God's Command to Exterminate the Canaanites

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Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
In light of September 11th, 2001, and the subsequent bombings in London, Christians have been quick to contrast the violent tactics of Islamic Jihad with the gentler tendencies of Christian evangelism. For example, in an article entitled, “Christian or Muslim: What’s the difference?” Lutheran scholar Alvin Schmidt has argued,
Jihad is totally contrary to what Christ taught when he told Peter to put away his sword, or when he told individuals to turn the other cheek. Unlike Muslims, Christians have no command to advance their religion by killing unbelievers. Quite the opposite (2005:10).
The problem with Dr. Schmidt’s article is the same problem that characterizes the arguments of many Christian apologists. It’s not what they say; it’s what they often fail to say. They’re quick to point out many NT passages that portray the gentleness of Christian evangelism. But they rarely acknowledge several OT passages in which God commands the Israelites to use violence against entire populations of people in an effort to get control of the land of Canaan. Allow me to cite just a few examples:
NKJ Deu 7:1 "When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, 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 you, 2 "and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.

NKJ Deu 20:16 "But of the cities of these peoples which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, 17 "but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the LORD your God has commanded you,

NKJ 1Sa 15:1 Samuel also said to Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the LORD. 2 "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. 3 'Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.' "
Other important passages include Exodus 23:32-33, Exodus 34:12-16, and Numbers 31:7-18. In light of such biblical injunctions, how may we contrast the biblical religion with Islam? Even if we limit the divine injunctions to an earlier stage of redemptive history, we must still justify their presence in an inspired Bible, which is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). How can the Christian theologically and ethically justify God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites? I've formulated some initial answers to these questions. But I'd like to hear how some of you might "apologize" for the OT practice of Holy War.

Your servant,
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
Simple- God gave that specific land to His people, and commanded them to clear it out and occupy it. Has our God (not their works-based allah) told them to occupy North America?

Theognome
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
A thought provoking question. The book of Joshua is not only history, but theology also; read correctly, it is evident that the Israelites were not engaging in holy war, slaying or subduing infidels by the power of the sword. Joshua is eminently concerned with land-title. Who owns the earth, God or man? The Canaanite tribes were uprooted because of the fulness of their wickedness in the same way that the United Nations might uproot a a ruler bent on genocide. The Book of Joshua carefully outlines the conditions on which the people of Israel may take up residence in their God-given land in the same way that a new regime might be appointed by the United Nations. In other words,, there is nothing untoward in the actions God took, but something which is perfectly acceptable to those who understand the workings of international administration.
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
A thought provoking question. The book of Joshua is not only history, but theology also; read correctly, it is evident that the Israelites were not engaging in holy war, slaying or subduing infidels by the power of the sword. Joshua is eminently concerned with land-title. Who owns the earth, God or man? The Canaanite tribes were uprooted because of the fulness of their wickedness in the same way that the United Nations might uproot a a ruler bent on genocide. The Book of Joshua carefully outlines the conditions on which the people of Israel may take up residence in their God-given land in the same way that a new regime might be appointed by the United Nations. In other words,, there is nothing untoward in the actions God took, but something which is perfectly acceptable to those who understand the workings of international administration.

Rev. Winzer,
What about the manner of warfare? Doesn't the command to "kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey" necessitate a sense of holy war? Or is this permissible in a contemporary just war?
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
In fairness I must say that I think most Jihad activity against the West and Israel (not in the rest of the world) is mainly the result of bad behavior by Westerners and Israelis.

And to the question, the Canaanite genocide, it is one of those cases where something is good just because God says it is good. God can say in one place that Abraham can marry his half sister, and in another place that someone can't marry their half sister.

Christian doctrine is that no one is allowed to punish the sins of the father on the son. So under Biblical law, the Canaanite genocide was sin, as babies were killed. But it was a case of God telling someone to do something He normally forbids people to do.

1Ki 20:35 And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to his fellow at the command of the LORD, "Strike me, please." But the man refused to strike him.
1Ki 20:36 Then he said to him, "Because you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as you have gone from me, a lion shall strike you down." And as soon as he had departed from him, a lion met him and struck him down.

