This is part of the ongoing Forest Hills Israel Holy Wars series. The rest of the content can be found here: .

We will be picking up just where we left off last session. When we ended, we had been discussing two passages from Deuteronomy, chapters 7 and 20. Our final discussion question was, Why might it be that we find ourselves reacting in the way we do when we encounter such passages?

Of course, the passages are disturbing; This would be true whether we encounter such passages in our own books, or even reading of them in a work of fiction.

What I'm wondering is whether we think that our reaction is of either a different quality, or to a different degree, when we find them in the passages of our TaNaKh.

Here are the passages again:

(א) כִּ֤י יְבִֽיאֲךָ֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּ֥ה בָא־שָׁ֖מָּה לְרִשְׁתָּ֑הּ וְנָשַׁ֣ל גּֽוֹיִם־רַבִּ֣ים ׀ מִפָּנֶ֡יךָ הַֽחִתִּי֩ וְהַגִּרְגָּשִׁ֨י וְהָאֱמֹרִ֜י וְהַכְּנַעֲנִ֣י וְהַפְּרִזִּ֗י וְהַֽחִוִּי֙ וְהַיְבוּסִ֔י שִׁבְעָ֣ה גוֹיִ֔ם רַבִּ֥ים וַעֲצוּמִ֖ים מִמֶּֽךָּ׃ (ב) וּנְתָנָ֞ם יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ לְפָנֶ֖יךָ וְהִכִּיתָ֑ם הַחֲרֵ֤ם תַּחֲרִים֙ אֹתָ֔ם לֹא־תִכְרֹ֥ת לָהֶ֛ם בְּרִ֖ית וְלֹ֥א תְחָנֵּֽם׃ (ג) וְלֹ֥א תִתְחַתֵּ֖ן בָּ֑ם בִּתְּךָ֙ לֹא־תִתֵּ֣ן לִבְנ֔וֹ וּבִתּ֖וֹ לֹא־תִקַּ֥ח לִבְנֶֽךָ׃

(1) When YHWH your elohim brings you to the land that you are about to enter and possess, and he dislodges many nations before you—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites; Seven nations much larger than you— (2) and YHWH your elohim delivers them to you and you defeat them, you must doom them to destruction: grant them no terms and give them no quarter. (3) You shall not intermarry with them: do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons.

And secondly;

(א) כִּֽי־תֵצֵ֨א לַמִּלְחָמָ֜ה עַל־אֹיְבֶ֗יךָ וְֽרָאִ֜יתָ ס֤וּס וָרֶ֙כֶב֙ עַ֚ם רַ֣ב מִמְּךָ֔ לֹ֥א תִירָ֖א מֵהֶ֑ם כִּֽי־יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ עִמָּ֔ךְ הַמַּֽעַלְךָ֖ מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃


(ח) וְיָסְפ֣וּ הַשֹּׁטְרִים֮ לְדַבֵּ֣ר אֶל־הָעָם֒ וְאָמְר֗וּ מִי־הָאִ֤ישׁ הַיָּרֵא֙ וְרַ֣ךְ הַלֵּבָ֔ב יֵלֵ֖ךְ וְיָשֹׁ֣ב לְבֵית֑וֹ וְלֹ֥א יִמַּ֛ס אֶת־לְבַ֥ב אֶחָ֖יו כִּלְבָבֽוֹ׃

(טז) רַ֗ק מֵעָרֵ֤י הָֽעַמִּים֙ הָאֵ֔לֶּה אֲשֶׁר֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לְךָ֖ נַחֲלָ֑ה לֹ֥א תְחַיֶּ֖ה כָּל־נְשָׁמָֽה׃ (יז) כִּֽי־הַחֲרֵ֣ם תַּחֲרִימֵ֗ם הַחִתִּ֤י וְהָאֱמֹרִי֙ הַכְּנַעֲנִ֣י וְהַפְּרִזִּ֔י הַחִוִּ֖י וְהַיְבוּסִ֑י כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוְּךָ֖ יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃ (יח) לְמַ֗עַן אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹֽא־יְלַמְּד֤וּ אֶתְכֶם֙ לַעֲשׂ֔וֹת כְּכֹל֙ תּֽוֹעֲבֹתָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשׂ֖וּ לֵֽאלֹהֵיהֶ֑ם וַחֲטָאתֶ֖ם לַיהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃

(1) When you take the field against your enemies, and see horses and chariots—forces larger than yours—have no fear of them, for YHWH your elohim, who brought you from the land of Egypt, is with you;


(8) The officials shall go on addressing the troops and say, “Is there anyone afraid and disheartened? Let him go back to his home, lest the courage of his comrades flag like his.”


(16) In the towns of the latter peoples, however, which YHWH your elohim is giving you as a heritage, you shall not let a soul remain alive. (17) No, you must proscribe them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—as YHWH your elohim has commanded you, (18) lest they lead you into doing all the abhorrent things that they have done for their gods and you stand guilty before YHWH your elohim.

Let's consider this for a moment:

As many of us read the works in the TaNaKh, we often end up wrestling with one or more contradictions. The contradictions are generally philosophical, and are the result of feeling compelled to try to hold onto all of the following assumptions:

  • YHWH is all-good;
  • YHWH is all-loving;
  • YHWH is all-powerful;
  • The TaNaKh is the word of YHWH;
  • The narrative passages of the TaNaKh describe events that occurred as the TaNaKh describes them;
  • When YHWH is quoted, he is quoted accurately and honestly.

But what do you think: Is it possible to read passages such as the ones from Deuteronomy above while accepting these axioms as truth? And if not - which of the above would you reframe, or maybe even reject?

I want to take a look together at two comments from the Jewish Study Bible commentary together. The comments are quite dense and will require a lot of unpacking; but it should provide some fascinating perspectives worth thinking about:

From JSB Commentary on chapter 7:

The law of the ban is an anachronistic literary formulation.

It first arose centuries after the settlement; it was never implemented because there was no population extant against whom it could be implemented. Its polemic in favor of religious purity is directed at internal issues in 6th century Judah. Often the authors of Deut. use the term "Canaanite" rhetorically to stigmatize older forms of Israelite religion that they no longer accept.

What approach are the writers of this comment taking? How does this relate to our discussion of the list of axioms above? Are they merely giving us an objective scholarly background? Or might they be wrestling with our questions as well?

If you find it surprising that this comment states that the law of the ban arose "centuries after the settlement" when the Torah attributes it to our liberator Moses, that is because the commentary is assuming something called the "Documentary Hypothesis." We won't spend the time on this topic that it deserves, but suffice it to say for our purposes that what would come to be referred to as the "5 Books of Moses" were actually written by different authors, over a very long period of time, only to be redacted in the form as we have it now by Ezra, appropriately called The Scribe. (For further reading, see Richard Elliot Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible?)

As for the claim made in the JSB commentary specifically - that "Canaanite" refers to earlier forms of Israelite religion, well consider this passage from the oracles of Ezekiel:

(א) וַיְהִ֥י דְבַר־יְהוָ֖ה אֵלַ֥י לֵאמֹֽר׃ (ב) בֶּן־אָדָ֕ם הוֹדַ֥ע אֶת־יְרוּשָׁלִַ֖ם אֶת־תּוֹעֲבֹתֶֽיהָ׃ (ג) וְאָמַרְתָּ֞ כֹּה־אָמַ֨ר אֲדֹנָ֤י יְהוִה֙ לִיר֣וּשָׁלִַ֔ם מְכֹרֹתַ֙יִךְ֙ וּמֹ֣לְדֹתַ֔יִךְ מֵאֶ֖רֶץ הַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֑י אָבִ֥יךְ הָאֱמֹרִ֖י וְאִמֵּ֥ךְ חִתִּֽית׃


