and the Canaanites
will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites,
Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites,
and Jebusites (Ex 33:2)
of Chapter 21
Recap: God as a Bringer of Justice
The Divine Strategy revealed: the Plan for Canaan
The Thinking behind the Strategy clarified: Canaan's State
An Aside: Taking Remedial Action
An Aside – Being Responsible
More on God's Responsibility
A Final Example: An alternative seen in the life of Rahab
This chapter should be read in conjunction with chapter 23 and sections
23.8 and 23.9 that deal more fully with the spiritual dimensions of
what took place in the invasion.
Recap: God as Bringer of Justice
just recap how we concluded the previous chapter:
is no doubt about it, and the Bible is quite clear about it, God DOES
sometimes bring death. Now in the light of all that we have seen we
need to ponder that carefully.
so far we have considered the Bible's claim that:
is loving and kind,
seeks to draw people back into a right way of living
how does it fit that God apparently instructed Israel to wipe out
the inhabitants of Canaan? To think this through carefully we need
to take time and effort, so we will slowly work through what the Bible
tells us to get a full and correct picture, which is different from
that which is popularly believed about this activity of Israel.
we are addressing the question that is often raised by sceptic and
believer alike, about how a loving God could order the apparent destruction
of a whole people in the land
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The Divine Strategy revealed
will see that God's plan is revealed at least 400 years earlier
and it involves dealing with the sin of Canaan and through that,
giving Israel the land. We need to see from the outset that
it is a long-term plan to stop excessive sin - but it may not
be what you have popularly believed!
plan for Canaan was long-term
work our way through what the Bible tells us happened.
Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your
descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they
will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish
the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out
with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace
and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants
will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached
its full measure."
is the Lord speaking to Abram in the land
many years before.
lays out the divine strategy which we see being fulfilled later
in Genesis and then in Exodus.
means that Abram's descendants, who are the future nation of Israel,
will return to this land.
there is an element of sin and future judgment mentioned; the Amorites,
one of the tribes in the land, are obviously set on a godless course
which will reach a peak of tolerance (by God) in about 400 years,
when He will have to take action against them.
are biblical instances of such an awful decline in human behaviour
which, if it were to continue, would bring utter downfall to mankind.
In such instances God steps in and removes the cancer to save the
whole body. There is that sense behind this.
So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians
and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land,
a land flowing with milk and honey--the home of the Canaanites, Hittites,
Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
is God's intent first declared to Moses some 400 years later.
isn't going to leave Israel
as slaves in Egypt
but He will deliver them from
that and give them another land that is at present occupied by a
number of other tribal groups.
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The Thinking behind the Strategy clarified
My 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. Do not bow down before their gods or worship
them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their
sacred stones to pieces.
intent is here reiterated more forcefully with a hint of the reasoning
following quote from Compton's Bible CD is worth noting:
how sinful many Canaanite religious practices were is now known
from archaeological artifacts and from their own epic literature,
discovered at Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit)
on the north Syrian coast beginning in 1929. Their "worship"
was polytheistic and included child sacrifice, idolatry, religious
prostitution and divination”
spiritual & moral state of Canaan was terrible
means they had many ‘gods',
sacrifice is something none of us would condone,
is bowing down to manmade idols,
prostitution was using sex for religious purposes,
was an occult practice to determine the future.
of these were at the best, foolish, superstition and definitely harmful,
and at the worst horrendous! A more realistic assessment of the inhabitants
of the land of Canaan at that time would be to suggest that to use
God's earlier words, the
sin of the Amorites has NOW reached its full measure, was
was now happening in this land was comparable to the evil we've noted
prior the the Flood, an evil that could no longer be tolerated. If
we were time travellers and dropped in on that land we would be revolted
by what was happening and would almost certainly say, "Why doesn't
God do something about this?"
