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Who was the Most Violent Prophet in History?

This article is part 2 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer” here, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

Who was the most violent prophet in history?

Most readers will immediately assume it was the Prophet Muhammad, thanks to a decades long wave of Islamophobia and a sustained campaign of anti-Muslim propaganda.   But here’s a tip: it wasn’t Muhammad.  Not by a long shot.  In fact, Moses had Muhammad beat by far.

But it wasn’t even Moses.  In fact, it was Joshua–a Jewish prophet of Israel.  Today, he is regarded by Jews as “a mighty warrior” of the faith, a victorious hero, and a righteous prophet after Moses:

Before he passed away, Moses was very disappointed that he couldn’t complete the ethnic cleansing of the land. He wanted to take part in the genocide of those living past the Jordan:

3:23 At that time I [Moses] pleaded with the Lord:

3:24 “O Sovereign Lord, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do?

3:25 Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.”

God rejected Moses’ plea and declared:

3:28 “But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.”

And so, the job of genocide was divinely passed on from Moses to his successor, Joshua.

Joshua sought to complete the task that Moses had left undone.  It is recorded in the most sacred Jewish holy book, the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament of Christianity), that God Himself commanded Joshua to finish the genocide of the natives living on the other side of the Jordan River:

Joshua 1:1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide:

1:2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.

1:3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.

1:4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Great Seaon the west.

1:5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

1:6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.”

The city of Jericho stood between Joshua and the land he was to conquer.  As one city after another fell to the sword of Judaism, the people of Jericho feared for their fate.  Would they too be subjected to ethnic cleansing?

One of the natives of the city, a woman by the name of Rahab, was so fearful of the wild-eyed massacres that the God-chosen people were known for that she said:

Joshua 2:9 “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that your terror is fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are deathly afraid of you.

2:10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you, when you came out of Egypt; and what you did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond the Jordan, unto Sihon and to Og, whom you utterly destroyed.

2:11 No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things.”

Rahab offered to hide Israelite spies, who were sent to engage in stealth jihad stealth herem. In exchange for her services, she begged the Israelites to spare her family from the brutal massacre that was sure to come after the conquest of her city.  Rahab implored:

2:12 “Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign

2:13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.”

The Israelites agreed, but warned her:

2:19 “If anyone goes outside your house into the street, his blood will be on his own head; we will not be responsible.”

In other words, every living thing in that city—except what was in her house—was to be utterly destroyed.  The entire city was to be smitten as a sacrifice to the Lord:

6:17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent.

As a footnote clarifies, “devoted” to the Lord means: “The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the LORD, often by totally destroying them.”

[The illustration at the top of this article is of the Battle of Jericho.  Readers will notice the Jewish shofars, ram horns used in times of war.  The Israelites sounded these shofars prior to invading the city and slaughtering all of its inhabitants.  It is in this context that the anti-Muslim protesters in Orange County used them against Muslim-Americans in that now famous video.]

To their credit, the Israelite invaders fulfilled their promise, sparing those in Rahab’s house. They did, however, kill everyone else, women and children included:

6:21 They devoted the city to the Lord and utterly destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.

However, the silver, gold, bronze, and iron were taken as plunder:

6:19 But all the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord, and must go into his treasury.

And the city was razed to the ground:

6:24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house.

After “utterly destroying” Jericho, Joshua and the believers turned their attention to the city of Ai:

8:1 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the kings of Ai, his people, his city and his land.

8:2 You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.”

8:3 So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night

8:4 with these orders: “Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city…”

Joshua continued:

8:7 “You are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The Lord your God will give it into your hand.

8:8When you have taken the city, set it on fire. Do what your Lord has commanded. See to it! You have my orders.”

As per their orders from God and his prophet, the city was razed:

8:19 They entered the city and captured it and quickly set it on fire.

When the men of Ai fought back, they were decimated by Israel:

8:22 Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives.

After cutting down the soldiers, the Israelites entered the city to kill off all the civilians (twelve thousand men and women altogether):

8:24 When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and the in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it.

8:25 Twelve thousand men and women were put to death that day—all the people of Ai.

8:26 For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed all who lived in Ai.

8:27 But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the Lord had instructed Joshua.

8:28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day.

The king’s body was then mutilated:

8:29 [Joshua] impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate.

And then the believers built a triumphal mosque triumphal synagogue:

8:30 Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal, an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel.

Terror and fear of the genocidal wrath of the believers spread far and wide, just as the God of the Bible promised. One such people who were struck with dread were the people of Gibeon, who offered themselves up as slaves in exchange for their lives.  The Gibeonites said to Joshua:

9:24 “We feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this.”

