Herem (war or property)

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The Stoning of Achan by Gustav Doré. Achan pillaged gold, silver, and a costly garment from Jericho, and has been punished by stoning.[1]
For the same Hebrew word, when used to mean a form of excommunication, see Herem (censure). For the Kohanic gift, see Herem (priestly gift).

Herem or cherem (Hebrew: חרם, ḥērem), as used in the Tanakh, means ‘devote’ or ‘destroy’.[2] It is also referred to as the ban. The term has been explained in different ways by scholars. It has been defined as "a mode of secluding, and rendering harmless, anything imperilling the religious life of the nation,"[3] or "the total destruction of the enemy and his goods at the conclusion of a campaign,"[4] or "uncompromising consecration of property and dedication of the property to God without possibility of recall or redemption.[2] J. A. Thompson suggests that herem meant that in the hour of victory all that would normally be regarded as booty, including the inhabitants of the land, was to be devoted to God. Thus would every harmful thing be burned out and the land purified.[5]

Etymology[edit]

The word comes from the semitic root H-R-M. In the masoretic text of the Tanakch the verb form occurs 51 times, while the noun occurs 28 times.[6] Although the word itself simply means devotion to God (and is used this way in Leviticus 27:28), it most often refers to "a ban for utter destruction".[6] There is also a homonym, herem, meaning fisherman's net, which occurs 9 times in the masoretic text and is traditionally regarded as etymologically unrelated, according to Gesenius and Brown Driver Briggs Lexicons and older sources.[7]

English translation[edit]

The term appears first in Numbers 21:2, and is translated in a variety of ways in English translations:

וַיִּדַּ֨ר יִשְׂרָאֵ֥ל נֶ֛דֶר לַֽיהוָ֖ה וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אִם נָתֹ֨ן תִּתֵּ֜ן אֶת־הָעָ֤ם הַזֶּה֙ בְּיָדִ֔י וְהַֽחֲרַמְתִּ֖י אֶת עָרֵיהֶֽם

And Israel made a vow to the LORD, and said, "If You deliver this people into our hand, we will proscribe their towns."

And Israel vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.

Then Israel made this vow to the LORD : "If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities."

Then the people of Israel made this vow to the Lord: "If you will hand these people over to us, we will completely destroy all their towns."

And Israel vowed a vow to the LORD and said, "If you will indeed give this people into my hand, then I will devote their cities to destruction."

Sources[edit]

The word is often used in the Book of Joshua, where cities such as Jericho and Ai came under herem. This meant they had to be completely destroyed, except for "the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron" which were to go into "YHWH's treasury" (Joshua 6:19). The following chapter describes how Achan pillaged an ingot of gold, a quantity of silver, and a costly garment for himself, and was executed by stoning.[1]

Deuteronomy 20 also names six people groups who were to be under the ban: the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. This has led to the conquest of Canaan being referred to as genocide. For example, Ra'anan Boustan calls this "a thoroughly violent commandment" which "in modern terms would be characterized as genocide."[8]

Gustave Doré, The Death of Agag. Agag was executed by Samuel as part of God's command to put the Amalekites under herem (1 Samuel 15).

The concept of herem also appears in 1 Samuel 15, where Saul "totally destroyed" (verse 8, NIV) the Amalekites with the sword, but spared their king, Agag, and kept "the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good." For this, Saul is rebuked by Samuel, who reminds him that God had commanded him to "completely destroy" the Amalekites (verse 15). Samuel "hacked Agag to pieces" himself (verse 33, ESV).

Most scholars conclude that the biblical accounts of extermination are exaggerated, fictional, or metaphorical.[9] In the archaeological community, the Battle of Jericho is very thoroughly studied, and the consensus of modern scholars is that the story of battle and the associated extermination are a pious fiction and did not happen as described in the Book of Joshua.[10] For example, the Book of Joshua describes the extermination of the Canaanite tribes, yet at a later time, Judges 1:1-2:5 suggests that the extermination was not complete.[11]

The word herem is the last word of the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible: "...lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction" (Malachi 4:6, ESV).

