WHY A GOD OF LOVE AUTHORIZED WARFARE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

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WHY DID JEHOVAH AUTHORIZE WARFARE IN THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES? ARE THEY ACTS OF CRUELTY? A CAREFUL ANALYSIS OF THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES REVEAL THAT GOD ACTED THE WAY HE DID BECAUSE OF HIS EXTREME LOVE FOR MANKIND. THIS MAY SEEM TO BE A CONTRADICTORY STATEMENT, PLEASE READ TO SEE IF THIS IS TRUE OR NOT.

Submitted: July 18, 2012

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Submitted: July 18, 2012

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WHY A GOD OF LOVE AUTHORIZED WARFARE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

The failure to fully comprehend why a loving God authorized wars in the “Old Testament” may cause one of the most critical theological problems for some. Ancient Israel, a nation uniquely chosen by God was authorized to engage in warfare. Before entering Canaan, the land that God had promised to Abraham, the Israelites were told:

Deuteronomy 7:1,2: “When Jehovah your God at last brings you into the land to which you are going so as to take possession of it, he must also clear away populous nations from before you, the Hittites and the Gir?ga·shites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Per?iz·zites and the Hi?vites and the Jeb?u·sites, seven nations more populous and mighty than you are. And Jehovah your God will certainly abandon them to you, and you must defeat them. You should without fail devote them to destruction.”

Entire population consisting of men, women and children were commanded to be exterminated. Was this a ruthless campaign to annihilate foreign nations? To begin with, God’s order to wage war was given to a specific people for a specific purpose. It was limited to a precisely defined geographical region and to an equally specific time. It was not an open-ended declaration of war. God commanded these wars for the specific purpose of rendering his judgment.

None of these wars were fought with the purpose of forcibly converting the pagans to Judaism. Judaism was only confined to the people of Israel. When the time came for God to punish the Canaanites for their extremely evil acts, he used the nation of Israel to act as his executioner. These were theocratic wars. Israel was commanded to fight for the purpose of dispossessing depraved, demon-worshiping nations from the land that rightfully belongs to God. Those nations had become full of idolatry and bloodshed. And they also engaged in all forms of degraded sexual practices. Their form of worship included the slaughter of their own children in sacrificial fires.

Numbers 33:52: And YOU must drive away all the inhabitants of the land from before YOU and destroy all their stone figures, and all their images of molten metal YOU should destroy, and all their sacred high places YOU should annihilate.

Deuteronomy 12:31: You must not do that way to Jehovah your God, for everything detestable to Jehovah that he does hate they have done to their gods, for even their sons and their daughters they regularly burn in the fire to their gods.

God’s holiness and justice compelled him to remove all uncleanness from the land. He directed ancient Israel to use warfare to take possession of the land that he himself designated as their inheritance. Thus, Jehovah executed the people whose depraved practices and defiance of the true God caused him to view them as being no longer fit to live.

Leviticus 18:24,25: “‘Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, because by all these things the nations whom I am sending out from before YOU have made themselves unclean. Consequently the land is unclean, and I shall bring punishment for its error upon it, and the land will vomit its inhabitants out.

Deuteronomy 9:5: It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going in to take possession of their land; in fact, it is for the wickedness of these nations that Jehovah your God is driving them away from before you, and in order to carry out the word that Jehovah swore to your forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

If the Canaanites while belonging to a different religion are yet a peace-loving civilized people, then the claim that God had condemned themas hopelessly degenerate canrightly be questioned. On the other hand, if the Canaanites in the land were a degenerate society widely practicing bestiality and publicly burning their children to Molech, then God is totally justified in removing them.

More than a mere eviction or dispossessing of the existing tenants of that land was purposed by God. His right to act as “Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25) and to decree the sentence of capital punishment upon those found meriting it, as well as his right to implement and enforce the execution of such decree, was also involved. God’s execution on the Canaanites found full justification in the conditions that had developed in Canaan by the time of the Israelite conquest. Jehovah had patiently allowed more than 400 years from Abraham’s time for the “error of the Amorites to come to completion.” The expression Amorites and Canaanites are often used interchangeably in the Bible. They had 430 years to repent but they did not change their ways.

Genesis 15:16: But in the fourth generation they will return here, because the error of the Amorites has not yet come to completion.”

