Land Ahoy! Part 2

Rebuttal to "Yahweh's Failed Land Promise": Second Phase: 95% "Fluff-Free" Version
James Patrick Holding


The following is a "fluff-free" version of the article at this location. In short, it is how our reply would look if not under the tedious constraints of our opponent's insistence that we quote EVERYTHING he says. We challenge our opponent to examine it, and prove that our editing in any way affects the substance of his arguments on the matter at issue: The consistency of the Biblical records on the matter of whether Yahweh kept the land promises.


In response to what we offered here on the subject of "Yahweh's Failed Land Promise," our opponent offered the following replies of substance:

Using the word "give". Our opponent cited several passages using the word "give" (as was used to say that God would "give" the land to the Israelites). It is not exactly clear what intent was behind the cites, but it was apparently to establish that "give" implied some relationship which would not allow for a conditional covenant in which the Jews could be booted out of the land for misbehavior.

"Give" is the Hebrew nathan, and any concordance will show that this word has a great variety of applications: add, apply, appoint, ascribe, assign, avenge, bestow, bring forth, bring hither, cast, cause, charge, come, commit consider, count, cry, deliver up, direct, distribute do, without fail, fasten, frame, get, give forth, giveover, give up, grant, hang up, have, lay unto charge, lay up, give leave, lend, let out, lie, lift up, make, occupy, offer, ordain, pay, perform, place, pour, print, pull, put forth, recompense, render, requite, restore, send out, set forth, shew, shoot forth up, strike, submit, suffer, surely, take, thrust, trade, turn, utter, weep, willingly, withdraw, would to God, yield. These and cites that follow are apparently intended by our opponent to insSkeptic X some meaning of nathan congenial to a modern concept of property ownership. However, the great variety of applications, as well as the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, must be considered together; to merely focus on nathan and what meaning it may or may not have in other verses is not enough. In terms of nathan itself, like our modern word "give" it clearly denotes transfer, with no specification in terms of the method or permanence or nature of the "giving". One may "give" someone a back rub, a hard time, a house, or an apartment; the things "given" are different in terms of tangible possession and the idea of ownership, and so "give" only connotes transfer without making any statement in terms of the nature or permanence of the transfer. So likewise nathan.

Now to the cites our opponent used as examples:

Exodus 2:9 And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it.

Ex. 2:9 does not concern land, and especially not land "given" from a deity to a people, so it is not a parallel for any passages relevant to "Yahweh's Land Promise." But we would note that it does concern earned wages. What if the nurse later bungled or fuddled on her job? Would she sSkeptic X be "given" wages? If it was later discovered she was a slacker, and rather than nursing, was out playing stick hockey, would not the wages be demanded back? Rather than countering our case that the land promises were conditional, Ex. 2:9 only supports our contention that they were conditional, and shows that nathan does not offer any sense, by itself, of permanent transference that our opponent's argument requires. (Judges 17:10 was used the same way of a hired Levite priest.)

Numbers 3:47 Thou shalt even take five shekels apiece by the poll, after the shekel of the sanctuary shalt thou take them: (the shekel is twenty gerahs:) And thou shalt give the money, wherewith the odd number of them is to be redeemed, unto Aaron and to his sons.

Our opponent apparently means Numbers 3:47-8 and not merely 3:47. Once again nathan does clearly connote transfer, but Aaron and his sons were not the owners of the money; they were stewards of the money. This does not contradict our point, and does not have any relevance, as it does not concern transfer of land from deity to people, nor does it show that nathan indicates permanent, unconditional transference as our opponent requires.

Judges 14:12 And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments: But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it.

Here nathan is used in what is arguably a transfer of property rights, but again, that is only established because of the context (a wager -- we may note, with conditions!), not because of nathan itself. This does not contradict our point, and does not have any relevance, as it does not concern transfer of land from deity to people, nor does it show that nathan indicates permanent, unconditional transference as our opponent requires.

Rebutting Ruth. Our opponent also tried several methods of undermining the land-people-deity relationship in the ancient world. Ruth 1:16 ("And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.") is merley waved off as coincidental in context. But the verse demonstrates the intimate connection between land ("whither thou lodgest"), people ("my people") and deity ("my God") that we have shown to be an essential context for understanding the land promises. The three are intimately, inextricably linked. We agree that in agreeing to go with Naomi, Ruth was saying that she accepted Naomi's god. This is precisely because of the land-people-deity relationship we have described. Our opponent has not refuted this connection; he has merely waved it off as if to suggest that Ruth's travel with Naomi is entirely coincidental to the acceptance of Naomi's god. Given the relationship clearly expressed in Ruth 1:16, the corresponding data from the Ancient Near Eastern parallels, and a complete lack of evidence from our opponent that such relations were merely coincidental, and not the result of an intimate link, he has utterly failed to relieve himself of the burden placed on him by Ruth 1:16. (Ruth 1:17 is also appealed to as evidence that "Ruth had already accepted Yahweh as her god, even though she was sSkeptic X living in Moab at the time." This is utterly beside the point, as it does not address the intimate link expressed between land, deity, and people in Ruth 1:16. It is also irrelevant because it is from Ruth 1:17, and is said in light of the certain knowledge that the ultimate destination is Israel, and that that Yahweh was indeed God there. Far from contadicting our point about the he context of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, Ruth 1:17 only confirms it, for it shows further that Ruth recognized that the move to Israel would mean, for her, a change in deity to whom she owed primary loyalty as the "owner" of the land in which she would now be a tenant.)

Our opponent also appeals to Balaam, who lived in Pethor in Mesopotamia, as "a believer in the Hebrew god Yahweh." Whether one was a "believer" in a given god was not at issue. The nations readily recognized the existence of the gods of the other nations, or even worshipped the gods of other nations (although often as a local manifestation) even within their own nations, and we have never argued that they did not do so. What is at issue is the god to whom the person owed supreme loyalty, as the god who was "owner" and landlord of the land, and it is in that context that the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity comes into play. Balaam certainly believed in Yahweh and recognized his power. However, there is no evidence that he gave supreme loyalty to Yahweh over any other deity. The Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity would suggest that Balaam gave supreme loyalty to whatever deity was associated with Pethor in Mesopotamia, if indeed that was his normative place of residence. However, there is no evidence at all in terms of which deity Balaam gave most allegiance to, and thus also no evidence at all that contradicts (or supports) our premise concerning the association of land, people, and deity in the Ancient Near East.

