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 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 – ‘18 And YHWH sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’):
2 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. 3 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.’”
4So Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand men on foot, and ten thousand men of Judah. 5 And Saul came to the city of Amalek and lay in wait in the valley. 6 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.
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’:
2 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 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:
2 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.3 For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them.4 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.5 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 2 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. 3 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:
11They 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:
4 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.5 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:
8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa.9 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.2 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.3 David said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.”4 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.”5 Then David said to the young man who told him, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?”6 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.7 And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called to me. And I answered, ‘Here I am.’8 And he said to me, ‘Who are you?’ I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’9 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 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: ‘3 For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them.4 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.5 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 2 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. 3 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
As to origins, Genesis 36 displays the Amalekites as descendants of Esau:
2Esau 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: ‘5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites…7 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
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.2 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.3 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.
Muhammad arrived in Yathrib (Medina) in 622 at the invitation of the two main tribes, the Aws and the Khazraj, who had previously been enemies. His role was to reconcile them and provide a constitutional reference for the city. Two Jewish tribes, the Banu Nadir and Banu Qurayzah were confederate with the Aws, whilst the Banu Qaynuqah were confederate the Khazraj.In regard to the actual destruction of the Qurayzah, Watt provides us with this information:
After the unconditional surrender of Qurayzah, Muhammad b. Maslamah was in charge of the men and ‘Abdallah b. Sallam of the women and children… Muhammad …appointed as judge Sa’d b. Mu’adh, the leading man of the Aws, who had been gravely wounded during the siege and died soon after his sentence on Qurayzah. When he was brought to where Muhammad was, all the Aws and the others present swore to abide by his decision. He decreed that all the men of Qurayzah should be put to death and the women and children sold as slaves. This sentence was duly carried out, apparently on the following day
Watt gives a figure of six hundred Qurayzah slaughtered (although others put the figure as high as nine hundred).It is in the Hadith that we meet the most extensive treatment:
Narrated by Aisha
Sahih Al-Bukhari 5.448
…When the Prophet returned from the (battle) of Al-Khandaq (i.e. Trench) and laid down his arms and took a bath Gabriel came to him while he (i.e. 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.”….
Whether the actual event is mentioned in fiqh, the treatment handed out to the Qurayzah has continued. For example in Shafi fiqh, non-Muslim subjects of the Islamic state face severe sanctions if break their covenant with the regime:
o11.9 If non-Muslim subjects of the Islamic state refuse to conform to the rules of Islam, or to pay the non-Muslim poll tax, then their agreement with the state has been violated (dis: o11.11) (A: though if only one of them disobeys, it concerns him alone).
o11.10 The agreement is also violated (A: with respect to the offender alone) if the state has stipulated that any of the following things break it, and one of the subjects does so anyway, though if the state has not stipulated that these break the agreement, then they do not; namely, if one of the subject people:
(1) commits adultery with a Muslim woman or marries her;
(2) conceals spies of hostile forces;
(3) leads a Muslim away from Islam;
(4) kills a Muslim;
(5) or mentions something impermissible about Allah, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), or Islam.
o11.11 When a subject’s agreement with the state has been violated, the caliph chooses between the four alternatives mentioned above in connection with prisoners of war (o9.14).
Obviously, the accusation against the Banu Qurayzah is that by their treachery, they were seeking to overthrow the Islamic State, and thus they refused ‘to conform to the rules of Islam’. As for ‘the four alternatives mentioned above in connection with prisoners of war’, these involve the following:
o9.14 When an adult male is taken captive, the caliph (def: o25) considers the interests (O: of Islam and the Muslims) and decides between the prisoner’s death, slavery, release without paying anything, or ransoming himself in exchange for money or for a Muslim captive held by the enemy. If the prisoner becomes a Muslim (O: before the caliph chooses any of the four alternatives) then he may not be killed, and one of the other three alternatives is chosen.
