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God and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part II: Ancient Near Eastern Conquest Accounts

January 10th, 2011 by Matt

This three-part blog series is a modified version of what I presented to the Evangelical Philosophical Society meeting in November 2010.

Joshua stops the sun

In my previous post, God and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part I: Wolterstorff’s Argument for the Hagiographic Hyperbolic Interpretation, I expounded and adapted Nicholas Wolterstorff’s argument for a hagiographic hyperbolic reading of the book of Joshua. Wolterstorff’s argument has, I think, considerable force. Judges and Joshua cannot both be taken literally as their accounts are at odds; given the internal evidence Wolterstorff cites it is reasonable to contend that Joshua is the one that is non-literal. Wolterstorff, however, limits his case to what I call internal evidence, evidence from within the text itself. I think there is some interesting external evidence, evidence of how particular terms and language were used in other Ancient Near Eastern histories of conquests and battles, which could be added to Wolterstorff’s argument to make it significantly more plausible. Here I will cite three lines of such evidence.

The first is that comparisons between the book of Joshua and other Ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts from the same period demonstrate some important stylistic parallels. Various studies have documented these similarities. Commenting on the structure of the campaigns mentioned in Joshua 9-12, Kitchen notes;

This kind of report profile is familiar to readers of ancient Near Eastern military reports, not least in the second millennium. Most striking is the example of the campaign annals of Tuthmosis III of Egypt in his years 22-42 (ca. 1458-1438). … [T]he pharaoh there gives a very full account of his initial victory at Megiddo, by contrast with the far more summary and stylized reports of the ensuing sixteen subsequent campaigns. Just like Joshua against up to seven kings in south Canaan and four-plus up north.[1] [Emphasis added]

Kitchen adds,

The Ten Year Annals of the Hittite king Mursil II (later fourteenth century) are also instructive. Exactly like the “prefaces” in the two Joshua war reports (10:1-4; 11:1-5), detailing hostility by a number of foreign rulers against Joshua and Israel as the reason for the wars, so in his annals Mursil II gives us a long “preface” on the hostility of neighbouring rulers and people groups that lead to his campaigns.[2] [Emphasis added]

Kitchen adds other examples. He observes that the same formulaic style found in Joshua is also used in the Amarna letters EA 185 and EA 186.[3]Similarly, before his major campaigns,

Joshua is commissioned by YHWH not to fear (cf. 5:13-15; 10:8; 11:6). So also by Ptah and Amun were Merenptah in Egypt and Tuthmosis IV long before him: and likewise Mursil II of the Hittites by his gods (10T-Year Annals, etc.), all in the second millennium besides such kings as Assurbanipal of Assyria down to the seventh century.[4]

Similar studies have been done by Van Seters[5] and James Hoffmeier.[6] However, the most comprehensive is that done by J Lawson Younger.

Younger notes similarities in the preface, structure and even the way the treaty with the Gibeonites is recorded between Joshua and various Ancient Near Eastern accounts.[7] Joshua follows this convention in describing numerous battles occurring in a single day or within a single campaign.[8] Ancient Near Eastern accounts also, like Joshua, repeatedly make reference to the enemy “melting with fear”.[9] Even the way post-battle pursuits are set out and described have parallels with pursuits in Ancient Near Eastern literature.[10] I could mention more examples; the point is that “when the composition and rhetoric of the Joshua narratives in chapters 9-12 are compared to the conventions of writing about conquests in Egyptian, Hittite, Akkadian, Moabite, and Aramaic texts, they are revealed to be very similar”.[11]