(מד) הִנֵּה֙ כָּל־הַמֹּשֵׁ֔ל עָלַ֥יִךְ יִמְשֹׁ֖ל לֵאמֹ֑ר כְּאִמָּ֖ה בִּתָּֽהּ׃ (מה) בַּת־אִמֵּ֣ךְ אַ֔תְּ גֹּעֶ֥לֶת אִישָׁ֖הּ וּבָנֶ֑יהָ וַאֲח֨וֹת אֲחוֹתֵ֜ךְ אַ֗תְּ אֲשֶׁ֤ר גָּֽעֲ֙לוּ֙ אַנְשֵׁיהֶ֣ן וּבְנֵיהֶ֔ן אִמְּכֶ֣ן חִתִּ֔ית וַאֲבִיכֶ֖ן אֱמֹרִֽי׃ (מו) וַאֲחוֹתֵ֨ךְ הַגְּדוֹלָ֤ה שֹֽׁמְרוֹן֙ הִ֣יא וּבְנוֹתֶ֔יהָ הַיּוֹשֶׁ֖בֶת עַל־שְׂמֹאולֵ֑ךְ וַאֲחוֹתֵ֞ךְ הַקְּטַנָּ֣ה מִמֵּ֗ךְ הַיּוֹשֶׁ֙בֶת֙ מִֽימִינֵ֔ךְ סְדֹ֖ם וּבְנוֹתֶֽיהָ׃

(1) The word of YHWH came to me: (2) O mortal, proclaim Jerusalem’s abominations to her, (3) and say:

Thus said YHWH to Jerusalem:

By origin and birth you are from the land of the Canaanites—your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.


(44) Why, everyone who uses proverbs applies to you the proverb “Like mother, like daughter.” (45) You are the daughter of your mother, who rejected her husband and children. And you are the sister of your sisters, who rejected their husbands and children; for you are daughters of a Hittite mother and an Amorite father. (46) Your elder sister was Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; your younger sister was Sodom, who lived with her daughters to the south of you.

Yikes; He does not sound so happy about something.

But what do you think about this Ezekiel's statement, compared to our historical narrative that we usually think of?

And what do you think, reading this together with the comment from the Jewish Study Bible commentary? Can it help us with our question above, as far as what kinds of assumptions we should have and prioritize as we approach texts from the TaNaKh?

Let's now take a look at this other comment, this one from chapter 20. Some of you might find it helpful, and others might not; What I'm personally interested in is that it points us towards one of the most important archaeological finds for Biblical scholarship, and which should help contribute to our greater discussion:

From JSB Commentary chapter 20:

Although wars of conquest would normally be waged for the sake of empire building and profit, Israel's holy war is fought for religious reasons: to extirpate iniquity and to create a covenantal community organized by divine law. Accordingly the usual seizing of plunder - property, animals, and humans - is prohibited. Throughout the Near East the kinds of spoils taken in war would include men, for their labor, and women, for sex, labor and child--rearing. For that reason, the rules for holy war must stipulate that no prisoners be taken. All the normal spoils of war had to be devoted exclusively to God, like the sacrificial "holocaust" offering from which neither priest nor lay Israelite could take any portion.

A contemporary inscription, the Moabite Stone establishes that similar theologies of holy war were shared by a number of nations. In the case of Deut., it is important to recognize that the conception of the conquest as a holy war represents, paradoxically, a highly schematized idealization, formulated half a millennium after the settlement, at a time when ethnic Canaanites would already long have assimilated into the Israelite population.

The importance of the Mesha Stele can in no way be overstated. So let's turn our attention over its way, starting with a quote from the Wikipedia entry:

Wikipedia on the Meshe Stele:

The Mesha Stele, also known as the Moabite Stone, is a stele dated around 840 BCE containing a significant Canaanite inscription in the name of King Mesha of Moab (a kingdom located in modern Jordan). Mesha tells how Chemosh, the god of Moab, had been angry with his people and had allowed them to be subjugated to Israel, but at length, Chemosh returned and assisted Mesha to throw off the yoke of Israel and restore the lands of Moab. Mesha describes his many building projects.[1] Some say it is written in the Phoenician alphabet, but others say it is written in the Old Hebrew script, which is closely related.

