In a previous blog, ‘God, Atheists and Fatherhood,’ we discussed God’s command to the Israelites to annihilate the peoples of Canaan, ‘…in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them – the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites….’ 1
It sounds terribly cruel, but did the Israelites obey the command? According to Scripture they did, ‘These are the kings of the land that Joshua and the Israelites conquered on the west side of the Jordan …the lands of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.’ 2
However, at the end of Joshua’s life, God told him, ‘You are very old, and there is still very large areas of land to be taken over.’ 3 In other words, though they did capture some territory, they did not take in all of the land.
It was left to the individual tribes to clear up their allotted places. They failed: ‘But Manasseh…. Ephraim…. Zebulun….Asher….. Naphtali, or the Danites …did not drive the Canaanites out.’ 4 Please take note that the Canaanites and Hivites were among the nations that had to be destroyed, but the following were not, ‘…the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath.’ 5
Thus, while the enemies of God cry foul and say God is terrible, Scripture gives the true picture. God told the Israelites to get rid of the Canaanites. Christians will do well to study these passages carefully to be able to refute lies about God.
As an aside, it is interesting how God used the whole situation, ‘These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (He did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who did not have previous battle experience)….’ 6 God has the ability to turn bad into good.
For believers, the message is profound. Like the Israelites in the Old Testament, God commands us to conquer and totally annihilate any enemies that will prevent us from inheriting our promised land, the new heavens and earth. At present we live in enemy territory, because the devil and his demons rule the world. Our enemies are not people, but the bad influences of the devil, like hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, selfish ambitions, et cetera.7
We battle against the evil influences in the Name of Jesus. If we do not manage to drive them out of our own lives, our descendants ‘inherit’ them. Let us do our best to overcome these enemy influences with the help and leading of the Holy Spirit and leave our children in a better position to serve and love God.
- Deuteronomy 20:16
- Joshua 12:7-24
- Joshua 13:1
- Judges 2:27,29,30,21,33, 34
- Judges 3:3
- Judges 3:1-3
- Galatians 5:19-21