It is against God's law to strike a man who has done nothing to you, but in this case the Law was trumped by God setting it aside, as by definition something is good simply because God says it's good, not that there is anything inherently good about an action.

So, the answer is that genocide is forbidden in Biblical law. And that's the truth, even though God once commanded genocide.

In light of September 11th, 2001, and the subsequent bombings in London, Christians have been quick to contrast the violent tactics of Islamic Jihad with the gentler tendencies of Christian evangelism.

They would be contrasting apples and oranges. Muslim evangelism isn't always violent. Jihad isn't equivalent to Muslim evangelism any more that the Crusades were typical examples of Christian evangelism.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
What about the manner of warfare? Doesn't the command to "kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey" necessitate a sense of holy war? Or is this permissible in a contemporary just war?

Perhaps we could liken that to the situation where it is not only the men, but women and children also, taking up arms against their invaders, in which it becomes necessary to uproot them all. I know the analogy isn't going to work in every detail for the simple reason that God isn't bound to the Geneva convention or to the UN statement of human rights; nevertheless, the actions are similar enough that they show international administration in sovereign states requires the violent removal of transgressors of international treaty.
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
Brothers,

Thanks for the quick input. Many good answers. As Bill points out, what the Israel's did was ultimately right because God commanded it. Interestingly, Matthew seems to interpret the Israelites' actions as indicative of abiding principles that might justify similar kind of aggression today when warranted under international treaty.

To narrow the focus, let's clarify the seeming ethical problem. First of all, note that the relevant texts do not merely describe what Israel did (or failed to do), but they record what God prescribed for Israel to do. Thus, one may not assign the “problem” to vengeful Israelites, as some have done (wrongfully) with imprecatory prayers. Secondly, God did not merely prescribe the execution of adult males but also of women, children, and (in some cases) animals. Consequently, God’s command applies not only to those who might pose a military threat to Israel, but also to those who would seem to be relatively innocent and harmless.

At face value, God’s command seems to encourage unwarranted aggression and violence, which are violations of the sixth commandment (Exo 20:13; Deut 5:17), as well as the theft of property, which is a violation of the eighth commandment (Exod 20:15; Deut 5:19). Furthermore, God’s command to exterminate every man, woman, and child seems to be at variance with the Old and New Testament teaching that we should love our enemies (Exo 23:4, 5; Lev 19:17, 18, 33, 34; Prov 24:16-18; Mat 5:43-48; Lk 6:27-36) and the stipulation that every soul shall be judged for his own sin, not for the sins of others (Deut 24:16; Ezek 18:20).

Of course, I don't believe God's command to exterminate the Canaanites violates his moral law. But in light of modern Jihad, I think its helpful for us to think through this issue and to have an apologetic.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
How can the Christian theologically and ethically justify God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites?

Shouldn't we also include the question, "How can the Christian theologically and ethically justify God's command (to the Assyrians) to exterminate Israel?"

Wouldn't the answer be the same to both? When a nation's wickedness reaches its apex, God sends another nation to destroy it. If God is just in sending rain for forty days and forty nights, then He is just for sending foreign power to exact a penalty from a wicked nation.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Interestingly, Matthew seems to interpret the Israelites' actions as indicative of abiding principles that might justify similar kind of aggression today when warranted under international treaty.

That was only an analogy; the only all-conquering army to invade this world at God's command is a spiritual entity which does not wrestle with flesh and blood.
 

kalawine

Puritan Board Junior
How can the Christian theologically and ethically justify God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites? I've formulated some initial answers to these questions. But I'd like to hear how some of you might "apologize" for the OT practice of Holy War. Your servant,

I don't want to over simplify this (as if it could be :lol:) but...



12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure."

I believe this (from Romans 9) may apply...


