14 August 2009

God slowly kills the Israelite army

This is a strange one and I completely missed it until now.

Read it and let me know what you think.
And the space in which we came from Kadeshbarnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the LORD sware unto them. For indeed the hand of the LORD was against them, to destroy them from among the host, until they were consumed. So it came to pass, when all the men of war were consumed and dead from among the people, That the LORD spake unto me, saying.... Deuteronomy 2:14-17
It's hard to understand, isn't it, especially without any Brick Testament illustrations? But it sure sounds like God killed the entire Israelite army -- slowly -- over a period of 38 years.

It's not a very impressive killing, though, as God's killings go. He mostly just waited for them all to die of natural causes. Prostate cancer, heart attack, stroke.

But God claims to have killed them all himself, so I guess we should give him credit. How many old soldiers do you think died because "the hand of the Lord was against them?"

So how many soldiers did God kill?

Well, they started off with 603,550 men "from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel" and the only people that the Bible mentions dying along the way are those that God killed, which total a bit over 50,000. But I suppose some people must have died of natural causes over the 38 year period. So I'll just say that God killed 500,000 soldiers.

Thanks for your help on this one. Now I just need to update the list. Be sure to check my numbers!

God's next killing: God the giant killer

14 comments:

PersonalFailure said...

It says "all", so I guess every soldier died. Which is, well, silly. 38 years? Even assuming that Israelites became soldiers at the age of 13, which I highly doubt, the life expentency at the time was significatly lower than 38 years, so they all would have died anyway within 38 years.

Also, modern day Israel is about the size of New Jersey. Even I, with my bad joints, could walk across NJ in a lot less than 38 years. Where are Kadeshbarnea and Zered today, Scotland and Polynesia?

Steve Wells said...

I agree, PF. It is a silly story. But, hey, it's the Bible.

Still, it seems like God made a point of killing all "the men of war" just like he swore he would. It took him 38 years to do it and they all would have died anyway, but he did it. (I guess.)

So does he get credit for another 600,000, or what?

busterggi said...

So if the Israeli army was killed off as it says, who was in the Israeli army during allo the conquests that supposedly followed this period?

twillight said...

The israelites in the Bible became soldiers at age 20.

The number is highly questionable. I think back on it as it was referring to those who left Egypt. Or was it when they reached the Promised Land and got sentenced for wandering around?
Anyway start with the original 600,000 then substarct all male of the previous killings, and that seem to be the number we're looking for. (in the Bible the winners of battle never lose a single men)

I am the wise fool. said...

I'm just as confused on this. As you point out, the language seems to suggest God killing them. However, I don't know if that is just the cultural influence on the language; something equivalent to saying that whenever anyone dies for any reason, it is because of God. And, as you also point out, natural causes could kill them off in that time frame.

If I were to vote, I would lean towards not counting this. It lacks the brutal style and flare of God's other killings, so it seems inconsistent with His M.O.

But if you were to count it, I think twillight has the best possible idea on how to count it.

Steve Wells said...

twillight, I like your approach to numbering the victims. They started with 600,000 soldiers and God killed 51,200 Israelites at various times previously. People didn't seem to die unless God got pissed and burned or buried them alive, sent fiery serpents to bite them, etc., so we don't need to include natural causes. (They had the best health care system in the world.) So that means God killed 550,000 or so. But maybe I should just say 500,000.

Steve Wells said...

busterggi,
Yeah, that is strange. How could God kill off all the soldiers and then immediately have the Israelites go off smiting everybody? But then, it's not supposed to make sense. You're just supposed to believe it.

wise fool,
You're right; this killing is not up to God's standards. Still he claims credit for it, so I think we should give it to him.

PersonalFailure,
I think the lifespan at the time was a lot higher than it is now (if you're foolish enough to believe the Bible, that is). Moses and Aaron died, for example, at 120 and 123 years, respectively. So the old soldiers would have been in their prime. That's why God had to kill them.

matt311 said...

Can you imagine a hoarde of creaky old soldiers rampaging through Palestine circa 1200 B.C.? They'd make God the laughingstock of the pantheon of gods, and ol' Yahweh never likes to be ticked off, so... they die.

The hand of the Lord just gave them a really slow bitch-slap, I guess.

Also, I've got to admit, I never noticed this killing before: I always got bored right at the beginning of Deuteronomy, so I skipped to the end, to the "inspirational" death of Moses, completely missing this bizarre death sequence entirely.

I am the wise fool. said...