Meaning and significance[edit]

William Dumbrell suggests that "the ban appears to have been conceived as an acknowledgment of Yahweh's help."[12] He also notes that "everything likely to contaminate Israel religiously" was destroyed, and thus the institution of the ban was "designed not to counter a military threat but to counter a religious threat."[13] Similarly, Balchin argues that "drastic action was required to keep Israel in holy existence."[14] Lilley argues that "Israel, like other contemporary societies, did not recognise any distinction between sacred and secular war," and that "holy war" is not a biblical term, "but one invented or at least appropriated by commentators."[2] Lilley goes on to suggest that essence of the idea of herem is an "irrevocable renunciation of any interest" in the object 'devoted', and thus "so far as persons are concerned, the options of enslavement and treaty are not available." He contests the idea that it always involved things imperilling the religious life of the nation, arguing that these things "were to be destroyed out of hand, not given to the sanctuary."[15]

Longman and Reid suggest that we should see herem as a "sacrifice of the occupants of Canaan in the interest of securing the purity of the land."[16]

The concept of herem was not unique to Israel. The Mesha Stele contains a statement by King Mesha of Moab that he captured the town of Nebo and killed all seven thousand people there, "for I had devoted them to destruction for (the god) Ashtar-Chemosh."[17]

Ethical issues[edit]

Theologians and other scholars have commented on the ethical and moral dilemmas posed by the wars of extermination, particularly the killing of women and children.[18]

Maimonides applies the rules from Deuteronomy 20:10 (the rules governing discretionary wars) to the war on the Canaanite nation, and suggests that the commandment to exterminate the Canaanites was not absolute. He writes that Joshua gave the Canaanites three options: to flee, to remain and make peace with the Israelites, or to fight.[19]

Rabbi Gunther Plaut asserted that the Torah, itself, never addresses the morality of the wars of extermination.[20] Biblical scholar Sidney Hoenig discussed the "brutality" in the book of Joshua, but concluded that the "battle is only in honor of God".[21] The Mennonite scholar John Howard Yoder suggests that the concept of herem was unique in relation to the morality of the time not in its violence, but in ensuring that "war does not become a source of immediate enrichment through plunder",[22] and hence was the beginning of a trajectory that would lead ultimately to the teaching of nonviolence. Scholars Ian Lustick and Leonard B. Glick quote Shlomo Aviner as saying "from the point of view of mankind's humanistic morality we were in the wrong in [taking the land] from the Canaanites. There is only one catch. The command of God ordered us to be the people of the Land of Israel".[23] Scholar Carl Ehrlich states that Jewish commentators have tended to be silent regarding the morality of the violence in the Book of Joshua.[24] Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins asserts that the commandments to exterminate are immoral.[25]

Some scholars claim that collective punishment, particularly punishment of descendants for transgressions committed by ancestors, is common in the Jewish Bible—a view based primarily on repeated descriptions (with slightly varied wording) of God as "a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation . . . but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments"[26]

As genocide[edit]

Several scholars and commentators have characterized the wars of extermination as genocide.[27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34]

Scholar Pekka Pitkanen asserts that Deuteronomy involves "demonization of the opponent" which is typical of genocide, and he asserts that the genocide of the Canaanites was due to unique circumstances, and that "the biblical material should not be read as giving license for repeating it."[35]

Scholar Philip Jenkins characterizes the warfare of the Bible as genocidal, and considers the laws of warfare in the Qu'ran to be more humane than the Biblical rules.[36]

Justifications and rationalizations[edit]

The Midianites Are Routed by Gustave Dore

Several justifications and explanations for the extreme violence associated with the wars of extermination have been offered, some found in the Jewish Bible, others provided by Rabbinic commentators, and others hypothesized by scholars.

In Deut 20:16-18 God tells the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanite nations, "otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the lord your God". Another reason, justifying the war against the Midianites, was revenge for Midian's role in Israel's apostate behavior during the Heresy of Peor (Numbers 25:1-18).[37]

Another justification is that the Canaanites were sinful, depraved people, and their deaths were punishments (Deut 9:5). Another justification for the exterminations is to make room for the returning Israelites, who are entitled to exclusive occupation of the land of Canaan: the Canaanite nations were living in the land of Israel, but when the Israelites returned, the Canaanites were expected to leave the land.[38]

In Talmudic commentary, the Canaanite nations were given the opportunity to leave, and their refusal to leave "lay the onus of blame for the conquest and Joshua's extirpation of the Canaanites at the feet of the victims."[39] Another explanation of the exterminations is that God gave the land to the Canaanites only temporarily, until the Israelites would arrive, and the Canaanites extermination was punishment for their refusal to obey God's desire that they leave.[40] Another Talmudic explanation - for the wars in the Book of Joshua - was that God initiated the wars as a diversionary tactic so Israelites would not kill Joshua after discovering that Joshua had forgotten certain laws.[41]

Some scholars trace the extermination of the Midianites to revenge for the fact that Midianites were responsible for selling Joseph into slavery in Egypt (Genesis 37:28-36).[42]

Association with violent attitudes in the modern era[edit]

Some analysts have associated the biblical commandments of extermination with violent attitudes in modern era.