Also appealed to is Jacob, who went to Paddan-aram but didn’t change his god while he was living in Paddan-aram. Jacob certainly did not change his gods, and that is because, as we have clearly stressed, but as our opponent has missed in terms of application, the Israelites understood matters somewhat differently in light of Yahwism, for they understood Yahweh to be the owner of all of the land, even foreign lands, rather than other deities being in charge of it. So likewise we would expect Jacob to recognize that the usual paradigm of changing gods with lands would not apply where Yahweh was concerned. Our opponent clearly misses this application.

Finally as an example it is noted that "Solomon married foreign wives who worshiped other gods and enticed Solomon to worship them, but Solomon and his wives lived on Yahweh’s turf." This does not in any sense refute our point about the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, for it does not specify whether Solomon or his wives gave any of these other gods supreme loyalty over Yahweh or any of the other gods, and if they did, why they did (i.e., did they think Yahweh was not supreme in Israel and owner of the land?). It does not give any specific information about how they ranked the deities in a hierarchy; it does not explain their relationship with Yahweh, or whether there was any to speak of. Thus this point neither contradicts nor supports our premise concerning the association of land, people, and deity in the Ancient Near East. We have nowhere stated that recognition of a god as supreme in a new land, and as the owner and "landlord" in that land, meant that other gods could not be recognized or worshipped.

Yipping About Yarash. Our opponent misses the point that we agree that yarash has a wide variety of meanings. Indeed it does; it means an "heir" in Gen. 15:3. But this is inapplicable to the land promise issue, since Yahweh is not a person who is dying and leaving the land to anyone, and is not relevant to the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, in which the people were "rentors" under contract and had certain obligations which allowed them to continue to live in the land. We may add that by any token an "heir" would also never be a permanent, unconditional possessor of the land, since any human heir would eventually die and thereby the land would be "possessed" by someone else, or else some other condition (invasion, taxation) could strip the person of possession of the land. Yarash does not connote any unconditional, permanent sense of transference as our opponent requires for his case.

Next our opponent cited Le.v. 20:22-24:

Leviticus 20:22 Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out.
23 And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.
24 But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am Yahweh your God, which have separated you from other people.

Our opponent has unerringly refuted his own case, as he has quoted a passage (20:22) that verifies our points concerning the context of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, in which the people were "rentors" under contract and had certain obligations ("keep all my statutes...") which allowed them to continue to live in the land. Our opponent does not refute us here, but merely verifies what we have been saying all along.

Fudging on Feudalism. Our opponent says:

If a feudal lord told a family that they would be given permanent tenancy on property from sea A to river B and from mountain C to valley D, but later the feudal lord gave them tenancy on just a fraction of that land, the feudal lord would have reneged on his promise, wouldn’t he? If not, why not?

The point which continues to escape our opponent, and will evade him further on in his reply in spite of quoting verses that refute his very position, is that the tenancy was not, and never is, expressed as permanent or unconditional, but is expressed in terms of adherence to the contractual obligations laid out throughout the OT and especially in the contractual form of Deuteronomy. The issue moreover, is that the Israelites violated these obligations even before they could physically move into the entirety of the land grant. By analogy, a rentor who steps into his apartment and immediately, at the front door, rips wallpaper off the wall and starts a fire, has already technically violated his lease (if it prohibits such acts, which may not be prohibited in certain collegiate rentals) and could readily be evicted by the landlord. It does not matter that he never got to the bedroom, or the bathroom, which the lease gave him implicit leave to occupy. Once the contract is violated, the "jig is up" and he is eligible for expulsion. Moreover, would our opponent suggest that Yahweh or any landlord would allow a loophole in which the Israelites could leave even one square inch of land "unpossessed" and do as they please, violating laws willy-nilly, having orgies, food fests, and idolatry as they pleased, always leaving that one square inch or yard or mile of land untouched and techincially unconqured, and Yahweh (or any landlord) would just say, "No problem, they sSkeptic X have that bitty parcel left; I can't touch 'em until then." Is there any such agreement in real life?

Dragging in Omniscience. Marginally related, as a matter of consistency of the Biblical record, is our opponent's question, about "why an omniscient, omnipotent deity made a land promise that he couldn’t keep?" As we noted clearly, and explain in more detail throughout our essay, the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity is such that the people were "rentors" under contract and had certain obligations which allowed them to continue to live in the land, and under which the patron deity had obligations as well. Yahweh's omniscience and omnipotence have no bearing upon the freewill decision of His people to violate the obligations of their contract and therefore suffer the consequences clearly laid out for such violations in the OT and especially in the contractual document, Deuteronomy.

Our opponent's only substantive attempt to argue against Abraham receiving the covenant as conditional, in light of the land-people-deity relationship (and in other contexts, Moses taking similar promises as unconditional), rather than as a "no strings" deal, is this sentence: "So [Holding] is even able to read Abraham’s mind?" This snide comment is merely a distraction from the point that the overwhelming evidence of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, places the burden of proof upon any respondent claiming that such was not, or would not have been, known to Abraham when Yahweh appraoched him with the land promise. We anticipated that our opponent would simply, desperately, and without any contrary evidence, deny the applicability of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity to the particular case of Abraham, and our anticipation has been 100% accurate. Our opponent is clearly lost and unable to respond effectively, for he has no evidence with which to respond and can only make snide comments begging peculiar exceptions to known, widespread, established data-paradigms of the Ancient Near East.

Tucked Everlasting. We made some points about 'olam, agreeing that while it implied an everlasting covenant (for the land would always be there for the Israelites, even in Exile), it in no way implied that there were no limitations or conditions (they could be exiled if they violated the covenant strictures). Our opponent wastes a great deal of time thinking we are either a) arguing that the word does not mean "eternal" or b) wondering if we will argue that "there are no longer any Jews to take part in the covenant or perhaps that there were no Jews in the time of Joshua to take part in the covenant." We have not argued either of these things. We have agrued that the covenant is "conditional" and that 'olam does not refute any contention that the promises were conditional. 'Olam allows that things may change to affect the status of the covenant. It is a time-marker that does not specify that everything will remain the same; thus my facetious example of the Jews ceasing to exist meaning an end to the covenant, in spite of the 'olam.

Keep Off the Grass. Our opponent tries to defuse the whole "land belonged to Yahweh" thesis by arguing that there are various verses that show that the Israelites bought and sold property. No one disagrees with this. The point is shown by Lev. 25:23: "The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land." That the land could not be sold among the Israelites, or that they could perform functions like establishing boundary markers or redeeming property, does not in the least contradict or address our point that the land was owned by Yahweh, as clearly stated in Lev. 25:23. The relationship does not equate with any modern sense of property ownership, since we moderns regard ultimate ownership of the land as resting with ourselves, not with a deity, whereas Leviticus clearly states that the land was ultimately owned by Yahweh, and remaining evidence we have cited, notably the conditional terms and the Deuteronomic contract, show that the Israelites were tenants in a "conditional" landlord-tenant relationship. We have never argued that Yahweh's ultimate ownership precluded the ability of humans to transact business with the land; we have rather argued that Yahweh holds ultimate jurisdiction with respect to Israelite occupation and use of the land, including the ability to transact business associated with the land. This point our opponent has not in any sense refuted. Moroever, even granting (as we do) such conceptions of personal property, how does this disprove or detract from that Yahweh set conditions upon continuing to live in the land?

