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Was there a genocide of the Canaanites?


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#1 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 08:09 PM

The references in Joshua 10 and 11 in which the Israelites utterly exterminate the Caananites pose a problem for believers, and not just because they are used by atheists such as Richard Dawkins to justify their assertion that the God of the OT is a "tribal, vicious, genocidal deity" that no civilised person should respect, much less worship. There is a problem arising from the fact that in the later chapters of Joshua and the early chapters of Judges, we see clear Biblical evidence that far from being wiped off the face of the Earth, the Caananites were in fact alive and kicking. I have little time for those who talk of Biblical contradictions as they are often the product of a tendentious reading of the text that ignores context and genre, but there is little doubt that a literal reading of Joshua 10-11 is flatly rejected by the later chapters of Joshua and Judges. This tension in the text itself, let alone the moral problem of exterminating innocent children, is one which requires attention.

Joshua 10 and 11 – in somewhat stereotypical language – reports the utter extermination of a number of Caananite cities:

Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Makkedah to Libnah, and fought against Libnah. The LORD gave it also with its king into the hands of Israel, and he struck it and every person who was in it with the edge of the sword. He left no survivor in it. Thus he did to its king just as he had done to the king of Jericho. And Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Libnah to Lachish, and they camped by it and fought against it. The LORD gave Lachish into the hands of Israel; and he captured it on the second day, and struck it and every person who was in it with the edge of the sword, according to all that he had done to Libnah.

Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish, and Joshua defeated him and his people until he had left him no survivor. And Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Lachish to Eglon, and they camped by it and fought against it. They captured it on that day and struck it with the edge of the sword; and he utterly destroyed that day every person who was in it, according to all that he had done to Lachish.

Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron, and they fought against it. They captured it and struck it and its king and all its cities and all the persons who were in it with the edge of the sword. He left no survivor, according to all that he had done to Eglon. And he utterly destroyed it and every person who was in it.

Then Joshua and all Israel with him returned to Debir, and they fought against it.He captured it and its king and all its cities, and they struck them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed every person who was in it. He left no survivor. Just as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir and its king, as he had also done to Libnah and its king. Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded. <1>



Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow at this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel; you shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.” So Joshua and all the people of war with him came upon them suddenly by the waters of Merom, and attacked them. The LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, so that they defeated them, and pursued them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim and the valley of Mizpeh to the east; and they struck them until no survivor was left to them. Joshua did to them as the LORD had told him; he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.

Then Joshua turned back at that time, and captured Hazor and struck its king with the sword; for Hazor formerly was the head of all these kingdoms. They struck every person who was in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them; there was no one left who breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire. Joshua captured all the cities of these kings, and all their kings, and he struck them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed them; just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded. However, Israel did not burn any cities that stood on their mounds, except Hazor alone, which Joshua burned. All the spoil of these cities and the cattle, the sons of Israel took as their plunder; but they struck every man with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them. They left no one who breathed. <2>

If one reads these verses as plain narrative, then they do claim that the Israelites exterminated the Caananites. The problem not only is the moral dimension of whether this is genocidal behaviour, but the contradiction with the rest of Joshua and Judges which plainly refer to a strong Caananite presence in the areas which Joshua 10 and 11 claim were utterly destroyed:

Josh 15:63 - Now as for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the sons of Judah could not drive them out; so the Jebusites live with the sons of Judah at Jerusalem until this day.

Josh 16:10 - But they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites live in the midst of Ephraim to this day, and they became forced laborers.

Josh 17:16-18 - The sons of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the valley land have chariots of iron, both those who are in Beth-shean and its towns and those who are in the valley of Jezreel.” Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, saying, “You are a numerous people and have great power; you shall not have one lot only, but the hill country shall be yours. For though it is a forest, you shall clear it, and to its farthest borders it shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, even though they have chariots of iron and though they are strong.”

Furthermore, when one reads the opening chapters of Judges, one is struck by the fact that those Caananites which according to a literal reading of Joshua 10-11 had been utterly destroyed were very much alive and kicking. The NZ theologian and philosopher Matt Flannagan notes:

The problem is that chapters fifteen to seventeen record that the Canaanites were, in fact, not literally wiped out. Over and over the text affirms that the land was still occupied by the Canaanites, who remain heavily armed and deeply entrenched in the cities. Astute readers will note that these are the same regions and the same cities that Joshua was said to have “destroyed all who breathed”, left “no survivors” in just a few chapters earlier. <3>

The opening chapters of Judges do not describe a land whose inhabitants had largely been exterminated as one would imagine from reading Josh 10-11 as straightforward narrative. Judges 1v29 is representative of this fact:

Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who were living in Gezer; so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.

Compare this with Josh 10v33:

Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish, and Joshua defeated him and his people until he had left him no survivor.

In short, the areas of Canaan which Joshua 10-11 state had been left with no survivors were very much filled with Caananites. A literal reading of Josh 10-11 leaves one with the moral question of whether utter extermination of the Caananites is indeed genocide, while the later passages in Joshua and Judges when read as narrative appear to contradict Josh 10-11.

Edited by Ken Gilmore, 20 December 2010 - 08:40 PM.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#2 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 08:10 PM

My experience has been that many alleged contradictions are usually artefacts of poor interpretation of Scripture arising from failure to understand the ANE context of the Bible or reading the text literally when such a reading was never intended.