According to Ian Lustick, in the 1980s, leaders of the now defunct Israeli messianic and political movement Gush Emunim, such as Hanan Porat, considered the Palestinians to be like Canaanites or Amalekites, and suggested that implied a duty to make merciless war against Arabs who reject Jewish sovereignty.[43] Atheist commentator Christopher Hitchens discusses the association of the "obliterated" tribes with modern troubles in Palestine.[44]

Biblical scholar Niels Peter Lemche asserts that European colonialism in the nineteenth century was ideologically based on the biblical narratives of conquest and extermination. He also states that European Jews who migrated to Palestine relied on the biblical ideology of conquest and extermination, and considered the Arabs to be Canaanites.[45] Scholar Arthur Grenke claims that the view or war expressed in Deuteronomy contributed to the destruction of Native Americans and to the destruction of European Jewry.[46]

Nur Masalha, a Palestinian writer and academic, writes that the "genocide" of the extermination commandments has been "kept before subsequent generations" and served as inspirational examples of divine support for slaughtering enemies.[47] Ra'anan S. Boustan, an Associate Professor of ancient Mediterranean religions at UCLA, said that militant Zionists have identified modern Palestinians with Canaanites, and hence as targets of violence mandated in Deut 20:15-18.[48] Scholar Leonard B. Glick states that Jewish fundamentalists in Israel, such as Shlomo Aviner, consider the Palestinians to be like biblical Canaanites, and that some fundamentalist leaders suggest that they "must be prepared to destroy" the Palestinians if the Palestinians do not leave the land.[49] Keith Whitelam, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies in the University of Sheffield, asserts that the Zionist movement has drawn inspiration from the biblical conquest tradition, and Whitelam draws parallels between the "genocidal Israelites" of Joshua and modern Zionists.[50]

Contrary views[edit]

Wars of extermination are of historical interest only, and do not serve as a model within Judaism.[51] A formal declaration that the “seven nations” are no longer identifiable was made by Joshua ben Hananiah, around the year 100 CE.[51]

