WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT ORDAINED THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANAANITES?
One of the
events that many critics and sceptics use consistently to spotlight God’s
seeming cruelty is His verdict against the Canaanites. After Israel’s
deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites
were to go to the land of Canaan and clear the land of all Canaanites: men,
women and children.
"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 show mercy unto them:
atheists and other critics point to God’s sternness as evidence that the God
of the Bible is not at all a God of love, but a God of violence and
destruction. But is this really the case? What if God would have dealt with
the Canaanites differently? What if He had shown mercy toward them? Would
that have made Him more credible as a God?
What critics do
not seem to understand is that
God is not just Love—God is also
righteousness. God is a Holy
Being who demands of individuals
and the nations at least a modicum of decent and righteous behaviour.
If, on the other hand, they chose the way of extreme degeneracy and refuse
to change, though He is very patient, He ultimately will intervene
drastically to clean out the terminal cancer.
To make sense of
this topic, let’s, first of all, look at God’s longsuffering attitude toward
In Genesis 15:16 God tells
Abraham what would have happened to his descendents centuries later. He
explained to him that the Egyptians would have afflicted his progeny for
“four hundred years,” and that, finally, they would have achieved
deliverance (Genesis 15: 13). Why did Israel have to wait that long?
Because, God explains, “…the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete”
(V. 16). Clearly, God waited hundreds of years before the Amorites
became degenerate enough to deserve total destruction. But the day came when
God could bear their degenerate ways no longer and decreed that their end
next critical question we must ask is: “How degenerate and deserving of
destruction were they?”
God explains in detail why the
extirpation of the Canaanites had become essential: “And the land is
defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land
itself vomiteth out her inhabitants” (Lev. 18:25). The people of
Canaan had reached such an extreme level of degeneracy that, figuratively,
the land itself would vomit them out.
God, furthermore, describes the Canaanite
actions as abominable: “For all these abominations have the men of the land
done, which were before you, and the land is defiled” (Lev. 18:27).
Being "abominations," their actions to God had become impossible to bear and
In Leviticus chapter
11 we find a clear explanation of the extreme degeneracy of the people of
Canaan. God prefaced the chapter with the following injunction: “…After the
doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after
the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do:
neither shall ye walk in their ordinances” (Lev. 18:3). He then proceeds to
enumerate a long list of possible incestual relationships that God
warns Israel to stay away from. Incest, in fact, abounded among the
Canaanites. This was one of the revolting trends in that society that Israel
was not to emulate.
the chapter proceeds to list other more heinous sexual sins that were
proliferating among the Canaanites: Sexual activities during a woman’s
period (V. 19); Adultery (V. 20); Homosexuality (V. 22); and most revolting
of all, bestiality (V. 23).
there is more--much more. The Bible describes the Canaanites as people
who passed their children “through the fire” (Deut. 18:10). What does that
In Jeremiah we find that, later on, when
Judah adopted Baal worship, they too adopted the ways of worship of the
Canaanites: “They have also built the high places of Baal, to burn their
sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal”(Jeremiah 19:5). “Passing
children through the fire” was, therefore, the abominable practice of
offering children as holocausts to the false gods of Canaan. This was a
common practice among the Canaanites that totally revolted God and that
helped bring about His final verdict.
warned Israel to destroy the Canaanites so as not to be influenced by their
Defile not ye yourselves in any of
these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out
before you: And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity
thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. Ye shall
therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of
these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that
sojourneth among you: (For all these abominations have the men of the land
done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;) That the land spue
not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were
before you. For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the
souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore
shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable
customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves
therein: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 18:24-30)
Unfortunately, Israel did not heed the order given by God and did not
“utterly” destroy the Canaanites and settled, instead, beside their remnant
for centuries, absorbing their evil ways and finally becoming just like
them. This very grave mistake finally led to untold suffering, because of
the great curses that befell them, as listed in Deuteronomy 28 and their
final expulsion from the land.
beginning of this analysis we asked the question: “What if God had not
decreed the destruction of the Canaanites?” From the start, God’s aim
was simply to protect Israel from influences that would have led to their
degeneracy. If God had not decreed the destruction of the Canaanites, God
would have allowed and approved a snare upon the people of Israel. Israel
would have become like the people of the land and would have invited upon
themselves the same fate, just as it happened. Israel did
not heed God’s injunction and did embrace the ways of the people of the
land. Thus they were severely punished and, like the Canaanites, they, also,
were "vomited" out by the land.
therefore, seems to be an example of harshness and cruelty is, in fact, a
perfect example of God’s longsuffering, of His hatred for evil and Hid final
drastic intervention, if evil becomes obdurate and entrenched.
IS GOD CRUEL? -- An In-Depth Analysis of God's
Apparent Acts of Cruelty in the Bible
CLICK ON TOPICS
BELOW FOR A THOROUGH ANALYSIS
Sodom and Gomorrah
Destruction of Canaanites
David's Punishment for the Census
Removal of Foreign Wives
Ananiah and Sapphira
Catastrophes of Last Days
LITERATURE FROM UCG.ORG
(No Follow up)
Why Does God Allow Suffering?
IS GOD CRUEL?