Matt Flannagan, advances the thesis that the passages in Joshua 10 and 11 are better understood as hyperbole, a practice common in the ANE. Flannagan notes:

At a recent conference at the University of Notre Dame, Philosopher Alvin Plantinga suggested a possible solution is to take this language hyperbolically. He suggested phrases such as, “destroy with the sword … men and women … cattle, sheep and donkeys” are phrases to be understood more like we understand a person who, in the context of watching David Tua in a boxing match, yells, “Knock his block off! Hand him his head! Take him out!” or hopes that the All Blacks will “annihilate the Springboks” or “totally slaughter the Wallabies.” Now, the sports fan does not actually want David Tua to decapitate his opponent or for the All Blacks to become mass murderers. Plantinga suggests that the same could be true here; understood in a non-literal sense the phrases probably mean “something like, attack them, defeat them, drive them out; not literally kill every man, woman, child donkey and the like.” If this is correct then the differences between the different texts is easily explained and more significantly, the texts do not teach that God commanded genocide or that Joshua carried it out. <4>

The presence of hyperbolic elements in the Bible is hardly a new idea in the history of OT interpretation. Another perennial problem in the OT is that of the impossibly large numbers of soldiers killed in battle. A solution to which I have previously been attracted is reading the Hebrew word for ‘thousand’ as ‘unit’ or ‘division’, but this is impossible to do consistently as elsewhere it does mean 1000, and one can easily be accused of lexicographic massaging in order to eliminate a problem.

David Fouts has examined the subject of large numbers in the OT, which he acknowledges is a problem, particularly for Biblical literalists:

Those who would challenge an essentially conservative view of Scripture often do so by appealing to passages that involve large numbers. It is therefore necessary that this study be undertaken in order to discover the way that large numbers were used in the OT. Accepting them at face value often leads to internal disharmony with other Biblical passages. There are also the archeological data to contend with. These facts may no longer be ignored by conservative scholars.<5>

Anyone who is even remotely familiar with mainstream OT scholarship would readily agree with Fouts' concern that the large numbers in the OT pose an acute problem. His solution is that the large numbers are hyperbole, designed to exalt and glorify the king or local deity:

Quite often, large numbers were employed in a hyperbolic fashion in the historiographic literatures of Sumer, Akkad and Assyria, particularly in the royal inscriptional and annalistic genres.33 The hyperbolic numbers occur in military contexts expressing the number of troops engaged in battle, number of enemies slain or captured, amount of spoil taken, and amount of corvée labor employed.

In a stone tablet inscription of Shalmaneser I (ca. 1275–1245) concerning
the rebuilding of the temple of Eharsagkurkurra “we have the first detailed
account of military operations conducted by an Assyrian king.” As such it is somewhat akin to the format of later Assyrian annals. It is full of hyperbolic language:

I slaughtered countless numbers of their extensive army. As for him Sattuara), I chased him at arrowpoint until sunset. I butchered their hordes (but) 14,400 of them (who remained) alive I blinded (and) carried off. I conquered nine of his fortifed cult centers (as well as) the city from which he ruled and I turned 180 of his cities into ruin hills. I slaughtered like sheep the armies of the Hittites and Ahlamu, his allies.

Much of the literature from Ugarit (Ras Shamra) uses the genres of myth, legend and epic. There are economic texts as well, but no royal inscriptions or other historical genres have yet been discovered. In one Ugaritic text, however, is found the largest number encountered in the research for this present work:

Let a multitude be provisioned,
and let it go out.
Let the mightiest army be provisioned.
Yea, let a multitude go out.
Let your strong army be numerous,
three hundred ten-thousands,
conscripts without number,
soldiers beyond counting.

The language of this epic literature is of course hyperbolic. One notes the terms “without number” and “beyond counting” in synonymous parallelism to the specific 3,000,000. This may support the hypothesis of my dissertation that at times the large numbers in other genres are also to be understood as literary hyperbole.

He concludes:

One must wonder what implications the results of this study could have on OT scholarship, particularly in the area of conquest models. As has been noted earlier, the large numbers have often been a stumbling block for accepting the Biblical accounts as legitimate records of history. If the numbers are simply reflective of a rhetorical device common in ancient Near Eastern literature, however, one may no longer question the integrity of the record by use of this argument. The large numbers are often simply figures of speech employed to magnify King Yahweh, King David, or others in a theologically based historiographical narrative.

One cannot help but recall the taunt "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands" and realise that it is quite likely that the ancient Hebrews also employed hyperbole to praise favoured people.

Edited by Ken Gilmore, 20 December 2010 - 08:46 PM.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#3 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 08:23 PM

The example of hyperbolic numbers of battle casualties employed to glorify the king / deity is closely related to the idea of hyperbole posited to give context to Joshua 10 and 11. Flannagan continues:

Some examples will illustrate this. The Merneptah Stele states “Yanoam was made nonexistent; Israel is laid waste, its seed is not.” here the Egyptian Pharoh Merneptah describes a skirmish with Israel in which his armies prevailed, hyperbolically, in terms of the total annihilation of Israel. The Assyrian king Sennacherib uses similar hyperbole, “The soldiers of Hirimme, dangerous enemies, I cut down with the sword; and not one escaped.” Mursili II records making “Mt. Asharpaya empty (of humanity)” and the “mountains of Tarikarimu empty (of humanity).” Similarly, The Bulletin of Ramses II, an historical narrative of Egyptian military campaigns into Syria, narrates Egypt’s considerably less than decisive victory at the battle of Kadesh with the rhetoric, “His majesty slew the entire force of the wretched foe from Hatti, together with his great chiefs and all his brothers, as well as all the chiefs of allthe countries that had come with him” [Emphasis added]. The examples could be multiplied but the point is that such language was hyperbolic and not intended to be taken literally.