It is vital to note that the Israelites were not allowed to inherit the land until the “sin of the Amorites” reaches a limit where divine execution became obligatory. In other words, prior to their execution, God estimated that the Amorites have not yet reached the stage where they can be justly removed. This shows that when the time came for God to execute the Canaanites, it must be an upright judgment. This also demonstrates the extent of Jehovah’smercy since he did not execute them right away, but waited patiently for more than 400 years after which his holiness demanded that such wickedness had to be punished. The sins of the Canaanites could not go unchecked. As we can see, Jehovah did not execute the Canaanites until their sins reached their full measure. This is the long-suffering God of the Hebrew Scriptures. He allowed his own chosen people to suffer in slavery for four centuries before determining that the people of Canaan are ripe for judgment. This proves beyond doubt that Jehovah does not enjoy killing people or ending people’s lives. Instead, he beseeches the wicked one to turn away from his bad ways so that he may keep living. Note what Jehovah says:

Ezekiel 33:11: Say to them, ‘“As I am alive,” is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, “I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living.

Ezekiel 33:14-16: “‘And when I say to the wicked one: “You will positively die,” and he actually turns back from his sin and carries on justice and righteousness, and the wicked one returns the very thing pledged, pays back the very things taken by robbery, and actually walks in the very statutes of life by not doing injustice, he will positively keep living. He will not die. None of his sins with which he has sinned will be remembered against him. Justice and righteousness are what he has carried on. He will positively keep living.’”

Also, notice that the evil treatments (enslavement and mistreatment) of the Israelites by Egypt were not considered evil enough to warrant annihilation but only punishment. We can therefore rightly conclude that the “sin of the Amorites” must be far more extreme than that of Egypt. During those intervening centuries when Jehovah held back his punishment, Canaan became saturated with detestable practices of idolatry, immorality and bloodshed. The Canaanite religion was extraordinarily base and degraded. And their “sacred poles” or “high places” evidently being phallic symbols included numerous rites that involved gross sexual excesses and depravity.

Deuteronomy 7:5-6: “On the other hand, this is what YOU should do to them: Their altars YOU should pull down, and their sacred pillars YOU should break down, and their sacred poles YOU should cut down, and their graven images YOU should burn with fire. For you are a holy people to Jehovah your God.

The Bible is explicit concerning the sins of the Canaanites. Incest, sodomy, and bestiality were part of “the way of the land of Canaan”. The land itself became defiled. And as a punishment fortheirerror, Jehovah in due time caused the “land to vomit its inhabitants out”.

Leviticus 18: 2-7: “Speak to the sons of Israel, and you must say to them, ‘I am Jehovah YOUR God. The way the land of Egypt does, in which YOU dwelt, YOU must not do; and the way the land of Canaan does, into which I am bringing YOU, YOU must not do; and in their statutes YOU must not walk. My judicial decisions YOU should carry out, and my statutes YOU should keep so as to walk in them. I am Jehovah YOUR God. And YOU must keep my statutes and my judicial decisions, which if a man will do; he must also live by means of them. I am Jehovah. “‘YOU people must not come near, any man of YOU, to any close fleshly relative of his to lay bare nakedness. I am Jehovah. The nakedness of your father and the nakedness of your mother you must not lay bare. She is your mother. You must not lay bare her nakedness.

Leviticus 18:9: As for the nakedness of your sister, the daughter of your father or the daughter of your mother, whether born in the same household or born outside it, you must not lay bare their nakedness.

Leviticus 18: 22-25: “‘And you must not lie down with a male the same as you lie down with a woman. It is a detestable thing.“‘And you must not give your emission to any beast to become unclean by it, and a woman should not stand before a beast to have connection with it. It is a violation of what is natural. “‘Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, because by all these things the nations whom I am sending out from before YOU have made themselves unclean. Consequently the land is unclean, and I shall bring punishment for its error upon it, and the land will vomit its inhabitants out.

Other detestable practices included magic, binding others with a spell, spiritism, and sacrifice of their children by fire.

Deuteronomy 18:9-12: “When you are entered into the land that Jehovah your God is giving you, you must not learn to do according to the detestable things of those nations. There should not be found in you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, anyone who employs divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer, or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead. For everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah, and on account of these detestable things Jehovah your God is driving them away from before you.

Baal was the most prominent of the deities worshiped by the Canaanites. The Canaanite goddesses Ashtoreth, Asherah, and Anath are presented in an Egyptian text as both mother-goddesses and as sacred prostitutes who, paradoxically, remain ever-virgin (literally, “the great goddesses who conceive but do not bear”).* Their worship involved the services of temple prostitutes. These goddesses symbolized the quality not only of sexual lust but also of sadistic violence and warfare. Thus, the goddess Anath is depicted in the Baal Epic from Ugarit as effecting a general slaughter of men and then decorating herself with suspended heads and attaching men’s hands to her girdle while she joyfully wades in their blood. The figurines of the goddess Ashtoreth that have been discovered in Palestine are of a nude woman with rudely exaggerated sex organs. Of their phallic worship, archaeologist W.F. Albright observes that: “At its worst, ... the erotic aspect of their cult must have sunk to extremely sordid depths of social degradation.”—Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, 1968, pp. 76,77.