Making the Cut. Noting our comments on circumcision as the entry ritual into the covenant, our opponent writes:

If the Israelites obeyed Yahweh’s voice and kept Yahweh’s covenant, he would, by implication, give them the land he had promised to the patriarchs, but if circumcision was the “entry rite” into the covenant, the Israelites to whom Yahweh promised the land in Deuteronomy 9 had not kept the covenant at all, because they had not kept the rite of circumcision while they were in the wilderness.

That is correct, and that is why we have the need for the event described in Joshua 5 in which all the male Israelites of the generation entering Palestine were circumcised. Our opponent thinks it an issue that the "Israelites to whom [Yahweh] made this promise hadn’t even kept the covenant entry ritual of circumcision," and supposes that their disobedience should have kept them out. Why is this the case? The ritual was done. The Israelites who underwent the ritual obeyed the command to have it done. How could they have it done before they were told to have it done? For this to be a problem, our opponent must show that in the time prior to Josh. 5, the people were told to undergo ritual circumcision and disobeyed the command to do so. As this is not shown, and as the text records no such command and refusal by the addressed generation of Israelites, this is a non-answer in context.

So what does it mean? If our opponent denies the ancient land-people-deity relationship, he has an obligation to provide an alternate understanding of the texts, and in light of Lev. 25:23 especially where Yahweh says the land is "mine." Here are his objections and re-analysis beyond what we have already addressed in concept:

This feudal-landlord concept would have made the Israelites serfs, who simply tended the land, but serfs could not buy and sell land, whereas the Israelites could and did buy and sell land.

Our opponent has here, without any justification at all, imposed a concept (serfdom) and one of its attendant features (inability to buy and sell land) upon the text. However, he is nevertheless shooting himself in the foot, since indeed the Israelites were forbidden to sell the land permanently (Lev. 25:23), as he admits it shows. He is also, nevertheless, assuming that Yahweh's feudal landlord-tenant relationship included every single aspect of what he has perceived to be essential elements of a human feudal landlord-tenant relationship, which may or may not even apply in the Ancient Near East. Here is his "positive" analysis:

I think the ancient view of land ownership would be somewhat like referring to United States territory. The territory referred to “belongs” to the United States, but within that territory are parcels owned by Jones, Brown, Williams, Smith, etc., etc., etc.

The analogy, adjusted for our status as a republic, is in one sense not far off, and in fact to that extent only supports what we have been saying all along. The United States has laws that we must follow to keep our freedoms. If we break the laws, there are penalties, though expulsion from land is seldom used as such a penalty, if at all. The parallel breaks down ultimately because the US does not own the land, and our opponent cannot show any example (other than parklands) where it is said that the land is the USA's land in any possessive sense, or in the same sense, that Yahweh declares that the entire land "is mine" in Leviticus (and in spite of permission thereafter to conduct land transactions of the "personal property" sort), nor can he find a place where it is said that the USA is the Creator of the land of the United States (cf. Gen. 14:19), or of US citizens thinking they need to take dirt from the USA with them to be patriotic in a foreign country and loyal to the US government, or any example of anyone thinking that US troops become powerless when they step on foreign soil. The USA is a nation, with a long history of individualism and Western property rights and a view of God as more remote; it is not a Deity like Yahweh, Chemosh, or the gods of Babylon and Assyria, and the history is one of Eastern collectivism and a view of gods as deeply involved in judgment and the ownership of the land and its occupants. The parklands themselves provide a slightly closer analogy that only proves our point. The parklands have rules that occupants must follow, or they will be expelled from the parklands; though the analogy breaks down because no one in parklands occupies the land: they do sometimes temporarily occupy it (campgrounds) but cannot sell it amongst themselves (though they could conceivably barter "off the record" for the rights to certain plots). Our opponent has only furthered our own case with his analogy; but as a whole, his analogy is contrary to the data of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, does not rest on any positive evidence from Ancient Near Eastern contracts, documents, or inscriptions, and is little more than the fantastic product of a non-specialist desperately trying to maintain an argument.

Our opponent replied with some direct questions. Only one is not answered by what we have offered above:

Could Yahweh have withheld the land from the Israelites and sSkeptic X kept his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

No. Yahweh would only have broken his promise had He never given the Israelites the chance to occupy the land at all.

We noted Joshua 1:1-6, a land promise followed by a reminder of obligation in Joshua 1:7 hearkening back to the entire law. ("Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.") Our opponent said, "One can possess property without necessarily prospering, so this admonition would not prove anything." If the "prospering" is not in relation to what has just been spoken of -- going in and taking the land -- then what on earth is it referring to? The mutual funds Joshua bought from Baal Brothers?

Digging out Deut. 9. Our opponent brings up Deut. 9 some 30 times in his argument -- mostly prior to our own examination of it! He clearly thinks this is his "Big Bertha" so we'll have a fuller look at it now. We earlier noted that Deut. 9:3-7 has nothing to do with whether the Israelites would continue to be able to possess the land; that will depend on their fulfillment of their obligations as tenants, as stated in the Deuteronomic contract. The stress here is that the ability to enter the land is the result of an act of unmerited grace with respect to those present. They are riding in, as it were, on Abraham's coattails; but this has nothing to do with whether they will be able to stay in the land as tenants.

9:1-3 Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven, A people great and tall, the children of the Anakims, whom thou knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, Who can stand before the children of Anak! Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee.

If no other "land promise" appeared in the Bible, and if Deut. 9:1-3 were all we had, the most we could conclude is that there is no evidence, pro or con, of any conditions attached to the promise. But there is more, much more:

9:4 Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.

Our opponent says of this verse, "Notice that the verse above did not say if Yahweh thrusts out these nations; it said when Yahweh thrusts them out." The use of "when" as opposed to "if" does not affect in any way the fact that Deuteronomy is an ancient legal contract spelling out obligations of landlord and tenant, and that to extract any passage from Deuteronomy without respect to this fact is illicit. Our opponent also would need to explain why, in light of this overwhelming context surrounding 9:4, this is not best understood (even under the "when" implication) as a conditional based on assumption of success in adhering to the covenant, as is clearly spelled out throughout the OT and particularly Deuteronomy. Note as well that Yahweh is speaking to these people of a time after they cast the others out, warning them of what not to say after they have cast them out:

9:5 Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

It is not for righteouness that they go to possess the land. GO to. They GO. They are not there yet. They will GO. Not STAY, or CONTINUE, but GO. Our opponent fails to recognize this distinction.

