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A Good Question But Not A Good Answer
Part One
by Farrell Till

A reply to:

Good Question ...

by Glenn Miller



The barbaric nature of the Hebrew god Yahweh has led many former believers to reject their faith in the Bible. In "God Is Pro-Life?" I examined several biblical examples of Yahwistic barbarism that should convince reasonable people that the God-Is-Prolife slogan of anti-abortionists is biblically unsustainable, because the Old Testament is full of claims that Yahweh many times either sent destruction upon children, infants, and unborn babies himself or else ordered others to annihilate them. The barbarism of the god Yahweh, however, extended beyond the massacre of children and unborn babies to include efforts to exterminate entire tribes and nations. The Old Testament depiction of this deity should be enough to turn any morally sensitive person away from the notion that he is a loving, merciful god, but, unfortunately, it isn't. Diehard Bible believers seem determined to make all sorts of excuses to "explain" why Yahweh's commands to kill Canaanites, Midianites, Amalekites, and other non-Hebraic people were morally right.

A favorite justification of the Yahwistic massacres in the Old Testament, one that I even used myself when I was an inerrantist preacher, is that "God" created life, so he has the right to take life. Four problems in this "excuse," which I will simply list here without discussing, are that (1) it begs the question of "God's" existence with apparently no consideration at all to the possibility that "God" doesn't exist, (2) it begs the question of whether the Hebrew deity Yahweh was in fact "God," with apparently no consideration at all to the possibility that Yahweh was simply another tribal deity who was no more real than Dagon, Chemosh, Baal, Ishtar, and other regional gods, (3) it assumes that even if the god Yahweh is a real deity, he did in fact order the massacres in question and ignores completely the possibility that superstitious Hebrews at that time, like their surrounding neighbors, believed incorrectly that "God" was ordering them to massacre other nations, and (4) it assumes that what is universally recognized as immoral conduct on the part of humans is somehow morally right for gods to do. The last of these problems is in direct conflict with the widely believed religious view that morality is objective, but my purpose here is not to discuss this or any of the other three problems in the popular belief that Yahwistic massacres in the Bible were morally acceptable because the god Yahweh had created life and was therefore entitled to take life. Instead, I want to reply point by point to an attempt by Glenn Miller, in the article linked to in the title, to justify the Yahwistic massacres in the Old Testament. In replying to his various points, I will have occasion to address some of the four problems above, but that will be incidental to my primary purpose of putting on the internet an article that will expose the fallacies in Miller's attempts to defend the Yahwistic massacres. In some "apologetic" articles on the internet, especially on Robert Turkel's website, links to Miller's article will often be presented in reply to those who raise moral questions about the barbarism of the god Yahweh as he was depicted in the Old Testament. In a typical say-nothing reply to an article by Richard Packham on biblical problems that skeptics should mention in their discussions with believers, Turkel often linked his readers to Miller's defenses of Yahwistic barbarism. In the quotations below, the parts in italicized regular print are Packham's statements, and those in bold print are Turkel's. They have been cut and pasted from "Refutation to [sic] Packham's 'Notes on Bible Problems,'" which is one of those articles that Turkel threw together by just copying Packham's article and then inserting bold-print sound bites and one-liners here and there.

Genocide was a tool used by God to further the interests of his chosen people. None of what was done fits the definition of genocide -- see here.

God commands Moses to slaughter 24,000 people and hang their heads in the sun (Num 25). See here.

God commands Moses to slay the Midianites because the Israelites are seduced by them. All males (including infants) and adult women are killed; virgins are enslaved (Num 25:17, 31:1-2, 7, 15-18). Same link plus the first one in this section.

God's annihilation of Sihon's people and others (Deut 2:30-35, 36, 3:1-7). See second link above.

Turkel didn't even try to reply to Packham's points; he simply cited Miller's articles with the obvious intention of letting them serve as his answer. Those who bother to read Turkel's "reply" to Packham will see that it is little more than sound-bite/one-liner "replies" to Packham's article. The format that he used in this and other "replies" on his website is hypocritically ironic in that he constantly claims that "sound bites" are incapable of refuting arguments. In another thrown-together article like his reply to Packham linked to above, Turkel copied an article from the PTET website and inserted throughout it bold-print comments, quoted below, that were little more than one-line sound bites that he repeatedly accused PTET of having done.

Nothing like a vague, non-specific [sic] sound bite to win the day. How about actually coming to terms with arguments on the subject? No, sound bites are all PTET is capable of.

PTET meanwhile clings to his belief that it isn't, and staunchly refuses to provide more than sound bites as retorts.

Yeah. Religioustolerance.org, a collection of non-scholars [sic] collecting sound bites from sources uncritically like PTET.

And PTET continues to plough vague sound bites, avoiding specifics. The safest route.

A backwards way of saying, "Oops, I got caught making sound bites."

The scary details PTET refuses to engage beyond sound bites.

When PTET can offer more than summary sound bites lacking detailed arguments, we will pay attention.

We skip PTET's sound bites on this subject, which contain arguments already answered in our series on Gospel dates.

It fits in precisely with what we know of Jewish Palestine and early Christianity, and PTET has no actual reply other than sound bites, as usual.

So that people can't see PTET's non-answering [sic] sound bites?

This is just one of 67 articles on Turkel's website in which he either expressed his disdain for "sound bites" or else accused his opponents of using "sound bites" instead of argumentation. I wholeheartedly agree that so-called "sound bites" cannot satisfactorily refute arguments, because proper rebuttals will consist of carefully delineated counterarguments, and that cannot be done is just a line or two. When Turkel accuses an opponent of replying with "sound bites," however, we have a case of almost incredible hypocrisy--or possibly logical ignorance--because he repeatedly makes statements like those quoted above, and then he will turn around and do the very thing that he so often complains about. Those who read his replies to Packham and PTET, linked to above, will find that his so-called rebuttals were primarily "sound bites" and one-liners that he inserted in bold print into the articles that he had copied from his opponents' websites. As I have said many times before, about the only consistency in Turkel's articles is his inconsistency.

In his sound-bite "replies" to Packham, Turkel several times linked to Miller's articles on Yahwistic massacres by simply saying, "See here," or "See the link above," or some such, as shown in the quotations above. Obviously, then, Turkel and others who link to them believe that Miller's articles on Yahwistic massacres have resolutely solved the moral problem of Yahwistic massacres in the Old Testament, so by replying point by point to Miller, I will remove his articles as satisfactory "explanations," which biblical inerrantists, writing in defense of the nature of "God" as depicted in the Old Testament, can simply link their readers to and let those links serve as definitive solutions to the problem.

Those who click Turkel's links to Miller's articles (in his sound-bite replies to Packham) will see that Miller has written separate articles in justification of the Canaanite, Midianite, and Amalekite massacres. The one that I will be answering below pertains to the Canaanite massacres, but it seems to contain materials that he has imported from the other two and especially from his Amalekite article, as his updating notice, which I have retained below, points out. As we will see, besides defending the Canaanite massacres, Miller attempted to justify Yahweh's orders for king Saul to "utterly destroy" the Amalekites, including women, children, and nursing infants (1 Sam 15:1-3). By linking to this article, Turkel apparently wanted his readers to see Miller's quibble that the extermination of the Amalekites wasn't actually genocide, but I will reserve comment about this part of the article until I come to it.

Before I begin my point-by-point reply to Miller's article, I first want to pay him a compliment. Those who have read articles on his website have probably noticed that he writes on a much higher apologetic plane than Turkel in that he refrains from insults and sarcasm, which are Turkel's stock-in-trade, but, more important, he usually tries to defend his positions with logical argumentation instead of relying primarily on bracketed citations of and "see here" links to authors who agree with his position, which are so characteristic of Turkel's articles. When he does cite or quote authors in agreement with him, Miller will, for the most part, try to defend their positions with logical argumentation and offer his reasons why the opinions of the authors cited should be given serious consideration. As I go through his article point by point, readers will see that he at times will strain to find a quotation that supports his position and will at other times slip into a Turkellike pattern of truncating quotations so consummately that readers don't have enough context before them to judge whether there is any merit to the source's position. Overall, however, Mr. Miller's apologetic methods are vastly superior to Turkel's, so for the quality and tone of his articles, Miller deserves our appreciation. I will try to reciprocate by keeping my replies to his points on the same high plane of forensic debate. Dismantling an opponent's arguments, however, will at times require directness, but I hope that Mr. Miller will not see these moments as personal attacks on him.

