"Judgments of a Loving God" - Chapter 20





Chapter 20: The Struggle for Canaan (2) The Complexities




Chapter 20 Contents

20.1 How God will drive them out

20.2 God's Reasons for these Instructions

20.3 Taking Possession Gradually

20.4 The Hardening of the Canaanites

20.5 The Critical Nature of this Action

20.6 An Alternative Option

20.7 Incomplete Expulsion

20.8 The Miraculous Dimensions of the Taking of the Land

20.9 Some Conclusions




In the previous chapter 19 we considered

  • The Origins and Background to this judgment
  • How each of the early books of the Bible refer to the judgment
  • What actually took place
  • How Israel 's activity immediately before entering the Land contributed to it
  • Whether Gods Instructions were to Drive Out or Destroy or both


Now in this chapter we will go on to consider

  •  How God said He would drive them out
  •  His Reasons for wanting them out
  •  How it was only possible gradually
  •  How the hearts of the Canaanites were hardened to resist
  •  An alternative to fleeing or fighting
  •  How in reality it was an Incomplete Expulsion
  •  The miraculous dimensions of the taking of the Land

20.1   How God will drive them out


Proposition: God's primary weapon to drive out the Canaanites was to be fear


The Initial Declaration

The picture is very specific: He will attempt to use fear to drive out the occupants.


Ex 23:27-30 “I 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.”


How the Advance from the east prepared the way

Deut 2:24,25   “Set out now and cross the Arnon Gorge. See, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his country. 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.”

  • We first hear of this fear in action as Israel move up the east side of the Dead Sea and the Lord speaks to them: Nevertheless Sihon fought against them. As he speaks about what is coming, Moses reiterates this to the people on the plains:


Deut 11:25   “No 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 you go.”


The Effects of that Advance


  • It is clear that fear arising from Israel 's reputation would proceed them. This is seen in the book of Joshua:

Josh 2:11   “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.”

  •   The innkeeper/prostitute Rahab testifies to the spies about their reputation.


Josh 5:1  “ Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the LORD had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.

  •  The news spread across the area bringing fear with it.


Josh 9:24   “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 Gibeonites also explain it to Joshua.
  •   In the event, the hold of the occult within the people in the Land meant that many of them stayed there to be confronted by Israel (which we'll consider in Part 20.4)
  •   When you consider how Israel had dealt with other nations before crossing into the Promised Land (and that was clearly reported across the whole area), the decision to stay and fight as little people groups against this large, experienced fighting force, was almost irrational.
  •   However, the reality clearly is that God's intent was first and foremost that the people of the Land should flee the land as Israel came in.


What is the hornet?

There are three references to God sending a ‘hornet' ahead of His people as follows: 


Ex 23:28 I will send the hornet ahead of you

Dt 7:20 Moreover, the LORD your God will send the hornet

Jos 24:12 I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out


Commentators suggest that the meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain. but commentators suggest the following possibilities:

  •  "The hornet" may refer to the reports about Israel that spread panic among the Canaanites (see above).
  •  The hornet may refer to the work of His Holy Spirit, speaking into the minds of the Canaanites, stirring up their fear.
  •   Because there was so much occult activity in the land, the ‘hornet' may be Satan being used by God to create fear in people.



20.2 God's Reasons for these Instructions


Proposition: As with any other judgment we have to examine the reasoning behind the judgment: here, the sins of the Canaanites.


The Sins of the Canaanites


We need to clearly understand just WHY God has planned for Israel to take this land. It started back, as we saw above, in Abram's time:


Gen 15:16  In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.

  •   The name Amorites appears to have been used to cover all the inhabitants of the land.
  •   As one dictionary says of the state of Canaan 400 years later,
    • “Just how sinful many Canaanite religious practices were is now known from archaeological artefacts 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.”
  •   They had seriously strayed from God's design for human beings!
  •   Although not stated, we can assume that accompanying these things would also have been superstitious fear in large measure, a far cry from God's desire to bless His world with goodness, love and peace.


In Leviticus it is put slightly differently. See first the list of things the Lord spoke against that were part of the life of Canaan, things contrary to His design for mankind:

Lev 18:21-23

•  “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.

•  Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

•  Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.”

  •   Included in those things were child sacrifice, homosexual practice and bestiality .
  •   Note the Lord uses such words as profane, detestable, defile and perversion to describe these things.


