Destruction of Sodoms

INTRODUCTION

In a previous paper, The Bible and Islam on ‘Slave ‘Wives’, we noted the nature of Canaanite religion and culture, and the ‘abominations’ that the Canaanites practised, as in Leviticus 18:21ff, child sacrifice, homosexuality and bestiality:

You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am YHWH. 22.You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. 23.Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion. 24.Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. 25.For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. 

There is a further implication in Leviticus 18 that the Canaanites practised incest, with the possible implication of paedophilia:

6.None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness… 7. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, that is, the nakedness of your mother. She is your mother; you are not to uncover her nakedness… 9.The nakedness of your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether born at home or born outside, their nakedness you shall not uncover. 10.The nakedness of your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter, their nakedness you shall not uncover; for their nakedness is yours.

To repeat what we stated earlier: the very fact that the Israelites are commanded not to have sexual relations with their grandchildren may point to a ban on paedophile activity. Significantly, v3 commands: ‘nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes’ , and v24 warns that the Canaanites practised these abominations: ‘Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled.’ Leviticus 18 banned Israelites from performing sexual activities common to the Canaanites – such as adultery, incest and probably child molestation. These practices were part and parcel of their religion.

To understand what happened in Numbers 31, with the destruction of the Moabites/Midianites at Baal Peor (save for their virgins), we looked at the fact that these people seduced the Israelites into a religious orgy of worship to Baal in Numbers 25:1-6, for which the judgement of YHWH was their destruction (and that of treacherous Israelites who had participated in that abomination). Along with the destruction of the Amalekites, the destruction of the Moabites/Midianites at Baal Peor and the destruction of Canaanites is a favoured area of denunciatory polemic for dawah activists, to avert criticism of what the Hadith states about the genocide of the Banu Qurayza and the injunctions of the Qur’an and Hadith about jihad.

However, this paper will argue that such polemic is based upon a double standard – because it ignores that the Qur’an – in a very edited way – reproduces the first such divine judgment (after the Flood) of a people, specifically a people in the region to which Abraham migrated (Canaan) – the people of Sodom. We will see that some of the abominations for which the Canaanites were punished, and some for which the Amalekites were later judged, also are true of the Sodomites. On that basis, the polemic of dawah activists against the Bible for the various acts of judgment against the Moabites of Midian, the Canaanites and the Amalekites is indeed hypocritical. 

  1. The nature of the Cities of the Plain – economy, culture and religion 

Genesis 10 presents Sodom as at the boundaries of Canaanite territory: ‘And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha’. It seems to be distinguished from Canaan in 13:12: ‘Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom.’ The reason Lot moved towards Sodom was its beautiful, fertile land: ‘10 And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of YHWH, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before YHWH destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)11 So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other.’ 

This tells us that Sodom and its sister cities were situated in a rich area. Economically therefore, the Cities of the Plain were prosperous. That is also implied by what we know of their political condition. This is revealed in Genesis 14, where we learn that the cities – although having ‘kings’ of their own, were vassals of Elam:

In the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim,2 these kings made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar).3 And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea).4 Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.5 In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim,6 and the Horites in their hill country of Seir as far as El-paran on the border of the wilderness. 

The suzerainty under Elam obviously involved the payment of tribute by the Pentapolis, and the rebellion would have been of the nature to refuse any further such tribute, as implied by the northern alliance taking plunder of both goods and people (obviously to be enslaved):

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddimwith Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, four kings against five.10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country.11 So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way.12 They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.

So, the Cities of the Plain were rich, autonomous, and obviously did not appreciate being subject to outsiders or having to share their wealth. The prosperity of Sodom is also implied by Abram’s refusal in Genesis 14 to retain any part of the great plunder that in ancient society was his by right, let it be said that the wicked city had enrichedAbram:

21 And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.”22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to YHWH, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth,23 that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’

In contrast, Abram gives a tenth to the righteous king Melchizedek and receives blessing from him:

17 After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)19 And he blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Possessorof heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
    who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

And Abram gave him a tenth of everything

Further corroboration comes from Ezekiel 16: ‘49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.50 They were haughty and did abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.’ It must be remembered that in Leviticus 19, YHWH expresses His concern for the poor by demanding that provision be made for them: ‘“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest.10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am YHWH your God.’ 

The inference fromEzekiel 16 is that the inhabitants of the Cities of the Plain were callous – rather like the Amalekites. To understand what is meant by this, we will two modern analogies. In terms of wealth and callousness to the poor, consider the relationship of the rich United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its poverty-stricken neighbour, Yemen. Like the Pentapolis of the Cities of the Plain, the UAE is a collection of self-governing entities, made rich by oil wealth and more recently the Finance industry. Instead of sharing its wealth with its poor fellow-Arab Yemenis on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula, currently (2019), the UAE – along with its rich, bigger neighbour Saudi Arabia – is waging a vicious war on the Yemeni population. That is an example of callousness.

Another analogy would be with California – the richest state in the richest country in the world (the USA). California is a beautiful place, famous for its orange-groves and its lovely beaches, renowned for surfing. It is also the home of the movie industry – Hollywood, in Los Angeles, which is also the home of the famed rich area Bel Air. California is also known for its social liberalism, notably San Francisco, which is famed for its pro-LGBT attitudes. This is also true of Hollywood, which in its films and TV programmes produces an unending stream of movies and series displaying sexually immoral behaviour as normal, and critics – especially Evangelical Christians – as judgmental, hypocritical bigots. The Hollywood community has also a long-standing reputation for ‘wild-living’ – drugs, wife-swapping, serial marriages, affairs, etc. It has recently emerged how callous are certain powerful people in Hollywood, with at least one member of the acting profession denounced for repeated homosexual abuse of younger men, and a producer condemned for serial sexual abuse of female actors. That is, Hollywood has developed a reputation for sexual callousness. This is linked to its hostility to Biblical faith and ethics: the Hollywood community is godless.

We are not told anything about the religious beliefs or practices of the Cities of the Plain – something also true of the Amalekites – but if they did have any religious beliefs (and it may be difficult to imagine that they did not), they doubtless shared in the worship of Baal that was common in the region. It is significant that whereas there is mention of religious matters when Abram encounters Melchizedek, there is none with Bera, King of Sodom. All the latter wants to discuss is the return of his people. The contrast between the reaction of Melchizedek, King of Salem and Bera, King of Sodom in their reaction to God Most High is stark. Consider again Genesis 14:17-19: 

17 After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)19 And he blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Possessorof heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
    who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

The text indicates that Bera was present when Melchizedek appeared. The Deity whom the latter invokes – El Elyon(God Most High) – was also the name of the chief god of the Canaanite religion. Unless the Sodomites worshipped a different god – which is unlikely – the lack of reference to him by their king suggests religious indifference. There is no record of Sodom’s King, like Melchizedek, praising El Elyon– God Most High – for the deliverance, despite the obvious supernatural intervention obvious in Abram’s defeat of the northern alliance in Genesis 14, in contrast to the retreat of the Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the fleeing of their people as refugees:

10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country.11 So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way.12 They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.

13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram.14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.15 And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus.16 Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people.

Melchizedek recognised that there had indeed been divine, supernatural deliverance involved in Abram’s defeat of the northern alliance v20: ‘and blessed be God Most High,who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ Abram’s victory was in glaring contrast to the defeat of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. We should recognise thepropheticformof Melchizedek’s statement:

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Possessorof heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
    who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

In Genesis 12:3 YHWH had stated to Abram: ‘I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This looked to the New Testament age, when through the Gospel, people of every ethnicity would become spiritual sons of Abraham, as Jesus states in Matthew 8:11: ‘I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven’. In a sense, the promise to Abraham had begun to come to pass already with this prophetic statement by Melchizedek. This king, Melchizedek, was a local ruler, and probably shared in the general religious beliefs of the region. In Canaan, which relied on rain to irrigate the crops, the emphasis fell on Baal. However, in the light of the intervention of YHWH through Abram, Melchizedek came to identify El Elyon with the God of Abram, and thus YHWH. 

From the Ras Shamra tablets, found at Ugarit in Syria in 1929, we know something of Canaanite religion. Although El was seen as the Creator, increasingly there emerged ‘a sort of co-regency between El as the executive power and Baal as the military power in the cosmos’ (Michael D. Coogan, Mark S. Smith, Stories from Ancient Canaan, Louisville: Westminster Press, 2012, Second Edition, pp. 6-7). Baal’s sister Anat was depicted as the goddess of war (p. 29). Yet, in the Genesis account, it is clear that El Elyon – in the sense of being the God of Abram – is no constitutional monarch, nor the deity of Deism, who simply creates and then withdraws, nor is He only transcendent, whilst other entities accomplish His work on the earth. Rather according to Melchizedek, the victory of Abram was indeed the unique act of El Elyon. God Most High was not only the Creator, but is the ‘Possessor’ of bothheaven and earth. This has come as a literal divine revelation to Melchizedek, and in the power of El Elyon he makes the prophetic statement that God Most High delivered Abram’s foes into his hands – that is, Abram’s victory against the greater, stronger Elamite and allied forces was supernatural in character – something that the coalition of kings of the Pentapolis, with presumably greater resources could not accomplish. 

However, the spiritual insight of Melchizedek does not seem to have been shared by Bera, King of Sodom – or his people, as we later learn, even though Bera hears this and knows the facts about the war. Bera does not praise God Most High for his supernatural intervention on Abram’s side to beat Chedorlaomer and his allies. Despite the fact that Abram was obviously a migrant, a resident alien in the area, who worshipped only YHWH, and who had acted in defence of his nephew, Lot, this does not appear to have caused either Sodom’s king or it people to investigate the God both Abram and Lot worshipped and Who had clearly performed a miracle which had led to their own deliverance as well. Bear in mind that in answer to the King of Sodom’s request invitation to keep the spoil, Abram declines, in these words: ‘22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to YHWH, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth,23 that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’24 I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the  share of the men who went with me. Let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.’ So, Abram had taken an oath to YHWH to keep nothing. In some ways, Abram’s action in this mirrors that of Joshua during the conquest of Canaan – the Ban (Walter Kaiser, Toward an Old Testament Theology, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978, p. 135):

In this type of warfare, spoils were not to be taken by anyone, for everything in this war was under “ban”(herem=hdram, “to utterly destroy” — Deut 20:17; 2:34; 3:6; 7:2). It was the exclusive property of the Lord; therefore, it was to be totally devoted to destruction (Josh. 6:17-27; 1 Sam. 15:3). What could not be burned, such as silver, gold, or iron, was to be placed in the sanctuary of God. The “ban” was just the opposite of a voluntary whole-burnt offering in which the offerer willingly gave up the entire animal in an act of total submission (Lev. 1; cf. Rom. 12:1-2). Here, after much divine long-suffering and waiting, God called for everything that belonged to Him in the first place — life, possessions, valuables — as an involuntary whole-burnt offering. Thus more was involved than mere destruction; it was a “religious punishment” which signified “the separation from the profane sphere and deliverance into the power of God.”

Elsewhere, Kaiser observes (Toward Old Testament Ethics, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983, p. 75): ‘More frequently the idea is a compulsory dedication of that which impedes or opposes God’s work. Accordingly, the Israelites promised to devote all the spoils of southern Canaan if God granted victory to Israel in Numbers 21:2-3.’ In this case, Abram’s triumph over the superior northern alliance could only have been accomplished through the supernatural intervention of YHWH. The victory belonged to God Most High alone, not to Abram’s military prowess. Further, the goods of Sodom (and its neighbours) were all tainted by the fact that the Sodomites were wicked sinners. Abram could not keep goods that would enable people to say that someone so evil had enriched him; it would be like someone today accepting a financial gift from a corrupt tyrant. 

However, the principal point here is that the King and people of Sodom were not impacted by the divine revelation given through Melchizedek’s prophetic statement, nor by the comment Abram made to Bera, where the Patriarch identified God Most High with YHWH – ‘YHWH, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth’. The revelation of this identification made no impression on the people of the Pentapolis, nor the implication from Abram’s statement about the goods of the Five Cities being tainted. There was no soul-searching either in terms of theology or ethics among the people.

Hence, Sodom was not only callous to human beings, but also to God. This reflects 13:13 where it states: ‘Now the men of Sodomwere wicked, great sinners against YHWH.’ They were not God-fearing – essentially, they were a godlesspeople. Their wickedness is demonstrated by their lack of gratitude towards God Most High/YHWH for their deliverance through the God of Abram. Above all, despite having the example of the righteous man Lot living among them, whose presence was the occasion of their salvation from defeat and enslavement, they never repented of their wicked ways, sought out knowledge of YHWH from either Abram or Lot, nor gave thanks to God Most High, and were later to turn on Lot to the point of dishonouring his house and threatening to sexually violate him. The revelation of the power and compassion of YHWH through Abram for the sake of Lot was ignored by the inhabitants of the Cities of the Plain.