Miller's article that I will be replying to began with the statement of a "good question" that he had apparently received from a reader. Miller stated the question and then proceeded to answer it. I will used Miller and Till as headers to help readers follow who is saying what.

The Good Question...

How could a God of Love order the massacre/annihilation of the Canaanites?

Miller's comments and answer began after the updating notice immediately below:


[Updated Oct 2k (added a bit more material on the Amalekites, and a short pushback at the end)]

On those very rare occasions when God displays His judgment within human history, it is very sobering and one which we find genuinely disturbing--it reminds us that "ethics" is not just another branch of philosophy!

Till:
I sensed in this an indication that Mr. Miller might take the God-can-do-no-wrong position, and that suspicion turned out to be right. I will reserve comment about this until I reach that point in his article. Here I will simply note that Miller, like most inerrantists, is begging the question not just of "God's" existence but of the involvement of "God" in the Canaanite massacres. There is no doubt that the Bible indicates that Yahweh was so involved, but I will insist that Mr. Miller--or anyone else who takes this track in defense of the massacres--offer more proof than just the simply fact that the Bible says that Yahweh was so involved. To argue that "God" was involved in those massacres because the Bible says that he was is to engage in special pleading and circular reasoning. I actually addressed this point in my introduction above in referring to the popular belief of the time that the gods were on the side of the nations that worshiped them. For a more detailed refutation of this ideology, readers should go to "Why Would God Bless America?" to see that the belief that certain nations are favored by God is without any logical basis. Hence, if Miller is going to contend that "God display[ed] His judgment within human history" through such events as the alleged Canaanite massacres, I will insist that he give us more evidence for this than a mere say-so based on what the Bible says.

Miller:
And even though each recorded case--regardless of scale--should 'trouble us', [sic] the case of God's alleged ordering the Israelites to annihilate the Canaanites has always been particularly disturbing to our 'status quo' of sensibilities. So, I frequently get a letter like this:

The entire concept of a God of justice and mercy ordering the slaughter of thousands of people (many patently innocent) on many occasions I find abhorrent.

This is an issue I have always had profound trouble with and one I suspended judgment on when I began to believe. Lately, though, it has started haunting me again, and I have been searching and praying for an answer or insight. The responses to this problem I have seen so far (God did them a favor, they were like cancer, or God's justice is beyond ours) seem to me to be lame or inappropriate.

Or, in a less conciliatory tone--

The Old Testament paints a picture of a God who is extremely bellicose, giving repeated instructions to "his people" to exterminate other nations, (because he is giving them their "promised land"), and giving them practical assistance on the battlefield.

It is easy to believe that such writings could be the attempted self-justification of a territorially minded people, who excuse their aggression and genocide against other nations as "divine instructions". [sic] It is almost impossible to believe that such writings are an accurate description of a God who has infinite love for people of all races.

And finally, a more pointed accusation:

"Is the God of the OT merely sanctioning genocide (nay commanding it)?... isn't this "god" merely an invention for the Jews' own political land-gaining ends?

Till:
I don't know who wrote these letters, but whoever they were, I commend them for what I think are rational ways of looking at the problem of Yahwistic massacres in the Bible. They apparently see that it is illogical to accept conduct in "God" that they would consider morally reprehensible in people and nations. As I continue through Mr. Miller's defense of the Canaanite massacres, I will point out the places where he overlooks this.

Miller:
So, let's look at the passages involved:

Deuteronomy 7.1-5: When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations--the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you --2 and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. 5 This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire.

Deut 20.16 However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy them--the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites--as the LORD your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God.

Joshua 12.7 These are the kings of the land that Joshua and the Israelites conquered on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir (their lands Joshua gave as an inheritance to the tribes of Israel according to their tribal divisions--8 the hill country, the western foothills, the Arabah, the mountain slopes, the desert and the Negev--the lands of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites):

  9 the king of Jericho one the king of Ai (near Bethel) one
10 the king of Jerusalem one the king of Hebron one
11 the king of Jarmuth one the king of Lachish one
12 the king of Eglon one the king of Gezer one
13 the king of Debir one the king of Geder one
14 the king of Hormah one the king of Arad one
15 the king of Libnah one the king of Adullam one
16 the king of Makkedah one the king of Bethel one
17 the king of Tappuah one the king of Hepher one
18 the king of Aphek one the king of Lasharon one
19 the king of Madon one the king of Hazor one
20 the king of Shimron Meron one the king of Acshaph one

22 the king of Kedesh one the king of Jokneam in Carmel one
23 the king of Dor (in Naphoth Dor) one the king of Goyim in Gilgal one
24 the king of Tirzah one thirty-one kings in all.

Till:
Well, of course, these passages don't even begin to scratch the surface of Yahwistic barbarism and massacres depicted in the Old Testament, but before I comment further, let's hear what Mr. Miller has to say in defense of the passages that he did quote.

Miller:
At first blush, it looks like YHWH is taking the initiative in the matter, and ordering Israel to wipe out 7-10 nations--without pity and without compromise--and that He intends to give these nations' lands to Israel for their possession.

Till:
It "looks like" [as if] Yahweh was taking the initiative? How else can it be interpreted? Verse two in the first passage quoted clearly says, "(W)hen the LORD [Yahweh] your God has delivered them [the seven nations referred to] over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally." How can this be understood in any other way except that the writer of this text understood that Yahweh had issued a direct command to destroy totally everyone in the seven Canaanite nations?

As for "pity and compromise," this passage also had Yahweh telling the Israelites that they were to "show them [the seven nations] no mercy," so what would be the difference in showing them no mercy and in wiping them out "without pity and without compromise"? This passage was clearly commanding the total destruction, without mercy, of the seven nations in Canaan, and no amount of verbal manipulation and rationalization can make it not be a command.

In the second passage quoted above, where Yahweh was allegedly speaking, another direct command was clearly given: In the cities of the nations that Yahweh your God is giving you [which would have been the cities in Canaan], do not leave alive anything that breathes. The passage went on to say, "Completely destroy them, as Yahweh your God has commanded you," so this text clearly said that Yahweh was commanding the Israelites to leave nothing alive to breathe in the cities that he was giving to them. There is no way to understand this passage in any way except that it was written as a direct command from Yahweh.

Oh, yes, the second passage quoted above plainly says that Yahweh was giving the cities of the nations in Canaan to the Israelites "as an inheritance," so that should settle the question of whether "at first blush" the texts that Mr. Miller quoted said that Yahweh "intend[ed] to give these nations' lands to Israel for their possession." They clearly do say that this was his intention, and there are many more (Deut. 2:29; Deut. 4:21,40; Deut. 11:17,31; Deut. 12:1,9,10; Deut. 15:4,7), which Mr. Miller didn't quote, that also say it. The passages just cited are only some of the verses in Deuteronomy that say that Yahweh was giving the land of Canaan to the Israelites. That was said so many times in this book that one could accurately say that "the land that Yahweh your God gives you" was a theme in Deuteronomy. That theme was repeated in Joshua 1:11,15, so there is no way to deny successfully that the Old Testament plainly taught that Yahweh took the land of Canaan from its earlier inhabitants and gave it to the Israelites.