Second, Younger notes such accounts are “highly figurative”[12] and narrate military events via a common transmission code.  The literary motif of divine intervention is an example. Both The 10 Year Annals of Mursilli and Sargon’s Letter to the God record a divine intervention where the God sends hailstones on the enemy.[13] Tuthmosis III has a similar story regarding a meteor.[14] Younger notes these accounts are extremely similar to parallel accounts in Joshua 10. Similarly, Younger notes in many Ancient Near Eastern texts “one can discern a literary technique whereby the deity is implored to maintain daylight long enough for there to be a victory”[15] which has obvious parallels to Josh 10:13-14.  Similarly, Richard Hess notes that Hittite conquest accounts describe the gods knocking down the walls of an enemy city in a manner similar to that described in the battle of Jericho.[16] The fact that similar events are narrated in multiple different accounts suggests they are “notable ingredient of the transmission code for conquest accounts”;[17] that is, part of the common hyperbolic rhetoric of warfare rather than descriptions of what actually occurred.

Third, part of this “transmission code” is that victories are narrated in a stereotyped exaggerated hyperbolic fashion in terms of total conquest, complete annihilation and destruction of the enemy, killing everyone, leaving no survivors, etc. Kenneth Kitchen notes,

[T]he type of rhetoric in question was a regular feature of military reports in the second and first millennia, as others have made very clear. … In the later fifteenth century Tuthmosis III could boast “the numerous army of Mitanni, was overthrown within the hour, annihilated totally, like those (now) non-existent” –- whereas, in fact, the forces of Mitanni lived to fight many another day, in the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries. Some centuries later, about 840/830, Mesha king of Moab could boast that “Israel has utterly perished for always” – a rather premature judgment at that date, by over a century! And so on, ad libitum. It is in this frame of reference that the Joshua rhetoric must also be understood.[18]

Younger notes numerous other examples. Merenptah’s Stele describes a skirmish with Israel as follows, “Yanoam is nonexistent; Israel is wasted, his seed is not”.[19] Here a skirmish in which Egypt prevailed is described hyperbolically in terms of the total annihilation of Israel. Sennacherib uses similar hyperbole, “The soldiers of Hirimme, dangerous enemies, I cut down with the sword; and not one escaped”.[20] Mursilli II records making “Mt.Asharpaya empty (of humanity)” and the “mountains of Tarikarimu empty (of humanity)”.[21] Mesha (whom Kitchen cites as stating “Israel has utterly perished for always”) describes victories in terms of him fighting against a town, taking it and then killing all the inhabitants of the town.[22] Similarly, The Bulletin of Ramses II, an historical narrative of Egyptian military campaigns into Syria, narrates Egypt’s considerably less-than-decisive victory at the battle of Kadesh with the following rhetoric,

His majesty slew the entire force of the wretched foe from Hatti, together with his great chiefs and all his brothers, as well as all the chiefs of all the countries that had come with him, their infantry and their chariotry falling on their faces one upon the other. His majesty slaughtered and slew them in their places; … He took no note of the millions of foreigners; he regarded them aschaff[23] [Emphasis original]

Numerous other examples could be provided. The hyperbolic use of language similar to that in Joshua is strikingly evident.[24] It is equally evident that histories of this sort are highly stylised and often use this exaggeration for what could be called hagiographic purposes to commend the kings as faithful servants of the gods rather than as literal descriptions of what occurred.[25] They constitute “monumental hyperbole.”[26]

In addition, both Kitchen and Younger note that such hyperbolic language is used in several places within the book of Joshua itself. In Joshua 10:20, for example, it states Joshua and the sons of Israel had “finished destroying” and “completely destroyed” their enemies. Immediately, however, the text, affirms that the “survivors went to fortified cities.” In this context, the language of total destruction is clearly hyperbolic.  Similarly, the account of the battle of Ai is clearly hyperbolic. After Joshua’s troops feign a retreat the text states that “all the men of Ai” are pressed to chase them. “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.” Joshua lures the pursuers into a trap “so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives” Then it immediately goes on to assert “When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the desert where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword” they went to the city of Ai and killed all the men in it. Apparently all the men of Ai were killed three times in the battle and in each case they appear alive again. A final example is suggested by Goldingay, in the first chapter of Judges he notes that after Judah puts Jerusalem to the sword, its occupants are still living there ‘to this day’.