If we grant this, then a different picture emerges:

• God commanded the Israelites to evict the Caananites from the land which according to the Bible had been promised to Abraham centuries earlier.
• The Israelites attacked them and defeated them. In memorialising these battles, hyperbolic language was used.
• However, they did not complete the task – as the later chapters indicate, the Caananites were still present and in fact Israel was chided for not prosecuting the task.

The language of Exodus and Deuteronomy is difficult to square with a literal reading of Josh 10 and 11. In Ex 23:22-24 one notes how the Caananites were to be eradicated:

“But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them. You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces."

Such language does call to mind Joshua 10 and 11. A few verses later, one gets a different picture, one more consistent with what the later chapters of Joshua and Judges indicate. From verse 27:

“I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you. 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. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land. I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

“I will drive them out before you little by little” is impossible to reconcile with utterly annihilating the Caananites, but easily fits the historical picture given from the rest of Joshua / Judges. Deuteronomy 7 reiterates this pattern of a slow eviction of the Caananites coupled with an injunction against making treaties and intermarrying:

“When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you. But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire."

The latter verses in fact have striking archaeological evidence to support this, Miller, cites Ben-Tor’s description of Hazor in the Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Ancient Near East:

"The last LB city at Hazor was violently destroyed. A level consisting of fallen mud brick, debris, ash, and burnt wood (in some places more than 1 m thick) was encountered almost everywhere in both the upper and lower city. It is the best indication of Hazor's catastrophic end. In areas C and H there is evidence of the deliberate mutilation and desecration of cult objects. Yadin (the excavator) fixed the date of that destruction in the last quarter of the thirteenth century BCE and tended to attribute it to the conquering Israelites, as described in Joshua 11.10" <6>

If one accepts the hyperbole thesis (and there is independent support for this in the evidence of hyperbolic use of number in the ANE), then the contradiction vanishes, and the accusation of ‘genocide’ becomes less credible.

Flannagan’s three articles can be found here:

Joshua and the genocide of the Caananites Part 1
Joshua and the genocide of the Caananites Part 2
Did God command genocide in the Old Testament?

and are thoroughly recommended, as is his power point presentation on the the subject "God and the Genocide of the Caananites" which he presented at the November 2010 Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. (I would also recommend adding him to your RSS feeder. He's well worth reading.)

References

1. New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jos 10:29–40.
2. New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jos 11:6–14.
3. Flannagan M. "Contra Mundum: Did God Command Genocide in the Old Testament?" http://www.mandm.org...-testament.html
4. ibid
5. Fouts D.M. "A Defense of the Hyperbolic Interpretation of Large Numbers in the Old Testament." JETS 40/3 (September 1997) 377–387
6. Miller G "Good question...doesn't the archaeological record in Palestine TOTALLY CONTRADICT (and hence, DISPROVE) the Bible's claims about Joshua's "Conquest" of the Land?!" http://christianthin...k.com/noai.html

Edited by Ken Gilmore, 20 December 2010 - 08:44 PM.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#4 Fortigurn

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 08:35 PM

Kenneth Kitchen has a brief note on this in OROT, and I have an entire monograph in my Logos library which addresses it in considerable detail.

Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (2009)

Works on Old Testament historiography, the “Conquest,” and the origins of Israel have burgeoned in recent days. But while others have been issuing new reconstructions, this novel work presents a close reading of the biblical text. The focus is on the literary techniques that ancient writers employed in narrating stories of conquest, and the aim is to pinpoint their communicative intentions in their own contexts. This reading is enhanced by engagement with the important discipline of the philosophy of history. Ancient Conquest Accounts, replete with extensive quotations from Assyrian, Hittite, and Egyptian conquest accounts, is a learned and methodologically sensitive study of a wide range of ancient Near Eastern texts as well as of Joshua 9–12.


This work confirms what you say, and has the benefit of not only being recent (originally published 1990), of a high scholarly standard (JSOTS 98, Sheffield Academic Press), but also exhaustive in its approach (392 pages). I'll see if I can put up some quotations from it later tonight.

Edited by Fortigurn, 20 December 2010 - 08:36 PM.


#5 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 08:48 PM

Kenneth Kitchen has a brief note on this in OROT, and I have an entire monograph in my Logos library which addresses it in considerable detail.

Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (2009)

Works on Old Testament historiography, the “Conquest,” and the origins of Israel have burgeoned in recent days. But while others have been issuing new reconstructions, this novel work presents a close reading of the biblical text. The focus is on the literary techniques that ancient writers employed in narrating stories of conquest, and the aim is to pinpoint their communicative intentions in their own contexts. This reading is enhanced by engagement with the important discipline of the philosophy of history. Ancient Conquest Accounts, replete with extensive quotations from Assyrian, Hittite, and Egyptian conquest accounts, is a learned and methodologically sensitive study of a wide range of ancient Near Eastern texts as well as of Joshua 9–12.


