The Canaanites: How Could a Just God Command His People to Destroy an Entire Nation?

THE CANAANITES- Introduction
Have you ever heard a skeptic point to the violence chronicled in Scripture and then try to discredit God and His Word? They point out the fact that God commands the Israelites, for example, to wipe out the Canaanites including women, children, and even cattle. If that doesn’t prove that God is unjust, what will?

THE CANAANITES- Degenerates
Some find it hard to understand why God would use Israel as his instrument to annihilate an entire race of people like the Canaanites. Why did he? The answer is simply this. The nations which Israel destroyed had degenerated dramatically. In fact, archaeologists have given us a glimpse of how evil the inhabitants of Palestine had actually become. They were involved in bestiality, incest, molestation, homosexuality, prostitution — and if that’s not enough, they even sacrificed their children to idols. In fact, the entire land had become so contaminated that God, who truly sees the big picture, decided for the good of mankind that they had to be destroyed.

THE CANAANITES- No Argument from Ignorance
And let’s not forget that the Canaanites and Amelikites couldn’t claim they didn’t know any better. They were fully aware that God had chosen Israel to be a tool in His hands in bringing judgement to the nations.

THE CANAANITES- God’s Justness in Perspective
It’s clear from history, God gave them ample time to repent, but they refused (Gen. 15:16; Deut. 7:22). And as a consequence, God used Israel to bring judgement upon them. And lest anyone accuse God of being unfair, there is ample Biblical evidence that if there were any righteous in the land, God would have spared them just like He spared Rahab when Jericho was destroyed (Josh. 6:25 df. Gen. 18:22f; Num. 31:35).

THE CANAANITES- Are All Killings Murder?
Now let me make one more point. While murder is a direct violation of the sixth commandment, not all forms of killing represent murder. To kill someone in self-defense or to execute someone for a capital offense is justifiable. The fact is, justice demands that war criminals like the Nazis be put to death. As scholar Walter Kaiser puts it, war is “God’s ultimate, but reluctant, method of treating gross evil that resists every other patient and loving rebuke of God.” (Toward Old Testament Ethics, 1983:178).

THE CANAANITES- Conclusion
On the question of God’s justice in light of His command to wipe out the Canaanites (and the Amelekites), that’s the CRI Perspective. I’m Hank Hanegraaff.