Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Temptation of Chauvinism

The Temptation of Chauvinism

[First delivered as an address  on April 28, 2002 
at the First Presbyterian Trinity Church 
in South Orange, NJ, in the aftermath
of the World Trade Center attacks of
September 11, 2001.
Posted as a blog in the wake of the murder
of five Marines by Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez
at a U.S. military installation in Chattanooga, TN
on July 16, 2015.
Included in the collection Essays in Dialogue,]

We all come to this moment in history with a sense of profound weariness.  We are weary of too much hatred, too much killing in the name of ideals.  We are linked by a common quest for religious understanding and fellowship.  To be sure, we have all of us heard the complaints of those who say the world would be better off without religion.  If only there were no religion, they say, the killing would stop.  I do not want to get into an extended argument with those well-intentioned people.  My answer to them can be summarized in two words:  human nature.[1]  Still, in our heart of hearts, we wonder if there is some right on their side of the argument.  Is religion the problem or the solution – or possibly both?  My talk today is aimed at clarifying these issues from the standpoint of Judaism.  Though the examples I give are from the Jewish tradition, I believe the paradigm I set forth here applies to all religions which participate in the travails of history while seeking to build the kingdom of God on earth.  The paradigm comes in three parts:
  • Part I:  All the great religions have a universal component, affirming that all persons have a relation to God from where they stand.
  • Part II:  All the great religions are subject to the temptation of chauvinism, of claiming that theirs is the exclusive way, and that outsiders are to be subject to various kinds of penalties, whether discrimination and persecution in this world, or damnation in eternity.
  • Part III:  All the great religions, in the fullness of time and understanding, come to develop from within their own resources of spiritual strength, a medicine for their own illness, a religious cure for their own chauvinistic tendencies.  This cure proceeds from their initial recognition of God’s infinite love for all God’s creatures, and works out the implications of that premise through to the practical applications of tolerance, acceptance, and full affirmation of the “others” in their very difference.

This tension between universality and exclusiveness is built into religion by the nature of its enterprise.  Religion by its nature defines the good, and the path to God. The quest for good must have a universal face, because when I claim something is good, I claim by implication that it is good for everyone.  When I seek God, then (if I am a monotheist) I seek the One Who is the God of all.  But when my religious tradition comes up with its definition of the good and its path to God, there are those who will disagree.  “You call that good?  That’s only your notion of good.  You call that the way to God?  Well, it’s a pretty peculiar way if you ask me.  I don’t accept it.”  Such people will stand outside the religious tradition and its assumptions.  They are outsiders.  The tradition will have to define its stance toward them.

Though it is easy to point fingers at others and judge them for their failings, it is ultimately up to the members of each faith to clean up their own houses. I congratulate Irshad Manji for having the courage to say what needs to be said about Islam (see her book: The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith). I will restrict myself here to addressing the issues within my faith — Judaism — and challenge members of other faiths to do the same for their own.

Judaism addressed the question of its relation to the outsider since its inception.  Judaism saw itself as based in one people, the people of Israel.  What I said in my first address about the Pharisees as a party of religious and ethical elitists, applies to Judaism generally.  Israel saw itself from the outset as a people set apart for a special task, a particular people dedicated to the service of the universal God.  The God of Israel is the God of all the universe, and of all humanity; there is no other God.  Whatever God does is for the purpose ultimately of benefiting all humanity.  This is the universalistic side of the Jewish vision.  The particularistic aspect may be summed up in the notion that Israel or Jewry sees itself as having a unique role to play in the story of human salvation, and as being therefore special and privileged by virtue of that unique role.  Privilege connotes both rights and obligations.  

The word “privilege” is from the Latin lex priva, meaning “private law.” In the Jewish view, God has laid down many private laws for the Jewish people – 613 of them, to be exact.  These spell out mostly the obligations that the Jewish people have to serve God in various ways.  However, the Jewish people traditionally has rights as well under that special arrangement, such as the right to God’s providential care, and (more specifically and controversially) the right to a particular piece of real estate, called variously “the land of Canaan,” “the land of Israel,” “Palestine” (meaning originally “Philistines’ land”), or simply “the Promised Land.”

Might the universal and particular aspects of Judaism tend to come into conflict with each other?  You bet they do.  I prefer to speak of a tension rather than a contradiction, for a “tension” is hopefully something that may be worked out with hard work and lead to a positive, creative result.  However, the road to that result in human history is often long and arduous.  I shall try to pose this conflict in the starkest possible terms at first, and then see if I can work my way out of the corner I have painted myself into, toward the positive resolution I have just promised you.