  • The character of Lot and his story 

Muslims are often unaware that in the Bible, Lot is not presented as a prophet. He is presented as a righteous individual in 2 Peter 2:7-8: ‘7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)’. However, he is also presented as a flawed, compromised man. He followed his uncle Abram to Canaan (Genesis 12:4-5), but separated after there was strife between their employees over resources, Genesis 13:

And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents,so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together,and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land.

Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen.Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.”

From this we learn that both Abram and Lot had prospered in the land of their migration. The generous offer of Abram is met by Lot making a very dubious choice:

10 And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of YHWH, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before YHWH destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)11 So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other.12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom.13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against YHWH.

Attractive as this California of the Levant may have been, this decision involved a major ethical compromise on Lot’s part – he pitched his tent adjacent to the equivalent of the Hollywood community, with all the sexual immorality and abuse that characterised both Sodom and Hollywood. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that Lot organised something like the #MeToomovement to combat sexual abuse, because in Genesis 14:12 we learn that Lot was actually dwelling in Sodom: ‘They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.’ Further evidence of this compromise is found in the fact that Lot allowed his daughters to become betrothed to men from Sodom – despite the fact that they had obviously not come to believe in YHWH, as demonstrated by their scoffing at the warning of the angels about Sodom’s imminent destruction, Genesis 19:

12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place.13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before YHWH, and YHWH has sent us to destroy it.”14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for YHWH is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.

Remember this had occurred after the miraculous liberation of both Lot and the people of Sodom by YHWH through Lot’s uncle Abram, which allowed the people of the Cities of the Plains to escape captivity/enslavement, return to their homes (including those men who had fled from the Battle of Siddim to the hills), and receive back their possessions through the integrity of Abram. Recall also that this happened after a more immediate miracle – the supernatural blinding of the Sodomite men who wished to have sexual relations with the angels: ‘11 And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.’ If the prospective sons in-law were not convinced by this latest miracle of deliverance – about which they must have heard, given the numbers involved – it is doubtful that anything would have moved them to faith. Yet these were the men to whom righteous Lot was willing to entrust with his daughters. 

We see evidence of the degeneration in Lot’s wife, who disobeys the injunction not look back and is transformed into a pillar of salt (vs. 17, 26), perhaps signifying a longing for her home and rich lifestyle, but still, an act of disobedience to God. Indeed, we see that Lot himself was reluctant to leave, and had to be pressed to do so by the angels: ‘15 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.”16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, YHWH being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.’ The final sign of the effects of the compromised life that Lot’s decisions had caused can be seen in what his daughter do to him after the destruction of Sodom:

30 Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters.31 And the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth.32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.”33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father. He did not know when she lay down or when she arose.

34 The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.”35 So they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.36 Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father.37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day.38 The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.

We previously noted that incest was a feature of Canaanite religion and culture, and rape/sexual abuse can be seen in the fact that the men of Sodom try to violently molest Lot: ‘9 But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down.’ Again, despite Lot’s own witness, the deliverance of Lot by YHWH through Abram about which Lot’s daughters must have known, which demonstrated the providential care of YHWH, and the fact that they would have known about the miraculous blinding of the Sodomite men, Lot’s daughters had imbibed the godless ethics of Sodom, rather than faith in YHWH to care for them as He had done in recuing them form the destruction of the Cities of the Plain, and, like (usually male) sexual abusers throughout history, they got their victim drunk in order to sexually molest him – their own father. They had been taken out of Sodom, but Sodom had not been taken out of them. The Moabites and Ammonites (with few exceptions, such as Ruth) became the enemies of Abram’s progeny, rather than sharing his faith in YHWH.

  • The nature of the Sodomites and their destruction 

We have seen the nature of Sodom’s sins – they were callous about the poor; they were sexually immoral and perverse; they were godless. Their callousness to God Most High/YHWH is demonstrated by their religious indifference after Abram’s miraculous victory and the display of his integrity in refusing to keep any plunder from their city, their attempt to rape the man for whom Abram had fought, and indeed, the angelic miracle which blinded them. Like the Amalekites, they were incorrigible.  We need to consider the effect of the last miracle they experienced before the city’s destruction: ‘4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house… 11 And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.’ 

According to this, all the men of the city were affected by this miracle, yet unlike Saul on the Damascus Road many centuries later (Acts 9: ‘8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.’), who was converted after being miraculously blinded, even thismiracle did not cause the men to repent – to realise that the same God who had miraculously delivered them from the northern alliance through Abram for the sake of Lot had once again displayed His power by delivering Lot from them. This was how callous and hardened they were. 

It needs to be mentioned how patient YHWH was with the Cities of the Plain. YHWH revealed to Abram that he was going to judge the people of Canaan – but not for centuries, as their sin had not yet reached its zenith, Genesis 15:

13 Then YHWH said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

When we first encounter the people of Sodom, we learn that they were already near the apex of their heinousness, 13:13: ‘Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against YHWH.’ Despite this, YHWH gave them an opportunity to repent – they saw His power after the Battle of Siddim when they were rescued through Abram, a victory that was recognised as a divine deliverance on the part of God Most High by Melchizedek. This Melchizedek was the King of Salem, sometimes thought to be Jerusalem, but it may refer to Salim, of which we read in John 3:23: ‘John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized’. Aenon was west of, but obviously by the Jordan, and possibly Salim was actually the city meant in Genesis 14, so perhaps Melchizedek was a neighbour of the Pentapolis, and so more invested in Abram’s victory. If this identification is correct, and Salim was nearby the Five Cities, Melchizedek’s faith in the God of Abram makes Sodom’s godlessness after their miraculous deliverance all the more blameworthy.

Even then, YHWH did not judge them immediately. Weak and compromised as Lot’s testimony doubtless would have been, it had been vindicated by the supernatural intervention after the Battle of Siddim, yet this had no effect on the Sodomites. As we have seen, neither did the miraculous blinding of the men who tried to attack Lot. As with the Canaanites, as with the Amalekites, YHWH gave them ample opportunity to repent, and like both of these peoples, the Sodomites both saw and heard of the power of YHWH in operation – but they were callous toward Him. Even at the last moment, we should consider what the Theophany of YHWH says to Abram in Genesis 18:

16 Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way.17 YHWH said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do,18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?19 For I have chosenhim, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of YHWH by doing righteousness and justice, so that YHWH may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”20 Then YHWH said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave,21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogetheraccording to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

This presents YHWH as a cautious judge, who does not rush to judgment, but investigates. In one sense, we can see the arrival of the angels at Sodom as the city’s last chance – one squandered by the people when they confirm their degradation by their desire to have sexual relations with the angelic visitors and attempts to violently molest Lot. Indeed, YHWH, in answer to Abram’s intercession, promised to spare Sodom if even ten righteous could be found in the city (18:32) – in the event, there could not be found even that few. 

Remembering that YHWH promised to investigate the truth of the ‘outcry’ or ‘outrage’ (za·‘ă·qaṯ–  זַעֲקַ֛)against the grievous sin of the Sodom and Gomorrah, note the word of Kaiser (Toward Old Testament Ethics, pp. 11-12) on this subject about the Hebrew word here: ‘It indicates the anguished cry of the oppressed and the agonizedplea of the victim(s) for relief from the great injustices and indignities suffered. In some ways, it is the very antithesis of “righteousness,”, for in Isaiah 5:7 God looked for… “righteousness”… and found an “outcry”…instead’.  This is important when we consider what clinched the judgment. Some elements have tried to argue that the following text indicates either a demand for identification or a desire to commit homosexual rape, Genesis 19:

4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house.5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”6 Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him,7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly.8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”9 But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down.

The fact that Lot is horrified by the men’s request and even offers his virgin daughters in exchange for the visitors indicates that the Sodomites were not asking for the angels’ passports! Although there is the implication of sexual violence against Lot in v9, is that what the men had in mind for the visitors? Victor P. Hamilton (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995, pp. 34-35) make several vital points on this:

We see at least four problems with the view that the prohibition here is only on homosexual rape. First, nowhere in the OT does the verb yādahave the nuance of ‘abuse’ or ‘violate’. Second, the OT uses unmistakable language to relate rape incidents. Thus the Shechemites ‘seized’ and ‘lay with’ and ‘humbled’ Dinah (Gen. 34:2). Amnon ‘forced’ and ‘lay with’ his half sister Tamar (2 Sam.13:14). Similarly, the biblical laws about rape also use these terms: ‘seize,’ ‘lie with’ (Deut. 22:25-27). Third, this interpretation forces one meaning on ‘know’ in v. 5 (i.e. abuse) but a different meaning on ‘know’ three verses later (i.e. have intercourse with’), for it is unlikely that Lot is saying: ‘I have two daughters who have never been abused.’ Fourth, such an interpretation forces these incredible words in Lot’s mouth: ‘Do not rape my visitors. Here are my daughters, both virgins – rape them!’ Clearly, then, the incident frowns on homosexual relations for whatever reason.Note that in the often cited parallel to Gen. 19, viz. Judg. 19, the host offers both his own virgin daughter and his guest’s concubine to Gibeah’s city dwellers with the statement ‘and sexually mistreat them’…By contrast, Lot avoids using any verb that has clear-cut indications of sexual aggression.” 

This being in mind, we can begin to understand what happened at the beginning of Genesis 19: ‘The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth2 and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.”3 But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.’ Why would the angels want to spend the night in the town square? Obviously, they were aware who Lot was – one of their responsibilities to deliver him and his family, but they had also been sent to investigate if the reports of Sodom’s iniquity were true. 

This is where a proper understanding becomes crucial. If Sodom had a reputation for raping visitors, then it is likely that its commercial relations with others would have ceased, since traders would have been unlikely to want to spend any time there, or even visit for purposes of trade and commerce. However, if it had a reputation for ‘wild living’ – which included homosexuality, bestiality, fornication, etc., then it would have attracted what in modern-day parlance would be ‘sex tourists’, notably people who visit the notorious red-light district in Amsterdam. In that sense, the town square at night would have been what Americans call a ‘pick-up joint’. The angels, then, would be testing whether they would be met with the ordinary Eastern hospitality to strangers, or by a perverse proposition, such as might occur in a modern-day bar of certain inclinations. Lot’s insistence precludes this test in the square itself, but the fact that all the men of the city surround his house to seek unnatural relations with the men should be seen less as a threat of something analogous to prison rape, but rather an invitation to the men – possibly of a very attractive countenance – to ‘party’ (sexually) with them. They would be aware of Lot’s puritanism, and possibly felt that his invitation to the men had pre-empted the purpose of their visit – to engage in casual, perverse relations. This would be in keeping with Hamilton’s exegesis, and would explain Lot’s offer of his daughters – as ‘my girls are virgins – why not party with theminstead?’.

The offer of the daughters might seem incongruous where homosexual activity is involved, but we must remember that in the ancient world, unguided and unguarded by Biblical ethics, men (in this case, the emphasis should be on males) were often thought to be ‘metro-sexual’ in the sense that they were happy to satisfy their lusts with either/both men and women. There was no clear division between heterosexual activity one day, and homosexual activity by the same man the following day. The men of Sodom were fully aware of Lot’s attitudes, and by his trying to prevent the culture of Sodom having its full expression, they were angered to violence, seeing him as judgmental, an attitude intensified by the fact that he was an outsider. It would be the same as if a British actor of high moral principles were to criticise the pervasive sexual immorality, abuse and perversion among the Hollywood community, or the pro-LGBT attitudes of San Francisco; he would be angrily denounced as a bigoted, judgmental outsider who came to California to enjoy its wealth and had the impudence to criticise its ‘inclusive’ ethics. By this, the angelic investigation was fulfilled – Sodom had shown itself to be incorrigibly corrupt, given that its men all wanted to engage in what would later be revealed as an ‘abomination’ – man lying with man – Leviticus 18:22, for which the penalty was death – 20:13: ‘If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.’ This was the punishment that awaited Sodom.

We should remember that the angels originally arrived at Abraham’s tent with the Theophany – a manifestation of YHWH in human form (but not yet human nature). He was still on the earth at this point. The investigation completed, the charges against Sodom confirmed, YHWH destroys Sodom in a text which suggests plurality within the Godhead (19:24): ‘23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.24 Then YHWH rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur and fire from YHWH out of heaven.25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.’ So, YHWH on the earth rained destruction from YHWH in Heaven. 