This work confirms what you say, and has the benefit of not only being recent (originally published 1990), of a high scholarly standard (JSOTS 98, Sheffield Academic Press), but also exhaustive in its approach (392 pages). I'll see if I can put up some quotations from it later tonight.

Thanks. My library is fairly expansive, but is still deficient in the theological journal department. That would be greatly appreciated. :)
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#6 Fortigurn

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 10:09 PM

You're welcome Ken. This monograph is part of the History of Israel Collection (which I picked up on pre-publication for less than a quarter of the current retail price). I suggest the title of this thread needs a slight change for the sake of clarity ('Was there a genocide of the Canaanites?').

#7 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 10:33 PM

I suggest the title of this thread needs a slight change for the sake of clarity ('Was there a genocide of the Canaanites?').

Agreed. The inverted commas around genocide were an attempt in that direction, but it would benefit from that change. I can't change the title of my own posts alas, so I'd be happy for you or another mod to do the honours.
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#8 Fortigurn

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 11:48 PM

Agreed. The inverted commas around genocide were an attempt in that direction, but it would benefit from that change. I can't change the title of my own posts alas, so I'd be happy for you or another mod to do the honours.


Done. :yoohoo:

#9 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 21 December 2010 - 01:54 AM

Agreed. The inverted commas around genocide were an attempt in that direction, but it would benefit from that change. I can't change the title of my own posts alas, so I'd be happy for you or another mod to do the honours.


Done. :yoohoo:

Ta. :)
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#10 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 December 2010 - 08:44 AM

In the interpretive endeavor, it seems important to employ what W.W. Hallo has called the ‘contextual approach’:121 in other words, a ‘comparative/ contrastive’ investigation of ‘the literary context, broadly interpreted as including the entire Near Eastern literary milieu to the extent that it can be argued to have had any conceivable impact on the biblical formulation’.122 For instance, if one compares the conquest account in the book of Joshua with other ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts, one will gain a better understanding of the biblical narrative. Such a method offers controls on the data. It is exactly a lack of controls which has contributed—at least in part—to some of the interpretive problems in Old Testament studies.

Younger, K. L. (1990). Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (52). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


The seven episodes of 10:28–39, like any historical account, are figurative. These episodes are even more so because of the hyperbolic nature of the various syntagms. For example, the syntagms (ויחרם אותה ואת כל הנפש אשר בה :: ‘they completely destroyed it and everyone in it’) and (לא השאיד בה שריר :: ‘he left no survivors’) are obviously hyberbole. This is also true for these: (לא נותד כל נשמה :: ‘Not sparing anything that breathed’), (לא השאירו נל נשׁמה :: ‘Not sparing anything that breathed’), and (עד השמדם אותם :: ‘until they exterminated them’). That these are figurative is clear from numerous ancient Near Eastern texts. For example,

1). The Gebal Barkal Stela of Thutmose III:102
The great army of Mitanni,
it is overthrown in the twinkling of an eye.
It has perished completely,
as though they had never existed.
(7) Like the ashes (lit. ‘the end’) of a fire.

Younger, K. L. (1990). Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (227). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


4). Sennacherib:107
The soldiers of Hirimme, dangerous enemies, I cut down with
the sword; and not one escaped.

5). Muršili II (KBo III 4 Rs III.44; 64–65):108
I made Mt. Asharpaya empty (of humanity) …
I made the mountains of Tarikarimu empty (of humanity).

Younger, K. L. (1990). Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (228). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


Thus it is evident that the syntagms (ויחרם אותה ואת בל הבפש אשר בה :: ‘they completely destroyed it and everyone in it’), (לא השאיר בה שריד :: ‘he left no survivors’), etc. are to be understood as hyperbole. Just like other ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts, the biblical narrative utilizes hyperbolic, stereotyped syntagms to build up the account.

Younger, K. L. (1990). Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (228). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


Summarizing statements and lists of defeated lands following accounts of military campaigns are common in the Assyrian royal inscriptions. Moreover, though a comparison of the list contained in Sennacherib’s annals111 (after his seventh campaign) with the list in the Walters Art Galley inscription112 one can quickly see that these lists are partial. They are very selective.113 [Cities which occur in both lists are italicized].

Younger, K. L. (1990). Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (230). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


Thus for a city to be contained in one list and lacking in another (both lists describing the same campaign) does not constitute an error or interpolation, or mean that there are different sources for the lists. It means only that lists of conquered cities in the ancient Near East were often selective or partial. Hence, the inclusion of Megiddo in the list of chapter 12 means only that the account of the conquest of the north is selective and does not include the account of that city’s capture; just like the account of this Elamite campaign of Sennacherib was selective and does not include the account of the conquest of the city of Til-raqu (a city which is in the Walters Art Galley list, but for which there is not a conquest account).

Younger, K. L. (1990). Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (231). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


Thus, it is entirely natural to have summary statements and lists in historical narratives. They are obvious parts of the transmission code of conquest accounts. Chapter 12 is a natural part of the narration as seen by our comparison with the ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts. Consequently, there is no reason to posit these as the work of redactors.

Younger, K. L. (1990). Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (232). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


In conclusion, it appears that the text of Joshua 9–12 is structured on a transmission code similar to that of other ancient Near Eastern royal inscriptions. Since the account utilizes similar literary and ideological aspects to the ancient Near Eastern conquest account, as well as similar syntagmic structuring, this conclusion seems justified. The code is observable in the narrative of the Gibeonite vassalage (ch. 9), the conquest accounts of the south and north (ch. 10 and 11) and the summary and lists (ch. 12). Moreover, we have also been able to come to a better understanding of how to interpret the biblical account.