Let me start with elaborating some more premises from the universal side.  God is the God of all humanity.  This is affirmed symbolically in the Bible by saying that God created Adam and Eve, and all peoples are descended from them.  The human race has three branches, descended respectively from Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  In the Biblical conception, the peoples of Asia are descended from Shem, those of Africa from Ham, and those of Europe from Japheth.  Within the Shem-peoples, or Semites, there is a further branching of the tree.  Within the family of Abraham, for instance, there is the line of Ishmael, which the Biblical author identifies with the peoples of the Arabian desert-country, and the line of Isaac.  Isaac also had two sons.  The older, Esau, became named Edom (the Red One), and later tradition associates Edom with Rome, first pagan Rome and later Christian Rome.  Isaac’s younger son Jacob received the name Israel after wrestling with the angel.  All the medieval theologians used this typology.  Jewish thinkers spoke of Ishmael when they meant Arabs or Muslims, and of Esau or Edom when they meant Christianity.  Not all the things they said of these typological personalities were positive by any means.  But by speaking in these terms, they affirmed at least one positive idea, that the three major monotheistic religions of the world are all brothers and cousins to each other, all children of Abraham, all pledged to worship the same God.

Another universal Jewish idea which I mentioned last year is the laws of the descendants of Noah.  All non-Jews are required to observe only seven laws in order to merit salvation:  Don’t worship idols, don’t blaspheme, don’t murder, steal or commit adultery, don’t tear up animals alive, and establish courts of justice.  Thus Judaism from the outset does not require all peoples of the world to become Jewish, but each has his own path to God from wherever he is right now.  This implies the legitimation of other religious traditions that subscribe to monotheism and general ethical standards.  The righteous of all nations have a portion in the World to Come.[2]

And now for the hard part.    There is a charge or accusation which may be made against Judaism, which may be expressed as follows:  “You Jews think you are so special that you may trample on the rights of others in order to get what you think God has promised you.  You took a land that belonged to others, you killed its inhabitants, and then you rationalized your actions by saying that God had promised this land to you, and that the inhabitants must have been terribly wicked for God to acquiesce in dispossessing them.  The so-called wickedness of the Canaanites cannot be proved from this distance, but whatever they were guilty of, it is unlikely that it justified wholesale slaughter of a whole people.  The consecration of this history in Holy Scripture has set a horrible example to the rest of the world, making other peoples think that their similar behaviors can be covered by the cloak of sanctity when it suits them.”

The charges here are quite grave.  They include genocide – the purposive wiping out of an entire nation, the Canaanites.  They also include sacrilege and fraud – using sacred history willfully as a cover for one’s private interests.  If the Jewish people is guilty of this, then they are indeed what their enemies have made them out to be – an evil conspiracy and enemy of humanity and civilization.  On the one hand, I do not believe Judaism is guilty of these heinous crimes.  On the other hand, I believe there is some substance lurking in our historical past, which lends them superficial credence.  With your permission, I would like to probe and reconstruct (in the brief time allotted) what I believe is the likely historical reality, which has led to these misperceptions.

There are at least two enterprises in which flawed, all-too-human goals receive in the Bible the divine sanction of legitimacy.  The one is conquest, the other is revenge.  Let me address them one at a time.
First, conquest.  Biblical scholars are mostly agreed that the Israelite conquest of Canaan was a complex and gradual process, like most conquests that result from migrations of peoples from one land to another.[3]  There are numerous evidences in the Bible, from the book of Judges and elsewhere, and from modern archeology, that the initial occupation of the land was incomplete, and that many Canaanites remained in place.  Over the centuries, an amalgamation of peoples occurred, and the Canaanites became absorbed in Israel.  There may have been occasional local massacres, such as the massacre of the inhabitants of Shechem, which is described (and condemned) in Genesis Chapter 34 (which can also be analyzed as a story of revenge[4]).  There was nothing holy or morally commendable in this initial conquest.  The only defense I can give of it is that historically it is little different from the way that most nations – the English, the French, the Germans, the ancient Greeks, or the modern Americans – have developed into what they are.  In each case, there were migrations of peoples accompanied in part by peaceful settlement and in part by wars of conquest and subjugation, with eventual amalgamation of diverse populations determined sometimes mutually and at other times on terms dictated by the new elite and by other circumstances.