Before considering the Islamic perspective, we need to consider three points. The reference in Ezekiel 16: 50 (וַֽתִּגְבְּהֶ֔ינָה וַתַּעֲשֶׂ֥ינָה תוֹעֵבָ֖ה לְפָנָ֑י וָאָסִ֥יר אֶתְהֶ֖ן כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר רָאִֽיתִי׃) is in the singular in Hebrew (תוֹעֵבָ֖ה to’ey-vah) ‘They were haughty and did abomination before me’, but in the Septuagint, it is in the plural: καὶ ἐμεγαλαύχουν καὶ ἐποίησαν ἀνομήματα ἐνώπιόν μου καὶ ἐξῆρα αὐτάς καθὼς εἶδον – ἀνομήματα – anomēmata– ‘lawless acts’, sinsin the plural. This would suggest that we see the reference to ‘abomination’ in Ezekiel 16:50 as generic– that is, the people of Sodom committed a series of abominations. Other sexual sins included incest, which we have seen was the consequence of living in Sodom for Lot’s daughters. Another was bestiality. The reference in Jude 7 suggests this: ‘even as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, in like manner giving themselves over to fornication and going after different flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.’ What was the ‘differentflesh’, which counterposed with ‘fornication’? Obviously, homosexuality and bestiality leap to mind. Added to incest and fornication, we can se that Sodom was characterised by complete sexual abandon, along with violence against those thought to be judgmental bigots, and callous disregard for the poor. 

The second point, which is related to theheremwe considered earlier, is that often other elements of nature suffer along with the guilty. Remember what Kaiser commented on this (Toward an Old Testament Theology, p. 135): ‘Thus more was involved than mere destruction; it was a “religious punishment” which signified “the separation from the profane sphere and deliverance into the power of God.”’ This included possessions such as inanimate objects and animals. Remember that in Flood, only those humans and animals in the Ark survived – the rest were destroyed. In some cases, animals had to be destroyed since they had become tainted agents of sin. For example, the Amalekites used animals as transport in their raids, and their whole economy was based on raiding, which included the theft of animals, so the destruction of even animals commanded in 1 Samuel 15:3 needs to be seen in this light. This is also true of animals used in bestiality, as stated in Leviticus 20: ‘15 If a man lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal.16 If a woman approaches any animal and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.’ Again, it must be recalled that when Adam sinned, the whole of Creation fell with him – animals became alienated from Man, and the ground was cursed in consequence of Adam’s fall in Eden, Genesis 3:

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.

We saw that in Genesis 13:10, Lot chose Sodom specifically because of the well-watered fertility of the Jordan Valley: ‘And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of YHWH, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before YHWH destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)’ Hence, the prosperity of the Cities of the Plain rested to a large degree on the agricultural fertility of their lands, which resembled Eden in this respect. It was fitting, therefore, that the punishment on the people of Sodom and Gomorrah – which, like the Flood, like the destruction of the Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, Canaanites and the Amalekites – included women and children, and any animals (for while they are not mentioned, animals would have been used in agriculture and transport), would also have involved the destruction of the fertile land, and its transformation into something less inviting, Genesis 19:

23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.24 Then YHWH rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur and fire from YHWH out of heaven.25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before YHWH.28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.

29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.

The third point is the agency involved. In the Flood, YHWH acted directly in sending down the waters. In the miracles of the Exodus, He again acted, but this time partly through human agency -specifically Moses and Aaron – and partly through an angel, at the Passover. In the case of Sodom. No human agency is involved, but rather YHWH acts directly through sending down the sulphur and fire, and partly through angels. In each case, divine judgment is involved. Sometimes God is both Judge and Executioner, sometimes he uses angels and to a lesser extent, human beings as His executioners. 

In terms of the Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, Canaanites and the Amalekites, YHWH was the Judge who sentenced the guilty parties to capital punishment, but He used human agency as His Executioners. In that sense, when we examine the cases of the Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, Canaanites and the Amalekites and compare them with the case of the Sodomites, there is only one difference – in the case of the Cities of the Plains, God acted directly to some degree and used angels in part of the plan, but the sentence was still the same as the first three cases – complete destruction, albeit through human agency. It was not a case of the Israelites simply not liking the Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, Canaanites and the Amalekites, but rather God exercising sentence of judgement upon wicked sinners, and using human agency to implement that sentence. None of these examples are to be found in the Qur’an. However, the story of the Sodomites is present, so it follows that if we find that Allah engages in wholesale destruction of everyone in Sodom – which would have included women and children, and even animals – then the criticism of dawah activists against the Biblical narratives about Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, Canaanites and the Amalekites is guilty of hypocrisy.

Before we move on to the Islamic treatment of Sodom, we should consider the beauty and nuances of the Biblical narrative of Lot in relation to Abram/Abraham and Sodom. They arrive in the Promised Land as two migrants from Ur – rather like two Middle East Christian immigrants arriving in America, the Land of Opportunity. One goes with his wife to the wholesome farming communities of the Mid-West, the other makes straight for California, the richest state in the Union. This is what happened with Lot – he saw the prosperity and fertility of the Jordan valley, the California of the region, and despite the moral (or rather, immoral) character of the local inhabitants, he moves there. 

At this stage, we are not told whether Lot has a wife, and the fact that no mention is made of her during the narrative of Lot’s abduction in Genesis 14:12 and indeed, that nothing is heard of her until the angels enter Sodom in Genesis 19 may imply that she came from Sodom. Possibly that is why Lot moved into Sodom – after marrying his wife. Given that Sodom was a place of ‘wicked, great sinners against YHWH’, this shows great compromise by Lot – it was the equivalent of the aforementioned Middle East Christian immigrant not only marrying outside his faith community, but even marrying someone whose values were those of the pro-LGBT or Hollywood communities. That being the case, it is hardly surprising that she looked back in disobedience to the directive of YHWH given through the angels, and no surprise that Lot’s daughters were not insulated against the values of Sodom – they may have learnt these from their mother. The Moabites were descended from one of the daughters, and it was people from this group that used sexually immoral behaviour to entice the Israelites into orgiastic pagan activity at Baal Peor –  as the American saying goes, a case, perhaps of the apple not falling far from the tree.

It is interesting to see the nuances in gradual degeneration of Lot. First, he moves toward Sodom, Genesis 13:12: ‘…Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom.’ Abram/Abraham lived in tents all his life – the equivalent of the Middle East Christian immigrant living his whole life in agrarian communities in the U.S. Mid-West. Despite the fact that Lot was also a pastoralist, 13:5 (‘…Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents…’), by 14:12 he seemed to be living in Sodom itself (‘…Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom’), unless it implies that he was just in its vicinity, and by 19:1-3, Lot was definitely living in a house within the city: ‘The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them… 2 and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night… 3 …they turned aside to him and entered his house.’ This was the equivalent of the other Middle East Christian immigrant moving into an area of San Francisco where the norms of Biblical ethics were rejected both in theory and practice by the locals. 

Such a man may well have been tormented by the anti-Biblical lifestyle he encountered among the locals on a daily basis – 2 Peter 2: ‘7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)’ –but the fact is, the modern immigrant would have placed himself in a situation where the norms of the society in which he lived, its rulers, the media, even its pseudo-religious leaders all rejected – with great hostility, to the point of violence – the ethics he upheld and propagated. Finally, he lost everything – his wealth and his wife – when an earthquake rocked San Francisco, and his children had absorbed not hismorals, but rather the culture of the place where they had lived. It was the American Dream in reverse.

The other nuances of the story can be found in the gradual disclosure of the moral degeneracy of the Sodomites. We are told in Genesis 13:13 about their being great sinners, but we are not told in what way. In chapter fourteen, we see the religious indifference of the Sodomites, their lack of appreciation for the miraculous deliverance by YHWH, and the fact that Abram had given an oath not to take anything from Sodom’s king – though we do not know why as yet that taking anything from Sodom’s king should be so objectionable. It is only in Genesis 19, when all the men of Sodom surround Lot’s house asking that he should send out the two visitors so that they could have sexual relations with them do we know what is the heinous sin that caused Genesis to characterise the Sodomites as being especially wicked. This is the first mention of homosexuality in the Bible. 

From what we learn from other texts about the sinfulness of Sodom, we can see that many of the attitudes and practices of the Canaanites and Amalekites are reproduced – or rather, presaged – in the conduct of the Sodomites. They engaged in homosexuality, fornication, probably bestiality and judging by the conduct of Lot’s daughters, born and raised in Sodom, in incest – possibly even paedophilia. They were willing to use violence to sexually molest Lot. In short, they were guilty of many of the same sins as the Canaanites. Like the Amalekites, they had no fear of God, were callous to others, and prepared to use violence against the vulnerable (Lot was greatly outnumbered by the men of Sodom). The Amorites may not have reached the apex of iniquity in the time of Abram, but the Sodomites indeed had– with the same consequence, destruction of the entire society, the only difference being the meansof execution. 

  • Lot and Sodom in Islam

The story of the migration of Abraham and Lot from Ur and Haran to Canaan is not explicitly reproduced in either the Qur’an or Hadith, but it is stated in Surah Al-Anbiya 21:71: ‘And We rescued him and Lot (and brought them) to the land which We have blessed for (all) peoples.’ Give that this is usually taken as a reference to Palestine, this may at least hint at the migration. It is interesting that in Ibn Kathir’s Stories of the Prophets(Written by Al-Imam ibn Kathir, Translated by Muhammad Mustapha Geme’ah, Al-Azhar, Riyadh: Darussalam, n.d., p. 38), he has to resort to Jewish/Christian traditions to suggest this:

Some of the People of the Book stated that his name was Abraham Ibn Tarikh, Ibn Nahur, Ibn Sarough, Ibn Raghu, Ibn Phaligh, Ibn Aher, Ibn Shalih, Ibn Arfghshand, Ibn Sam, Ibn Noah. They said that when Tarikh was seventy five years old, he had Abraham, Nahor (Nohour) and Haran. Haran had a son named Lot. They also said that Abraham was the middle child and that Haran died in the lifetime of his father in the land where he was born, the land of the Chaldeans (Al Kaldanieen), also known as Babylonia. At that time some people worshipped idols of stone and wood; others worshipped the planets, stars, sun and moon; still others worshipped their kings and rulers.

Once again, it should be noted that the exact relationship between Abraham and Lot (Lut in Arabic) as uncle and nephew is never presented in either the Qur’an or Hadith, but in Surah Al-‘Ankabut 29:26it appears that Lot was in the vicinity when Abraham proclaimed his rejection of idols: ‘And Lot believed him, and said: Lo! I am a fugitive unto my Lord. Lo! He, only He, is the Mighty, the Wise.’ However, this is where the Qur’anic text becomes self-contradictory. It presents Lot as a prophet to a place which is not named. However, the Qur’an repeatedly presents the Sodomites as Lot’s people or brethren:

Al-A’Raf 7:80

And Lot! (Remember) when he said unto his folk: Will ye commit abomination such as no creature ever did before you?

Hud 11:70

And when he saw their hands reached not to it, he mistrusted them and conceived a fear of them. They said: Fear not! Lo! we are sent unto the folk of Lot.

Hud 11:74

And when the awe departed from Abraham, and the glad news reached him, he pleaded with Us on behalf of the folk of Lot.

Hud 11:89

And, O my people! Let not the schism with me cause you to sin so that there befall you that which befell the folk of Noah and the folk of Hud, and the folk of Salih; and the folk of Lotare not far off from you

Al-Shura’ 26:160

The folk of Lotdenied the messengers (of Allah),

Al-Shura’ 26:161

When their brother Lotsaid unto them: Will ye not ward off (evil)?

Al-Naml 27:54

And Lot! when he said unto his folk: Will ye commit abomination knowingly?

Al-‘Ankaboot 29:28

And Lot! (Remember) when he said unto his folk: Lo! ye commit lewdness such as no creature did before you.

Qaf 50:13

And (the tribe of) A’ad, and Pharaoh, and the brethren of Lot,

Al-Qamar 54:33

The folk of Lotrejected warnings.

So, rather than being a sojourner, Lot seems to be presented in the Qur’an as a nativeof Sodom. There is nothing about Abram and Lot separating, nor about Lot being dazzled by the beauty and prosperity of the Jordan Valley, and certainly nothing about his ethical compromises. This is because Islam does not believe in the sinfulness of prophets. In the Bible, Lot is not presented as a prophet, but the Qur’an: Surah As-Sa’Affat 37:133: ‘And lo! Lot verily was of those sent (to warn)’, or literally ‘Lot was [one] of the Messengers’ (وَإِنَّإِلْيَاسَ لَمِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ). It is also implied in the fact that Lot is included among the list of righteous prophets in Surah Al-An’am 6: ‘85. And Zachariah and John and Jesus and Elias. Each one (of them) was of the righteous. 86. And Ishmael and Elisha and Jonah and Lot. Each one of them did We prefer above (Our) creatures’. There is a further implication in Surah An-Anbiya’ 21: ‘74. And unto Lot We gave judgment and knowledge, and We delivered him from the community that did abominations. Lo! they were folk of evil, lewd. 75. And We brought him in unto Our mercy. Lo! he was of the righteous.’ How then did Islam arrive at the idea that Lot was a prophet? Possibly, because the Bible presents him as ‘righteous’, which would be in keeping with some of the texts in the Qur’an, but also because of the existence of the Byzantine Church of Saint Lot and Saint Procopius, in Jordan, and the Monastery of Saint Lot, unearthed in 1986 near the ancient site of Zoar also in Jordan. The fact that Lot was held to be a saint in the Byzantine region of Arabia Petræa (Transjordan and northern Hijaz) before the advent of Islam may have influenced the tradition that went into the Qur’an. 

