bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Principles of Justice

Clay Jones argues that Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), but that this command and the obedience of the Israelites to the command was morally justified because the Canaanites deserved the death penalty for various serious crimes or sins which were violations of the laws of Jehovah (see his article “Killing the Canaanites”). Jones provides a list of the crimes or sins allegedly committed by the Canaanites which were (supposedly) deserving of the death penalty: idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.
I have argued for sixty different objections against Clay Jones’s moral justification of Jehovah’s command to the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children).  You can read a summary of those sixty objections in a previous post.
Even that summary, however, is a bit long for most people to read through, so I’m going to boil my objections down further here, with a focus on the principles of justice that Jehovah violated (or that Jehovah encouraged the Israelites to violate), based on Clay Jones’s “defense” of Jehovah’s command to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children).
If one becomes familiarized with the following twenty-one principles of justice, one can generate most of the sixty objections that I came up with, just by closely examining the laws of Jehovah (found in the following books ascribed to Moses: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) that relate to the list of alleged sins or crimes of the Canaanites that Clay Jones uses as a justification for the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children).

Principles of Justice Involved in Objections 1-20:

(POJ1) It is unjust to severely punish a person (for a sin or crime) who is not capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong.

(POJ2) It is unjust to punish a child for the sins or crimes of their parents (or other adults).

(POJ3) It is unjust to severely punish a person (for a sin or crime) who is not capable of fully understanding the difference between right and wrong or fully understanding the negative consequences of their wrong actions.

(POJ4) It is unjust to impose the death penalty for a sin or crime that is significantly less serious than the sin or crime of premeditated murder.

(POJ5)  It is unjust to impose a more severe punishment on a particular sin or crime than the punishment that one imposes for greater sins or crimes.

(POJ6) It is unjust to impose a severe punishment on a person on the basis of an alleged “law” which has not been published and clearly communicated to the people in the area in which that person lives.

(POJ7) It is unjust to impose the death penalty on a person for allegedly committing a sin or crime without first charging that person with a particular sin or crime and having a public trial to determine whether that person is in fact guilty of that sin or crime.

(POJ8) It is unjust to impose the death penalty on a person for allegedly committing a particular sin or crime without first providing powerful evidence (to a judge or jury) that shows beyond a reasonable doubt that this person is in fact guilty of that sin or crime.

Principles of Justice Involved in Objections 21-28:

(POJ9) When one tribe or nation has settled in a certain geographic area and has been living on that land for a century (or for a number of centuries), it is unjust for another tribe or nation to take that land away from the tribe or nation that had previously settled there. 

(POJ10) It is unjust to wage a war of aggression for the purpose of expanding the territory or dominion of one tribe or nation.

(POJ11)  It is unjust to distribute serious punishments (such as the death penalty) to people for certain crimes based on their geographic location.  

This is also the basis for a powerful objection to the death penalty in the U.S.   Different states have widely divergent policies and practices concerning the death penalty.  In some states there is no death penalty at all; in some states the death penalty is used only rarely; and in other states the death penalty is used quite often:

  • GEOGRAPHIC ARBITRARINESS: Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 82% of all executions have taken place in the South. The Northeast accounts for less than 1% of executions.

http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-and-arbitrariness

(POJ12) It is unjust to distribute serious punishments (such as the death penalty) for certain crimes to people based on their racial or ethnic group.  

This is also the basis for a powerful objection to the death penalty in the U.S. :

  • A report sponsored by the American Bar Association in 2007 concluded that one-third of African-American death row inmates in Philadelphia would have received sentences of life imprisonment if they had not been African-American.
  • A 2007 study of death sentences in Connecticut conducted by Yale University School of Law revealed that African-American defendants receive the death penalty at three times the rate of white defendants in cases where the victims are white. 

http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-and-race
(POJ13) It is unjust to punish some people with the death penalty for certain sins or crimes when one does NOT apply the same severe punishment to certain other people whom one likes or favors.

(POJ14) It is unjust to impose the death penalty on women for violation of a law that is clearly sexist and biased against women (e.g. where men are excluded from having to follow the law or are excluded from receiving the death penalty for violating the law, or are given some other advantage over women in the law concerning violations of that law).