The authors of the Biblical history books were only dimly aware of this series of events, and in some cases quite unaware of them.  The Deuteronomist in particular was puzzled by the absence of any Canaanites in the land at the time he lived (which was late in the first monarchy), and he reasoned that they must all have been killed by the Israelites by divine command.  He was indeed troubled by such a notion, and he rationalized it by saying that it was their punishment, not only for the sin of idolatry, but for the even worse sin of child sacrifice.  We know that child sacrifice was a reality, for archeologists have dug up many child skeletons in the sacred sites of the Phoenician city of Carthage.  Still, we must judge that the Deuteronomist, by adopting such logic, was making an ethical jump from the frying pan into the fire, which he compounded by promulgating the law of the idolatrous city – that if an Israelite city should adopt idolatry completely, all the inhabitants of the city should be slaughtered.  Though this law may not have been adopted in practice in Jewish circles, similar Biblical reports of the forcible suppression of idolatry were later used by Christians such as Augustine as precedents for mandating deadly force against heretics.[5]

Thus the Bible stumbled – through a combination of normal though ethically messy nation-building, and misguided theological rationales for imaginary historical events – into the quagmire that I described earlier.  Yet the corrective to these errors is provided by a growth of ethical insight that starts in the Bible itself, and continues into the rabbinic interpretation of the passages I have brought to your attention.

Let us start with the Bible itself.  We are all familiar with the Bible’s reports of divine promises to the Patriarchs, that God will give the land to their descendants, after several centuries of trials, including slavery and redemption.  These are in some ways a natural affirmation of what we all sometimes feel, that we are where we are now, and have been given the gifts we enjoy, by a special grace of God.  Taken out of context, they can create the egocentric illusion that God’s providence singles out us alone, to the exclusion of everyone else.  But it was the genius of the Biblical prophets to enlarge the perspective, and to describe the events and destinies of all peoples as guided by that same providence.  There are prophecies in Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel addressed to every people in the ancient Middle East.  As if that is not enough, Amos addresses Israel and says, “Are you not just like the Ethiopians to me, O Israel?  Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Cyprus and the Arameans from Kir?” (Amos 9:7)  In what is probably a fictional narrative and satire, the author of the book of Jonah describes how his prophetic antihero was forced to go to Nineveh against his will, to prophesy doom on that evil imperial city and give them a chance to repent – which they did, to the prophet’s dismay.  The Ninevites went even further than the Israelites in their efforts of repentance.  They made even their animals put on sackcloth and ashes as an appeal to God to forgive!  The author knew that there were quite a few ancient Israelites who wanted God’s providence and grace all to themselves, but he suggested to his readers that God took a broader view of the matter.   The book of Jonah is one of the best examples, from the Bible itself, of an inoculation against the temptation of religious chauvinism.

As for the Israelites’ title to the promised land, the Biblical view is unanimous that it was contingent on Israel’s good behavior.  If the Canaanites could lose the land for their sins, so could the Israelites.  Amos impresses on his audience that God holds Israel to a higher standard:  “You alone have I singled out of all the families of the earth – that is why I will call you to account for all your iniquities!” (Amos 3:2)  Even the Deuteronomist[6] says that if the Canaanites lost the land because of their sinfulness, this is no proof of righteousness of the Israelites, who have to prove that they are deserving of the land by pursuing justice and serving God with a whole heart.

I will proceed at this point to discuss the issue of revenge in Biblical thought.  This is a subject so broad that one could devote a book to it.  In fact, I have just read such a book, titled Revenge,[7] by the journalist Laura Blumenfeld, in which she tells the story of her own temptation to vengeance after her father Rabbi David Blumenfeld was wounded by a gun attack in Jerusalem in 1986.  In the course of describing her personal odyssey, she reminds us that the traditions of personal and national vengeance are common to many cultures and have persisted in many lands (including the Middle East) from prehistoric times to the present.  The most famous and influential national feud in the Bible is that between Israel and Amalek.   Amalek is first mentioned as a grandson of Esau, Jacob’s sibling rival.  In the aftermath of the Exodus, the tribe of Amalek attacked the weak and straggling portions of the Israelite company.  Moses called the name of the site Adonai Nissi, meaning “The Lord is my banner,” thus invoking God’s name in declaring eternal war on the Amalekites.  In a later generation, the prophet Samuel called on King Saul to prosecute a holy war against the Amalekites, and when Saul brought back the king Agag alive along with many cattle, Samuel condemned Saul for his vacillation and half-heartedness.  The twentieth-century Jewish philosopher Martin Buber was so bothered by this passage that he said the prophet Samuel must have misunderstood the word of God on this occasion.[8]  The repercussions of the Amalekite vendetta may be found in the book of Esther.  Haman, the villain of the story and ancient proponent of genocide, is described as an “Agagite,” that is, a descendant of King Agag the Amalekite.  However, there is a mention in the Talmud of later descendants of Haman’s family who became righteous converts and scholars of the Torah in the rabbinic academy of Bnei Berak.[9]  This little-known positive twist in the story (which we may date around the second or third century CE) reflects the shift from the standards of collective guilt to individual responsibility, which had been heralded by the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel in the sixth century BCE.