Comparing the fearful superstitious, occultic lives of the inhabitants
to a living relationship with almighty, all-wise and benign God, who
we have seen in the first chapter described as,
and gracious …slow
to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,
maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion
it makes the religion
practised in this land before Israel arrived, not only primitive and
horrible, causing fear and extreme anguish, but also a thing far from
the Maker's design for mankind, and pure folly in comparison to the
possibility of a living relationship with the God described above.
this early description of what was to happen, God simply says that
He is going to wipe them out as nations occupying this land and the
reasons are given, just as we've seen above. We will see in what follows
that the destruction of the people was the second possibility on God's
heart, but a reality in the face of the intransigence of the people
of that land - as we will later see.
note in passing that when a nation falls into this 'subhuman' standard
(compared to the standard of the design for mankind by God) it does
include men, women and children - whole communities are involved (as
see in our own western nations today).
is going on in this land is a blot on the world landscape which,
if it is left, will spread and cause further harm. It will also
certainly stop Israel becoming the people God plans for them
to be. Observation of history shows that sin is contagious and
goes from bad to worse. Without the intervention of God it never
God's intervention, sin only gets worse
what we said in the previous chapter about God who takes disciplinary
action to bring people to their senses and back to the place where
they can be open to receive all His goodness so they live according
to His design.
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An Aside: Taking Remedial Action
are many instances in life where we have to take remedial action to
Gardening – a minor example
dandelions appear on my lawn, I know that if I don't dig them out
quickly they will grow, flower and turn to seed and cause dozens more
dandelion plants to spread across my lawn.
Homes – dry rot
there is a combination of dampness and spores, they can cause a fungus
that breaks down the wood and end up destroying the property. It needs
totally cutting out and the surrounding brickwork and plaster burnt
or sprayed to kill off any remaining spores.
there is a disruptive child, the teacher knows that his or her disruptive
behaviour must be stopped before it destroys the teaching environment.
If all remedial action failures, the head teacher may remove the child
from the class and even from the school.
a Housing estate
disruptive family can completely upset the lives of families on the
rest of the estate and cause vandalism, bullying and a whole host
of other antisocial behaviour. Eventually the only course of action
to save the estate may be the complete removal of this dysfunctional
is an obvious attack on the body which must be destroyed if the body
is to be saved.
a very obvious level, where there is criminal activity in a local
community, the majority of the residents want the police to catch
the thieves, vandals or whoever and remove them from the community.
have no problem with this concept. It is a very common one.
In the things above we have gone from the mundane to the critical.
For the greater good and wellbeing of others, action has to
be taken to remedy a threatening evil.
expect activity to remedy evil
is partly what justice is all about, and it is also about creating
and maintaining civilised societies.
fact, if our police do not do this in our local community we will
start complaining to higher authorities, because we expect this sort
of action to take place.
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An Aside – Being Responsible
let's change the focus of the analogies. Suppose you are responsible
in a situation involving other people. Let's consider some examples:
are a football coach
are responsible for a local team of young boys. One boy comes along
and joins the team but you soon realise he is a disruptive influence.
He makes rude comments about you behind your back, he encourages fouling,
he demeans other young players and generally he pulls down the morale
of the team. You need to take action. You may speak to him and to
the team, but if he refuses to listen to you, you will soon giving
him marching orders, for the sake of the team.
are an artist
have painted a lot of (good) paintings and you hold an exhibition.
During the time of the exhibition you encounter a mother and her son.
The son is drawing on some of your works of art with a pencil and
she is doing nothing about it. You challenge her – and him – and she
accuses you of lacking understanding. No she will not stop him. Although
you may wish him to learn about art, because of the intransigence
of them both, you eject them both! Moreover, we the watching public
are a member of the Government
hear that there is a group of extremists who are preaching racial
hatred. They are trying to stir up dissension against minority groups
and cause social breakdown. We, the rest of the public, are feeling
nervous. We can foresee where this is going and so we demand you take
action to outlaw and prevent this continuing.
are a parent
comes to your attention that your child is mixing with a small group
of children at school who are taking drugs, swearing, encouraging
bullying, and anarchistic behaviour, and have a general disregard
for authority. You have various options: remove your child from the
school or approach the head teacher with a request that they deal
with this rowdy and disruptive element. The last thing you want to
do is nothing, because you can see where this is leading and you want
to protect your child.
are a soldier
minority group of terrorists seek to take over another country. The
threat is that if they do take it over they will use it as a base
to train terrorists to attack the West. The United Nations get the
country to agree to receive help and you and your men are sent to
counter the terrorist threat. These local fighters (we call
them terrorists) will not retreat and in fact will do everything in
their power to remove our forces from that country in their efforts
to take over, subdue and transform the country to their ways of thinking.