The Effects of those Sins


He then describes the effects of these things:


Lev 18:24,25   Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.

  •   Defile' means to make filthy or dirty, to pollute or make unclean, to spoil and to corrupt.
  •   It is all about changing God's good creation and making it less than it should be and that can apply to people or land.
  •   The words “in any of these ways” refers to the things in verses 21-23 immediately above and are the things that the inhabitants of Canaan are doing.

 A little later on in Leviticus in the midst of the teaching, we find the following:

Lev 20:22,23   “Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them.”

  •   The first reason for the Lord's actions is clearly an act of judgment to remove and stop a culture that ran entirely counter to God's design for humanity and which, if left, could spread.
  •   These verses also provide as a link to the second reason – to provide a home for a new holy nation, a nation which would reveal Him to the rest of the world.
  •   After instructing them what to do with the land, the Lord, in Deuteronomy, declares through Moses, “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.” (Deut 7:1-6)

However, they are always to keep it in perspective:


Deut 9:4 “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. Understand, then,

•  that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

  •   Note that twice the Lord chides Israel for thinking that they have been chosen for their righteousness, for they are clearly not (see all the previous judgments involving their failures).
  •   That gives Him reason to twice speak of the wickedness existing in the Land at the present time.
  •   Yes, they will be a holy nation revealing Him but the primary reason for this action is judgment on these people who have strayed so far from God's design and who, if left, may spread to other nations.
  •   There is no alternative to stop the earth being polluted. It is a surgical operation.


We can see, from studying all that went on, that there were, in fact, three possibilities for the inhabitants of Canaan – but the choice was theirs:

  •   They could leave the land and resettle elsewhere,
  •   they could change and become part of Israel (as did happen with one group) or
  •   they could stay and resist Israel and suffer the consequences of war.
           We repeat, the choice was theirs!



20.3 Taking Possession Gradually


Proposition: The reality of taking the Land was that it would have to be done slowly, and four reasons are given.


There is a conundrum in all of this. On one side we will see there is the instruction to take the Land, and take it completely, while on the other side we will see there is this warning that they will only take the land gradually and four reasons are given why this is so:


Four Reasons

Having seen the Lord's declaration that HE will drive out the occupants of the land, we now need to see the other side of this coin, the instruction to Israel to go in and take possession of it. Within all this we will see that four reasons are given for a slow taking of the Land. Theoretically we might suppose that the land would be empty because the people had fled before the fear of the Lord but there are reasons why that would be neither practical nor wise.


(i) To build up power

Ex 23:27-30   “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.”

  •   The first reason for a slow takeover is very simply that they will not be strong enough to do it quickly, or big enough to spread over all of it.


ii) To keep down wild beasts


  •   Moses makes this clear when he speaks to the nation before they go to enter the land: “The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.” (Deut 7:22)
  •   This is echoed in the Ex 23 verses immediately above – ‘wild animals too numerous…'
  •   History shows that wild animals multiplying in lands not occupied can be a very real problem. If Israel cleared the Land very rapidly, until they themselves multiplied in numbers, this could become a very real difficulty.


iii & iv) To teach and to test


  •   Two supplementary reasons are given in Judges 2:20-3:4, that the Lord will leave some of the occupants to continually teach Israel to fight and the test them to see if they were continuing to obey Him.
  •   These come when Israel are clearly not getting on with the job! They are, nevertheless, reasons that the Lord accepted a slower if not incomplete taking of the Land.



20.4 The Hardening of the Canaanites?


Proposition: The Lord has hardened the hearts of the Canaanites for destruction and we need to see how this works.


To be as comprehensive as possible in our understanding of what went on and why, we need to note a number of other elements of the whole thing. The first of these is the Hardening of the Hearts of the Canaanites.


We must not lose sight of the basics of this judgment:


Reminder of Judgment and Reasons for it

These need to be set in the context of the things we have already seen at some length:

  • The occultic, pagan, superstitious practices of Canaan
  • The Lord's desire to clear the land of this
  • His recognition that this could not be done quickly
  • His will revealed many times – that He and Israel would work together to drive out the inhabitants, a cleaning up process rather than an act of purposeful genocide. It is not so much to wipe out a people as their culture of paganism.
  • For that reason Israel are not

    1) to make peace treaties with them,

    2) feel good towards them and

    3) intermarry with them, or

    4) start to follow their pagan worship practices.

