The Canaanite Question
How could a loving God ever command Israel in the Old Testament to invade the land and destroy the Canaanites?When I sit down for coffee with some of our college kids, this is one of the major questions raised by some of their professors—questions that can begin to move them away from what their professors declare to be a “naïve” commitment to the God of the Bible.
In my academic training, a cardinal law was that we were to carefully read the primary sources and then track what they actually said. Taking things out of context and then arguing points based upon these misconceptions earned poor grades on research papers. That brings us to the “Destruction of the Canaanites” question. What do Israel’s historical documents say about what they did to the Canaanites beginning with the invasion by Joshua? In Psalm 106:34-42 a man living in the Babylonian Exile answers this question and then goes on to present the results of what Israel actually did do.
“They did not destroy the people as the Lord had told them. Instead, they mixed in with the nations (the seven Canaanite nations) and they learned their behaviors. They served their idols, idols that became an alluring trap. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons. They poured out innocent blood—the blood of their sons and daughters who they sacrificed to Canaan’s idols. The land became stained with this bloodguilt. Their deeds defiled the land. Their acts of fornication prostituted their covenant relationship with Yahweh. He became furious with His people. He was repulsed by His inheritance. He gave them into the hands of the nations, and those who hated them ruled over them. Their enemies oppressed them. They were humiliated under the power of their oppressors’ hand.”
The Canaanite worship, a demonic religion that united an immoral passion for sex with violence, especially against children, became the worship of God’s people. When Israel didn’t obey the Lord by surgically removing the Canaanite cancer from the human race, they themselves became infected with the deadly idolatry. So God allowed the Assyrians to destroy the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC and the Southern Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians in 586. The good news is that the psalmist doesn’t end the story here. We’ll talk about the end of the Psalm in tomorrow’s Devo.
Lord, help one of my college friends who is right now using what he believes to be the injustice of your decree against the Canaanites to justify his own breaking of the your command against sexual fornication. Help him have the honesty to track your story in your Word. Open all of our hearts to see your grace toward individuals in saving Canaanites like Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah the Hittite. Wake believers up to the fact that Satan is telling the same lies today as he told Israel in the Old Testament. Help us see that sexual passion that breaks your commands murders children—something Satan has been doing since the beginning.
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