5: Drive out, not Destroy
we have referred to this in the text, I believe it needs reiterating
to emphasise the point that destruction was God's second option while
driving out was His main option in respect of the inhabitants of Canaan.
people's worries about the Old Testament seem to focus on the apparent
instruction by God to Israel to wipe out the inhabitants of the land
of Canaan. These notes seek to clarify the truth about that. Be warned
there are a lot of references here to justify my comments.
angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites,
Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I
will wipe them out.
- Gods says He will destroy them
LORD your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great
confusion until they are destroyed. He will give their kings into
your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No
one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them
will destroy them
the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess
and drives out before you many nations--the Hittites, Girgashites,
Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations
larger and stronger than you-- and when the LORD your God has delivered
them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy
them totally . Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.
Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons
or take their daughters for your sons, or they will turn your sons
away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD's anger will
burn against you and will quickly destroy you. This is what you are
to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones,
cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. For
you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has
chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his
people, his treasured possession.”
- here the command to destroy the
inhabitants is reiterated
- it is clarified in that they are
to have not ongoing contact with them
are to clear away all signs of the pagan religions in Canaan.
must destroy all the peoples the LORD your God gives over
to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods,
for that will be a snare to you.
- Yet again the command and its reason
the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into
great confusion until they are destroyed. He will give their kings
into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven.
No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them
be assured today that the LORD your God is the one who goes across
ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them ;
he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out
and annihilate them quickly, as the LORD has promised you.
destruction is stated, it
is immediately followed in the remainder of the verse by a statement
of them driving the Canaanites out, which suggests that destruction
is a terminating of their existence in Canaan
as kingdoms rather
than as individual lives.
destroy them --the Hittites,
Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites--as the LORD
your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow
all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you
will sin against the LORD your God.
the reason for the destruction of the inhabitants who have refused
to leave the land is given – they will subvert Israel
! If the cancer (the Canaanites)
remains, you either destroy it or it destroys you.
LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy
these nations before you, and you will take possession of their
- Again it is arguable that ‘nations'
here refers to national entities ceasing to exist rather than
individuals being killed, although clearly individuals would die
if they resisted Israel's advance.
answered Joshua, "Your servants were clearly told how the LORD
your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land
and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we
feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this.
the occupants of the Land knew what would happen but it was only
the Gibeonites who took the option of making a peace treaty with
and so saved their lives.
waged war against all these kings for a long time. Except for the
Hivites living in Gibeon
not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took
them all in battle. For it was the LORD himself who hardened their
hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them
totally , exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD
had commanded Moses.
destruction took place where there was resistance, yet we are
reminded it was always possible to make peace with Israel
God's Purposes behind these Instructions
were to be a special people
who were to be a light to the rest of the world (as we saw in chapter
9) and so it was vital that they remain utterly distinct from the
present peoples of the land.
observed that God knows the human heart and so knows that despite
all He has done for Israel if they, for a moment, tolerate or allow
the pagan worship to continue, some of their own people will be subverted
by it and it will start to act like a cancer that will spread throughout
the nation so no longer will they be the people that can reveal God
to the rest of the world.
the primary objective needs to be made clear – that this idol worship
AND those who followed it, were
to be removed from the Land – driven out hopefully, or destroyed if
they refused to go and remained.
Driving out the Canaanites is God's main option
noted in the text a number of times where the Lord said that He would
drive out the Canaanites from the land. If they refused to succumb
to His strong intentions, then potential destruction is all that will
remain – but it was not the first option. Let's consider more fully
the many times (26 in all!) we are told of God's intention to drive
out the Canaanites:
I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites,
Canaanites and Hittites out of your way . But I will not
drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate
and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little
I will drive them out before you , until you have increased
enough to take possession of the land….. I will hand over to you the
people who live in the land and you will drive them out before
I will send an angel before you and drive out
the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
Obey what I command you today . I will drive out
before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites
will drive out
nations before you and enlarge your territory
- Note that all the Exodus references
were spoken at Sinai
not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the
nations that I am going to drive out before you
You must not live according to the customs of the nations I
am going to drive out before you.
- The Leviticus references are although
thought top have been spoken at Sinai although it is possible
that they were given later.
the plains of Moab
by the Jordan
across from Jericho
the LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them:
`When you cross the Jordan
drive out all the inhabitants of the land before
- The numbers references, we see,
are spoken 40 years later prior to entering the land, but they
are repeats of that spoken at Sinai.
you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land,
those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns
in your sides.
Begin to take possession of it and engage him in battle. This
very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all the
nations under heaven. They will hear reports of you and will tremble
and be in anguish because of you.”
