Joshua Afire in Canaan

Eric Schwitzgebel

[a story in which I imagine a possible version of Joshua from the Old Testament, celebrating what we would now call genocide]


I am Joshua on fire with the Lord. Moses is dead, the sky burns with drought, angels command me; the Ark sears my fingers; the Jordan is a steaming trickle. The twelve tribes flow crossways into the promised land. Amorites and Canaanites panic at the rumor of us, for we have slew and slaved all opposed. The Lord's voice thunders in and through me, visions scorch me. A dire bloody dawn, I force my men circumcise themselves at the Lord's command. They rise fierce, driven, aroused with pain.

We circle Jericho six days silent while the people tremble within. Day seven we sound trumpets and shout as one. A commotion, some wall or gate collapses, the people of Jericho scatter. Some fight. We put them all to the sword. A woman runs pleading toward me with her baby and my guard spears her, then flings the baby, whom the Lord does not catch. We claim the Lord's gold and set fire the houses. We push down the women and girls, then turn them to ash; we split open the men, smash the children. Jericho burns like a rose. Blood like milk wets the streets and entrails like honey; an old man afire smells like a roast; fruit pops on flaming trees; houses blaze and cinder and people inside or out, men or women, child or elder, can gain no quarter through word or deed, so says the Lord. We salt the fields, slay the cattle, poison the wells. Next day we let nothing stand more than waist high. The city is become a flat cursed scar forever. One prostitute and her family lives; some spy's promise, which will not happen again.

I send three thousand men to Ai; they are cowards and flee defeated. I call Achan before me. He has kept spoils from Jericho, a cloak, some silver, some gold - the Lord's command broken. Angels howl across my forehead. Achan repents. I lead him and his sons and daughters to a valley. I bind them to a tree and set man and children afire, then have them stoned and all night heaped round with stone and stone and stone and stone until the mound blocks the moon and the Lord is quiet unto me.

The men are firmed, ecstatic, enraged by our cowardice, by Achan, by their bleeding groins. We fast and hold all-night motionless kneeling vigils until even ordinary men collapse with angels. The circles of their minds change and tighten. We draw the men of Ai and Bethel into an ambush, then torch their cities. When our enemy turn back desperate toward their burning families, we crush them between suddenly firm ranks. We capture the king of Ai, gibbet him and desecrate his corpse, put every breathing thing to death except some cattle gifted from the Lord. On Mount Ebal we raise an altar and burn offerings of peace....

[For the rest of the story, please email me at eschwitz at domain:  For critiquing/discussion only -- no sharing.]

Return to Eric Schwitzgebel's homepage.

StatCounter - Free Web Tracker and Counter