I apologize for the gruesome nature of this post, but I think this image of children standing around the decapitated body of a Syrian rebel (killed by ISIS) very clearly illustrates the standard evangelical opinion concerning "the ban" (ḥerem) in ancient Israel during the Conquest of Canaan. If you aren't familiar with the idea, this is that command that God gave the Israelites to utterly destroy the seven nations in Canaan. Joshua and the others were to kill every man, woman, and child.
Critics have often pointed out the nature of genocide within this command, calling it unethical. Two points need to be made: First, this command was given to a very specific generation of Israel and for a very specific people group—therefore “the ban” no longer applies and never again shall apply in any war.
Second, as we see with modern-day ISIS, evil is not only spread from adult to adult but passed down from generation to generation. The children seen here with the decapitated body of a Syrian rebel seem not to be phased at all—this is normal in their little minds, and they probably think it was the right thing to do. Should these little children be killed? Of course not, but they should be taught morality—something that Israel was not in a place to do.
So what is behind “the ban” in Israel’s time? Many scholars have different opinions on the details (most agreeing that the issue was one of influence upon the Israelites), but I think it all boils down to Ba’alism—the religion of the Canaanites.
Not too long before the Israelites moved into the land of Canaan, the people of the land worshipped El—the great father god and creator of all things. As a matter of fact, El worship was dominant when Abraham walked the land, and Abraham even interacted with El worshippers like Melchizedek, priest of El Elyon (“El most high”; whom Abraham equated with Yahweh in Gen 14:22). Of course, this El worship in Canaan would have not been very pleasing to the one, true God (as God would soon under Moses reveal Himself more thoroughly in an attempt to bring the people back to a more pure understanding), but it would have been better than what was coming.
What was coming? Ba’alism. By 1825 BC, Ba’alism had taken root in the land of Canaan, replacing the standard worship practices. Even the myths reveal Ba’al defeating El and taking his throne. Eventually, as time progressed, identification of El with Yahweh are completely gone from the perspective of the Israelite prophets, though it can be argued that the Phoenician Jezebel likely assumed that her southern neighbors were continuing to worship a failed El.
Ba’slism, the religion of the Seven Nations, was different than El worship in many ways, but two key differences are the presence of cult prostitution and child sacrifice—making Ba’alism not only “another” religion but also a very disgusting one. As we see with modern-day ISIS, the ugliness of religious insanity is passed from father to son. Is Islam evil? Well, yes, all religions other than the one-true religion are “evil” in the theological sense of the word, but religion under ISIS (like under Ba’alism) is a special kind of evil…even the unbelievers can see the evil.
Of course, I am in no way suggesting that ḥerem should be reinstated today. I am suggesting that we should deal with ISIS with extreme prejudice in order to save these children from the insanity that has infected these men.
For the full story behind the terrible image, read here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2816766/WARNING-GRAPHIC-CONTENT-Shocking-ISIS-photos-shows-toddler-kicking-severed-head-crucifixion-ex-regime-policeman-Syria.html