9:6-7 Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people. Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the LORD thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD.

From here through verse 26 we are given a catalog if Israel's past sins in the wilderness. Now if there were no conditions attached to keeping occupation of the land, then what on earth is the purpose of cataloging all these sins? One obvious purpose is to show that the Israelites indeed had no righteousness and that they needed this act of grace merely to enter the land. But more than that, and in light of the fact that it is clearly said that the other nations are being driven out because of their wickedness, how on earth can it be denied that they serve as reminders that any future wickedness by the Israelites would result in the same penalty of expulsion? Note that this is so even if every part of the OT were to vanish other than Deut. 9, and we did not have boucoups of conditional statements, to say nothing of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, offering is support. It does not take an inference the size of a trash pile of Skeptic Magazine copies to suppose that if the other nations got thrown out for bad behavior, and if it is specifically said that it is not because of righteousness that they GO (not STAY or CONTINUE) into the land, then the Israelites will be just as subject to the conditions of continued occupation, beyond the act of entry grace, as anyone else.

Jiggling Joshua 10. Our reply here was that Joshua 10, when it refers to ALL the land, refers only to ALL the land taken in Ch. 10, not the whole grant. Our opponent replied:

Joshua 10:41 says that the strike went from Kadesh-barnea “even to Gaza and all the country of Goshen,” so this would take the extent of the claimed attack to the Mediterranean Sea.

This is false. If the attack was to Gaza it does not include Gaza, on the sea, which was Philistine territory.

The same verse says that the strike extended “unto Gibeon,” which was a town located about 5 miles north of Jerusalem, so if Joshua had routed all the kings of this region and utterly destroyed all that breathed (v:40), he would have driven out and destroyed the Jebusites, who lived in and around Jerusalem, and this would have happened early in Joshua’s invasion of Canaan, yet texts describing events after this time specifically noted that the Israelites were unable to drive out the Jebusites.

This is false. Gibeon is actually approximately five miles northwest of Jerusalem, at 35 degrees, 14'30 east, while Jerusalem itself is at 35 degrees, 19'56 east. The map also shows it separated from Jerusalem by a river, a natural barrier. Our opponent desperately wishes to erase these five miles in a different direction, as well as disregard any issue of delineating georgraphical features, which would clearly exclude Jerusalem from the range between Kadesh-Barnea and Gibeon, but that geographical equivocation will not float in this ocean. To this we would add that our opponent has also naively assumed, even if he were correct, that the delineation in Joshua 10 would be a straight line, when it would more likely be drawn, in this era before maps, along natural barriers like rivers, mountains, and wilderness. This needs to be taken into account before our opponent can even begin an argument.

We may add a pertinent observation. Our opponent here has argued that Joshua 10 offers an inconsistency with reference to Jerusalem only. In his original article, he clearly indicated that he believed that Joshua 10 offered an inconsistency with reference to all the land in the grant, including the "not yet taken" land in Joshua 13. So what happened? Is it just Jerusualem? If so, why did our opponent in his original article indicate that it was ALL the land in the grant that was at issue with reference to Joshua 10? He cannot backpedal and say that he only would have intended to reference Jerusalem intentionally. He never specifies this and he juxtaposes the Joshua 10 quotes, along with the others and with no differentiation specified, in a section ending with the words, "Yahweh gave unto Israel ALL the land that he swore to give to their fathers, and the dimensions of that land were clearly laid out in such passages as Exodus 23:20-33 and Joshua 1:1-6." Why is our opponent not being honest about his backpedalling?

Our opponent also noted that the king of Jerusalem had been captured in Joshua 10, and compares this to later cites showing the city sSkeptic X in Jebusite hands:

Notice above that Joshua 12:10 listed “the king of Jerusalem” as one of the kings that Joshua “smote” in his conquest of the land. If, however, Joshua had defeated the king of Jerusalem and “utterly destroyed” its inhabitants, that would have been the end of the Jebusites. How then could biblical texts later say that the Israelites were unable to drive out the Jebusites?

We have addressed this above, and it is asburd to suggest that the mere capture of a king spelled the end of his city (of which, it is never said that its inhabitants are "utterly destroyed"). This is like arguing that if someone captures the President, that is the end of the USA. We are a republic of course with a succession of power, but the analogy holds unless our opponent can show that the capture of a king, separate from a specific military conquest of his city, automatically resulted in the capture of his city be default. By this reckoning Nebuchadnezzar wasted time trying to capture any city in Judah other than Jerusalem, since all he had to do to win the war is get the king, and immediately all of Judah would have capitulated. Our opponent is playing games to cover the fact that he has yet to prove that there is any overlap between the lands captured in Josh. 10-11 and the lands yet to be captured in Josh. 13, or that Josh. 10-11 claim that the entirety of the land grant was taken. The king of Jerusalem took part in battle against Iarael, and he along with other kings was captured and slain at Makkedah (Josh. 10:23), a location some 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Despite the capture, Jerusalem remained an eminently defensible city; the mere capture of a king who had gone on a sortie would not have resulted in the Jebusites throwing up their hands and surrendering to the Israelites.

Jiggling Joshua 11. Our reply here was also that Joshua 11, when it refers to ALL the land, refers only to ALL the land taken in Ch. 11, not the whole grant. Our opponent replied with a list of places where Joshua 11 records conquest. But none of the indicated territory overlaps with that specified as "not yet taken" in Joshua 13. The description does not bring the conquests to the northern borders of the land grant. The grant went as far as the Euphrates River (Gen. 15:18), and Josh. 13:5 specifies as yet untaken, "And the land of the Giblites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrising, from Baalgad under mount Hermon unto the entering into Hamath." From Baalgad unto the entering of Hamath, and all Lebanon, up to the Euphrates, is a portion of land that is farther north than what our opponent claims is the "northern borders" of the land grant (which he places at Sidon to Baalgad). The Joshua 11 excursion does not finish the job, and Josh. 11:23 does not say anything about the fathers and what was sworn to them; it says, "So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war."

Gaza Goof-Up. Here's another unique shot at showing overlap:

In listing the “much land” that remained to be conquered, Joshua 13:2 listed “all the regions of the Philistines,” but Gaza was on the Mediterranean coast, right smack in the middle of Philistine territory, and Joshua 10:40-41 claimed that Joshua “smote” all the land of the southern hill-country and lowlands and all of their kings, from Kadesh-barnea and all the country of Goshen, where Gaza was located. Gaza was listed as one of the towns allotted to Judah (Josh. 15:47).

