The bible repeatedly claims that Yahweh, the God of the old testament, is merciful and just:
…for the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not fail you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers which he swore to them.Deuteronomy 4:31, Revised Standard Version (RSV)
Nevertheless in thy great mercies thou didst not make an end of them or forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.Nehemiah 9:31, RSV
But is that really true? Chapter 12 of the book of Joshua lists 31 kings that were subjugated by the Israelites in their conquest of the lands promised to them by Yahweh. But the 31 kings were not just subjugated; they were all killed. And not only were the kings killed, but the villages and towns over which they ruled were destroyed and burned to the ground. And not only were those cities and towns destroyed but every man, woman, and child in each of those cities and towns was killed (except for Rahab the prostitute and the other prostitutes of her whorehouse.)
Beyond that the bible tells us that Yahweh actively assisted in the slaughter of the people of that region. When the Israelites defended Gibeon against the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon, God provided crucial assistance:
And as they fled before Israel, while the were going down the ascent of Beth-hor-on, the LORD threw down great stones from heaven upon them as far as Aze’kah, and they died; there were more who died because of the hailstones than the men of Israel killed with the sword.Joshua 10:11, RSV
In fact Moses said that Yahweh would destroy the people of the promised land:
The LORD your God himself will go over before you; he will destroy these nations before you, so that you shall dispossess them; and Joshua will go over at your head, as the LORD has spoken. And the LORD will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when he destroyed them. And the LORD will give them over to you, and you shall do to them according to all the commandments which I have commanded you.Deuteronomy 31:3 – 6, RSV
Why was Yahweh intent on the destruction of the people of the lands promised to the Israelites? The bible tells us why:
“When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Gir’gashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Per’izzites, the Hivites, and the Jeb’usites, seven nations greater and mightier than yourselves, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them; then you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them. You shall not make marriages with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons. For they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars, and dash in pieces their pillars, and hew down their Ashe’rim, and burn their graven images with fire.Deuteronomy 7:1- 5, RSV
The real reason why Yahweh wanted the people of the promised land slaughtered is so that the Israelites would not dilute their faith by following other gods of the region. But couldn’t an omnipotent god have accomplished the same thing without having to slaughter everyone in the region?
A truly omnipotent god could have constructed a force field around the entire region to prevent any other people from settling there and then, when the Israelites arrived, he could have opened the force field to let them in. Or when the Israelites gazed on the promised land from Mount Pisgah imagine that what they saw was simply water– the eastern bounds of the Mediterranean Sea. And what if, right at that moment, Yahweh had lifted up the promised land from the bottom of the sea to create it– fresh, verdant, and unoccupied? Or what if Yahweh had simply picked up the 31 kingdoms and moved them out of the way? Imagine that you were living in Jericho at the time, and that you had heard about the Israelites and what they had done to the cities of Sihon and Og, and you knew that their army was on the way to your town. And imagine that just when you see the army of Israel arrive to camp outside the walls of your city a giant hand were to reach down from the skies. And imagine that this giant hand were to lift your city up and carry it far away– far beyond the threat of annihilation. Wouldn’t you want to worship this great god who was able to pick up your entire town and move it to safety?
Because Yahweh chose none of those options we have every reason and right to state categorically that Yahweh is not a god of mercy and justice– but a god of hate and violence. If Yahweh had instead simply moved the 31 kingdoms out of the way he would undoubtedly have gotten thousands of new followers– but instead he got none. That makes Yahweh look pretty stupid– and very hateful.
Copyright (c) 2019 David S. Moore