Often in the history of jihad, prisoners of war have been enslaved, sometimes ransomed (both options were employed by the Barbary Corsairs of North Africa), but an option to slay them remained. This is what happened to the Qurayzah male adults. The option for women and children is clear: ‘o9.13 When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman’s previous marriage is immediately annulled.’Similar opinions are found in the Hanafi madhab:
4026 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)
[Captives may either he stain, or enslaved, or admitted to become Zimmee]
The Imam, with respect to captives, has it in his choice to flay them, because the prophet put captives to death, – and also, because fslaying them terminates wickedness: – or, if he chose, he may make them slaves, because by enslaving them the evil of them is remedied, at the same time that the Muslims reap an advantage: – or, if he please, he may release them so as to make them freemen and Zimmees, according to what is recorded of Omar: – but it is not lawful so to release the idolaters of Arabia, or apostates, for reasons which shall be hereafter explained.
The implication of this ruling is that it is permissible either to slay or enslave captives. Note the basis of this: the Sunnahof the Prophet – ‘the prophet put captives to death’. Whilst the Qur’an limits the number of wives a man may marry, this does not prevent him enjoying the pleasure of sex-slaves, which in effect was what those women whom ‘your right hand possesses’ were:
Surah Al-Ahzab 33:52
It is not allowed thee to take (other) women henceforth, nor that thou shouldst change them for other wives even though their beauty pleased thee, save those whom thy right hand possesseth.
Islamic law is quite open about the different functions of the male and female slaves. With the former, their role was labour, but with the latter, the primary function was sexual gratification:
4427 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)
[Defects which operate in the sale of female slaves, but not of males].
A bad smell, from the breath or armpits, is a defect in regard to female slaves, because in many instances the object is to sleep with them(emphasis ours);and the existence of such defects in a bar to the accomplishment of that object. – These, however, are not defects with regard to male slaves; because the object, in purchasing them, is merely to use their services; and to this these defects are not obstacles, since it is possible for a slave to serve his master without the necessary of the master’s fitting down with him, so as to receive annoyance from these defects. – If, however, they proceed from disease, they are considered as defects with regard to male slaves also.
Whoredom and bastardy are defects with regard to a female slave, but not with regard to a male; because the object, in the purchaser of a female slave, is cohabitation and the generation of children, which must be affected by either of the above circumstances; whereas, the object in the purchase of a male slave is the use of his services, the value of which is not depreciated by his committing whoredom. – If, however, a male slave be much addicted to whoredom, our lawyers are of opinion that it is a defect, because in the pursuit of women he neglects the service of his master.
The married condition of the women captives was ignored, it was it considered annulled by virtue of the command of God. This has been emphasised in Islamic law:
AbuSa’id al-KhudriSAHIH MUSLIM3432At the Battle of Hunayn Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) sent an army to Awtas and encountered the enemy and fought with them. Having overcome them and taken them captives, the Companions of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) seemed to refrain from having intercourse with captive women because of their husbands being polytheists. Then Allah, Most High, sent down regarding that: ‘And women already married, except those whom your right hand possess (iv.24)’ (i.e. they were lawful for them when their Iddah period came to an end). 6904 AL-MUWATTA of Imam Malik29.34.95AbuSa’id al-KhudriWe went out with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, on the expedition to the Banu al-Mustaliq. We took some Arabs prisoner, and we desired the women as celibacy was hard for us. We wanted the ransom, so we wanted to practise coitus interruptus. We said, ‘Shall we practise coitus interruptus while the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, is among us before we ask him? We asked him about that and he said, ‘You don’t have to not do it. There is no self which is to come into existence up to the Day of rising but that it will come into existence.’
Surah An-Nisa 4:24And all married women (are forbidden unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess. It is a decree of Allah for you. Reliance of the Travellero9.13 When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman’s previous marriage is immediately annulled. 7405 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual)32.06 INTERCOURSE WITH NON-MUSLIM WOMENGod – Glorified be He – has prohibited sexual intercourse with unbelieving women who do not happen to belong to People of the Book, that is, Christians and Jews, whether this is to take place on account of ownership or marriage. But Muslims can have relations with women belonging to People of the Book through ownership (that is, as concubines). It is also lawful to have relations through marriage with their freeborn women. But relations with their slave women through marriage is forbidden both to a freeborn Muslim and a Muslim slave.