Josh. 10:41 first mentions Gaza: "And Joshua smote them from Kadeshbarnea even unto Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even unto Gibeon." This says only that Joshua smote the kings referenced in Josh. 10 unto Gaza. This does include Gaza itself, and Gaza itself was neither attacked nor captured here. This verse speaks of a geographic range within which Joshua smote the forces in retreat. Gaza is next mentioned in 11:22: "There was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, there remained." This specifically lays out three cities, including Gaza, where the Anakim remained, and as yet there is no mention of attack or conquest of the city. (Our opponent also cites Ashdod as well; our answer here also applies. Ashdod is not mentioned otherwise except in 13:3.) Finally indeed there is 15:47 where Gaza is allotted to Judah. To which we say: And this means? It means nothing that helps our opponent. The allotting of Gaza was pre-emptive, but it does not require that the city be conquered before it can be decided which tribe should get it. Does our opponent expect the Israelites to simply wait, for his personal satisfaction, until Gaza was captured before they decided which tribe would get it or that a tribe would get it? That is not required, and Josh. 15:47, because it says nothing about a conquest of Gaza, does not thereby stand against Josh. 13:3, which says it had yet to be taken.

Into Kings. Our opponent notes as late as 1 Kings 9 some of the Canaanite people sSkeptic X lived among the Israelites. We do not disagree, and attribute this to the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity is such that the people were "rentors" under contract and had certain obligations which allowed them to continue to live in the land. The Israelites violated these obligations even before they could physically move into the entirety of the land grant, and as we show below, were punished with military failure, from which they never covered.

Oral Arguments. Our opponent rejected with prejudice our points about Josh. 21:43-45. We will expose his replies as fallacious via an analogy. To begin, compare these two passages:

Exodus 14:21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
Exodus 15:8 And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.

Our opponent has produced some absurd charges of contradiction and inconsistency in the Bible over the years, but we are quite sure that not even he would find inconsistency between these two verses. Why not? Because everyone (other than perhaps a few Mormons) will recognize that Ex. 15:8 is an anthropomorphism relating the same information as Ex. 14:21. No one thinks that Ex. 15:8 envisions God literally exhaling through physical nostrils, blowing away the water of the Red Sea, with nose hairs and other unmentionables flying everywhere. Our opponent almost certainly does not read Ex. 15:8 this way either. He recognizes 15:8 within a "genre envelope" (the metaphor itself, plus the genre of Ex. 15 as a song) in which he recognizes, "This does not mean that Yahweh had physical nostrils be blew through. This is not read as literal or as giving the whole story as it happened." By the same token, it is our point that Joshua 21:43-45, as shown by the elements described above (chaism, repetition), is in a "genre envelope" that tells us, "This does not mean that the land is fully taken to the extent of the land grant." We will say more of this below and send back our opponent's objections to this thesis, using Exodus 14:21 and 15:8 as a basis and playing the role of a hyper-critic asking our opponent to defend his view that these two verses do not present us with an inconsistency. Thus:

Skeptic X: Exodus 15:8 is an anthropomorphic metaphor designed to illustrate the historical event related in the narrative at 14:21.
HYPER: This all sounds like excuse-making for what Skeptic X realizes are obvious inconsistencies in the biblical record. What is he trying to say?
Is he arguing that the omni-one, when “inspiring” whoever wrote this text, allowed him to inject error into his historical report because it would be easier to repeat from memory?

We are arguing that indeed the idea was to make memorization easier, and by the same token, because this was the purpose of the passage, there is no "error" at all, except by the preconceived standards of an entirely different culture (ours) which has not signed on to the same semantic contract, and upon whom we cannot merely impose our own ideas as though they are "better" or more "correct." An Israelite or ancient reading this text would not have looked back and said, "But wait -- we sSkeptic X don't have all the land!" They would recognize and accept the formulaic nature of the text and realize it was not telling the whole story, and was not intended to, and would not expect it to. The oral structure offers a semantic contract in which it is known and expected that not all details have been reported. This is the sort of concept that I refer to as being unknown by critics with a fundamentalist hermeneutical past who tend to keep their preoccupation with the idea that an inerrancy doctrine means that the Bible dropped out of heaven complete, and in a way that was designed to be read according to their own preconceptions and judgments. Our opponent merely demonstrates yet again that we have correctly placed him in this category. Here are some of his own words, thrown back at him by our friend Hyper the hyper-literalist:

HYPER: Why didn’t the writer just give an accurate statement of what had happened and say something like he did in Ex. 14:21? Is there something wrong with factual reporting?
No flapdoodle about “figures of speech” designed to make the statement easier to memorize and more colorful can explain away an obvious inconsistency.
HYPER: Accuracy is accuracy and inaccuracy is inaccuracy whether literal or figirative. No “figures of speech” can make inaccuracies accurate. An inconsistent statement, whether figurative or not, is an inconsistent statement.
The OT history of Yahweh’s “chosen people” was presumably an inspired record for all mankind throughout history or--excuse the expression--forever. The omni-one should have realized that (1) reporting exactly what had happened could have been understood by Hebrew readers, (2) inspiring written records without inconsistencies in them would have commanded much more respect from future generations whose concepts of logic and truth would be more advanced than the “millions in the past,” and (3) inspiring accuracy in the written records of a culture that used so many figures of speech would have prevented discussions like this one.
HYPER: Inconsistency is inconsistency whether it is literal or figurative. If Skeptic X thinks that inconsistency is not inconsistency in figuratively transmitted accounts, he needs to explain why it isn’t.

And how would our opponent answer?

Note that we are not saying that consistency is impossible in an oral culture. It is my position that consistency is possible, but that no inconsistency exists in this text, for "inconsistency" implies error, and there is no error unless the intent was to tell the whole story. Oral cultures compose formulations such as these that are not intended to tell the whole story. They work under a diferent semantic contract than our own, and we have no justification for imposing our own semantic contract upon them. Nor should we expect God to have inspired persons in an oral culture (and it is in that type of culture in which the overwhelming majority of people even today are immersed) to write things down in a way that would have been far less effective for them. We have hindsight to help us make the interpretive analysis. The ancients did not have such hindsight. Should he take this view, we defy our opponent to explain his self-centeredness on this point.

Furthermore, once an oral tradition was written down, it became a written account, so [Holding] cannot find an excuse for inconsistency in the book of Joshua on the grounds that these were just accounts of what had once been transmitted orally.