Rather than a consistent narrative developing the character of Lot, and showing how his eye for the main chance – to realise his own version of the (later) American Dream by moving to the Jordan Valley, the California of his time, and then his gradual descent into further compromise – first moving toward Sodom, then moving intothe city characterised by great wickedness and sin, the Qur’an presents Lot as being sent to Sodom ( although the city is not named), as we saw in As-Sa’Affat 37:133, since he is presented as one of the Messengers – i.e. he was a rasul– of Allah. Furthermore, rather than the nuanced disclosure of the identity of the specific sin that makes Sodom so wicked in Genesis 19, when the men surround Lot’s house, the Qur’an presents Lot as directly sent to confront the homosexuality of the city’s males.’ This is spelled-out in Surah Al-Shura’ 26:

160. The folk of Lot denied the messengers (of Allah),

161. When their brother Lot said unto them: Will ye not ward off (evil)?

162. Lo! I am a faithful messenger unto you,

163. So keep your duty to Allah and obey me.

164. And I ask of you no wage therefor; my wage is the concern only of the Lord of the Worlds.

165. What! Of all creatures do ye come unto the males,

166. And leave the wives your Lord created for you? Nay, but ye are froward folk.

In Surah Al-Naml 27 the nature of the sin as homosexuality is also clear: ‘54. And Lot! when he said unto his folk: will ye commit abomination knowingly? 55. Must ye needs lust after men instead of women? Nay, but ye are folk who act senselessly.’ The same is true of Surah Al-‘Ankaboot 29: ‘28. And Lot! (Remember) when he said unto his folk: Lo! ye commit lewdness such as no creature did before you. 29. For come ye not in unto males, and cut ye not the road (for travellers), and commit ye not abomination in your meetings?’. Further evidence is found in the way the people of Lot’s city react to his visitors: Surah Hud 11:

77. And when Our messengers came unto Lot, he was distressed and knew not how to protect them. He said: This is a distressful day.

78. And his people came unto him, running towards him and before then they used to commit abominations He said: O my people! Here are my daughters! They are purer for you. Beware of Allah, and degrade me not in (the person of) my guests. Is there not among you any upright man?

79. They said: Well thou knowest that we have no right to thy daughters, and well thou knowest what we want.

Likewise, Surah Al-Hijr 15 presents a similar picture:

61. And when the messengers came unto the family of Lot..

67. And the people of the city came, rejoicing at the news (of new arrivals).

68. He said: Lo! they are my guests. Affront me not!

69. And keep your duty to Allah, and shame me not!

70. They said: Have we not forbidden you from (entertaining) anyone?

71. He said: Here are my daughters, if ye must be doing (so).

So, according to the Qur’an, the focus of Lot’s message to Sodom was to repent of homosexuality. The only variation on this is found in Surah Al-‘Ankaboot 29:29, where it states: ‘For come ye not in unto males, and cut ye not the road (for travellers), and commit ye not abomination in your meetings?’ Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir interprets this text as follows:

Allah tells us that His Prophet Lut, peace be upon him, denounced his people for their evil deed and their immoral actions in having intercourse with males, a deed which none of the sons of Adam had ever committed before them. As well as doing this, they also disbelieved in Allah and rejected and opposed His Messenger, they robbed wayfarers, they would lie in wait on the road, kill people and loot their possessions.

(And practice Al-Munkar in your meetings.) This means, ‘in your gatherings you do and say things that are not befitting, and you do not denounce one another for doing such things.’ Some said that they used to have intercourse with one another in public; this was the view of Mujahid. Some said that they used to compete in passing gas and laughing. This was the view of ‘A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, and Al-Qasim. Some of them said that they used to make rams fight one another, or organize cockfights. They used to do all of these things, and they were even eviler than that.

The History of Tabari(Translated by William M. Brinner, Albany: SUNY Press, 1987p. 112), similar explanations are given regarding the Sodomites:

God sent Lot to the people of Sodom. The people of Sodom were disbelievers in God, and were also immoral, as God has said, “You commit lewdness such as no creature has done before you. For do you not come into males, and do you not cut the roads, and do you not commit abominations in your assemblies?” As has been said, “cutting the road” means that they committed lewdness with anyone who came into their town. According to Yunus b. ‘Abd al-A’la-Ibn Wahb-Ibn Zayd: As for God’s statement, “you cut the roads,”the road is the way of the traveler. When the traveler, the son of the road, passed by them, they would block the road and perform with him that ugly deed. As for what they did in their assemblies, scholars disagree about what it was. Some say that they used to shorten whoever passed by them. Others say that they used to break wind in their assemblies, while some said that they used to have intercourse with each other there.

So, according to these two exegetes, the Sodomites behaved very much as did the Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, with the exception that the Sodomites engaged in homosexual activity, which reminds us of the Canaanites, or they would violently plunder the vulnerable, which recalls the conduct of the Amalekites. 

Among the differences between the Biblical and Qur’anic texts is that Lot is presented as warning the Sodomites about their behaviour and its consequence, and the reaction of the Sodomites is to threaten to expel him from the city:

Surah Al-Hijr 15

67. And the people of the city came, rejoicing at the news (of new arrivals).

68. He said: Lo! they are my guests. Affront me not!

69. And keep your duty to Allah, and shame me not!

70. They said: Have we not forbidden you from (entertaining) anyone?

Surah Al-Shura’ 26:

167. They said: If thou cease not, O Lot, thou wilt soon be of the outcast.

168. He said: I am in truth of those who hate your conduct.

Surah Al-Naml 27 the nature of the sin as homosexuality is also clear:

56. But the answer of his folk was naught save that they said: Expel the household of Lot from your township, for they(forsooth) are folk who would keep clean!

The Qur’an also presents Lot as praying for deliverance from the Sodomites, and asking for victory over them, whereas such a plea is absent from the Bible: Surah Al-Shura’ 26:169. My Lord! Save me and my household from what they do; Surah Al-‘Ankaboot 29:30. He said: My Lord! Give me victory over folk who work corruption. In that sense, the destruction of Sodom would essentially be an answer to prayer rather than something that was by divine initiative and that took Lot by surprise, Surah Al-‘Ankaboot 29:

30. He said: My Lord! Give me victory over folk who work corruption.

31. And when Our messengers brought Abraham the good news, they said: Lo! we are about to destroy the people of that township, for its people are wrong doers.

32. He said: Lo! Lot is there. They said: We are best aware of who is there. We are to deliver him and his household, all save his wife, who is of those who stay behind.

Another difference is that the intercession of Abraham for Sodom is not present, save in a very limited way, and rather than YHWH hearing the Patrarch’s prayer, in the Qur’an, Allah (through the angels) commands him to cease:

Surah Hud 11

69. And Our messengers came unto Abraham with good news… 

74. And when the awe departed from Abraham, and the glad news reached him, he pleaded with Us on behalf of the folk of Lot.

75. Lo! Abraham was mild, imploring, penitent.

76. (It was said) O Abraham! Forsake this! Lo! thy Lord’s commandment hath gone forth, and lo! there cometh unto them a doom which cannot be repelled.

A final difference to consider is that the Qur’anic text presents the angels as declaring that they will not save Lot’s wife, as she is evil, rather than commanding all the family to flee and leaving it to her to obey or not:

Surah Hud 11

81. (The messengers) said: O Lot! Lo! we are messengers of thy Lord; they shall not reach thee. So travel with thy people in a part of the night, and let not one of you turn round (all)save thy wife.Lo! that which smiteth them will smite her (also).Lo! their tryst is (for) the morning. Is not the morning nigh?

Surah Al-Hijr 15

59. (All) save the family of Lot. Them we shall deliver everyone,

60. Except his wife, of whom We had decreed that she should be of those who stay behind.

Surah Al-Shura’ 26:

170. So We saved him and his household, every one,

171. Save an old woman among those who stayed behind.

Surah Al-Naml 27:57: ‘Then we saved him and his household save his wife; We destined her to be of those who stayed behind.’

Surah Al-‘Ankaboot 29

32. He said: Lo! Lot is there. They said: We are best aware of who is there. We are to deliver him and his household, all save his wife, who is of those who stay behind.

33. And when Our messengers came unto Lot, he was troubled upon their account, for he could not protect them; but they said: Fear not, nor grieve! Lo! we are to deliver thee and thy household, (all) save thy wife, who is of those who stay behind.

Surah As-Sa’Affat 37

134. When We saved him and his household, every one,

135. Save an old woman among those who stayed behind;

Tabari comments on the issue of Lot’s wife (History of Tabarip. 117):

According to Bishr b. Mu’adh-Yazid-Said-Qatadah-Hudhayfah:When the messengers came to Lot,they reached him while he was working on a plot of his land. They had been told-but God knows best – “Do not destroy them until Lot bears witness against them.” They went to Lot and said, “We seek hospitality from you tonight.” So he took them with him. Presently, after they had been walking for an hour,he turned to them and said, “Do you not know what the people of this town do? By God! I do not know of any people on the face of the earth more wicked than they are.” He went on with them, and later said the same thing to them once again. When an evil old woman,Lot’s wife, saw the approaching messengers, she went off to give notice to the people of Sodom.

This idea about Lot’s wife being so evil that she would warn the other Sodomites may be influenced by Jewish legend (Howard Schwartz, Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism, Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 467):

On the night that the angels visited Lot, Lot prepared a feast for them, as he had learned hospitality from Abraham, and he asked his wife to give them a little salt. She grew angry and said, “Do you want to introduce that evil practice of giving strangers salt?” Then she went to all of her neighbors asking for salt. In this way she alerted them to the presence of the guests, and precipitated the mob who demanded that Lot turn the angels over to them. Thus, because she sinned with salt, she was punished with salt.

The act of the angels’ blinding the Sodomite men is present in the Qur’an – Surah Al-Qamar 54:37: ‘They even asked of him his guests for an ill purpose. Then We blinded their eyes (and said): Taste now My punishment after My warnings!’

It is at this point we reach the crux of the story. The angels warned Lot that Allah was going to destroy the town and all its inhabitants – including his wife, so he and his family must flee:

Surah Hud 11

81. (The messengers) said: O Lot! Lo! we are messengers of thy Lord; they shall not reach thee. So travel with thy people in a part of the night, and let not one of you turn round (all) save thy wife. Lo! that which smiteth them will smite her (also). Lo! their tryst is (for) the morning. Is not the morning nigh?

82. So when Our commandment came to pass We overthrew (that township) and rained upon it stones of clay, one after another,

83. Marked with fire in the providence of thy Lord (for the destruction of the wicked). And they are never far from the wrong-doers.

Surah Al-Hijr 15

65. So travel with thy household in a portion of the night, and follow thou their backs. Let none of you turn round, but go whither ye are commanded.

66. And We made plain the case to him, that the root of them (who did wrong) was to be cut at early morn.

73. Then the (Awful) Cry overtook them at the sunrise.

74. And We utterly confounded them, and We rained upon them stones of heated clay.

Surah Al-Shura’ 26:

172. Then afterward We destroyed the others.

173. And We rained on them a rain.And dreadful is the rain of those who have been warned.

Surah Al-Naml 27 

58.And We rained a rain upon them.Dreadful is the rain of those who have been warned

Surah Al-‘Ankaboot 29:

34. Lo! we are about to bring down upon folk of this township a fury from the skybecause they are evil livers.

35. And verily of that We have left a clear sign for people who have sense.

Surah As-Sa’Affat 37

136. Then We destroyed the others.

137. And Lo! ye verily pass by (the ruin of) them in the morning

138. And at night time; have ye then no sense?

Surah Al-Qamar 54:

34. Lo! We sent a storm of stones upon them (all) save the family of Lot, whom We rescued in the last watch of the night…

38. And in truth the punishment decreed befell them early in the morning.

As in the Bible, all save the family of Lot are destroyed. There is not record of the ecological disaster that we find in the Bible, but the Qur’an is clear enough about the city and its citizens – everyone of them, except for Lot and his family (minus his wife), were judged and destroyed. This means that everyone in the city – men, women and children – and animals, one must suppose – were all exterminated. The judgment spared no one outside of Lot’s household. It is interesting that the punishment of death for sodomy is found in the Hadith, and directly linked to the experience of Lot:

Narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas

Abu Dawud 4447

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.

Narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas

Mishkat Al-Masabih 3575

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.”

Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah transmitted it.

Narrated by Jabir ibn Abdullah

Mishkat Al-Masabih 3577

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “The thing I fear most for my people is what Lot’s people did.”

Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah transmitted it.

