God's Killings in Joshua

The book of Joshua can be summed up with the following words: "So Joshua ... utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded." (10:40) He did it to Jericho, Ai, Makkedah, Linah, Lachish, Gever, Eglon, Hebron, Debir, and 20 other cities. And he did it under God's command.

And God wasn't just an innocent bystander either. He was an active combatant. "The Lord God fought for Israel." (10:42) God slew them with a great slaughter and even "chased them along the way." Sometimes he "threw down great stones from heaven," and once he even stopped the sun from moving so that he and Joshua could get all their killing done in the daylight.

There are a couple other killings in Joshua that deserve mention: A family is burned and stoned to death (along with their animals) to punish the father for taking "the accursed thing", five kings are killed and hung on trees.


33. The Jericho Massacre

34. Achan and his family are stoned and burned to death

35. The Ai Massacre

36. God stops the sun so that Joshua can get his killing done in the daylight

37. Five kings are killed and hung on trees

38. Joshua utterly destroyed all that breathed as the Lord God commanded

39. The genocide of twenty kingdoms

40. The Anakim: Some more giant killing

33. The Jericho Massacre

Jericho is one of God's more famous killings. And believers seem to like it a lot. They sing songs about it, and tell their children about it.

Here's how it goes.

God tells Joshua that he has given the city of Jericho into his hands and that he and his men should march around the city every day for six days with seven priests marching before the ark blowing seven trumpets made of rams' horns.

The LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns. Joshua 6:2-4a

On the seventh day the seven priests will march around seven times blowing their seven trumpets. They'll make a long blast, everyone will yell, and the walls will fall down.

The seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat. 6:4b-5

So the trumpets sounded and the people yelled and the walls came tumbling down.

On the seventh day ... they compassed the city seven times. And ... at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city. ... So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and ... the wall fell down flat. 6:15-20

Then Joshua told the soldiers to kill everyone in the city as an offering to God, except for the prostitute, Rahab, and her family. But all the silver, gold, bronze, and iron belonged to God alone.

The city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD. 6:17-19

So the soldiers went into the city and killed everything in it. Men, women, young, old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys. But they spared Rahab and her family.

They utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword. ... And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had. 6:21-25

(Rahab and her family were spared because she protected the Israelite spies by lying about their whereabouts.)

Then they burned everything in the city, except for the gold, silver, iron, and bronze, which they put into God's treasury.

They burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. 6:24

After destroying Jericho, Joshua said that whoever rebuilt the city would be cursed by God and be forced to sacrifice his oldest and youngest sons.

Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it. 6:26

(According to 1 Kings 16.34, this prophecy was fulfilled when Hiel rebuilt Jericho. God made him lay the foundation with the body of his oldest son and set up the gates with his youngest son's body "according to the word of the Lord.")

Estimated number killed: 1000.

34. Achan and his family are stoned and burned to death

The story begins with Joshua sending spies to the land of Ai. The spies return saying Ai would be easy to conquer, r equiring only a few thousand men.

Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai ... and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. And they returned to Joshua, and said ...let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai ... for they are but few. Joshua 7:2-3

So Joshua sent 3,000 soldiers, but they were defeated by the men of Ai, who killed about 36 of them.

So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men. 7:4-5

When Joshua heard what had happened, he tore his clothes, fell on his face, and put dirt on his head, thereby proving that he was a real Bible character.

Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. 7:6

He then asked God why they were defeated.

Joshua said, Alas, O LORD God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? 7:7

God told Joshua to get up off his face.

The LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? 7:10

And then God said that the Israelites were defeated by Ai because someone took an accursed thing during the Jericho Massacre.

Israel hath sinned ... for they have even taken of the accursed thing ... and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. 7:11-12

God told Joshua what he needed to do to get back to successful genocide: burn to death the man with the accursed thing, along with his family.

He that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath. 7:15

God even pointed out the guy. His name was Achan.

In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man. ... So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 7:14-18

So Joshua ordered Achan to confess.

Joshua said unto Achan ... make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me. 7:19

And he did.

Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. 7:20-21

Joshua then rounded up Achan, his family, his livestock, and all their possessions. "And all Israel stoned them with stones and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones." And that made God less angry.

