Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Militarism, Continued: Joshua 10:29 - 12

This post is part of a revolutionary Bible commentary sponsored by the Church of the Orange Sky.

Joshua's author has got so excited with the military exploits of his idol, general Joshua, that he forgets to include details for the next few massacres. There's a long list of conquered cities and kings - Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, Debir, Hazor, and so on. Each time, the Bible writes a sentence about the battle, in which every soldier, civilian and lord is invariably "put to the sword"; and then solemnly pronounces that "everyone... they totally destroyed. They left no survivors."

The northern kings attempt briefly to form the same sort of alliance created by the treaty of Jerusalem, but it doesn't last long either. They actually manage to mobilize a considerable army, complete with heavy cavalry and chariots. The Bible hyerbolically claims that the army of the northern kings was "as numerous as the sand on the seashore." Joshua pulls off another successful surprise attack, this time without major assistance from the divine. Hazor's king is captured and executed, though not in the same gruesome detail as those of the last chapter.

The anti-profiteering law also has not been reinstated: the Israelite army continues to plunder, though now it has returned to "killing anything that breathes." Thus the militarist strain which was apparent early in Joshua is clearly starting to win out over the few remaining restraints. God began this book as a god of many things, including war; now he's practically a war god.

Clearly no longer concerned about God, except insofar as victory is taken to be a sign of the war god's pleasure, Joshua follows up with an extremely long list of kings - 31 in total, it reminds us at the end - which have been captured and executed, along with all of their people, by the increasingly blood-drenched army of Israel.