Were all the nations the Israelites invaded and conquered in the Old Testament "evil?"


#1

In RCIA, I heard an argument that the Israelites were justified in their invasions and complete genocide of other nations, killing women and children, because who they invaded were evil beyond redemption (ex. human sacrifice was common back then).

Is there any source to back up this claim in historical records? Can anyone direct me to a list of the nations the Israelites in the Old Testament wiped out/conquered, and provide a summary of their civilizations? Historical research isn't my strong point :(

I'm curious what exactly the enemy civilizations were doing, what kind of rituals, gods worshipped (if any), everyday life, etc. I find it hard to believe their practices warranted complaint extermination of their race by God's command.

Because to me, from my simplistic reading of the OT, the Israelites sound very similar to the roving barbarian tribes, like ones that eventually took apart the Roman Empire.

I heard an alternate explanation in RCIA that the Israelites merely "attributed" to God the various acts and orders they undertook, and events such as the walls of Jericho crumbling, or genocide, as a way of "explaining" what they done to future generations, but the malevolent nature of their acts were human affairs.

The general accusation I often hear is that the Bible is really condoning evil, and is just a hypocritical double standard, so I would like to find out for myself what was really going on....I'm just not really sure where to start, and what resources to tap into.


#2

It must be remembered that the world of the ancient Israelites was very different from the world we live in today. At those times, every nation in the world besides Israel had forgotten God. For the salvation of mankind, He had to establish a nation separate from others. A holy nation which could keep His memory alive. In those ancient times, it was a much harder world, and the Israelites had to resort to brutality just to survive. To judge ancient people by the standards of today, the standards that didn’t exist until the teachings of Christ, is unfair.


#3

A part of me naturally wants to retort against this kind of justification, but I understand what you’re saying. However, people attacking the Bible will not accept that explanation. God is supposed to represent an unchanging, objective morality, but he lowers his standards for the Israelites to commit genocide, but will judge post-Christians for the same deeds?

What about the salvation of the nations exterminated? What happened to the fate of their souls, only due to the ignorance of their ancestors of God? Did they willingly forget God to worship false gods, like how modern society seeks to secularize and remove God from discussion?

Sorry, I’m kind of just spilling my thoughts, hope it made sense.


#4

[quote="minion, post:3, topic:313300"]
A part of me naturally wants to retort against this kind of justification, but I understand what you're saying. However, people attacking the Bible will not accept that explanation. God is supposed to represent an unchanging, objective morality, but he lowers his standards for the Israelites to commit genocide, but will judge post-Christians for the same deeds?

What about the salvation of the nations exterminated? What happened to the fate of their souls, only due to the ignorance of their ancestors of God? Did they willingly forget God to worship false gods, like how modern society seeks to secularize and remove God from discussion?

Sorry, I'm kind of just spilling my thoughts, hope it made sense.

[/quote]

Don't worry, there is nothing wrong with asking these kinds of questions. To truly have a firm foundation for our faith, we have to ask them. Though keep in mind, I'm not the most educated on this subject. This link may be of great help to you:

ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/pope-benedict-on-the-dark-passages-of-scripture

It is not that God condoned the evils of the Israelites; it was that the Israelites were just as violent and immoral as their neighbors, so God had to slowly raise them to a higher level of morality.


#5

Thank you, that link was incredibly helpful. This made a lot of sense to me:

[quote= Pope Benedict]God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resistance.
[/quote]

Furthermore, the article explains that even if the Bible is “divinely inspired,” it still is detracted by a particular OT writer’s “human resistance” to God’s plan, which is a perspective I never considered before. So even if the writer condones an act and writes as if God condoned a certain act, it doesn’t necessarily mean God Himself did condone of it. That somehow both simplifies and complicates things :stuck_out_tongue:

Again, thank you, I will bookmark that link for future reference.


#6

No problem! I’m happy I could help. :thumbsup:


#7

THIS IS MY PERSONAL OBSERVATION:

Akin’s article was interesting, and I definitely agree with much of it (the Israelites not being ready for God’s fullness, God working progressively). However, we cannot merely write off God’s hand in the violence. In fact, He didn’t merely allow it, He ORDERED it. People continuously seem to want to change the nature of God. The fact is, God is unchanging. He is eternal. What He ordered was just, and remains so. In fact, God still, to this day, allows people to die. He still allows violence. And He still punishes people. The difference is that we have now received the fullness of His plan. He no longer needs us to punish people by genocide: now that eternity has been opened to man, God, instead of manifesting His justice only on Earth, now punishes the unrepentant with ETERNAL death. Back in the Old Testament, the wages of sin was LITERALLY death. It still results in death, and God still does allow disasters and genocide and horrible things. However, the importance of physical death is unimportant compared to eternal death.