The Gibeonites were permitted to live so long as they “left idolatry” and lived under the “yolk of servitude”. They were consigned to the curse of perpetual servitude and permitted only to be “woodcutters and water carriers”, which were considered “very low and mean employment”:

9:23 “You are now under a curse: You will never cease to serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.”

Joshua had thus destroyed Jericho and Ai, and neutralized Gibeon.  The neighboring five Amorite kingdoms became aware that the Israelites were headed for them next, and formed a coalition to defend themselves.  However, the Amorite coalition was soundly defeated by the Israelite army, and the five Amorite kings fled to a cave in Makkedah.  The Israelites captured the kings and Joshua had them humiliated and executed:

10:24 When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks.

10:25 Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.”

10:26 Then Joshua struck and killed the kings and hung them on five trees, and they were left hanging on the trees until evening.

10:27 At sunset Joshua gave the order and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had been hiding.

The Israelite vengeance was also savaged upon Makkedah (the city where the five kings had fled to), which was ethnically cleansed:

10:28 That same day Joshua captured and destroyed the town of Makkedah. He killed everyone in it, including the king, leaving no survivors. He destroyed them all.

The Israelite army then did the same to the southern cities, putting all to the sword—men, women, and children. First, the city of Libnah:

10:30 The city [of Libnah] and everyone in it Joshua put to the sword. He left no survivors there.

Then Lachish:

10:32 The Lord handed Lachish over to Israel, and Joshua took it on the second day. The city and everyone in it he put to the sword, just as he had done to Libnah.

Then Eglon:

10:35 They captured [Eglon] that same day and put it to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it, just as they had done to Lachish.

Then Hebron:

10:37 They took the city and put it to the sword, together with its king, its villages and everyone in it. They left no survivors. Just as at Eglon, they totally destroyed it and everyone in it.

Then Debir:

10:39 They took the city, its king and its villages, and put them to the sword. Everyone in it they totally destroyed. They left no survivors.

The killing was thorough and complete:

10:40 So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded.

10:41 Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon.

10:42 All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.

After the decimation of the southern cities, the northern cities banded together to fight off Israel. The Israelites responded in the familiar way—killing every man, woman, and child:

11:11 The Israelites completely destroyed every living thing in the city, leaving no survivors. Not a single person was spared. And then Joshua burned the city.

11:12 Joshua slaughtered all the other kings and their people, completely destroying them, just as Moses, the servant of the LORD, had commanded.

11:13 But the Israelites did not burn any of the towns built on mounds except Hazor, which Joshua burned.

11:14 And the Israelites took all the plunder and livestock of the ravaged towns for themselves. But they killed all the people, leaving no survivors.

11:15 As the LORD had commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua. And Joshua did as he was told, carefully obeying all the commands that the LORD had given to Moses.

Joshua then utterly destroyed the Anakites:

11:21 During this period Joshua destroyed all the Anakites…He killed them all and completely destroyed their towns.

11:22 No Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did any survive.

11:23 So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel…

After all this death and destruction…

11:23 … Then the land had rest from war.

By this time, Joshua was on his deathbed and gave parting instructions to his people.  He promised them that they would drive out the survivors from amongst the vanquished nations and usurp their land:

23:1 Now it came to pass, a long time after the LORD had given rest to Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua was old, advanced in age

23:2 And Joshua called for all Israel, for their elders, for their heads, for their judges, and for their officers, and said to them: “I am old, advanced in age.

23:2 You have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations because of you, for the LORD your God is He who has fought for you.

23:4 See, I have divided to you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from the Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, as far as the Great Sea westward.

23:5 And the LORD your God will expel them from before you and drive them out of your sight. So you shall possess their land, as the LORD your God promised you.”

And so died Joshua, the most violent prophet in all of history.

Addendum I:

Aside from the sheer magnitude of Joshua’s killings, the major difference between Joshua and Muhammad is the issue of targeting civilians.  Joshua, like Moses, targeted and killed civilians–women, children, babies, and the infirm elderly.  The Bible states that Joshua “utterly destroyed with the sword every living thing in it–men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.”  (Joshua 6:21)  On the other hand, the Prophet Muhammad “forbade the killing of women and children.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol.4, Book 52, #258)

Addendum II:

The historicity of the Biblical account–of Moses, Joshua, and the Exodus/Conquest–is discussed here.

Addendum III:

My intention in writing this article is not to bash Judaism or Christianity, but rather to refute a common argument raised by Islamophobes. To fully understand why I wrote this article, make sure you’ve read this: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

Update I:

I cannot reiterate enough how much I really, really didn’t want to write this article because I know it could offend Jewish and Christian readers–but I simply do not see how I can convincingly refute the Islamophobic argument without doing it this way.