Younger, K. L. (1990). Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (237). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


It is now time to explore some of the implications of this study. In the foregoing chapters, our analyses have demonstrated that the conquest account in Joshua 9–12 shares a similar transmission code with its ancient Near Eastern counterparts. In its literary and ideological aspects, the biblical text evinces the same general characteristics that one encounters in ancient Near Eastern works. Consequently, while it remains possible that this section of Joshua is a composite of many separate traditions, this may not be the best explanation. It is more likely that the section is a narrative unity exhibiting a typical ancient Near Eastern transmission code commonly employed in the history writing of conquest accounts.1 This, of course, does not exclude possible textual corruptions (some of which we point out in the Appendix) or glosses by the hand of (a) so-called Deuteronomistic editor(s). But it seriously questions the prevailing opinion that the section is a composite of many different independent traditions.2

Thus on the basis of the similarity between the conquest account in Joshua 9–12 and other ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts, we would suggest that it is unnecessary to posit so many various traditions for the make-up of these chapters.3 It is time to re-evaluate some of the conclusions of past studies.

Younger, K. L. (1990). Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (241). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


One point which must be stressed in the analysis of any ‘conquest account’ is the fact that the terms ‘conquer’ and ‘conquest’8 can have a number of nuances which are not always present in every context in which they are used. When, for example, one speaks of ‘the “conquest” of France’ during World War II, or says that ‘Germany “conquered” France’, the meaning is something like ‘the German army defeated the French army in battle and occupied France’. But it did not subjugate the French people, nor did it bring about the colonization of France by Germany. Another example can be seen in these statements of Shalmaneser III:

I descended to the land of Kaldu. I conquered their cities. I received tribute of the kings of the land of Kaldu in the city of Babylon.

Shalmaneser’s claim to have ‘conquered’ (akšud) the land of Kaldu must be understood in a very different way than his ‘conquest’ of Til Barsip which he renamed Kār Shalmaneser, colonized and which remained a permanent Assyrian city. In the case of Kaldu, he temporarily gained possession of these cities. But it was, nevertheless, a ‘conquest’.9 In this way too, the biblical account in Joshua 10–11 must be understood. The Israelites may very well have ‘conquered’ the land as generally described in the narrative. But this ‘conquest’ was in many instances temporary, not permanent. It did not mean the complete subjugation of the land. This is clear from statements such as ‘Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time’ (11:18); ‘When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, YHWH said to him, “You are very old and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over. (Thus) this is the land that remains” ’ (13:1b–2a);10 ‘Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem …’ (15:63); ‘They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer’ (16:10); ‘Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region’ (17:12); etc.

The phrase ‘all the land’ must be understood as hyperbole. The claims to conquest have been overstated.11 This is a very similar situation in the vast majority of ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts.
For example, in his Ten Year Annals of Muršili II states:

Thus when I had conquered all the land of Arzawa … And I conquered all the land of Arawanna … I conquered all the land of Tipiya.12

While Mursili did gain control over these lands, the use of the term ḫuman- (all) should be understood as a hyperbole or possibly as a synecdoche. We would prefer hyperbole considering the use of stereotyped syntagms in these contexts of Muršili’s Annals (see chapter 3).


Younger, K. L. (1990). Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (243–245). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


Thus when the figurative nature of the account is considered, there are really no grounds for concluding that Judges 1 presents a different view of the conquest from that of Joshua or that it must be an older account. If scholars had realized the hyperbolic nature of the account in Joshua, if they had compared it with other ancient Near Eastern accounts of complete conquest, if they had differentiated a little more closely in the past between occupation and subjugation, the image of the conquest as represented in Joshua would have emerged in far clearer focus than it has, and as a result there would have been no need to regard the first narratives of Judges as historical at the expense of their counterparts in Joshua.

Furthermore, it would have meant that one would not have had to sacrifice one account at the expense of the other. While G.E. Wright correctly points out some of the errors of those who discredit the account in Joshua, he does so by reverse argumentation: Judges 1 is a composite, error filled account. While Judges 1 does have numerous problems, there is no reason to represent it in this fashion. It does preserve much information which is quite ancient.

Younger, K. L. (1990). Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (246). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


But the use of ‘all Israel’ is nothing more than a commonly encountered synecdoche found in ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts in the form: ‘all [a people’s name].’ Thus one could read a verse like Joshua 10:29:

ו עכד יהו שע וכל ישדאל עמד ממקדה לכבה
Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Makkedah to Libnah;

and interpret ‘all Israel’ to mean literally ‘every Israelite (man, woman and child from the families and clans of every tribe)’ moved on from Makkedah to Libnah with Joshua. However, in the light of both the context of the book of Joshua and a comparison of ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts, it seems better to understand this as a synecdoche. A few examples from ancient Near Eastern materials will help demonstrate this. From the Annals of Muršili one reads:

nu KUR uruKa-aš-ka ḫu-u-ma-an an-da wa-ar-ri-eš-še-eš-ta
The entire land of the Kaskaeans came together to help.

