Why Did God Tell Joshua To Kill The Canaanites?

Hi mantiger,

I recently listened to a podcast where Dr. John Dickson addresses this subject. It's part of Ravi Zacharias' "Let My People Think" podcasts, and is called "Violence in the Old Testament," in two parts:

http://www.rzim.org/let-my-people-think-broadcasts/violence-in-the-old-testament-part-1-of-2/
http://www.rzim.org/let-my-people-think-broadcasts/violence-in-the-old-testament-part-2-of-2/

John Dickson tries to understand violence in the OT in a historical context (he has a PhD in Ancient History), and makes the argument that we should be transparent with atheists/non-Christians that we don't have a 100% satisfactory explanation for everything in the OT, but we're still justified in believing in a God of love and justice.

It's a very dense lecture, just a warning. I had to write down his arguments as he went through them so I could keep track of what he's saying. But Dickson has a lot of great insights into this subject, and it's well worth hearing what he has to say. In much of the lecture, he responds directly to arguments from Richard Dawkins/the new atheists.

I hope that's helpful to you.
 
Wow, that shuts up all discussion on the OP. War was then clearly a last resort.
Well, at last someone saw God's original plans in the Word. The discussion may continue, but very few folks I have ever known were willing to concede to this Fact.....folks like "holy genocide".
 
Thanks for the replies everyone, you have told me a lot I didn't know.

I now understand that the Canaanites were doing bad sins. What I don't understand is why God couldn't have persuaded the Canaanites to stop sinning without using violence, after all he is omnipotent. I also don't understand why God wanted the baby Canaanites killed, why didn't he tell Joshua to adopt them?



If God is omnipotent he could have 'purged' the promised land without violence. Why did he chose to use violence?

I accept that we can't understand God's will, but it would be wrong to just blindly obey him. Wouldn't it be more moral for a Christian to disobey God with good intentions than to obey God for selfish reasons such as getting into heaven?

Well, just to throw in my .04 cents.........it would be helpful to remember that the Bible tells us some really good information.

We need to consider someone else in these cases.

1.
The Devil is the prince of this world.

Ephesians 2:2
"Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:"

1 Corth. 10:21
"But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sanrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils".

The devil is a real person who administers the cprrupt power of unholy spirits. Satan exerts himself most effectively in the area of unsaved people and the conduct of those men mark them as children of disobedience and in fact follow the leadings of Satan.


2.
War is a fruit of sin.

James 4:1
“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?"

It’s not so much that war is sin, but that war is a consequence of sin, a result of the lust and desires that wage war within us.

James 4:2
“You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”


3.
War is a tool of God.

There are many unacceptable reasons for war. But there is one time when war is condoned and used by God: wickedness. When calling the Israelites into battle. Moses carefully instructed them:

Deut. 9:4
After the Lord your God has done this for you, don’t say to yourselves, ‘The Lord has given us this land because we are so righteous!’ No, it is because of the wickedness of the other nations that he is doing it.”

God has used warfare as a form of judgment against the enemies of God. In fact, He uses warfare as judgment against his own people when they become enemies of God.

Jeremiah 5:15-17
“O Israel, I will bring a distant nation against you,” says the Lord. “It is a mighty nation, an ancient nation, a people whose language you do not know, whose speech you cannot understand. Their weapons are deadly; their warriors are mighty. They will eat your harvests and your children’s bread, your flocks of sheep and your herds of cattle. Yes, they will eat your grapes and figs. And they will destroy your fortified cities, which you think are so safe.”
 
I was raised a Christian and have always tried to be a good person. I consider Jesus the be the perfect example of how to be good, Jesus would never hurt anyone. However recently an atheist friend told me God was cruel and unloving and used examples from the old testament to prove it. In the old testament God tells Joshua to kill all the Canaanites, including women and children. I have two questions:

1. Why did God tell Joshua to kill the Canaanites, including innocent children who hadn't done anything? Killing children for the actions of their parents is unjust.

2. Why didn't God use his omnipotence to teleport the Canaanites away, or send angels down to demonstrate his power so they would live the way he wanted? Didn't he have the power to do these things or did he chose the most violent solution to his problem?

I hope you can give me some counter arguments to tell my friend, I have been feeling down lately because my faith is very important to me.
Can someone respond to question 2?
 
By analogy...

Imagine in the human body, each cell as an individual life form, which actually it is. They each likewise function as part of a specific local community (the heart, the lungs, the blood stream, etc.,). Different cells, and groups of cells, display differences in structure, appearance, life-span, function, etc., just like different humans and groups of humans! Each cell in relation to the other cells, and as a member of their particular cellular community, knowingly or unknowingly works as an intricate part of a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. The human host, of which it is but a tiny almost insignificant part, is as the Lord is to us, in relation to the members of His body. The individual cell’s instinctual purpose, like our own, is to work to maintain and protect its self life, as well as the goals of its community life.

