So the Israelite army settled around them. For seven days a grand procession was made around the city walls, with seven priests blowing seven horns. On the seventh day, the walls of Jericho fell down into dust and the Israelite army captured the city, killed everyone and their animals and then burned the city to the ground. (Joshua chapter 6)
But! It turns out that not everything was destroyed. Because Achan of the tribe of Judah had seen a nice cloak he wanted along with some silver and gold and had secretly taken it to keep rather than utterly destroy. God was so infuriated by this wanton lack of destruction that the next time the Israelite army attacked, this time the city of Ai, God let the other army chase the Israelite army away, even killing 36 of the three thousand soldiers. When God told Joshua why this had happened, Joshua got together everyone and stoned Achan to death while putting to the flame his sons, daughters, and livestock and other possessions (including the cloak and money taken from Jericho). (Joshua chapter 7) And God was satisfied.
So the next time they attacked the city of Ai, they set an ambush, luring the army out, setting the undefended city on fire, and killing all 12 thousand inhabitants. (Joshua chapter 8)
The leaders of the nation of Gibeon managed to trick the Israelites into an alliance by saying that they were from a far away land and not at all part of this land that the Israelite army was determined to wipe clean of all previous inhabitants. When the trick is discovered, the Israelites are much dismayed but agree that they can’t kill people of Gibeon now, so settle for just enslaving them. (Joshua chapter 9)
The previous allies of Gibeon are, as you might imagine, rather displeased with the Gibeonites actions, especially since the allies are still very much on Joshua’s kill list and the Gibeonite army has just been added as a bit of extra canon fodder to the Israelite army.
So Gibeonite’s prior allies, the five remaining kings of the Amorites** joined together to try to reconquer Gibeon and defeat the Israelites. But God sent hailstones that killed more than half of their forces and the Israelite army killed the remaining.
The five kings were trapped in a cave while the Israelite army went out to slaughter the rest of their towns and peoples. Then Joshua let the kings out of the cave in order to make a spectacle of them for the people and then killed them. (Joshua chapter 10)
Then the lists:
At this point, we stop getting details and start just getting lists of people who are killed and cities that are destroyed. Joshua winds up killing 31 kings in all plus all of their people, including the kings of Jericho and Ai and the five Amorite kings already mentioned. He was somewhat less kill-happy though with livestock and physical possessions since he allowed some of that to be taken as booty. (Joshua chapters 11 and 12)
And finally the maps:
I actually wish there were maps. This is clearly a part that should be illustrated, because there are detailed descriptions of where the borders are between lands and how a line will go between two cities but then follow a river or turn in a direction or whatever. Chapters 13 through 21 are all focused on land distribution. I thought about trying to actually map this out myself but instead I’m going to farm that out to Wikipedia which already has something.
Summary: Joshua is a warlord and leads the Israelite army to conquer the lands that God had given them, killing all the previous inhabitants. God is really more than willing to “give” you something that belongs to someone else, especially if it means he gets to kill or have you kill that someone else. “I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit on vineyards and oliveyards that you did not plant.” (Joshua 24:13)
Moral: If you kill someone then you can have their stuff.
* The king of Jericho had heard that a couple of spies had been found, but they escaped with the help of the prostitute Rehab, who sold out her entire city in exchange for the lives of her and her immediate family when the city is eventually destroyed. Rehab is portrayed as something of a heroine for this. (Joshua chapter 2)
** King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem; King Hoham of Hebron; King Piram of Jarmuth; King Japhia of Lachish; King Debir of Eglon
Next up: Judges