*These goddesses are very similar in nature to the Houris described in Islamic theology.

As noted earlier, their degrading practices include child sacrifice. According to renowned scholar Merrill F.Unger:

“Excavations in Palestine have uncovered piles of ashes and remains of infant skeletons in cemeteries around heathen altars, pointing to the widespread practice of this cruel abomination.” (Archaeology and the Old Testament, 1964, p. 279)

Halley’s Bible Handbook (1964, p. 161) says:

“Canaanites worshipped, by immoral indulgence, as a religious rite, in the presence of their gods; and then, by murdering their first-born children, as a sacrifice to these same gods. It seems that, in large measure, the land of Canaan had become a sort of Sodom and Gomorrah on a national scale.... Did a civilization of such abominable filth and brutality have any right longer to exist? ... Archaeologists who dig in the ruins of Canaanite cities wonder that God did not destroy them sooner than he did.”

Even so, Jehovah spared those Canaanites who were willing to abandon their wicked ways and serve him. Mercy was shown to those individuals and their families who demonstrated faith in the true God. Consider the following two examples.

RAHAB

Joshua 2:9: And she went on to say to the men: “I do know that Jehovah will certainly give YOU the land, and that the fright of YOU has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have become disheartened because of YOU.

Joshua 2:12-14: And now, please, swear to me by Jehovah that, because I have exercised loving-kindness toward YOU, YOU also will certainly exercise loving-kindness toward the household of my father, and YOU must give me a trustworthy sign. And YOU must preserve alive my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters and all who belong to them, and YOU must deliver our souls from death.” At that the men said to her: “Our souls are to die instead of YOU people! If YOU will not tell about this matter of ours, it must also occur that when Jehovah gives us the land, we also shall certainly exercise loving-kindness and trustworthiness toward you.”

The story of Rahab shows that even at this late period in time, it would have been possible for the people of Canaan to escape God’s judgment. Jehovah has always been willing to extend compassion to those individuals who turn to him in true faith. Rahab’s faith resulted in the preservation of her life and that of her household.

Hebrews 11:31: “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with those who acted disobediently, because she received the spies in a peaceable way.”

Rahab even came to be in the line of ancestry of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. (Matthew 1:1-5) This proves that not only those individual Canaanites had an option to escape death but they also were blessed for their faithful course.

Rahab’s acceptance of Jehovah and the resulting salvation of her and her family illustrate the truthfulness of expressed statement in Exodus 34:6:

“Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.”

Jehovah’s mercy, graciousness and compassion are extended to all individuals, whether they are Canaanites, Ninevites or from any other nation, as long as they “turn back from their evil deeds”.

GIBEONITES

Joshua: 9:24-27: Then they answered Joshua and said: “It was because your servants were plainly told that Jehovah your God had commanded Moses his servant to give YOU all the land and to annihilate all the inhabitants of the land from before YOU, and we became very much afraid for our souls because of YOU. So we did this thing. And now here we are, in your hand. Just as it is good and right in your eyes to do to us, do.” And he proceeded to do so to them and to deliver them from the hand of the sons of Israel, and they did not kill them. Accordingly Joshua constituted them on that day gatherers of wood and drawers of water for the assembly and for Jehovah’s altar, down to this day, at the place that he should choose.

Although Joshua and the other chieftains had been tricked into making a covenant with the Gibeonites, this was evidently in harmony with Jehovah’s will. Proof of this is seen in the fact that when five Amorite kings sought to destroy the Gibeonites, Jehovah blessed Israel’s rescue operation; he even hurled down great hailstones upon the foe and miraculously extended the daylight for battle (See Joshua 10:1-14). Also, both in seeking a covenant of peace with Israel and in appealing to Joshua for help when threatened, the Gibeonites manifested faith in Jehovah’s ability to fulfill his word and to effect deliverance. Moreover, the Gibeonites had a wholesome fear of Israel’s God. (See Joshua 10:6)

The Canaanites did not have to die. The preservation of Rahab and the Gibeonites indicates that the command to “devote the Canaanites to destruction” is not absolute or irreversible as far as individuals Canaanites are concerned. The examples of Rahab and the Gibeonites show that God accepted those who changed. The rest of the Canaanites could have submitted to the true God and lived. But they did not. Thus, they brought the punishment upon themselves.

Joshua 11:19: There proved to be no city that made peace with the sons of Israel but the Hi?vites inhabiting Gib?e·on. All the others they took by war.

God repeatedly expresses a willingness to relent from punishment and preserve those – including nations – who acknowledge his evident right to exercise his sovereignty.