Indeed, Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) states that sodomy is a capital offence:

7523 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual)

37.30 HOMOSEXUALITY (LIWAT)

If a man commits sodomy with a male adult who consented, then the two must be stoned to death whether they were muhsans or not.

Obviously, this reflects the fact that Allah put the people of Sodom to death for practising homosexual acts.

CONCLUSION

The Qur’anic data is very scattered, and does not flow well. It lacks the nuances of the Biblical narrative, and the development of Lot’s character therein, nor does it contain the disclosure of the moral degradation involved in Lot’s choices. The depiction of Lot as a prophet in the Qur’an is not found in the Bible, where he is presented as a personally righteous, but deeply flawed character whose choices, based on economic advancement, lead to disaster, as he loses everything in the destruction of Sodom, including his wife, and his daughters are revealed to be hopelessly defiled in their ethics. The Bible presents Sodom and the Cities of the Plain as characterised by sexual immorality and perversion, and callousness towards human suffering or lack, including violence. In this respect, their character – and actions – presages that of the Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, the Canaanites and the Amalekites. Much the same could be said of the character of the Sodomites as presented in the Qur’an, and in its tafsir.

In both the Bible and the Qur’an, the punishment for the perversions is the general destruction of the society – with the unique exception of Lot and his family. Although not expressly stated in either book, this would have involved the deaths of every man, woman, child, and animal in Sodom, as well as the destruction of its buildings. This is accomplished by direct divine action and angelic involvement – true of both books. When we consider the cases of Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, the Canaanites and the Amalekites, their judgment also involved wholesale destruction. The difference between these instances and that of Sodom (and its sister towns) was merely one of agency– in the case of the Cities of the Plain, God acted directly, in these later cases, God used humanagency. The judgement was the same, only the executioner was different. That being so, God had to spell out to the human agents involved – since it was a command– that no one and nothing was to be spared. Obviously, when God acted directly, he would not have to declare this explicitly. 

It follows that the frequent criticism of dawahactivists about the wholesale destruction of Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, the Canaanites and the Amalekites is a case of double standards. The Qur’an echoes – albeit in an edited and very inadequate way – the Bible’s record of the wholesale destruction of the Sodomites for committing essentially the same sins as these other peoples. To repeat, the only difference is that of agency. If dawahactivists condemn the Bible for this, they must also condemn the Qur’an, or be exposed as hypocrites. The destruction of Sodom by God sent a message to the surrounding peoples, not only of the power of YHWH, but also His moral standards – something severely lacking in the pantheons of the local pagans. The lesson, unfortunately, was not heeded by the Midianites/Moabites at Baal Peor, the Canaanites and the Amalekites, and so they faced the same judgement as the people of Sodom. It follows that the position of the Bible is consistent: the same cannot be said for dawahactivists.

Oholah and Oholibah in the book of Ezekiel

The dawah team frequently focus their attacks on Old Testament passages, always taking them out of context, to attack the divine inspiration of the Bible. One such passage is in Ezekiel 23, which speaks of two sisters, Oholah and Oholibah, in particular these verses, in relation to the latter sister:

19 Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt20 and lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses.21 Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.”

This has been attacked by the dawah team as pornographic, and comments have been made that God would not let young women be treated in this way, or even speak like this. As always, the dawah team ignores both the historical context of the passage and its genre.

  1. Israel as the metaphorical ‘Bride’ of YHWH

One of the metaphors of Biblical Israel as the People of YHWH in the Old Testament is that She was the ‘Bride of YHWH’, by virtue of the Covenant (in Biblical terms, an oath-bound promise with obligations enjoined on the recipient) imposed on the progeny of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This concept is also found in the New Testament, where the Church, as the New Covenant People of God, is the Bride of Christ, Ephesians 5: “31“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Also, in 2 Corinthians 11:2: “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” Marriage is presented as a covenant in Malachi 2:14: “But you say, “Why does he not?” Because YHWH was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” Unfortunately, Israel was not a faithful Bride, as Hosea 2 demonstrates:

“Plead with your mother, plead—
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband
that she put away her whoring from her face,
and her adultery from between her breasts;
lest I strip her naked
and make her as in the day she was born,
and make her like a wilderness,

and make her like a parched land,
and kill her with thirst.
Upon her children also I will have no mercy,
because they are children of whoredom.
For their mother has played the whore;
she who conceived them has acted shamefully…

Likewise, Jeremiah 3, in language and content that resembles Ezekiel 23,presents the same story about Israel and Judah, referring to the Northern and Southern Kingdoms after the secession under Jeroboam, son of Nebat who led the northern rebellion:

YHWH said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. 10 Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares YHWH.”

By “adultery” and “prostitution”, YHWH is referring to Israel’s apostasy, by mixing the pure worship of YHWH and His revelation in the Torah with the polytheistic religion of the Canaanites and surrounding peoples and their ethical codes which were actually devoid of moral content, involving as they did homosexuality, incest, bestiality and child sacrifice. 

  • Israel as the metaphorical ‘Virgin Daughter’ 

Another metaphor used of Biblical Israel is that of ‘Virgin Daughter’:

Isaiah 37:22; “virgindaughter of Zion”

Jeremiah 14:17: “…the virgindaughter of my people is shattered with a great wound, with a very grievous blow.”

Lamentations 1:15: “…the virgindaughter of Judah.”

Lamentations 2:13: “What can I say for you, to what compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you, that I may comfort you, O virgindaughter of Zion?”

Similarly, we several times encounter the phrase ‘the virgin Israel’:

Jeremiah 18:13: “Therefore thus says YHWH: Ask among the nations, Who has heard the like of this? The virginIsraelhas done a very horrible thing.

Jeremiah 31:4: Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virginIsrael! Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.

Jeremiah 31:21: “Set up road markers for yourself; make yourself guideposts; consider well the highway, the road by which you went. Return, O virginIsrael, return to these your cities.

Amos 5:2: “Fallen, no more to rise, is the virginIsrael; forsaken on her land, with none to raise her up.”

This metaphor influences the content of Ezekiel 23, where Oholah and Oholibah are guilty of prostitution, rather than being virgins. 

  • The historical context of Ezekiel 23

After the secession of the northern tribes, Jeroboam altered the nature of the religion in his kingdom, 1 Kings 12:

25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel.26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David.27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of YHWH at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.”28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites.32 And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made.33 He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings.

These actions violated the Second Commandment, which forbade representations of YHWH; it violated the divine commandment that sacrifice can only be offered at the place YHWH would choose, which ultimately (in the Old Testament) was Jerusalem,Deuteronomy 12:2-27; and only Levitical priests could serve in the Temple. Matters deteriorated under later kings, such as Ahab (1 Kings 16):

29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of YHWH, more than all who were before him. 31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke YHWH, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. 34 In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of YHWH, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.

Ahab and Jezebel promoted a syncretistic religion whereby both YHWH and the Canaanite gods were worshipped, in defiance of the First Commandment demanding the exclusive worship of YHWH. The same features were found in some Kings of Judah, e.g. Manasseh, 2 Kings 21:

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah.And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom YHWH drove out before the people of Israel.For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them.And he built altars in the house of YHWH, of which YHWH had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.”And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of YHWH.And he burned his son as an offeringand used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of YHWH, provoking him to anger.And the carved image of Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which YHWH said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever.And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them.”But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom YHWH destroyed before the people of Israel.

It was not limited to idolatry. The People of YHWH were supposed to depend on YHWH alone for security, since dependent alliances with other powers implied that YHWH was either unable or unwilling to defend His People, a falsehood which YHWH, through Isaiah 31, denounced:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult YHWH!

And yet he is wise and brings disaster; he does not call back his words, but will arise against the house of the evildoers and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. 

The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.
When YHWH stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together.

At different times, the northern and southern kingdoms came under dependent alliances – vassalage – with Egypt, Assyria and Babylonia. This was not supposed to happen, since the People of YHWH were supposed to serve YHWH alone, and trust only in Hisprotection. Therefore, when Israel and Judah submitted to such unequal relationships, YHWH was angered by their unfaithfulness to His covenant – to their spiritual prostitution. Walther Eichrodt (Ezekiel: A Commentary, Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970, p. 3) refers to the historical situation:

The prophet’s struggle against the oppressor was soon justified by events. When Jehoiakim repudiated his position as a vassal of Babylon in 602 (II Kings 24.1), he returned once more to the old political manoeuvre practised by the Syrian states, according to which they seized the first opportunity to throw off such a galling yoke, and tried to have-their own way by playing off the rival powers of the Euphrates and the Nile against each other.

The Babylonian king Nebucharezzar reacted by, eventually, besieging Jerusalem (Ibid.):

A Babylonian army appeared before Jerusalem and began to besiege it… The palace and temple were indeed plundered, and the king and royal family led off into captivity in Babylon, and along with them large numbers of the upper and artisan classes of the country. At that time, young Ezekiel was one of those who underwent the bitter fate of deportation, which prevented him from taking up his priestly office, and annihilated all natural hopes.

We can see the fruit of departing from YHWH.

  • The genre of Ezekiel 23

Perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of the dawahteam’s polemic on this passage is to take the language literally. It is, quite obviously and self-evidently, an allegorical or rhetorical parable, as suggested by Walter Bruggemann and Tod Linafelt(An introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian imagination, Louisville; Westminster John Knox Press, 2003, 2012 second edition, p. 227 [bold type ours]):

In three extensive and remarkable chapters, Ezekiel traces the history of Israel with YHWH as a history of failure and obscene violation of trust (16; 20; 23). These are remarkable rereadings of that long history, not only because it is a history of failure (a theme differently articulated in Ps 106), but because the relationship of YHWH and Israel is imagined as an intimate relationship that became erotic, and that in turn became obscene in ways that display all of the distortions and betrayals of which an erotic relationship is capable.The impression given us of this rhetoricis that the prophet must find the most extreme and offensive imagery in order to voice what he knows to be the most extreme and offensive distortion of a relationship that began in generosity and compassion. The negation of the relationship is unspeakable in its abhorrence, and so Ezekiel finds a way to speak the unspeakable:

You played the whore with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, multiplying your whoring, to provoke me to anger. Therefore I stretched out my hand against you, reduced your rations, and gave you up to the will of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. You played the whore with the Assyrians, because you were insatiable; you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied. You multiplied your whoring with Chaldea, the land of merchants; and even with this you were not satisfied. (16:26–29)

And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their lust; and after she defiled herself with them, she turned from them in disgust. When she carried on her whorings so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned from her sister. Yet she increased her whorings, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose emission was like that of stallions. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians fondled your bosom and caressed your young breasts. (23:17–21)

Eichrodt likewise presents this as a parable and allegory (pp. 320-321): 

One can see from the very beginning that the narrative in which this is clothed has no importance whatsoever; this is no parablestory full of charm and poetic beauty, like ch. 16, 17 and 19. It is an allegory, which gives no more than the bare essentials, and applies only a few stereotyped pictorial imagesto bring out the point as clearly and unmistakably as possible. The images which it employs have no life of their own; their only purpose is to reproduce in quite coarse terms the unspeakable event they convey. This renunciation of all attempts to impart any artistic adornment to the parable can, of course, only result in a completely matter-of-fact and soberly plain and realistic narrative. To criticize it for its flatness, colourlessness, prosaic frigidity, or unpoetic repetitiveness shows a complete failure to understand its nature.

The kindest thing we can say about the dawahteam’s propaganda on this passage is that it is, in the words of Bruggemann, ‘a complete failure to understand its nature’. However, it is difficult to understand how anyone could possibly misunderstand the nature and genre of the passage. This is how the chapter begins:

The word of YHWH came to me:“Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother.They played the whore in Egypt; they played the whore in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and their virgin bosomshandled.Oholah was the name of the elder and Oholibah the name of her sister. They became mine, and they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem.

It is obvious from the start that this is the language of allegorical parable. Oholah is Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, and Oholibah is Jerusalem, capital of Judah. So, clearly, we are not dealing with two literal women here, but rather with a metaphorical representation of the two Hebrew kingdoms – Israel and Judah. It follows, therefore, that the erotic language is likewise metaphorical. The ‘whoring’ of Oholah (Samaria) was with Assyria – its dependent alliances (and then treacherous breaches), and the whoredom of Oholibah (Jerusalem) was with Assyria, Babylonia and Egypt. Obviously, the contrast is between the ‘virgin Israel’ – where the People were faithful to YHWH and His Torah – with the ‘whoring’ of Samaria and Judah, in terms of their infidelity, their idolatry, vassalage to pagans, and general apostasy – ‘29 …Your lewdness and your whoring30 have brought this upon you, because you played the whore with the nations and defiled yourself with their idols.’ So, the opposite to the language of ‘virginity’ is that of ‘prostitution’ – whoring. 