Furthermore, the passages that he did not quote are very damaging to Mr. Miller's apparent attempt to argue that it is only "(a)t first blush" that these passages can be interpreted to say that Yahweh was "taking the initiative in the matter," which I assume was Mr. Miller's way of claiming that a closer examination of these passages will show that they were not saying that Yahweh was "taking the initiative" in the Israelite land grab. There are three ways, however, to prove conclusively that the first two passages that Mr. Miller quoted were to be understood as commandments that Yahweh had issued to destroy totally the nations in Canaan. First, we can prove that these were commands by comparing them to the clear command that Yahweh issued for Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites and to include in the massacre even children and infants. Since Mr. Miller included the Amalekite massacre later on in his article, it is very relevant to his attempt to exonerate Yahweh of blame in Old Testament massacres.

Let's begin the comparison by reiterating that the passages quoted by Miller had Yahweh telling the Israelites to destroy the Canaanite nations totally, to show them no mercy, and to leave in their cities "nothing alive to breathe." The language in these passages is very similar to the clear command, attributed to Yahweh, for king Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Since Mr. Miller quoted the NIV, I will use the same version but substitute Yahweh for the LORD, which I consider to be a mistranslation of the Hebrew name for their god.

1 Samuel 15:1 Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one Yahweh sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from Yahweh. 2 This is what Yahweh Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'"

In the first passage that Mr. Miller quoted, Yahweh told the Israelites to destroy totally the Canaanite nations; in the passage that I just quoted, Yahweh told Saul to totally destroy the Amalekites and everything that belonged to them. In the second passage that Mr. Miller quoted, Yahweh told the Israelites to "leave nothing alive to breathe"; in Yahweh's orders to Saul, he said that the Amalekites were not to be spared but that men, women, children, and infants were to be put to death. The three passages in question are similar enough that if I can show that the one pertaining to the Amalekites was a command that had to be obeyed to avoid incurring the wrath of Yahweh, then that should be enough to convince reasonable readers that the two passages quoted by Mr. Miller were also commands that had to be obeyed in order to please Yahweh.

That 1 Samuel 15:1-3 was intended as a command that Saul had to obey is shown by what happened when Saul did not "utterly destroy" all of the Amalekites.

7 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt. 8 He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. 9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs--everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

The command given to Saul was to destroy utterly all of the Amalekites and everything that belonged to them, but the verses just quoted show that Saul did not execute this command in its entirety. He saved Agag the king--just one Amalekite--and some of their livestock alive, and the next verses in this passage clearly show that this incurred the wrath of Yahweh.

10 Then the word of Yahweh came to Samuel: 11 "I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions." Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to Yahweh all that night. 12 Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, "Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal." 13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, "Yahweh bless you! I have carried out the Lord's instructions." 14 But Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?" 15 Saul answered, "The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to Yahweh your God, but we totally destroyed the rest." 16 "Stop!" Samuel said to Saul. "Let me tell you what Yahweh said to me last night." "Tell me," Saul replied. 17 Samuel said, "Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? Yahweh anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, 'Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.' 19 Why did you not obey Yahweh? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of Yahweh?" 20 "But I did obey Yahweh," Saul said. "I went on the mission Yahweh assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to Yahweh your God at Gilgal." 22 But Samuel replied: "Does Yahweh delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of Yahweh? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of Yahweh, he has rejected you as king." 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned. I violated the Lord's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship Yahweh." 26 But Samuel said to him, "I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of Yahweh, and Yahweh has rejected you as king over Israel!" 27 As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, "Yahweh has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors--to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind." 30 Saul replied, "I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship Yahweh your God." 31 So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped Yahweh. 32 Then Samuel said, "Bring me Agag king of the Amalekites." Agag came to him confidently, thinking, "Surely the bitterness of death is past." 33 But Samuel said, "As your sword has made women childless, so will your mother be childless among women." And Samuel put Agag to death before Yahweh at Gilgal. 34 Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And Yahweh was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.

This passage is clear enough that it needs no in-depth explication. It contained a command for Saul to go utterly destroy all of the Amalekites and everything that belonged to them. Saul almost carried out this command, but he didn't execute it completely. He did not destroy all of the Amalekites and all that belonged to them. He kept one--just one--Amalekite and some of their best livestock alive, and that so angered Yahweh that he took the kingship away from Saul and gave it to another. He then had Samuel call king Agag before him to cut him to pieces to show that almost isn't good enough but that when Yahweh said "utterly destroy," he meant utter destruction. Hence, our first test of the passages that Mr. Miller quoted shows that clear commands to destroy totally the Canaanite nations and to leave no one alive to breathe were imbedded in the texts that Mr. Miller quoted. Now the second test can be applied, which will be as simple as quoting passages in the book of Joshua that plainly say that when Joshua left nothing alive to breathe in the Canaanite regions he attacked, he was obeying what Yahweh had commanded Moses.

Joshua 10:40 So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as Yahweh, the God of Israel, had commanded.

Joshua 11:10 At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword. (Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms.) 11 Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed them, not sparing anything that breathed, and he burned up Hazor itself. 12 Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of Yahweh had commanded.

Joshua 11:14 The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed. 15 As Yahweh commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that Yahweh commanded Moses.

Mr. Miller, of course, didn't quote any of these passages, because they clearly dispute the position he is trying to defend. They show that the Israelites allegedly destroyed totally everyone in the cities they captured and left no one alive to breathe, but they also point out that in doing this, the Israelites were simply executing the commands that Yahweh had given to Moses. As these passages were written, there is no room at all to exonerate Yahweh from blame, as Mr. Miller tried to do in his article. Indeed, there is even one verse not yet quoted that explicitly says that Yahweh wanted the Canaanites to be totally destroyed without mercy.

Joshua 11:20 For it was Yahweh himself who hardened their [the kings defeated in battle] hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as Yahweh had commanded Moses.

This too is clear enough that it needs no extended explication. The verse claims that Yahweh himself had hardened the hearts of the Canaanite kings so that he could destroy them totally and without mercy, and it says that doing this was what Yahweh had commanded Moses. Mr. Miller said above that it seems "(a)t first blush" that the passages he quoted were saying that Yahweh was "taking the initiative" and was ordering the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites "without mercy," but doesn't the verse just quoted clearly show that there is no "first blush" way to deny Yahweh's direct involvement in these massacres. If the Bible is to be believed, Yahweh hardened the hearts of the Canaanite kings so that he could exterminate them without mercy. Why is it that so many would-be apologists can't seem to see what is clearly written in the biblical text? Or could it be that they do see these things but rationalize them away in order to come to terms with cognitive dissonance that they are wrestling with?

If any doubt is left in Mr. Miller's mind about whether Yahwah had taken the initiative in the Canaanite massacres, the third test of his "first-blush" comment should settle the matter. To apply this test, we have to go all the way back to the time when Yahweh called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. In his appearance to Moses in the burning bush, Yahweh left no doubt that he was taking the initiative to lead the Israelites into the land of Canaan.

Exodus 3:6 Then he [Yahweh] said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. 7 Yahweh said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey--the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."

I have emphasized in bold print the first person pronoun where Yahweh referred to himself while speaking to Moses. This emphasis shows rather clearly Yahweh's personal involvement in the exodus from Egypt and the entry into Canaan. He plainly said that he had "come down" to rescue the Israelites from Egypt and "to bring" them "into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey." He identified this land that he would lead the Israelites into as the "home" of the same seven nations listed in the passage that Mr. Miller quoted above from Deuteronomy 7:1. If what Yahweh allegedly said to Moses here was not "taking initiative," then what would he have had to do to take the initiative? The P version of this same scene also shows that Yahweh took the initiative in leading the Israelites out of Egypt and into the land that he had sworn to give to Abraham.

Exodus 6:2 God also said to Moses, "I am Yahweh. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name Yahweh I did not make myself known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant. 6 "Therefore, say to the Israelites: 'I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am Yahweh.'"

Anyone who can read these passages and not see that the Bible clearly claims that Yahweh was directly involved in the Israelite exodus and entry into Canaan must not want to see it. There is really no "first blush" about it. The Bible shows very plainly that the Hebrew god Yahweh took the initiative in the Hebrew invasion of Canaan.

