If God is a god of love how can he order the complete destruction of whole cities and the massacre of women and children? How can he issue laws like the ten commandments then in the next instant expect the Hebrews to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan by sword and fire?
Were the Hebrews guilty of genocide or was it some unique righteous war? Critics of the Bible have used this to discredit the Bible. Bible scholars are led to be more liberal as they study the text. Many believers even question Bible accuracy because they find the record of the invasion out of God’s character.
Now one cannot but note that if the invasion was so terrible an event and with so negative an impact on God and the Bible, why would it be recorded in the Bible at all? This indicates that critics of the Bible are not seeing the whole picture and their conclusions are misleading. We will now see that the story of the invasion is the story of a great beginning, a first for all mankind. We will see that it has the most important lesson of good and evil. We will clearly discover that it does not discredit God but we (mankind) have hid ourselves from his great works.
The invasion was a war against evil; a war not against a people but against a harmful religious culture. The war itself was not the massacre that some have pictured it. Consider God’s unusual statement before the war.
I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land. (Exodus 23:27-30)
Interestingly, the move into Canaan was suppose to take years. Click here for a detailed look at the Bible’s record.
Sins of Canaan
Try to imagine a nation today as run by a corrupt religion. Ideals and enlightenment are not the goals, only self-pleasure and self-gratification. There are few rules, few laws. Their religion is the freedom to behave however one sees fit. A society with a futuristic vision of freedom? No! The counties and districts in this nation are run by gangs and thugs. Swarms of rowdy and disobedient people do anything they want. They claim there are no slaves among them, but they have the worst kind, victims who have been beaten up in so many ways that they have no will left. Ships are sent to destitute third world countries to buy or kidnap children. Criminals from all over the world are attracted to this nation.
Such was Canaan. Worst than we can imagine because societies at that time could be brutally violent. The perfect witness to this is the Bible account of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 and 19. In Sodom and Gomorrah even the children were involved in the most sordid practices (Genesis 19:4).
N.B. This website has a work that absolutely proves God exists, and the Bible is true and accurate. So for us the matter of children need not be addressed except for: (a) God has provision for the young children who die. (b) God’s ways are higher than ours. Only he knows what is best spiritually for children who are corrupted physically, mentally and spiritually. Please refer to other sites and books. (Be prepared for a long read.)
Now what would you think or say if you saw the above abominations? How would the nations of the world handle such a rogue nation? The majority of criminals, murderers, rapists and kidnappers who orchestrated the massacres in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia are still with us today. They and their like will cause similar atrocities in the future. Sadly, modern day nations are no better at combating evil.
What does this mean to mankind? Most people do not believe sin can cause such damage, so there will always be repeats of horrifying events in history. Many do not believe how it all begins. How does one warn and teach of these things? But that is another story.
The fall of Canaan is only one of many warnings from God. If we believe in God’s view of sin/evil all the above questions are answered. This enlightenment, realization of truth is the heart of faith.
But as we can see, the Bible has been criticized so that it is difficult to believe and interpret. Well if mankind will fail in the fight against evil, God’s actions are appropriate. Let’s see how the living God deals with evil in the world.
Israel and the Commands of God
Now you might ask, even if the Canaanites deserve to be executed, was it good of God to get the Israelites to do the killing? According to the Bible there were six hundred thousand in Israel who drew the sword. They would be dispossessing at least two million people. Surely even after the war there would be unquenchable hatred. Some Israelites might even feel morally guilty. How would one teach the ten commandments in this situation?
The answer is similar to our earlier presentation. The problem is that not enough credit is given to the Bible record. If one questions everything in the Bible, doubting all the information recorded, one will only be left with biased opinions. Once one knows God’s plan there are no problems with Israel’s invasion. Ideally Israel’s entrance into Canaan was to accomplish something great and introduce God and his commands to the world.
- Israel was to be a special people, a people holy to God (Deu7:6).
- They would enter Canaan under the direction of the one true God.
- Their society was to be a light to the world, a moral and just society in contrast to the Canaanites.
- At the centre of their society would be God’s law.
- The invasion would become legend- the story of slaves who conquered evil kings and became a righteous nation.
- In the whole world, they would be the only ones with a special contact with God because of the sacrificial system.
- N.B. Critics of the Bible unfairly assume that the above points cannot even be half true.
Israel’s birth was a good thing. The destruction of Canaan cannot be called genocide; it was God’s judgement. Under divine guidance Israel would not be morally guilty for the invasion.
Let’s always be aware that man has difficulty with seeing his own evil. It is natural to hide his fallen nature and any concept of sin from others and himself. If we cannot accept the judgement of Canaan, we can not hope to believe Bible prophecy about the whole world.
Let’s not forget what God said about Sodom and Gomorrah.
For the sake of ten (righteous people) I will not destroy it. (Genesis 18:32)