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Apologetics: The Conquest of Canaan

PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2021 8:46 pm
by Jericho
Anachronism is defined as an error in chronology; especially a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other. In much the same way, modern critics have anachronistically imposed their modern-day ethics and standards upon ancient civilizations and events. This has certainly been true of the conquest of Canaan with accusations of genocide against God and the Israelites. However, are such accusations accurate? While men, women, and children were often causalities of war, it wasn’t an uncommon practice of that day. The ancient world was, after all, a violent place where life held little value. The law of the jungle prevailed where the strongest survived and often ruthlessly oppressed the weak. This is the world the ancient Israelites lived in.

What the modern critics have overlooked is that it has taken thousands of years to get where we are today. There were no jails or police officers to keep the peace during that time. It's easy to judge the past from the comforts and safety of our 21st century existence. But what must be kept in mind is that much of our modern ethics have been built upon the back of thousands of years of Judeo-Christian morality. The ancient world had no such benefits. Passing judgment then is always easier in hindsight. However, the question remains, was it justified? I believe the answer is yes.

The primary reason for the conquest of Canaan was God judging the Canaanite nations for their wickedness:

“Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out from before you.”

“It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deu 9:4-5)

What did the Canaanites do that was so wicked? In Leviticus 18, God tells Moses to instruct the people to avoid the detestable practices of the land they are going into. A litany of Canaanite practices are listed including incest, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and child sacrifice. On the last point, a popular practice of the Canaanites was to sacrifice their children by burning them alive to their gods, chiefly Moloch and Baal. According to Halley’s Bible Handbook, “Under the debris, in this ‘High Place,’ Macalister found a great number of jars containing the remains of children who had been sacrificed to Baal. The whole area proved to be a cemetery for new-born babes. Another horrible practice was that they called ‘foundation sacrifices.’ When a house was built, a child would be sacrificed, and its body built into the wall, to bring good luck to the rest of the family. Many of these were found in Gezer. They have been found also at Megiddo, Jericho and other places.” -Halley’s Bible Handbook, by Henry H. Halley; Joshua, Chapters 23,24, pg. 166; 1965 Edition

While such a judgment may seem harsh by our standards, those nations had plenty of time for repentance. Everyone in the region heard about what happened to Pharaoh when the Israelites left Egypt (Jos 9:9). They had 40 plus years to repent and change their ways and they would have been spared like Nineveh. In actuality, they had even longer. Prior to Abraham passing away he was given a prophecy that his descendants would spend 400 years oppressed in a foreign land, but in the fourth generation they would return (Gen 15:13-16) Then God makes the statement that the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete. There was a time span of some 400 years where the Canaanite nations could have repented, but they never did.

God never brings judgment without first giving the people time to repent. It's often said that God is love, but it's just as often forgotten that He's also a judge, and it’s His prerogative to judge with impunity. As such, the Israelites were used as a form of God's judgment against the Canaanite nations. It should be noted that this was a limited judgment, lasting only about seven years. God would later use a similar judgment against the Israelites when he raised up the Assyrians to judge the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Babylonians to judge the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

There are other reasons why God wanted the Israelites to completely destroy the Canaanites:

“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.”

“Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son.”

“For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.” (Deu 7:2-4)

God forewarned them that there would be consequences if the inhabitants were not completely eliminated. They would turn to their gods and they would engage in all the detestable things that brought destruction on those nations in the first place (Deu 12:31). God was not being egotistical when He warned them not to worship other gods, but it was to protect them. The first thing that would happen is God would no longer fight on their behalf (Jdg 10:13), the second thing that would happen is that the remnant Canaanite nations would become a thorn in the side of Israel:

“Or else, if indeed you do go back, and cling to the remnant of these nations—these that remain among you—and make marriages with them, and go into them and they to you, know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the LORD your God has given you.” (Jos 23:12-13)

If the Israelites had completely destroyed the Canaanites they would have spared themselves a lot of trouble and hardships. Unfortunately, they didn’t heed God’s warning and that's exactly what happened. The Book of Judges is a testament to what happened when they allowed a remnant to survive. Their surrounding enemies would oppress them until they cried out to God for a deliver. God would send a deliver who would free them for a time until they returned to their old ways. Then they would fall back into bondage and the process would repeat. So the secondary reasons for the conquest of Canaan was to prevent future hostilities with those nations and remove any temptations for them to serve other gods and bring destruction upon themselves. Israel and Judah never learned that lesson and God allowed the Assyrians and the Babylonians to destroy them.

Ultimately, the conquest of Canaan was a manifestation of God fulfilling the promises He made to Abraham and his descendants after him: “You shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you the land to possess.” (Num 33:53). In that respect, God was acting as the landlord, Israel was the tenant, the Canaanites were squatters, and the conquest of Canaan was their eviction.

Re: Apologetics: The Conquest of Canaan

PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2021 4:32 am
by Mark F
Good post Jericho.

People frequently make the egregious error of not recognizing that God is Almighty, the Lord of Glory, and they can somehow justify that their opinion matters. It's like comparing one's self to others in self justification, when in fact it is
our inability to measure up to the prefect Son of God who is the standard of our judgement, therefore we are shown how we do not measure up.

Bill Maher recently was laughing at the things in the book of Revelation, justifying how people who believe the Scriptures suffer a mental disorder.....

I wonder what the level of terror will be that overcomes one when they stand before The Almighty, who as was in your post:
He's also a judge, and it’s His prerogative to judge with impunity

They have absolutely no regard for what awaits those who reject Him. It makes me sad to consider it.