In Numbers 13-14, God commands the Israelites to kill all the local inhabitants of Palestine, and take the land for themselves. The inhabitants are not even presented as properly human, but as Giants.

Yet even in biblical passages such as this, where we might sensibly conclude that Yahweh’s command for genocide is morally reprehensible, children’s book writers always somehow manage to derive a nice moral from the story. For example, here’s Gwen Ellis’ Read and Share Bible: More Than 200 Best-Loved Bible Stories, on Numbers 13-14, or rather, on the non-expurgated parts thereof:

But in all fairness to Gwen Ellis and other children’s books writers, this saccharine moralism doesn’t seem all that different from what’s done in many or most “academic” biblical commentaries on Numbers 13-14 – accentuating the faith and glossing over the means by which they demonstrate that faith (killing all the native inhabitants):

“Caleb’s exhortation expresses faith in Israel’s ability to enter successfully into the land.”
– Dennis T. Olson, Numbers, 78.

“God promises a reward to the two faithful scouts who gave a good report concerning the quality of the Promised Land and challenged the people to enter it with vision and faith.”
– R. Dennis Cole, Numbers, 236.

“Only those among the spies who had been sent out and had, in contrast to the majority of their comrades, issued a summons to confident trust, are to share in the gift of the land.”
– Martin Noth, Numbers, 101.

Yeah, well, this so-called exemplary faith which you’re describing involves genocide, doesn’t it? So what’s with the saccharine moral-making about faith? You’d think, by looking at the level of critical analysis engaged in here, that the authors of academic biblical commentaries get all their ideas from reading children’s story books.

Advertisements