This is less bizarre than it seems at first glance. Well, OK, God wanting to kill all of the army for complaining that they needed food and water is pretty bizarre. However, the methodology is actually reasonable. Spanning 38 years would permit time to raise children to be replacements for the present army members which were to be killed, thereby never leaving the Israelites defenseless.

busterggi said...

Sorry fool but either Yahweh killed the Israeli army as the bible claims or, if we accept your explanation, the bible is lying.

slkj said...

I have been reading your blog with interest, you always have nice posts, thank you!

Since you sometimes talks about Bible-related politics as well in the blog, I think you could write something about the health care soon...

Julien said...

This GOD organization was built 2000 years ago... Over a dead bird at a temple and they tried getting the roman army to after the Greeks for desecrating the temple that lead to a tax revolt... sending the Jews people into exile...

So when you look at the old testament is their plan and dream to get back at those responsible...

So what did they do well create a god for the gentiles anyone not being Jewish and that god birth place in Jerusalem why to get their land back... Nothing to do with a real god... but war god like each Romans regiments built for them selves...

The new testaments was all abut getting the gentiles to work for their cause... This is important.... why because its the door ways they used to keep them alive... Look at confession why would they want to know the secrete desire of a person in a secrete box that divides by a wall...

War spies...knowing who is doing what...

Look at the logic used by the Jewish clergy... They are god's promises people and the gentiles are their followers they create the words of god for you...Under their logic their can only 2 religions in the world theirs and the one they control for the gentiles... Read you new testaments it explains what gentiles need to do for them... On other logic the Jewish teach is that if they don't do what god has laid out that god will kill them off... so it a bit of mind bender for any individual... and for the gentiles if they don't do what god has laid out their no salvation for them... again another mind bender...

Gibber Jabber said...

Few things to point out:

Life expectancy is often quoted from mean average of age at death. If the population had a high rate of infant mortality then the average drops. If a person makes it through their childhood, they are then more than likely to live to an age comparable with people now.

The Israelites got to the promised land fairly swiftly, but upon refusing to follow God's command through fear, they were made to walk the wilderness for the best part of 40 years. The generation of soldiers that refused to take the land died in that time, but they were able to have children to ensure Israel had an army. Surely a much better way than just wiping out an army and leaving the nation defenceless. And the bible says that they were made to wander until that generation died, and that God was against them because of their disbelief. The bible doesn't say that God killed them on the spot so Busterggi's comments seem a little weak.

Harry said...

I've gone through the bible a number of times now and for most of the deaths that God commanded in Canaan my question changed from "Why would God kill them" to "Why did God wait so long to kill them." Numbers 17 or 18 gives the life style that these people lived. To say it was atrocious and bizarre and beyond belief would be an understatement with the human sacrifices and sexual practices that were prevalent. The generation of soldiers that God had allowed to die wandering around in circles in a desert were from the generation that had:
1. Helped build and worship a golden calf with practices similar to the Canaanites.
2. Refused to enter the promised land the first time after a fairly short trip through the desert.
3. Constantly complained about the provisions that God gave them, instead wanting to go back to the slavery they endured in Egypt.

We criticize God for what we term blood baths in the old testament while we turn a blind eye to the bloodbaths from other sources; abortion (over 1.25 billion since 1980), Communism (over 100 million in 100 years), Islam (50 million for excursions into Asia, 200 million into Africa, and I haven't gotten a count for the excursions into Europe yet), the Aztecs and the Mayans used tens of thousands of humans for sacrifice as their god lived on the blood. The God of the Jews refused human sacrifice. The God of the Jew commanded them to treat foreigners with respect and kindness,but foreigners were also expected to obey the laws of the land in regards to idols and other people.

While we may look at what we call atrocities in the bible, we also see a forgiveness and compassion as well; Rahab the prostitute in Jericho whose whole family was saved because of her actions. Ruth the Moabite, whom Boaz married and was in the lineage of Christ. We also keep forgetting the injunction to Abraham before Israel even left Canaan; that God was giving Canaan 400 years to repent, and they never did. They got worse. God's injunction to Israel was to never become like Canaan or He would also eject them from the land.

While we may never understand completely the way God does work, if we truly look, we can see both compassion and judgement in His actions. Where people have been given direct and implicit experiences with God (like the Israelites did with the Red Sea, the shaking mountain and the constant pillar of fire or moving cloud), much more seems to be expected of them. Where we don't have those direct experiences, God seems to give much more grace, but we do still see that a judgement is coming. But then we can see the payment of that judgement in the New Testament under the person of Jesus Christ.