"22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25As he says in Hosea:
"I will call them 'my people' who are not my people;
and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one," 26and,
"It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them,
'You are not my people,'
they will be called 'sons of the living God.' "[j]
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
Consequently, God’s command applies not only to those who might pose a military threat to Israel, but also to those who would seem to be relatively innocent and harmless.

That would be a logical consequence of claiming that God's law, or Christian theology allowed the genocide.

But if God's law doesn't allow for the Genocide, then it can't be repeated. As a practical application, if God's law forbids punishing a father for the sins of his son, the current Israeli practise of destroying the house of the father of a suicide bomber would be sin. But if the Canaanite genocide can be approved of in Christian theology on grounds of anything other than God changing His law for a specific incident (like the Prophet ordering someone to strike him) then you can justify anything to any one you want.
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
Brothers,

Thanks for the quick input. Many good answers. As Bill points out, what the Israel's did was ultimately right because God commanded it. Interestingly, Matthew seems to interpret the Israelites' actions as indicative of abiding principles that might justify similar kind of aggression today when warranted under international treaty.

Where in Matthew does it imply this? I can't think of it off hand.

To narrow the focus, let's clarify the seeming ethical problem. First of all, note that the relevant texts do not merely describe what Israel did (or failed to do), but they record what God prescribed for Israel to do. Thus, one may not assign the “problem” to vengeful Israelites, as some have done (wrongfully) with imprecatory prayers. Secondly, God did not merely prescribe the execution of adult males but also of women, children, and (in some cases) animals. Consequently, God’s command applies not only to those who might pose a military threat to Israel, but also to those who would seem to be relatively innocent and harmless.

At face value, God’s command seems to encourage unwarranted aggression and violence, which are violations of the sixth commandment (Exo 20:13; Deut 5:17), as well as the theft of property, which is a violation of the eighth commandment (Exod 20:15; Deut 5:19). Furthermore, God’s command to exterminate every man, woman, and child seems to be at variance with the Old and New Testament teaching that we should love our enemies (Exo 23:4, 5; Lev 19:17, 18, 33, 34; Prov 24:16-18; Mat 5:43-48; Lk 6:27-36) and the stipulation that every soul shall be judged for his own sin, not for the sins of others (Deut 24:16; Ezek 18:20).

I don't see how it appears to be at variance with Old and New Testament Law. I may be daft, but everytime this comes up with unbelievers, I have to ask them how commands from God to exterminate wicked nations is somehow the same thing as God proscribing murder. It rests on an equivocation that doesn't acknowledge God is God, and man is not.

The best argument is the one that points out God says men may be killed only for their own sin...this, however, refers to civil infractions. God's calling for the extermination of nations is a result of peoples violating covenant, and is not an operation of civil law but Covenantal, theocratic law that God has every right to deal with. This is where federalism comes into play, and if it is true that man cannot be dealt with as a covenant breaker(ie. fathers, mothers, sons and daughters being executed), neither can man be dealt with as a covenant keeper by way of representation by Christ.

Of course, I don't believe God's command to exterminate the Canaanites violates his moral law. But in light of modern Jihad, I think its helpful for us to think through this issue and to have an apologetic.

You're definitely right.
 

Iconoclast

Puritan Board Junior
In light of September 11th, 2001, and the subsequent bombings in London, Christians have been quick to contrast the violent tactics of Islamic Jihad with the gentler tendencies of Christian evangelism. For example, in an article entitled, “Christian or Muslim: What’s the difference?” Lutheran scholar Alvin Schmidt has argued,
Jihad is totally contrary to what Christ taught when he told Peter to put away his sword, or when he told individuals to turn the other cheek. Unlike Muslims, Christians have no command to advance their religion by killing unbelievers. Quite the opposite (2005:10).
The problem with Dr. Schmidt’s article is the same problem that characterizes the arguments of many Christian apologists. It’s not what they say; it’s what they often fail to say. They’re quick to point out many NT passages that portray the gentleness of Christian evangelism. But they rarely acknowledge several OT passages in which God commands the Israelites to use violence against entire populations of people in an effort to get control of the land of Canaan. Allow me to cite just a few examples:
NKJ Deu 7:1 "When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, 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 you, 2 "and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.

