SLAUGHTER OF INNOCENTSBy Shlomoh Sherman
This essay and the one following will discuss the unfortunate (but limited) instances of city destruction and forced conversion.
To begin with, it is true that the Hexateuch does contain commandments to kill the Canaanites and the book of Joshua does contain stories of the decimation of cities and their populations, you can find examples of two such slaughters only. The first is the destruction of Jericho and the second is the story of the destruction and consecration to G-d of the city of Ai.
Beyond the book of Joshua, you do not find any more such tales. Even in the Book of Judges which is really the story of the Subjugation of the Land, there are no stories of elimination of populations. There are only stories of war and conquest.
By the time we get to First Samuel, there are not even stories of Canaanites anymore. From then on, there are stories of the Philistines subduing the Israelites (NOT the Jews; there were not yet any such thing as Jews), and the subsequent fight on the part of Israel to free itself from the Philistine yolk.
When we get to the First Book of Kings, all the non-Hebrew populations have been conquered and the gentile peoples BROUGHT IN as part of the Kingdom of Israel. In this period both Philistine and Canaanite retain their own identities. They are merely non-Hebrew subjects of the Hebrew state. Throughout the rest of the Books of Kings and Chronicles, there is no talk of killing anyone who is a resident of the Land.
The whole emphasis seems to be on the part of the prophets to stop Israel from doing what it does for centuries, namely, to dwell with the gentile residents, to interact with them socially and religiously. This is a far cry from slaughtering them. Centuries pass and the Hebrews and their gentile co-residents have an amicable relationship, with non-Israelites holding high government positions. The GENERAL picture we see in the TANACH is one in which Israel and the resident gentiles dwell in peace together as one nation.
Now let's get back to Joshua. I made a statement early on that there were "only" two stories of two cities which were exterminated. Even though in the Pentateuch there are several repetitions of commandments to slaughter, the vast majority of the time, these commandments were ignored by the Israelites. And when the slaughter DID take place, it was during a time of war between Israel and the Canaanites. It wasn't the masacre of helpless, law abiding citizens as you had in medieval Europe.
Now I want to state that the word "only" should not be taken lightly as a throw away word. When we speak of ONLY two exterminations, we are nevertheless speaking of EXTERMINATIONS, and it is a horrible thing to contemplate that there is such a thing present in the Hebrew Scriptures. That two city tribes were completely destroyed is horrible, and I personally think that it should not have happened. If I were G-d, I would not have given orders for genocide. But I am not G-d; I am only a person who is Jewish and whose ancestors committed those acts AS AN ABERATION IN HEBREW HISTORY, and I think it was wrong.
I do not justify the scriptures the way some Christians do. I think it's awfull which is more than I have heard Christians say when you think about the verses in Thessalonians which state that "the Jews" are a race not pleasing to G-d or men, and Christians think that it is perfectly ok to have those verses. OR for the Gospel According to John to state that "the Jews" are children of the devil, and for Matthew to say that "the Jews" have the blood of Jesus on their hands for eternity. These are MAJOR themes in the New Testament; the MAJOR theme that if Jesus is right, "the Jews" must be wrong.
Where in Judaism does it say that the Christians must be wrong, or that they are condemned to hell for not believing what Jews believe? Nowhere! In fact, it does say that ALL RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE have a share in the next world. Yet the major themes of the Christian Scriptures have so poisoned the minds of people by the constant repetition on the part of their religious leaders that I propose to show here in these essays how the very scriptures of Christianity led directly to the Holocaust, and how they contributed to the extermination of Jews for the past two thousand years as a MAJOR THEME.
Lastly, none of us says that the Canaanites were a people INTRINSICALLY evil who deserved to suffer and die over and over until they "see the light" or that they had horns and tails, or that they were the killers of G-d. Only Christianity and its scriptures have that distinction.
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