(POJ15)  It is unjust for a person accused of a capital crime to be condemned to death by a judge or jury who have an obvious and significant vested interest in the accused person being found to be guilty.

(POJ16) It is unjust to encourage a tribe or nation to engage in SOCIOCENTRIC thinking, blaming the victim, and dehumanizing the enemy, and to fail to try to discourage such thinking by a tribe or nation when one has a close connection to that tribe or nation (and thus the potential to influence the thinking of people in that tribe or nation).

Principles of Justice Involved in Objections 29-60:

Most of the remaining objections are based on principles of justice that derive from the legal concept of “Void for Vagueness”.  But there are a few exceptions.  So, I will first specify the principles of justice that are involved in the exceptions, and then will specify the principles of justice that derive from “Void for Vagueness”.
Objections 39 and 45 are based on (POJ14).
Objection 41 is based on a similar principle, but where the sexism in the law is a bias against men:
(POJ17) It is unjust to impose the death penalty on men for violation of a law that is clearly sexist and biased against men (e.g. where women are excluded from having to follow the law or are excluded from receiving the death penalty for violating the law, or are given some other advantage over men in the law concerning violations of that law).
Objection 50 is based on this principle:
(POJ18)  It is unjust to engage in child sacrifice as a means for punishing the sin or crime of child sacrifice.
Objection 51 is based on (POJ13).
VOID FOR VAGUENESS
The twenty-seven remaining objections are all based on few principles of justice that derive from the legal concept of “Void for Vagueness”.  See the Wikipedia article called Vagueness Doctrine.
(POJ19)  It is unjust to inflict a punishment on a person for violating a law, when that law does not clearly specify that punishment as an appropriate one for violation of that law.
NOTE: It is a GREAT injustice to impose a SEVERE punishment (such as the death penalty) on a person for violating a law, when that law does not clearly specify that severe punishment (e.g. the death penalty) as an appropriate one for violation of that law.
(POJ20) It is unjust to punish a person for violation of a law, when that law does not clearly specify what conduct constitutes a violation of that law.

NOTE: It is a GREAT injustice to impose a SEVERE punishment (such as the death penalty) on a person for violating a law, when that law does not clearly specify what conduct constitutes a violation of that law.

(POJ21) It is unjust to punish a person for violation of a law, when that law does not clearly specify the scope of people to whom that law applies.

NOTE: It is a GREAT injustice to impose a SEVERE punishment (such as the death penalty) on a person for violating a law, when that law does not clearly specify the scope of people to whom that law applies.  It is also a GREAT injustice to impose a SEVERE punishment (such as the death penalty) on a person for violating a law, when the law appears to specify the scope of people to whom that law applies, and the person in question falls outside of that scope.

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Part 10

Clay Jones argues that Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), but that this command and the obedience of the Israelites to the command was morally justified because the Canaanites deserved the death penalty for various serious crimes or sins which were violations of the laws of Jehovah (see his article “Killing the Canaanites”). Jones provides a list of the crimes or sins allegedly committed by the Canaanites which were (supposedly) deserving of the death penalty: idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.
The Sin or Crime of Child Sacrifice
Of the six sins or crimes that Clay Jones lists as moral justifications for Jehovah’s command to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), this is the ONLY sin or crime that seems to be deserving of the death penalty.  None of the other five sins/crimes is serious enough to warrant killing the persons who perform them.  In fact, the very idea that Jehovah demanded the death penalty for the other five sins/crimes argues for the conclusion that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, so in pointing to  those five sins/crimes as moral justification of  the slaughter of the Canaanites, Jones simply adds fuel to the fire that he was trying to put out.
But child sacrifice seems to be a more serious matter than incest, adultery, or homosexual sex.  At the least, child sacrifice involves the murder of a child, which is a terrible sin or crime.  We cannot help but feel agreement with the sentiment that such a sin or crime is a PERVERSION, because parents are supposed to love and cherish their children and to protect their children from harm and injury.  So, when a parent harms their own child or kills their own child, we view that as being the very opposite of what should happen, the very opposite of what is NORMAL, so to speak.
Although it is right and proper to be appalled at the idea of parents harming or killing their own children, we also need to remember that this is all too common an event in this world, even here in the U.S.A.  where Christianity has been the dominant religion for over two centuries:

  • In 2013 there were about 679,000 children who were victims of child abuse or neglect in the U.S.A.
  • About 122,000 of those children were subjected to physical abuse
  • About 61,000 of those children were subjected to sexual abuse
  • An estimated 1,520 children died in 2013 as a result of abuse and neglect in the U.S.A. 