  • The only way to prevent these four things happening is to utterly destroy any remnant that has not fled the land, otherwise they may become a snare for Israel


Hardened Hearts


But now we need to take note of what the recorder in Joshua tells us:


Josh 11:18-20  Joshua 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.


There are two sets of verses that almost act as ‘bookends' to these references to this judgment. The ones above are the final ‘bookend' and the one we saw in Exodus acted as the first ‘bookend':


Ex 24:23   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.


  •   However, as we have sought to emphasise again and again, the primary instructions and primary understanding was that the Canaanites were to be driven out of the land and if they had gone, they could have gone without a single life being lost.
  •   That is what makes the verse above from Exodus 24 strange because in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers it is the only one that speaks of the destruction of the Canaanites.
  •   It is almost as if the Lord gives away what He knows will have to be the eventual outcome.
  •   In earlier chapters we noted His feelings about not wanting death (see Ezek 18) and the fact that the words ‘drive out' or ‘driven out' are used in respect of what is to happen to the Canaanites some thirty times would suggest that this is what God's preference would have been in respect of this land, yet He knew that the reality was otherwise.
  •   It is only when we come to these unique verses in Joshua that we get greater understanding. Now we don't know who the writer of Joshua was but these words are not attributed to the Lord or to Joshua but are the words of the writer, his understanding of what had happened. Assuming divine inspiration we must accept his assessment. 
  •  Look at the strength of these words: “ 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.”
  •   We seem to have a mystery here.
  •   On the one hand we have seen extensively the Lord's intent to drive out the inhabitants, using fear, but now we are told He hardened their hearts to stay.
  •   The trouble is we have no further details upon which to formulate our conclusions.
  •   However we do have the story of Pharaoh, back in Egypt prior to the Exodus to aid us.
  •   There again and again we noted the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart but also that Pharaoh hardened his own already hard heart. Let's consider Pharaoh.


The Lesson of Pharaoh


  •   Pharaoh, before God started dealing with him, was an evil, idol worshipping, self-centred individual.
  •   You can either talk gently to such a person hoping to persuade them or openly confront them.
  •   Unless the heart is open, such a person will disregard the former course and will simply rise up in anger against the second.
  •   God knew that Pharaoh's heart was not open and therefore whatever God said, it would not result in Pharaoh coming into God's kingdom, therefore the Lord used direct confrontational methods which showed up Pharaoh's foolishness as every plague came.
  •   Hardening here is, therefore, the response of Pharaoh's already set heart, into an even more obstinate position where he refuses to back down before God. The choice was always his.


Applied to the Canaanites


  •   Now the same was exactly true of the Canaanites but an element that comes through more strongly in this story than in that of Pharaoh, was that the occult played a big part.
  •   When anyone has dealings with the occult, we observe a particular hardness against the things of the Gospel, things to do with the will of God.
  •   There is a resistance to the truths of God because there is a Satanic or demonic background always to the occult.
  •   Therefore, from the outset, there was a resistance in these people to the ‘fear-pressure' the Lord put on them, pressure which, in any other circumstances, we would expect to have caused them to leave.
  •   Thus, although the Lord wants them to leave (hence all the talk about driving them out) He knows that they are locked in to their occult worship and nothing is going to move them.
  •   So, as much as the Lord gives instructions to drive them out and says that is what He intends to do, He will not override their free will and will not force them to go.



20.5 The Critical Nature of this action


Proposition: The removal of the Canaanites was vital for the whole future of God's plan for salvation for the world.


Moses' Pastoral Heart


  •   Now we might also make a comment about Moses' heart in Deuteronomy.
  •   That book comprises his final talks to Israel before he is going to die.
  •   He knows his time is short but, as a shepherd, his heart anguishes for this flock of people he is going to leave behind.
  •   He knows what a good future is planned for Israel – obedience to God followed by His blessing – but he also knows the dangers before Israel – of being seduced into occult worship by the Canaanites.
  •   He has already seen some of the men seduced by the Moabite women (see Num 25) and knew that this was the greatest threat to the future of Israel .
  •   It was not being overcome by an enemy in battle but by giving way to other people's religions and becoming like them that was their greatest threat.
  •   For this reason Moses knew that their only hope was to inherit a land that was utterly cleansed of its peoples and practices.
  •   If the people sought to stay they would eventually act as yeast and permeate and undermine the life of Israel whether they were men, women or children. They must go – or die.
  •   The end result must be a cleansed land. It doesn't have to mean the death of the people there, but because of their hardness of heart, their ways set in the occult, then it almost certainly will.
  •   For these reasons we find those otherwise apparently hard words exterminating them without mercy.
  •   The future of Israel, the possibility of the Gospel, and indeed the very future of the world hinges on this, as difficult as it may seem.
  •   It is all about the question, will Israel be able to be a holy nation that reveals God and His goodness to the world, and will they remain in existence as that people into which the Son of God may eventually come?