It follows that to comprehend the sexual imagery of Ezekiel 23, we must understand the general teaching of the Old Testament about the Covenant, about the language of ‘virginity’ in relation to Biblical Israel as the metaphorical Bride of YHWH and of references to ‘the virgin daughter of YHWH’. Adultery is usually related to lust – a desire for someone’s body, and in the case of women, for the distinctive anatomy of the male, which explains the references in the following texts;

12 She lusted after the Assyrians, governors and commanders, warriors clothed in full armor, horsemen riding on horses, all of them desirable young men…14 But she carried her whoring further. She saw men portrayed on the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed in vermilion,15 …all of them having the appearance of officers, a likeness of Babylonians whose native land was Chaldea…19 Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt20 and lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses.21 Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressedyour young breasts.

The imagery of a woman impressed by a handsome, well-built man in uniform, which causes her to be unfaithful to her husband. There is also the implication of her engaged in something just short of pornography, with her looking at pictures of men and lusting after them. A faithful wife would not be interested in the bodies of other men, whether their chests, their muscles or – most definitely – their private parts. The imagery is that of a totally sexually degenerate woman, in contrast to a pure virgin or faithful wife. YHWH responds with judgment – using the very ‘lovers’ after whom Samaria and Jerusalem ‘lusted’ – the Assyrians, Egyptians and Babylonians. The Assyrians destroyed Samaria in 722 B.C. and deported most of the population, the Babylonians did likewise to Jerusalem in 586. Before this, the Egyptians invaded and imposed a puppet ruler. The chapter ends on a note of judgment upon the adulterous whoring – idolatry – of His apostate people:

46 For thus says the Lord God: “Bring up a vast host against them, and make them an object of terror and a plunder. 47 And the host shall stone them and cut them down with their swords. They shall kill their sons and their daughters, and burn up their houses. 48 Thus will I put an end to lewdness in the land, that all women may take warning and not commit lewdness as you have done. 49 And they shall return your lewdness upon you, and you shall bear the penalty for your sinful idolatry, and you shall know that I am the Lord God.”

It follows that to present the metaphorical language of the text as literal is either to be guilty of ineptitude or wilful misrepresentation. As the quoted scholars have observed, it is obviously the language of an allegorical parable, reflecting the contrast between YHWH’s creation of the virgin Israel and her descent into spiritual lewdness.

Elisha, The Youths And The Bears – Part 2/3

In the first part, I discussed how the dawah team tries to defend the violence of Allah and his human followers by bringing up various Old Testament passages of violence. This tactic fails because Christians follow the New Testament ethic, which has replaced violence with peace.

The dawah team likes to use the story of Elisha calling for bears to kill young boys, or even infants, as an example of Biblical violence. This does not work because careful analysis shows that the victims were in fact a hostile group of young men, not innocent small boys.

Secondly, was Elisha guilty of an over-reaction to a bit of name-calling? Walter Kaiser addresses this objection (pp. 233-234):

Did Elisha lose his temper? What was so wrong in calling him a “baldhead,” even if he might not have been bald, being less than thirty?

The word baldhead was a term of scorn in the Old Testament (Is 3:17, 24). Natural baldness was very rare in the ancient Near East. So scarce was baldness that it carried with it a suspicion of leprosy.

Whether Elisha was prematurely bald or not, it is clear that the epithet was used in utter contempt, as a word of insult marking him as despicable.

But since it is highly improbable that Elisha was prematurely bald, the insult was aimed not so much at the prophet as at the God who had sent him. [Emphasis mine] The point is clear from the other phrase. “Go on up,” they clamored. “Go on up!” These were not topographical references to the uphill grade of the Bethel road. Instead, the youths were alluding to Elijah’s translation to heaven. This they did not believe or acknowledge as God’s work in their midst. To put it in modern terms, they jeered, “Blast off! Blast off! You go too. Get out of here. We are tired of both of you.” [Emphasis mine] These Bethel ruffians used the same Hebrew verb used at the beginning of the second chapter of 2 Kings to describe the taking up of Elijah into heaven. The connection cannot be missed.

Apparently, news of Elijah’s ascension to glory traveled near and far but was greeted with contemptuous disbelief by many, including this youthful mob. The attack was on God, not his prophet. [Emphasis mine]

Elisha uses no profanity in placing a curse on these young men. He merely cited the law of God, which the inhabitants of Bethel knew well. Moses had taught, “If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, … I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children” (Lev 26:21–22).

Elisha did not abuse these young men, nor did he revile them; he was content to leave the work of judging to God. He pronounced a judgment on them and asked God to carry out the action which he had promised when his name, his cause and his word were under attack. No doubt these young men only reflected what they heard at the dinner table each evening as the population went further and further away from God.

The savagery of wild animals was brutal enough, but it was mild compared to the legendary cruelty of the Assyrians who would appear to complete God’s judgment in 722 B.C. The disastrous fall of Samaria would have been avoided had the people repented after the bear attack and the increasingly severe divine judgments that followed it. But instead of turning back to God, Israel, as would Judah in a later day, “mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy” (2 Chron 36:16).

Instead of demonstrating unleashed cruelty, the bear attack shows God trying repeatedly to bring his people back to himself through smaller judgments until the people’s sin is too great and judgment must come full force.

Hard Sayings of the Bible (1996) pp. 233-234 by Walter Kaiser, Jr., Peter H. Davids, F. F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch

It follows that the God of the Bible – in this case, during the Old Testament period – did not act with savagery, but rather punished the apostasy of grown men who did not want to follow the word of YHWH revealed in the Torah, which warned about divine judgment upon idolatry. The context of Elisha’s ministry follows on immediately from that of Elijah. He was a prophet to the northern Kingdom of Israel (as opposed to that of Judah, ruled by the Davidic dynasty). Ever since the secession under Jeroboam, son of Nebat, the northern kingdom had apostatised by expelling the Levitical priests, establishing their own shrine instead of recognising the unique House of God in the Jerusalem Temple, and also set up idols in the form of bulls to represent YHWH, despite the prohibition of such representation in the Second Commandment. Elijah’s ministry began under Ahab, who was even worse than Jeroboam (1 Kings 16):

29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of YHWH, more than all who were before him. 31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke YHWH, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. 34 In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of YHWH, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.

Ahab and Jezebel promoted a syncretistic religion whereby both YHWH and the Canaanite gods were worshipped, in defiance of the First Commandment demanding the exclusive worship of YHWH. Along with this, went the ignoring of other aspects of revelation – including the ban by YHWH of rebuilding Jericho. In 1 King 18, we read of Elijah confronting Ahab: “17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of YHWH and followed the Baals.” This apostasy continued in the reign of Ahab’s son, Ahaziah, 1 Kings 22: 

51 Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned two years over Israel. 52 He did what was evil in the sight of YHWH and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. 53 He served Baal and worshiped him and provoked YHWH, the God of Israel, to anger in every way that his father had done.

It this historical and religious context that Elisha had inherited from Elijah – an apostate people, rebellious against YHWH, semi-pagan in their beliefs and actions. This explains their attitude to a faithful prophet of YHWH, who demanded exclusive obedience to, and worship of YHWH. These semi-pagan youths did not want to hear his message, because they did not want his God – YHWH, in the sense that they rejected His claim to exclusive worship. Hence, their punishment at the hands, not of Elisha, but of YHWH Himself sending wild animals to attack them, as promised in the Scripture they rejected.


The third and final part will discuss how Muhammad ordered an assassination unlike Elisha.

Elisha, The Youths And The Bears – Part 1/3

Doubtless because there is next to nothing in the New Testament to which they can appeal to show the God of the Bible as violent and cruel, the dawah team are always quoting Old Testament passages, invariably out of context, to respond to the well-documented savagery of the Allah of Islam and his human followers in enjoining mass murder, rape and enslavement in the Qur’an and Hadith when these facts are raised by Christians. Always, they ignore the fact that the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Covenant, and so the features of a political state and physical warfare as seen in the Old Testament no longer apply, as seen in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, where Jesus affirmed that He had come to fulfil the ‘Law and the Prophets’, which referred to the division of the Tanakh into the Law, the Prophets and the Writings (the last-mentioned sometimes simply defined by its first book, the Psalms, as in Luke 24):

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Luke 24:17-18

The last words of Jesus on the Cross included “It is finished”, which in Greek is Τετέλεσταιtetelestai, which means that Jesus has indeed accomplished His mission. It follows that actions which are features of a normal political state are not applicable in the New Covenant Age, since the nature of Christ’s Kingdom – being not of this world – do not include violence. If we return to Matthew 5, we see further evidence of this:

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire…

Matthew 5:21-22

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart…

Matthew 5:27-28

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery… 

Matthew 5:31-32

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King…

Matthew 5:33-35

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also… 

Matthew 5:38-39

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:43-45

Notice how Jesus contrasts His teaching with that given under Moses by raising the standard of ethics to a higher level. If the Old Testament is fulfilled, and ‘holy violence’ is no longer part of the Kingdom ethic, it follows that reference to violent events in the Old Testament prior in order to criticise Christianity is irrelevant.

The dawah team ignore this, and always refer to violent verses in the Old Testament in their diatribe against the Bible. One such example is that of the prophet Elisha and the youths in 2 Kings 2:22-23 (we shall set the context by referring to v.15 onwards):

15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 And they said to him, “Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men. Please let them go and seek your master. It may be that the Spirit of YHWH has caught him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley.” And he said, “You shall not send.” 17 But when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, “Send.” They sent therefore fifty men. And for three days they sought him but did not find him. 18 And they came back to him while he was staying at Jericho, and he said to them, “Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?”

2 Kings 2:15-18

19 Now the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.” 20 He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21 Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says YHWH, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” 22 So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.

2 Kings 2:19-22

23 He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” 24 And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of YHWH. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. 25 From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.

2 Kings 2:23-25

Frequently, the accusation of the dawah team is that this was an act of infanticide – these were merely male children teasing an older man, who responds with supernatural violence. The truth is otherwise.

Walter Kaiser, in Hard Sayings of the Bible (pp. 232-233), points out that the Hebrew text does not support the idea that the males involved were children:

The problem begins with the two Hebrew words for “little children,” as many older translations term the youths. If we are to untangle this puzzling incident, the age and accountability level of these children must take first priority. “Little children” is an unfortunate translation. The Hebrew expression n̄_˓ûrîm q̣tannîm is best rendered “young lads” or “young men.” From numerous examples where ages are specified in the Old Testament, we know that these were boys from twelve to thirty years old. One of these words described Isaac at his sacrifice in Genesis 22:12, when he was easily in his early twenties. It described Joseph in Genesis 37:2 when he was seventeen years old. In fact, the same word described army men in 1 Kings 20:14–15.

If someone objects, yes, but the word q̣tannîm (which is translated “little” in some versions) makes the difference in this context, I will answer that it is best translated “young,” not “little.” Furthermore, these words have a good deal of elasticity to them. For example, Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all your children n̄_˓ûrîm]?” But Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest [qāṭān].” But David was old enough to keep sheep and fight a giant soon after (1 Sam 16:11–12).

“Little children,” then, does not mean toddlers or even elementary-school-aged youngsters; these are young men aged between twelve and thirty!

But was Elisha an old man short on patience and a sense of humor? This charge is also distorted, for Elisha can hardly have been more than twenty-five when this incident happened. He lived nearly sixty years after this, since it seems to have taken place shortly after Elijah’s translation into heaven. Some would place Elijah’s translation around 860 B.C. and Elisha’s death around 795 B.C. While Elijah’s ministry had lasted less than a decade, Elisha’s extended at least 55 years, through the reigns of Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz and Joash.

Hard Sayings of the Bible (1996) pp. 232-233 by Walter Kaiser, Jr., Peter H. Davids, F. F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch

Immediately, we can see the problem faced with the false claims of the dawah team. This was not an act of infanticide. The ‘boys’ involved were not minors, but rather grown men – young men certainly, but men nonetheless. It follows that a central plank of the dawah team polemic against the Bible in relation to this passage is false – this was not an act of infanticide.

The next part, Part 2 of 3, will answer the question, Did Elisha lose his temper?

The Destruction Of The Amalekites – Part 6/6

Conclusion

The accusation of dawah team against the Bible regarding the destruction of Amalek is invalid. What YHWH did in commanding the extirpation of the Amalekites was a judgment upon a vicious gang of murderous enslavers. This was no ethnic or religious pogrom or genocide, like the IS massacres of Alawites and Shia; rather, it was the punishment of a violent robbery gang, engaged in slave-raiding.

Just as popular opinion across the world was revolted by the massacres of innocent people and organised rape of Yezidi girls by IS such that they demanded the destruction of such a malicious entity, the same was true of Amalek. Also, the contrast between the Hadith and the Bible on the issue of massacre is clear. The Bible records the command to destroy a gang of incorrigible thugs, not innocent civilians.

