First of all, let me apologise for not having written in like a month. You do absolutely nothing for a year, and then life comes all at once. But fear not, we should be back into the normal swing of things now! As it’s been such a long time, I’ll give you a little recap. In the last entry, Joshua was appointed by God as the leader of Israel, following the death of Moses at the end of Deuteronomy. After waiting in the desert for 40 years because some people were bad or whatever, the Israelites could finally cross the river Jordan and move into the promised land. As was to be expected they wasted no time in wasting the city of Jericho, where they murdered every living creature, both human and animal that they could get their already bloodstained hands on. Following the genocide, all the valuable materials were to be given to God (the priests), but one guy (Achan) kept some for himself, which pissed God off. The Israelites were only winning battles because God let them, so when he went off in a huff they started to lose. To remedy this, Achan and all his family were stoned, making God happy again. Got it?
The Israelites had tried to attack the city of Ai, but failed because of Achan’s ‘sin’. But now that God is back on their side again, things are looking up
Josh 8, Verses 1-2: Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.”
God got enough new bling from the pillaging of Jericho, you guys can have the rest.
When conquering Ai however, Joshua implements actual tactics, rather than ‘God will let us win’ or ‘shout at the walls and they’ll fall over’, so I have to give him credit for that. In short, he had 5,000 men hide to the west of the city, while the main thrust of the army approached from the North. When the people of Ai came out to meet them, they feigned retreat, and the soldiers of Ai chased them, as they had done to the 3,000 men that attacked before. Of course, this was a mistake.
Josh 8, Verse 17: Not a man remained in Ai or Bethel who did not go after Israel. They left the city open and went in pursuit of Israel.
Every last man? Not even one guy to guard the gate? At least try and make it believable, Bible.
Josh 8, Verses 18-19: Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand, for into your hand I will deliver the city.” So Joshua held out toward the city the javelin that was in his hand. As soon as he did this, the men in the ambush rose quickly from their position and rushed forward. They entered the city and captured it and quickly set it on fire.
At first glance this seems normal enough. Joshua holding out his javelin was the signal for those lying in ambush to charge. But you see, it wasn’t. God just told him to do it, so it is unlikely that it was a pre-established plan, and given God only ever chats to like max 2 people at a time, it’s unlikely that he whispered in the 5,000 soldiers ear “go when he holds up that stick”.
Josh 8, Verses 22-23: Those in the ambush also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives. But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua.
No survivors, just as we’ve grown accustomed to. Except the King, but I think we all know that his future is looking bleak.
Josh 8, Verses 24-25: When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai.
It still confounds me how people think this is a religion of love and peace. All the soldiers were already dead, they were slaughtered in the field. The women and children and other defenseless people could not harm the Israelites, but they butchered every last one of them anyway.
Josh 8, Verses 26: For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed all who lived in Ai.
He held his javelin up for the entire duration of the murder of 12,000 people. Barbarity aside, that takes some serious upper body strength, nice gains bro.
Josh 8, Verses 28-29: So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. He impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day.
So yeah, sorry King of Ai, you get impaled on a spear. Obviously this method of execution is done to send out a message, in the same way the act of throwing his body down in front of the gates is symbolic. But it’s the same problem as when God killed Pharaoh in the red sea. He killed everyone. There’s no one else there to witness it so what’s the point, other than to satisfy the Israelites sadistic ways?
Josh 9, Verses 1-2: Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things — the kings in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far as Lebanon — they came together to wage war against Joshua and Israel.
Unsurprisingly, word was getting out that entire cities were being wiped out, and so naturally the other countries formed an alliance. It’s what usually happens when there’s a bully on the international stage, think the seven coalitions against Napoleon, or the Allies against Nazi Germany.
But one group, the people of Gibeon, did not join the coalition, they had a different plan. They sent a delegation to the Israelites, but dressed them up as though they were travelers from a distant land. When they met with the Israelites they claimed that they had come from a distant country because of the fame of the God of Israel, and all his feats (mostly murders). Because the Israelites love flattery, they made a peace oath with them, not realising that they were supposed to be killing them.