KUR uruAr-za-u-wa-ma-kán ḫu-u-ma-an par-aš-ta
The whole country of Arzawa fled.

nu-kán KUR uruAr-za-u-wa ku-it ḫu-u-ma-an 55x x x x x I-NA
uruPu-ra-an-da ša-ra-a pa-a-an e-eš-ta
And because the whole land of Arzawa x x x x (?) had gone over to the area of Puranda.
nu KUR-e-an-za ḫu-u-ma-an-za URU.AŠ.AŠ.ḪI.A BAD37EGIR-pa e-ip-pir
(But) the whole country withdrew to the fortress towns.

One may think that we are pointing out the obvious. But the number of commentators who misunderstand this figure is plethora. For instance, Noth felt that chapters 10–11 were two war narratives which originally were of merely local importance. Secondarily they were elevated to a status involving ‘all Israel’ and ‘Joshua’. Thus he attributed the expression ‘all Israel’ to this secondary stage in the compilation of the book.27 But in light of the foregoing discussion of the figurative aspect in these chapters, Noth’s hypothesis appears less plausible.

Younger, K. L. (1990). Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (248–249). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


The fact that ancient Near Eastern and biblical conquest accounts have figurative and ideological superstructures means that the interpreter of such texts must work hard at the process of interpretation. The simulated nature of the accounts must be fully considered. In this we would stress the tentativeness of our own interpretations of the various texts studied herein.

We do not wish to give the reader the impression that we believe that none of the data in the ancient texts is trustworthy or that all is rhetoric and stereotyped vocabulary. It is simply that the use of a common transmission code underlying the ancient texts must be taken into account; the commonality of such set language does not negate the fact that a war took place, that someone won or that the army performed certain specific actions. The use in the biblical narrative of such stereotyped syntagms as ‘YHWH gave the city into Israel’s hand’, ‘Joshua put the city and everyone in it to the sword’, ‘he left no survivors’, or ‘he conquered all the land’ does not invalidate them any more than the use of such syntagms as ‘a great slaughter was made’ or ‘his majesty dispatched’ invalidates the Egyptian accounts. The fact that there are figurative and ideological underpins to the accounts should not make us call them into question per se—it should only force us to be cautious!

Younger, K. L. (1990). Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing (265–266). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.



#11 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 December 2010 - 08:52 AM

Younger's work is cited extensively in the relevant scholarly literature as the standard work on the subject. I found this very interesting.

The reason for examining these particular texts is because they are not usually considered by biblical scholars when engaged in comparative study. Nevertheless, it appears that upon careful study these texts are germane for comparison with the Bible. A notable exception to the tendency to ignore this corpus of literature is Lawson Younger’s seminal study Ancient Conquest Accounts which appeared in 1990.6 After a thoughtful and thorough comparative study of Assyrian, Hittite and Egyptian military reports with those in the book of Joshua, Younger concluded

This study has shown that one encounters very similar things in both ancient Near Eastern and biblical history writing. While there are differences (e.g., the characteristics of the deities in the individual cultures), the Hebrew conquest account of Canaan in Joshua 9–12 is, by and large, typical of any ancient Near Eastern account. In other words, there is a common denominator, a certain commonality between them, so that it is possible for us to speak, for purposes of generalization, of a common transmission code that is an intermingling of the texts’ figurative and ideological aspects.7


Independently, I arrived at conclusions similar to those of Younger.8 Hence, it will be argued that there is still much light Egyptian royal inscriptions of the New Kingdom can shed on Hebrew military writing.

Owing to the supposed “aetiological” nature, the theological affirmations and ideological nature of the “conquest” narratives in Joshua, coupled with the hyperbolic claims of wiping out the population of certain parts of Canaan (particularly in chapter 10), many recent studies of the Joshua narratives have dismissed the biblical account of Israel’s arrival in Canaan.9 With the Hebrew writings confined to the sidelines, the Merneptah or Israel stela has been thrust onto center stage, and historical minimalists have become preoccupied with this text. Ironically, historical minimalists of the Bible, like Ahlström10 and Lemche11 became maximalists, accepting at face value an Egyptian document, despite the fact that it too is religious and ideological, replete with hyperbole and propaganda, whereas, when similar literary and rhetorical devices are found in Joshua, the historical value of those narratives is summarily dismissed. The methodological inconsistency is self-evident.

Hallo, W. W., & Younger, K. L. (2003). Context of Scripture (xxii–xxiii). Leiden; Boston: Brill.


Edited by Fortigurn, 21 December 2010 - 08:53 AM.


#12 Juliashmoolia

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Posted 21 December 2010 - 07:35 PM

My experience has been that many alleged contradictions are usually artefacts of poor interpretation of Scripture arising from failure to understand the ANE context of the Bible or reading the text literally when such a reading was never intended.


Howdy Ken :)

Your methodology is that whenever the literal interpretation makes god look nasty, then one is free to interpret text as figurative/metaphoric/hyperbolic. (And if that also makes god look nasty, then simply refer to handy escape clause - god knows everything, we don't, therefore even his apparent nasty actions can be called good)

Why doesn’t it say somewhere that it’s not meant to be taken literally? If it was never intended, why has god been quite content to have people stop believing, for the small crime of having no idea that it wasn’t meant to be taken literally?

I don’t think that it’s obvious that it’s hyperbole and lots of people over the ages haven’t thought it obvious that it’s hyperbole.