NKJ Deu 20:16 "But of the cities of these peoples which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, 17 "but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the LORD your God has commanded you,

NKJ 1Sa 15:1 Samuel also said to Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the LORD. 2 "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. 3 'Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.' "
Other important passages include Exodus 23:32-33, Exodus 34:12-16, and Numbers 31:7-18. In light of such biblical injunctions, how may we contrast the biblical religion with Islam? Even if we limit the divine injunctions to an earlier stage of redemptive history, we must still justify their presence in an inspired Bible, which is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). How can the Christian theologically and ethically justify God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites? I've formulated some initial answers to these questions. But I'd like to hear how some of you might "apologize" for the OT practice of Holy War.

Your servant,

In Leviticus 18 God explained in part the reason the canaanites were cut off:
24Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:

25And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.

26Ye 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:

27(For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;)

28That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.

29For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.

30Therefore 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.
Israel was warned however in verse 28 that they would also be cut-off if they defiled the land in the same fashion. The nation was disciplined many times because of their disobedience. It was only God's mercy that he preserved a remnant.
The gospel has gone from national to worldwide now. Again it is only the long suffering of God to usward as God is bringing in all the sheep, that prevents the worldwide destruction of the last day.
7But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

8But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

In Ezk 9 believers were marked in the forehead that when judgment came they would be spared
4And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

5And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity:

6Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.

7And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city.

8And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem?

9Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not.

10And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head.

11And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me.
The same instruction is given in Rev14.
1And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.

2And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:

3And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.

4These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.

5And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

6And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,

7Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

8And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.

9And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,

10The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:

11And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

12Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

13And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

14And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.

15And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.

16And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.

17And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.

18And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.

19And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

20And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
I believe this has reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70ad, and quite possibly pre-figures the judgment of the last day.
The principle is the same.
An eternal seperation between that which is holy and that which is profane is the inevitable outcome in any case.
That is why we are told that the gospel is;
14Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.

15For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:

16To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

17For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
:book2:
 

Zenas

Snow Miser
Question before answering: Islamic jihad, where does it find its source and in what manner? Does the Qu'ran dictate specifically the slaughter of all non-believers indescriminately and, if so, is this the source from which jihad is derived?

If so, then the incongruencies between this and the Caananite slaughter are obvious. If not, then it shouldn't be to hard to pick apart.
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
Many great responses. But it's late, and I'll have to come back tomorrow to reflect more carefully on them. Seems we're all basically barking up the same tree.

Much thanks,
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
Inadequate Solutions Examined

Marcion, a second century Gnostic, argued that God of Israel who commanded holy war could not be the God of Christians! His solution was to reject the OT as divine revelation. Obviously, this option is not open to the Christian who views the OT has divine revelation and the God of the OT as the God and Father of Jesus Christ.

Modern theologians have generally offered one of the three following solutions: Some scholars have suggested that Israel falsely attributed their actions to God’s command in order to justify their aggression. One OT scholar from Princeton writes, “Underneath Israel’s highly elaborate theology of election and promise, there was hidden the concrete and urgent fact that the people needed land and elbowroom—and they need it fast." That would be roughly equivalent, according to this OT scholar, to European settlers coming to America, destroying an entire Indian tribe, and taking their land under the pretense that God had commanded them to destroy the infidels.

Another similar solution is to attribute the OT Holy Wars to ideological propaganda that was promoted by later kings in Judah. It’s popular among OT scholars today to date the writing of the OT as after the time of David and Solomon. And many of these scholars believe the book of Deuteronomy and other portions of the OT that contain teaching similar to Deuteronomy were written during the time of King Josiah in Judah. According to them, Josiah and the priests “staged” the “discovery” of the Book of the Law in the temple. What really happened is that they created the Book of the Law, or more precisely, the Deuteronomic legislation of which the commands to exterminate the Canaanites are part. And by introducing the concept of “Holy War,” Josiah could justify re-conquering territories previously lost to Israel and consolidate all political power under his domain.