(see report: Child Maltreatment 2013 ,p.ii)
So, before we start throwing stones at the Canaanites who lived a thousand years before the birth of Jesus, we ought to pause and reflect on the actual behavior of the population of our (largely) Christian nation now, more than two thousand years after the birth of Jesus.
The most obvious bit of hypocrisy in appealing to the charge of “child sacrifice” as a justification for the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) is that this is a justification of the slaughter of children, and it also clearly has a religious foundation: the command to slaughter the children supposedly comes from Jehovah, the god of the Israelites.
Jehovah was supposedly angry and fed up with the Canaanites, so the slaughter of the Canaanites by the Israelites would, presumably, help ease the anger of a deity (i.e. Jehovah), and would also, presumably, help to obtain the favor and assistance of that deity (i.e. Jehovah), which is exactly what the religious ritual of “child sacrifice” was intended to accomplish.  So, what we have in Jehovah’s command to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children) can reasonably be viewed as the command to perform human sacrifices on a MASSIVE scale, including the sacrifice of hundreds or thousands of children:
50. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as punishment for the sin or crime of “child sacrifice”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because Jehovah was in effect commanding the Israelites to engage in acts of child sacrifice on a massive scale to punish acts of child sacrifice.
The hypocrisy of Jehovah is not limited to commanding child sacrifice as the punishment for the evil of child sacrifice.  We view child sacrifice as evil, because we care about the rights and needs of children, but there is no good reason to believe that Jehovah shares our values and concerns about the welfare of children.
For one thing, Jehovah commanded that the death penalty be used against children, when children were disrespectful of their parents:

Exodus 21:17 New American Standard Bible
17 “He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

Leviticus 20:9 New American Standard Bible
9 ‘If there is anyone who curses his father or his mother, he shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother, his bloodguiltiness is upon him.
Jehovah commanded that the death penalty be used on “stubborn and rebellious” sons who are disobedient to their parents:

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 New American Standard Bible
18 “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them,
19 then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown.
20 They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’
21 Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.

Jehovah authorized the death penalty for children who strike their parents:

Exodus 21:15 New American Standard Bible
15 “He who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.
The laws of Jehovah demand the death of a child who curses his/her parents, or who strikes his/her parents, and the laws of Jehovah demand the death of a son who is rebellious and disobedient towards his parents, so we can reasonably conclude that Jehovah was NOT deeply concerned about the welfare of children.
Furthermore, as we saw in previous posts, the laws of Jehovah treat women as property of men, and specifically they treat daughters as property of their fathers.  Thus, in the laws of Jehovah there is no prohibition or punishment for a father having sex with his own daughter  (see Leviticus chapters 18 and 20).
Also, if a young girl is violently raped by an adult man, the punishment was a fine (not the death penalty), which was not to compensate the girl, but to compensate her father for the damage to his property, since he could no longer obtain the full bride price for his daughter given that she was now “damaged goods” (see Deuteronomy 22:28-29), as indicated in this commentary on Deuteronomy 22:
Adultery and rape are seen as offenses against the husband or father of the woman involved.  There seems to be no concern for rape as a crime of violence against the woman herself in these laws.
[…]
…If the raped woman is not married or betrothed (vv.28-29), the matter is less serious, a clear indication that rape was viewed as a crime against the victim’s husband.  In this case it is a crime against her father, and he is compensated for the loss of her bride price (cf. Exod. 22:16-17).       (HarperCollins Bible Commentary, Revised Edition, p.207)
The laws of Jehovah also recognize that Israelite fathers have the right to sell their daughters into slavery:
Exodus 21:2 & 7-8 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
2 “If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment.
[…]
7 “If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do.
8 If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He does not have authority to sell her to a foreign people because of his unfairness to her.
The passage begins with a discussion about rules concerning male Hebrew slaves, that is male Israelites who become slaves, and then goes on to discuss daughters who are sold as slaves by their fathers.  These daughters are clearly female Israelites, not only because the passage begins with talking about male Israelite slaves, but also because there is a prohibition of selling such a female slave “to a foreign people” meaning selling her to some people other than Israelites.  This prohibition makes no sense unless the female slave in question was herself an Israelite. Thus, this passage recognizes the right of an Israelite father to sell his own daughter into slavery.
It is clear that as far as children are concerned, Jehovah was NOT very concerned about their welfare.  The laws of Jehovah show that the motivation behind the prohibition of child sacrifice was NOT a deep concern for the rights and needs of children.
In Leviticus Chapters 18 and 20, we find a prohibition against offering one’s children to the god Molech:
Leviticus 18:21 New American Standard Bible
21 You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.
Leviticus 20:1-2 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “You shall also say to the sons of Israel:
‘Any man from the sons of Israel or from the aliens sojourning in Israel who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones.
One further bit of hypocrisy from Jehovah on this matter is that he himself appears to have demanded child sacrifice:
Exodus 13:1-2 New American Standard Bible
1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.”
Exodus 22:29 New American Standard Bible
29 “You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me.
These passages from Exodus might well reflect an Israelite practice of child sacrifice to Jehovah/Yahweh, as argued in the article on “Molech” in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (emphasis added):
Human sacrifice as more generally referred to in the phrase, “the one who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire,” is frequently and exclusively attributed to Canaanite origins by some biblical writers (e.g. Deut. 12:31).  Nonetheless, some form of human sacrifice was apparently part of the Yahwistic cult in preexilic (and perhaps exilic) times. …The “sacrifice of the firstborn to Yahweh” and the Molech sacrifice were probably closely related, if not one and the same cult.  Although the former required that the firstborn sons be sacrificed to Yahweh while the latter listed as sacrifices children generally (of both sexes), the fact that daughters could legally substitute for sons as firstborn heirs favors the equation of these two cults (cf. Num. 27:1-8 and the texts from Emar and Nuzi regarding the legal substitution of daughters for sons within the context of inheritance)….Therefore, texts that refer to the sacrifice of the firstborn to Yahweh (e.g. Gen. 22:1-14; Exod. 13:2, 12-13, 15; Mic. 6:6-7) can be related to the Molech cult.  Molech’s associations with Baal (rather than Yahweh) in biblical traditions (cf. Jer. 2:23; 19:5; 32:35) are more likely part of the inventive Deuteronomistic rhetorical polemic to “Canaanize” what was formerly a non-Deuteronomistic, but Yahwistic, Israelite practice of human sacrifice.
As added confirmation of the endurance and pervasiveness of the practice, Ezekiel implies that Yahweh had commanded the Israelites to participate in the sacrifice of their firstborn (Ezek. 20:25-26), but qualifies this law as a form of punishment.  Similarly, Exod. 22:29-30 (MT 28-29) comprises an unqualified demand to make the firstborn sacrifice to Yahweh; the option to redeem the firstborn is not offered here as in later Priestly texts.  In the light of Jeremiah’s condemnation of the practice and Ezekiel’s recognition that Yahweh had once condoned the ritual killing of humans, it is self-evident that for many it was an acceptable form of Yahweh worship. …
