Was God Immoral When He Commanded Israel To Destroy Canaan? A resounding yes

My friend John brought this blog post to my notice and I think it is worthwhile to share it. It is an attempt, that fails terribly, to explain away the killing of the Canaanites by the Israelites in one of the biblical accounts. I don’t know how one can reconcile a good god with the atrocities, cruelties, genocides in the bible.

Skeptics and critics get a lot of mileage in criticizing the Bible regarding the commands in the Old Testament to kill all the people of Canaan. God told Joshua to utterly destroy all the inhabitants of Canaan, including men, women, young children, and the elderly. In Jericho, God even told Joshua to kill all the livestock. The critics claim this is genocide, racially motivated hatred and the killing of innocents, and claim it makes the God of the Bible unworthy of worship.

If anyone sees this differently, don’t you think it is time we checked you into an institution?

Let us listen to the responses

  • The people of Canaan were not innocent. They practiced many forms of evil, including child sacrifice to their idols. The venereal disease alone would have provided a possible source of death if it had not been eradicated.

Where is the supporting evidence for this claim? Was death and plunder the only recourse available to an all-powerful god? What venereal disease was this, it is not listed anywhere in the bible unless I have been using a wrong bible in which case, please tell me what translation you are using I acquire one for myself.

  • The land of Canaan actually belonged to the descendants of Jacob, who owned it back in Genesis when they left for Egypt due to a famine. So the ownership of the land of Canaan was at best in legal dispute, and the Israelites had a legal claim to the land.

If at the end of genesis before they leave for Canaan a land flowing with  milk and honey, which Abe was promised and he never set foot on, where does it then become their property? [CORRECTION: Abraham was in Canaan where he bought a burial plot for Sarah his wife/sister a plot he had been offered for free] If Israelites were god’s chosen people, was he incapable of ending the famine or rather why did he let them leave if he knew, as he must have known unless he isn’t omniscient, that the land will be occupied by others, that he will command his chosen people to kill them and that Joshua will not kill everyone and that he[god] will be incensed over the matter and cause pestilence for unspecified length of time?

  • God had given the Canaanites many years to repent and change their ways. We do not have a detailed record of all of God’s communication, but based on the other passages in the Bible about how God communicates to pagan lands, it is safe to conclude that God gave the Canaanites plenty of advanced warning, which they rejected. For example, the book of Jonah tells us of God’s message to the people of Nineveh, Nineveh’s repentance, and God’s mercy.

I would prefer that you list the instances of god sending prophets to the Canaanites. While at it, also list verses where god or anyone says that YHWH was god of the Canaanites too.

  • Joshua failed to carry out God’s commands to kill all the inhabitants of Canaan. As a result, Israel was plagued for centuries with idol worship, pagan religious rituals, and the resultant murders and judgment. If Israel would have killed all of Canaan, it would have saved lives later and would have resulted in the good of God’s message being lived out to many people.

Let us say this differently. The Hutus in Rwanda did not kill all the Tutsis as they had set to and so they still have some Tutsis to deal with. Now I invite you to think about this statement, don’t gloss over it, read it slowly, reflect about it and then tell me what image of god do you have at the end. If at all you think of this as a merciful and loving god, am buying a new dictionary!

  • Since the people of the land of Canaan were so evil, if God had not killed them, He would have been guilty of being an unrighteous judge, allowing evil and not punishing it. So the skeptics and critics are actually trying to put God in a paradox in which He would be guilty of either choice He made.

Allowing god to exist for a moment, and further that he is the creator of the universe and by extension man. Whose fault is it when man turns out sinful? IS it possible that an all-powerful god could create man in such a way that all his decisions would be between degrees of good? A world where there was no evil? To claim here that to expect god to let the Canaanites free would put god in a paradox is to directly diminish the claim of an all-powerful god. There is just no way this can be explained away!

  • As pointed out by Geisler & Howe, children who die before the age of accountability go to heaven. After the age of accountability, people are held guilty and without repentance will go to Hell. So taking the children to heaven could be viewed as an act of God’s mercy.

Is this person claiming that the population of heaven had gone down so god wanted it repopulated with children? Were the animals also going to heaven or had they also committed the sins we were told in the opening paragraph? Someone tell me if the cows had venereal diseases, false gods and if they had refused to repent! What mercy is there in killing anyone without giving a person a hearing?

So while the destruction of the people of the land of Canaan was awful and ugly, it was indeed a necessary act. At the very least, the people of Canaan were not innocent, and the claims of modern critics about God’s actions are unfounded. God is always holy, righteous, and good, but does not always do things that we find pleasant.

Well, some good news, god does not exist so he could have commanded such a horrible act and if he does exist, he must write down that I defended him against such blasphemy. There is no way the atrocities so described in the OT can be attributed to a holy, righteous and good being unless these words have a different meaning to what we attach to them and in that case they lose meaning to us.