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.