Scholar Moshe Greenberg asserts that the laws of extermination applied only to the extinct tribes, and only to their contemporary generations of Israelites.[52][53] Scholar Carl Ehrlich states the biblical rules of extermination provide guidance to modern Israelis not for genocidal purposes, but rather simply as models for reclaiming the land of Israel.[54]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Israel Drazin. Maimonides and the Biblical Prophets. p.64
  2. ^ a b c J. P. U. Lilley, "Understanding the herem," Tyndale Bulletin 44 [1993] 171-173.
  3. ^ S.R. Driver, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy, 98.
  4. ^ J. Soggin, Joshua (London, SCM 1972) 97.
  5. ^ J.A. Thompson, Deuteronomy, TOTC (London 1974) 73
  6. ^ a b Leon J. Wood, "חרם," in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody, 1980), 324-325.
  7. ^ Gesenius Lexicon - this could/should be updated with a more modern academic source
  8. ^ Ra'anan S. Boustan, Violence, Scripture, and Textual Practice in Early Judaism and Christianity, (Brill, 2010), 3-5.
  9. ^
    • Van Wees, p 242, "largely fictional"
  10. ^ Ehrlich, pp 117
  11. ^ Ehrlich, p 119
  12. ^ William J. Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 66.
  13. ^ Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel, 73.
  14. ^ J. A. Balchin, "War," in The New Bible Dictionary (London: IVF, 1963) 1316.
  15. ^ Lilley, "Understanding the herem," 176-177.
  16. ^ Tremper Longman III and Daniel G. Reid, God is a Warrior (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1995), 131.
  17. ^ James B. Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (3rd ed., 1969), 320.
  18. ^ For an early example, see: Horne, Thomas Hartwell, An introduction to the critical study and knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, Volume 2, T. Cadell, 1828, pp 523-525
  19. ^ Drazin, Israel, Maimonides and the Biblical Prophets, Gefen Publishing House Ltd, 2009 p 79
  20. ^ Erhlich, p 118
    "In his Torah commentary Plaut (1981) grapples with the 'morality of conquest' only to conclude that 'the morality of the forcible displacement of the Canaanites was never raised by the Torah, and neither was the morality of war as such'. (quoting Plaut, W. Gunther, The Torah: A Modern Commentary, 1981, (p 991 in 2005 edition))
  21. ^ Erhlich, p 118: "Sidney Hoenig is one of the few relatively modern commentators … who has raised the issue of violence in respect to Joshua, only to justify it as a divinely ordained holy war…." [quoting Hoenig:] "Sensitive readers are concerned about the brutality shown in Joshua, but one should not forget that it is a story of a war - of a holy war. The theme is the obliteration of historically hated pagans and the battle is only in honor of God" . (Quoting Hoenig, Sidney, The Book of Joshua: A New English Translation of the Text and Rashi with a Commentary Digest. Judaica Press, 1969. Chapter VIII; in Hebrew; translated into English in 1984).
  22. ^ John Howard Yoder, "If Abraham Is Our Father," in The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacifism (Wipf and Stock, 1971).
  23. ^ Lustick, p 76. Quoting Shlomo Aviner, Messianic Realism, pp 115-116
  24. ^ Ehrlich, p 117:
    "It thus behooves us to ask … how has the Jewish community dealt with these foundational narratives, saturated as they are with acts of violence against others?…. The question of how to deal with traditional texts that advocate violence against human beings who are different from the in-group writing the text, be they foreigners, women, homosexuals, etc, is one that motivates many of the modern struggles with the textual corpus of inherited tradition…. Among Jewish commentators … the disturbing nature of Joshua has for the most part been passed over in silence….
  25. ^ Dawkins, Richard, The God Delusion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008, p 281
  26. ^ Krašovec, Jože, Reward, punishment, and forgiveness: the thinking and beliefs of ancient Israel in the light of Greek and modern views, BRILL, 1999, p 113. He cites the following examples of collective punishment (of descendants) in the Bible:
    Ex 20:5 - "You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments."
    Deut 5:9-10
    Exodus 34:6-7: "And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."
    Deuteronomy 7:9-10 - "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. 10 But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him."
    Jeremiah 32:18 - " You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the fathers' sins into the laps of their children after them. O great and powerful God, whose name is the LORD Almighty"
  27. ^ Van Wees, p 242
  28. ^ Kravitz, Leonard, "What is Crime?", in Crime and punishment in Jewish law: essays and responsa, Editors Walter Jacob, Moshe Zemer Berghahn Books, 1999, p 31:
    "Sin has changed [since biblical times]; crime has changed. We bring a different sensibility to our reading of the sacred texts of the past, even the Torah. There are passages in it which to our modern minds command crimes, the kind of crimes which our age would call 'crimes against humanity' … I think of the problematic section in the Mattot [Numbers 31] which contains the commandment to exact revenge against the Midianites by slaying every male and every female old enough to engage in sexual intercourse…. I used to think that were they [Midianites] suddenly to appear, no Jew would be willing to carry out such a commandment. Then Baruch Goldstein appeared on the scene, and he was followed by Yigal Amir and now I am not sure…. I find the commandment to commit genocide against the Midianite unacceptable. To accept the commandment to do the same to 'the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Peruzzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites' seems to me to make permissible the Holocaust, the attempted genocide of the Jewish people."
  29. ^ Shaul Magid, "Subversion as Return: Scripture, Dissent, and Renewal in Contemporary Judaism, in Subverting Scriptures: Critical Reflections on the Use of the Bible Beth Hawkins Benedix (Ed), pp 217-236; quote from p 234:
    "The rabbinic tradition connects the commandment to destroy Midian in Numbers 31 to Genesis 37:36, … Thus Moses's call for 'revenge' killing here has a long history…. Perhaps the rabbinic assessment of Moses's reasons for rebuking Israel for keeping the Midianite women alive is captured by Yaakov Moshe Harlap… Harlap writes 'Moses's reasons (for having all the Midianite women killed) was that a person should not enter into a doubtful situation even if the intention is for the sake of heaven'. I cite this not to defend this position but to illustrate the way in which the tradition, even to the twentieth century, defends this genocidal edict."
  30. ^ Reading Bibles, writing bodies: identity and the Book Biblical limits Author Timothy Kandler Beal Editors Timothy Kandler Beal, David M. Gunn Edition illustrated Publisher Psychology Press, 1997, pp 153-163
  31. ^ Cohn, Robert L, "Before Israel: The Canaanites as Other in Biblical Tradition", in The Other in Jewish thought and history: constructions of Jewish culture and identity, Laurence Jay Silberstein, (Ed.), NYU Press, 1994, pp 76-77:
    "By representing the Canaanites stereotypically as people sunk in depravity [Lev 18:27, Deut 18:9-14, Deut 12:2-3], the biblical writers provide a moral justification for the conquest of their land by a just deity. Moreover, this depiction provides a rationale for the genocide of the Canaanites commanded in Deuteronomy (Deut 7:1-2) and purportedly accomplished by Joshua (Josh 10:40)."
  32. ^ Boustan, Ra'anan S., Violence, Scripture, and Textual Practice in Early Judaism and Christianity, BRILL, 2010, pp 3-5 "The specific focus in this volume is violence and Scripture. Violence can be found throughout the pages of the Hebrew Bible… The Israelite God is portrayed as a divine warrior (Ex. 15:3); the Israelites themselves are commanded to obliterate the inhabitants of Canaan and are often presented as engaging in such holy wars; … Instigators of religious violence believe that they are carrying out God's directive as articulated in the Bible…. For example, the Deuteronomic directive to destroy entirely (herem) the Canaanites (Deut 20:15-18) is a thoroughly violent commandment - and in modern terms would be characterized as genocide. The later historical absence of any Canaanites, however, does not blunt this passage's violent legacy".
  33. ^ Ehrlich, Carl S., "Joshua, Judaism, and Genocide" in Jewish Studies at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, BRILL, 1999, pp 121–122:
    p 121: "The broad consensus of Jewish tradition has been that the conquest of the land [ancient Israel] belongs to the distant past. In this manner, any discomfort with the anachronistic notion of genocide to be found in the Joshua narrative could be passed off as something that belonged to a certain time and place, not to be repeated. The restrictions on the waging of war in Maimonides and his biblical and rabbinical sources would seem to support this contention"
    p 122: "It was particularly in the field of archaeology that the ideological battle about [the historicity of] Joshua was waged. It was felt that proving the veracity of the book of Joshua would in some way prove to be a justification of modern historical reality. In this manner, the battles of Joshua were viewed as paradigmatic for the modern age, not - it should be noted - in the sense of prescribing genocide against non-Jews, but in providing models for the reclamation of the land."
  34. ^ Garber, Zev, "Deconstructing Theodicy and Amalekut", in Post-Shoah dialogues: re-thinking our texts together, James F. Moore (Ed.), University Press of America, 2004, pp 241-243.
    p 242: "Any attempt at understanding this warrant for genocide [Exodus 17:14-16] against the Amalekites and their descendants must start …"