In a series of mini-debates captured in the book God or Godless?, the atheist John Loftus argues with the Christian theologian Randal Rauser over various issues and objections concerning atheism vs. Christianity.  In addition to the above article on “Molech” from Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, see Chapter 4 of God or Godless?, where Loftus argues that “Child sacrifice was commanded of the Israelites by Yahweh…” (God or Godless?, p.37).
So, a case can be made that the worship of Jehovah originally included “child sacrifice” and that the claim that this practice was merely a temptation for Israelites introduced by the wicked Canaanites, might well be propaganda covering up the embarrassing truth that Israelite worship of Jehovah/Yahweh had included child sacrifice from ancient times:
The lack of extrabiblical confirmation for the existence of a specifically chthonic or netherworld aspect of a deity M-l-k and for his status as patron of a cult of human sacrifice ought to elicit caution as regards a straightforward historical reading of the biblical portrayal of the Molech cult.  Moreover, tensions evident in the biblical traditions regarding the nature and extent of human sacrifice suggests another instance wherein Deuteronomistic history employed a strategy of rhetorical polemic.  By artificially attributing to Molech patronage over the cult of human sacrifice, the Deuteronomists sought to distance the practice from its origins in the Yahweh cult altogether.  The rhetorical character of the Deuteronomistic portrayal finds its clearest confirmation in the fact that non-Deuteronomistic (and non-Priestly) biblical traditions do not distance human sacrifice from the cult of Yahweh (cf. texts preserving the sacrifice of the firstborn).  (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, “Molech”, p.913)
Given that there is significant evidence indicating that the Israelites had a history of worshiping Jehovah by means of child sacrifice prior to engaging in the slaughter of the Canaanites, there is a problem of the bias of favoritism in employing the death penalty on a massive scale against the Canaanites:
51.  If Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter thousands of Canaanites in part as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “child sacrifice”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to show favoritism towards the Israelites by ignoring (or even promoting) “child sacrifice” among the Israelites, but then commanding the mass slaughter of other tribes or peoples for engaging in the same sort of activity.
Jehovah appears to have used a double-standard in relation to use of the death penalty for the sin or crime of “child sacrifice”.
In order to be JUST, the laws of Jehovah concerning the sin or crime of “child sacrifice” need to meet the following basic requirements:
R1. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate who falls under the scope of the law concerning “child sacrifice”.
R2. The laws of Jehovah must state explicitly and definitely what conduct  constitutes a violation of the laws concerning “child sacrifice” and that such conduct is prohibited.
R3. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate what punishment may be imposed for the sin or crime of  engaging in “child sacrifice”.
First of all, as with most of the other sins or crimes in Clay Jones’s list, the phrase “child sacrifice” never occurs in the laws of Jehovah (I checked every instance of the words “child” and “children” in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in both NASB and NRSV translations).  Strictly speaking, the laws of Jehovah do NOT prohibit “child sacrifice” because they never once mention “child sacrifice”:
52. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as the death penalty for violating a prohibition against “child sacrifice”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no explicit prohibition of the practice of “child sacrifice” in the laws of Jehovah.
However, there are passages in the laws of Jehovah that have been interpreted to be talking about “child sacrifice”.  Two of those passages were already quoted above (Leviticus 18:21 and 20:1-2).  Those passages do not prohibit “child sacrifice” in general, they prohibit you from giving “any of your offspring to offer them to Molech”.  There is no description or explanation of what is meant by “X offers some of X’s offspring to Molech”.
Killing a son or daughter as a ritual sacrifice to the god Molech would seem to count as offering some of one’s offspring to Molech, but there are other ways to give offspring to a god as well.  One might dedicate a son or daughter to become a priest of the god Molech.  One might volunteer a son or daughter to serve in the temple of Molech for a month or for a year.  One might command one’s son or daughter to work on some project that is believed to further the plans or the will of the god Molech (perhaps doing missionary work to promote belief in, and devotion to, Molech).  So, these laws of Jehovah found in Leviticus are VAGUE and UNCLEAR and thus fail to satisfy (R2):
53. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as capital punishment for violation of the prohibition against giving a son or daughter to the god Molech (i.e. Leviticus 20:2), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law should be Void for Vagueness (the law fails to clearly specify the conduct that is prohibited).
Furthermore, Molech was just one particular god, so even if we interpret Leviticus 18:21 and 20:2 to mean that “child sacrifice” for Molech is prohibited, this does not rule out making a “child sacrifice” for some OTHER god.   These laws are also are too narrow to outlaw “child sacrifice” in general.
Finally, as I have argued previously, the prohibitions in Leviticus Chapters 18 and 20 are clearly aimed at “the sons of Israel,” at the men of the nation of Israel.  So, the laws in those Chapters satisfy (R1), but the Canaanites are NOT included in the scope of those laws:
54. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as capital punishment for violation of the prohibition against giving a son or daughter to the god Molech (i.e. Leviticus 20:2), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the scope of this law is limited to the men of the nation of Israel, and does NOT include the Canaanites.
However, there are other books with laws of Jehovah that provide somewhat different prohibitions related to “child sacrifice”.  In Exodus there is a prohibition against sacrificing ANYTHING to a god other than Jehovah:
Exodus 22:20 American Standard Version
20 He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto Jehovah only, shall be utterly destroyed.
But the expression “shall be utterly destroyed” does NOT mean “shall be punished by the death penalty”.  This might well simply be a threat by God that such a person will face God’s wrath or some calamity caused by God, so there is no clear punishment assigned to this general prohibition.  Also, Exodus 22 has the same scope as the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, which is “the sons of Israel” meaning the men of the nation of Israel. So, this prohibition does NOT apply to the Canaanites.
That Exodus 22:20 is addressed to the same audience as the Ten Commandments, namely to the men of Israel, is clear from the fact that Exodus 22:20 is part of a section of laws that starts at the beginning of Chapter 21:
 Exodus 21:1 New American Standard Bible
1 “Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them:
The referents of the pronouns “you” and “them” must be sought in the previous chapter, namely Chapter 20:
Exodus 20:22 New American Standard Bible
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven.
So we see that the pronoun “you” in Exodus 21:1 refers to “Moses”, and the pronoun “them” in Exodus 21:1 refers to “the sons of Israel”, and not to the Canaanites. 
In Deuteronomy, there is a prohibition against burning a son or daughter “in the fire to” Jehovah.  But it is not clear what this expression means, and there is no description or explanation of what burning someone “in the fire to” Jehovah involves.
Deuteronomy 12:30-31 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
30 beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’
31 You shall not behave thus toward the Lord your God, for every abominable act which the Lord hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.
The conduct that is prohibited is NOT clearly specified, so this law fails to meet requirement (R2):
55. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “burning their sons and daughters in the fire” to Jehovah in violation of Deuteronomy 12:31, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 12:31 should be Void for Vagueness (because it fails to clearly specify the conduct that is prohibited).
The law is clearly addressed to the Israelites, which implies that the Canaanites are not under the scope of this law.  Also, since this prohibition concerns how Jehovah should be worshiped, this does NOT apply to the Canaanites, who worshiped OTHER gods, not Jehovah:
56. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “burning their sons and daughters in the fire” to Jehovah in violation of Deuteronomy 12:31, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 12:31 clearly applies only to the Israelites and not to the Canaanites (since the law is clearly addressed to the Israelites).
Finally, this prohibition does not indicate what sort of punishment, if any, may be given to someone for a violation of the prohibition, thus it fails to satisfy requirement (R3):
57. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “burning their sons and daughters in the fire” to Jehovah in violation of Deuteronomy 12:31, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 12:31 does NOT clearly state that the death penalty is to be the punishment for this sin or crime.
There is a similar prohibition later in Deuteronomy against making one’s son or daughter “pass through the fire”:
Deuteronomy 18:9-11 New American Standard Bible
9 “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.
10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,
11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.
There is no description or explanation of what making someone “pass through the fire” means.  Thus, the prohibition in Deuteronomy  18:10 is VAGUE and UNCLEAR and fails to satisfy requirement (R2) for a just law:
58. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “making his son or daughters pass through the fire” in violation of Deuteronomy 18:10, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 18:10 should be Void for Vagueness (because it fails to clearly specify the conduct that is prohibited).
Based on the content of verse 9, it is clear that this law is being addressed to the Israelites,  (“When you enter the land which the Lord God gives you…”), and not to the Canaanites.  So, although the law satisfies requirement (R1), it does NOT apply to the Canaanites:
59. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “making his son or daughters pass through the fire” in violation of Deuteronomy 18:10, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 18:10 clearly applies only to the Israelites and not to the Canaanites (since the law is clearly addressed to the Israelites).
Finally, this prohibition does not indicate what sort of punishment, if any, may be given to someone for a violation of the prohibition, thus it fails to satisfy requirement (R3):
60. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “making his son or daughters pass through the fire” in violation of Deuteronomy 18:10, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 18:10 does NOT clearly state that the death penalty is to be the punishment for this sin or crime.
As far as I can tell, the laws of Jehovah do not include ANY JUST LAWS that could provide a reasonable basis for employing the death penalty against Canaanites for “child sacrifice” of any sort.  The laws of Jehovah on this matter are VAGUE and UNCLEAR, and their scope is limited to the men of Israel, and most of the relevant laws do NOT clearly specify the death penalty as the appropriate punishment.