Before turning to an English translation of some relevant passages, take a look at the Steles themselves. (Fun tidbit; when Passover rolls around again and you fulfill the mitzvah to watch Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, watch very carefully when Charleton Heston - I mean Moses! - receives the 10 commandments, and you'll see this script in all of its fiery glory! The Prince of Egypt animated film got it right too :- ) !)

Here's something even more amazing. The language of the Moabites and of the Israelites were so similar that if you know how to read Phoenecian (aka Paleo-Hebrew) characters, you would be able to decipher a lot of the above. (Who knew that you could read and understand ancient Moabite????)

See lines 1-6, 14-18, 31 at this link:

What's really interesting is when we start cross-referencing with passages from the TaNaKh. And while we don't have anything which matches up in all of its details, there are certainly a few passages with which the Moabite Stele should be read.

Firstly, it's important to note that the Israelites and Moabites, while neighbors, were never friends, with legends being told of their rivalry going back to before the Israelites ever took root in Canaan. (Remember Bilaam?)

Here a few passages which touch upon this ongoing feud:

(יב) וַיֹּסִ֙פוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת הָרַ֖ע בְּעֵינֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וַיְחַזֵּ֨ק יְהוָ֜ה אֶת־עֶגְל֤וֹן מֶֽלֶךְ־מוֹאָב֙ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עַ֛ל כִּֽי־עָשׂ֥וּ אֶת־הָרַ֖ע בְּעֵינֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃ (יג) וַיֶּאֱסֹ֣ף אֵלָ֔יו אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י עַמּ֖וֹן וַעֲמָלֵ֑ק וַיֵּ֗לֶךְ וַיַּךְ֙ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיִּֽירְשׁ֖וּ אֶת־עִ֥יר הַתְּמָרִֽים׃ (יד) וַיַּעַבְד֤וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֶת־עֶגְל֣וֹן מֶֽלֶךְ־מוֹאָ֔ב שְׁמוֹנֶ֥ה עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה שָׁנָֽה׃ (ס)


(כח) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֲלֵהֶם֙ רִדְפ֣וּ אַחֲרַ֔י כִּֽי־נָתַ֨ן יְהוָ֧ה אֶת־אֹיְבֵיכֶ֛ם אֶת־מוֹאָ֖ב בְּיֶדְכֶ֑ם וַיֵּרְד֣וּ אַחֲרָ֗יו וַֽיִּלְכְּד֞וּ אֶת־מַעְבְּר֤וֹת הַיַּרְדֵּן֙ לְמוֹאָ֔ב וְלֹֽא־נָתְנ֥וּ אִ֖ישׁ לַעֲבֹֽר׃ (כט) וַיַּכּ֨וּ אֶת־מוֹאָ֜ב בָּעֵ֣ת הַהִ֗יא כַּעֲשֶׂ֤רֶת אֲלָפִים֙ אִ֔ישׁ כָּל־שָׁמֵ֖ן וְכָל־אִ֣ישׁ חָ֑יִל וְלֹ֥א נִמְלַ֖ט אִֽישׁ׃ (ל) וַתִּכָּנַ֤ע מוֹאָב֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֔וּא תַּ֖חַת יַ֣ד יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַתִּשְׁקֹ֥ט הָאָ֖רֶץ שְׁמוֹנִ֥ים שָׁנָֽה׃ (ס) (לא) וְאַחֲרָ֤יו הָיָה֙ שַׁמְגַּ֣ר בֶּן־עֲנָ֔ת וַיַּ֤ךְ אֶת־פְּלִשְׁתִּים֙ שֵֽׁשׁ־מֵא֣וֹת אִ֔ישׁ בְּמַלְמַ֖ד הַבָּקָ֑ר וַיֹּ֥שַׁע גַּם־ה֖וּא אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ (ס)

(12) The Israelites again did what was offensive to YHWH. And because they did what was offensive to YHWH, YHWH let King Eglon of Moab prevail over Israel. (13) [Eglon] brought the Ammonites and the Amalekites together under his command, and went and defeated Israel and occupied the City of Palms. (14) The Israelites were subject to King Eglon of Moab for eighteen years!