The most notable progress in the Bible against the pattern of revenge can be found in the civil and criminal legal code.  The Biblical law of justice for manslaughter[10] develops against the background of the custom, that when a man from family A killed someone from family B, it fell on the nearest kinsman in family B to avenge the death by killing the killer.  This designated avenger was called the go’el ha-dam, the “redeemer of blood.”  This ancient custom operated (and still operates in many societies) in the absence of consulting any court as to whether the taking of vengeance is appropriate in a particular case.  This is where Biblical law stepped in and said that to obtain justice, the original killer in the first instance should flee to a city of refuge, and the elders of that city should constitute a court to try the case between the two parties, to decide whether the original event was culpable murder or accidental homicide.  If culpable, the court handed over the killer to the avenger, who performed his appointed function as executioner.  But if it was judged accidental, the court allowed the killer to settle in the city of refuge and dwell there unmolested until the death of the high priest, which atoned for all such accidental homicides, after which the slate was wiped clean and all could live together in peace.  Readers of the Greek tragedy The Eumenides will note the parallels between the Biblical court of manslaughter and the Areopagite court which (according to Greek myth) was established by the goddess Athena to provide justice for Orestes and bring the long cycle of violence of the House of Agamemnon to a peaceful resolution.  Wherever private vengeance is allowed to continue unchecked, it leads to endless vendettas.  Both the Biblical and the Greek traditions record the moment in human history when public justice takes over the retributive function from the individual, thus calling an end to vendettas and inaugurating social peace.

Today we recognize that the corresponding shift from private revenge to public arbitration must take place not only between individuals but also between nations.  On this larger issue, the movement of Biblical thought is incomplete, but a start has been made.  Jesus’s “love your enemy” was anticipated by the law of Exodus (23:5):  “If you see your enemy’s donkey struggling under its burden, you should not pass by, but you should stop and assist him.”  The purpose of this law is clear:  the enemy will first be surprised at the friendly gesture, and eventually he may reciprocate, thus bringing the feud to an end.  It is the prophets who apply this generous vision on the international level.  The prophetic God is not a reflex of Israel’s national interest, but truly an impartial arbiter among the nations.  The ideal will only be achieved when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more.  A world without war is a world without revenge.

The rabbis agreed with all these Biblical moves toward achieving a more universal perspective.  Still, they felt that the Bible had not gone far enough in addressing some of the problematic issues that I have raised.  The warmest heart and broadest sympathy among the rabbis belonged to Rabbi Joshua of the generation after the destruction of the Second Temple, from 70 to 120 CE.  It is an interesting coincidence that the first Joshua of the Bible is associated with the conquest, while this later Rabbi Joshua extended the wand of peace to all peoples.  It was Rabbi Joshua who authored the saying, “The righteous of all the nations of the world have a share in the World to Come.”[11]  There is also a story told of Rabbi Joshua with respect to an Ammonite who wished to marry into the Jewish people.  Now Ammon and Moab were two nations of Biblical times which lived on the east bank of the Jordan, where the Kingdom of Jordan is today.  In fact, the name of Amman, the capital of Jordan, derives from Ammon.  Ammon and Moab were traditionally regarded as the descendents of Lot, Abraham’s nephew who fled the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  However, they were occasional enemies of the Israelites.  The Deuteronomist condemned them because they did not offer the Israelites bread and water during their years of wandering in the desert, and he therefore laid down the law that they must never marry into the house of Israel.  This law is a classic expression of collective, hereditary revenge, though in a non-lethal form.  We know of one important Biblical exception to that rule – Ruth the Moabitess, who is regarded as the ancestress of David and therefore of the Messiah.  Apparently Rabbi Joshua thought the time had come to abolish this rule once and for all.  He said that when the Assyrian emperor Sennacherib conquered the nations of the Middle East in the eighth century BCE, he scrambled their populations, so from that time on nobody knows what nation he is really descended from.  Therefore, the Ammonite in question may have other ancestry, and the law is null and void, so he may marry in.[12]  