Essentially, God is still the God of the Old Testament. He still has mercy on those who repent, and still destroys those who don’t. He just doesn’t use His people as a medium anymore, as the primary means of justice and mercy are manifest in the eternal, rather than the temporal. Don’t despair because of God’s justice. Rather, accept His mercy.

We must also be careful of dismissing dark passages as mere human justification for their evil actions. If this is so, then what credibility does Scripture have? I really don’t think Akin and B16 were saying this, but it seems as though some are perceiving that. This is my opinion. Take it for what it is.

Also, the nation of Israel, who was to bring forth the Christ, and thus salvation to all, would not have survived to do so had they not taken the promised land. If God had required them practice ‘turning the other cheek’ at that point in history, and with there lack of a homeland, they would have quickly become martyrs and ceased to exist. Their enemies would have murdered them. God is smarter than that…

Another also: the Caananites whom the Israelites destroyed were: A) extremely evil B) had about 400 years to repent of being the enemy of Israel C) Would have known that the Israelites were coming, would have known they had God behind them (as they were aware of the Exodus and God’s might), and would have had ample time to flee (as we see most did, as Caananites still existed after the conquest). Thus, the Caananites who remained would have been the most obstinate and evil among them. They had time to repent, but even as the Israelites came out of Egypt, some Caananites attacked their weak and vulnerable members. I got all this info in this paragraph from a decent article, I’ll try to find it.


#8

I think there probably are civilizations so evil that warfare is justified against them. The Nazis certainly were. The evidence we have, both scriptural and archaeological, is that at least some of the Israelite’s enemies practiced infant sacrifice to their idols and tried to traduce the Jews into doing the same. (Yes, I know - who are we to talk?)

The Canaanite cultures seemed to practice some very evil traditions. The Canaanite textual and archaeological evidence supports the argument that the Canaanites condoned and practiced child sacrifice, temple prostitution, child sexual abuse, incest, bestiality, and homosexuality. Furthermore, these were not isolated, antisocial practices, but were condoned and supported by their idolatrous religious practices, and were themselves modeled on the acts supposedly conducted by their gods.

Incestuous acts were condoned by the actions of the Canaanite elder god El, who had 70 children by Asherah, including Baal and his sister Anat, with whom Baal had sex. Asherah tried to seduce Baal, and told El, who encouraged him to have sex with Asherah to humiliate her. Baal also had sex with his daughter Pidray. These actions are not presented to the Canaanites in a negative manner. (For Canaanite texts relating these tales, see W.F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan: A Historical Analysis of Two Contrasting Faiths (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1968, and “El, Ashteru and the Storm-god,” translated by Albrecht Goetze, in The Ancient Near East: Supplementary Texts and Pictures Relating to the Old Testament, edited by James B. Pritchard, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969))

Incest was initially punished by the Canaanites by death or banishment, but after the 14th century B.C., the punishment for incest had been decriminalized and reduced to a simple fine. Harry A. Hoffner Jr. (in “Incest, Sodomy and Bestiality in the Ancient Near East” in Orient and Occident: Essays Presented to Cyrus H. Gordon on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday, edited by Hoffner [Germany: Neukirchen Vluyn, 1973)), in describing the gradual decriminalization of the incest taboo, describes relevant Hittite tablets which contain rituals to remove the impurity of incest and bestiality from a man, which would allow a man to remain in his city despite being incestuous, indicating that such practices were common enough to generate recorded rituals to remove the societal onus.

The use of temples to practice prostitution, both heterosexual and homosexual (and to benefit the religious priests monetarily) was common among the Canaanites (For textual cites, see Jonathan N. Tubb, *The Canaanites (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998) who cites texts from Ugarit which describes Anana’s cult as involving members of the aristocratic priestly sect and both male and female temple prostitutes. Walter Hinz, in The Cambridge Ancient History: History of the Middle East, 3rd ed (ed. by I.E.S. Edwards, C.J. Gadd, and N.J.L. Hammons (London: Cambridge University Press, 1971), states “From the very earliest days numerous priests with the servants were attached to the temple buildings in the Acropolis of Susa. Apparently these performed their ceremonies naked, to judge by Elamite seals and several small finds from stratum D at Susa onwards - that is before the time of the Akkadan Empire.” John Gray, in *The Legacy of Canaan: The Ras Shamra Texts and Their Relevance to the Old Testament *(Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1965) cites a Canaanite liturgical text which seems to indicate that after the story of El having sex with two goddesses was told, the incident was reenacted as a fertility rite: “To be repeated five times by the company and the singers of the assembly.”