Obviously, these first two so-called solutions are unacceptable for the Bible-believing Christian. The Bible does not present the divine commands to engage in Holy War as either pious fiction or political propaganda. There are some scholars who argue that the Holy Wars of the OT simply reflect the reality that God must work in a sinful world with sinful people. In the words of Peter Craigie, a professed evangelical scholar,
“War is never less than unmitigated evil and its frequent mention in the Old Testament does not elevate its character. It is … a form of evil human activity through which God in his sovereignty may work out his purposes of judgment and redemption.”
Thus, according to Craigie’s view, God’s involvement in Israel’s Holy Wars against the Canaanites was related to His will of purpose or providence; it was not related to His revealed will of precept. The “Holy Wars” were in fact “Unholy Wars.” They were evil and unjustified. Nevertheless, God is able to accomplish His purposes even though the evil actions of men.

At first glance, Craigie’s view may appear to rescue God from the horns of the ethical dilemma. But the biggest problem with his view is the undeniable fact that, as we pointed out earlier, the OT Holy Wars are not merely a record of what Israel did (or failed to do) to the Canaanite populations. More precisely, they are portrayed as God’s preceptive will—God Himself commanded the Israelites to obey Him by slaughtering entire populations of human beings.

Your servant,
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
I don't really need to apologize on behalf of God concerning His O.T. commands to His People to do what they did (and some times failed to completely carry out!).

Since God is good, whatever He commands is good also. Since He is holy, just, perfect, etc. then He cannot, nor will He command His People to sin. Since He is not tainted by sin, He can command the killing of "innocent" people without it being murder. Life is his to give and to take, by whatever means He uses.

Precisely, Josh. Of course, your explanation is a very important part of "the apology." Apology, not in the sense of asking Bible skeptics or people from other religions to "pardon" God. But apology in the sense of defending the faith.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I have a question about how this relates to what is going on with Israel typologically? We know that the church does not conquer in this way; yet before Christ came and ushered in the new world there was so much violence in the temple worship as well with the animals being slaughtered. I understand that God owns the earth and that He can abolish nations as King. But does this also have to do with His people and the world being on opposite 'sides' in the whole of redemptive history, and have typological significance in that old system involved in so much more violence until Christ came in and turned death on its head -- to the war the church is to be waging on the gates of hell? (I do hope this isn't one of those questions the answer of which is obvious to everyone but me . . . Sorry if it is.)
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
A huge topic and lots of pre-suppositions and assumptions are made in these kinds of discussions. Also, not having formal theological training, my response is more limited.

First of all, in reality, anything the God of Heaven, our Creator, sustainer and governor of His universe does is not up to the subjective character evaluation of His creatures. He isn't to be compared with false religions imagined by some of His rebellious, fallen creatures. If we don't start with that, the discussion cannot be congruent.

If man's intellect is the center of all things, such an evaluation cannot be congruent.

The starting point really is the sovereignty of God (versus the sovereignty of man).

If man's mind is at the center, God will be judged "unfair" by lesser evaluation of man's ego. (This is why the "five points" or "doctrines of grace" are a wise point to draw out, explain, debate, and discuss with both believers and nonbelievers alike. God really likes it when we "get it" that we are not really the center and measure of all things. That's where Christian growth really begins).

The sixth commandment, "do not kill" is in words that are more carefully understood as "thou shalt not murder." Nations engaging in war are obviously not in view here (otherwise God would not have commanded Israel into battle so many times).

Self defense is a biblical concept that we could draw out here. In no sense (despite the wicked imaginations of the killers, liars, God mockers who planned 9/11) was their attack self defense. A good case can be made it was not even in accord with their own religion.

In the end, there is something that we, as fallen, self-centered human beings do not want to accept. It is very understandable in light of what God has revealed to us about our nature, through Scripture. We do not believe has a right to do with us, as His created beings as He sees fit. That bothers us...