And Joshua ...took Achan ... and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep ... And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. ... So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. 7:24-26

Since Achan's sons and daughters were stoned and burned along with him, there must have been at least 5 victims here. (No mention is made of his wife.)

35. The Ai Massacre

After stoning and burning to death Achan and his family (34), Joshua was back in the genocide business.

God told Joshua to do unto Ai as they did unto Jericho, except that this time the Israelites could keep some of the loot for themselves (instead of giving it all to him).

Thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves. Joshua 8:2

So that's what they did.

They killed the soldiers,

Joshua and all Israel ... slew the men of Ai ... so that they let none of them remain or escape. 8.21-22

murdered all the women and children,

Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 8:26

burned the city,

Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever. 8:28

killed the King of Ai, and hung his dead body on a tree.

The king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide. 8:29

Just like God told them to do.

And, finally, after they were done killing all the people, Joshua killed some animals as a "peace offering" to his bloody god of war.

Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD ... and ... offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. 8:30-31

One thing I really like about this story (What's not to like?) is that this time I don't have to guess the number of victims. The Bible tells us how many were killed: 12,000.

And ... all that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand. 8:25

36. God stops the sun so that Joshua can get his killing done in the daylight

Joshua and the Israelites slaughtered or enslaved the people from every city that they came across. They killed everyone in Jericho (33) and Ai (35) and enslaved the people of Gibeon (Joshua 9.21-27). So the neighboring cities were getting kind of nervous.

Five kings from these cities (the Amorite coalition) decided to attack the Israelites. Then God gets involved.

God tells Joshua not to worry; he has given the Amorites into Joshua's hand, and the Amorites would just run away when they were attacked.

The LORD said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee. Joshua 10:8

So Joshua attacked, but it was God who did most of the dirty work. He "discomfited them" and even "chased them along the way."

The LORD discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way. 10:10

But God was just getting started. He threw down from heaven giant hailstones and killed even more Amorite soldiers than the Israelite army.

The LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword. 10:11

Then God made the sun and moon stop moving for 24 hours so that Joshua would have plenty of daylight to finish killing off the Amorites. (It was this verse, among others, that got Galileo in so much trouble. If God stopped the sun from moving, then the sun moves around the earth.)

Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites ... Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. ... So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. 10:12-13

So in this killing, God got directly involved. He slaughtered people, "chased them along the way," cast down huge hailstones from heaven, and, at Joshua's request, he stopped the sun from moving for 24 hours. You just can't ask much more from a God than that.

Here's how the Bible puts it.

There was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel. 10:14

(Since the Amorite coalition consisted of 5 cities, I put the number killed at 5000. 1000 for each city.)

37. Five kings are killed and hung on trees

In his last killing, God got right in there and "fought for Israel." He "discomfited them ... and slew them with a great slaughter ... and chased them along the way." He "cast down great stones from heaven" and made the sun (and moon) stand still still so that Joshua could get his killing done in the broad daylight. God hadn't been so busy since he made all the stars in a single day.

But while God was busy chasing people, throwing stones, and stopping the sun and the moon from moving, the five kings got away.

But these five kings fled, and hid themselves in a cave at Makkedah. Joshua 10:16

When the Israelites found them, Joshua told them to roll some big stones over the mouth of the cave to trap them, and then chase and kill any of the Amorite soldiers that were trying to get away. He told them to "smite the hindmost of them" (kick their butts).

Pursue after your enemies, and smite the hindmost of them; suffer them not to enter into their cities: for the LORD your God hath delivered them into your hand. 10.19 So that's what they did.

And it came to pass, when Joshua and the children of Israel had made an end of slaying them with a very great slaughter, till they were consumed. 10:20

Then they opened up the cave and brought the five kings to Joshua. He and his captains then do something strange: they put their feet on the necks of the kings.

Joshua ... said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them. 10:24

While they are doing this, Joshua says

Thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight. 10:25

So I guess God does this to his enemies, too.

After Joshua withdraws his feet from the kings' necks, he does what he does best: he kills them.

Joshua smote them, and slew them. 10:26a

And hangs their dead bodies on trees until evening.

And hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening. 10:26b

Then he took down their bodies, put them back in the cave that they were hiding in, and covered the entrance to the cave with a bunch of rocks. The rocks are still there to this day. No kidding.