Before I go on to answer other points in Mr. Miller's article, I think I can say without fear of successful gainsaying that the Old Testament clearly attributed the massacres of the Canaanites and Amalekites to direct commands from Yahweh, who wanted to destroy them totally and exterminate them without mercy. If we can't believe the Bible when it plainly says that Yahweh was so involved in the Canaanite and Amalekite massacres, then what in the Bible can we believe?

Miller:
At the end of Joshua's military campaigns, a list of 31 conquered kings is given. (The Israelites fail to obey the directive, however, and God faults them for this--and, as He predicted, the Canaanites do 'entice' Israel into practicing their religion.)

Till:
The statement that Mr. Miller just made is inconsistent with his attempt above to exonerate Yahweh of any blame in the Canaanite massacres, because here he has said that the Israelites "fail[ed] to obey the directive" and that "God fault[ed] them for this." He can't have it both ways. Yahweh either commanded the massacres or he didn't, and the analyses of relevant texts above show that the writers of these texts obviously thought that he did command them. However, Mr. Miller is suggesting here that orders to exterminate the Canaanites was the right thing to do, because when the Israelites "fail[ed] to obey the directive," the Canaanites enticed them into practicing their religion. If this is what Mr. Miller is suggesting, I wish he would explain himself. Does he believe that it was morally right to kill people in order to keep them from enticing Hebrews away from practicing Judaism? If so, he is opening a can of worms that I think will cause him all kinds of problems. For one thing, he should explain why Yahweh couldn't have kept his "chosen ones" from being enticed to practice Canaanite religions by just keeping them out of Canaan and leading them to a place where "false religions" wouldn't have been a problem. That way, killing people so that they couldn't entice Hebrews to practice their religion wouldn't have been necessary. A second problem is that Miller can't even prove that Judaism was the "true" religion of that time without engaging in special pleading, because the only "evidence" he can offer is that the Bible says that it originated with "God." As a final comment here, I must say that I find justification of the Canaanite massacres on the grounds that killing them kept them from enticing Hebrews away from Judaism to be a rather desperate argument. That kind of argumentation would justify not just Jews killing non-Jews but Christians killing Muslims or Muslims killing Christians, and so on ad infinitum, because they all think that theirs is the "true" religion.

Miller:
Obviously, there are a couple of good questions hiding in here:

  • Did God actually command Israel to do this, or did they just invent this divine sanction to justify territorial greed or genocidal tendencies?

Till:
Well, of course, my position in this is already a matter of record. As I noted in "Why Would God Bless America?" the belief that nations were chosen of or favored by gods was by no means unique to the Hebrews. The inscriptions on the Moabite Stone and the pavement slabs at the temple of Urta in Nimrud quoted in the article just linked to show that the kings Mesha of Moab and Assurnasirpal of Assyria believed that the gods had chosen their nations and led them to victories over their enemies. Mr. Miller, of course, probably believes that this was a quaint but misguided belief but, for some reason, thinks that the god Yahweh did chose the Israelites and led them to victory over the Canaanites. Why he would reject what Mesha and Assurnasirpal said in their inscriptions but accepts as absolute truth what "Joshua" said is something that he needs to explain. I doubt that he can explain it without resorting to the fallacy of special pleading.

Mr. Miller's other "good questions" follow immediately below. I won't comment on them until, he begins his discussion of them further along.

Miller:

  • Why would God use a nation as questionable as the post-Exodus Israelites to deliver His "judgment" on the Canaanites? (Why not just use natural disasters, such as earthquakes [Num 16], volcanic-type phenomena [Gen 19], or plague [2 Kgs 19.35]?)
  • What about all the innocent people killed in this "holy war"--families, "good" Canaanites, etc.? Even if it is 'okay' for God to execute judgment on nations within history, why didn't He only kill the evil-doers?
  • Doesn't wholesale slaughter of nations seem a little incompatible with a God of Love and Mercy?

These are not simple or light questions (if your heart is in right!), and so we must be very thorough in our analysis of the situation. We will need to approach this issue from a number of different sides, to make sure we have seen it clearly and from a large-enough perspective.

Till:
No, they certainly aren't "simple or light questions," and as we will see, Mr. Miller's answers to them show a decided bias on his part to defend the Bible, but I will point that out as we go along.

Miller:
We will use the following question-set in analyzing the issue:

  1. Do we have any precedents, paradigm cases, or similar incidents of such orders/actions to annihilate?
  2. Who exactly were these people that God wanted Israel to 'exterminate'?
  3. Were there any limits placed upon Israel in this venture, and what was the exact content of the orders?
  4. What general principles of God's governance might shed some light on the situation?

Then, I will try to focus any insights we get onto the opening questions.


Question 1:

  • Do we have any precedents, paradigm cases, or similar incidents of such orders/actions to annihilate?

Miller's answer:
There are a few situations in the OT in which something like this either (1) occurs or (2) is ordered: Sodom/Gomorrah, the Flood, and the Amalekites. And we will look at one "anti-Example" that might function as 'control data'--Ninevah.

Till:
I will alert everyone here to notice the line of reasoning that Mr. Miller uses. He will be seen arguing that the Canaanite and Amalekite massacres were morally right, because the Bible says that "God" had annihilated other people in earlier times. This is a form of circular reasoning, which is essentially saying that there was nothing wrong with the Bible's saying that Yahweh ordered the extermination of Canaanites and Amalekites, because the Bible says that before these massacres, "God" had also exterminated other people. In other words, Mr. Miller is engaging in special pleading. He is saying, in effect, that if the Bible says X, then X must be right, because X is in the Bible. The line of reasoning that follows below is why I said above that I had suspected from the beginning of Mr. Miller's article that he was going to use a God-can-do-no-wrong approach to "explaining" the Yahwistic massacres in the Old Testament. Readers will see right away now that my suspicion was correct.

Miller:

  • The story of Sodom and Gomorrah seems similar with the main exceptions that the cities were destroyed without human agency, and that the vegetation was destroyed. God used some type of natural disaster to accomplish the destruction.

Till:
I will ask readers to notice that Mr. Miller gives no consideration at all to the possibility that if Sodom and Gomorrah were indeed destroyed as the Bible claims, that too would have been morally reprehensible. As we continue, I will explain why such conduct on a god's part would have been morally offensive.

Miller:
There are several known facts about this situation which might prove relevant. S & G lived in a good land (Gen 13:10-12). Abraham saved their cities once, in a masterful military maneuver (Gen 14), after which Abraham 'witnessed' to them. They were exposed to/had access to the pure message of God through Melchizedek--the priest-king of Salem--(who probably led Abraham to the true knowledge of God!).

Till:
Please notice that all through his "answer" here, Mr. Miller is assuming the historical accuracy [inerrancy] of the Bible.

Before I go on, I think some additional comments are in order. Mr. Miller said that Melchizedek had probably led Abraham to the true knowledge of God, but that is reading a lot into the Genesis-14 story of their encounter, which is so full of inconsistencies that it cannot be considered a reliable source of information. Notice these points of inconsistency.

Genesis 14:1 And it came about in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, 2 that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 All these came as allies to the valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). 4 Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but the thirteenth year they rebelled. 5 In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him, came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim and the Zuzim in Ham and the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, 6 and the Horites in their Mount Seir, as far as El-paran, which is by the wilderness. 7 Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and conquered all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, who lived in Hazazon-tamar. 8 And the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah and the king of Admah and the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) came out; and they arrayed for battle against them in the valley of Siddim, 9 against Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim and Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar--four kings against five. 10 Now the valley of Siddim was full of tar pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and they fell into them. But those who survived fled to the hill country. 11 Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food supply, and departed. 12 They also took Lot, Abram's nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom.

Verse 10 emphasized above says that the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled and fell into the tar pits, which left the forces of Chedorlaomer free to sack Sodom and Gomorrah, at which time they took Abraham's nephew Lot captive. According to verses 13-16, upon hearing of his nephew's capture, Abraham took a force of 318 after Chedorlaomer's forces and rescued Lot and other captives who had been taken in the sacking of Sodom and Gomorrah. On his return, Abraham had his encounter with Melchizedek.