A similar phenomenon occurs in the case of Midian,[27] the Amalekites[28] and the Babylonian invasion[29].  In each case a battle is narrated in totalistic terms of complete destruction of all the people and later narration goes on to matter-of-factly assume it did not literally occur. The fact that this occurs on multiple occasions in different books rapidly diminishes the probability that these features are co-incidental or careless errors. Why is that almost every time a narration of “genocide” occurs, it is followed by an account which presupposes it did not? These facts significantly increase the possibility that this is deliberate literary construction by the authors.

Four things are evident; first, that taken as a single narrative and taken literally, Joshua 1-11 gives a contradictory account of events to that narrated by Judges and also to that narrated by the later chapters of Joshua itself. Second is that “those who edited the final version of these writings into one sequence were not mindless” particularly if God speaks through them. Third, while Judges reads as “down to earth history” a careful reading of Joshua reveals it to be full of ritualistic, stylised, accounts, formulaic language. This third point is supported by research into Ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts. Such studies show (a) such accounts are highly  hyperbolic, hagiographic, figurative and follow a common transmission code (b) comparisons between these accounts and the early chapters of Joshua suggest Joshua is written according to the same literary conventions and  transmission code (c) part of this transmission code is to hyperbolically portray a victory in absolute terms of totally destroying the enemy or in terms of miraculous divine intervention; “such statements are rhetoric indicative of military victory”,[30] not literal descriptions of what occurred.  Fourth, this hyperbolic way of describing victories is attested in several places elsewhere in Scripture.

I think these four points, taken together, provide compelling reasons for thinking that one should interpret the text as a highly figurative and hyperbolic account of what occurred. In light of these factors it seems sensible to conclude that the accounts of battles in Joshua 6-11 are not meant to be taken literally.

In Part III I look at two implications of the hagiographic hyperbolic account.

[1] Kenneth Kitchen On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids MI: Erdmans Publishing Co, 2003) 170.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid 172.
[4] Ibid, 174-175.
[5] J Van Seters “Joshua’s Campaign of Canaan and Near Eastern Historiography” 2 Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament (1990) 1-12.
[6] James K Hoffmier “The Structure of Joshua 1—11 and the Annals of Thutmose III” in A R Millard, J K Hoffmeier, D W Baker (eds) Faith Tradition and History: Old Testament Historiography and its Ancient Near Eastern context (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1994) 165-181.
[7] K Lawson Younger Jr Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990) 200-204.
[8] Ibid 216.
[9] Ibid 258-260.
[10] Ibid 220-225.
[11] Ziony Zevit The Religions of Ancient Israel: A Synthesis of Parallactic Approaches (London and New York: Continuum, 2001) 114.
[12] K Lawson Younger Jr “Judges 1 in its Near Eastern Literary Context” in A R Millard, J K Hoffmeier, D W Baker (eds) Faith Tradition and History: Old Testament Historiography and its Ancient near Eastern context (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1994) 207.
[13] Younger, supra n 24, 208-211.
[14] Ibid 217.
[15] Ibid  219, for further  discussion of the relationship between Joshua’s long day and other ANE texts see John Walton “Joshua 10:12-15 and Mesopotamian Celestial Omen Texts” in A R Millard, J K Hoffmeier, D W Baker (eds) Faith Tradition and History: Old Testament Historiography and its Ancient near Eastern context (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1994) 181-190.
[16] Richard Hess “West Semitic Texts and the Book of Joshua” Bulletin for Biblical Research 7 (1997) 68.
[17] Younger, supra n 24, 211.
[18] Kitchen On the Reliability of the Old Testament 174.
[19] Younger, supra n 24, 227.
[20] Ibid 228.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Ibid 227.
[23] Ibid 245.
[24] In addition, both Kitchen and Younger note that such hyperbolic language is used in several places within the book of Joshua itself. In Joshua 10:20, for example, it states Joshua and the sons of Israel had “finished destroying” and “completely destroyed” their enemies. Immediately, however, the text, affirms that the “survivors went to fortified cities.” In this context, the language of total destruction is clearly hyperbolic. Similarly, the account of the battle of Ai is clearly hyperbolic. After Joshua’s troops feign a retreat the text states that “all the men of Ai” are pressed to chase them. “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.” Joshua lures the pursuers into a trap “so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives” Then it immediately goes on to assert “When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the desert where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword” they went to the city of Ai and killed all the men in it.
[25] Thomas Thompson examines several different ANE conquest accounts of this type and notes they have a hagiographic function. See his “A Testimony of the Good King: Reading the Mesha Stele” in  Lester L Grabbe (Ed) Ahabs Agonistes: The Rise and Fall of the Omri Dynasty (New York: T&T Clark, 2007).
[26] John Goldingay “City and Nation” Old Testament Theology vol. 3 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2009) 570. Goldingay goes on to give yet another example from within the Bible itself “While Joshua does speak of Israel’s utterly destroying the Canaanites, even these accounts can give a misleading impression: peoples that have been annihilated have no trouble reappearing later in the story; after Judah puts Jerusalem to the sword, its occupants are still living there ‘to this day’ (Judg. 1:8, 21).”
[27] Compare Numbers 31 with Judges 6 and 7.
[28] Compare 1 Sam 15 with 1 Sam 28:8 and 1 Sam  30.
[29] Compare 2 Chronicles 36:17 with 36:20 and 2 Chronicles 36:18 with 36:19
[30] K Lawson Younger “Joshua” in John H Walton, Victor H Matthews,  Mark W Chavalas (eds) The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Downers Grove Il: Intervarsity Press) 227.