Note also the difference between the Biblical model of effectively emancipating a captive woman by marriage and the Islamic practice, whereby aslave wife is inferior to a free wife; the husband has a lesser obligation to the former than he does to the latter:
3346 AL-HEDAYA Vol. I (Hanafi Manual)
[Partition, where the wives are of different rank or degree, must be adjusted accordingly]
If a man be married to two wives, one of them a free woman, and the other a slave, he must divide his time into three portions, cohabiting two portions with the former and one with the latter, because the same is recorded of Ali; and also, because, as it is lawful to marry a free woman upon a slave, but not a slave upon a free woman*, it hence appears that the rights of the former in marriage are short of those of the latter. – And a Mokatiba, Modabbira, or Um-Walid, are, with respect to their right of partition, the same as slaves.
* By marrying one woman upon another is to be understood a man marrying a woman when he is already possessed of a wife; the expression is merely idiomatical.
There is a vast difference between the Biblical treatment of captive women and that of Islam. In the latter, they can become sex-slaves, concubines for the gratification of their masters. In the former, they must be honourably married and treated with respect. Essentially, they join the People of YHWH. The two models are diametrically opposed, rather than being equivalent.
There was a difference between the wars of Biblical Israel against the Canaanites of Palestine and the peoples elsewhere – Deuteronomy 20:
10 “When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it.11 And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labour for you and shall serve you.12 But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.13 And when YHWH your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword,14 but the women and the little ones, the livestock, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as plunder for yourselves. And you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which YHWH your God has given you.15 Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not cities of the nations here.16 But in the cities of these peoples that YHWH your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes,17 but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as YHWH your God has commanded,18 that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against YHWH your God.
It does not say about the recalcitrant cities that were far off that the women could be raped, any more than could be the children. The implication is that after the execution of the combatants (adult males), the women and children would do forced labour, as in v11. Note that women and children perform the same duties, and these are laid out – labour, not sex! The reference to captive women in the subsequent chapter must be seen in this context (Deuteronomy 21.10ff):
10 “When you go out to war against your enemies, and YHWH your God gives them into your hand and you take them captive, 11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you desire to take her to be your wife, 12 and you bring her home to your house, she shall shave her head and pare her nails. 13 And she shall take off the clothes in which she was captured and shall remain in your house and lament her father and her mother a full month. After that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 But if you no longer delight in her, you shall let her go where she wants. But you shall not sell her for money, nor shall you treat her as a slave, since you have humiliated her.
Observe the reaction of the Israelite man: ‘According to Deut. 21.11, though the soldier has apparently only seen the woman among the captives, he ‘loves’ her, קשח. This term is used elsewhere in Deuteronomy of YHWH’s love for Israel (7.7; 10.15)…’Notice what then text doesnotsay: it does not say that a beautiful woman can be enslaved as a concubine, i.e. a sex slave. Rather, it indicates that a woman – who is now without adult male support, having no father, elder brothers, etc. (and if she is a widow, no husband) – can be married to a Hebrew man. Note that she has to be treated with respect – she is given time to mourn her family, and thereafter she cannot be sold or treated as a slave, but rather, honourably, as a wife. Neither does it refer to a man taking multiple captive women as wives. Essentially, the captive woman is thereby emancipated (freed) from captivity and forced labour to enjoy the honoured status of a free Israelite woman – a wife.
The other relevant text is Numbers 31, which begins with the command of YHWH to slay the Midianites involved in the Baal-Peor incident:
YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,2 “Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.”3 So Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute YHWH’s vengeance on Midian…7 They warred against Midian, as YHWH commanded Moses, and killed every male.8 They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. And they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword.9 And the people of Israel took captive the women of Midian and their little ones, and they took as plunder all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods.10 All their cities in the places where they lived, and all their encampments, they burned with fire,11 and took all the spoil and all the plunder, both of man and of beast.12 Then they brought the captives and the plunder and the spoil to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the people of Israel, at the camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.
Note the plurality of kings mentioned, and the destruction of the Midianite cities, which bears some resemblance to what happened later in Canaan. However, observe Moses’ reaction to the fact that the Israelite commanders handled the offending Midianites the way a later ‘far off’ people were to be treated:
14 And Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war.15 Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live?16 Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against YHWH in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of YHWH.17 Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him.18 But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.