A well-meaning pacifist says we shouldn't kill them. You explain that
under such circumstances they do not bargain, only kill, and to act
defensively means it is impossible for you to do your job without
killing them. The public accepts the position.
these situations there are a number of commonalities:
is something good to start with – a football team, works of art,
a diverse community, a good child, a peaceful country.
is a threat to that good thing.
is a requirement of action to be taken to protect that good thing.
action may require the complete removal of that threat – people!
each of these situations we accept that it is perfectly reasonable
to completely remove the threat if all else fails.
there is something very obvious here: to accept what we've just suggested,
we have to understand:
‘good thing' there to start with, and
genuineness of the threat and
consequences of failing to deal radically with it.
if we can see that in the simple illustrations above, why is it that
we fail to see it in respect of God, Israel and Canaan? So, taking
the above we have:
‘good thing' there to start with (God's world and the goodness in
genuineness of the threat (the rampant sin within Canaan)
consequences of failing to deal radically (strong action to remove
it before it spreads further)
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More on Responsibility
we come back to the history, we need also to face a crucial
fact that almost all critics fail to observe. Most people
never take note that God's initial
intention is that the inhabitants of Canaan will flee the land
and leave their pagan superstitions
design was for Canaan to flee
will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation
you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs
and run. 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.
method of dealing with the threat is thus explained.
that first of all it is to make these peoples run!
will be a gradual thing but, nevertheless, the
objective is to make them leave!
will be achieved by God simply speaking into the hearts and minds
of the occupants of the land to make them fearful so they go.
they heed this, that is the end of the story.
they dig in and harden their hearts, that will be a different story!
"I will send an angel before you and drive out
the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites."
method involves getting them out of the land.
is reiterated. It is quite clear, this is God's intent.
critics realise this.
is a similar argument to that about hell. People say how can God
consign people to hell? He doesn't; they choose it. It is an act
of their will! There is no need to go.
aside: The illustration of Anorexia
Nervosa is simply described as a disorder which is characterized by
loss of appetite. I offer a healthy person a beautiful meal. It has
variety and is beautifully prepared. They receive it and eat gladly.
But now I invite along a person who (I didn't know) has Anorexia.
They see the food and shudder and flee. Does the world blame me for
providing beautiful food? No! The world recognises that this person
has a serious eating disorder – they are ill! A healthy person receives
the good offered them; the other person violently rejects it.
terms of spiritual realities, this is just the same. God offers us
the wonder of being restored to an amazing relationship with Him,
entering into the fullness of the design of who I am created to be,
with self-worth and self-fulfilment. If I reject the wonder of that,
it is because I am ill – contaminated by sin, that sickness we have
all inherited, that makes people reject God and be utterly self-centred.
I was a Canaanite, the symptoms of this sickness called sin, manifests
itself in an acceptance of superstitious, idolatrous, fear-filled,
occultic religion that even requires me to sacrifice my children to
appease the ‘gods'. Even more it manifests itself in a hardheartedness
that is seen in most as a refusal to take notice of the ‘fear warnings'
that God is sending me, designed to make me leave the land and then
watch the life of Israel and wonder (as the Queen of Sheba eventually
did). I could stop and pause and think and wonder about the people
called Israel and the God who seems to be with them - but mostly I
observed God's initial intent, which is to drive the Canaanites out
of the land, there is one aspect that we need to bring out. Observe
to 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.