God and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part I: Wolterstorff’s Argument for the Hagiographic Hyperbolic Interpretation
God and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part III: Two Implications of the Hagiographic Hyperbolic Account
Sunday Study: Joshua and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part I
Sunday Study: Joshua and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part II
Did God Command Genocide in the Old Testament?

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14 responses so far ↓

  • Hi, Matt.

    I don’t think I agree with your analysis in this Part II or in Part I. Here’s why:

    1. In Part I you are relying upon God communicating figuratively, yet God exacted judgement upon the Israelites when they spared lives and livestock or took things they’d been told not to or otherwise failed to meet His standard.

    2. In Part II you use extra-biblical material as if it informed scripture when the more likely case is that scripture informed the extra-biblical writings.

    3. The whole exercise seems to be aimed at comforting Christians who find such sequences discomfiting. Why do you feel the need to do this?

  • Thanks for these posts. I look forward to the third one.

    As an evangelical pastor, I understand the desire to diminish the force of these passages. I’ve struggled with them for decades.

    My conclusion . . . the writers/editors of these texts did what people are still doing: claiming that they are just carrying out God’s will.

    I still understand these documents as scripture — written by people who are pursuing the one God of Israel and used by God’s Spirit for the shaping of his people.

    But I’ve learned this through a lifetime of ministry: not everything people claim is from God is, in fact, from God. And that extends to those who claimed that God issued them a command to wipe everyone out.

  • Hi Grant, good to hear from you again. You raise some common questions.

    Re 3. This appears to question my aims, motives, and so on, I don’t want to get into self exculpation here, largely because these issues are irrelevant. I have provided an argument for my position, the argument stands or falls on its merits not the motives, desires, aims and so on I may have.

    I would note however that the texts in Joshua raise important questions, not just the moral questions which I as an ethicist am interested in, but also textual questions, how can both Joshua and Judges be the word of God when they appear to contradict each other. How can Joshua 6-11 be the word of God when the rest of the narrative proceeds on the assumption that the events described did not literally occur? And historical questions, given that the archeological record does not fit the picture of total destruction and genocide portrayed in Josh 6-11 how can be believe its true? I am trying to provide a reading of these texts which addresses these important questions, as well as being a defensible reading from the text and Genre.