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  • TheDemiprist

    Is that really appropriate? LW is here to tackle Islamophobia and their Loon representatives, not create a divide between theist and atheists that don’t buy the Islamophobic propaganda. I respect your belief, try and respect my lack of belief.

  • TheDemiprist

    I was just sharing my subjective opinion, none of which includes bigotry against Islam or it’s adherents (whether they are characters in a book or someone I can actually shake hands with). Apologies if it came across that way, that wasn’t the intention at all, and sorry for the late response.

  • NassirH

    I like a certain Dutch professor’s response to Geert Wilders:

    “How dare Wilders throw around Islamic terms about which he does not have a clue? Takiyya is a concept from the Middle Ages. It infuriates me that such a dogma from the past should be stuck onto the Muslims of today. It is as if you claimed that Christians think women who stay afloat are witches.”

  • Saladin

    “Hey Danios looks like your going to have your work cut out for you

    Geert Wilders is writing a book about the history of Islam that argues it is not a religion but an ideology.”

    I am pretty sure Danios can more than handle Geert Wilders! Any Islamophobe, including Wilders, has the onus on them to prove that an ideology *cannot* be religious. I asked this exact question on “jihadwatch”, only to have my opponent retreat. Just another thinly veiled attempt to deny Muslims the constitutional rights other religious adherents enjoy. Islam is an ideology? So what?

    Allahu A’lam

  • Jack

    Garo; first of all, you’re assuming there were any WMD’s a few months up to the invasion of Iraq. But it’s quite possible Saddam Hussein discarded them as he promised (precisely because he didn’t want to give a pretext for an invasion and wanted the embargo’s on his country lifted) even though he bragged about still having WMD’s to his Arab neighbors (because he didn’t want to appear weak).

    Secondly, archeologists are still able to find arrowheads and ruined cities, after thousands of years and identify them. You’d think they’d be able to track down bullets and mortar shells, and the wrecks of tanks a few millennia down the road.

  • Garo

    “Now,even if 5000 years from now,somehow all the digital records of the invasion in Iraq have vanished,you would still be able to find remnants of an American presence in Iraq from 2003 on.”


    After 5000 years have passed since the American invasion of Iraq,what have made you so certain that “you would still find remanents of an American presence in Iraq from 2003 on”???


    Since the hard fact is that the “Weapons of Mass Destruction”(WMD) were supposed to be in Iraq,just a few months before the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003,could not be found in Iraq immediately after the invasion,it would certainly be extremely impossible to accept the notion that remanents of such weapons,(WMD),would be found in Iraq after the passage of 5000 years from now. Subsequently and by the same token,the view which says that,”remanents of an American presence in Iraq”,5000 years from now,would still be found in Iraq,would be even more difficult to buy or rather accept.


  • Jack

    “I do not believe,for one single moment,that there could be smoke without fire,due to the solid reality of The Principle of Cause and Effect.”

    I guess you believe the stories of Odysseus to, including the interventions of the Greek gods, right?

    The difference between legendary stories and historical accounts, is that with historical accounts – like Caesar conquering Gaul – is that historical accounts have independent evidence backing up the account. There’s no independent sources or evidence backing up the stories about Arthur, Camelot and the knights of the round table scouring the land in search for the Holy Grail. However, there is independent evidence for Caesar conquering Gaul.

    There is no independent evidence which suggests the Biblical stories of the exodus are reliable. In fact, archeological findings suggest something else, and biblical scholarship suggests the stories were forged hundreds of years later.

    Now, even if 5000 years from now, somehow all the digital records of the invasion in Iraq have vanished, you would still be able to find remnants of an American presence in Iraq from 2003 on.

  • Saladin

    Hey Danios looks like your going to have your work cut out for you

    Geert Wilders is writing a book about the history of Islam that argues it is not a religion but an ideology.

  • Garo

    I do not believe,for one single moment,that there could be smoke without fire,due to the solid reality of The Principle of Cause and Effect.

    Based upon the above comment,I have to respect what is written in the Old Testament. Hence,I see no justifications to deny the existence of an integral part of the recorded human history that has been recorded and passed for thousand of years from one generation to the next.

    The claim that Moses,Joshua,Jericho,Cannanites etc…is a myth is itself a myth,as some people in the far distance future,2000,3000,4000 or 5000 years from now,may also claim that George W.Bush,Dick Cheney,Donald Rumsfeld have never existed and the genocide they have committed in Iraq has never taken a place,but the people who lived in the early part of the 21st century witnessed and recorded,each according to his or her belief and agenda. Does that make sense? I think it does and it negates the myth involved in the denial of a recorded human history.


  • Jack

    “… therefore the comparison between Joshua and Mohammed is a duff one.”