Jeremiah 18:7-8: At any moment that I may speak against a nation and against a kingdom to uproot it and to pull it down and to destroy it, and that nation actually turns back from its badness against which I spoke, I will also feel regret over the calamity that I had thought to execute upon it.

Jehovah had exercised his sovereign right to execute the sentence of death upon the wicked population of the entire planet at the time of the global Flood. Jehovah also exercised his sovereign right to execute the sentence of death upon the wicked population of the entire district of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because "the cry of complaint about Sod?om and Go·mor?rah, yes, it is loud, and their sin, yes, it is very heavy." (Genesis 18:20).

Those annihilated in the flood of Noah’s day and in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah included men, women and children. Jews, Christians and Muslimsaccept these divine executions by God without objection. In executing the punishment upon the ungodly people in Noah’s day and upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, God employed natural forces to accomplish the task. By contrast, Jehovah now assigned to the Israelites the sacred duty of serving as principal executioners of his divine decree. And he supported them by his divine power. The following verses will attest to God’s divine backing.

Joshua 10:42: And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time, because it was Jehovah the God of Israel who was fighting for Israel.

The results, nevertheless, were precisely the same to the Canaanites as if God had chosen to destroy them by some force of nature such as a flood, fiery rain, or earthquake. The fact that human agents effected the putting to death of the condemned peoples, however unpleasant their task may seem, cannot alter the rightness of the divinely ordained action.

Thus, the execution of the Canaanites is very similar to the Great Flood in Noah’s days, in that, it was purposed for the same reason – to remove evil people from earth. The only difference is that, in the case of the extermination of the Canaanites, human agencies were used to carry out the execution. Since the judgments during Noah’s day and the annihilation of the Canaanites are purposed for the same reason, why do we question God’s action regarding the Canaanites, but not God’s action regarding the Great flood, especially when the flood was a judgment that was carried out on the entire earth, unlike the judgment on the Canaanites which was carried out on a smaller scale and in a smaller location? In reality, it should not be of great concern to us whether a deserving murderer is executed by hanging or by the use of the electric chair or by lethal poison. What matters most is that we know that justice is carried out.

Well, why did not Jehovah use natural forces to annihilate the Canaanites? It must be kept in mind that the land of the Canaanites was to be given as an inheritance to the descendants of Abraham. Now that the time had come for the Israelites to occupy it, would it make sense to ruin the land by the destructive forces of nature? Surely not! Would it not be an insult to consider such a devastated land as the “Promised Land” – a land promised by God. Will it not be an insult to God, a giver of “every perfect present”, to give a ruined land for his people to occupy? (James 1:17) It must also be remembered that the nation of Israel had already spent a considerable time in the hostile wilderness after their liberation from Egypt. Thus, it will be totally unfair for Jehovah to give them a devasted land as their inheritance. As such, he wisely used human agents to remove those polluters of his land. It also served as a powerful reminder to the occuping Israelites that the same outcome awaits them should they follow the example of the Canaanites.

It must be clearly stated here that according to the Bible, no region or town that had any hope of repentance or righteousness was ever wiped out. When Jehovah destroys a nation, region or town, we can be sure that he was acting wisely and justly – even if our emotions failed to understand this aspect of God’s character. We can be absolutely positive that Jehovah God will not kill a single innocent person along with the unrighteous. God’s judgment is anything but capricious.

When Jehovah was about to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asked God if he would destroy the cities if there were 50 righteous people in them. God said no. Then Abraham asked the same question if there were 45 righteous people. Every time he dropped the number, he received the same answer. The fact is that God would not destroy those cities if there were any righteous people in them. The few righteous who were in those cities were forewarned ahead of time to get out. Only when there were no righteous ones left in those cities, were they destroyed. Thus, it can clearly be see that Jehovah God does not destroy the righteous along with the wicked. (See Genesis 18:23-32) Let us now briefly consider the historical account of Nineveh to further understand Jehovah’s superlative quality of justice. Jehovah sends out Jonah to Nineveh to pronounce what appears to be an unconditional prophecy of condemnation and destruction.

Jonah 3:3-4: At that, Jo?nah got up and went to Nin?e·veh in accord with the word of Jehovah…Finally Jo?nah started to enter into the city the walking distance of one day, and he kept proclaiming and saying: “Only forty days more, and Nin?e·veh will be overthrown.”

Instead of turning a deaf ear or ridiculing Jonah, the people of Nineveh changed their attitude. They acknowledged their sinful ways and they repented.