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Part 7

Clay Jones argues that Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), but that this command and the Israelites obedience to the command was morally justified because the Canaanites deserved the death penalty for various serious crimes or sins which were violations of the laws of Jehovah (see his article “Killing the Canaanites”). Jones provides a list of the crimes or sins allegedly committed by the Canaanites which were (supposedly) deserving of the death penalty: idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.
The Sin or Crime of Adultery
To avoid the INJUSTICE involved in laws subject to being made “Void for Vagueness”, a law against “adultery” must meet at least these three requirements:
R1. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate who falls under the scope of the law against “adultery”.
R2. The laws of Jehovah must state explicitly and definitely what conduct  constitutes “adultery” and that such conduct is prohibited.
R3. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate what punishment may be imposed for the sin or crime of “adultery”.
The sin or crime of “adultery” is explicitly prohibited in the Ten Commandments:
Exodus 20:14 New American Standard Bible
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
Deuteronomy 5:18 New American Standard Bible
18 ‘You shall not commit adultery.
The Ten Commandments, however, do not specify or define what conduct constitutes “adultery” (R2), nor do they indicate the punishment for “adultery” (R3).
But the Ten Commandments do provide clarity about who falls under the scope of this law (R1).  The word “you” in this commandment has a clear referent in both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5:
Exodus 19:1-6 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
1 In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
2 When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain.
3 Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel:
4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.
5 Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
Exodus 20:1-2 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
1 Then God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Deuteronomy 5:1-6 New American Standard Bible
1 Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them:
Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully.
2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb.
3 The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today.
4 The Lord spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire,
5 while I was standing between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain. He said,
6 ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Obviously Jehovah did not bring the Canaanites “out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery”.  It is clear in both Exodus 20 and in Deuteronomy 5, that Jehovah is giving the Ten Commandments to ISRAEL, more specifically to “the sons of Israel” (because Jehovah was a sexist).  It is clear from the context that the pronoun “you” found in the Ten Commandments refers to “the sons of Israel” and thus the scope of these laws does NOT include the Canaanites. Therefore, although there is a clear specification of the scope of the law against “adultery” (R1), the scope does NOT include the Canaanites, and thus:
38. If Jehovah commanded that thousands of Canaanites be slaughtered as capital punishment for the sin or crime of “adultery”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because Jehovah’s laws do NOT clearly indicate that the Canaanites fall under the scope of the prohibition of “adultery” (in fact they indicate that the law applies only to “the sons of Israel”).
The book of Leviticus provides some clarification about what conduct constitutes “adultery” (R2) and about what punishment may be imposed for this sin or crime:
Leviticus 20:10-12  New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
10 ‘If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
11 If there is a man who lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death, their bloodguiltiness is upon them.
12 If there is a man who lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed incest, their bloodguiltiness is upon them.
Although verse 10 by itself does not clearly define “adultery,” it does give us a big clue: “adultery” is something that a man does “with another man’s wife” and “with his friend’s wife”.  But just doing something with a “friend’s wife” is obviously not deserving of serious punishment.  If I play checkers with a friend’s wife, it would hardly be just to kill me for playing that game with her.  Verses 11 and 12, however, appear to provide specific examples of adultery, and both involve a man who “lies with” another man’s wife, namely with his father’s wife (vs. 11) or with his son’s wife (vs. 12).  So, based on this passage from Leviticus Chapter 20, one may reasonably infer that in the laws of Jehovah:
Definition of “adultery” (as used in Leviticus)
The sin or crime of “adultery” occurs when a MAN has sexual intercourse with the wife of one of his friends or with the wife of one of his relatives.
This interpretation of “adultery” is confirmed by a sexual prohibition stated in an earlier chapter of Leviticus:

Leviticus 18:20 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)