    I don’t think that is correct. The whole point of islamophobes by pointing out Muhammad was this butcher warlord is that Muhammad is a role model for all Muslims living today and therefore Islam teaches Muslims to go around and kill infidels in the name of Islam. To be sure: that’s not what I’m saying, that’s what people like Spencer, Geert Wilders, and others are saying.

    Looking at it from that perspective, it doesn’t matter one iota whether Moses and Joshua actually did the things the Bible ascribes to them. What matters is that for Jews and Christians, they are being portrayed as role models also. In fact, I believe there has been some study among Jewish Israeli kids who were told the stories of Joshua and the effects it had on their views of Palestinian Arabs. The results were as expected. Kids who were told these stories without corrective ‘framing’ (that is: teaching them to think critically about these texts) showed more negative attitudes towards other ethnicities, cultures, religious communities.

    In fact, for Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, such stories provide a powerful reinforcement of their negative attitudes towards Palestinian Arabs, as well as a justification of them taking the land by force. After all, if Joshua did and Moses proscribed, who is man to argue otherwise?

    So your point about these stories not being historical and therefore they do not count is rather moot. Historical or not, these ‘heroes of faith’ are being presented as role models to be followed, albeit in most instances not in any literal way.

    Now, if Christians and Jews would claim that this doesn’t mean they draw from the bible that it’s okay to go off and kill entire nations (even though that’s exactly what European settlers did in 19th century America), then it follows they should apply the same logic to Muslims. The fact that Muhammad fought battles and conquered cities doesn’t necessarily mean that Muslims feel they have the right to pick up weapons and conquer Spain or Greece either. What goes for the goose, goes for the gander.

  • Danios

    @ Badjer:

    But your opponents can just go “Joshua didn’t exist, so how can he be worse than someone who did exist?”

    As Joshua’s historicity is of uncertain historicity, so too is the case with Muhammad:

    So the matter is the same. (Read the link.)

    Naturally, neither believing Jews, Christians, and Muslims won’t doubt that these prophets existed.

    Furthermore, your argument is a confession that the Bible is far more violent than the Quran, so the debate is conceded by yourself–if but inadvertently.

  • Mosizzle


    “But your opponents can just go “Joshua didn’t exist, so how can he be worse than someone who did exist?””

    Err, no. The Jewish and Christian Islamophobes — and let’s face it most of them are Jewish or Chrisian — will not deny the existence of Joshua. In fact, many still see him as a great warrior and believe the Biblical account. People like Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Daniel Pipes, Walid Shoebat etc. will be put in their place by this article. They spend all day criticising the Prophet Muhammad but ignore the fact that their own Prophets have been way more violent.

    This article also targets those atheists who have a special hatred for Islam and the Prophet, but don’t care about Judaism and Christianity e.g Wafa Sultan. Those atheists who criticise all religions equally and don’t target Islam unfairly won’t be affected by this article.

  • Anti-atheist


    No need for your pseudo historical criticism of the bible. The aim here is to point out the hypocrisy of those who affirm the bible and yet demonise the Quran. And most of the islamophobes(evangelicals) are literalist. Even if they took the laughable position that everything found supposedly horrendous in the bible is not literal and just a myth; it does not make bible somehow less violent. It remains more violent by the standards of Islamophobes. It is a log in their eyes.

    As for atheism, this article i believe isnt addressed primarily towards atheists, even though atheists do potray Islam as by default more violent & war mongering. Nor is there any need to address atheists, as their position like a stone or wood is upon “unbelief”. So whatever points are made the atheist will claim “We don’t believe in that”. You believe in nothing. If you do, than i would suggest you read voxdays “The Irrational Atheist” to find the mighty log that is in your eyes. The book provides some pretty interesting statistics when it comes to “secular” polemics.

  • Badger

    @ Danios

    Actually, I was saying that we know that most of the OT never happened- a genocide of the Canaanites which they didn’t notice, God supposedly drowning the entire world, the exodus out of Egypt, entire cities being flattened with brimstone etc etc- therefore the comparison between Joshua and Mohammed is a duff one. It’s like comparing Ian Brady and Myra Hindley with Mickey and Mallory Knox from Natural Born Killers- interesting in and of itself, but when you’re being compared to Brady you need to be pointing out that your accuser is Ed Gein rather than talking about Mickey Knox.

    Also, I never said that the bible is so violent it can’t be real- humanity has shown itself capable of far worse than a bunch of priests from way back when could even imagine. It’s almost as if the stuff in the bible is seen as a target to aim for and surpass. But your opponents can just go “Joshua didn’t exist, so how can he be worse than someone who did exist?” You’ve already refuted the islamophobic arguments over and over again, using far better arguments than this. This just doesn’t hit the right note. Meh.

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