  35. ^ Pitkanen, Pekka, "Memory, Witnesses, and Genocide in the Book of Joshua", in Reading the law: studies in honour of Gordon J. Wenham, J. Gordon McConville, Karl Möller (Eds), Continuum International Publishing Group, 2007, pp 267-282 quote (Page 280-281): "The 'demonization of the opponent' that Deuteronomy advocates is precisely something that accompanies genocides. This then in fact speaks for the conceptual plausibility of the historical occurrence of the events portrayed in Joshua. In addition, that genocides are often triggered by war or some other severe crisis also speaks for the conceptual plausibility of the events portrayed in Joshua. … It is certainly right, I believe, to try to show that the genocide of the Canaanites (whether real or imaginary) was a unique set of events and that the biblical material should not be read as giving license for repeating it. … the theological difficulty of the [holy war] is not mitigated by arguments against its historicity, since the text has in any case shown its capacity to mandate violence against peoples. … But we also saw that the book of Joshua advocates a vision where an important part of achieving an ideal society was to destroy anyone or anything not compatible with its central tenet of Yahwism."
  36. ^ Hagerty, Barbara, "Is The Bible More Violent Than The Quran?"; online at [1]. Jenkins quote: "By the standards of the time, which is the 7th century A.D., the laws of war that are laid down by the Quran are actually reasonably humane," he says. "Then we turn to the Bible, and we actually find something that is for many people a real surprise. There is a specific kind of warfare laid down in the Bible which we can only call genocide."
  37. ^ Walvoord, John F., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, David C. Cook, 1985, pp 250-251
  38. ^ Van Wees, p 241-242
  39. ^
    • See Joshua 11:19-20
    • Ehrlich, p 119-120: "At least some of the Rabbis asked themselves … what had they [Canaanites] done to deserve this punishment?.. In essence, the solution was to lay the onus of blame for the conquest and Joshua's extirpation of the Canaanites at the feet of the victims. [Describes a Talmudic narrative that says that Joshua sent a msg to Canaanites before the war, telling them to leave or else] .. In this manner this midrash makes the Canaanites responsible for their own demise. They were not innocent victims, but elected of their own free will to attempt to contravene the divine promise of land to Israel. The conscience of Joshua, and of his descendants, was clean…."
  40. ^ Ehrlich, p 120: "The Canaanites were given the land of Israel to care for until the time .. the Israelites .. would arrive…. Joshua and the Israelites were forced against their will to wage war upon the Canaanites, who, contravening God, would not even cede an inch of land without a fight to the finish. This midrash also attempts to justify the fury and brutality of Joshua's holy war against the Canaanites….
  41. ^ Ehrlich, p 120: "That not all Rabbis shared these feelings of ethical ambivalence about their ancestor's alleged genocidal war against the Canaanites is indicated by another midrash … [Joshua forgot some laws so] the Israelites were so outraged at his lack of learning that they wanted to kill him. Since there was no time to reteach him all that he had forgotten, the only way in which God could save Joshua was by diverting the attention of the people through a war. Thus the war of extermination against the Canaanites was begun earlier than planned as a diversionary tactic to save the life of one individual. It would appear that the author of this midrash was not all too concerned about the ethical implications of a God who sees nothing wrong with wiping out a whole nation just to save the life of a man whose life is threatened … "
  42. ^ Magid, Shaul, "Subversion as Return: Scripture, Dissent, and Renewal in Contemporary Judaism, in Subverting Scriptures: Critical Reflections on the Use of the Bible Beth Hawkins Benedix (Ed), p 234:
    "The rabbinic tradition connects the commandment to destroy Midian in Numbers 31 to Genesis 37:28-36, … (Midianites sold Joseph into Egyptian slavery) "Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard."
  43. ^ Lustick, Ian, For the land and the Lord: Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, Council on Foreign Relations, 1988.
    Lustick, p 3: "The fear and uncertainty that this demographic shift [increasing Arab population within Israel] is generating within the Jewish population as a whole make more attractive fundamentalist appeals to use Joshua's destruction and subjugation of the Canaanites as a model for solving the contemporary 'Arab problem'…. "
    Lustick: p 78:" The image of Palestinians as doomed and suicidal in their opposition to Jewish rule in the Land of Israel corresponds to a more fundamental categorization of them. Gush rabbis and ideologues regularly refer to the local Arabs as 'Canaanites' … Thus Rav Tzvi Yehuda cited Maimonides to the effect that Canaanites had three choices - to flee, to accept Jewish rule, or to fight. These are the choices both [fundamentalists] suggest, that frame the appropriate attitude for Jews to take towards Palestinian Arabs. Of course, the decision by most Canaanites to fight ensured their destruction. The same fate awaits present-day non-Jewish inhabitants of the land who choose to resist the establishment of Jewish sovereignty over its entirety…. Humane treatment is appropriate, [Hanan] Porat emphasizes 'only for those Arabs ready to accept the sovereignty of the people of Israel'. From this general principle he infers a duty to make merciless war against Arabs in the Land of Israel who reject Jewish sovereignty and the specific requirement to deport the families of Arab juveniles who throw stones at the passing automobiles of Jewish settlers."