(“And all the youngsters among the women, who have not known lying (with a) male [cf. v. 17], you shall cause to live for yourselves.” (Literal translation) )
We must remember that Israel was commanded to slay the Canaanites because of their evil ways, which included sexual perversion/immorality, and not to intermarry with them, since they would draw Israel away from YHWH. This is what happened at Shittim, where, apparently on the advice of the prophet Balaam, whom king Balak hired to curse Israel, the women seduced the Israelite men sexually and religiously to engage in pagan worship. This suggests that the action of the women was planned and contrived as a kind of ‘honey-trap’ manoeuvre similar to that employed by modern espionage services – in this case, to get the Israelites to betray YHWH. That action made the women combatants, who had therefore to be executed.
An exception is made for virgins – v18, since obviously they were of a better character than the women who prostituted themselves, and were also innocent of the ‘honey-trap’ seduction of the Israelite men. Such virgins could be honourably married. There is nothing to suggest that they could be made concubines/sex slaves. The same conditions as held for the women in Deuteronomy 21.10ff prevailed in this instance as well. Remember, the Decalogue forbade illicit sexual activity – i.e. extra-marital sex, so no woman of any background could be raped. So, Biblical teaching on beautiful female captives is that they must be married and essentially converted to the faith of YHWH. They were not objects of sexual molestation.
This was a radical departure from conditions that prevailed in the region:
The female slave, like her brother, the male slave, was treated as a commodity. She was leased for work, given as a pledge, handed over as a part of a dowry, or presented as a gift to the temple. In addition to her routine duties as a maid servant, she was subject also to burdens peculiar to her sex. Ownership of a female slave meant not only the right to employ her physical strength, but also, and in many cases primarily, the exploitation of her charms by the male members of her master’s household and the utilization of her body for the breeding of slave children. The highest position a female slave could achieve was to become a child-bearing concubine to her master, and the lowest, to be used as a professional prostitute.
According to the Hammurabi Code a slave-concubine and her children were to be set free after the death of the owner. Children born of a union between a female slave and her master, however, did not share in the inheritance of their father, unless they had been adopted by him during his lifetime.
Such a slave could be molested even by other slaves under her master’s direction: ‘Within the household the female slave, in addition to her regular duties as a maid, was also used as a means to increase the number of slaves, and was therefore promiscuously mated with the male slaves.’Hence, even under the famous Code of Hammurabi, a female slave could be sexually molested. Apart, from being bought at sale, slaves were often the result of war booty, so the Biblical record stands apart.
The Biblical accusation against Canaanite religion and ban on inter-marriage
The overarching Biblical accusation against the Canaanites is that they were guilty of ‘abominations’. Amongst those abominations was that of human sacrifice – specifically child sacrifice, Deuteronomy 12:.32: ‘…for every abominable act which YHWH hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.’ Again, in chapter 18:9ff, we read of the practices of the Canaanites in relation to infant sacrifice:
When you enter the land which YHWH your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. 10.There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11.or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12.For whoever does these things is detestable to YHWH; and because of these detestable things YHWH your God will drive them out before you.
It is clear from these texts that the Canaanite religion was occultic in nature, and involved child sacrifice. From what is stated in Leviticus 18.21ff, it is appears that alongside child sacrifice, the Canaanites also practised 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.
It also appears that that the Canaanites practised temple prostitution (of both sexes), Deuteronomy 23.17-18, cf. Genesis 38:21, 1 Kings 14.24: ‘There were also male cultprostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which YHWH dispossessed before the sons of Israel.’ 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.
The very fact that the Israelites are commanded not to have sexual relations with their grandchildren may point to a ban on paedophile activity. What is significant is that v3 begins the passage with this injunction: ‘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.’ Furthermore, 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.’ Essentially, Leviticus 18 bans Israelites from performing sexual activities common to the Canaanites – and these included adultery, incest and probably child molestation. After all, if the Canaanites thought it right to sacrifice children, they probably would not have balked at sexually abusing them.
