Does the Bible advocate genocide for infidels?
Excerpt from Chapter 6: From Polytheism to Monolatry
[King Josiah, who ruled Israel in the late seventh century BCE, shortly before the Babylonian exile, was part of the “Yahweh-alone movement,” which opposed the worship of gods other than Yahweh.]
Intolerance is part and parcel of Josiah’s politics. His aspirations were twofold: he wanted to make Judah a sinewy, centralized state and then use that muscle aggressively—for starters in the conquest of northern Israel (the Israel that had been lost to Assyrian aggression a century earlier), and perhaps ultimately in the conquest of lands beyond. The fiercely nationalist streak in the Yahweh-alone movement served this expansionist aim well. For if nearby polytheistic peoples always threatened to corrupt Israelite religion, then Israelites should have no compunction about destroying them. As the Book of Deuteronomy puts it:
As for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded, so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the Lord your God.
Peoples that were farther away, and thus less likely to pollute the local culture, could be treated more leniently. If a distant city surrendered peacefully, then its inhabitants could live on as slaves, and if it resisted, you would “put all its males to the sword” but let the rest live, taking “as your booty the women, the children, livestock, and everything else in the town.”…