Whether it is God Almighty's right to reserve a sabbath day unto himself for us to worship,

Reserve a portion of our material income to give back to Him as offerings,

Or His right to give or take life as He alone pleases.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
(Just wanted to add that what I think what I am groping at is whether on top of having no divine mandate for their jihads, the way in which the 'holy wars' of the Muslims are waged ignore the fact that Christ has come into the world and ushered in something new?)
 

A5pointer

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am with Josh on this. We need not apologize for the historic actions of God or synthesize them with current thought or other religions. Simply put YHVH commanded the Israelites to purge the special land that was His. His land He would inhabit with His people. The land needed total cleansing of it's pagan inhabitants and even their possessions. Destruction of even the possessions of the inhabitants was a holy sacrifice to YHVH. I think the word that captures this is idea is korban.
 

Jimmy the Greek

Puritan Board Senior
I think there is an issue regarding God's purpose for Israel to be a "holy" nation. A light to other nations, yes, but a nation "set apart". If God had let the women and children live in the land, it would have been like leaven in the loaf.

It is almost like God was eliminating any future excuses for Israel's subsequent idolatry and failures. They could not say, as Adam in the garden, "It was those people you left here that led us astray."
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
:offtopic:

:popcorn::machen: (my first ever use of the popcorn smiley. I'm letting Machen share this popcorn with me.)

:lol: - I've actually been thinking about all the smileys here and all the creative ways I can use them in my posts.

Another fun thing you can do with smileys is this.

:berkhof:

You make Berkhof cry.

(it would be nice to have a weeping Calvin actually, to convince the more superstitious gainsayers: the icon! It weeps! etc. :)

[back on topic]
 

BJClark

Puritan Board Doctor
Dr. Bob Gonzales;

How can the Christian theologically and ethically justify God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites? I've formulated some initial answers to these questions. But I'd like to hear how some of you might "apologize" for the OT practice of Holy War.

I have no need to justify God's commands, nor could I ever attempt to.

nor do I have any need to apologize for what happened during that time in History..

I honestly do not believe God need's me to defend Him..
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
An "Apology" for God's Command to Exterminate the Canaanites

Thanks for the many good responses. A number of them coincide with the way in which I would attempt to address the issue. Of course, as Josh suggested, some skeptics and unbelievers will never be satisfied with any response we might offer however logical and biblical. Nevertheless, it's good, I think, to provide something of an apologetic for ethical issues like this. If it accomplishes nothing else, it can often serve to strengthen the faith of believers.

A Biblical Apology Offered
How shall we defend the OT commands to “Holy War,” which in some ways seem to resemble the Islamic calls to Jihad? To begin with, we must insure that our underlying interpretive framework is biblical. As one writer has observed, “The life situation and presuppositions of the reader profoundly affect the way in which the text is interpreted.” Therefore, I want to begin by reminding you of the context of God’s commands. Then we’ll examine more closely the nature of these commands. Finally, we offer several arguments to justify these commands.

The Context of God’s calls to Holy War
The context of the command is a sinful world under God’s curse (Gen 3:8ff). If we remember this fact, then the real question is not, “Why would God exterminate the Canaanites?” but rather “Why has God withheld judgment from so many other sinful nations?” Furthermore, God’s promise to redeem the world necessitates the destruction and removal of evil (Gen 3:15; Matt. 6:10; 2 Pet 3:13). Thus, as one scholar points out, “Holy war and the description of God as warrior need to be evaluated in the context of God’s redemptive efforts on behalf of a fallen world.”