    Re 2: Here I think you misunderstand what I am saying, I am not suggesting one form of literature informed another ( though some of the texts I cite like Thutmose III’s work were authored before the conquest of Canaan), I am relying on comparative studies to suggest there were common literary conventions, motifs, rhetoric which was used in ancient near eastern military histories of this sort and that Joshua follows these conventions.

    Its a mistake, to read Joshua as a 21st century military history and to assume that the expectations we have about history writing and so forth inform the text. There is a tendancy for westerns to think God would only inspire a text written in accord with our cultural practises. I think this kind of assumption is pervasive in skeptic freethinker literature. I think this assumption does harm to how people read the text, and its good to challenge it.

    Re 1. This is an interesting point, First. Let me clarify, I am not in part I relying on the text being figurative. I was arguing that it was. Note also I was using the same method you are here, your suggesting a figurative reading is mistaken because latter the text appears to proceed on the assumption that the command was literal. My point is that if you read Joshua right through from start to finish, and you read Judges and Joshua as part of a single sequence of writings, the claims of they had annihilation all the populations in n 6-11 are proceeded by texts which proceed on the assumption these populations were not annihilated, and which assume God only commanded them to drive the inhabitants out and not intermingle with them ( while alive). Anyone who defends a literal reading has to provide a plausible account of these tensions.

    I think you are referring to the passage 1 Samuel 15, where Saul is commanded by God to “go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy [herem] all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” The text goes on to affirm “Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt. 8 He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. 9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves[b] and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed” Saul is condemned for “seizing plunder” taking the lambs alive. Latter in the chapter and Agag is executed.

    You suggest this should be read literally, on the grounds that Saul was condemned for not taking the command literally.
    The problem I see with this, is it again fails to take into account the rest of the narrative. Note the text states “He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed [herem] with the sword.” and Agag is killed only a few verses latter. So taken literally, this story affirms that Saul did kill all the Amalekites “from Havila to Shur” it was only animals that he spared.

    If you read on however you will see the narrator proceeds on the assumption that this passage is not literally true. In Sam 29-30. David raids Amalekite towns in the Havilla to Shur area, which are full of living breathing amalekites, The Amalekites attack David’s town of Ziklag, David pursues them, fights a long drawn out battle with them and hundred flee the battle field. A living Amalekite takes credit for Sauls death in 2 Sameul, and Chronciles mentions them alive at the time of Hezekiah. So you have an account of the Amalekites being “totally destroyed” within a narrative that proceeds on the assumption they weren’t. Obviously, an inspired redactor cannot be affirming both these
    parts of the same narrative as literally true.

    The other factor here is that the account of 1 Sam 15 is contains a lot of hyperbole and is clearly exaggerated. Sauls army for example is 210,000 foot soldiers. This is larger than almost any army known to exist even amougst massive empires during the period, its also excessively larger than the armies Saul is said to have been able to muster only a few chapters earlier.

    Moreover, the battle proceeds from Havila to Shur, Shur is on the boarder with Eqypt, Havilla however ( it you look the term up elsewhere in the text) is in western Saudi Arabia. That makes the battle field far to large to be literally true. Finally we know that hyperbolic accounts of battles with large numbers like this or large battle feilds of this sort is a literary motif in ANE military histories.

    To put it succinctly: the Samuel narrative juxtposts a battle account where Saul kills every amalekite with a narrative where the Amalekites are still around in large numbers. The first is written up in a highly exaggerated and hyperbolic form and uses the rhetoric of “herem” and so forth. The second, is written in a more down to earth realistic form. Both are part of a single narrative in the Canon. It seems to me then the sensible thing is to see 1 Sam 15 as a highly exaggerated, stylised, hyperbolic account of a battle designed to illustrate Saul’s infidelity to YHWH, not a literal precise description of what occurred or how the battle played out.