#9

Child Sacrifice: The Canaanites sacrificed children to their underworld deity, Moloch, as discussed at length in John Day, Molech: A God of Human Sacrifice in the Old Testament (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); John Day, Yahweh and the Gods and Godesses of Canaan (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992) and Shelby Brown, Late Carthaginian Child Sacrifice and Sacrificial Monuments in Their Mediterranean Context (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991). Plutarch (De Superstitione) and Kleitarchos (in scholia on Plato’s Republic), Eusebius (Evangelica Praeparatio, quoted some (admittedly disputed) information purportedly from the writings of Sanchuniathon, a Phoenician who lived in Beirut circa 1000 B.C.); and Diodorus Siculus, provide non-Old Testament descriptions of Phoenician (Canaanite/Carthaginan) sacrifices.

Although infanticide was accepted and even legally required in some contexts in Greek and Roman law (such as deformity), even they were offended by the murder of children old enough to be have been incorporated into the family by Greek and Roman standards, and that such sacrifices were done in a religious context in the hopes of receiving divine favor (as Brown points out). In the words of the previously cited Oxford professor John Day (1992), “In fact, we have independent evidence that child sacrifice was practiced in the Canaanite (Carthaginian and Phoenician) world from many classical sources, Punic inscriptions and archaeological evidence, as well as Egyptian depictions of the ritual occurring in Syria-Palestine, and from a recently discovered Phoenician inscription in Turkey. There is therefore no reason to doubt the biblical testimony to Canaanite child sacrifice.”

The many inscriptions on the tophets (child sacrifice sites) make the nature of the sacrifices quite clear, such as “ “It was to the Lady Tanit Face of Baal and to Baal Hamon that Bomilcar son of Hanno, grandson of Milkiathon, vowed this son of his own flesh. Bless him you” (cited in Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum. Pars Prima Inscriptiones Phoenicias Continens, Paris 1881)

Bestiality: Again, the Canaanites patterned their sexual mores on that of their gods. The Canaanite epic Baal cycle describes Baal’s enthusiastic love-making with a heiffer (I’d quote from it but this is a family forum), translated by Mark S. Smith in Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, edited by Simon B. Parker (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1997). Bestiality was apparently so common among the Canaanites that the Hittite Laws state that the fault must lie with the animals: “If an ox spring upon a man for intercourse, the ox shall die but the man shall not die...If a pig spring upon a man for intercourse, there is no punishment." (Richard Dawkins claims to be upset that the unfortunate Canaanite beasts were to be killed by God as well as humans, but the Canaanites apparently felt the same way. (The case can also be made that animals with whom humans had had intercourse would be considered ritually unclean and could not be consumed (a sentiment with which I would agree), as well as the likelihood that - I apologize, but there’s no other way to say this - an animal who had unfortunately been trained by depraved humans to have sex with a human could never again be trusted around women or children. What purpose would there be to keep such poor, degraded animals alive, from the viewpoint of the Israelites?)

The Israelites were surrounded by depraved tribes, and the Bible records that they were constantly at risk of straying and adopting such pagan practices. If they went to far and threatened the children of Israel, God may decided enough was enough.


#10

There's not much historical evidence to suggest large scale genocides in Biblical times; in fact, historians now overwhelmingly believe that to have been utterly impossible.

So does that mean Joshua and other books in the OT are full of untruths? Well, what about the possibility that this was all symbolic, that the bloodthirst that the Israelites supposedly had for their pagan neighbors represents how thoroughly a believer in God must cleanse himself of all idolatries.


#11

So the Israelites just moved into enemy territory without a challenge?? Maybe they did what God commanded, and killed all the Caananites in the promised land (which wasn’t all of them)? Where do people get that they literally killed every canaanite in existence? They killed ‘all of them’ in the Promised Land.


#12

[quote="PeaceInChrist, post:11, topic:313300"]
So the Israelites just moved into enemy territory without a challenge?? Maybe they did what God commanded, and killed all the Caananites in the promised land (which wasn't all of them)? Where do people get that they literally killed every canaanite in existence? They killed 'all of them' in the Promised Land.

[/quote]

How large the Israelite migration from Egypt was, is also historically a mystery. But killing a population group that large without railroads and gas chambers wasn't logistically possible. There's a similar study going on right now about the Angle, Saxon and Jute migrations into Roman Britain; it was once thought that the Romans were simply killed or displace en masse but that would be impossible. The scales are comparable.

Ultimately we don't really know what happened, what we have is scripture. And even back in ancient Israel it wasn't taken only literally, all the time.


#13

[quote="EphelDuath, post:12, topic:313300"]
How large the Israelite migration from Egypt was, is also historically a mystery. But killing a population group that large without railroads and gas chambers wasn't logistically possible. There's a similar study going on right now about the Angle, Saxon and Jute migrations into Roman Britain; it was once thought that the Romans were simply killed or displace en masse but that would be impossible. The scales are comparable.

Ultimately we don't really know what happened, what we have is scripture. And even back in ancient Israel it wasn't taken only literally, all the time.

