An Atheist Reads The Bible: The Final Solution

The Book of Joshua deals with the wars the Israelites fought to conquer the promised land. To make it more realistic, it should be named the Book of Genocide, as the Israelites exterminate one nation after another and steal their land. No justification is given, greed is simply enough. In a book that is supposed to be a moral code for all humans, instead we get one of the first recordings of genocide in history.

After the break for the laws in Deuteronomy, the book of Joshua continues the narrative of the Bible, picking up with the death of Moses. He is replaced by Joshua who begins the conquest of the land later known as Israel. From the outset God makes it clear that he will defeat their enemies and promises that every place they set the sole of their foot, they will conquer. Anyone who disobeys the commandments will be executed. Or at least that’s what the leaders told the people of Israel (it’s always good for morale if people think God is on their side and will help them win battles).

As they enter the Promised Land, God stops the waters of the Jordan from flowing to allow the Israelites to cross. When the local people heard of this miracle their heart melted and they no longer wanted to fight. This is where the story should have ended. The story should have said that God convinced the local people he was God and all powerful so they surrendered. They were then treated with mercy and this lead to peaceful co-operation and prosperity for all.

However, this is not what happened. After claiming no one wants to fight them, in the very next chapter, the Israelites go to war (maybe God’s miracles weren’t as impressive as the Bible claims). They lay siege to the city of Jericho and blew horns around it for seven days. On the seventh day, the walls fell allowing the Israelites to enter and capture the city. For absolutely no reason, the Israelites then killed everyone in the city. There was no justification whatsoever for this massacre. Why would a just and loving God order his people to slaughter the innocent? The Bible records that the Israelites killed men and women, young and old, innocent people who had done nothing wrong.

God demands that everything in the city be destroyed, but the silver and gold were to be claimed for the treasury of God. This Old Testament God is not the loving moral leader religious people so often claim, but is instead a greedy warlord who slaughters the innocent and steals from their corpses for his own glory. God flies into an almighty rage when he discovers that a single person kept something for himself. He punishes all the Israelites for the grievous crime of not sharing the loot with what is essentially the mafia boss.

So when 3,000 Israelites went to battle against the people of Ai, God makes them lose and be driven away suffering casualties of 36 killed (which is actually a tiny amount). This terrible defeat (which really was quite minor) struck fear in the hearts of the Israelites. God declares that Israel has sinned against him and broken its promise (despite only one person sinning) and he will kill them all unless the sinner is found (God has serious problems with the concept of individuality). The sinner is found, confesses and is then both stoned and burnt. There is no thought of mercy or forgiveness.

Christians might argue that the doctrine of forgiveness came later, but that begs the question of who is the God of the Old Testament? Is he a separate God? Did God fundamentally change his personality? Should we not listen to his teachings anymore? Christians are left in a contradictory position of both claiming and denying the actions of OT God depending on whether it suits them or not.

In chapter 8, Joshua again sends an army to fight against Ai, but this time he sends 30,000 men with a better plan. He sets an ambush so that when the main force of his army is battling against Ai, they will appear to flee and run away. According to the Bible, when this happened, not only did all the soldiers of Ai pursue them, but supposedly so did every single man in the city so that only women and children remained. At this point the hidden Israelites seized the unguarded city and massacre everyone. Despite the fact that the city posed absolutely no threat because all the men were away, the Israelites still murder all the women and children and burn the city. The troops too are caught in a trap and slaughtered. According to the Bible, in total 12,000 people were killed, all the people of Ai.

When the other kingdoms hear of the genocide of Ai they unite against the Israelites and I don’t blame them. If you saw a foreign army invade and exterminate people who had done them no harm, who wouldn’t fight against that? There is a slightly odd story in chapter 9 of the kingdom of Gibeon which pretends to ally with Israel by pretending to be poor travellers. However, when Joshua discovers their treachery, they surrender and actually do ally with Israel.

So a large battle occurs in chapter 10, but God puts the enemies into a panic and helps the Israelites defeat them. God even joins in by a means no one could possibly take seriously. “The Lord threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword.” Yeah that’s right, God was chucking stones from Heaven. Considering the other bizarre stories in here, why not?

Joshua then asks God to make the sun stand still to help him win the battle (how would that help?). So the sun and moon stood still for about a day (how could they measure?) until the battle was won. I shouldn’t have to point out that contrary to what whoever wrote the Bible thought, the sun does not move across the sky, so making it stand still would make no difference. How can someone really believe that the Bible was written by an all-knowing God, when it gets such basic facts wrong?