Our opponent forgets that in spite of Joshua being written down, anywhere from 95-99 percent of the population remained illterate; the text would be read to such people, and it is absurd and prejudiced to demand that Yahweh produce an anachronistic relic for the sake of our opponent's graphocentric prejudices, especially when he has the hindsight and the ability to grasp the differences, and does not do so only because he thinks himself too fine to soil his hands with in-depth study of, and respect for, oral ("primitive") cultures.

Drive Out Movies. Now we get to where our opponent registered objections about the various places where Israel failed to fulfill their duties. I began with places where it is said that the Israelites did not drive out the inhabitants, but reduced them to forced labor. I agreed that these were violations, yet because of the landlord-tenant relationship described above, such instances as these can hardly be taken to account against Yahweh's promise to drive out the nations, since it reflects the choice of the Israelities to not drive them out. By that accounting it was a specific violation of the covenant terms by the Israelites, and there was indeed a punishment for this in Judges 2.

As for putting the Canaanites into “forced labor,” if the Israelites were able to enslave them, then why were they not able to drive them out or utterly destroy them? I don’t suppose that [Holding] has ever paused to think about that.

We do not argue anywhere below that the Israelites put the people to forced labor because of an inability to drive them out. We argue that they chose to put them to forced labor -- or of there was inability, it was due to sin (see below).

Judges 2:1-3 And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.

Once Israel broke the terms of the lease, all bets were off and Yahweh was "out" of His obligation as landlord to do His part in driving out the peoples. In reply to this our opponent said:

Furthermore, the passage that [Holding] quoted can at best explain only why Hivites were sSkeptic X in the land after Joshua’s conquests were apparently over; it cannot explain why Canaanites, Perizzites, Hittites, Amorites, and Jebusites were still in the land. Unless there is another inconsistency in the biblical text, what the “angel of the Lord” had to have been referring to in Judges 2:1-3 was the “covenant” that the Israelites had made with the Hivites in Gibeon, who in Joshua 9:3-27 fooled the Israelites into thinking that they were men from a “far country” who had come to make a covenant with them. According to the story, the Israelites fell for the ruse and made the covenant, but according to Joshua 11:19, these Hivites were the only people in the land that the Israelites “made peace with.”

Our opponent is clearly unaware that a "covenant" refers to any contract, league, or agreement between parties and is not a term exclusive to what was done between Israel and the Gibeonites. The word for "covenant" is used 286 times in the OT and refers as well to God's dealings with Noah (Gen. 6:18), between Jonathan and David (1 Sam. 23:18), between kings (1 Kings 15:19), and between God and Israel (all through Deuteronomy). In context of Judges 2 it refers to the agreements that obviously had to be established when they Israelites put the people noted in Judges 1 under forced labor or tribute, for of course the Israelites did not simply walk up to the people, say, "Hey, wanna be forced laborers?" and then sit back after the people said, "OK, that's a good deal." A "forced labor" or tribute situation among peoples implies (or should imply, to any person of sense) previous encounters, engagement (negotiation and/or battles), stalemate, more negotiation if needed, surrender, and agreement to terms -- i.e., a "covenant." Our opponent has simply thrown this argument in the air without any critical evaluation, hoping to score a point with skeptical readers who do not know any better than to check behind him.

When we come to [Holding]’s claim that “the sin of even one of the people” would have kept Yahweh from keeping his land promise, everyone should keep in mind that the text I just quoted claims that “the people worshiped Yahweh all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua,” so that shoots a big hole in his theory, coming up, that the sin of just one person could have caused failure of the land promise.

This is an error of reading. What I actually said was, with reference to Achan and the loss at Ai, "The sin of even one of the people is enough to guarantee military non-success." This is not the same as saying that the sin of even one of the people is sufficient to withhold the land promises as a whole. Technically it may be sufficient, but most landlords (and we say that Yahweh was no exception) do not take advantage of the first offense to evict a tenant, and the contractual document (Deuteronomy) does lay out a progression of offenses and punishments beyond this, with total eviction from the land as a final resort. There will be more misuse of this quote by our opponent below.

Furthermore, verse [Judges 2] six in the text said that “all went to their own inheritances to take possession of the land.” Hence, going to their own inheritances constituted taking possession of the land.

Our opponent does not explain the reason for making this point, but it apparently does not occur to him (and would not, since he has prejudicially declared himself to have no respect for an oral culture) that Judges 2:6 begins a new storytelling unit. Judges 1:1 begins after the death of Joshua and until 2:5 we have a summary of conquests (or lack thereof) by the Israelites, and the consequences of their choice to not drive out some of the people. 2:6 begins a new unit of tradition that overlaps a period from late in the book of Joshua (at the time when the territories were designated for the tribes, when they went to possess the land, with no comment about success or lack thereof, or why), through Joshua's death (Judges 2:8) and on into further generations. Of course our opponent may want to argue that this is actually another inconsistency in the text, reporting that Joshua died twice, and may go on to invent snide remarks about how inerrantists have a lot of explaining to do, and how they come up with "flapdoodle" about "oral units" to "explain away obvious inconsistencies in the Bible."

Deut. 9 Again.

All [Holding] has done is point out another inconsistency, because the promise was that Yahweh would drive the nations out quickly.

We fully anticipated the use of the following statement verse by our opponent, and have saved making reference to it so that we can have a little fun:

Deuteronomy 9:3 Know then today that Yahweh your God is the one who crosses over before you as a devouring fire; he will defeat them and subdue them before you, so that you may dispossess and destroy them quickly, as Yahweh has promised you.
Notice that it said that Yahweh would drive out the nations quickly, as he had promised the Israelites, so this text is not just saying that the nations would be driven out quickly but that the quickness with which the nations would be driven out was part of the promise.

Now we ask our opponent this question. If Llerraf the Gorilla is swinging on a tree in the jungle and has a bunch of bananas, and he says, "I will eat these bananas quickly," what does he mean? Does he mean, he will eat them all at once and do so quickly; i.e., will he inhale them in one session in less than ten seconds flat? Or does he mean, he will eat each one quickly, i.e., as he eats them, over an extended period of time, each banana going down in a few microseconds flat, with the total sum of bananas in the bunch eaten over a period of several days? Give up? We don't know either, and we will not know until we ask for some clarification, or else see him start eating the bananas. Now we tell the reader, look at the Biblical text. Did the Israelites eat their bananas all at once quickly? No. Did they eat each individual banana quickly? Yes, barring failures to obey such as the ones we record above, and items we say (below) reveal such instances implicitly. So unless our opponent can prove that the text of 9:3 was intended to apply to eating the whole bunch of bananas en masse -- and the context offers no help for that, whereas the historical record of Joshua provides contextual evidence that the "one at a time" meaning is in view -- he's just swinging in the cage again and hooting at the customers throwing ten-ton peanuts.