17 Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." He gave him a tenth of all. 21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself."

The pronouns are typically vague here, but the general understanding (Heb. 7:4) is that Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek. The inconsistency, however, involves the presence of the king of Sodom with Melchizedek, because verse 10, emphasized above, says that the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell into the tar pits as they were fleeing. One might say, "Well, they fell into the tar pits, but they were able to get out of them," but the rest of the verse doesn't support that interpretation, because it says that "those who survived fled to the hill country." That certainly implies that those who fell into the tar pits didn't survive, so we have to wonder how the king of Sodom, after falling into the tar pits, was able to go out with Melchizedek and meet Abraham on his return from the battle with Chedorlaomer. There is enough of a problem here to cast doubt on the reliability of this account.

Besides that, it doesn't say that Melchizedek had led Abraham to "the true knowledge of God." That Melchizedek did not so lead Abraham is certainly implied by references to Abraham's relationship with Yahweh before this encounter with Melchizedek.

Genesis 12:1 Yahweh had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. 2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." 4 So Abram left, as Yahweh had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.

The broader context of these verses claim that Abraham had another encounter with Yahweh after he had entered the land of Canaan, at which time Yahweh promised to give this land to Abraham's descendants.

6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Yahweh appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built an altar there to Yahweh, who had appeared to him.

There is even more, but these examples are sufficient to show that Abraham, supposedly, had a relationship with Yahweh well before his encounter with Melchizedek. Furthermore, Stephen said in his speech before the Jewish council that Yahweh had even appeared to Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia.

Acts 7:2 To this he [Stephen] replied: "Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. 3 'Leave your country and your people,' God said, 'and go to the land I will show you.' 4 "So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living.

If Mr. Miller believes in biblical inerrancy, then he has to agree that Abraham enjoined a very close relationship with Yahweh long before his encounter with Melchizedek. I can't imagine how Melchizedek could have led Abraham to a better knowledge of Yahweh than he already had, since Yahweh had routinely dropped in to visit and talk with Abraham long before his encounter with Melchizedek.

I have taken the long way around here to make a point: One should not accept uncritically just anything that he reads on an internet site--and that includes anything that I say too. With that in mind, I will return to Mr. Miller's defense of the Yahwistic massacres.

Miller:
Nonetheless, they were extremely evil people (and who were proud of it--Is 3.9:

Till:
Notice again that Mr. Miller is using the if-the-Bible-says-it-it-must-be-true "apologetic" method.

Miller:
[Nonetheless, they were extremely evil people (and who were proud of it--Is 3.9:] The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it.), and their crimes were both against God (Gen 13.13) and against people (Gen 18.20).

Till:
So exactly what is Mr. Miller arguing here? His position seems to be that if people are "evil," they should be killed. If so, this raises the question of whose standard will be used to decide that they are evil. If Mr. Miller says, "Well, God determined that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were evil," he will again be caught engaging in special pleading, because he will be arguing, in effect, that if the Bible says that God found the people of Sodom and Gomorrah to be evil, then they were evil, because whatever the Bible says is true. Such reasoning would be as fallacious as when a Muslim argues that X is true because the Qur'an says that it is.

There is an important factor in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah that Mr. Miller is overlooking, but I won't introduce it until he anticipates it below and tries to quibble his way out of the problem it poses.

Miller:
Some twenty-five years after Abraham/Melky encounter, and several years after Lot had apparently been trying to 'moralize' the people (cf. Gen 19:9), the outcry to God is so great that He sends two angels to destroy the city and its environs (Gen 19:24ff). God had announced His intentions to Abraham in Gen 18, and agreed to spare the city if a few righteous could be found. Apparently, only Lot and his family (less than the required ten!) fit the description adequately, so the entire culture was judged and destroyed by God. The encounter involving Lot, the angels, and the men of the city is a vivid description of the evil of the city (Gen 19), and the NT refers to it as an example of judgment-future (2 Pet 2.6) with a special emphasis on sexual perversion (Jude 7). The fact that 'all the men of the city' were involved in the intended assault on Lot, indicates that the 'outcry' must have come from surrounding areas--hence, the 'international' scope of their evil.

Till:
Besides Mr. Miller's continual special pleading and question begging, which I have now pointed out several times, I just have to make a couple of comments here. First, Lot was not the target of the intended assault; the two "angels" who were in his house were their intended target.

Genesis 19:4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom--both young and old--surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them." 6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, "No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof." 9 "Get out of our way," they replied. And they said, "This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We'll treat you worse than them." They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

If Lot had been the intended target of these men, they had their chance to assault him while he was standing outside his door pleading with the crowd, not to mention that Lot's regular presence there as a resident of Sodom would have given these men plenty of chances to assault him. The passage clearly claims that the two men [angels] who had come to Lot's house were their target.

Second, the fact that the Bible claims in this story that all the men in the city, except Lot, gathered to take part in a homosexual orgy (Gen. 19:4) should be sufficient to arch some mental eyebrows about the biblical inerrancy claim. How likely is it that all the men in a city would have tried to participate in a homosexual gangbanging? It is far more probable that this is just another case of exaggeration, which was so typical of biblical writers.

Miller:
The destruction was immediate and total, including the surrounding cities and the vegetation (Gen 19.25), and is even used as an example by our Lord in Luke 17.29.

Till:
I am interrupting momentarily again to note that all through his comments immediately above, Mr. Miller continued to argue from an assumption that the Bible is inerrant. If the Bible said A about Sodom, then A was true. If the Bible said B about Sodom, then B was true. If the Bible said C about Sodom, then C was true. If the Bible said... well, the point should be clear by now. Mr. Miller is arguing that Yahweh's destruction of the Canaanites and Amalekites was okay, because he had previously destroyed the people of Sodom and Gomorrah too. It apparently did not occur to him that if Yahweh did indeed destroy the populations of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, that too would have been as morally offensive as his destruction of the Canaanites and Amalekites. If not, why not?

Let's see what else Mr. Miller had to say about Sodom and Gomorrah before I comment further.

Miller:
It is important to note that (1) they had plenty of access to 'truth' (at least 25 years);

Till:
So the Bible says, but how does Mr. Miller know that what the Bible says about this is historically accurate? He is once again engaging in the fallacy of special pleading.

Furthermore, he begs the question of "truth" by assuming that Abraham's god was the true god. How does Mr. Miller know that he was?

Miller:
2) their crimes were perverse, public, and the cause of international protest/outcry to God (!);

Till:
This is more argumentation by special pleading. Mr. Miller's statement above shows that he is assuming the historical accuracy [inerrancy] of what the Bible says about Sodom. Does he have any extrabiblical evidence that the crimes of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were "perverse, public, and the cause of international protest/outcry to God"? How does he know, for example, that Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed by volcanic erruptions known to have happened in that region and that the superstitions of the time, which saw natural calamities as punishment from "God," spawned legends about divine judgment on these cities, which later found their way into the biblical text? These are legitimate questions that Mr. Miller should address. If he is just going to assume that whatever the Bible says has to be true, then why write a lengthy article in which he tried to prove his premise that the Yahwistic massacres in the Bible were morally right? Why not just say, "The Bible says it, and so it must be true"?

Miller:
(3) the annihilation was a judgment;

Till:
This too is argumentation by assertion and special pleading. In order to prove this assertion, Mr. Miller would have to prove beyond question that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was executed by the "true god," and there is no way that he can possibly prove this.

Miller:
(4) God was willing to spare the innocent people--if any could be found;

Till:
The children, what about the innocent children? Let's notice what Mr. Miller says below about the children.