Following the battle, Joshua attacked the city of Makkedah and captured it. How did God’s chosen people, who are supposedly a model for us all in ethics and morals treat the inhabitants? “He devoted to destruction every person in it; he left none remaining.” Then God gave Libnah into the hands of Joshua “and he struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left none remaining in it.” Then Lachish fell and every person in it was killed. Horam the king of Gezer came to help the people of Lachish, so Joshua exterminated his people too. Next was Eglon where “he devoted every person in it to destruction”. After that came the genocide of Hebron, where here too every single person was killed. All the towns of Debir were wiped off the map and its people cleaned from the pages of history. “So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining but devoted to destruction all that breathed.”


In chapter 11, an even large alliance is formed with an army as numerous as the sand on a beach. But this too is complete and utterly destroyed until not a single person remains. Their cities too were destroyed and “there were none left that breathed.” The livestock was taken as plunder but the people were without exception all killed. Joshua took all the hill country, the Negeb, Goshen, Arabah and the land surrounding Anakim and it too was devoted to destruction. “For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed.” So not only does God exterminate entire nations who have done nothing wrong but he deliberately makes them go to war just so they can be slaughtered. Why? What purpose was served by the mass slaughter? Why did even the children need to die? Was there no way this could be peacefully solved?

A few years ago, I visited the death camp of Auschwitz. It was a shocking experience that I will never forget. I was sickened by the evil of that place, an evil that would make people murder innocent people who had done nothing wrong. An evil that tried to exterminate an entire nation, remove all trace of their language, religion and culture. One of the most striking sights was the piles of shoes that once belonged to the victims. Imagine all the lives cut short, the stories never told, the adventures that never happened. The piles and piles of shoes showed the magnitude of death far more than any statistic could.

Reading the Book of Joshua, I wonder if there was a pile of shoes left of the peoples the Israelites slaughtered. Think of the cities which fell silent because there was no one left alive. All the stories ended, the lives extinguished, the cultures that disappeared. The Israelites were like an ancient Nazi Germany, conquering and exterminating all around them, not for any good reason or due to any crime, but simply because they were different. The Bible doesn’t even try and pretend that any of the other nations did any wrong to the Israelites; they merely tried to defend themselves from extinction. Chapter 12 is a list of all the kings and people who were exterminated. It is essentially a list of the various counts of genocide the Israelites committed and runs to 34 kings and people.

From chapter 13 to 23, the Bible is devoted to dividing up the land between the tribes of Israel and lists off who gets what. In the final chapter, Joshua is now very old so he gives final warning to the Israelites. He warns them not to mix with other nations or even live near them for fear it would contaminate their racial purity. If they marry and associate with other people, these people will be a snare that pulls them down. There can be no dealing with others as this will only lead to trouble in the future. Instead, killing them all is the final solution.

You can see the other posts in my reading of the Bible here.


Filed under Religion

16 responses to “An Atheist Reads The Bible: The Final Solution

  1. Pingback: An Atheist Reads The Bible | Whistling In The Wind

  2. The curse of monotheism!

    The Romans were pretty brutal conquerors when they faced resistance and not shy of resorting to genocide on occasion (where are the Dacians now for instance), but once a territory was pacified being polytheistic they were able to ‘adopt the local Gods’ and add them into the existing Roman mix. What this amounts to in reality is respect for at least some aspects of the local culture, some degree of give and take for mutual benefit.

    But once the Jews had invented monotheism none of this was possible, neither for them, nor for the more recent Christian and Moslem empires. Monotheism brings about a mindset that says there is just one Right Way, and everyone else is Wrong. Not just a bit misguided or confused or different, but plain and simply Wrong! There is only one God and He’s Ours, so all your gods are rubbish, just tin-pot idols, so your cultures are rubbish too, your languages nothing but babbling jibberish, your traditions and legends and laws and morality, at best childish fantasy and at worse downright Evil.

    The result is a more thoroughgoing imperialism that simple political imperialism, it implies an imperialism of the mind, or the ‘soul’ if you like. A social and cultural monoculture.

    • Eh, the other nations around Israel (e.g., the Moabites) also considered themselves divine favorites. The whole support-for-genocide thing was hardly unique to the Jews.

      • There’s a big difference between believing “We’ve got our god(s) and he/they are the right one(s) for us, he/they are rooting for us, and you’ve got your god(s) and they’re right for you” etc. AND “Our God is THE GOD of the whole fucking universe, and you’re beliefs are nothing but evil superstitions”.