  • Hi, Matt. 🙂

    Yeah, #3 did get at motivation. I will leave that aside for now. 🙂

    #2: I’m not sure I do misunderstand, but the nature of your PtII argument isn’t explicitly stated. Even if extra-biblical writing does contain the same sort of language to refer to a figure of speech, that does not place any requirement upon us to accept that God was speaking figuratively. So can you state explicitly how the existence of extra-biblical figurative language forces scripture to have the same meaning?

    #3: We will have to agree that being sent into one battle with an order to kill everything is an order that is almost certainly unachievable. And it only pertains to the people involved in that actual battle. But then God was not looking for the destruction of every living Amalekite or Canaanite, He was looking for obedience from His chosen people.

  • […] this, see Matt Flannagan’s various posts providing what I see as good reason to see the ‘total destruction’ language as a […]

  • Hello Matt and Mad,

    Happy new year btw,

    Do you think that its more culticide than genocide in the case of Joshua’s campaign on canaan? I agree with you totally in your exposition of the difficulties reconciling the claims of Joshua’s book vs the Judges.

    You mentioned the amalekite servant that brought Saul’s armor and crown to David; Do you think that if amalekites and the inhabitants of the land were to convert to Yahwism, they would be naturalized and spared from the cherem? Since God said to drive them off from the land, not hunt down and annihilate them as with the case of Hitler’s final solution. Is there a subtlety here I am missing?


  • Grant,
    Re 2. The extra biblical material is useful in telling us about the literary conventions and motifs that governed this kind of writing. I think the bible uses the literary conventions of its day, just as it uses the language (Hebrew, greek Aramaic) of its day.
    Re 3 I agree God was looking for obedience, but the issue here is what he commanded. Was he literally commanding the killing of every man women and child, or was this a hyperbolic way of commanding that they defeat their armies in battle and drive them out.

  • Matt,

    Not sure if you are aware of any of the arguments put forward in this presentation, but I’d be interested to hear your views, (and anyone else). In particular the perspective of Yewah as a stand-alone god of war/battles could go some way towards explaining the OT blood-thirsty perspective in contrast to the later NT.

    Use this link to view:

  • The January 2011 Biblical Studies Carnival…

    Welcome to the Carnival! Here we’ve rounded up the best of the best posts from as many biblioblogs as possible. … Matt Flannagan’s series on the Canaanite’s annihilation……

  • God and the Genocide of the Canaanites…

    Students in my CHR 101 class might appreciate this discussion from Mike Flanagan of the book of Judges and the morality of God’s commands to “exterminate” the Canaanites before we delve into the Settlement of Canaan next week….

  • […] his three part series on the apparent genocide in the Old Testament (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Additionally, Dr. Flannagan has analysized Saul’s experience in 1 Samuel 15 […]

  • […] spe­cific ANE con­text (see Matt Flannagan’s “God and the Genocide of the Canaanites, Part I, Part II, Part III”), and some argue for both (see Paul Copan’s “How Could God Command Killing the […]

  • Matt,

    There are several fatal problems with your hagiographic exaggeration hypothesis:

    (no, I am not attempting to answer your specific arguments on this page, I am attempting to show how other arguments, not directly related to what you say here, nevertheless crush what you say here and render it moot. Bringing Wolterstorff into the fray is like bringing a tack hammer to a war.

    1 – Joshua 2:14, the Hebrews did not intend the pagans to flee, but sought to keep tight-lipped about their intended invasions, that is, to achieve the obvious military advantage of surprising the city when it would be too late for the pagans to ready the military to repel the attack. Whoever told the Jericho king that the Hebrews were spying, it probably wasn’t the spies, who apparently allowed Rahab to hide them when the king sought them out.

    2 – Keeping in mind Joshua’s desire to take advantage by surprise attack, any pagans that fled, would not have done so until they luckily happened to notice the Hebrews closing in. That is, the pagans would have no time to pack, but flee in a panic with the kids and not much more. That puts the kids out into the ANE specifically lacking in critical supplies, thus subjecting them even more quickly to dying slowly and painfully from starvation, thirst, disease.