One of the ways they assure the survival of their type is through self-replication or offspring. Their higher purpose is actually to achieve our will and our good purpose though they are most probably totally unaware, or only vaguely, that we, as their human host, even exists. They understand little if anything about us, and our ways are higher than their ways, our thoughts are higher than their thoughts, if indeed it can be said that they even have any. They go about more or less doing the right thing in relation to one another unaware of the part they are playing in working within our overall purpose and will. Beyond their circumstantial perceptions they are working and interacting to optimize our quality of life and helping to fulfill our long term plans.

Now then, each individual cell is created in our image. They contain the image of their host within each of them (called DNA). They probably can sense an order and function interactively to enhance their mutually dependable existence. The span of their existence may be miniscule in relation to their human host, but to them it is a lifetime.

Sad as this truth is, every once in a while, a cell or some group of cells, decides they are going to do their own thing. They’re going to be their own lord if you will. They seemingly become self-willed and rebellious toward the established order. They begin to gain new converts so to speak, in great numbers, and nothing is going to stop them from their plan to take over. We call this actual biological phenomena is what we call “Cancer”! These terrorist or barbarous cells literally go into attack mode and start sapping the life out of the surrounding cells, killing as many as necessary in pursuit of their self-willed agenda. At first the effect of their violence upon their community of cells is slight and almost unnoticeable, causing some alarm, discomfort, and intermittent disturbance here and there. Regulatory norms are enforced by the greater community, and often these violent murderous outbreaks are remedied without bringing much attention or alarm to the neighboring cellular communities. However, on occasion these cells reject these corrective measures and rebel even further extending there influence outward, and begin to influence their surroundings in such a way that the immune system is alerted, and the local community has to call in specialists to eliminate these criminal cells in an attempt to protect the near by individuals, and the society at large. These are usually in the form of “anti-bodies” and white blood cells, that specialize in response to the types of violent rebellion these particular cellular individuals impose. Why try to eliminate them? Because of the inevitable threat they cause to individuals and to the greater society. The literally bring a sort of chaos into the order of things destroying the work being done there. If left on their own without being stopped they will continue to maliciously destroy and entirely take over. The forces alerted to remedy the problem will stop at nothing to prevent more senseless murder and mayhem and if necessary will even kill them. They even try surrounding them and trapping them as a first attempt by encapsulating them in a membrane or prison if you will.

If they get too powerful, or for some non-sensible reason are released, or break out of their captivity, or get away with their self-lordship too long, the cell’s lord, the human host, begins to take notice and likewise goes on alert. It likewise then takes any steps necessary to overcome or even kill the Cancer before it gets too powerful. It will irradiate, cut out, laser roast, or even chop off a limb in order to preserve the greater good and sometimes the life of the whole. Often times a number of good healthy citizen cells are called on to make the sacrifice of self for the greater good. Sometimes just the act of chasing down these devils and getting at them causes the sacrifice of good, innocent, healthy, cellular individuals. As tragic as this may seem it is the necessary price that must be paid to protect and save the most lives in the community.

So it is with God! Occasionally, God sees the development of a human cancer growing stronger and stronger.
 
There were no innocents in Jericho....all were vile and corrupted, permanently so...also this was not murder as implied in the OP

The Hebrew word “rasah” or “rashah”, as it is used here in the 6th Commandment refers most specifically to premeditated murder without just cause. However, it can also be used in the sense of manslaughter, as when one kills by mistake, or without intent, like in the case of Numbers 25:11; Deuteronomy 4:42, 19:4, Joshua 20:3-5, and elsewhere! Thus in Hebrew the specific meaning of this word must always be determined by its’ context. We must always see it in relation to the surrounding statements. In the commandments it is absolute and the law is conditional…

Sin is a transgression of the Law (1 John 3:4) and there are actually 613 commandments…the soul that sins it must die is called the curse of the law but actually goes all the way back to the garden and what is really being said is that sin brings forth sickness and death (spiritual death).

Next, we have the word “hemit”, which carries no sense of guilt or iniquity and is used in the case of righteous capital punishment, or when the killing is the result of an attack from a wild beast, and so on! The root of this word is related to the word “emet” or truth. We see this usage in Leviticus 20:4; Numbers 35:19-21; Deuteronomy 13:10 (your passage) and Deuteronomy 17:7!

Finally, when God orders the execution or destruction of an individual or group (like when He commands Joshua at the five cities of Canaan), the word “haraq” is used (See Genesis 20:4; Exodus 4:23, etc.). This form of killing is used specifically in the prevention of foreseen evils beyond our comprehension (as in the post above). By eliminating these people, God is actually sparing millions of people the pain, disease, suffering, and death that they would have caused. It would be used for example in eliminating an Adolph Hitler. There is absolutely nothing evil in this, in fact it is very good. Therefore, this form of killing is always just, whether or not we finite humans can see the full implications of His doing it.

The question has also been asked, “Why couldn’t God just make the devils repent and then save them rather than condemn them all to eternal death in Gehenna? I mean, didn’t Jesus die for all sins? Can’t He save them as well?

And the answer is, “Yes, He could, but He won’t, because these are free-will beings who not only have made this choice, but God has foreseen that, even if given many opportunities, they still will not repent.”
 