because it IS important, that the Canaanites knew what God had been
doing through Israel,
the word HAD spread so they DID know what to expect!
continue to observe the ongoing accounts in the run-up to the invasion:
will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites,
Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Be careful not to make
a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they
will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred
stones and cut down their Asherah poles.
and method are reiterated with purpose implied within the warning.
it is again, God's clear intent -
to drive out (not kill!) the inhabitants.
comes with the start of a warning about why this is happening –
and it is to do with the religious practices of the Canaanites that
we noted earlier mention in Exodus 23.
not go up, because the LORD is not with you. You will be defeated
by your enemies, for the Amalekites and Canaanites will face you there.
Because you have turned away from the LORD, he will not be with you
and you will fall by the sword
refused to go into the land and so God warned against them changing
they did, the Canaanites would defeat them. This happened.
another forty years passed before Israel
attempted to take the land,
another forty years for the Canaanite worship to get worse and become
even more ingrained in their hard hearts.
When 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
carefully, collectively the occupants were much bigger and stronger
God's intent is to drive them out.
who remain will be defeated and destroyed because they clearly will
be determined to hang on to the land and to their practices and
will seek to subvert Israel.
clearly had a pagan worship focused on Baal which they wanted to
hold on to.
were to be a special people
who were to be a light to the rest of the world (as we saw in a
previous chapter) and so it was vital that they not be subverted
to pagan religions. (This is critical to God's plan for the world!)
knows the human heart and so knows that despite all He has done
for Israel if they, for a moment, tolerate or allow this 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 (as we saw in an earlier chapter).
instructions are now given in Deuteronomy which was written by Moses
shortly before he died and before Israel
were to go into the land.
warnings are specifically strong because failure to heed them will
mean the potential end of ‘the Israel
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
the reason for the destruction of the inhabitants who have refused
to leave the land is given – they will subvert Israel!
the cancer (the Canaanites) remains, you either destroy it or it
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.
original intention that the inhabitants are to be driven out is
now by Joshua as they go into the Land.
destruction of the remaining inhabitants is secondary – it is necessary
if they refuse to leave, and if they refuse to leave that will simply
be a further sign of the hardness of their hearts and their determination
to prevail over Israel.
future of Israel
is at risk, and the salvation of the world that God has
planned to bring through them.
when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things--those
in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire
coast of the Great Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites,
Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites)-- they came
together to make war against Joshua and Israel.
‘these things' were simply Israel
entering the land and declaring
the word of God.
inhabitants were taking no chances and so they now initiate the
's actions became a defensive
thing. There was no room to make treaties.
not exactly true, for immediately following these two verses we
have the account of the Gibeonites who came and brought about a
treaty with Israel
for them to work within the nation and live!
commented at the beginning of a previous chapter that one of the biggest
responses to my apologetics blog is about why God allowed or even
commanded Israel to kill the inhabitants of Canaan, men, women and
children. My usual answer to this is that, in fact:
occupants of Canaan had three options:
To join Israel
– as the Gibeonites
did (see Joshua 9)
To flee the land – as some
of them no doubt did
To stay and fight Israel
– where the outcome
was not guaranteed – some lived and remained.
this chapter, we have seen just how this is true. We have sought to
the Land was God's first objective for the Canaanites,
them leaving or making treaties with Israel,
fighting was the only outcome left to them – but it was their choice.
the thought of driving out the inhabitants (rather than destroying
them) was there in the memory of Israel for years later we find king
David praying and saying,
who is like your people Israel--the one nation on earth that God went
out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself,
and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out
nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed
cannot emphasise enough, God's intent was not to destroy the inhabitants
but to drive them out of the land. Their stubbornness, no doubt enhanced
by their occult activity, was the only thing that meant deaths occurred
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nature of Israel's approach to Canaan and the Lord putting fear in
the hearts of the inhabitants, meant that God was doing all He could
to give the inhabitants an opportunity to turn towards Him and become
part of His plan to bring blessing to the earth.
more clearly is this seen than in the incident involving Rahab, an
occupant of the land living in the city of Jericho
Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. "Go,
look over the land," he said, "especially Jericho."