    3 – The pagans themselves were not necessarily in agreement with each other, Joshua 10. So no, it is not “likely” that any women and children who fled their cities would find hospitality or charity in the next town. Especially since resources were scarce anyway, so other pagans, if as sinful as you think, would likely turn away non-combatants where there was no advantage to be gained from giving charity to them.

    4 – There is no evidence that the pagans knew the outer limits of the promised-land area. If pagan women and children fled from Joshua’s armies, they would likely stop somewhere inside the promised land at the first city that would extend them the least hospitality, if any. But then that means they’d have to flee again because the Hebrews were advancing through the entire territory. Now the children aren’t just subjected to starvation and thirst at the first fleeing, but multiple times, and yet we have no evidence that the Hebrews ever told these women and children of where the safe areas were. We have instead a rather ridiculously ambiguous divine promise that God will send his terror in advance of Joshua, Exodus 23:27, which means the only way you can overcome purely historical arguments based on actual ANE realities, is to appeal to the supernatural, which seems to indicate the only people who would find your apologetics persuasive are other Christians who adopt bible inerrancy.

    5 – We have an example of what it means for pagans to flee to outside the promised land, and it proves the Hebrews wished to cause slow miserable painful death to children: when God tells Saul to attack the Amalekites, (1st Samuel 15:1-3), Saul chases them as far as “Shur” (15:7, we would expect women and children to take cover at the military outposts on the eve of battle, so that if Saul set Amalekite military members to flight, he was also doing that to kids as well). Shur was a place where the Israelites went three days without finding water, and would have perished but for a divine miracle of water (Exodus 15:22). And it’s no coincidence why Shur isn’t part of the promised land, that place really sucks for everybody, apparently including groups who have direct pipeline access to the creator of the universe.

    If what apologists say about the Amalekites be true, they were horrible savage brutes, so that if some of them end up surviving next to other fringe groups near Shur (27:8), this likely wasn’t a case of the existing pagans voluntarily welcoming the desperate Amalekites with open arms of charity offerings, but something on the order of truce called likely after several battles were fought and Amalekite raids repelled, i.e., for women and children to be shooed out past the promised-land borders is to force them to take more desperate measures to keep fed and hydrated, such as raiding other settlements and otherwise stealing and other violence.

    Apologist Glenn Miller says life in the ANE outside one’s established town or province was unbearably hostile and could not be sustained except by routinely stealing and raiding of others, with threats to the dispossessed of forced slavery and prostitution being ever-present. If he is correct, the Hebrews knew it too as they chased any fleeing pagan woman and children outside the promised land.

    Finally, given these historical realities of the ANE, doesn’t that provide the Canaanites with rational justification to refuse to flee? Can you blame a pagan city who says “if we flee, we have no idea how far we can go to avoid the Hebrews, there are cities that would do battle against us, and any places with food or water we might find would likely already be claimed by others”. If you lived in the middle of a desert region surrounded only by a few other cities whose attitude toward you was not known and possibly hostile, would you “flee” the only source of dependable food and water as soon as you learned of a coming invasion. Would you flee like this if you thought you stood a fair chance of successfully repelling the invasion?

    Please do not do what you did last time and accuse me of “avoiding” or “evading” just because you might find something in the bible you think overcomes this criticism. This issue is vast, and I have to balance making concise relevant points, with the need to avoid posting 15 pages that would be necessary to make sure you have nowhere to run when you reply . I could refute your hypotheses in numerous ways, but what I’ve written will suffice to give you plenty to respond to.

    I contend that you won’t be able to do what you need to do, and show in your reply that your hypothesis is more plausible than mine.

  • Just wondering if and when you will reply to my arguments saying your “dispossession” hypothesis requires God to be a greater moral monster than any “genocide” hypothesis would.