One of the most notable features of this episode is Rabbi Joshua’s courage in confronting what he perceived as the inequity of a traditional law.  We all hold our traditional texts to be sacred, but we recognize that they are an instrument in the service of divine ideals.  Where the texts and laws fall short of those ideals, the Jewish tradition has always recognized the discretion of the rabbis to bridge the gap through interpretation.  Exercising this discretion is not only a right but a sacred duty, as the Torah says, “you should do what is proper and good in the sight of the Lord.”  (Deuteronomy 12:28)[13]
Centuries after Rabbi Joshua, the medieval authority Maimonides deduced another consequence of Rabbi Joshua’s position.  The Canaanites – if any survived early Israelite history – have also been scrambled beyond recovery by historical events, so even though the law may still be on the books that Canaanites should be wiped out, there is no way to apply the law, so it is effectively null and void.[14]  The same should logically apply to the Amalekites as well.  Hereditary revenge is incompatible with the Messianic culmination of history which, though it be far off, must always be the goal toward which we are pledged to strive.

The rabbis were evidently bothered by the law of the idolatrous city as well.  They put it in a special category:  the category of laws which have never been put into practice, and never will.  “There never was an idolatrous city, nor will there ever be.  Why, then, does the Torah teach the law concerning it?  So that you may receive the reward for studying the law.”[15]  If only they had divulged this secret to Augustine, it might have saved the Christians a lot of trouble.[16]  

In all these cases, the rabbis were evidently so bothered by the exclusivist effect of the Biblical laws that they were willing to use quite liberal methods of interpretation to apply the necessary corrective.  Their willingness to bend the letter of the law to serve a larger moral purpose is similar in spirit to statements that have been made by Christians in the past fifty years renouncing and condemning anti-Semitism.  Both are examples of the kind of corrective that is necessary for all of our traditions to purge themselves of the all-too-human tendency to self-aggrandizement, xenophobia and revenge that we all struggle with.

The rabbis were not perfect universalists either, by any means.  There is a famous story[17] about why the Torah was given specifically to Israel.  God made the round of all the other nations and offered the Torah to them first.  He offered it to the descendants of Esau.  They asked, “What is in the Torah?”  God said, “You shall not kill.”  They replied, “Our ancestor was blessed with the words, ‘You shall live by your sword.’  War is in our nature.  Therefore we cannot accept the Torah.” 
God offered the Torah next to the nations of Ammon and Moab.  They asked, “What is in the Torah?”  God said, “You shall not commit incest and adultery.”  They replied, “Don’t you know that our nations were conceived in incest?  Lot and his daughters took to the hills after Sodom was destroyed, and he had intercourse with them, and we are the result of that incestuous union.  Therefore we cannot accept the Torah.”

God offered the Torah next to the Ishmaelites.  They asked, “What is in the Torah?”  God said, “You shall not steal.”  They replied, “Our ancestor was blessed with the words, ‘His hand shall be against every man, and every man against his.’  The desert peoples have lived since time immemorial by raiding the villages of the settled farmland.  Therefore we cannot accept the Torah.”
This story expresses universal and exclusivist sentiments in the same breath.  On the one hand, it says that God was broadminded enough to offer the Torah to all the peoples of the world.  But it also voices the self-satisfaction of Israel, who believed that the greater sinfulness of the other nations was what kept them from accepting the Torah.  For us to judge this story in perspective, we should grant that it was probably not talking about Christianity and certainly not about Islam, because the story dates from about the second or third century.  It was probably alluding to pagan Rome and to the idolatrous desert peoples who were to be converted to Islam in a later generation.  Centuries later, the rabbis of the Middle Ages acknowledged at least that Christianity and Islam had moved the peoples who adopted them out of the ranks of idolatry. 