Jonah 3:5-9: And the men of Nin?e·veh began to put faith in God, and they proceeded to proclaim a fast and to put on sackcloth, from the greatest one of them even to the least one of them.When the word reached the king of Nin?e·veh, then he rose up from his throne and put off his official garment from himself and covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the ashes.Furthermore, he had the cry made, and he had it said in Nin?e·veh, by the decree of the king and his great ones, saying: “No man and no domestic animal, no herd and no flock, should taste anything at all. None should take food. Even water they should not drink.And let them cover themselves with sackcloth, man and domestic animal; and let them call out to God with strength and come back, each one from his bad way and from the violence that was in their hands.Who is there knowing whether the true God may turn back and actually feel regret and turn back from his burning anger, so that we may not perish?”

How did Jehovah, the God of Justice respond?

Jonah 3:10: And the true God got to see their works, that they had turned back from their bad way; and so the true God felt regret over the calamity that he had spoken of causing to them; and he did not cause it.

What seemed to be an unconditional prophecy of condemnation and destruction was prevented from taking place by Jehovah because the Ninevites repented. Just as pagan Nineveh repented, the Canaanites could have also done so – unless they are too foregone spiritually and morally. They were not ignorant of the powerful evidence that Israel was God’s chosen people and instrument. The following Biblical accounts show how Jehovah made headlines in Canaan long before their time of execution. Thus, they had no excuse. In the words of Rahab:

Joshua 2:10-11: For we have heard how Jehovah dried up the waters of the Red Sea from before YOU when YOU came out of Egypt, and what YOU did to the two kings of the Am?or·ites who were on the other side of the Jordan, namely, Si?hon and Og, whom YOU devoted to destruction. When we got to hear it, then our hearts began to melt, and no spirit has arisen yet in anybody because of YOU, for Jehovah YOUR God is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

In the words of the Gibeonites:

Joshua 9:9: At this they said to him: “It is from a very distant land that your servants have come in regard to the name of Jehovah your God, because we have heard of his fame and of all that he did in Egypt.

With the exception of Rahab and her family and the cities of the Gibeonites, those who came in for destruction neither acknowledged Jehovah’s power nor sought his mercy or availed themselves of the opportunity to flee, but instead they chose to harden themselves in rebellion against Jehovah. We must always remember that Jehovah is not a vindictive God. The account of the Ninevites proves this truth. However, he has the responsibility to judge and control sin.

Centuries earlier, God had given the nations, including the Canaanites, ample supernatural evidence of his existence and power.

Exodus 15:13-16: You in your loving-kindness have led the people whom you have recovered; You in your strength will certainly conduct them to your holy abiding place. Peoples must hear, they will be agitated; Birth pangs must take hold on the inhabitants of Phi·lis?ti·a. At that time the sheiks of E?dom will indeed be disturbed; As for the despots of Mo?ab, trembling will take hold on them. All the inhabitants of Ca?naan will indeed be disheartened. Fright and dread will fall upon them. Because of the greatness of your arm they will be motionless like a stone, Until your people pass by, O Jehovah, Until the people whom you have produced pass by.

The above verses were written at the time of Israel’s miraculous deliverance from Egypt. This shows that the Canaanites would have been privy to the supernatural wonders that Jehovah was performing. Yet, instead of heeding these signs and repenting, they decided to remain obstinate in their unbelief. Thus, God was completely justified in demanding their complete annihilation in light of their willful disobedience and defiance. Those tribes were depraved beyond redemption. The Canaanite/Amorite shows up in archeology and historical literature as a uniquely evil and destructive civilization. Their accountability is further amplified due to the abundance of divine warnings, which they were confronted with and had access to. Even in comparison to other gentile nations who were not worshippers of Jehovah, the Canaanite/Amorite cultures showed themselves to be exceedingly immoral and violent. The result was a destructive and malignant force, which Jehovah had to deal with.

Take note, only the cities within the Promised Land were commanded to be annihilated without any offer of peace. This served to protect the chosen nation of Israel from becoming contaminated by them. The salvation and future of mankind rested in this tiny nation that God had chosen to birth the Messiah. This is very crucial because the means of salvation for the entire human race depends on the preservation of the sanctity of the nation of Israel. Jehovah knew that the Savior of mankind – the Son of the Most High – can only be born in a holy nation. Thus, when Jehovah destroyed the thousands in those absolutely immoral Canaanite nations, he was having in mind the billions who can be saved through the birth of his Son. What is deemed as acts of cruelty on the part of God are in fact great acts of love for the salvation of mankind. It is very similar to the actions of a caring surgeon who painstakingly remove the cancerous cells before it destroys the entire body. Sometimes an entire limb has to be removed. Can anyone accuse the surgeon of acting with cruelty? Love for the entire world of mankind moved Jehovah to act. He has to remove some to save the rest. There was never a time when God was only interested in the nation of Israel. His eternal purpose was to save and bless every tribe and nation. His loving purpose is to save mankind through the seed of Abraham.

