The Old Testament: Joshua I – The Holy Wars.

When I worked at a restaurant in San Diego (while I was in college), I worked with a girl who, liked most of us, was really busy.  She worked full time, was in school and ha d a social life.  She tended to burn the candles at both ends; though unlike most of us, this had nothing to do with partying. She would get sick at least three times a year.

Like a good American she went to the doctor and scored a prescription. She was really bad at following one of the most important directions: take ALL the pills.  She was quite thankful that the pills worked for the first few days, but then when she was more herself, working at full speed, she forgot about them, leaving (I’m told) half full prescription bottles in her medicine cabinet.  She tended to relapse.

We Americans tend to take our foot off the gas when we feel better, rather than see something through as directed—after all, she isn’t (or wasn’t) the only person to have this attitude towards convalescence—which is why news reports keep reporting an uptick in super bugs.

This was one of the things I thought of while I read about the holy wars chronicled in Joshua: God mandates that NOTHING BREATHING be left from the towns/civilizations he orders the Israelites to wipe out (there are two exceptions made—more on that in a minute).  Turns out God understood how infectious rebellion and animosity could be—his antidote: wipe it out completely.

One of the issues I’ve had with all this wholesale slaughter of people is that Joshua (this book, not the character) provides scant details about the severity of what these people did to deserve this harsh punishment.  I’ve heard from a few people that a number of details are not in the Bible because back then, when these stories were passed around, certain things were common knowledge, making preserving certain elements of a story unnecessary.

Why thousands of people deserved to be slaughtered seems necessary.

Their major crime seems to have been that they worshipped another god (or in some cases multiple gods).  Their secondary issue was where they lived: God decided to give the land on which their homes stood to the Israelites. That seems fair, right?

I can appreciate why an enemy should be eradicated, especially if this enemy threatened your existence.  Since Israel seemed to inspire deep hatred, their enemies were very real. But, unlike disease, people can be reasoned with.  Okay, some can’t—some people like to go to war and tear other cultures down.  But most can, right?

Seems like a harsh lesson: the best way to handle the people with whom you disagree is complete annihilation. I would hope that people who engage with this section of the Bible at least consider that what appears to be an enemy might just be someone sticking up for themselves and not some virus just looking to attack you because it can.

About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: Follow his work at:
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1 Response to The Old Testament: Joshua I – The Holy Wars.

  1. Bob Windhauser says:

    Brad, I agree some of Gods commands seem very harsh. I remember the movie Rudy, and the old priest said” I have learned 2 things in my 40+ years…#1 there is a God and #2 it’s not me” The story of Joshua includes groups who treated the Israelites poorly on their journey to the promised land. Yes the worshipped other gods (multiple). God has said you shall have no other God but me, I guess he means it. Love you…Dad

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