Pages 6-7: WINTER 1993
Reprinted from The Firm Foundation....
WAS IT MORALLY RIGHT FOR GOD TO ORDER THE KILLING OF THE CANAANITES?
The Bible teaches that God never does anything wrong. God is never out
of control but always does things consistent with his holy and just nature.
"Now therefore let the fear of Jehovah be upon you, take heed and do it: for
there is no iniquity with Jehovah our God, nor respect of persons, nor
taking of bribes" (2 Chron. 19:7). There must be good explanation when God
orders the death of people, some of them women and innocent children.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANAANITES
Those who question the ethics of God concerning the destruction of the
Canaanites, or any other judicial decision made by God, fail to take into
account six things:
1. They ignore the reason given for the destruction of wicked people,
"that they teach you not to do after their abominations which they have done
unto their sons" (Dt. 20:18).
2. The only way a person can accuse God of wrong is to be equal with
God. No mortal can make the same judgments God makes because he does not
have God's view of things or his knowledge.
3. The Canaanites were grossly immoral. The justice of God demands
punishment for sin. "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). God must show
his righteousness in punishing the wicked or violate his own nature (Rom.
4. A person would have to be omniscient to know that what happened to
the innocent children of guilty parents was not the best thing that could have
happened. The alternative here may be to grow to adulthood and become
malignant blights in the society of men like their parents.
5. Punishment here may be in recognition of what the Canaanites had
earned. When it became clear they were past redemption, their destruction
6. Punishment was deserved by the Canaanites, whereas it was not in
the case of the Holocaust--which was only a vendetta by Hitler and the Nazis
against the Jews.
It was dedication to continual wickedness that marked the Canaanites for
extermination. The scriptures uphold the justice and righteousness of God
even in his command to eradicate the Canaanites.
Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine
heart, dost thou go to possess their land; but for the wickedness
of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from
before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord
sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Dt. 9:5).
God's call for Israel to destroy "the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite,
and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite" was not traced to the Jews'
moral superiority or their number, but to fulfill his promise to Abraham and
his seed. God was preserving a lineage through which the Messiah would
come and all nations be blessed.
There had been a patient waiting from Abraham's time for the sin of the
Amorites to reach its full measure. "But in the fifth generation they shall
come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full" (Gen.
The Canaanites were singled out for severe treatment to prevent Israel
and the rest of the world from being corrupted. "Of the cities of these
peoples... thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth... that they teach you
not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods;
so would ye sin against Jehovah your God" (Dt. 20:16-18). When people
burn their children in honor of false gods, practice sodomy, bestiality, and
all forms of wickedness, the land itself begins to vomit them out (Lev. 18:25-
30). The modern world would do well to heed the warning (Rom. 8:22).
Objection to the fate of these nations is really an objection to the highest
manifestation of the goodness of God. Greene likens this action on God's
part, not to doing evil that good may come, but doing good in spite of cer-
tain evil consequences, just as a surgeon does not refrain from amputating a
gangrenous limb, even though in so doing he cannot help cutting off healthy
A husband agrees to abort a tubular pregnancy. The purpose of the
abortion is not to take the life of the child, but to save the life of the moth-
er; besides the child could not survive in any case.
The doctor knows that in destroying cancer cells healthy cells will be de-
stroyed. His purpose is not to kill good cells but bad ones; yet in trying to
save the person from the spread of cancer, good is destroyed, but it could
not have survived regardless.
At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and con-
cerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to de-
stroy it: If that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn
from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do
unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation
and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it: If it do evil
in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the
good wherewith I said I would benefit them (Jer. 18:7-10).
Canaan had a forty-year countdown. They heard of the events in Egypt,
the crossing of the Red Sea, and what happened to the kings who opposed
Israel along the way. We know they were aware of such events, for Rahab
confessed that these same events had terrorized Jericho and that she, as a
result, had placed her faith in the God of the Hebrews (Josh. 2:10-14).
The destruction of the Canaanites was based on the same principle by
which the whole world was judged in the universal flood and that by which
the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were judged. Usually those who object to
these events are those who deny compatibility of the doctrine of eternal
destruction with the mercy and love of God. God's character and the acts he
requires are fully consistent with everything that both Testaments teach us to
expect in our God. The problem usually centers in a deficiency in our view
of things and our inability to properly grasp the whole of the subject.
(Clarence Lavender's address is P. O. Box 306, Christianburg, VA
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