Genesis 22:18: “And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.”

Thus, the central and foundational reason for the wars in the “Old Testament” is to ensure the preservation of the human race. Jehovah’s divine purpose to bless mankind and to ensure their preservation can only be accomplished through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All through the history of the Jews, God was at work paving the way for the coming of Messiah. For God’s purpose to succeed, it is extremely vital to keep the nation producing that seed from becoming corrupted. This was exactly what Jehovah purposed to do. For the eternal salvation of all mankind, he could not allow Israel to assimilate the identity of the pagan Canaanites.

Deuteronomy 20:16-18: It is only of the cities of these peoples that Jehovah your God is giving you as an inheritance that you must not preserve any breathing thing alive, because you should without fail devote them to destruction, the Hit?tites and the Am?or·ites, the Ca?naan·ites and the Per?iz·zites, the Hi?vites and the Jeb?u·sites, just as Jehovah your God has commanded you;in order that they may not teach YOU to do according to all their detestable things, which they have done to their gods, and YOU may indeed sin against Jehovah YOUR God.

Thus, the major justification for the commandment to completely annihilate the Canaanites is that it had become a necessity to do so to keep the nation of Israel pure for the arrival of the Messiah. Israel became the instrument of God’s justice. And it became the sword of the Lord.

Ecclesiastes 3:8: “There is a time for war”

Jehovah’s authorization of wars does not mean that he is violent in nature. On the contrary, his willingness to intervene and participate in human history – a history profoundly and irrevocably tainted by sin – shows his infinite love for humanity. His mercy is such that he does not even delight in the death of a sinner. However, as a God of Justice, he needs to act to ensure that the means for the accomplishment of the salvation of mankind is not compromised.

Ezekiel 18:23: “‘Do I take any delight at all in the death of someone wicked,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘and not in that he should turn back from his ways and actually keep living?’”

In the Mosaic Law, Jehovah repeatedly commands Israel to show concern for strangers and aliens in their midst since the Israelites themselves had been strangers in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:17-19: “For Jehovah YOUR God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the God great, mighty and fear-inspiring, who treats none with partiality nor accepts a bribe,executing judgment for the fatherless boy and the widow and loving the alien resident so as to give him bread and a mantle.YOU too must love the alien resident, for YOU became alien residents in the land of Egypt.”

Leviticus 19:34: The alien resident who resides as an alien with YOU should become to YOU like a native of YOURS; and you must love him as yourself, for YOU became alien residents in the land of Egypt. I am Jehovah YOUR God.

The inescapable fact concerning the nature of society is such that the actions of one member of a group inevitably affect the others for good or for evil. The decisions of a ruler have consequences for the citizens for good or for evil. The decisions of an army commander have consequences for his soldiers – for good or for evil. Likewise, the decisions of a parent have consequences for a child – for good or for evil. A good Biblical example to validate this point is the example of Rahab. Her actions saved both her life and the lives of those who came into her household

Joshua 6:23: And to the two men who had done the spying on the land, Joshua said: “Go into the house of the woman, the prostitute, and bring out of there the woman and all who belong to her, just as YOU have sworn to her.” So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Ra?hab and her father and her mother and her brothers and all who belonged to her, yes, all her family relationship they brought out; and they proceeded to set them down outside the camp of Israel.

Rahab’s decision worked for the good of others. The case of Rahab is truly edifying. Similarly, the Gibeonites who decided to act independently from the rest of the Canaanites saved not only their own lives but also the lives of their children.

Joshua 9: 1-6: And it came about that as soon as all the kings who were on the side of the Jordan in the mountainous region and in the Shephelah and along the whole coast of the Great Sea and in front of Lebanon, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, heard of it,they began to assemble themselves all together to make war against Joshua and Israel unanimously. And the inhabitants of Gib?e·on heard what Joshua had done to Jer?i·cho and A?i. So they, even of their own accord, acted with shrewdness and went and stocked themselves with provisions and took worn-out sacks for their asses, and wine skin-bottles worn out and burst and tied up, and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out garments upon themselves, and all the bread of their provisions proved to be dry and crumby. Then they went to Joshua at the camp at Gil?gal and said to him and the men of Israel: “It is from a distant land that we have come. And now conclude a covenant with us.”

In the case of parents, like the family-heads of the Gibeonites, who had the good sense to leave the territory that is marked for destruction, the children benefited. The threat of a foreign army would naturally prompt people at large to remove themselves from harm’s way. The noncombatants would be the first to flee. They would not just wait around to be killed.

Jeremiah 4:29: Because of the sound of the horsemen and bow shooters the entire city is running away. They have entered into the thickets, and into the rocks they have gone up. Every city is left, and there is no man dwelling in them.”