So when they found out, they were pretty pissed, but luckily the Jewish leaders had a plan.
Josh 9, Verses 20-21: This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that God’s wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them.” They continued, “Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers in the service of the whole assembly.” So the leaders’ promise to them was kept.
“Gosh darn it, we can’t kill them all. Well I guess enslaving them will have to do.” Typical.
Josh 9, Verses 22-23: Then Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and said, “Why did you deceive us by saying, ‘We live a long way from you,’ while actually you live near us? You are now under a curse: You will never be released from service as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.”
Seriously Joshua? What a fucking stupid question. Why did they deceive you? Oh I dunno, maybe it was to stop you killing them all? You know, right down to the last woman and child? What a moron.
Josh 9, Verse 26: So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them.
And then it’s made out as though Joshua is the good guy for saving them! He has just enslaved them, and cursed them and their descendants to be slaves all their life, but he’s saving them. Dead on.
When the Amorites got wind of this treaty they were pretty alarmed. Bad enough to have to deal with the unstoppable horde of God supported Israelites, but now the Gibeonites as well? Five of the Amorite Kings quickly marched upon the city of Gibeon, but of course, the Israelites marched through the night and came and defeated them because God was on their team yadda yadda yadda. The five kings tried to hide in a cave but were captured. Remember the king of Ai?
Josh 10, Verse 26: Then Joshua put the kings to death and exposed their bodies on five poles, and they were left hanging on the poles until evening.
Yep, these kings get impaled too. Joshua really could give Vlad a run for his money at this stage, he’s leaving people impaled left right and centre. Then for the rest of chapter 10 he goes on an absolute spree.
Josh 10, Verse 28: That day Joshua took Makkedah. He put the city and its king to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it. He left no survivors. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho.
Josh 10, Verses 29-30: Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Makkedah to Libnah and attacked it. The Lord also gave that city and its king into Israel’s hand. The city and everyone in it Joshua put to the sword. He left no survivors there. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.
There are six additional cities that are destroyed just like this in chapter 10 alone. Chapter 11 deals with the Northern cities. I could go through the trouble of counting just how many cities were destroyed by Joshua’s bloody campaign, but chapter 12 is in fact a list of all the Kings and their respective cities that were destroyed.
the king of Jericho the king of Ai (near Bethel) the king of Jerusalem the king of Hebron the king of Jarmuth the king of Lachish the king of Eglon the king of Gezer the king of Debir the king of Geder the king of Hormah the king of Arad the king of Libnah the king of Adullam the king of Makkedah the king of Bethel the king of Tappuah the king of Hepher the king of Aphek the king of Lasharon the king of Madon the king of Hazor the king of Shimron Meron the king of Akshaph the king of Taanach the king of Megiddo the king of Kedesh the king of Jokneam in Carmel the king of Dor (in Naphoth Dor) the king of Goyim in Gilgal the king of Tirzah thirty-one kings in all.
31 Kings, each the ruler of at least one city, probably many more in some cases. Each name on this list represents a population murdered. Hundreds of thousands, at the very least. Probably over a million. Given the world population at the time, this would be a huge number. A military conquest of this scope would probably leave behind a substantial amount of archaeological evidence. But like with the Exodus, there isn’t any. How very curious . . .
What really baffles me about these conquests is the extent of the savagery committed by the Israelites. Not in a base sense, I know they’re bloodthirsty brutes, but the extent of the savagery toward peoples they don’t even know. After all his people have been slaughtered, the King of Ai is impaled. After being suspended on a stick and rotting in the sun for a day, his body is taken and thrown before the gates. What utter hatred and contempt could compel someone to do this to another human being? Moreover, another human being who has never wronged you, one you don’t even know? The Israelites supposedly treated these people this way because they believed God wanted them to. It’s a great example of how faith leads people to do terrible things, things they would otherwise never do. I’ll finish this off with a quote from American physicist Steven Weinberg:
Steven Weinberg: Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
By Rory McDowell