These are the issues that hang in the balance here. Seeing it only in the short-term means we fail to see the terrible significance of what was going on here. No doubt there were similar thoughts in the minds of the Allies' men who made the decision to bomb Dresden in the Second World War, or of Hitler's men who decided to bomb Coventry , or those who had to decide to drop the first atom bombs on Japan , ostensibly to end the second World War. Long-term decisions look terrible in the immediate. It is only when we look back on history in this Fallen World that we realise the awful decisions that had to be made. The more we learn, the slower we should be to criticise.



20.6 An Alternative Option


Proposition: There was an alternative to fleeing or fighting.


We observe two different responses to the advancing army. First:


Josh 9:1,2 “Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things….. they came together to make war against Joshua and Israel .”




Josh 9:3,4 “However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse.”

  •   These people pretended to be travellers from afar and were thus accepted by Israel (Josh 9:4-15).
  •   We have already seen their explanation to Joshua in Part 20.1 above. See Josh 9:24,25
  •   Now that story does not end there because other nearby kings banded together against the Gibeonites who then called on Israel to defend them (see Josh 10:1-6).
  •   Joshua thus took his army and did defend them (v.7), with the Lord's encouragement (v.8):
  •   What we then see is a combined action against these kings by Israel greatly supported by the Lord (v.9-11)
  •   In other words the Lord now defends Israel AND the Gibeonites as part of Israel. i.e. The Lord accepted Israel 's acceptance of them and even fought on Israel 's side to defend them.

We have said many times previously that the main objective was to oust the Canaanites from the land but failing that, it is clear from the examples of Rahab and the Gibeonites, one alternative was to go over to Israel and be saved.


20.7 Incomplete Expulsion


Proposition: Israel failed to completely evict the Canaanites.


Complete but incomplete


The truth is that although the land was essentially under their control there were still pockets of survivors who held on and had not been taken (see Josh 13:1). Nevertheless the land was theirs!


Josh 21:43-45 “ So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

  •   Remember, however, the taking of the Land was a process that would take time – see Part 20.3 above.
  •   Now we find that some way into it, Israel had not pressed in.
  •   In chapter 1 of Judges in the first 26 verses, with one exception Israel defeated the Canaanites.
  •   However from verse 27 we find a long list of times where they had not ousted small pockets of the Canaanites
  •   This resulted in the Lord's censure:


Judges 2:1-3 The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, `I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you."

  •   Their failure would mean that there would be ongoing struggles with the remaining Canaanites and the presence of their idols would be a temptation to Israel .
  •   The Lord would also use them to test Israel in the years to come:


Judges 2:20-3:4 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, "Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did." The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua


Thus we find that although God's wishes had been for

a) the Canaanites to be driven out of the Land in judgment and

b) Israel should settle there peaceably as a holy nation revealing Him to the world,

                    the reality was that because of Israel 's inability to persevere, this never fully happened. However, as we have seen, the Lord would use the remaining Canaanites to test and reveal Israel and show us what they were really like.



20.8 The Miraculous Dimensions of the Taking of the Land


Proposition: The taking of the Land by Israel involved the miraculous intervention of the Lord.


