In the former blog we wrote that the Old Testament is necessary to build our faith in God (‘Why the Old Testament is necessary for faith’). The problem is that some people object. They deride the God of the Old Testament as a cruel, vindictive, tyrannical and murderous God. So the question is how to reconcile that aspect of God as part of God’s faithfulness?
The accusations against God mainly revolve around His commands about the Canaanites. Deuteronomy 7:1-2 says, ‘…and when God has delivered them [the Canaanites] over to you, and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally.’
The first issue is whether God hated the Gentiles (the Canaanites were Gentiles)?
# God did not hate the non Jewish people (Gentiles).
In the following examples in the Bible, God sent ‘missionaries’ to Gentile nations because He cares:
- He sent Joseph to Egypt, where he became second in command below Pharaoh. Joseph loved the Lord. It is virtually impossible that his faith escaped the Egyptians.
- Daniel was an exile in Babylon where he rose to a very high position. He was one of king Nebuchadnezzar’s trusted advisors. The king said to Daniel after he interpreted the king’s dream, ‘Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries.’ 1
- On a later occasion, with Daniel’s three friends 2 and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a tree, 3 the king said about the miraculous God, ‘How great are His signs, how mighty His wonders! His Kingdom is an eternal Kingdom; His dominion endures from generation to generation.’ 4
- God sent Jonah, the prophet, to Nineveh to tell them that God will destroy them if they don’t turn away from their sin. Jonah refused and fled, but via a big fish that swallowed him, God directed him back to Nineveh. The people listened and there was a great revival. God cares for Gentiles.
- Naaman was the commander of the army of Aram. He was a valiant man but had leprosy. A young Israelite girl whom they captured, told him about the prophet who could cure him of his disease. He travelled to Israel and was cured. Naaman exclaimed, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.’ 5 Logically he probably told his people and his king that he was healed by the God of Israel.
God never hated the Gentiles or excluded them from His grace and mercy. The miracle of the New Testament message is that God will, through Jesus, create one new people out of Jews and Gentiles. If so, then the obvious question, why destroy the Canaanites?
# Why did God want the Canaanites destroyed?
- God promised Canaan to Abraham and his descendants, but He allowed the Canaanites 400 years to repent of their immorality, child sacrifice and idolatry. They didn’t. 6
- God will always protect His people. When the Amalekites attacked the Israelites on their way out of Egypt, God promised retribution. 7
- God’s first command was that His covenant people would worship Him only. The Canaanites were not examples of moral living, ‘These Canaanite cults were utterly immoral, decadent, and corrupt, dangerously contaminating .…’ 8
- God promised blessings upon the Israelites if they obeyed Him9 and curses if they disobeyed Him. 10 The Israelites agreed to the Covenant. They knew the decrees of God very well.
- The problem is that sin is, simply said, delicious. To serve the Canaanite gods had some very attractive alternatives, like immorality, debauchery, et cetera.
- God wanted to protect His people from the love for other gods that would cause them to reap the curses they agreed to in the Covenant. God acts like a Father who cares for His children and warns them of possible dangers.
- Also, we have an examples of the destruction of godless societies all through history. Nations are given a chance to mend their ways, and if they don’t, they are replaced. For example, the mighty Roman empire later crumbled under its own unrighteousness.
- Daniel 2:47
- Daniel 3:1-30
- Daniel 4:1-37
- Daniel 4:3
- 2 Kings 5:15
- Genesis 15:15, 18-21
- Exodus 17:8-16
- M F Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, Chicago, 1988 revised edition, p 203
- Deuteronomy 28:1-14
- Deuteronomy 28:15-68