[We now jump ahead to after King Eglon is assassinated, and then Ehud of Benjamin leads the Israelites to battle.]

(28) “Follow me closely,” he said, “for YHWH has delivered your enemies, the Moabites, into your hands!”

They followed him down and seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites; they let no one cross. (29) On that occasion they slew about 10,000 Moabites; they were all robust and brave men, yet not one of them escaped. (30) On that day, Moab submitted to Israel; and the land was tranquil for eighty years.

Now let's fast-forward several hundred years, and skip over a whole book of the TaNaKh.

This next passage is part of a section detailing King David's victories, as he strives to finally establish Israel and Judeah's dominance over all her neighbors, transforming the family-turned-tribe-turned-confederacy-turned-kingdom into an emerging Empire:

(א) וַֽיְהִי֙ אַֽחֲרֵי־כֵ֔ן וַיַּ֥ךְ דָּוִ֛ד אֶת־פְּלִשְׁתִּ֖ים וַיַּכְנִיעֵ֑ם וַיִּקַּ֥ח דָּוִ֛ד אֶת־מֶ֥תֶג הָאַמָּ֖ה מִיַּ֥ד פְּלִשְׁתִּֽים׃ (ב) וַיַּ֣ךְ אֶת־מוֹאָ֗ב וַֽיְמַדְּדֵ֤ם בַּחֶ֙בֶל֙ הַשְׁכֵּ֣ב אוֹתָ֣ם אַ֔רְצָה וַיְמַדֵּ֤ד שְׁנֵֽי־חֲבָלִים֙ לְהָמִ֔ית וּמְלֹ֥א הַחֶ֖בֶל לְהַחֲי֑וֹת וַתְּהִ֤י מוֹאָב֙ לְדָוִ֔ד לַעֲבָדִ֖ים נֹשְׂאֵ֥י מִנְחָֽה׃

(1) Some time afterward, David attacked the Philistines and subdued them; and David took Metheg-ammah from the Philistines.

(2) He also defeated the Moabites. He made them lie down on the ground and he measured them off with a cord; he measured out two lengths of cord for those who were to be put to death, and one length for those to be spared. And the Moabites became tributary vassals of David.

Here's a graph which shows the extent of David's politico-geographical rule:

Okay, well do you remember the name of the King of Moab during the war described in the Mesha Stele? Let's take one more look at that above; Then let's jump forward yet another book and another century, and here's what we get:

(ד) וּמֵישַׁ֥ע מֶֽלֶךְ־מוֹאָ֖ב הָיָ֣ה נֹקֵ֑ד וְהֵשִׁ֤יב לְמֶֽלֶךְ־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ מֵאָה־אֶ֣לֶף כָּרִ֔ים וּמֵ֥אָה אֶ֖לֶף אֵילִ֥ים צָֽמֶר׃ (ה) וַיְהִ֖י כְּמ֣וֹת אַחְאָ֑ב וַיִּפְשַׁ֥ע מֶֽלֶךְ־מוֹאָ֖ב בְּמֶ֥לֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

(4) Now King Mesha of Moab was a sheep breeder; and he used to pay as tribute to the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs and the wool of a hundred thousand rams. (5) But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.


Note that in the Mesha Stele, the King of Moab blames King Omri and his son. Who do we get in 2 Kings? The death of Ahab! Is there any parallel? Here's an Israelite Kings chart:

This is one of those amazing instances where we have extra-biblical evidence corroborating a historical passage as described in the a text in the TaNaKh itself - which is always a home-run. How many parallels between the Mesha Stele and the story in the TaNaKh do you notice?