I mean, why did god even need to use hyperbole? What would be the problem with just telling it like it is, without exaggerating? People have stopped believing because of this account - why did he deliberately mislead them? What’s wrong with just being honest about what happened?
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#13 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 December 2010 - 10:08 PM

Your methodology is that whenever the literal interpretation makes god look nasty, then one is free to interpret text as figurative/metaphoric/hyperbolic.


That isn't true. Interpretations other than the literal are not simply an easy get out, and they cannot be applied arbitrarily. In this case they are not being applied arbitrarily. The text is being treated as academics treat any other analogous Ancient Near Eastern text. You are free to present a rational and evidence based argument as to why this text should be treated uniquely, instead of according to standard academic practice.

(And if that also makes god look nasty, then simply refer to handy escape clause - god knows everything, we don't, therefore even his apparent nasty actions can be called good)


If you see anyone here doing that, do let me know.

Why doesn’t it say somewhere that it’s not meant to be taken literally?


For exactly the same reason that the Hittites, Assyrians, and Egyptians didn't need to 'say somewhere that it's not meant to be taken literally'. They understood their own language and literary forms. It's not their problem if you don't.

If it was never intended, why has god been quite content to have people stop believing, for the small crime of having no idea that it wasn’t meant to be taken literally?


What people choose to believe on the basis of their own lack of knowledge is their own business. It's not God's fault that He left a record saying 'Actually they weren't all destroyed', and people read it as saying 'Oh, this means they were all destroyed!'.

I don’t think that it’s obvious that it’s hyperbole and lots of people over the ages haven’t thought it obvious that it’s hyperbole.


If you had any relevant academic credentials, and if you had made a rational case on the basis of actual evidence, with appropriate reference to the standard scholarly literature on the subject, your opinion would be worth taking seriously. You don't; it isn't. As for 'lots of people over the ages haven’t thought it obvious that it’s hyperbole', so what? That is not an argument for or against the interpretation presented here, it's just indicative of what a lot of people thought.

I mean, why did god even need to use hyperbole? What would be the problem with just telling it like it is, without exaggerating? People have stopped believing because of this account - why did he deliberately mislead them? What’s wrong with just being honest about what happened?


If you read the thread, you'll find all those questions answered. In particular you will find that the record does not mislead, and that it is honest about what happened. It tells it like it was; it tells us the Canaanites were not all destroyed. We are told this repeatedly in the record, in language which is not complex. Choosing to ignore those statements and interpret other statements as literal, is simply not intellectually honest.

#14 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 21 December 2010 - 11:37 PM


My experience has been that many alleged contradictions are usually artefacts of poor interpretation of Scripture arising from failure to understand the ANE context of the Bible or reading the text literally when such a reading was never intended.


Howdy Ken :)

Your methodology is that whenever the literal interpretation makes god look nasty, then one is free to interpret text as figurative/metaphoric/hyperbolic. (And if that also makes god look nasty, then simply refer to handy escape clause - god knows everything, we don't, therefore even his apparent nasty actions can be called good)

Why doesn’t it say somewhere that it’s not meant to be taken literally? If it was never intended, why has god been quite content to have people stop believing, for the small crime of having no idea that it wasn’t meant to be taken literally?

I don’t think that it’s obvious that it’s hyperbole and lots of people over the ages haven’t thought it obvious that it’s hyperbole.

I mean, why did god even need to use hyperbole? What would be the problem with just telling it like it is, without exaggerating? People have stopped believing because of this account - why did he deliberately mislead them? What’s wrong with just being honest about what happened?


Hi Julia. :)

Fort's made a substantive reply which covers the points I would have made. I will make a few comments however.

If one simply chose to interpret parts of the Bible as non-literal / parabolic / hyperbolic solely to get away from a disturbing conclusion arising from the literal reading, then there may be some validity to what you say. However, the main motivation which I pointed out was that there is a flat-out contradiction between Josh 10-11 which describe the total extermination of the Caananites by Joshua's army, and the later chapters of Joshua and Judges which describe those exact areas as being populated by Caananites who posed a problem for Israel. Either one assumes the compilers of Joshua and Judges were incapable of recognising a contradiction within the space of a few chapters, or something else is going on in the text. This tension has been noted for some time by Biblical scholars - it is hardly new.

Not all the Bible is meant to be interpreted literally, and one does not need to be an OT / NT scholar to perceive this. However, what ANE scholarship has shown is that this motif of hyperbole was quite common in the world in which the ancient Israelites lived. They were aware of it, and they used it. Once again, we need to remember that the Bible was originally written not for 21st century people, but those who lived anywhere between 2000 to 3500 years ago. We simply can't expect to read the Bible with modern eyes, fail to understand a subtle point because we interpret a parabolic or hyperbolic statement as literal, then declare that the God of the Bible is morally repugnant because of a failure to recognise that principle.

I don't want to trivialise the issue of death and war - it is ugly. Again, failure to appreciate the context can lead to problems. I don't know whether you've read any of Glenn Miller's works (he's a well-respected Christian apologist who takes honest doubters and critics quite seriously). His papers on genocide are complementary to this - let me know what you think of them. You can find them here and here.

If you're the reading type, then I'd recommend these two books to get a handle on the issue of the ANE background to the Bible with respect to interpretation and inspiration:

* The Lost World of Genesis One
* Inspiration and Incarnation

Ken

Edited by Ken Gilmore, 21 December 2010 - 11:38 PM.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#15 Davvers

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Posted 22 December 2010 - 09:22 AM

Ken/Fort

Unless I missed it, I'm surprised that the studies doesn't reference 1 Sam 15 and Saul's defeat of Amalek. There, in a very compact record, we have God's command to utterly destroy given through Samuel followed by Saul's victory.