The Destruction Of The Amalekites – Part 5/6

The Judgment of YHWH Upon the Amalekites

The previous point brings us back to what we previously stated – the Amalekites were incorrigible and unassimilable – even when they had opportunity to learn the revelation of YHWH. His ethics never penetrated their inner beings, so callous and murderous was their culture. They had no fear of God. Note how David describes the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 30: 26 When David came to Ziklag, he sent part of the spoil to his friends, the elders of Judah, saying, “Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of YHWH”’ This is important: the Amalekites were not just the enemies of Judah, but of YHWH Himself. Note that when YHWH through Samuel orders Saul to destroy Amalek (1 Samuel 15), great care is made to separate them from the Kenites, who were innocent – indicating that Amalek were guilty (note v18 – ‘1And YHWH sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’):

Thus says YHWH of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destructionall that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”
4 So Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand men on foot, and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to the city of Amalek and lay in wait in the valley. Then Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart; go down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.

Amalek are described as ‘the sinners’, and as such, are distinguished from the innocent Kenites. The reason for the designation of the Amalekites as ‘sinners’, and thus for their punishment, was their unprovoked attack upon the refugee train of ex-slaves fleeing Egypt after the Exodus. This recalls what YHWH declared in Exodus 17:  14 Then YHWH said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, YHWH Is My Banner, 16 saying, “A hand upon the throne of YHWH! YHWH will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”’

YHWH promised to destroy Amalek in the same way that US Attorneys have vowed to extirpate the Mafia, or the way Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, the USA, Britain, etc. all vowed to wipe IS off the face of the earth, and for the same reason – that IS, like the Amalekites, were a murderous gang that enslaved innocent people and raped innocent girls, just like the UK grooming gangs that raped white and Sikh girls. All right-thinking people in the UK want to see such grooming gangs punished and destroyed. Just like the Cubs of the Caliphate were imbued with the evil murderous and sexually abusive ideology of IS, so ‘the Cubs of Amalek’ were likewise imbued with Amalek’s evil culture of raiding, murdering and enslaving – hence the verdict of YHWH to have ‘war with Amalek from generation to generation’.

Each generation of Amalek was as bad the preceding or subsequent one. In this light, we can understand the command to ‘kill both man and woman, child and infant’. We have seen how even the youngsters of IS committed evil acts, and had IS been left to continue, the Cubs would have become lions who continued their fathers’ practices of mass murder, enslavement and rape, because this was the culture of IS, and to this they were trained. The same was true of Amalek.

This command is repeated in Numbers 14 by Balaam under divine inspiration: ‘20 Then he looked on Amalek and took up his discourse and said, “Amalek was the first among the nations, but its end is utter destruction.”’ Amalek was the first to attack Israel, but it would not continue, as YHWH would obliterate it.

Again, think of the Barbary Corsairs. From the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, they raided the West, as far north as Iceland, as far west as Newfoundland, sometimes stealing whole communities, who were enslaved, with the women repeatedly raped.

Generation after generation it continued, until finally Britain, in the wake of its victory over Napoleon, sent an Anglo-Dutch squadron to Algiers in 1816 which virtually destroyed the city, freed the slaves, and forced North Africa to cease Corsairing. Algiers had to be destroyed, because otherwise the raiding would have continued, as history demonstrated. The fault was that of Algiers, just as the fault in this case was that of Amalek.

In spiritual terms, Amalek were the enemies, not of Judah or Israel as such, but of YHWH. In fact, they were the agents of Satan. The Septuagint of Exodus 17 is significant:

11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.12 But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.
17.11 καὶ ἐγίνετο ὅταν ἐπῆρεν Μωυσῆς τὰς χεῖρας, κατίσχυεν Ἰσραήλ· ὅταν δὲκαθῆκεν τὰς χεῖρας, κατίσχυεν Ἀμαλήκ.
17.12 αἱ δὲ χεῖρες Μωυσῆ βαρεῖαι· καὶ λαβόντες λίθον ὑπέθηκαν ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν, καὶ ἐκάθητο ἐπ αὐτοῦ· καὶ Ἀαρὼν καὶ Ὥρ ἐστήριζον τὰς χεῖρας αὐτοῦ,ἐντεῦθεν εἷς καὶ ἐντεῦθεν εἷς· καὶ ἐγένοντο αἱ χεῖρες Μωυσῆ ἐστηριγμέναι ἕως δυσμῶν ἡλίου. 17.13 καὶ ἐτρέψατο Ἰησοῦς τὸν Ἀμαλὴκ καὶ πάντα τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἐν φόνῳ μαχαίρας.

This phrase, ἐντεῦθεν εἷς καὶ ἐντεῦθεν εἷςenteuthen eis kai enteuthen eis, is reproduced in John 19:18: ‘There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.’ The Greek is ὅπου αὐτὸν ἐσταύρωσαν, καὶ μετ’ αὐτοῦ ἄλλους δύο ἐντεῦθεν καὶ ἐντεῦθεν, μέσον δὲ τὸν Ἰησοῦν. Note the phrase enteuthen kai enteuthen– and compare it with John 12:31: ‘Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.’ John wants the reader to remember the battle with Amalek.

The Crucifixion is the battle with Satan that destroys his power. This implies that the power behind Amalek was Satan. Amalek’s attack upon the Israelites was demonic in inspiration. Satan is the enemy of YHWH – and Amalek is so-described. The Amalekites were thus the pawns of the Devil, who was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Note that 1 Samuel 15:33 states that the Amalekite king Agag was slain ‘before YHWH’ – not before Israel,because Amalek, as Satan’s instrument, was the enemy of YHWH.

Further evidence of the incorrigible callousness of Amalek is demonstrated in what Agag said to Samuel as the former faced judgment – essentially, ‘well, that’s all past now, we can move on’:

Then Samuel said, “Bring here to me Agag the king of the Amalekites.” And Agag came to him cheerfully. Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” 33 And Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag to pieces before YHWH in Gilgal.

Despite being responsible for mass slaughter, Agag had no sense of the scale of his crimes. Similarly, note how lacking in remorse Shamima Begum has been. Observe how she justified the Manchester massacre – despite it happening in the country in which she was born and to which she wanted to return. Note how self-pitying she has been, down-playing what IS did, and her role therein. Observe how IS women never challenged the rape of Yezidi girls, never expressed horror or showed empathy, and even aided in their oppression. Amalek was the same.

The next part is Part 6, the Conclusion.

The Destruction Of The Amalekites – Part 4/6

The Malicious and Incorrigible Nature of the Amalekites

We never read of any redeeming features of Amalekite character, nor any converts, save in one interesting case which turned out to be no real conversion at all. The Amalekites were clearly so evil, so in the grip of Satan, that they were unassimilable, unlike Canaanites such as Rahab or Moabites like Ruth, or Hittites like Uriah, etc.

The fact is, the Amalekites were incorrigible. From the days of Moses unto the days of David – several centuries apart – the Amalekites behaved in exactly the same malicious, murderous and predatory fashion from generation to generation, one as bad as the other. All they ever did was raid, murder, rob and enslave. They were not a normal nation or ethnic group.

We need to think of Amalek the same way we think of IS, as a criminal gang, especially in the way IS attacked the defenceless Yezidis, who never did anyone harm, but were dispossessed and enslaved, their girls forced to become sex-slaves. Think of how IS women were involved in this – the Al-Khansaa Brigade who acted as their ‘moral police’ force regarding the dress and deportment of women in the Caliphate, bearing arms and inflicting violent punishment, and even engaged in combat. Even their children – ‘the Cubs of the Caliphate’ – were imbued with their murderous ideology and carried out executions. This was the situation to some degree with the Amalekites – the children were imbued with the same murderous, raiding culture, and the evidence of this is the fact that their practices continued for generations. The Amalekites were indeed incorrigible.

The Amalekites were characterised by cruelty and callousness. This can be demonstrated from their attacks on the weak and vulnerable among the back of the Israelite train at the Exodus, and by what happened in Judges 6:

And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds.For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them.They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey.For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in.

This shows the cruelty and callousness of the Amalekites – frightening the Israelites, and leaving the latter no food, plundering rather than growing their own food. Then, when Saul is fighting the Philistines, they attack defenceless, vulnerable people again – Ziklag, to raid their property and enslave the people. This is similar to the activities of the Barbary Corsairs, the North African Muslim maritime jihadis who raided Europe to enslave Christians, and to IS at Sinjar. The Amalekites, in their wanton violence, were just like a gang of thugs who mug an old lady. They were unashamed, having no fear of God – like Mafia hitmen, or like Shamima Begum who was not fazed by severed heads in bins or the Manchester massacre (and note that she has not even mentioned the Yezidis), or like the IS woman who had no problem with the rape of Yezidi slave-girls because the Qur’an permitted it ( Daily Mail, 10.3.2019, ‘It’s not rape in Islam’: ISIS ‘wife’ defends jihadis’ sexual assault and murder of Yazidi women because it is ‘allowed in the Quran’ as the last remaining fighters face being pushed from their final stronghold’, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6792049/ISIS-wife-defends-jihadis-rape-murder-Yazidi-women-allowed-Quran.html), or like the IS men who actually raped them. 

That the Amalekites were like this is demonstrated by what happened when they raided Ziklag, 1 Samuel 30:1-3:

Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.

David, of course, immediately went in search of his wives. Note the callousness of the Amalekites evident in the following verses:

11 They found an Egyptian in the open country and brought him to David. And they gave him bread and he ate. They gave him water to drink,12 and they gave him a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins. And when he had eaten, his spirit revived, for he had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights.13 And David said to him, “To whom do you belong? And where are you from?” He said, “I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite, and my master left me behind because I fell sick three days ago.14 We had made a raid against the Negeb of the Cherethites and against that which belongs to Judah and against the Negeb of Caleb, and we burned Ziklag with fire.”15 And David said to him, “Will you take me down to this band?” And he said, “Swear to me by God that you will not kill me or deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will take you down to this band.”

It would seem that the young Egyptian was a slave – probably captured – to an Amalekite. Note how scared he was of going back to his master – clearly, the latter was very cruel. That cruelty and callousness is demonstrated by the fact that when he fell sick, instead of being nursed by his master, he was abandoned to the elements without food or water – i.e., he was left to die. The master obviously felt that as he would be enjoying fresh, healthy slaves, he need not bother with this sick man, so he abandoned him to his fate. Obviously, none of the Amalekite band objected, so it is clear that they were just as callous and cruel as was he.

This is further evidenced by the following verse: 16 And when he had taken him down, behold, they were spread abroad over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of all the great spoil they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah.’ Just like the IS men rejoiced and gloated over their seizure and rape of the Yezidi girls, the Amalekites were rejoicing over their seizure of the people of Ziklag. They were callously evil. 

The murderous character of the Amalekites is demonstrated by what Samuel says to the Amalekite King Agag in 1 Samuel 15:33: ‘And Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag to pieces before YHWH in Gilgal.’ That is, the Amalekites had practised infanticide against their enemies – slaughtering children. Look at the context of this in the previous chapter, where 14.48 states about Saul: ‘And he did valiantly and struck the Amalekites and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them.’Imagine what a court in Texas would do to a gang who murdered children as part of their robberies. There could only be one fit sentence for such an outrage – the death penalty for the whole gang.  

Further evidence is found in 2 Samuel 1. In 1 Samuel 31, Saul, fatally wounded by the Philistines, had asked his armour-bearer to slay him, but the latter refused:

Then Saul said to his armour-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.” But his armour-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it.And when his armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him.

Later, the Philistines found his body and defiled it:

The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa.So they cut off his head and stripped off his armour and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people.10 They put his armour in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan.11 But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul,12 all the valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there.13 And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days.

Note that the Israelite soldiers behaved honourably; the same could not be said for this Amalekite in 2 Samuel 1:

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from striking down the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag.And on the third day, behold, a man came from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. And when he came to David, he fell to the ground and paid homage.David said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.”And David said to him, “How did it go? Tell me.” And he answered, “The people fled from the battle, and also many of the people have fallen and are dead, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.”Then David said to the young man who told him, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?”And the young man who told him said, “By chance I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear, and behold, the chariots and the horsemen were close upon him.And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called to me. And I answered, ‘Here I am.’And he said to me, ‘Who are you?’ I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’And he said to me, ‘Stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me, and yet my life still lingers.’10 So I stood beside him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord.”

Of course, this was a lie, as we know from 1 Samuel 31, though David did not yet know this. The Amalekite was clearly trying to ingratiate himself in the hope of advancement and reward – once again, plunder by other means. Note what the Amalekite did notdo: he did not try to honourably bury his King (Saul), but rather robbed the crown and armlet to impress David in the hope of reward – doubtless financial. What is especially interesting is what he says in answer to David:

13 And David said to the young man who told him, “Where do you come from?” And he answered, “I am the son of a sojourner, an Amalekite.”14 David said to him, “How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy anointed of YHWH?”15 Then David called one of the young men and said, “Go, execute him.” And he struck him down so that he died.16 And David said to him, “Your blood be on your head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the anointed of YHWH.’”