Miller:
(5) children living in the households of their evil parents apparently died swiftly in the one-day event (instead of being killed--as homeless orphans--by a combination of starvation, wild beasts, exposure, and disease; or instead of being captured and sold as slaves by neighboring tribes, for the older ones perhaps?);

Till:
So finally we come to the factor that I said I would discuss when we came to it in Mr. Miller's article. That factor is the children. In a city, of any appreciable size, there are bound to be children and expectant mothers, so if "God" really did destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, as the Bible claims, he also killed children and unborn babies. I discussed in detail in this section of "God is Pro-Life?" that if the biblical stories of the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the massacres of the Canaanites and other non-Hebraic tribes really happened as the Bible claims, then the god Yahweh was directly responsible for killing inestimable numbers of children and unborn babies, a fact that would clearly dispute the frequently heard claim that "God is pro-life."

I am glad to see that Mr. Miller recognized that the destruction of Sodom, as recorded in the Bible, would have necessarily involved the killing of children, but I was disappointed to see him resort to the often-heard inerrantist quibble that Yahweh actually did the children a favor by killing them. This attempt to justify the brutality of the god Yahweh has taken various forms. One variation of it is that if Yahweh had not killed the Canaanite and Amalekite children, they would have grown up to be "evil" like their parents, so by killing them as children, while they were still in a state of innocence, Yahweh did them a favor, because they would go to heaven instead of being condemned to hell if they had been allowed to grow up. Mr. Miller's take on this quibble as he applied it to the children of Sodom is that Yahweh did them a favor, because if they had been left alive, they would have died of starvation or exposure or disease or from attacks by wild animals, so by killing them "swiftly," Yahweh had shown them mercy. It is really hard to believe that biblical inerrantists would be so desperate to defend their belief that they would resort to such absurdities as this, but readers have just seen Mr. Miller present his variation of this quibble.

This kind of quibbling ignores completely a fundamental principle of the nature of "God" as he was presented in an allegedly inerrant Bible. He was presumably omniscient and omnipotent, and if that is so, there would have been nothing that Yahweh did not know and nothing logically possible that he could not have done. Such a deity, then, could easily solve the problem of how to keep children alive and simultaneously protected from starvation, exposure, disease, and wild animals. Hence, what Mr. Miller is, in effect, arguing is that it would have been impossible for a deity who could speak the universe into existence, part the Red Sea, stop the mouths of lions, enable men to walk through a fiery furnance unharmed, resurrect the dead, etc., etc., etc. to find a way to keep orphaned children alive, and so he had to kill them. This is the kind of extreme that biblical inerrantists have resorted to when they had no logical arguments on their side. I regret to see that Mr. Miller has followed in their steps.

Miller:
(6) the one innocent man and woman are delivered (along with their children of the household).

Till:
Mr. Miller may see Lot as an "innocent man," but I can't stretch my imagination far enough to see him that way. As noted in the passage that I quoted above, Lot offered his daughters as sexual objects to the crowd that had gathered at his door (Gen. 19:8), and after he and his daughters had escaped the destruction of Sodom, he engaged in drinking orgies with his daughters that ended with the impregnation of both of them (19:30-38). In the New Testament, Lot was referred to as "righteous Lot" (2 Peter 2:7), but if Lot was the standard by which righteousness was determined back then, that doesn't speak too well for biblical standards of morality.

Immediately below, Mr. Miller takes us to the story of Noah's flood to try to prove that the Yahwistic massacres in Canaan and Amalek were morally right. As we go through that section, I would ask everyone to notice that Mr. Miller is following the same fallacious line of reasoning that he used above by arguing that the massacres of the Canaanites and Amalekites were not immoral, because long before these massacres, Yahweh had killed everyone in the entire world except for Noah's family. The way that Miller argues here would be somewhat as if a person should argue that John Doe committed no immoral acts when he murdered a woman in 2002 and another woman in 2004, because in 1989, he had murdered 100 different people. Such reasoning fails to recognize the real issue, which, in this case, is whether it was morally right, even for a god, to order the massacre of entire tribes and nations. That issue must be addressed on its own merits, and it cannot be proven morally correct on the grounds that the god allegedly involved in the massacres under consideration had committed several other massacres before them.

Miller:
The Flood of Noah:

This was the largest annihilation/judgment to date (although it is very difficult to estimate with confidence the population at this time, especially given that 'violence' was at an extreme high and correspondingly would have made homicide rates horrendously high), and involved people, animals, and much vegetation (Gen 6-8).

Till:
All that I need to do here is point out that Mr. Miller is again engaging in question begging and special pleading. He called the story of Noah's flood "the largest... judgment to date" and painted a dismal picture of moral conditions at that time, so he is again begging the question of the historical accuracy [inerrancy] of the Bible, which he must establish before he can legitimately call the biblical account of Noah's flood "the largest... judgment to date." Indeed, even if he could somehow prove that this flood really happened, that would in no way prove that it was a "judgment" from "God" any more than anyone could prove that other natural catastrophes were divine judgments.

There is plenty of evidence to show that Noah's flood was just another biblical story that didn't really happen as claimed. Meteor Crater, located on I-40 between Flagstaff and Winslow, Arizona, was formed when an iron meteorite 30-50 meters in diameter slammed into the earth around 50,000 years ago and left a crater 570 feet deep and 4,100 feet in diameter. The dating of the impact has been determined by radiometric examination of impact rocks and metals. I have personally seen this impact crater, but those who haven't can see from the picture linked to above that the rim walls are still sharply defined, and the hole or crater is still very much in evidence. In "Art That Survived Noah's Flood," I analyzed biblical chronology to show that if the Bible is indeed inerrant, the universal flood could have happened no earlier than 8,403 years ago. I did this analysis to show that the present existence of paleolithic art in Southwestern Europe, which has been radiometrically dated to as far back as 30,000 years ago, clearly disputes the biblical claim of a universal flood that covered the entire earth over 20,000 years after the oldest of the paleolithic cave pictures were painted, because water filling the caves for a year would have certainly destroyed those paintings. The partly submerged paintings in Cosquer Cave on the Mediterranean coast of Southern France show what would have happened to paleolithic art if the caves in which they were painted had been flooded. In the same way, the existence of Meteor Crater in Arizona, which, as noted above, formed from an impact some 50,000 years ago, is proof that a universal flood did not cover the earth some 8 to 10 thousand years ago. If it had, the crater would have been filled with sediments, and the rim walls would have been washed away.

There are other evidences that dispute the biblical claim of a universal flood, but the two I have mentioned are sufficient to show that Noah's flood is at best a legend that has no basis in fact, but I am replying point by point to Mr. Miller's article, so let's see what else he had to say about the biblical flood.

Miller:
In a very incisive view of God's heart, we see the 'emotions' surrounding this apparent judgment:

Gen 6.5 The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth--men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air--for I am grieved that I have made them."

Till:
As I asked in this part of "God Is Pro-Life?" why wouldn't the omniscient, omnipotent deity who created the world and then humans as his crowning achievement have known that they would turn out the way described in the passage that Mr. Miller quoted? This is a question that inerrantists rarely address, so Mr. Miller can talk forever about "a very incisive view of God's heart" in reference to the alleged biblical flood, but if this deity was really so grieved over the condition of morality on the earth at that time, he had only himself to blame. He created the humans who so grieved him, and his omniscience should have told him how his creation would turn out.

I am being facetious, of course, but with a serious intent. When biblical inerrantist try to put human emotions into their omniscient, omnipotent deity, they commit the fallacy of anthropomorphism, which attempts to make their god emotionally like humans. We see this fallacy committed when preachers tear-jerkingly depict the agony and anguish that "God" must have felt as his only son hung dying on the cross, but if "God is not a man that he should repent" (1 Sam. 15:29; Num. 23:19), why would this deity who was depicted to be so different emotionally from humans in other matters have been so humanlike in matters of grief? If the Bible is inerrant, as Mr. Miller and his cohorts claim, then whatever "incisive" grief Yahweh presumably experienced at the time of the flood had to have been very unhumanlike, because what sane human being could have intentionally sent upon the earth a catastrophe that would kill everyone on it except for eight chosen ones?