[/quote]

Who is saying that millions, or hundreds of thousands, or even tens of thousands were killed? Who's to say it wasn't a few.thousand? How large an area was invaded? How many people had fled or migrated once the killing started? If we are so quick to outright dismiss parts of Scripture as myth or mere symbolism on our own authority, how is any credibility to be given to the OT at all? What is to say it isn't all symbolism? We have to take into context what is said.


#14

I would have to do a lot of research to give you answers on this. Off the top of my head I remember the Amalekites raising an army of over 100,000 in Judges.

If we are so quick to outright dismiss parts of Scripture as myth or mere symbolism on our own authority, how is any credibility to be given to the OT at all? What is to say it isn’t all symbolism? We have to take into context what is said.

The Holy See repudiates this fundamentalist viewpoint. The Old Testament is to be read in light of the tradition of the New Testament, the Church Fathers, and textual analysis, not entirely and only literally, which would be “our own authority”.

Calling the Augustinian approach to scripture to be “dismissing” it as “myth” or “mere” symbolism is quite ignorant. It wasn’t until the Protestant Reformation that people actually began to think that way.


#15

[quote="EphelDuath, post:14, topic:313300"]
I would have to do a lot of research to give you answers on this. Off the top of my head I remember the Amalekites raising an army of over 100,000 in Judges.

The Holy See repudiates this fundamentalist viewpoint. The Old Testament is to be read in light of the tradition of the New Testament, the Church Fathers, and textual analysis, not entirely and only literally, which would be "our own authority".

Calling the Augustinian approach to scripture to be "dismissing" it as "myth" or "mere" symbolism is quite ignorant. It wasn't until the Protestant Reformation that people actually began to think that way.

[/quote]

I am unaware of any Church Fathers that spoke of Joshua or any of the commands of God as myth or symbolism. If this is so, then I was mistaken. I was under the impression that the books in question were viewed as historical (at least to some degree), and the commands of God as just. If this is contrary to Church Fathers, I would be greatful for references.


#16

Okay, well from Haydock’s Bible commentary on 1 Samuel 15:3, a comment of Pope St. Gregory I: “Amalec is stricken when the flesh is chastised—He is destroyed when we repress evil thoughts.” (Source) Seems to imply the same interpretation I have.


#17

The entire entry from verse 3 reads:

Ver. 3. Destroy, as a thing accursed. (Haydock) — Child. The great master of life and death (who cuts off one half of mankind whilst they are children) has been pleased sometimes to ordain that children should be put to the sword, in detestation of the crimes of their parents, and that they might not live to follow the same wicked ways. But without such ordinance of God, it is not allowable in any wars, how just soever, to kill children. (Challoner) — The Israelites were now to execute God’s orders with blind obedience, as he cannot be guilty of injustice. — Nor covet…his, is omitted in Hebrew, &c. (Calmet) —Amalec is stricken when the flesh is chastised—He is destroyed when we repress evil thoughts. (St. Gregory)

Hmmm…

Also, I have never denied a symbolic element. I simply do not reject the other assertions of the author, either


#18

Yes, that is Bishop Challoner's opinion. But I'm not here to survey the opinion of every Church Father and doctor of the Church, I merely demonstrated that at least one accredited Church Father thought the passage could be taken symbolically.


#19

Yes, I fully agree with the St Gregory. I even stated that i believe there is indeed a symbolic element to the story, in that sin must be purged. I never denied that. I am denying that the entire book, the act of.the Israelites, and the command of God can be taken as symbolic. I do not find evidence of this in St Gregory’s excerpt, nor have i found that position held among any Church Fathers or orthodox apologists. Which is why I asked for sources. I would be pleased to be incorrect.


#20

Thank you for the information and discussion everyone.

Arizone Mike - that IS crazy. Obviously I'm not a trained historian or anything, but it's amusing to see that googling some of the terms one of the first things I run into are "modern" historians disagreeing on wikipedia about the nature of certain rituals (ex. Roman propaganda on Carthage exaggerating the rites, etc). Judging from roots of the civilization though, infant/child sacrifice does seem the most plausible.

Actually, it's not surprising early civilizations did infant sacrifice at ALL. You kind of hinted it at the beginning, but what does America do, if not a modern, secularized version of child sacrifice in abortion? Back then, they sacrificed babies to gods - these days, society sacrifices babies for economical advancement. Wow.....that is SCARY. No, it's making a strange kind of sense....no, I believe it...

And animals were trained to have sex with humans? Seriously, is that even possible? You don't think it's just ancient-era libel?

A bit of a dark thought, but I'm starting to think maybe extermination was a kind of mercy back then, in comparison to living in such place where the aforementioned was commonplace. If the civilizations' fate wasn't an instant consigning to hell, that is.

It's still difficult hearing differing views from historians on what really happened, but you gave me an interesting start, thanks :thumbsup:


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