For those Canaanite parents who chose to stay and fight, their children paid with their lives. While a child’s dependence on his parents may result in his best interest, it may also turn out to be potentially harmful for the child, if his parents decides ona wrong or foolish course of action. The following verse will help us to see how a parent becomes responsible for the death of his children.

Ezekiel 33:6: ‘Now as regards the watchman, in case he sees the sword coming and he actually does not blow the horn and the people itself gets no warning at all and a sword comes and takes away from them soul, for its own error it itself must be taken away, but its blood I shall ask back from the hand of the watchman himself.

Take note of the principle in the above verse. Notice how this verse, in principle, implicates the father for the cause of the death of his children. If the father knew that it is safer to flee, then his failure to do so would have brought the blood of his children upon himself. It would have been as if it is he who killed his own children – regardless of who the actual executioner was. What this basically means is thata Canaanite father would have been actually responsible for the death of his family, by his continued aggressive actions towards the Israelites. Thus, the children became the victims of the crimes of the father. The father became the perpetrator.

Generation after generation of Canaanites not only continued in the same evil practices but also increased in their wickedness with the passing of time. What would it take for God to stop this cycle of evil? It would take more than the destruction of the older generation to stop this cycle of evil. If the Canaanite children were allowed to live and remain in the land, those older children could very well pick up again the practices of their parents. And in time, they would influence those among them who were too young to remember.

Of course, many would recoil at the command of God to utterly destroy the Canaanite children along with the rest of the population. The rationale for this command lies in the truth of an old proverb that says, “The apple does not fall far from the tree.” The children simply would have imitated the sin and character of their parents. In truth, if the women and children had been spared in those wickedly immoral Canaanite nations, it would not take long before a fresh crop of adults would emerge just like their pagan predecessors. The Canaanite children were rightly annihilated because of their great potential for imitating the sins of their parents.

In a society where moral corruption abounds, the corruption of the children can begin at a very early age. The older children who worshipped the immoral Canaanite god and goddesses along with their parents may continue in their pagan worship secretly. Living now in the midst of the Israelites, this would result in the defilement of the nation of Israel. God was very clear that he did not want the sons and daughters of the corrupted peoples to marry the sons and daughters of the Israelites to lead them astray through false worship.

Deuteronomy 7:3-4: And you must form no marriage alliance with them. Your daughter you must not give to his son, and his daughter you must not take for your son. For he will turn your son from following me, and they will certainly serve other gods.

Additionally, if the Israelites were to spare the children and allow them to live in their midst, this would be potentially dangerous for God’s chosen people. The older ones among them would remember that it was the Israelites who killed their parents. In all likelihood, they will grow up hating Jehovah who justly ordered the execution of their parents. And this can lead to repercussions. They will also recount the account of the executionto those among them who were too young to remember. Once they become strong and numerous they may not only attempt to avenge the death of their parents but they may also get in the way of true worship. Again, this would dangerously interfere with God’s purpose to bring salvation to mankind by means of the promised Seed.

The detestable evil of the Canaanite society, without a doubt, had also polluted the children. God could not have them grow up wanting to imitate their birth parents with whom they bonded. God, who knows the thoughts and intentions of humans, knew that if these children had been allowed to live they would certainly infect the Israelites with terrible iniquity. The Israelites had to be preserved both physically and spiritually because they were the very people from whom the Messiah would emerge. Let us also not forget about an earlier incident with the Canaanite city of Sodom. The sins of Sodom were not limited to sex among consenting adult homosexuals. The men of Sodom, both boys and old men, had wantedto rape the visitors. This shows that corruption can begin at a very early age.

Genesis 19:4-5: Before they could lie down, the men of the city, the men of Sod?om, surrounded the house, from boy to old man, all the people in one mob. And they kept calling out to Lot and saying to him: “Where are the men who came in to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have intercourse with them.”

In fact, the call for total destruction was to prevent any assimilation of pagan worship by the nation of Israel.God knew that if these children were allowed to live, it could very well spell the ruination of the nation of Israel. It was most sensible on the part of Jehovah not to take any chances, especially so when the salvation of the entire human race is at stake. It is also vital for us understand that there is nothing immoral about the Creator of life taking away life when he sees fit. He did it to save the lives of billions. One of the reasons some may find it difficult to comprehend God’s command to annihilate the Canaanites is that they do not take it seriously enough to see the threat they posed to God’s loving purpose for the whole world of mankind.

Jehovah will not break his own righteous laws

Deuteronomy 24:16: “Fathers should not be put to death on account of children, and children should not be put to death on account of fathers. Each one should be put to death for his own sin.”