Furthermore, depictions of grief and anguish that Yahweh allegedly felt when he caused the extermination of untold numbers of people is the opposite of how biblical inerrantists react to moral complaints about the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Yahwistic massacres committed after the exodus. In my first public debate with a biblical inerrantist, I cited the Yahwistic atrocities as a reason to question biblical errancy, and my opponent resonded by saying something like, "Farrell Till's problem is that God just didn't do things the way he wanted." A favorite sound-bite "reply" that Robert Turkel makes to such objections is that skeptics are complaining because God didn't kiss their patoots. In other words, would-be apologists try to play both sides of the street. When it is to their advantage to present "God" in an emotionally anthropomorphic way, they don't hesitate to do so. When it is to their advantage not to, they dismiss all complaints about Yahwistic barbarism by screaming, "God is not a human, so you can't judge him for having ways that are higher than ours."

Welcome to the world of biblical "apologetics."

Miller:
We also see the rather violent nature of the crimes in Gen 6.13:

So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.

The story is familiar: (1) God decides to 'spare the innocent' again and warns Noah to build a boat for him and his household (apparently not so innocent);

Till:
The meaning of Mr. Miller's parenthetical statement eludes me, but the important thing to address here is his claim that God decided to "spare the innocent" again. Again? When did he spare them the first time? Having referred to the destruction of Sodom before bringing in the flood, maybe the "again" refers to that story, which in terms of chronology happened after the flood. Anyway, I assume that Mr. Miller is claiming that in warning Lot's family to escape, God "spared the innocent," but even he noted above that the children of Sodom were not spared. Obviously, then, as this story was told, "God" spared only a few of the innocent, because we would suspect that there would have been far more children in Sodom than the four people in Lot's family who escaped. As noted, of course, these "innocent ones" right away engaged in a drunken incestuous orgy that resulted in Lot's impregnation of his own daughters (Gen. 19:30-38). If that is Mr. Miller's idea of sparing the innocent, all I can say is that my view of innocence is very different from his.

In the matter of the flood, however, God most certainly did not decide to spare the innocent, because as I pointed out above, children are certainly innocent, and just as there would have necessarily been children and unborn babies in Sodom and Gomorrah, in a destruction of the entire world, far more children and unborn babies would have been killed. That children are innocents, who don't know the difference in good and evil, was even recognized in the Bible. When the Israelites rebelled upon hearing the report of the spies whom Moses had sent ahead to Canaan, Yahweh condemned them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until all of the adults were dead, but the children were exempted from this Yahwistic curse. In referring back to this event years later, when the Israelites were preparing to enter Canaan, Moses said that the children were spared because of their innocence.

Deuteronomy 1:34 When Yahweh heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: 35 "Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your forefathers, 36 except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed Yahweh wholeheartedly." 37 Because of you Yahweh became angry with me also and said, "You shall not enter it, either. 38 But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it. 39 And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad--they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it."

Here is biblical recognition that children are innocents, who don't know the difference in good and evil, so when Mr. Miller says that "God" again decided to "spare the innocent," he apparently dismissed the drowning of untold hundreds or thousands of children as if it were nothing. We will see below that he tried to justify Yahweh's killing of children in the flood, because they "undoubtedly died swiftly."

Miller:
(2) the evil/violence of the people were both against God and against humanity (Gen 6.12) and was very extensive ("filled");

Till:
All I need to say here is that Mr. Miller continues to beg the question of biblical accuracy [inerrancy]. What evidence can he present to corroborate the Bible's claim of extensive "evil" at that time. I personally find it hard to believe that so-called "evil" was any more extensive then than it is now.

I will also remind readers to keep in mind that the deity who presumably sent this flood was the same deity who, according to biblical chronology, had created humans just 1656 years before the flood, so since this deity is supposed to be omniscient, i. e., all-knowing, why didn't he know that his creation was going to turn out the way the Bible described them at this time? If he knew that humans would become so depraved that killing all of them but eight would become necessary but created them anyway, does this mean that Yahweh enjoys killing? When the flood story is analyzed critically, it doesn't paint a very flattering picture of the biblical god.

Miller:
(3) some of the evil was probably sexual violence or violation (Gen 6.1-2);

Till:
Mr. Miller only cited his proof text, but I am going to quote it in context so that readers will see just what absurdities were involved in the Genesis flood story.

Genesis 6:1 When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then Yahweh said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. 5 Yahweh saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 Yahweh was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So Yahweh said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth--men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air--for I am grieved that I have made them."

A complete exegesis of this passage to bring out the meaning recognized by all but biblical inerrantists, who don't want to believe that silly myths are in the Bible, would take far too long, so I am going to use links to refer readers to articles I have previously written, which show that an abbreviation of "Enoch's" legend of fallen angels who married human women is imbedded in the verses just quoted above. The "sons of God" were the fallen angels, and the daughters of men were the women whom the angels married to produce a race of evil giants. The text quoted above, like many English versions, tried to hide the meaning of this myth by transliterating the Hebrew word nephilim in verse 4, but the KJV rendered it as giants: "There were giants in the earth in those days." That this was the intended meaning of nephelim can be verified by reading the expanded version of this myth in 1 Enoch. For the convenience of readers, I will link to sections of an electronic version of this pseudephegraphic work where the following points can be verified, but first I will quote from 1 Enoch 6:1 to show the striking parallel between the opening verses from Genesis 6, quoted above, and "Enoch's" introduction of this myth.

I Enoch 6:1 And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto 2 them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men 3 and beget us children.'

As "Enoch" continued to narrate this myth, the following claims, among many others, were made. By scrolling down from the beginning of the electronic version in the links below, one can easily find the chapters and verses cited.

  • The women taken by the angels became pregnant and bore "great giants," whose height reached "three thousand ells" (7:3). The length of an "ell" varied from country to country. E. Isaac's translation of 1 Enoch put the height of these giants at 300 cubits, which would have been about 450 feet. In other words, the giants in this myth were about as tall as ten-story buildings.
  • These giants consumed "all the acquisitions of men," and when humans could no longer sustain them, the giants began to eat humans and "to devour one another's flesh" (7:4-6).
  • The angels Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel looked down on the earth, saw the carnage of the giants, and heard the pleas of humans to do something about the giants being born to women who consorted with the angels (chapter 9).
  • The "Most High" sent Uriel to the son of Lamech [Noah] and told him that the end was approaching and that "the whole earth" would be destroyed (chapter 10).
  • God told the angel Raphael to seize Azazel--the leader of the fallen angels--and bind him "hand and foot" and then cast him into an "opening" in the desert, cover him with darkness, and keep him there until the day of judgment when he would be "cast into the fire" (10:4-7).

To summarize the entire myth would take much too long, but the links provided above will give access to readers interested in seeing more of it. Other angels were bound and cast into the pit to be kept there until the day of judgment. All of this is silly myth, of course, but New Testament writers apparently took it very seriously. The author of 2 Peter referred to angels who had sinned and been cast into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment" (2:4), and Jude also made an obvious reference to these fallen angels.

Jude 5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home--these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

Most inerrantists are loathe to admit that a silly pseudophegraphic work like 1 Enoch had any influence on New Testament writers, but biblical scholars who don't have inerrancy axes to grind recognize the contribution that 1 Enoch had on New Testament writers. In the introduction to his translation, E. Issac expressed his recognition of the contribution that this book had made to the writing of the New Testament.

Likewise, even though Charles [R. H.] may have exaggerated when he claimed that "nearly all" writers of the New Testament were familiar with 1 Enoch, there is no doubt that the New Testament world was influenced by its language and thought. It influenced Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, Hebrews, 1 John, Jude (which quotes it directly), and Revelation (with numerous points of contact). There is little doubt that 1 Enoch was influential in molding New Testament doctrines concerning the nature of the Messiah, the Son of Man, the messianic kingdom, demonology, the future, resurrection, final judgment, the whole eschatological theater, and symbolism. No wonder, therefore, that the book was highly regarded by many of the earliest apostolic and Church Fathers ("A New Translation and Introduction," The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth, Volume 1, p. 10).