        The stuff in the OT is probably not true, or only a very distorted version of the truth, but the point is it’s the “Truth” as the Jews and later Christians chose to tell it. They actually chose to portray themselves as genocidal fanatics, indeed on a scale that (if true) would put the recent deeds of ISIS etc. in the shade. That makes it even more damning to my mind. Most nations edit their histories to excuse or gloss over aggressive conquests, they were the victims or it was an act of generosity, bringing civilisation to the savages and so on. But it seems the Jews actually glory in their (real or imagined) genocidal history. How odd, and what a grisly irony.

        • “And I killed all the people of the city as a sacrifice for Kemosh and for Moab.”
          “And I went in the night and fought against it from daybreak until midday, and I took it and I killed the whole population: seven thousand male subjects and aliens, and female subjects, aliens, and servant girls.”

          -Mesha Stele

          The Assyrians also described themselves as mass killers.

          • Sure but their writings are only studied by specialists in ancient history, comparative religion and so on. They’re not held up as an example of morality by a significant proportion of the world’s population.

            Another point though, Assyria was for a while an actual empire, not the greatest but it had its day. Whereas Israel/Judah were simply petty states that mostly owed their existence to their location in a sort of buffer zone between the major powers of the time (at the cost of periodic trashing by one power or another). So I expect that most of the Jewish dreams of dominion were simply ambitious fantasy. In the same category as the story of Joseph being a high official in Egypt.

  3. So, ISIL/ISIS isn’t new. Those people are just following a biblical playbook.

  4. “Why did even the children need to die?”

    -So they don’t become adults in the future. Nehemiah also has complaints about the intermarriage of Jews with gentiles, so this will be a theme much later on as well.

    “There is a slightly odd story in chapter 9 of the kingdom of Gibeon which pretends to ally with Israel by pretending to be poor travellers.”

    -This will also be a theme later on, especially in the second Book of Samuel. Gibeon was a significant city, more significant than Jerusalem, between the twelfth and tenth centuries BC. It was also important during the 8th-6th centuries BC, though was not as important as Jerusalem. It was, for the most part, abandoned during the Late Bronze Age and the 5th-4th centuries BC. Joshua mainly reflects a 7th-6th century BC reality.

    • yes Nehemiah brags about pulling the beards out of the men that married foreign women and asks god exuberantly to remember his deeds.

      I also find this strikingly like modern day ISIS but I gets its all ok as long as you’ve got the right deity.

  5. Have you seen the Jordan River? It’s basically just a glorified stream. Mississippi or Amazon it isn’t. So, obviously, when the locals realized that stopping this river isn’t such a big deal, they weren’t as impressed with the powers of Jewish God.

  6. Also, I’d like to know if there is archaeological evidence for this massive Jewish genocide, or is it just one of these stories, like Exodus, made up to impress Israel’s enemies with the might of their God?

  7. “”For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed””

    What is really weird… is that this deity supposedly promised exactly the opposite just 40 years earlier.

    Exodus 23:29

    “””I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you. 29″I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. 30″I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.…””

    how did we go from that, to turning a group of freed slaves into a mass murdering hoard of genocide and slaughter?

    How do people read this and not see a serious contradiction and a serious lie and character flaw of this entity?

    • this also seems to contradict the idea that the Israelites were a group of some 2 million people with an army of 600,000 men.

      That early statement seems to reflect the idea of this being a tiny group of people that needs gods help to slowly and miraculously take the promised land.

  8. Some archaeologist and Evangelist specialist (Odette Mainville, Israel Finkelstein, Neil Asher Silberman) got another point view about this :

    “They lay siege to the city of Jericho and blew horns around it for seven days. On the seventh day, the walls fell allowing the Israelites to enter and capture the city. For absolutely no reason, the Israelites then killed everyone in the city. There was no justification whatsoever for this massacre. Why would a just and loving God order his people to slaughter the innocent? The Bible records that the Israelites killed men and women, young and old, innocent people who had done nothing wrong.”

    After archeologique research on the actual city of Jericho, they found out that the city, at this moment, didn’t have any kind of fortification or walls around, and that Jericho (still regarding to archaeological proof and story fact) was empty…

    For more information the book “The Bible Unearthed” written by Israel Finkelstein (Professor of archaeology) and Neil Asher Silberman ( archaeologist and historian), tried to take the history in another way. Simply stop based their research on the presumption that the Bible must be true. Simple huh ?

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