20 You shall not have intercourse with your neighbor’s wife, to be defiled with her.

The first thing to notice here is that this is a SEXIST understanding of “adultery”.  In the English language, the ordinary meaning of “adultery” includes sexual unfaithfulness of either husband or wife, but on the meaning of “adultery” in the book of Leviticus, a husband can have sex with any woman he wants to, so long as she is not already married to another man.   A woman, on the other hand, is prohibited from having sex with any man other than her husband, on pain of DEATH:
In the Ancient Near East and the OT (Lev. 18:20; 20:10; Deut. 22:22) adultery meant consensual sexual intercourse by a married woman with a man other than her husband..  However, intercourse between a married man and another woman was not considered adultery unless she was married. (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p.23) 
This understanding of “adultery” is clearly sexist and unfair to women, thus:
39. If Jehovah commanded that thousands of Canaanite women be slaughtered as capital punishment for the sin or crime of “adultery” (as understood in Leviticus 20), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to impose the death penalty on women for doing something that men are allowed to do with impunity (i.e. be sexually unfaithful to their spouses).
The second thing to notice about the above understanding of “adultery” is that it is VAGUE and UNCLEAR.  This law appears to fail to meet the second criterion for just laws (R2). When is someone considered to be a “friend”?
Are all of my neighbors automatically considered to be my “friends”?  What if I have never had a conversation with one of my neighbors, would that person still be categorized as a “friend” just because he lived on my block?  What if I have a long-standing disagreement with one of my neighbors about noisy late-night parties?  What if I hate this particular neighbor?  Is that person still considered, for legal purposes, to be my “friend”?  And if ALL of my neighbors are considered to be my “friends”, how far does my neighborhood extend?  Is it just the people on my block?  If I walk three blocks away from my house, is it OK to have sex with another man’s wife who lives in that area? or do I have to travel to a completely different city? or to a different state? or to another country?
The most plausible interpretation of “friend” (alternatively translated as “neighbor”) is given by a modern translation of this verse:
Leviticus 20:10 Good News Translation (emphasis added)
10 If a man commits adultery with the wife of an Israelite, both he and the woman shall be put to death.
In other words “friend” (alternatively translated as “neighbor”) in this context means “an Israelite man”.  This fits well with my previous point about the SCOPE of this law (and of the Ten Commandments in general) being limited to “the sons of Israel”.  This also fits with a conservative Jewish interpretation of this passage and the prohibition of “adultery”:
 10 And a man who commits adultery with [another] man’s wife, committing adultery with the wife of his fellow the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
 committing adultery with the wife of his fellow: [Thus] excluding the wife of a non-Jew. [From here,] we learn that [the legal status of Jewish] marriage cannot be held by a non-Jew. — [Torath Kohanim 20:105; Sanh. 52b]
(from a Jewish commentary on the Torah available at Chabad.org)
If the legal status of Jewish marriage “cannot be held by a non-Jew”, then it would NOT be possible for a Canaanite man or woman to commit “adultery” unless the Canaanite man was having sex with a married Jewish woman or the Canaanite woman had converted to become Jewish and then married a Jewish man.  Neither of those events was likely or common.
So, we might be able to set aside the problem of the VAGUENESS of this law against “adultery” by interpreting “friend” or “neighbor” to mean “an Israelite man”.  But if we do so, then the prohibition of “adultery” would NOT provide a JUST basis for slaughtering Canaanites, because very few Canaanites would have been guilty of having sex with the wife of an Israelite man (or of being that wife).
40. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of thousands of Canaanites as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “adultery”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because either the laws of Jehovah are VAGUE about what conduct constitutes “adultery” (because of the word “friend” or “neighbor” in the law) or the laws of Jehovah are clear about what conduct constitutes “adultery” (because we interpret “friend” or “neighbor” to mean “an Israelite man”) but this law was violated by only a handful, at most, of Canaanites.
Leviticus does clearly state that the death penalty may be given as the punishment for the sin or crime of “adultery”, so the third requirement (R3) for a just law is satisfied.  We have seen that the law against “adultery” satisfies (R1), but that the law only applies to “the sons of Israel” and NOT to the Canaanites.  We have seen that this law should either be “Void for Vagueness” because of the unclarity of the word “friend” (or “neighbor”), or else we can adopt the most likely interpretation of this word, and understand the definition of “adultery” to be “having sex with the wife of an Israelite man”, in which case very few Canaanites would have been guilty of this sin or crime.  Either way, JEHOVAH IS UNJUST for using this law against “adultery” as the basis for the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children).