Seeing the whole picture


  •   In examining the taking of Canaan we would be remiss if we did not take note of the fact that the Lord gave approval to what Israel were doing by a number of miraculous happenings.
  •   There are those who might say that Israel were just a bunch of escapees from Egypt who forced themselves on the people of Canaan and destroyed them for their own purposes.
  •   Such scepticism flies in the face of the Biblical accounts, first of the miraculous deliverance from Egypt, then the miraculous provisions in the desert and now the miraculous provisions of entering the Promised Land.
  •   We note the following actions by the Lord as Israel entered the Land and then progressed through it.

i) Crossing the River Jordan


Josh 3:15-17 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. …. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan , while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground

  •   The first miracle was this very entry to the land by crossing the river Jordan at flood time – in the dry! I have heard people say these things were coincidences.
  •   Well here are the ‘coincidences', first, that Joshua was told about before it happened, second, that the moment the first men stepped into the river carrying the Ark of the Covenant the river stopped flowing and the water upstream piled up and remained piled up until Israel had all crossed over, and third, then it flowed again.
  •   These miracles are important because they deny the accusation that they were just doing their own thing. No, they were performing the will of God to bring judgment on this pagan people and He confirmed His approval by supporting them with these miraculous events.


ii) The Commander of the Army of the Lord


  •   The second ‘miracle' was the appearance of an angelic being (or a theophany) to Joshua, the “commander of the army of the Lord” to reassure him (Josh 5:13-15)


iii) The Taking of Jericho


  •   The third ‘miracle' was the taking of Jericho , clearly directed by the Lord (See Josh 6:2-5)


iv) The Defeat at Ai


  •   The fourth miracle was Israel 's defeat at Ai and the revelation that Achan had taken some of the forbidden plunder (see Josh 7).
  •   The stoning of Achan was an execution for direct disobedience which put Israel at risk.


v) Defence of Israel by Hailstones


  •   Massive hailstones that fell on the enemy who had sought to come against Gibeon and Israel (Josh 10:11)


Opportunity created by the slow taking of the Land

  •   The first part of the book of Joshua is given over to first of all describing how Joshua worked his way through the land with his army completely clearing it of people until eventually it was all under their control (Josh 11:23).
  •   Remember, if you read those chapters, that even as Joshua's army advanced, there was plenty of time for those ahead of him to pack up and leave the land and escape but instead, quite to the contrary, we see examples of kings banding together to fight, knowing that if they lost it would mean the entire end of their people.
  •   (Be aware that in those days – as in a measure today – when wars were fought it meant everyone in a nation was involved and so women and children died as well as the fighting men).



20.9 Some Conclusions


Trying to sum up the many facets of this ‘judgment', let's note the following:


Overall Picture


1. It WAS as judgment of the Lord because of the gross sin of the Canaanites. 

2. The judgment required the expulsion of the Canaanites from the Land and, in the event of their refusal to go, would end up being their destruction in battle by a victorious Israel .

3. That expulsion would be a combination of the work of Israel (fighting and creating fear) and of God (stirring on that fear and providing miraculous support).

4. Their hardness of heart caused by sin and by occult activities, meant that the Canaanites would resist Israel with the above consequences.

5. The process of emptying the Land would take time and in the event Israel failed to completely oust every Canaanite.

6. The Lord accepted the situation as a means of ongoing chastising and testing of Israel.

7. The failure to fully expedite the main judgment meant that the remnants of it would become a means of ongoing judgment (discipline) of Israel .


From a purely practical point of view, there are some sobering lessons here. Put most simply perhaps, failure to deal with sin in the life of the Christian, may mean that it becomes an ongoing means of discipline from the Lord. That needs some serious thought.


Why involve Israel


From an apologetics point of view we may wonder why the Lord went to such trouble to involve Israel in the expulsion of the Canaanites. Why didn't He, for instance, simply send a plague to completely wipe out the Canaanites? From all that we've considered in these two chapters, we may suggest the following:

1. In the approach we have considered in detail in these two chapters, the approach meant that He was allowing for the Canaanites to repent and either leave the Land or join Israel and become part of the people of God.

2. The fact of their hardness of heart simply shows the watching world the folly of pride and maybe even the folly of superstitious occult activity, and these should come as warnings.

3. In the event, knowing how the Canaanites would react, the Lord used them to stiffen the resolve and fighting experience of Israel as part of their maturing process.

4. The thing about the plague option is that, once started, it might have spread across the world and killed others – possibly also killing Israel. Death, we have seen again and again, is God's ‘fallback option' when all other approaches do not work.


A necessary evil to overcome a greater evil

For these, and the many other reasons seen in these two chapters, the taking of Canaan by Israel was a necessary evil – to counter a greater evil. Instead, we might suggest, of revealing a vindictive God, all that we have seen reveals a God who seeks to take the most gentle and restrained approach with His people and with His world. Failure to understand this indicates a failure to take in the many facets of this judgment that we have sought to cover in these two chapters.


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