There were no innocents in Jericho....all were vile and corrupted, permanently so...also this was not murder as implied in the OP

The Hebrew word “rasah” or “rashah”, as it is used here in the 6th Commandment refers most specifically to premeditated murder without just cause. However, it can also be used in the sense of manslaughter, as when one kills by mistake, or without intent, like in the case of Numbers 25:11; Deuteronomy 4:42, 19:4, Joshua 20:3-5, and elsewhere! Thus in Hebrew the specific meaning of this word must always be determined by its’ context. We must always see it in relation to the surrounding statements. In the commandments it is absolute and the law is conditional…

Sin is a transgression of the Law (1 John 3:4) and there are actually 613 commandments…the soul that sins it must die is called the curse of the law but actually goes all the way back to the garden and what is really being said is that sin brings forth sickness and death (spiritual death).

Next, we have the word “hemit”, which carries no sense of guilt or iniquity and is used in the case of righteous capital punishment, or when the killing is the result of an attack from a wild beast, and so on! The root of this word is related to the word “emet” or truth. We see this usage in Leviticus 20:4; Numbers 35:19-21; Deuteronomy 13:10 (your passage) and Deuteronomy 17:7!

Finally, when God orders the execution or destruction of an individual or group (like when He commands Joshua at the five cities of Canaan), the word “haraq” is used (See Genesis 20:4; Exodus 4:23, etc.). This form of killing is used specifically in the prevention of foreseen evils beyond our comprehension (as in the post above). By eliminating these people, God is actually sparing millions of people the pain, disease, suffering, and death that they would have caused. It would be used for example in eliminating an Adolph Hitler. There is absolutely nothing evil in this, in fact it is very good. Therefore, this form of killing is always just, whether or not we finite humans can see the full implications of His doing it.

The question has also been asked, “Why couldn’t God just make the devils repent and then save them rather than condemn them all to eternal death in Gehenna? I mean, didn’t Jesus die for all sins? Can’t He save them as well?

And the answer is, “Yes, He could, but He won’t, because these are free-will beings who not only have made this choice, but God has foreseen that, even if given many opportunities, they still will not repent.”
Wow. Thank you so much. I will read this again and again. One more question? Why do you think God didn't just take care of this himself instead of commanding Joshua to kill them? Can you explain the difference between this and the Commandment "Thou shalt not kill"?

I guess that's two more questions :)
 

MichaelH

Inactive
Wow. Thank you so much. I will read this again and again. One more question? Why do you think God didn't just take care of this himself instead of commanding Joshua to kill them? Can you explain the difference between this and the Commandment "Thou shalt not kill"?

I guess that's two more questions :)

The Scripture says thou shall do no murder. It's a translation boo boo from way back. Killing and Murder are two different things. Murder is a wrongful killing of someone. War is not wrongful killing. God made everything and those nations or persons who God Created would not obey him then through disobedience and serving other gods he gave his people power to defeat and take the Land that belonged to God anyway.

God warned to touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm. God is not opposed to using extreme force from his Angels to keep us safe.

And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.
(Act 12:23)

A theme of the bible is serve God or don't serve God. Those that don't honor their creator have no right with God, or place. People get this crazy idea that God is suppose to protect all the children of the World and love everyone. God said the child is sanctified by the believing parent and those parents that Choose God have their children safe. The heathen have no such promise, or should expect it if they don't recognize the creator. If mom or dad don't have faith in God, the Children are in danger, even those who are saved and have fear. where fear is, Satan is.

God did love the World that He sent his only begotten son. The condition was that whosoever shall believe on Him. Even so, God still has mercy on the unthankful and heathen, but not always when it comes to protecting and getting things over to us, his people.

God owns the whole planet, gold and wealth. If God wants to just give it to us, then who can say God can't do what God wants to do with his own stuff? The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just, they collect, we reap.

Now if anyone has issues on How God deals with heathen nations, they can put all those issues to rest by getting on God's side, and not the devils.
 
Re-read post 46 for question 2's answer...haraq is not rashah...

For question 1 I cannot suppose to assume intimate knowledge of God's motives
 
I find that these challenges to God's authority and morality show a lack of understanding of the culture and the times in which these people lived. Their life was spent mostly on basic survival needs. Water, food, and clothing consumed much of their time and wealth. Many became slaves or indentured servants just because they could not take care of themselves and/or their family. To ask these people to adopt babies would cause many of them extreme hardship.
Too many atheists use today's standards to compare to these ancient peoples. We are spoiled by our wealth and technology which make tasks easy, and we take that for granted. Just look at all the people who will not work hard labor jobs for a living. Back then that is all that was available. And they had to walk.... everywhere. You need to talk to someone about a job, you walked. You need to buy food, you walked. And then carried. If you were lucky you had a donkey....which you had to take care of and feed. More work. Quickest way to build wealth was to kill someone or a whole family for it. And you want a person in this situation to adopt a baby which came from an evil culture?
This is just a little of what you need to begin to understand how and why things happened back then. The word for it is CONTEXT. Every time I hear an atheist use their small minded judgements, I just shake my head in disappointment and disbelief. Context is what they always leave out.
 
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