Was Joshua’s Slaughter of the Canaanites Morally Justified? Part 5: Pro-Life Hypocrisy

Before Moses and the nation of Israel reached the Jordan river, Jehovah was busy revealing himself to be a SELFISH JERK and a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant.  The attempt to justify and excuse Jehovah’s command to MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTER thousands of Canaanites, including civilians, including elderly men and women, mothers and fathers, teenage boys and girls, young children, and babies, on the grounds that Jehovah’s command was merely “locker room” talk, not meant to be interpreted literally, and that the Old Testament stories about Moses and Joshua and the army of Israel following this horrible command were also nothing but “locker room” talk, is BULLSHIT.

We know that this is a pathetic attempt to rationalize the cruelty and injustice of Jehovah,  because it was ALREADY clear, before Moses and Israel arrived at the Jordan river, that Jehovah was a SELFISH JERK, and that Jehovah was a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant.  It was ALREADY clear that Jehovah was precisely the sort of person who would command the MERCILESS SLAUGHTER of thousands of human beings, including civilians, including elderly men and women, mothers and fathers, teenage boys and girls, young children, and babies.  We can know this on the basis of understanding the Ten Commandments given by Jehovah to Moses.

I part 4 of this series I argued that two general points about the Ten Commandments support the view that Jehovah was a SELFISH JERK.  I also argued that Jehovah’s demand that the first four commandments, which are RELIGIOUS LAWS (or alleged duties of humans towards God), be enforced by the most extreme penalty, i.e. the death penalty (and in some cases, the indiscriminate slaughter of entire towns), shows that Jehovah was a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant.  

It is now time to consider the FIVE remaining commandments, which are about human duties towards other humans (the 10th “commandment” is psychological advice, and thus not a requirement about actions, like the other nine):

5. Honour thy father and thy mother.

6. Thou shalt not murder.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

For the complete and precise wording(s), see Exodus 20:1–17 and  Deuteronomy 5:4–21.

The above summary is from the Wikipedia article “Ten Commandments“.


Here is the fifth commandment as stated in the book of Exodus:

12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.    Exodus 20:12  (New Revised Standard Version)

I have no problem with the idea that children ought to respect and obey their parents, at least if their parents aren’t criminals or drug addicts, and if their parents don’t physically or sexually or psychologically abuse them.  Parent’s generally know better than their children, especially young children, what is good and healthy and safe, and what is bad and unhealthy and unsafe.  So, it is (usually) better for children to respect and obey their parents, better for their own health, safety, and well-being.

However, it was extremely cruel and unjust for Jehovah to enforce this as a LAW using the most extreme form of punishment: the death penalty.  In the very next chapter, we see that Jehovah, once again, loves cruelty and bloodshed:

15 Whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death.

17 Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death.   Exodus 21:15 & 17  (New Revised Standard Version)

It shouldn’t be necessary (at this point) to argue against the pathetic rationalization of Jehovah’s cruelty that consists of the implausible claim that this is just “locker room” talk by Jehovah, and that the death penalty was not really intended to be used against those who violate the fifth commandment.

However, there is some further evidence that shows this lame excuse will not work here.  First, the initial four commandments concerning human duties towards God were ALL enforced by the threat of DEATH.  So, it is only reasonable to expect that the very first commandment concerning human duties towards other humans would be one of the most important of such duties, and thus would also, like all four previous commandments, be enforced by the threat of DEATH.

Second, the book of Leviticus re-iterates Jehovah’s call for the death penalty:

9 All who curse father or mother shall be put to death; having cursed father or mother, their blood is upon them.   Leviticus 20:9 (New Revised Standard Version)

Third, the book of Deuteronomy provides a specific procedure for implementing the death penalty in such cases:

18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him,

19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place.

20 They shall say to the elders of his town, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.”

21 Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death.  So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid.  Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (New Revised Standard Version)

So, YES, Jehovah really did mean what he said.  Jehovah commanded that disobedient and disrespectful children be PUT TO DEATH.  The fifth commandment thus shows us that Jehovah was a cruel  and bloodthirsty tyrant.


Here is how the sixth commandment is stated in the book of Exodus:

13 You shall not murder.  Exodus 20:13 (New Revised Standard Version)

It should be no surprise that Jehovah demanded that this sixth commandment, like all five previous commandments, was to be enforced by the threat of DEATH:

12 Whoever strikes a person mortally shall be put to death.

13 If it was not premeditated, but came about by an act of God, then I will appoint for you a place to which the killer may flee.