The Nature of God’s Calls to Holy War

As to its nature, God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites may be viewed, first of all, as divinely authorized capital punishment on a societal scale. Just as God authorized the state to execute capital punishment upon evil doers (Gen 9:6; Rom 13:1-4), so too in a similar but more unique sense, He authorized the nation Israel to carry out His punitive sentence upon the Canaanite nations of Palestine (Gen 15:16; Lev 18:24, 25; 20:23; Deut 9:4, 5). Secondly, holy war may be viewed as the means by which God would fulfill his promise of land to Abraham and his descendants (Gen 12:1; 13:14, 15; 15:16; Exo 13:11; 32:13). If the “seed of the woman” are to experience God’s blessing, then the “seed of the serpent” must be crushed. Finally, God’s command may be viewed as a divinely sanctioned religious duty calling for Israel’s faith and obedience. The passages calling for holy war commonly employ the Hebrew term herem, a word with religious significance (Deut. 7:2; 20:17; Josh 6:17; 1Sam 15:3). As Walter Kaiser notes,
The root idea of this term was “separation”; however, this situation was not the positive concept of sanctification in which someone or something was set aside for service and the glory of God. This was the opposite side of the same coin: to set aside or separate for destruction.
For this reason, when God commanded the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites, He was calling upon them to engage in a religious activity. This leads one OT scholar to note that “battle is portrayed as an act of worship in the Hebrew Bible.”

The Justification of God’s Call to Holy War
In light of the context and nature of holy war, God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites may be justified under the following biblical principles. First of all, the Canaanites had known about Yahweh’s redemptive acts on behalf of Israel for many years (Josh 2:10, 11); yet, with the exception of Rahab (Josh 2:12, 13), they did not repent. Therefore, the Canaanites stood under the just condemnation of God (Rom 1:18-2:16). Secondly, the Bible teaches (as does the light of nature) the principle of corporate solidarity, whereby the actions of an individual may affect the larger community for good or evil (Josh 7; Rom 5:12-21). Thirdly, God’s love for his people and desire to maintain their purity required the preventative excision of that which would inevitably corrupt their devotion to the true religion (Deut 20:16-18). As one theologian points out, “divine love is a two-edged sword." Like a surgeon, God removed the cancerous growth of Canaanite depravity in order to promote the longevity of his people. Finally, we must remember that Israel’s holy war against Canaan is a redemptive-historical type of spiritual and eschatological warfare (cf. Eph 6:10-18; Heb 4:1-11; Rev 19:11-21). Eschatological judgment intruded into human history in a unique way, which only finds its equal at Calvary (Rom. 3:25; Gal. 3:13) and at the Second Coming (Rev. 6:16; 14:10). Meanwhile, at this stage in redemptive history, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual (Isa. 42:2-3; Matt. 12:19-20; John 18:36; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:10ff.). In the words of the hymnwriter,
Lead on, O King eternal, till sin's fierce war shall cease,
And holiness shall whisper the sweet amen of peace;
For not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums,
But deeds of love and mercy, the heav'nly kingdom comes.
Conclusion
When placed under the light of the overall Biblical teaching and worldview, the theological and ethical “problem” of holy war evaporates. In the end, those who have serious problems with the OT Holy Wars probably have serious problems with God Himself. But there are also several practical applications we can draw from the reality of the OT Holy Wars. To begin with, God’s commands to Holy War remind us to be preeminently concerned with God’s honor and rights above mere human honor and rights. Secondly, God’s commands to Holy War remind us of the serious with which God views human sin. Thirdly, God’s commands to Holy War remind us of that the consequences of sin often extend beyond the individual to the family, the church, and the society. Fourthly, God’s commands to Holy War remind us of the dangerous influences of an anti-Christian society around us. Fifthly, God’s commands to Holy War remind us how zealous God is to protect the purity of His worship and His worshipers. Sixthly, God’s commands to Holy War remind us of the serous commitment to His word that God expects from His people. And finally, God’s commands to Holy War provide us with a picture of our spiritual battle against remaining sin, the world, and the devil, as well as a foretaste of that ultimate battle between good and evil yet to come.

