by Clarence Lavender
When some individuals read of destructive events in the Bible, it is easy for them to draw wrong conclusions if they do not have a working knowledge of the nature of God. The Bible teaches that God never does anything without a morally justified reason. Our God is never out of control as charged by some, but He always does things consistent with His nature, which is holy, just and righteous. The truth as found in the Word of God is far more important than any man’s attitude toward it; it is more important than nations or individuals.
The following are some of the cases concerning wrong conclusions often drawn by some people when they call the ethics of God into question: 1. The account of Rahab the harlot (Joshua 2:1-24).
2. The destruction of the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 20:13-18).
3. The family of Achan (Joshua 7:21).
4. The biblical doctrine of Hell (Matthew 25:46).
5. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:4-29).
We shall address only in this article the question:
Was God Justified in His Extermination of the Canaanites?
Before examining this question, let us remember the principle set forth in 2 Chronicles 19:7, “…for there is no iniquity with the Lord or God…” Since there is no iniquity with God, there must be a rational explanation as to His orders that caused the death of many people, some of them being even innocent women and children.
The Destruction of the Canaanites
Those who call into question the ethics of God concerning the destruction of the Canaanites or any other ethical decision made by God fail to take into consideration six things.
- They ignore the reason given for the destruction of these people, “that they teach you not to do after their abominations which they have done unto their sons” (Deuteronomy 20:18).
- The only way that a person can accuse God of wrong is to be equal with God.
- The Canaanites were grossly immoral. The justice of God demands punishment for sin. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). From Romans 3:23-27, it is clear that God had to show or demonstrate His righteousness in the punishment of the wicked. He would violate His own nature if He failed to do so.
- A person would have to be omniscient to know that what happened to the children was not the best thing that could have happened in their situation. The alternative here would appear to be that they would grow to adulthood and become malignant blights in the society of men as were their parents. Innocent children died, but they died safe.
- Punishment here may be interpreted deterrently and retributively, that is, in recognition of what the Canaanites had earned. At one point in time God said, “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full,” and he would not permit them to be destroyed at that time. When it became clear that their iniquity was full—that they were past redemption— then their destruction occurred.
- Punishment was deserved by the Canaanites, whereas it was not in the case of the Holocaust—that is, the Nazis and the Jews—only a vendetta by Hitler and the Nazis.
All attempts to mitigate or tone down the command of God tototally wipe out the population of the Canaanites must take into consideration the clear instructions in the following Scriptures:
- Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee. (Exodus 23:32-33)
- Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice; and thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods. (Exodus 34:12-17)
- When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou: And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them: thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shat not give unto his sons, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods; so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.’ (Deuteronomy 7:1-5)
- Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations. But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee: That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 20:15-18)