Sunday, November 6, 2016

Part Two: Why God is still a good God in light of His commands to "wipe-out" the Canaanites in the Book of Joshua

Image result for Joshua and the Canaanites

Joshua 11:14 "All the spoil of these cities and the cattle, the sons of Israel took as their plunder; but they struck every man with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them. They left no one who breathed."

Note: The reader can check out a fuller version of this posting at the other blogsite -


In the last post we had begun considering how we may answer those who level critiques against God's character in the commands He gave to Joshua and the Hebrews to exterminate the Canaanite nations. We had noted the following:

a. Understanding Joshua and the wider context

b. Understanding the cultures and literature outside the Biblical text

c. Formulating an apologetic that defends the character of scripture and God Himself and which also disarms the New Atheist critiques. 

Today's post will continue laying out further considerations. 

1. Ancient Near Eastern Literature outside the Bible helps us understand why the Biblical text asserted the moral and spiritual degradation of the Canaanites.

In the last post I had inserted a map of the Ancient Near East (ANE) to show the reader what the immediate world of Joshua looked like. Readers need to know that ancient literature outside the Bible records what life was like in Canaan in and around the 15th to 14th century b.c (1399-1300 b.c).

Image result for Ancient Near East in Joshua

God had given ample warning, and the Canaanites ignored the warnings of societal, moral and spiritual degradation. ANE literature records all the atrocities done by the Canaanites. God devoted the land to be destroyed. There are those occasions where human beings commit such atrocities that the area in a sense becomes unfit to ever be inhabited again. 

2. Yahweh is depicted in other Biblical texts, including Joshua, of sparing people devoted to judgment who repented.

So, do we have evidence in the Bible of cultures such as the Canaanites being devoted to destruction and yet spared as a result of their repentance? Yes. The Book of Jonah records the response of the Ninevites to Jonah’s preaching. In Joshua 9-10, we see God permitting the Gibeonites to live among the Israelites due to the Israelites themselves not treating the Gibeonites rightly. If  someone is going to criticize the God of the Bible, they must include the whole testimony of scripture. 

3. Understanding the difference between Holy War and Genocide avoids misinterpreting the texts of Joshua and application of the text to today's world.

Whenever we consider the details of what constitutes holy war and compare it to genocide, it is comparing apples to oranges. Genocide is a merciless, random act of ethnic purging by another people group for political purposes. Holy war in the Bible was moral purging and included an extended pre-history of God giving space for the culture to turn from their extreme wicked practices. Genocide does not include possible mercy. Holy War can be reversed if the culture repents of its ways. Jeremiah 18:8 states – “if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.”

Closing thoughts for today

The above considerations from today's post and the last post were intended to give "hooks" upon which the reader could hang some thoughts when discussing God's commands in the book of Joshua.  In surveying the literature and listening to scholars discuss and debate this issue, the above considerations aid greatly in any discussion we have about Yahweh's commands to "wipe-out" the Canaanites. 

More next time.....