If the hyperbolic language argument is applied consistently then that means that BOTH the instruction from God was given using hyperbole, as well as the account of the victory. Is that plausible?

In addition to these arguments, I still think the Gen 15:16 "iniquity of the Amorites not yet complete" point has relevance. A very long period of time was allowed for that society to demonstrate that it could only produce a next generation that "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things" (Rom 1:23) It's not a justification for genocide, but it is justification for a righteous, divine command to an irreversible destruction.

D

#16 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 December 2010 - 11:27 AM

Ken/Fort

Unless I missed it, I'm surprised that the studies doesn't reference 1 Sam 15 and Saul's defeat of Amalek. There, in a very compact record, we have God's command to utterly destroy given through Samuel followed by Saul's victory.

If the hyperbolic language argument is applied consistently then that means that BOTH the instruction from God was given using hyperbole, as well as the account of the victory. Is that plausible?


Younger's study addresses the narrative in Joshua, so he doesn't comment on Amalek. But there were still Amalekites left after the defeat by Saul. David's camp was ambushed by them (1 Samuel 30:1), and there were Amalekites in final battle against Saul (2 Samuel 1:8), which is hardly surprising given they'd want to get back at him. David still had to fight them again (2 Samuel 8:12), and a remnant lasted even as late as the reign of Hezekiah some 200 years after (1 Chronicles 4:43).

It's not a justification for genocide, but it is justification for a righteous, divine command to an irreversible destruction.


Yes, I believe this has value.

Edited by Fortigurn, 22 December 2010 - 11:28 AM.


#17 Mercia2

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Posted 22 December 2010 - 03:23 PM

If one reads these verses as plain narrative, then they do claim that the Israelites exterminated the Caananites. The problem not only is the moral dimension of whether this is genocidal behaviour, but the contradiction with the rest of Joshua and Judges which plainly refer to a strong Caananite presence in the areas which Joshua 10 and 11 claim were utterly destroyed:


Then if their is an intentional paradox such as the Caananite presence after they were supposed to be literally destroyed AND their is a moral parodox then the INTENTION, as with Christs LITERAL words "eat my flesh and drink my blood", is to FORCE a spiritual understanding ALONE of the text.

I believe the Jews interpret this better than any of us do in relation to its meaning for us (ie what actually matters), i.e the land is the mind, those we battle and slay are not literal demons or people but the doubts in our own mind.

In any case should a society that pickled children in jars not deserve extinction?
"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” = "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" = "Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who maketh His angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire" Psalms (104:1) = "They saw what seemed to be flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." Acts 2 - the secret is over, your ministering angel you need to be saved is the Holy Spirit.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/20950-holy-spirit-mercia/

Mark Of The Beast - his Name is the charachter/image of the medievil popes (now modern man)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/4997-mark-of-the-beast/page__pid__439951__st__120#entry439951

Historicists - Dual Fulfillment (seven thunders = more literal warning)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/14248-historicists-revelation-has-a-dual-fulfillment/

#18 Mercia2

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Posted 22 December 2010 - 03:25 PM

David still had to fight them again (2 Samuel 8:12)

David was always fighting his doubts.
"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” = "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" = "Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who maketh His angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire" Psalms (104:1) = "They saw what seemed to be flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." Acts 2 - the secret is over, your ministering angel you need to be saved is the Holy Spirit.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/20950-holy-spirit-mercia/

Mark Of The Beast - his Name is the charachter/image of the medievil popes (now modern man)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/4997-mark-of-the-beast/page__pid__439951__st__120#entry439951

Historicists - Dual Fulfillment (seven thunders = more literal warning)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/14248-historicists-revelation-has-a-dual-fulfillment/

#19 Davvers

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 03:35 AM

David still had to fight them again (2 Samuel 8:12)

David was always fighting his doubts.


And we would also add that layer of understanding to the incident, but we'd do so without denying that it was still an account of what happened, written in a style commensurate with the age.

D

#20 Davvers

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 03:48 AM

Fort

Younger's study addresses the narrative in Joshua, so he doesn't comment on Amalek. But there were still Amalekites left after the defeat by Saul.

Yes, although a skeptic would argue that Amalekites were left because Saul didn't complete the genocide commanded.

David's camp was ambushed by them (1 Samuel 30:1), and there were Amalekites in final battle against Saul (2 Samuel 1:8), which is hardly surprising given they'd want to get back at him. David still had to fight them again (2 Samuel 8:12), and a remnant lasted even as late as the reign of Hezekiah some 200 years after (1 Chronicles 4:43).

Comparing Joshua and Saul brings up an interesting difference I think:

God commands Joshua to (hyperbolically) destroy all - Joshua defeats the Canaanites, kills their kings, burns their cities and is said to have done as God commanded even though many Canaanites survived and regrouped.

God commands Saul to (hyperbolically) destroy Amalek - Joshua defeats the Amalekites, keeps their king alive, takes their goods and is said to have NOT done as God commands, again many Amalekites survive.

The difference between the two has nothing to do with the completeness of the supposed genocide - it's to do with not listening to what God wants and instead taking prisoners and spoil for yourself.

D




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