    Lustick: p 131: "No evidence exists of concrete plans to carry out genocidal policies towards the 'Arabs of the Land of Israel'. Nevertheless, analysis of the range of disagreement within the Jewish fundamentalist movement over the Arab question must begin with the fact that a number of rabbis supportive of Gush Emunim have offered opinions that could provide the halachic basis for such policies. The substance of these opinions pertains to the identification of the Palestinian Arabs, or Arabs in general, as Amalekites. According to the biblical account, the Amalekites harassed the Israelites … As a consequence, God commanded the Jewish people not only to kill all Amalekites - men, women, and children - but to 'blot out the memory of Amalek' from the face of the earth. Traditionally, great enemies of the Jews, such as Haman in ancient Persia … and Torquemada during the Spanish Inquisition, have been identified as descendants of Amalek. Accordingly, the most extreme views within Gush Emunim on the Arab question, views quoted extensively by Israeli critics of the movement, speak of Arabs as descendants of the Amalekites… A Gush veteran, Haim Tsuria, defended [violence towards Arabs]: 'In every generation there is an Amalek. In our generation, our Amalek are the Arabs who oppose the renewal of our national existence in the land of our fathers."
  44. ^ Hitchens, Christopher, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Random House, Inc., 2007, p 101
  45. ^ Lemche, Niels Peter, The Old Testament between theology and history: a critical survey, Westminster John Knox Press, 2008, pp 315–316:
    "The [Biblical] story of the 'morally supreme people' that defeats and exterminates another, inferior, nation was part of the ideological baggage of European imperialists and colonizers throughout the nineteenth century. It was also carried by European Jews who,.. migrated to Palestine to inherit their ancestral country … In this modern version of the biblical narrative, the Palestinian population turned into 'Canaanites', supposed to be morally inferior to the Jews, and of course the Arabs were never considered their equals … The Bible was the instrument used to suppress the enemy".
  46. ^ Grenke, Arthur, God, greed, and genocide: the Holocaust through the centuries, New Academia Publishing, LLC, 2005, pp 17-18:
    "Discussing the influence of Christian beliefs on the destruction of the Native peoples in the Americas, Stannard argues that while the New Testament view of war is ambiguous, there is little such ambiguity in the Old Testament. He points to sections in Deuteronomy in which the Israelite God, Yahweh, commanded that the Israelites utterly destroy idolaters whose land they sought to reserve for the worship of their deity (Deut 7:2, 16, and 20:16-17). … According to Stannard, this view of war contributed to the .. destruction of the Native peoples in the Americas. It was this view that also led to the destruction of European Jewry. Accordingly, it is important to look at this particular segment of the Old Testament: it not only describes a situation where a group undertakes to totally destroy other groups, but it also had a major influence on shaping thought and belief systems that permitted, and even inspired, genocide."
  47. ^
    • Masalha, Nur, The Bible and Zionism: invented traditions, archaeology and post-colonialism in Palestine-Israel, Volume 1, Zed Books, 2007, pp 273-276:
    "[Michael] Prior revisits the old ground [in his book The Bible and colonialism: a moral critique] … First, the biblical narrative, with its 'divine promise' was inherently linked with the mandate to ethnically cleanse or exterminate the indigenous people … third, in the narrative of the Book of Deuteronomy the divine command to commit 'genocide' is explicit. Fourth, genocide and mass slaughter follow in the Book of Joshua. These highly dubious traditions of the Bible have been kept before subsequent generations of Jews and Christians in their prayers…. The historical evidence, however, strongly suggests that such genocidal massacres never actually took place, although these racist, xenophobic and militaristic narratives remained for later generations as powerful examples of divine aid in battle and of a divine command for widespread slaughter of an enemy…. [Professor Bernardo Gandulla, of the University of Buenos Aires], while sharing Prior's critique of the perverse use that Zionism and the State of Israel have made of the Bible to support their 'ethnic cleansing' policies in Palestine, … Prior … found incitement to war and violence in the very foundation documents of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the Hebrew Bible, for instance, there is a dominant strand that sees God as ethnocentric and militaristic. Furthermore, in their conquest of Canaan, the Israelites are commanded by Yahweh to destroy the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine. Later in the days of the Israelite kingdoms, they are urged to show no pity, but to massacre their enemies…. Today, both Christian Zionists in the West and Israeli messianics continue to refer to the Hebrew Scriptures for archetypal conflicts, which guide their attitudes towards the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine: the Palestinian Muslims and Christians."