14 But if someone willfully attacks and kills another by treachery, you shall take the killer from my altar for execution.   Exodus 21:12-17 (New Revised Standard Version)

That the law against murder was to be enforced by the death penalty is re-iterated in the book of Leviticus and in Numbers:

17 Anyone who kills a human being shall be put to death.     Leviticus 24:17 (New Revised Standard Version)

30 If anyone kills another, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses; but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of a single witness.  Numbers 35:30  (New Revised Standard Version)

The idea that Jehovah’s demand for the death penalty in cases of murder was mere hyperbole  (“locker room” talk) is so ridiculous that I won’t bother to respond to that objection.  So, we now see that of the first six commandments, Jehovah required that each one of them was to be enforced by the threat of DEATH.

Now, from my point of view there is nothing unjust about the punishment for murder being the death penalty, EXCEPT for this one little problem:  ALL HAVE SINNED.  In other words, human beings, all human beings, are morally imperfect.  Some human beings are downright evil (e.g. people like Adolf Hitler who like to go around MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTERING elderly men and women, mothers and fathers, teenage boys and girls, young children, and babies).  Because people are morally imperfect, and also imperfect in their knowledge and beliefs, I don’t trust governments and legal systems to fairly and justly employ the penalty of death for any crime whatsoever.

Even with our modern system of justice, where accused persons have a right to remain silent, and have a right to have an attorney defend them (even if they cannot afford one), and have the right to a trial by jury, and have the right to cross examine those who testify in their trial, and who are supposed to be convicted ONLY IF the evidence leaves no room for reasonable doubt about their guilt, and who have many opportunities to appeal their conviction in higher courts, many innocent people are still convicted of murder and sentenced to death.  So, we ought not to entrust governments and legal systems with the tremendous power to use the death penalty, even though it is, in theory, fair and just to take the life of a murderer as punishment for their crime.

God is, by definition, all-knowing.  So, God, if God exists, knows that ALL HAVE SINNED.  God knows that all human beings are morally flawed, and that all human beings have flawed knowledge and beliefs, so God knows that it is likely that human governments and legal systems will often fail to do justice when a person is accused of murder.  So, God, if God exists, knows better than to DEMAND the death penalty even for the crime of murder, because that will clearly lead to the unjust killing of many innocent people by flawed human governments and legal systems.

But Jehovah, on the other hand, LOVES BLOODSHED.  So, of course Jehovah demanded that the sixth commandment, like the previous five commandments, be enforced by the threat of DEATH.  Jehovah is a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant, so he could care less if some innocent people are killed by flawed governments and legal systems.  Jehovah is just a SELFISH JERK.

There is another aspect of the sixth commandment that reveals the dark side of Jehovah’s character.  It is OK to kill your wife or son or daughter if you find out they have worshiped some god other than Jehovah.  In fact, it is YOUR DUTY to do so.  It is OK to kill an old man who was just picking up some sticks on a Saturday afternoon, to be able to cook up some soup for his wife. In fact, it is YOUR DUTY to do so.  It is OK to MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTER the elderly men and women, and mothers and fathers, and teenage boys and girls, and young children, and babies in a town, if some of the adults in that town have been worshiping some god other than Jehovah.  In fact, it is YOUR DUTY to do so.  It is OK to kill your own child, if that child has disobeyed or disrespected you and you report this bad behavior to the authorities.

So, Jehovah winks at a lot of killing, killing that any reasonable person would view as being homicide or murder.  So, the commandment against “murder” is not actually opposed to murder,  it only opposes those particular murders that Jehovah hasn’t already blessed.  Jehovah declares many forms of murder to be OK, and that is supposed to magically make it good.  But a rose by any other name, is still a rose.  So, the sixth commandment positively REEKS OF HYPOCRISY and DOUBLETHINK.

Jehovah is nothing but a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant; he could care less about the value of human lives or “the right to life” that so many Catholics and Evangelicals pretend to embrace.

Here is yet another example of Jehovah’s cruelty and injustice concerning murder:

20 When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. 

21 But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.   Exodus 21:20-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Notice that the punishment of the slave owner is NOT specified.  There is no DEMAND from Jehovah that the slave owner be KILLED or STONED TO DEATH as a punishment.

I’m sure that racist southern slave owners LOVED this bit of “wisdom” from Jehovah.  Some of them probably tattooed it onto the backs of their African slaves, or had this passage carved into a plaque to hang over their fireplaces.   According to Jehovah, they could beat a slave nearly to death, and refuse to have the wounds of the slave be properly attended to, and then when the slave died a day or two later, the slave owner would be completely innocent, and face no punishment whatsoever for having murdered another human being.

“You are MY PROPERTY, so it is OK for me to kill you – like Jehovah said.”  Once again, Jehovah wasn’t opposed to murder itself; he was only opposed to murder in some cases, when it suited him to oppose it.   Otherwise, Jehovah LOVES BLOODSHED and killing people.

 To Be Continued…