The rest of the passage is important for us here, in which we learn of the end of this particular moment of this ongoing Moabite saga:

(ו) וַיֵּצֵ֞א הַמֶּ֧לֶךְ יְהוֹרָ֛ם בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא מִשֹּׁמְר֑וֹן וַיִּפְקֹ֖ד אֶת־כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

(טז) וַיֹּ֕אמֶר כֹּ֖ה אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֑ה עָשֹׂ֛ה הַנַּ֥חַל הַזֶּ֖ה גֵּבִ֥ים ׀ גֵּבִֽים׃ (יז) כִּֽי־כֹ֣ה ׀ אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֗ה לֹֽא־תִרְא֥וּ ר֙וּחַ֙ וְלֹֽא־תִרְא֣וּ גֶ֔שֶׁם וְהַנַּ֥חַל הַה֖וּא יִמָּ֣לֵא מָ֑יִם וּשְׁתִיתֶ֛ם אַתֶּ֥ם וּמִקְנֵיכֶ֖ם וּֽבְהֶמְתְּכֶֽם׃ (יח) וְנָקַ֥ל זֹ֖את בְּעֵינֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וְנָתַ֥ן אֶת־מוֹאָ֖ב בְּיֶדְכֶֽם׃ (יט) וְהִכִּיתֶ֞ם כָּל־עִ֤יר מִבְצָר֙ וְכָל־עִ֣יר מִבְח֔וֹר וְכָל־עֵ֥ץ טוֹב֙ תַּפִּ֔ילוּ וְכָל־מַעְיְנֵי־מַ֖יִם תִּסְתֹּ֑מוּ וְכֹל֙ הַחֶלְקָ֣ה הַטּוֹבָ֔ה תַּכְאִ֖בוּ בָּאֲבָנִֽים׃ (כ) וַיְהִ֤י בַבֹּ֙קֶר֙ כַּעֲל֣וֹת הַמִּנְחָ֔ה וְהִנֵּה־מַ֥יִם בָּאִ֖ים מִדֶּ֣רֶךְ אֱד֑וֹם וַתִּמָּלֵ֥א הָאָ֖רֶץ אֶת־הַמָּֽיִם׃ (כא) וְכָל־מוֹאָב֙ שָֽׁמְע֔וּ כִּֽי־עָל֥וּ הַמְּלָכִ֖ים לְהִלָּ֣חֶם בָּ֑ם וַיִּצָּעֲק֗וּ מִכֹּ֨ל חֹגֵ֤ר חֲגֹרָה֙ וָמַ֔עְלָה וַיַּעַמְד֖וּ עַֽל־הַגְּבֽוּל׃ (כב) וַיַּשְׁכִּ֣ימוּ בַבֹּ֔קֶר וְהַשֶּׁ֖מֶשׁ זָרְחָ֣ה עַל־הַמָּ֑יִם וַיִּרְא֨וּ מוֹאָ֥ב מִנֶּ֛גֶד אֶת־הַמַּ֖יִם אֲדֻמִּ֥ים כַּדָּֽם׃ (כג) וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ דָּ֣ם זֶ֔ה הָחֳרֵ֤ב נֶֽחֶרְבוּ֙ הַמְּלָכִ֔ים וַיַּכּ֖וּ אִ֣ישׁ אֶת־רֵעֵ֑הוּ וְעַתָּ֥ה לַשָּׁלָ֖ל מוֹאָֽב׃ (כד) וַיָּבֹאוּ֮ אֶל־מַחֲנֵ֣ה יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ וַיָּקֻ֤מוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וַיַּכּ֣וּ אֶת־מוֹאָ֔ב וַיָּנֻ֖סוּ מִפְּנֵיהֶ֑ם ויבו־[וַיַּכּוּ־] בָ֔הּ וְהַכּ֖וֹת אֶת־מוֹאָֽב׃ (כה) וְהֶעָרִ֣ים יַהֲרֹ֡סוּ וְכָל־חֶלְקָ֣ה ט֠וֹבָה יַשְׁלִ֨יכוּ אִישׁ־אַבְנ֜וֹ וּמִלְא֗וּהָ וְכָל־מַעְיַן־מַ֤יִם יִסְתֹּ֙מוּ֙ וְכָל־עֵֽץ־ט֣וֹב יַפִּ֔ילוּ עַד־הִשְׁאִ֧יר אֲבָנֶ֛יהָ בַּקִּ֖יר חֲרָ֑שֶׂת וַיָּסֹ֥בּוּ הַקַּלָּעִ֖ים וַיַּכּֽוּהָ׃ (כו) וַיַּרְא֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מוֹאָ֔ב כִּֽי־חָזַ֥ק מִמֶּ֖נּוּ הַמִּלְחָמָ֑ה וַיִּקַּ֣ח א֠וֹתוֹ שְׁבַע־מֵא֨וֹת אִ֜ישׁ שֹׁ֣לֵֽף חֶ֗רֶב לְהַבְקִ֛יעַ אֶל־מֶ֥לֶךְ אֱד֖וֹם וְלֹ֥א יָכֹֽלוּ׃ (כז) וַיִּקַּח֩ אֶת־בְּנ֨וֹ הַבְּכ֜וֹר אֲשֶׁר־יִמְלֹ֣ךְ תַּחְתָּ֗יו וַיַּעֲלֵ֤הוּ עֹלָה֙ עַל־הַ֣חֹמָ֔ה וַיְהִ֥י קֶצֶף־גָּד֖וֹל עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיִּסְעוּ֙ מֵֽעָלָ֔יו וַיָּשֻׁ֖בוּ לָאָֽרֶץ׃ (פ)

