Concluding Thoughts on the Canaanite Genocide

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The past several blog posts I’ve been discussing the Canaanite Genocide. If you’ve missed my earlier posts, you can catch up at these links: “The Old Testament and Apologetics,” “Is the God of the Old Testament Merciless?,” “An Overview of the Canaanite Genocide,” “The Canaanite Genocide: The Justice of God Viewpoint,” “The Canaanite Genocide: The Evil of the Canaanites Viewpoint,” and “The Canaanite Genocide: The Hyperbolic Language Viewpoint.”

The questions pertaining to the so-called “Canaanite Genocide” are important issues. It is unlikely that any one proposal by itself is the correct solution for no proposal seems to satisfy all of the issues. I conclude with a summary of three key points:

Hyperbolic Language—The language of ancient Near Eastern warfare was often hyperbolic. Generals and commanders of armies would typically make grand sweeping exaggerations of their triumphs. Furthermore, phrases such as “women and children” could be used to denote all of the inhabitants even if no women or children were in a particular establishment. Such appears to be the case with Jericho, Ai, and Hazor, cities which may have been strategically placed forts along main trade routes.

Abolishing Idol Worship—It also appears that God’s primary purpose was to abolish the idol worship among the Canaanites rather than the annihilation of all Canaanites from the land. If God meant for all of the Canaanites (including women and children) to be destroyed, then it seems unlikely that he would have given strict commands about intermarriage. The case of Rahab and her family being saved also demonstrates the desire of God to save all who acted in faith toward him.

The Justice of God—God is both just and good even when don’t understand his reasoning. Recent scholarship and archaeology has given us more information than we’ve had in previous centuries that has helped us better understand why God gave the decree to destroy the Canaanites. Yet, regardless of our knowledge, we must acknowledge that God is the sovereign ruler who ultimately is the final judge and mercy bestower, as it states in Romans 9:15, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”