“... has found 600 passages of explicit violence in the Hebrew Bible [a.k.a. Old Testament], 1000 verses where God’s own violent actions of punishment are described, 100 passages where God expressly commands others to kill people, and several stories where God irrationally kills or tries to kill for no apparent reason. Violence ... is easily the most often mentioned activity in the Hebrew Bible.”
Of the many passages in the Hebrew Scriptures that describe major loss of life, most were conventional wars. Four of these events would probably qualify as genocides under most current definitions of the term. They were:
- The worldwide flood at the time of Noah as described in Genesis, chapters 6 to 8. From the description, it almost completely wiped out the human race, with the exception of Noah, his wife and sons and their wives.
- The Passover incident described in Exodus chapters 11 and 12, in which all of the firstborn of all Egypt were slaughtered.
- The conquest of Canaan, in which God ordered the Hebrews to completely exterminate the Canaanite people—from the elderly to newborns and fetuses. This is described throughout the book of Joshua.
- The near extermination of the entire tribe of Benjamin by the remaining 11 tribes, triggered by the serial rape and murder of a priest’s concubine by a few Benjamites. See Judges, chapter 20.”
“And 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.” Joshua 6:21
“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. And Joshua smote them from Kadesh-barnea even unto Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even unto Gibeon.” Joshua 10:40-41
- Genesis, chapters 6 to 8: The Bible records that God was concerned about the level of violence and other evil behavior among humans. He “was sorry that He had made man on the earth…” 6 God apparently decided that the solution lay in more violence: He decided to destroy almost the entire human race. Only Noah, his three sons and their four wives survived by building an ark to ride out the flood. The rest of the human race—elderly, men, women, youth, children, infants and newborns—and the land animals and birds were said to have all drowned a gruesome death. The Schofield Bible dates the flood as happening in 2349 BCE. This was the largest and most thorough act of genocide in history. Jews and Christians are undecided about whether it actually happened, or whether it is a religious myth derived from Babylonian sources. More details.
- Exodus, chapters 11 & 12: God first hardened the heart of the Pharaoh of Egypt so that he would refuse the request by his Hebrew slaves for permission to leave Egypt. Then, God sent a series of plagues to torment all the inhabitants of Egypt. Finally, God sent an angel to kill all of the first-born in the country—both human and animal—including the old, middle-aged, young, and newborns. The only exception were those Hebrews who had taken special precautions by ritually slaughtering a lamb and spreading its blood over the doorways of their homes. This genocide was the final act that convinced the Pharaoh to release the Hebrews. Schofield dates the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt at 1491 BCE.
- Deuteronomy, chapters 7 & 20. and Joshua, chapters 6, 8, 10, 11, 14, etc.: After wandering in the desert for four decades, God ordered the Hebrews to invade the “promised land” and totally exterminate “the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites” leaving “alive nothing that breathes.” They were to fight and kill the soldiers of these groups, and then murder the defenseless elderly, women, youths, children, infants, and newborns. The book of Joshua records the progress of the genocide, city by city:
- Joshua 8:24 - City of Ai
- Joshua 10:26 - Joshua murdered five defenseless kings of the Amorites in cold blood.
- Joshua 10:28 - City of Makkedah
- Joshua 10:29 - City of Libnah
- Joshua 10:31 - City of Lachish
- Joshua 10:33 - City of Gezer “...Joshua smote him and his people until he had left him none remaining.”
- Joshua 10:34 - City of Elgon “They left none remaining.”
- Joshua 10:37 - City of Hebron
- Joshua 10:38 - City of Debir
- Judges, chapters 19 and 20: Some of the people in the town of Gibeah of the tribe of Benjamin sexually abused and murdered the concubine of a priest. In an act of grave desecration of her body, her owner mutilated her corpse by cutting it into 12 pieces. He sent one to each of the tribes of Israel. This triggered a civil war between the tribe of Benjamin, and an army of 400,000 soldiers, drawn from the remaining 11 tribes. Tens of thousands died during the fighting. Apparently all of the Benjamin towns were burned and their women and children were systematically exterminated during these battles. The tribe of Benjamin was nearly wiped out; only a few hundred men survived. Other atrocities then followed which provided new wives for the men of the tribe of Benjamin, so that the tribe would continue.”