It is in the modern age, however, that we find a story which expresses the fully-developed voice of tolerance and pluralism.  In the 1750’s, a German Jew named Moses Mendelssohn (grandfather of the composer Felix Mendelssohn) left his native village Dessau for Berlin and became close friends with the German Enlightenment philosopher Gotthold Lessing.  Some time afterwards, Lessing wrote a play, Nathan the Wise, in which the central character Nathan is modeled on Mendelssohn and tells the following parable.  A father had three sons.  He owned a precious ring, a family heirloom.  He wished to give it to the worthiest of his sons, but he could not make up his mind, and in the final analysis he did not want to show that kind of preference for one son over another.  So he had a jeweler make two other rings, identical to the first.  On his deathbed, he gave each son a ring and told him that it was the genuine heirloom.  After he died, the sons compared the rings and could not tell them apart.  They went to a wise man to solve the riddle.  He told them, “Whoever shows himself by greatest virtue and generosity toward his brothers to be worthiest, is the recipient of the true ring.”[18] 

 The moral is clear.  We gain nothing by saying that Jews, or Christians, or Moslems stand on a higher rung, closer to God.  Each of us has one of the rings that was given to us by God in love.  We should treasure the ring that was given to us, and we should try to prove ourselves worthy of that favor, not by comparing ourselves with others, but by maximizing our potential for empathy, generosity and love.  If we all conceive our relationship to God and to the “other” in that spirit, then I hope and pray we shall work through our current difficulties and come closer to that day when “the world will be filled with knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”  (Isaiah 11:10)

[1] If this gentle response does not suffice, my more direct one-word follow-up would be:  Stalin. Or see Karen Armstrong’s excellent book, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014).
[2] Admittedly, this is less-than-equal treatment when contrasted with the saying, “All Israel have a portion in the World to Come.”  (Mishnah Sanhedrin Chapter 10)  However, this difference is mitigated by the Mishnah’s list of exceptions, of wicked Israelites who have forfeited their place in the World to Come.  How many Israelites are “wicked,” and how many gentiles are “righteous,” is of course a question of interpretation.  The tradition opens a door to an ecumenical, universal outlook.  It is up to us to go through the door and follow the path forward.
[3] See for instance John Bright, A History of Israel, Westminster 1959, chapter 3,  “Exodus and Conquest (pp. 97-127).
[4] The Shechem story is incomplete without mention of Jacob’s condemnation of his sons’ actions:  “Simeon and Levi…their weapons are tools of lawlessness….When angry they slay men, and when pleased they maim oxen.  Cursed be their anger so fierce…” (Genesis 49:5-7)

[5] See Augustine, Letters 87 and 185, included in The Political Writings of St. Augustine, ed. Henry Paolucci, Gateway, 1962, pp. 190-240, especially pages 195 and 212; also Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo:  A Biography, California, 1969, pp. 233-243.
[6] Deuteronomy 9:4-6.
[7] Laura Blumenfeld, Revenge:  A Story of Hope, Simon & Schuster, NY 2002.
[8] Related in Maurice Friedman, Martin Buber’s Life and Work:  The Later Years, 1945-1965, Dutton, 1983, pp. 37-38.
[9] BT Sanhedrin 96b:  “The descendants of Haman studied Torah in Bnei Berak.”
[10] For the Biblical sources of the law of the cities of refuge, see Exodus 21:12-13,  Numbers 35:9-34, Deuteronomy 4:41-43, and Joshua 20:1-9.
[11] Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:2, BT Sanhedrin 105a.  The classic formulation is found in Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah, “Laws of Repentance” 3:5 and “Laws of Kings” 8:10-11.  See Stephen Schwarzschild’s discussion of this issue in “Do Noachites Have To Believe in Revelation?” (The Pursuit of the Ideal, SUNY 1990, pp. 29-59).
[12] BT Berakhot 28a.
[13] Rabbi Joel Roth articulates the rabbinic use of this principle in The Halakhic Process:  A Systemic Analysis, Jewish Theological Seminary, 1986, p. 286.
[14] Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, “Laws of Kings,” 5:4 (see Radbaz’s comment).
[15] BT Sanhedrin 71a.
[16] The rabbis added another wrinkle to the Canaanite law after the fact.  They cited another law – also from Deuteronomy – that any issue for which a war may be fought should first be settled if possible by negotiation and an offer of peace.  Only after negotiation fails, may war be used as a last resort.  Though Deuteronomy seems to exempt the Canaanite wars from this condition, the rabbis insisted on applying it, thus rewriting history to conform to their ethical standards. (Maimonides, op cit. 6:1; Deuteronomy Rabbah 5:13.)
[17] Midrash Sifrei on Deuteronomy 343.
[18] See Alexander Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn:  A Biographical Study, University of Alabama, 1973, pp. 573-575.  Altmann shows that Lessing’s treatment of the story was based on previous versions in Boccacio’s Decameron, the medieval Gesta Romanorum, and very likely (through Mendelssohn’s transmission) Solomon ibn Verga’s Shevet Yehudah.