- Fear was to be one of the main
weapons that would drive out the Canaanites
he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them,
he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength,
to drive out before you nations greater and stronger
than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your
inheritance, as it is today.
- Now in Deuteronomy, Moses reiterates
at the Lord's inspiring, all the instructions they had previously
received forty years ago –but which are still the same in intent
today as they prepare to go in and take the Land.
You may say to yourselves, "These nations are stronger
than we are. How can we drive them out ?" But
do not be afraid of them; remember well what the LORD your God did
to Pharaoh and to all Egypt
not be terrified by them, for the LORD your God, who is among you,
is a great and awesome God. The LORD your God will drive out
those nations before you, little by little.
But be assured today that the LORD your God is the one who
goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them;
he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out
and annihilate them quickly, as the LORD has promised you.
After the LORD your God has driven them out before
you, do not say to yourself, "The LORD has brought me here to
take possession of this land because of my righteousness." No,
it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD
is going to drive them out before you. It is not
because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going
in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness
of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out
before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob.
you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow--to
love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways and to hold fast to
him-- then the LORD will drive out all these nations
before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than
man will be able to stand against you. The LORD your God, as he promised
you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever
- Fear again shown to be one of
the main means that the |Lord would use to drive out the people.
who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these
detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out
those nations before you.
who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have
heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when
you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings
of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.
When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed
because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on
the earth below.
- This is Rahab's testimony about
the fear that is coming over the land.
is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he
will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites,
Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites.
- This is Joshua at the beginning
of the campaign.
When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said
to him, "You are very old, and there are still very large areas
of land to be taken over….This is how you will know that the living
God is among you and that he will certainly drive out
before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites,
Amorites and Jebusites.
- This is Joshua in old age when
the process of driving out the inhabitants is still under way
and is still the main intention of the Lord!
Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that
day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their
cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will
drive them out just as he said."
- This is now Caleb reiterating
However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected
the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out
- A long time into the campaign
still the main intention is clear – even if they are not fulfilling
it, they are certainly not killing the people!
But Joshua said to the house of Joseph--to Ephraim and Manasseh--"You
are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment
but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest
limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have iron chariots and
though they are strong, you can drive them out .”
- Yet again that main intention
is still there.
After a long time had passed and the LORD had given Israel
rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then old and well
advanced in years, summoned all Israel
elders, leaders, judges and officials--and said to them: "I am
old and well advanced in years. You yourselves have seen everything
the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it
was the LORD your God who fought for you. Remember how I have allotted
as an inheritance for your tribes all the land of the nations that
remain--the nations I conquered--between the Jordan
and the Great
in the west. The LORD your God himself will drive them out
of your way. He will push them out before
you, and you will take possession of their land, as the LORD your
God promised you.
- At the end of his life, Joshua
reiterates this intent which still stands!
you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations
that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate
with them, then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer
drive out these nations before you. Instead, they
will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns
in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD
your God has given you.
- A final warning from Joshua to
obey God and the intent is still there!
we have seen at least 26 references to the Canaanites BEING DRIVEN
OUT OF THE LAND
as against 10 times the idea of them being destroyed.
noted above, a case could perhaps be made that the total
destruction could refer to the destruction of the national kingdoms
or corporate entities. Individuals (and cities) would of course be
destroyed if there was resistance and refusal to leave the Land. That
was inevitable in war as it still is today.
means of them being cleared out is given as:
- the Lord Himself, Ex 34:11
- His angel, Ex 33:2
- His fear, Deut 2:24
, Num 33:52
way or another, God's intent was that the land
would be cleared of all signs
of idol worship and those who had worshipped there. Ideally that would
have involved repentance of those worshippers but the blindness that
accompanies occult activities makes that highly unrealistic. Thus
removal or destruction of the individuals remains the only realistic
understanding (see Josh 11:18
above) was that although it
WAS possible for individuals (e.g. Rahab) or groups (e.g. the Gibeonites)
to submit themselves to Israel, basically in the same way that God
had hardened further Pharaoh's already hard heart by confronting him
directly, so the same would happen here, with the outcome being the
judgment of God – destruction. BUT the ultimate choice is still that
of the individual who retains free will, as do all humans.
may see that the fact that God knows that many of these foolish inhabitants
will harden their hearts further and refuse to leave the land, means
that it is necessary for Him to legislate for this alternative in
the run up to the campaign. Yet, let us conclude with the constant
reminder that we need, that the instructions to drive out the inhabitants
outnumbers the instructions to destroy on a ratio of almost 3 to 1.