The young man’s self-description is revealing – he was the son of an immigrant who had joined the community of Israel. So, he would have been exposed to the teaching of the Torah and the worship of YHWH. Yet he did not balk at claiming to have killed YHWH’s anointed king. Nothing of Biblical values had penetrated his Amalekite heritage, despite being raised and possibly born in Israel. He thought that murder – or at least, assisted suicide – was all right, and that he should be rewarded for it. There was no remorse for his purported action (though he had not done it). Essentially, he boasted of it. To repeat, nought of the values of Biblical Israel had entered into his soul. So, David treated him as he did the other Amalekites he had just fought – by executing him. 

Equally consider Shamima Begum and one of the other Bethnal Green trio – Amira Abase, one the daughter of a Bangladeshi immigrant to Britain, the other a daughter of an Ethiopian immigrant. Despite being raised in Britain, British values did not penetrate them; their Islamic heritage won out. Note that they made hijra to IS only two years after the beheading of Lee Rigby in London – yet Begum was not fazed by severed heads, and Abase reacted with ‘lol’ after the Tunisia massacre which saw over thirty Britons and others murdered. Neither of them showed any empathy for the under-age Yezidi girls raped by Is men. Similarly, British values never penetrated the grooming gangs across the UK who behaved like IS jihadis in raping thousands of white and Sikh girls.

Next is Part 5 – The Judgment of YHWH Upon the Amalekites



The Destruction Of The Amalekites – Part 3/6

The Amalekite Attacks On The Israelites

The Amalekites were not even great fighters, or at least brave – another reason that History would ignore them, since they were unlike the all-conquering Assyrians or the later Macedonians.

This is evidenced by the first Amalekite interaction with the Israelites, which occurred almost immediately after the Exodus. In Exodus 17, the Israelites are still in Horeb. This is important, since it shows that they were attacked by Amalek, even though they were not yet in Palestine. Hence, this was an unprovoked attack.

Remember, they did not live in the Land of Promise, so they were not under threat from the Israelites and had they not attacked the Israelites, they would have been spared in the way the Canaanites could not be. Note the timingof their attack. This was when the Israelites were a group of refugee slaves with no military experience. From what we know of Amalek later, it is likely that they sought to gain easy booty from a group of vulnerable refugee ex-slaves – obviously, people who posed no threat and could be easily attacked and plundered. The Israelite liberation from Egypt had not been accomplished by their own violent insurrection, but by supernaturalintervention.

The Amalekites obviously thought the Israelites were easy pickings, but even then, they only attacked the most vulnerable – the stragglers at the back of the mobile community. Note that they attacked the vulnerable and defenceless– Deuteronomy 25: ‘17 “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt,18 how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God.’ They attacked the old and weak in the back of the train.

This is just what the Islamic State (IS) did when they attacked the vulnerable Yezidis – a peaceful people who never harmed anyone, had no military defences and posed no threat to IS or anyone else. It is interesting that we never hear about Amalekite religion – just that they ‘did not fear God’. Note what it does not say; it does not say that they did not fear YHWH, but rather God. This phrase underlines their criminality, their reckless disregard for civilised norms, like the Mafia or IS in Sinjar (the Yezidi home). There was no fear of God in their eyes – of any deity. They were like Louis Lepke, the 1930s American gangster who founded ‘Murder Incorporated’ for the Mob, and callously killed people without a second thought.

Later, in the Judges period, Amalek once again attacked a defenceless and vulnerable Israel: note what Amalek alongside Midian in plundering Israel – Judges 6: ‘For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them.They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey.For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted — so that they laid waste the land as they came in.’ Observe what this tells us about the Amalekites. Clearly, they were not pastoralists – they were not tending crops nor even sheep or cattle, since they had time to raid away from their homes. They simply stole the property of others.

Again, they were not even great fighters – even in this case, they attacked the Israelites only in alliance with other peoples (Midianites and ‘peoples of the east’). Essentially, Amalek behaved like a gang of armed robbers, preying upon the defenceless. They never conquered peoples or lands and ruled them like the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians or Macedonians, but rather simply raided and plundered them. This demonstrates their economic and cultural matrix. One cannot make peace with a criminal gang in the way one would with an enemy nation.

This continued unto the days of Saul and David, as evidenced by 1 Samuel 30:1-3: ‘Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.’ The captives included his wives. Notice this was not a conquest, but rather a raid for plunder. Amalek had no interest in occupying Ziklag – they simply destroyed it, perhaps another indication of their desert nomad condition, which had no need for any kind of urban existence. Observe the occasion of the attack – while Ziklag – a Philistine city given to David (1 Samuel 27:6) – was undefended, as the Philistines (under whom David served at this point) and Saul were fighting, Amalek again raided a defenceless, vulnerable people, seeing an opportunity for plunder while everyone was distracted. This tells us much about their character.

Next is Part 4 – The Malicious And Incorrigible Nature Of The Amalekites 

The Destruction Of The Amalekites – Part 2/6

The Identity And Culture Of Amalek

As to origins, Genesis 36 displays the Amalekites as descendants of Esau:

2 Esau took his wives from the Canaanites: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite… 10 These are the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau…11 The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz.12 (Timna was a concubine of Eliphaz, Esau’s son; she bore Amalek to Eliphaz.) These are the sons of Adah, Esau’s wife.

So the Amalekites were descendants of Eliphaz, son of Esau through his Canaanite-Hittite wife Adah, through not the wife of Eliphaz, but rather his concubine Timna. Possibly for the latter reason, the Amalekites were not counted as among the Edomites.

Outside the Bible, there seems to be no record of the Amalekites. This has led some to be sceptical of their very existence, but the absence of extra-Biblical historical account can be explained by three related points: Amalek’s lack of any cultural impact, their lack of any historical impact, and their relatively small size in contrast to peoples such as the Egyptians.

Before examining these points, we shall look at their origins. The first Biblical reference to the Amalekites is in Genesis 14:7, referring to the alliance of northern kings who attacked the southern Levant: ‘Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh) and defeated all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who were dwelling in Hazazon-tamar.’ This is probably a deliberate anachronism by Moses, referring to territory that in his time was occupied by the Amalekites, e.g., if one were to refer to a Roman visiting Carthage in Tunisia, although Tunisia as a name and political entity did not exist in Roman times.

In Numbers 13:29, we read: ‘The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb.’ This indicates that they lived outside the Land of Promise, so had nothing to fear from the Israelite conquest, and that they were a desert people, probably living by oases. In 14:25 we read ‘…the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valleys…’, and Judges 12:15 refers to ‘the hill country of the Amalekites.’ In Judges 6:33 we read: ‘Now all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East came together, and they crossed the Jordan and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel…’ This puts them in Transjordan. The likelihood, therefore, is that they were a nomadic or semi-nomadic people, which the OT as a whole would seem to suggest, and that they were more a tribal confederacy than a nation, with encampments rather than normal cities. 

The latter would partly explain their lack of cultural and historical impact. Let us compare and contrast them with the Canaanites. It should be noted that the people normally known as ‘Phoenicians’ never called themselves by that name. Rather, they referred to themselves as ‘Canaanites’ (Garbini, Giovanni, ‘The Question of the Alpahbet’, in Moscati, Sabatino (ed.), The Phoenicians, London: I. B. Tauris, 2001, p. 107). There was no cultural or conceptual distinction between the people of Tyre and Sidon and those to the south of them.

The Phoenicians explored and traded as far as Britain (for Cornish tin), and established colonies across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, as far as what is now Morocco. Carthage was a Phoenician colony (founded 814 BC), and they conquered Sicily and Sardinia, as well as parts of Spain – the city of Cartagena was originally New Carthage. Cadiz was originally a Phoenician colony (founded 1104 BC).

The Phoenician alphabet influenced others, including even the Romans. We know from 1 Kings 5 and 6 how Phoenician builders from King Hiram of Tyre helped to build the Temple of Solomon. Previously, Tyrian builders constructed David’s house – 2 Samuel 5:11.

At the Canaanite city of Ugarit in northern Syria, discovered in 1929, extensive elements of the people’s culture and religion were discovered. One text discovered at Ugarit, concerning ‘Keret’, refers to ‘a [sacri]ficial lamb [in] your right hand’ as well as a young goat and ‘a bird for sacrifice’ (Bernhardt, Karl-Heinz, ‘Ugaritic Texts: Keret’, in Beyerlin, Walter (ed.), Near Eastern Religious Texts Relating to the Old Testament, London: SCM, 1975, 1978, p. 224). This demonstrates that the Canaanites had a literary heritage. Hence, the Canaanites, especially the Phoenicians, had a major historical and cultural impact, even outside their homeland.

By contrast, we read nothing of the Amalekites being great builders, agriculturalists, horticulturalists or traders. All we read of them is that they were robbers, raiders and enslavers. Their whole economy was built on the principle of raiding to satisfy their needs.

Since they were economically parasitic, this would explain their lack of coinage or constructions, whether buildings or goods. Again, it would follow that this would mean that they did not engage in normal trade, especially with their neighbours. As an inland, largely desert people, they obviously were not sailors, which would undermine their contact with other peoples. Their relatively small size would have limited their impact, in the absence of extensive trading relations. This being the case, it is hardly surprising they the Amalekites left no cultural or historical footprint. 

We know nothing about their language, but given their proximity to the Canaanites, it was probably the same or a related dialect. Similarly, we know nothing about their religion – a point to which we will return. This is somewhat surprising, since the OT usually does say something about the religion of the surrounding nations, albeit in a hostile and denunciatory fashion, e.g., 1 Kings 11: ‘For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites…Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abominationof Moab, and for Molech the abominationof the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.’Again, the lack of reference to them in the annals of surrounding nations testifies to their lack of cultural impact. They would only be known as plunderers.

Part 3 of 6 will discuss The Malicious And Incorrigible Nature Of The Amalekites

The Destruction Of The Amalekites – Part 1/6

Introduction

It is a frequent practice of dawah team, especially when Christians mention the Muslim massacre of non-Muslims such as at Banu Qurayzah, or orders allowing the killing of civilians as recorded in the Hadith and Seerah, to refer to God’s order to extirpate the Amalekites. The Muslim texts to which Christians often refer include these:

Sahih Al-Bukhari 5.448 Narrated by Aisha; …When the Prophet returned from the (battle) of Al-Khandaq [Trench] and laid down his arms and took a bath Gabriel came to him while he [Gabriel] was shaking the dust off his head, and said, “You have laid down the arms?” By Allah, I have not laid them down. Go out to them (to attack them).” The Prophet said, “Where?” Gabriel pointed towards Bani Quraiza. So Allah’s Apostle went to them (i.e., Banu Quraiza) (i.e., besieged them). They then surrendered to the Prophet’s judgment but he directed them to Sad to give his verdict concerning them. Sad said, “I give my judgment that their warriors should be killed, their women and children should be taken as captives, and their properties distributed.”….

Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 4.256 Narrated by As Sab bin Jaththama: The Prophet passed by me at a place called Al-Abwa or Waddan, and was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, ‘They (women and children) are from them (pagans).’

Al-Misri, The Reliance of the Traveller, Book O: Justice, Chapter O-9.0: Jihad; O-9.10: ‘The Rules of Warfare’, p. 603. It is not permissible (A: in jihad) to kill women or children unless they are fighting against the Muslims. Nor is it permissible to kill animals, unless they are being ridden into battle against the Muslims, or if killing them will help defeat the enemy. It is permissible to kill old men (O: old man, shaykh, meaning someone more than forty years of age) and monks.

7389 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) CHAPTER 30: A Chapter on Jihad or Holy War … Women and children are not to be killed. Muslims must avoid the killing of monks and learned men except where these fight them. Similarly, if a woman fights she can be killed

What particularly excites dawah team is 1 Samuel 15: 1-3: And Samuel said to Saul, “YHWH sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of YHWH.Thus says YHWH of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt.Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

The accusation of dawah team is that this is a command to commit genocide, and they particularly emphasise the order to kill even minors. Obviously, to understand this command, we need to examine the context, and to comprehend why the command was given in the first place. This is vital, because dawah team always ignore what precedes the order – the historical recollection of Amalek’s aggression against the Israelites immediately after the Exodus.

That is, the command is responsive, and should be compared to America dropping the atomic bomb on Japan in 1945 to end the war and spare the lives of tens of thousands of Allied servicemen (American, British, Australian, New Zealand and other Allies), and as a responsive act to Japanese aggression at Pearl Harbor in 1941, and especially, in light of Japanese massacres in China in 1937 such as the Rape of Nanking, the invasion of Indo-China, Malaya, Burma and other British-ruled territories, the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, and attacks on India and Australia, as well as the well-founded reports of the torture of Allied POWs and violations of the Geneva Convention. In short: no Pearl Harbor, no atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Similarly, no Amalekite aggression, no divine punishment.

Part 2 of 6 will discuss the identity and culture of Amalek.