Richard Dawkins claims that God is a Cosmic Tyrant because He commanded the Israelites to kill the Canaanites. 1 Others argue that the God of the Old Testament is not the God of the New Testament.
While we discuss the issue it is important to keep a specific aspect of the Bible in mind. The Scriptures tell us to seek God. Why? Because, ‘God reveals Himself in His word, as He does in His works. In both we see a self-revealing, self-concealing God, who makes Himself known only to those who earnestly seek Him.’ 2 Let’s see how it applies to Jerusalem and the Jebusites:
# The Jerusalem case
We can summarise the conquest of Canaan as follows, ‘So Joshua subdued the whole region…. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed.’ 2 Yet when we carefully read the Scriptures, it didn’t happen that fast. For example,
- The king of the Jebusites joined Jabin (with other kings) and attacked the Israelite army. Joshua defeated them. The Israelites put Jerusalem to the sword and totally destroyed the people. 3
- So the king of Jerusalem was conquered. 4
- Despite the fact that the ‘whole region was subdued,’ the tribe of Judah still had to take in more than 109 towns and villages that were part of their inheritance. 5
- Later it says that Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem. 6 That is after the verse that said Jerusalem was conquered. 7
- Judges 1:8 tells us, ‘The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set in on fire.’ That was after it was conquered by Joshua and his men.
- However, many years later king David fought to conquer the Jebusites living in Jerusalem. 8
# The question is, how does that work?
Careful investigation gives the answer.
- The Canaanites knew that Joshua and his army were on their way. Joshua sent spies to inspect Jericho, the first city they conquered in Canaan. There Rahab hid the spies and told them, ‘I know that the Lord has given this land to you, and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.’
- The Canaanites also knew the history of how God helped his people, because Rahab recited the great acts of God when He delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. 8
- So it is logical that the Canaanite women, children and elderly fled before the victorious Israelite army. Later on they probably return to their city, rebuilt it if it was necessary, and lived there again.
- The text does not mention that all the towns and villages were destroyed and their inhabitants killed. It only mentions that some of the main cities were conquered.
- After the three main campaigns under Joshua, each individual tribe received its inheritance. From there it had to secure that inheritance for itself. Scripture explains, “After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, ‘Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?’” 9
When you read Scripture carefully, you will not jump to conclusions that are false. That is what Richard Dawkins fails to do. We, who love the Lord, need not follow his example.
- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Bantam Press, 2006, p 36
- J Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, Whitaker House, 1992, p 15. Joshua 10:40
- Joshua 11:12-13
- Joshua 12:10
- Joshua 15:20-62
- Joshua 15:63
- Joshua 11:12
- 2 Samuel 5:6-9
- Joshua 2:8-11
- Judges 1:1
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
David Klinghoffer of Evolution News and Science Today wrote an article about the discovery of human remains of ancient Canaanites. A study on their DNA revealed a startling overlap with the modern Lebanese. The media reported that scientific research disproves the Bible. The ancient Canaanites were not wiped out as the Bible suggests.
The reporters didn’t look into the Bible for themselves.
The Old Testament makes it clear that the Canaanites never disappeared. For example, in Judges 3:5-6, after the conquest of Canaan and the death of Joshua, ‘The Israelites lived among the Canaanites…. They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.’
The media reports were as follows:
“Study disproves the Bible’s suggestion that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out” (The Telegraph)
•“Bible says Canaanites were wiped out by Israelites but scientists just found their descendants living in Lebanon” (The Independent)
•“Bronze Age DNA disproves the Bible’s claim that the Canaanites were wiped out: Study says their genes live on in modern-day Lebanese people” (Daily Mail)
•“Scientists Find Evidence That Ancient Canaanites Survive Today: Was The Bible Wrong?” (Tech Times)
•“New DNA study casts doubt on Bible claim” (Mother Nature Network)
•“The Bible was WRONG: Civilisation God ordered to be KILLED still live and kicking” (Express)
•“Genetic evidence suggests the Canaanites weren’t destroyed after all” (Ars Technica)
•“Canaanites Weren’t Annihilated by Ancient Israelites After All” (Newser)
•“Study disproves the Bible’s claim that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out” (Click Lancashire)
•“Canaanites survived Biblical ‘slaughter’, ancient DNA shows”(ABC Online)
•“DNA vs the Bible: Israelites did not wipe out the Canaanites” (Cosmos)
•“The Bible got it wrong: Ancient Canaanites survived and their DNA lives in modern-day Lebanese” (Pulse Headlines)
These reports are another proof of the media’s bias against the Bible. Yet this DNA study once again proves the absolute accuracy of the Word of God.
David Klinghoffer, For Culturally Illiterate Science Reporters, Canaanite DNA Yields Occasion to Slap Bible Around, Evolution News and Science Today, July 29, 2017