They took them down off the trees, and cast them into the cave wherein they had been hid, and laid great stones in the cave's mouth, which remain until this very day. 10:27

(I put the death toll for the "very great slaughter" of Joshua 10.20 at 10,000.)

38. Joshua utterly destroyed all that breathed as the Lord God commanded

The title pretty much says it all on this one. It's kind of boring reading though.

Joshua took Makkedah, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof he utterly destroyed, them, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain : and he did to the king of Makkedah as he did unto the king of Jericho. Joshua 10:28

The same thing happens in the same way seven times, all in about a dozen verses or so.

Then Joshua ... fought against Libnah: And the LORD delivered it also ... and he smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain. 10:29-30

The LORD delivered Lachish into the hand of Israel, which took it ... and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein. 10:32

Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish; and Joshua smote him and his people, until he had left him none remaining. 10:33

Joshua passed unto Eglon ... and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein he utterly destroyed that day. 10:34-35

Joshua went up ... unto Hebron; and they fought against it: And they took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof, and all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining. 10:36-37

Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir; and fought against it: And he took it, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof; and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining. 10:38-39

So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded. 10:40

And all these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel. 10:42

So God delivered seven kingdoms and Joshua killed everyone in each kingdom "with the edge of the sword."

And you can't blame it all on Joshua, either. He was just following orders, destroying everything that breathed, "as the Lord God of Israel commanded."

(Estimated number of victims: 7000, 1000 from each of seven cities.)

39. The genocide of twenty kingdoms: There was not left any left to breathe

In God's last killing, everyone in seven cities was massacred, along with the kings, with the land taken by the Israelites. When King Jabin of Hazor heard about it, he sent a letter to all the surrounding kingdoms (those that hadn't yet been slaughtered by the Israelites) to form a coalition to defend against the Israelites.

When Jabin king of Hazor had heard those things, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph, And to the kings that were on the north of the mountains, and of the plains south of Chinneroth, and in the valley, and in the borders of Dor on the west, And to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and to the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite in the mountains, and to the Hivite under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh. Joshua 11:1-3

And it worked, too. All the kings (around 20 or so) joined the coalition, forming an army with more soldiers than the grains of sand on all the ocean's beaches.

And they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many. And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel. 11:4-5

But God told Joshua not to be afraid because tomorrow he would kill them all and deliver their dead bodies to Joshua.

The LORD said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel. 11:6a

God told Joshua to hamstring ("hough" in the KJV) their horses and burn their chariots.

The LORD said unto Joshua ... thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire. 11:6b

And that's what happened.

The LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them ... until they left them none remaining. And Joshua did unto them as the LORD bade him: he houghed their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire. 11:8-9

The Israelites killed the King Jabin of Hazor and his people until "there was not any left to breathe."

Joshua ... took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms. And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire. 11:10-11

Then they did the same to all of the other kings and cities in King Jabin's coalition.

All the cities of those kings, and all the kings of them, did Joshua take, and smote them with the edge of the sword, and he utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the LORD commanded. 11:12

Joshua, of course, killed all the kings.

So Joshua took ... all their kings ... and smote them, and slew them. 11:16-17

But the most disgusting thing about this whole bloody, genocidal affair is that it was completely unnecessary. God purposefully hardened the kings' hearts so that he would have an excuse to kill them, along with all the men, women, children, and babies in their kingdoms.

For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses. 11:20

(I estimated 20,000 for this killing, 1000 from each kingdom.)

40. The Anakim: Some more giant killing

We've finally made it to the last of God's killings in Joshua. And although this one is pretty unspectacular, t does involve some giant killing.

If you remember back in killing 30, God killed everyone in the "land of the giants." Here he helps Joshua do it again.

The victims were the Anakim, who are described elsewhere in the Bible (Dt 1:28, 2:10, 2:21, and 9:2) as "a people great and tall" -- which is biblespeak for "giants".

Joshua ... cut off the Anakims from the mountains, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel: Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities. There was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel. Joshua 11:21-22

Since Joshua utterly destroyed all their cities and no Anakim were left alive, I estimated the number of victims to be 5000.