For those who'd like to do more reading on the subject, here are some helpful resources: Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (1982), 142-43, 157-59; William Brenton Greene, “The Ethics of the Old Testament,” Princeton Theological Review 28 (1929), 313-66; Stanley Gundry, ed. Show Them No Mercy: Four Views on God and Canaanite Genocide (2003); John W. Haley, Discrepancies of the Bible (n.d.), 266-70; Everett F. Harrison, “Have We a God of Destruction?” Bibliotheca Sacra 91 (January 54), 25-34; Jeph Holloway, “The Ethical Dilemma of Holy War,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 41 (Fall 1998), 44-69; Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Hard Sayings of the Old Testament (1988), 106-09; Toward Old Testament Ethics (1983), 74-75, 266-69; F. Derek Kidner, “Old Testament Perspectives on War,” Evangelical Quarterly 57 (April 1985), 99-113; M. G. Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority (1972) 154-64; Tremper Longman III and Daniel G. Reid, God is a Warrior (1995), 13-47; J. P. U. Lilley, “The Judgment of God: The Problem of the Canaanites,” Themelios 22 (January 1997), 3-12; “Understanding the Herem,” Tyndale Bulletin 44 (1993), 169-77; Gustav F. Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament (1883), 81-83; Johannes G. Vos, “The Ethical Problem of the Imprecatory Psalms,” Westminster Theological Journal 4 (May 1942): 123-138.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Dr. Bob Gonzales

In the end, those who have serious problems with the OT Holy Wars probably have serious problems with God Himself.

Yes.

And this is something, by faith, we can engage both believers and non-believers in.

One other thought about the context of Israel as God's covenant community of people. You may have mentioned this, please forgive me if it was missed. Israel was, at times, amongst the smallest and weakest of all nations (speaking in terms of numbers and military). Literally, their survival as a nation was at stake over-and-over again. If the context is understood, we would not presume that God commanded battle because Israel should presume to rule over other nations. Rather, it was as an absolute necessity in order that they, as a nation survive. It also secured that God's inter-generational promises would be kept. This applied to Israel, but in His grander scheme, to the whole of creation- Jews and Gentiles.

So, rather than showing the imagined illogic or injustice of our Creator, it shows the exact opposite- a God who is faithful to keep His promises to every generation.
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
I have always understood the canaanite extermination as a typology of the final judgment.

The horror of the canaanite extermination is what all outside the Church will face on the judgment day and it really is horrific from the viewpoint of fallen man. More to the point it is what we all deserve and shows how serious sin is.

What is sad is that when people consider the canaanite extermination their reaction is that it is unfair, not that this shows how serious sin actually is.

Thank goodness for imputed rightiousness.
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Bob Gonzales

In the end, those who have serious problems with the OT Holy Wars probably have serious problems with God Himself.
Yes.

And this is something, by faith, we can engage both believers and non-believers in.

One other thought about the context of Israel as God's covenant community of people. You may have mentioned this, please forgive me if it was missed. Israel was, at times, amongst the smallest and weakest of all nations (speaking in terms of numbers and military). Literally, their survival as a nation was at stake over-and-over again. If the context is understood, we would not presume that God commanded battle because Israel should presume to rule over other nations. Rather, it was as an absolute necessity in order that they, as a nation survive. It also secured that God's inter-generational promises would be kept. This applied to Israel, but in His grander scheme, to the whole of creation- Jews and Gentiles.

So, rather than showing the imagined illogic or injustice of our Creator, it shows the exact opposite- a God who is faithful to keep His promises to every generation.

Scott, I wanted to "thank you," but I apparently ran out of "thanks" buttons. Anyway, good point. God's faithfulness to his covenant promise that traces back to Abraham and even to the protoevangel (Gen. 3:16) is certainly one of the factors in understanding the securing of Canaan as "sacred space" that pointed backward to Eden and forward to the New Earth.

-----Added 2/19/2009 at 02:37:45 EST-----

I have always understood the canaanite extermination as a typology of the final judgment.

The horror of the canaanite extermination is what all outside the Church will face on the judgment day and it really is horrific from the viewpoint of fallen man. More to the point it is what we all deserve and shows how serious sin is.

What is sad is that when people consider the canaanite extermination their reaction is that it is unfair, not that this shows how serious sin actually is.

Thank goodness for imputed rightiousness.

Amen! Mike. Thanks for the helpful remarks.

Your servant,
 
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