Lions and Tigers and... We noted that Judges 1:19 fits as an example of a proviso in Deut. noting that the Israelites would not be allowed to take land too quickly, lest they be endangered by beasts. Noting that a parallel in Exodus 23:29 says, "I will not drive them out from before you in one year, or the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply against you," our opponent writes:

This version of the promise said that an expulsion of the other nations in the land would not be done in one year so that the wild beasts wouldn’t take over the land, so delay in driving out all the nations would have had to go beyond one year. Ten or 20 years, of course, would be more than one year, but the fact that “not in one year” was stated as the minimal duration of the expulsion certainly suggests that Yahweh didn’t have in mind taking 20 or 30 years to get the job done. For one thing, 20 or 30 years would have hardly been “quickly.”

None of this is disagreeable; of course the one year would not suggest 20 or 30, but why would it not suggest three, four, or five, or even ten? Our opponent is positing extremes while ignoring a reasonable middle. At the same time, the "one year" comment hardly means anything more than that Yahweh is informing the Israelites that they are not to expect instant success. None of this contradicts anything we have written. The "one year" comment does not mean that there will not be a maximum number of years -- even 20 or 30, though we would not suspect that would be the plan either. More in a moment.

From the Negev, which was the southern extreme of the area that the book of Joshua mentioned as places that the Israelites captured, to Mount Hermon in Lebanon, which was the northern extreme of the conquest areas described, was a distance of about 150 miles. From the Jordan River, where Joshua crossed and launched the attack against Jericho, to the Mediterranean coast was a distance of about 50 miles. If the Israelites had advanced just five miles per day, they could have reached the sea in 10 days. Traveling at the same rate from the Negev to Lebanon would have taken just 30 days. Five miles per day is only about one fourth of the biblical day’s journey, but I want to give [Holding] ever advantage conceivable, so I‘ll suggest an advancement of only five miles per day. Heck, let’s just make the rate of advancement one mile per day. At that rate the Israelites could have gone from the Jordan to the Sea in 50 days or less than two months. From the Negev to Lebanon would have taken just five months at an advancement rate of one mile per day.

This is setup for an argument, but it is entirely misguided, since the "one year" comment hardly means anything more than that Yahweh is informing the Israelites that they are not to expect instant success. None of this contradicts anything we have written. In fact, we would not care if our opponent gave us travel of one inch per year. It is irrelevant. Apparently our opponent thinks that the "one year" comment means that Yahweh is also saying, "But I would drive out these people for you in one year and one day; then you'd have no problem with the beasts at all." In order to make a decent argument out of this, our opponent needs to figure out just how much time would actually be needed for the Israelites to take all the land and not endure the threat of beasts; but as he does not and cannot produce wildlife population figures, nor produce any such statistics correlated with geography, climate, and Israelites livestock holdings, this is nothing more than a misguided and manipulative attempt to wrestle a text into a light favorable to his case. He is also breezing by the fact that settling a land is more than just walking into it, and not asking whether the delay might not have something to do with the Israelites dragging their feet of their own accord. Until he thinks out of the box, and gets a little more deeply into the nature of agricultural/pastoral life in the Ancient Near East, this is nothing more than a vague, misguided, and manipulative attempt to wrestle a text into a light favorable to his case, as is further seen:

Just how fast could populations of wild animals have exploded? After all, animals have gestation periods, and I doubt that the gestation periods of dangerous beasts like lions and bears would have been much shorter than the time it would have taken the Israelites to go through the land at the snail’s pace suggested above and occupy it. Where, then, would have been the danger of “wild beasts” taking over the land?

Our opponent is blowing a vague veil of smoke and living time out of mind. Animals certainly do have gestation periods, but the danger can only be calculated based upon original animal populations, and as he does not and cannot produce wildlife population figures, nor produce any such statistics correlated with geography, climate, and Israelites livestock holdings, this is nothing more than a misguided and manipulative attempt to wrestle a text into a light favorable to his case. As the ancients were in a far better position to estimate the dangers of wildlife in their own time and place, why should we accept the word of our opponent, a modern living in a comfortable, air-conditioned and heated home in a modern, industrial nation, with shotguns, tranquilizer darts, and animal control agencies, and fresh meat and animal products available at every Wal-Mart. The ancients possessed few weapons (usually reserved for the wealthy or for royalty and their associates, and the military) and depended upon their livestock for basic survival needs. The loss of a single sheep or goat to a bear, or a lion, or faster-gestating predators like wolves (and our opponent also needs to consider these things in light of a full catalog of predatory animals in the Near East, including any now extinct and/or no longer in the area, and any that prey on livestock animals, not necessarily humans) could be disastrous to a poor family (which constituted the vast majority of persons living in the ancient world) possessing only a few livestock, or even just the one, and depending upon that animal for milk, wool, or other support. And then we haven't even started to consider the effect of really fast "gestators" like rabbits, mice, and rats (who carry disease; also bats) and agri-pests like crows and insects, all of which, though perhaps not "wild beasts" as the term is used, would come under the same general principle of critters that could easily get out of control without enough resources.

Note as well: The threat is not worded, in either account, as wild beasts "taking over the land." The threat is, "and the beast of the field multiply against thee." It does not even need to be a takeover. We have offered an extended commentary here on life for the poor and/or rural person in the Ancient Near East, because we have been presented time and time again over the years by our opponent with prejudicial opinions about things like oral cultures, Semitic mindsets, etc. only to have them waved away with a snuffle as "flapdoodle" or "distraction". Our opponent has not lived in their lands or walked in their shoes. He is, again, blowing smoke for a skeptical audience with similar comforts who likewise could not imagine, in their wildest imaginations, living in a time and place when the support of a single livestock animal could spell the difference between subsistence and starvation.

Keep in mind too that the army driving out the Jebusites, Hittites, Canaanites, etc., etc., etc., had 601,730 soldiers (Num. 26:51), so as the Canaanite nations were being driven out and “utterly destroyed,” several hundred thousand soldiers would be moving into the vacated land. If there were 601,730 soldiers (who were 20 years old and up), then surely the total population of Israel would have exceeded two million. Two million people in a land area of about 7500 square miles, which would have been about 266 people per square mile, could surely have kept the “wild beasts” under control.