We must never forget that Jehovah, who gave the above divine law to the nation of Israel, must have had a very valid reason for the actions he took against the children of the Canaanites. And the record shows that each new generation of children grew up to become exactly like their parents, if not worse. The cycle of evil had to be stopped somewhere. And Jehovah lovingly gave them more than four-hundred years to change.

As for the Canaanite women, they are not free from blame. Like the men, they too participated in immoral and degrading activities. Prostitution and adultery cannot be practiced without the participation of women. Deviant morality is not just the domain of men. Temple prostitution served to religiously justify adultery. The Canaanite gods themselves promoted adultery, bestiality, incest and a wide range of other debased activities that the devotees – both men and women – participated. These women may not be combatants but they are hardly innocent. Their lives would have been spared if they had displayed a similar spirit like that of Rahab.

These unrepentant Canaanite women rightly deserved the adverse judgment of Jehovah. Exempting these women – who are equally guilty as the men – from punishment would amount to a travesty of justice. Additionally, these women whose husbands were killed by the Israelites may seek vengeance in more subtle ways. It may lead to an even more severe repetition of an incident that took place long before the Israelites settled in the land of Canaan. Concerning this incident the following Biblical verses show how readily the Midianite women seduced the Israelite men and turned them away from serving Jehovah.

Numbers 25:1-2: Now Israel was dwelling in Shit?tim. Then the people started to have immoral relations with the daughters of Mo?ab. And the women came calling the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people began to eat and to bow down to their gods. So Israel attached itself to the Ba?al of Pe?or; and the anger of Jehovah began to blaze against Israel.

Numbers 25:9: And those who died from the scourge amounted to twenty-four thousand.

In spite of all the care that Jehovah took to protect the nation that was chosen to birth the Messiah, the Israelites still succumbed to the influence of the Canaanites. This was due to Israel’s failure in not carrying out Jehovah’s commandments to annihilate the Canaanites completely.

Jeremiah 7:30-31: For the sons of Judah have done what is bad in my eyes,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘They have set their disgusting things in the house upon which my name has been called, in order to defile it.And they have built the high places of To?pheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hin?nom, in order to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, a thing that I had not commanded and that had not come up into my heart.

We tremble at the thought of the outcome had Jehovah chosen a less drastic course of action. God’s strong action saved Israel from total ruination. At least, a sufficient measure of sanctity was retained by the nation of Israel to birth the Holy Son of God. Jesus’ birth cannot occur in a pagan nation any more than in a nation that becomes paganized – even if that nation happens to be Israel. Instead of questioning the judgments of our loving Creator, we should thank him fervently for acting the way that did.

There is absolutely no question that the wars in the Hebrew Scriptures were sanctioned as a means of gaining righteous ends. Jehovah, the God of tender mercies, did not glorify war. This is proven by the fact that even though King David fought in the wars that Jehovah had sanctified, he was still forbidden to build the temple of Jehovah because of the blood he had shed.

1 Chronicles 28:2-3: Then David the king rose to his feet and said: “Hear me, my brothers and my people. As for me, it was close to my heart to build a resting house for the ark of the covenant of Jehovah and as the footstool of our God, and I had made preparation to build. And the true God himself said to me, ‘You will not build a house to my name; for a man of wars you are, and blood you have spilled.’

Thus, war was looked upon as a harsh and terrible necessity in the hands of God for the restraint and punishment of unrepentant nations. It was to be avoided if possible, and it was never to be glorified. It must be repeated that Jehovah’s warfare was unique to Israel at a particular point in time and was not to be repeated in later history of God’s people. The truthfulness of this can be seen by the fact that after the arrival of the Messiah, the same directives are not enforced on the worshippers of Jehovah. In fact, Christians are commanded to do the very opposite. They are commanded to “love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them.”

No Christian should ever be influenced to believe that the God of the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament” are different. They are not. The same God who purified the land of Canaan through Joshua by military warfare is now purifying sincere ones out of the world of mankind through Jesus Christ by means of his shed blood. The following Biblical verses tell us in a comprehensive way why Jehovah had to eliminate the Canaanites.

1 John 4:8-10: He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love. By this the love of God was made manifest in our case, because God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him. The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.

For us to gain life, Jehovah had to act as he did. He loves us more than we can ever understand.

Romans 9:14: What shall we say, then? Is there injustice with God? Never may that become so!

Deuteronomy 32: 4: The Rock, perfect is his activity, For all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; Righteous and upright is he.

 Isaiah 55:9: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than YOUR ways, and my thoughts than YOUR thoughts.”

 Romans 11:33-34: O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are! For “who has come to know Jehovah’s mind, or who has become his counselor?”

 Psalms 33:5: He is a lover of righteousness and justice. With the loving-kindness of Jehovah the earth is filled.

We must never forget that we are truly blessed to worship such a loving God.


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