    • Masalha refers to: Prior, Michael P. The Bible and colonialism: a moral critique, Sheffield Academic Press, 1997.
  48. ^ Boustan, Ra'anan S., Violence, Scripture, and Textual Practice in Early Judaism and Christianity, BRILL, 2010, page 4-5
    "Later readers of the Bible dramatically transformed this divine directive [Deut 20:15-18] through hermeneutic alignment of the Canaanites with the current detested 'other'. Thus the Canaanites have been identified with … Palestinians (by militant Zionists), and scores of other 'enemies' of Israel. In doing so, the violence perpetrated against these groups is not only justified, but indeed, part and parcel of the original divine plan. The violent legacy of the Bible is a product of both its own violent narrative and the hermeneutics of violence applied to it".
  49. ^ Glick, Leonard B., "Religion and Genocide", in The Widening circle of genocide, Alan L. Berger (Ed). Transaction Publishers, 1994, p 46:
    "[God] looked with favor on what we may fairly call their [Israelite] proto-genocidal destructiveness. The Book of Joshua provides us with one of the earliest texts in which a deity quite plainly promotes the destruction of a people. As the Hebrews, under Joshua's leadership, undertake the conquest of Canaan, they massacre everyone who stands in their way…. It is instructive (and distressing) to note that contemporary Jewish ultra-nationalists in Israel root their politics in the Book of Joshua and equate their territorial aspirations with the will of God. Here, for example, is Shlomo Aviner, a prominent theorist of the Gush Emunim … movement: 'from the point of view of mankind's humanistic morality we were in the wrong in (taking the land) from the Canaanites. There is only one catch. The command of God ordered us to be the people of the land of Israel'. Others have identified the Palestinians as 'Canaanites' who are engaged in a 'suicidal' struggle opposing God's own intentions; hence the Jewish people must be prepared to destroy them if they persist in pursuing their collective 'death-wish'."
  50. ^
    • Whitelam, Keith W., The invention of ancient Israel: the silencing of Palestinian history, Routledge, 1996, especially pp 71–121.
    • Whitelam cited by Ehrlich, pp 117:
    "Keith Whitelam (1996) has published a book [The invention of ancient Israel: the silencing of Palestinian history] in which he has implied that the modern European imperialist Zionist Jewish movement has drawn inspiration from the biblical conquest tradition … Parallels are thus drawn in Whitelam's thought between the genocidal Israelites presumably of Joshua's day and the racist Zionists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and also between the ancient Canaanites and the modern Palestinians … the interpretations attributed to [Whitelam] of the place of the book of Joshua and its … genocidal account of Israel's emergence in the land that it claims as its own pose a challenge to Judaism…. It thus behooves us to ask … how has the Jewish community dealt with these foundational narratives, saturated as they are with acts of violence against others?…."
  51. ^ a b Judaism and the ethics of war, Norman Solomon. International Review of the Red Cross. Volume 87 Number 858 June 2005
  52. ^ Greenberg, Moshe, "On the Political User of the Bible in Modern Israel: An Engaged Critique", in Pomegranates and golden bells: studies in biblical, Jewish, and Near Eastern ritual, law, and literature, EISENBRAUNS, 1995, p 467-469: "No 'national' commandment such as that of 'conquest and settling the land' occurs in any of these [Judaic] summaries [of the Torah]… [arguments for applying herem to modern Israel] introduces a distinction that Scripture does not recognize; nowhere are the obligations referred to in the summaries contingent on the achievement of the land-taking or the destruction of Israel's enemies. To suppose that they may be set aside or suspended for the accomplishment of national ends is a leap far beyond scripture…. The [biblical] injunctions to take the land are embedded in narrative and give the appearance of being addressed to a specific generation, like the commandment to annihilate or expel the natives of Canaan, which refers specifically to the seven Canaanite nations… Now, had there ben any inclination to generalize the law [of extermination], it would have been easy for the talmudic sages to [do so]. But in fact the sages left the ancient herem law as they found it: applying to seven extinct nations."
  53. ^ See also, for discussion of Greenberg's argument: Seibert, Eric A. Disturbing divine behavior: troubling Old Testament images of God, Fortress Press, 2009, pp 47-48
  54. ^ Ehrlich, p 121
    Ehrlich: page 121 "It is only with the rise of the modern state of Israel that the book of Joshua and its account of the conquest of the land has assumed a renewed importance with the context of Judaism…. the battles of Joshua were viewed as paradigmatic for the modern age, not - it should be noted - in the sense of prescribing genocide against non-jews, but in providing models for the reclamation of the land."