Implicit throughout the conversations at What’s Wrong with the World and McGrew’s personal blog is that the command to kill every Canaanite is a problem of Israelite men, and not the Israelites in general. There is no talk of the women rounding up the infants and, say, drowning them. From what I have seen in the world men are much less likely to kill children (the smaller the children, the less likely) than women, and women are more likely to rejoice in the suffering of their enemies. When David comes back from killing Philistines, women dance in the streets and they get up King Saul’s nose by singing “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands!” David danced, too, of course; he was the man after God’s own heart.
In fact, what we find in the text is that the Israelite men (after witnessing one mind-blowing miracle of God after another!) have to repeatedly be told to kill the innocents; not only children, but women, cattle, and even other men. Repeatedly. Red Sea, Angel of Death, manna, water from the rock, column of fire and pillar of smoke…none of it matters at the moment of execution. They simply won’t do it. Again: Hundreds of years after the beginning of the conquest of Canaan, David still has Philistines to kill! Even today there are still Philistines, and they are still in Canaan.
This is curious because we are told that the reasons the authority of men–especially fathers and husbands–must not be recognized over wives and even their own children is because they are big bullies at heart; never more than a moment away from brutalizing everyone weaker than themselves.
Could have fooled me.
My blogging superior is fond of pointing out the foolishness of this notion that most modern women are at risk of most modern men; especially when compared to the brutality of previous eras. My own view is that, as a rule, most men have never been very brutal to most women under them; that they were not much different back then than men now. Men are deferential to women’s preferences now.
- It was men who voted in Title IX.
- It was men who voted in No Fault Divorce.
- It was men who voted in women’s suffrage.
- It was men who wrote romantic poetry that elevated women.
- It was men who feared the tyranny of the petticoat
- It was men who turned chivalry into servitude for women
To find brutish men you have to go all the way back to the days of the Early Church, where we find St. Paul instructing them: “Wives, beware an over-protective husband; lest he whip you.”, and, “Husbands, do not beat your wives like red-headed Philistines.”
Hold up: I just re-read Ephesians 5, and that is not the instruction or tone at all!
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Just to be sure, let me cross-reference this with 1 Peter 3…
3 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands,6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
What a different picture! What is being encouraged is action, and what is being discouraged is sloth. Interesting. It seems that–just as today–the men of the Early Church had to be warned off passivity; not raging beatdowns. The exhortation to fathers in Ephesians 6 is of the same positive bent:
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Yet an observer of the Church in the Western world has to say that what the Church teaches is schizophrenic. That on the one hand men–especially fathers and husbands–must always resist being too controlling; too protective; too demanding. On the other they are wholly responsible for, and must lead, their families. That false paradigm is bad enough, but what is worse is that “leading a family” is erroneously defined as doing what makes the followers happy. An impossible standard since we can only make ourselves happy, and since the sort of people who most need leading are the sort of people who are happier to go the wrong way.
So, where exactly are the records of men habitually brutalizing the women in their care? They are largely (though not completely) fantasy.
 As a bonus: Men engaged in the positive action of loving their wives are bulwarked against wrathful acts. Nourishing and cherishing abjure hating.