Thus, according to the Bible, Canaanite religion was devoid of ethical content. Harrison describes it as a ‘crude and debased form of ritual polytheism. It was associated with sensuous fertility-cult worship of a particularly lewd and orgiastic kind…’This, as we have seen, involved the use of sacred prostitutes.Wenham quotes G. E. Wright on this issue: ‘The amazing thing about the gods … in Canaan, is that they had no moral character whatsoever… Worship of these gods carried with it some of the most demoralizing practices then in existence. Among them were child sacrifice…’
Such was the depravity of Canaanite religion, they were to be destroyed and no inter-marriage with them was permissible (save for people like Rahab who had already gone over to the side of YHWH):
When YHWH your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you,2 and when YHWH your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons,4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of YHWH would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.5 But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.
Given that Rahab and her family were taken into Israel, it is clear that the ban on inter-marriage was not ethnic, but religious. Canaanite religion and culture was not simply polytheist – it was sexually abusive, not least to children, and also abusive in that it practised child-sacrifice. Remember that it was no new cult but centuries old – an entire civilisation was committed to its values. It was irreformable, as were its people. Even its children were infected with its values – they were like ‘the Cubs of the Caliphate’ under the Islamic State group (IS) who actually participated in executions and boasted of their murderous intent. Again, unlike IS, the Canaanite culture and religion was centuries old, and the children thereof would have been infected with their religious, sexual and murderous depravity, and been a continual threat to both the spiritual and physical well-being of Israelite children.
To some extent, albeit perhaps not so great, such depravity also affected certain peoples neighbouring Palestine, e.g. 2 Kings 3: ‘26 When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him 700 swordsmen to break through, opposite the king of Edom, but they could not.27 Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel. And they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.’ From the Moabite Stone of King Mesha, which is dated c. 840 B.C., we know that their vernacular was very similar to the Canaanite language. It confirms that their god (or chief god) was Chemosh. Judges 11.23-24 indicates that Chemosh was also a god of Ammon. In 1 Kings 11.7 we read: ‘Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites…’ The same terminology ‘abomination’ is used for these two gods as for the religion and practises of the Canaanites, indicating the nature of their religion. In Numbers 25 it is implied that the Moabites also worshipped Baal – unless they identified Chemosh with him, perhaps. Deuteronomy 23 is clear about relations with Moabites and Ammonites, which affected marital relations – unless, of course, individuals from those nations forsooktheir religion for YHWH (e.g. Ruth):
3 “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of YHWH. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of YHWH forever,4 because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. 5 But YHWH your God would not listen to Balaam; instead YHWH your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because YHWH your God loved you. 6 You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.
The Phoenicians, of course, were exactly the same people as the Canaanites in Palestine, and worshipped the same gods, principally Baal. The Aramaeans worshipped Rimmon, who was identified with Baal. The Midianites were not a single people but were at most, a tribal league dwelling in the region called Midian: …‘they are also related to or associated with the Edomites, Kenites, Ishmaelites, Hagarites and Kenizzites while there are at least connections with Amalekites and Moabites, and perhaps with Ammonites. All in all, they are an amorphous and complex grouping.’Along with ethnic diversity, there was also religious distinction. Jethro seemed to have worshipped YHWH in some way. The reference to Baal-Peor in Numbers 25 suggests that some Midianites at least worshipped Baal. The context suggests that such worship involved sexual immorality:
While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab.2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods.3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of YHWH was kindled against Israel.4 And YHWH said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hangthem in the sun before YHWH, that the fierce anger of YHWH may turn away from Israel.”5 And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.”
6 And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while they were weeping in the entrance of the tent of meeting… 16 And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Harass the Midianites and strike them down, 18 for they have harassed you with their wiles, with which they beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of the chief of Midian, their sister, who was killed on the day of the plague on account of Peor.”
Note that Israelites who committed whoredom with the Midianites were executed. The words of v18 imply that the Midianite women seduced the Israelites into both immorality and idolatry: the two were inter-connected – the idolatrous worship of Baal involved sexual immorality.
Lizzie and Mohammed Lamin have a conversation about the recent jihad attack in Strasbourg.
“Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah, so they kill and are killed.” (Sura 9:111, Sahih International)
Say, [O Muhammad], “If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your relatives, wealth which you have obtained, commerce wherein you fear decline, and dwellings with which you are pleased are more beloved to you than Allah and His Messenger and jihad in His cause, then wait until Allah executes His command. And Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.” (Sura 9:24, Sahih International)