(6) So King Jehoram promptly set out from Samaria and mustered all Israel.


As the musician played, the hand of YHWH came upon [Elisha the prophet],

(16) and he said, “Thus said YHWH;

... He will also deliver Moab into your hands! (19) You shall conquer every fortified town and every splendid city; you shall fell every good tree and stop up all wells of water; and every fertile field you shall ruin with stones.”


(21) Meanwhile, all the Moabites had heard that the kings were advancing to make war on them; every man old enough to bear arms rallied, and they stationed themselves at the border.

(22) Next morning, when they rose, the sun was shining over the water, and from the distance the water appeared to the Moabites as red as blood.

(23) “That’s blood!” they said. “The kings must have fought among themselves and killed each other. Now to the spoil, Moab!”

(24) They entered the Israelite camp, and the Israelites arose and attacked the Moabites, who fled before them. They advanced, constantly attacking the Moabites, (25) and they destroyed the towns.


(26) Seeing that the battle was going against him, the king of Moab led an attempt of seven hundred swordsmen to break a way through to the king of Edom; but they failed. (27) So he took his first-born son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him up on the wall as a burnt offering. A great wrath came upon Israel, so they withdrew from him and went back to [their own] land.

This is an utterly fascinating passage from our TaNaKh. What does the end of it seem to imply?

Okay time to zoom way back out; What are we doing with all of this Moabite stuff?

Recall the comment in the Jewish Study Bible commentary that one should turn to the Mesha Stele in order to find similar language as that in Deuteronomy, in which we see gods expecting their peoples to engage in aggressive, no-holds-barred military campaigns. Our looking into these passages of war with Moab was to provide some context and comparison.

In addition to that which is being mandated by deities, there are other interesting parallels between the Mesha Stele and some of what else we've seen in these passages from the TaNaKh. Do you notice any? (It might help to open up the Mesha text in one half of the screen, and then to go through the TaNaKh-ic passages once more.)

Is there any way that this might help us with the question we started with today, regarding the assumptions with which we approach the TaNaKh? Does this inform the way we see some of these more difficult passages in ways that are helpful?