Reading the story of the Battle of Jericho sounds just like a news report about an attack by ISIS–merciless slaughter of men, women and children…
We read in Joshua 5-6 that wiping out the entire city was what the Chosen were TOLD by God to do. They were “DEVOTING” the city to God. They themselves were not benefitting by taking loot and making captives into slaves.
So–obediently–the believers killed every man, woman and child in Jericho.
How do we explain this?
Fear not. The devout come up with excuses.
*God was moving out the heathen in order to put the Chosen People in place and start the building of the Kingdom of God.
*When dealing with barbarians, you deal with them LIKE barbarians.
Sometimes it takes a solid pagan to clarify our thinking. I mean–Socrates.
I was reading a book by British historian Anthony Gottlieb [The Dream of Reason] in which he dug up this quote by Socrates: “Is what is holy because the gods approve it, or do they approve it because it is holy?”
In other words, if we read in the Bible that God tells people: Do something “holy”–kill every man, woman and child–does GOD saying it make such terrorism “holy”? That HAS been the explanation for this massacre and other ones in the Bible.
Or does God set a high bar of justice and goodness and teach us how THAT becomes our idea of “holy”?
By the time of Jesus, that IS how high the bar is set. Compassion becomes the new way to dedicate one’s self to God.
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest is so obsessed with “holiness”, he won’t risk touching a mugging victim, lest the unconscious man in reality be dead (Touching a corpse is forbidden to a priest.) But the priest gets schooled in true devotion by the compassion of someone who doesn’t belong to the “right religion”–a Samaritan.
In other words, the ancient writings that we call the Scriptures show a PROGRESS of ideas from believers mimicking the barbarism of ancient times to apprehending the personality of Jesus.
The Scriptures are not EQUAL in the weight we would give to one story or another. In looking through a photo album, we would not give equal weight to a person’s maturity when looking at a picture of this person as a child vs. looking at a photo of the same person as a parent. Flipping the pages of the Scriptures, we follow the same course of advanced understanding of God.
If God is “the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow”, the One Who is said to have ordered the massacre of Jericho as devotion to God could not have been the same One promoting the compassion of the Samaritan as devotion to God.
The same pattern can be found in the Quran. The orders to massacre non-believers or to take vengeance for a slight against the Prophet may indeed be found on certain pages. Has there been no progress in human growth in the 14 centuries since the Prophet wrote the Quran?
If not, the literalists might have to concede there’s going to be massive amounts of lesbian love in heaven. Martyrs are promised 72 virgins in paradise. And some of the terrorists now going to this supposed reward are women. Alas–we read–women only get one man.