Isaac noted parenthetically [above] that Jude had quoted 1 Enoch "directly." The directness of Jude's quotation can be seen by juxtaposing his quotation with the statement quoted from 1 Enoch.

1 Enoch 1:9 And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgement upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly: and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.

Jude 14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him."

Notice that Jude referred to Enoch here as "the seventh from Adam." Since Enoch was listed in Genesis 5:1-8 as the seventh generation in Adam's genealogy, that is a rather obvious indication that the author of Jude thought that Enoch really did write the pseudepigraphic book attributed to him and just quoted above, so if New Testament writers took 1 Enoch seriously, as they apparently did, why should we not think that whoever wrote the book of Genesis would have also regarded the sons of God/daughters of men myth highly enough to imbed it into Genesis 6?

We should not be surprised that mythological references to giants would be in the Bible, because many ancient cultures had such myths. The Greeks, of course, had the Cyclops, the Norse tribes had their Jotuns, a race of giants, who, unlike the biblical fallen angels, often married goddesses rather than earthly females. The word Jotun was derived from a root that meant "to eat," because they were thought to be man-eaters. (Sounds familiar, doesn't it?) The link above will also discuss giants in the mythology of Wales, Ireland, and other European cultures. No one who reads these myths will take them seriously, but believers will read about nephilim (giants) in the Bible and accept this without question. I guess it is all a matter of childhood indoctrination.

I was only able to scratch the surface of this myth, so I will refer interested readers to "If It Walks Like a Duck..." and "The Sons of God and the 'Daughters of Men'" where I discussed this myth in much greater detail. I think that any reasonable person who reads the evidence above and in these articles will see that Genesis 6:1-2, which Mr. Miller quoted above to prove how "evil" the people of the earth were at the time of the flood, was actually part of a myth about 450-foot giants, born to women that consorted with fallen angels, who corrupted the earth. I can't see anything in this scriptural citation that would give any credence to Mr. Miller's claim that Yahweh did nothing morally wrong when he ordered the extermination of the Canaanites and Amalekites, but, of course, I am not struggling to believe that documents written in ancient, superstitious times, when vengeful gods were commonplace, were inerrant in their content.

Miller:
(4) Noah apparently "preached righteousness" to these people for at least a hundred years! (cf. 2 Pet 2.5);

Till:
I have heard this 100-year claim to, and I even parroted it myself when I was a preacher, but I don't know where this is taught in the Bible. The verse that Mr. Miller just cited says only that Noah was a "preacher of righteousness," but it doesn't say how long Noah preached righteousness. I suspect that this 100-year belief has been derived from Genesis 5:32, which says that Noah was 500 years old when he begot Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Genesis 7:6, which says that he was 600 years old when the flood came upon the earth. There is nothing here, however, to indicate that Noah preached righteousness for 100 years. The only thing that can be determined from these two verses is that 100 years passed from the time that Noah began to have children and the time when the flood came. If Noah did "preach righteousness" for 100 years, I wonder when he found time to work on building the ark.

I suspect that biblical inerrantists reached this 100-year period out of a recognition that a boat 450 feet long could not have been built within a few weeks or months or even years, and so they derived their 100-year theory in an effort to give a semblance of plausibility to an implausible story. For the sake of argument, however, let's just assume that Mr. Miller is right and that Noah did "preach righteousness" for 100 years. So what? Is that any morally justifiable reason to wipe out the entire world, which, as pointed out above, would have necessarily included untold numbers of children and unborn babies? I just can't buy it, but maybe my standard of morality is higher than Mr. Miller's.

Miller:
5) this long period of preaching was an act of patience on God's part (I Pet 3.20);

Till:
This is an example of how biblical inerrantists try to play both sides of the street. If any skeptic dares to say anything about the delay in the coming of Jesus and the final judgment, which several New Testament writers indicated were coming soon, inerrantists will quickly quote or cite 2 Peter 3:8-9, which was said to address the same kind of complaints that were being made in New Testament times.

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

See how it works? Inerrantists will say that the 2,000-year delay in Jesus's return is just God's way of showing patience. He doesn't want anyone to perish, so he has delayed the return for two thousand years, but back at the time of the flood, he was willing to wait only 100 years. It would seem that "God's" concept of patience has greatly increased over the years. Furthermore, if the reason for the delay in Jesus's return is that "God" doesn't want anyone to perish, does that mean that back in the time of Noah, he didn't care how many perished, and so his patience endured for just 100 years?

Doesn't anyone besides me ever think about these things?

Miller:
(6) in spite of the warnings, there were apparently no 'changed minds'. [sic]

Till:
So I guess "God's" patience just finally wore out, and so he decided to kill even the children and unborn babies.

Miller:
Let's note again that (1) they had plenty of access to 'truth' (at least 100 years) and at least a year of specific 'flood warnings';

Till:
There is no need for me to comment on that again.

Miller:
2) their crimes were violent and pervasive to God(!);

Till:
The same here. I will just remind readers to notice that Mr. Miller is still begging the question of biblical accuracy [inerrancy].

Miller:
(3) the annihilation was a judgment;

Till:
He is still engaging in question begging and special pleading. He assumes that whatever the Bible says about this alleged flood has to be true. The possibility of myth or legend finding its way into the Bible has apparently not occurred to him.

Miller:
(4) God was willing to spare the innocent people--if any could be found;

Till:
Uh, "God" couldn't find any children? Oh, yes, Mr. Miller refers to the children immediately below, and I am sure that everyone can guess what he is going to say.

Miller:
(5) children living in the households of their evil parents would have undoubtedly died swiftly

Till:
And so that made it all right? I don't suppose that Mr. Miller would say that when Andrea Yates drowned her five children, she was subjecting them to a "swift" and merciful death. Surely not!

Miller:
[the Flood was more of a sudden-event a la tidal waves, than a gradual rising water--cf. Gen 7.11: In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month-- on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.]

Till:
I'm not trying to be sarcastic here, but I just don't see how Mr. Miller gets "tidal waves" from this. The "fountains of the deep" would have been, well, in the "deep," so why would they have necessarily caused tidal waves or the surface? For the sake of argument, however, let's just grant Mr. Miller a concession about the tidal waves. If the flood really happened, this way, why would that necessarily mean that in the entire world, all of the children died "swiftly"? I wonder if Mr. Miller watched any television coverage of the tsunami caused by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean in December 2004. If so, then he surely saw people, including children, running as the tidal wave swept upon the land and others, including children, who had survived by grabbing onto trees and debris floating by. If Noah's flood really happened, there would have been trees and debris for the children of that time to cling to, so how can Miller say that all of the children would have died "swiftly"? Even if they had, would that have made the killing of untold numbers of innocent children and unborn babies right?

There seems to be no limit to the extremes that inerrantists are willing to go to find inerrancy in the Bible.

Miller:
(6) the one innocent man and woman are delivered (along with their children of the household).

Till:
Their children? All three of Noah's sons were married, so I would assume that the Bible intended readers to understand that they too were adults. The real children of the time were ignored by the all-knowing, all-mericiful, omnibenevolent Yahweh and were allowed to die in the flood... but swiftly, of course.

I have now gone through, point by point, everything that Mr. Miller has said about the destructions of Sodom and Gomorrah and the entire earth, so I have a question to ask those who are reading this: Did you see anything that he said that would morally justify Yahweh's killing of untold thousands? If so, please point it out to me, because I honestly can't see it. As I said at the beginning of my reply, Mr. Miller's chief point of justification seems to be that if "God" did it, it had to be right. In other words, he is arguing that "God" can do no wrong, but he needs to do more than just assume this. He needs to present logical argumentation to support it.

At this point, Mr. Miller turned to the Amalekite massacre, mentioned above, so to keep the length of my replies to him within reason, I am going to stop here and continue my reply to his article in Part Two.



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