The Canaanite Genocide

GenocideOne of the challenges of reading the Old Testament is gaining an understanding of the Canaanite genocide. When the nation of Israel went into the Promised Land of Canaan, God commanded them to kill all of the people living there, including women and children. they were to show them no mercy

Most people see this as an expression of the judgment of God on these people for their pagan beliefs, practices (including child sacrifice), and sins.

A few questions surface:

  1. Is the God of the New Testament the same as the God of the Old Testament? Jesus came full of ‘grace and truth’. To the woman taken in adultery, he didn’t stone her, but showed her mercy, while telling her to “Go and sin no more”. Was God harsher in Old Covenant times?
  2. What about the love and mercy of God? Is this shown indiscriminately?
  3. Did these people have an opportunity to place their faith in God and be preserved from judgment OR were they destined to be punished this way?
  4. How do we reconcile this with Jesus’ teaching on ‘loving our enemies’, do good to all people, and to avoid violence? 

What do you think? Why not make a comment on this blog post and let me know. It will be interesting to see the conversation that develops.

For those wanting to delve into this controversial topic a little further, you might want to check out the book Show Them No Mercy, which presents four different views on this issue, along with debate between the views.

4 Replies to “The Canaanite Genocide”

  1. Hi Mark,
    I have not read the book, so I apologize if my opinion has actually be covered by the book.
    There were some extraordinary things happened in the 3 days between the death of Jesus and His resurection, and 1 Peter 3: 18-20 and Matthew: 27:52-53 provided a glimpse of it.
    While I don’t know the exact mechanism, I really believe that these 3 days are significant in God giving a chance for the souls who were born before Jesus were crucified (the old testament people) to accept Him as their saviour, hence saving them from eternal damnation, just like the new testament people. At the risk of being theologically incorrect, I want to say that Jesus might went down to Hades and preached the gospel to the dead. (I read Gospel of Nicodemus -which I treat only as a supplement and absolutely doesn’t hold the same weight as the other books in the Bible).
    To me, everything point to a God who is just, sovereign & loving.

  2. I believe that the God of the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old Testament. Also His word also tells us this (Heb 13). He showed mercy to Noah, Sarah, Lot, Daniel, Jacob..the list goes on. As for being harsh in Old verses New Testament…I dont’ think that anything could be as harsh as what Jesus endured for us.
    So many times the people of the (Old Test)had an opportunity to place their faith in God and be preserved from judgment, but instead they continued to “do it their way”; complaning about the conditions in the desert…etc
    We reconcile this with Jesus’ teaching on ‘loving our enemies’, do good to all people, and to avoid violence because that is what God has asked us to do and His word is trustworthy (Psalm..lots of places). He knows what is good for us, and loving people is what is good for us. When we love we aren’t bitter, we don’t hate and we forgive. Bitterness, hatred and unforgiveness affects our body and mind in a negative manner.
    Great questions 🙂

  3. Romans 8:7-8 says, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Ephesians 2:3 goes on to say that in our deadness we were “children of wrath.” That is, we were under God’s wrath because of the corruption of our hearts that made us as good as dead before God. God IS just to condemn all mankind except that….
    Jesus saves.
    How is God just to withhold judgment from sinners who deserve to be immediately cast into hell? The answer is that Christ’s death so clearly demonstrates God’s just abhorrence of sin that he is free to treat the world with mercy without compromising his righteousness.
    John 10:15, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” The sheep of Christ are those whom the Father draws to the Son. “You do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.” Let’s notice that being a sheep enables us to become a believer, not vice versa. So the sheep for whom Christ dies are the ones chosen by the Father to give to the Son. He has declared that “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy.” Romans 9:15-16.
    Ultimately, our God is Sovereign. Whatever the Lord pleases he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. And it should awaken us to stand in awe that God loves us. That He chose to love us. And even if we do not understand our circumstances like Habbakuk struggled to make sense of his, if we might reckon in our hearts and reply as the prophet did, then God will be glorified. We should humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and give Him the glory — all the glory — for our salvation. And let us never grow weary in savoring and strengthening and spreading the vision of our God, for “Great is the Lord beyond the walls of this church!”

  4. Hi Mark!
    Wonder what your thoughts are on the above post. It seems almost different from what we hear preached in church…
    Thanks in advance!
    kenleung

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