So they went and entered the house of a prostitute (or
possibly an innkeeper) named Rahab and
harbours these spies and sees them out safely and eventually, when
is taken, she becomes part of Israel
and eventually marries Salmon,
an Israelite, and becomes part of the Messianic family line (see
at the beginning of the book of Joshua we see that it was perfectly
possible to join with Israel
as they entered the Promised
Land. By doing that, Rahab joined the divine plan and lived, not only
then but into history – she is praised in the New Testament! She didn't
resist the plan of God but entered into being part of the restored
people of God.
taking the Promised Land from the Canaanites had the twofold purpose
- being an act of justice destroying
the terrible things happening in Canaan before Israel arrived, and
- providing a new homeland for Israel.
in the process some of the inhabitants wanted to become part of that
chosen people, that acted as a means of absolving them from the act
of judgment that was coming on the land in the implementation of justice.
Rahab and the Gibeonites are clear examples of that.
we come to the end of this chapter, where we have seen what happened
IN Canaan and what happened when Joshua sent in spies, we perhaps
ought to pick up on something else that is very relevant to the foolish
claim that God just likes killing people.
people these orders: `You are about to pass through the territory
of your brothers the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir.'”
They will be afraid of you, but be
very careful. Do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you
any of their land, not even enough to put your foot on. I have given
Esau the hill country of Seir as his own. You are to pay them in silver
for the food you eat and the water you drink.'
..... “So we went on past our brothers the descendants of Esau, who
live in Seir. We turned from the Arabah road, which comes up from
Elath and Ezion Geber, and travelled along the desert road of Moab.
LORD said to me, "Do not harass the Moabites or provoke them
to war, for I will not give you any part of their land. I have given
Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.” ..... “When
you come to the Ammonites, do not harass them or provoke them to war,
for I will not give you possession of any land belonging to the Ammonites.
I have given it as a possession to the descendants of Lot ."
three times the Lord had instructed them to pass through lands without
attacking the peoples there. Israel were NOT on a ‘kill anyone in
sight” campaign! God was NOT bringing judgment on these three people
groups and so Israel had passed through these countries without upset.
Even more than that, they were to respect these peoples and pay for
the food they took along the way. There are strict guidelines given
to Israel to respect and honour these people. Killing other peoples
is not just something to be done!
we may go further, for along the way they would receive opposition:
From the desert of Kedemoth I sent messengers to Sihon king of Heshbon
offering peace and saying, "Let
us pass through your country. We will stay on the main road; we will
not turn aside to the right or to the left. Sell us food to eat and
water to drink for their price in silver. Only let us pass through
on foot- as the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir, and the Moabites,
who live in Ar, did for us--until we cross the Jordan into the land
the LORD our God is giving us. But
Sihon king of Heshbon refused to let us pass through. For the LORD
your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order
to give him into your hands, as he has now done.”
Moses had made a very reasonable approach to king Sihon – they would
restrict themselves to the main road, and they would pay for food
and drink and pass through without causing any trouble, just like
they had done with the previous nations. But that was of no avail:
Now we don't know the history of Sihon and the Lord, but
when we compare this with the story of Pharaoh in Exodus 1-12, it
was actually that the king already had a hard heart and the Lord simply
hardened it further by confronting him. So Sihon refuses to let Moses
through and even more, “Sihon and
all his army came out to meet us in battle at Jahaz.” (v.32)
The result was as the Lord had declared: “the
LORD our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together
with his sons and his whole army.” (v.33) - yet this was
a purely defensive action but it shows the strong hostility that often
rose against them and it was a case of fight or be destroyed.
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let's make some final points here:
God is Creator and knows best how the world works.
Although, because of the Fall, mankind has rebelled against Him, God
still works to bring people back to Himself and gives opportunity
after opportunity to allow that to happen. His desire is for people
to live according to His design – which included being in relationship