This is yet more temporal provincialism. We would like to see about sending our opponent into the wilderness, far from any urban center, with no population checks on wild animals, armed with no modern weapons, and assigning him to guard a set number of livestock from predators. We are reminded here of a personal experience on Pensacola Beach, viewing the Blue Angels flight team doing their masterful work, and of an inebriated gentleman belching to his female companion, "I could do that!" Two million? I suppose the children could fight off the cockroaches who were trying to eat the sheep, or stick their tongues out at the bears. The women did not bother with such things; that was not their accepted societal role. But it is not clear our opponent expects women and children to take such a role anyway. So let's run with that major number. 601,730 soldiers? Indeed, 601,730 soldiers, in a time when health was precarious, when teeth were rotted away by age 30, when internal parasites wracked the body, when finding or producing food, shelter, and fresh water were paramount to survival and not a matter of just visiting the 7-11, and the average lifespan (despite odd exceptions like Moses, Aaron and Joshua, who as leaders of the people had and were given advantages of food, water, protection, and shelter 99.9% of the people didn't get) was about 35! These 601,730 men "could surely have kept the 'wild beasts' under control"? Said like a true modern, who needs to get real and has likely faced no wilder beast in his life than a French poodle!

An over extension? An army of 601,730 soldiers had overextended themselves in a land area that was only about 50 miles wide and 130 miles long? On D-Day, allied forces used only 150,000 troops in the invasion of France, 130,00 on the beach assaults and 20,000 in parachute and glider drops.

Given the comparison, we would ask our opponent where he supposes the ancient Israelites got the advanced weapons (including parachutes and gliders), excellent health care, supplies (food, water, clothing), professional training, and loss of fear from living in a comfortable world, that the soliders on D-Day had.

Finally we looked at places where no reason is given for the Israelites not driving people out. Our opponent first tries to add Judges 3:1ff to the mix, failing to account for the fact that it is after the Judges 2 declaration on which it was said that there would be no more help in driving out the nations. He also adds 1 Kings 9:20, and a piece of 2 Samuel, both of whuich we answer with the same argument above on 1 Kings 9. Then we get back to a misuse of our point about Achan:

I have pointed out several times that despite the unrighteousness and disobedience of an entire nation, Yahweh promised to give them the land anyway in order to fulfill a promise made to Abraham, so what [Holding] is now asking us to believe is that just before the entry into Canaan, Yahweh wouldn’t allow the general depravity and rebelliousness of an entire nation to keep him from giving the land to the Israelites, but after the crossing into Canaan if just one person sinned that was sufficient for Yahweh to begin withholding his land promise.

Again, this is based on a misreading of our point: "The sin of even one of the people is enough to guarantee military non-success." This is not the same as saying that the sin of even one of the people is sufficient to withhold the promises as a whole. More in a moment. Here our opponent tries a counter-example:

...as the story was related in Judges 18, when the Danites came by Micah’s house on the way to take Laish, they stole the molten image and persuaded the Levite to go with them and be a priest for them (vs:18-26). Verses 27-29 related the success of the Danites in taking Laish, killing the people there, and burning it...They had success in battle despite their theft and idolatry, which continued after their victory...stealing by not just one Danite but several and then the practice of idolatry didn’t cause Yahweh to keep them from victory at Laish.

Since we would actually say that Yahweh could, if He so desired, see the sin of just one person in an entire nation as sufficient reason to punish the whole nation by denying them victory in battle, Judges 18 is not a disproving example, for we maintain that He could also choose to be merciful and longsuffering as circumstances deem it the best option in the long-term. By no means would I say that this is always the case, and I never do, but our opponent now goes on to put this argument in my mouth anyway. We would also add this: The sin of Achan came at a very early stage in Israel's history in the land when it would be fair warning to be obedient to the covenant. After many repetitions of such failures, however, Yahweh gave the people the freedom they evidently desired -- and no longer provided quick and decisive acts of judgment. By the times of Judges 18, the people no longer cared for Yahweh -- not until they were up to their necks in problems. God is perfectly consistent in His approach to men -- who when happy, or wishing to do as they please, say that God means nothing to them; but let their toe get stubbed, and watch them cry out and ask why God does not do something to stop it! Skeptics regularly ask questions of this sort, and there is a very simple answer: God does not take the high hand in these things, beyond what is needed to introduce Himself as an option and accomplish His will, because, first, it is coercive, and true love does not rely on coercion; second, and most importantly, we have shown every time we sin that we do not want God's personal guidance in such high-handed fashion. Skeptics and critics who believe that the God of the Bible, rather than punishing sin justly, ought to simply say, "Well, golly," pick us up, dust us off, and pat us on the head like a senile grandpa, show thereby exactly the God they want.

Another problem in [Holding]’s the-sin-of-even-one-of-the people scenario is that if this had really been a principle that Yahweh practiced, then he would have given the Israelites absolutely nothing, because in a population of more than two million people, there never would have been a time when no one was doing anything wrong. Their advancement into Canaan would have stopped right at the Jordan River if everyone at every moment had to have been doing only the things that pleased their god.

This is a misdirected argument; though I did not say so specifically here, but I do say so specifically later, it remains that we are not talking just ANY sin (and neither did I say "any sin," though our opponent takes advantage of my lack of specificity to insert that argument into my mouth), but a sin related to direct orders in terms of the battles. Achan's sin was a violation of the specific command of Josh. 6:19, "But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD." This was a special command with relation to Jericho, but there were other commands with broader application: destroy their altars, break down their images, cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire; do not make marriages with them; do not make covenants with them. Judges 2:2 specifies not destroying the altars and not making covenants as sins for which Yahweh's support was being withdrawn. Given the poor record of the Israelites in terms of idolatry and signing covenants, is it that hard to argue that this was the unspecified reason lying behind the lack of success in the three key texts?


This concludes our "95% fluff free" version of our response. What did the reader miss?

In closing, we think it quite clear that our opponent spends far too much time on diversions and not enough time on actual arguments -- because he has none. We challenge him to prove that any of the deleted 244 pages contains anything not quoted that should have been, or that is not answered by what we provide above.

"Frankly, I don't want Holding to quote EVERYTHING you write, since I find much of it repetitive, or tangents (or, as Holding puts it, "fluff"). And while I think it would be a good idea for links to your work to be placed on Holding's web site (as he now has in his "Hallway of Ouch"), I generally don't have much inclination to read through your articles just to see if Holding has accurately presented your case (as I said, I find them very repetitive with many irrelevancies) - what I would much rather see is this - if you feel Holding has "censored" your arguments in any way, write up an article that specifically shows this (ie, what he didn't quote, and specifically how that affects your case). THAT, I would gladly plow through, for that would provide an easy way to judge whether or not your claims are justified."

- message to our opponent, from a Tekton reader

Keep reading fluff-free here.