On Creation and Killing Canaanites: One Simple, Hardly Worth Mentioning (but I feel that I should) Thought

In recent months, these two issues–creation and Canaanite extermination–have been among the more heat-producing that I have dealt with on this blog. Today, I want to make one simple point that concerns both of these issues, and others like it.

Nothing creative or profound. Pretty standard stuff, actually, though when push comes to shove (literally) in controversial issues, it is often the first we lose sight of.

Here it is: Ancient context matters—a lot.

So, when the debate is about whether Christianity and evolution can co-exist, the conversation often turns immediately to the very interesting canonical, theological, and philosophical factors that arise for Christianity if evolution is true and there is no first couple.

Of course, these factors are vitally important, must be brought to the table, and require our full attention. But far too often these factors are raised in happy isolation from the historical/literary factor of the ancient Near Eastern context that gave us these texts–as if the conversation can simply proceed without considering what the Adam story is doing from the point of view of an ancient mindset.

Seeing Genesis as an expression of ancient theology, asking ancient questions, and giving ancient answers, would necessarily reframe theological discussions of origins that are otherwise too commonly locked in abstractions and categories of thought that have little to no grounding in the biblical narratives themselves.

Put another way, when I see discussions of how or whether biblical Christianity and evolution can co-exist but that leave to the side how these ancient texts functioned in antiquity, I get nervous.

The same idea hold for Canaanite extermination (and here). At least as much as creation, this topic often leaps immediately to what we think God can, can’t, should, would, or must do, based on alleged immutable starting points: his character, holiness, righteousness, etc.

Again, all fine and good, but when we look at the Canaanite genocide stories within the ancient context in which they are written, speculations of God are tempered.

Once we see that Yahweh’s actions toward the Canaanites are like that of the gods of other nations toward their enemies, the discussion cannot continue as before. A vital historical contextual factor is brought into our speculative theological and philosophical musings.

We can talk about God’s actions toward the Canaanites within the parameters of the canon or carefully worded categories of dogmatics and systematic theology. But once we see that Chemosh, god of the Moabites, tells king Mesha (or better, Mesha tells us what Chemosh told him) to take Nebo from the Israelites and “put to the ban” the entire population–and that the word “ban”  corresponds precisely to the Hebrew word for the same sort of behavior–well, it puts the theological and philosophical discussion on a whole different level.

So, the question, “Why would God command the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites?” cannot be addressed in an intramural theological back-and-forth. It must also include this little bit of historical information: Yahweh’s actions are not unique but seem part of an ancient way of thinking.

Maybe that’s the best way to sum up what I’m saying here: theological discussions about biblical interpretation must be in conversation with ancient ways of thinking.

Told you. Not very profound. But then again, I feel like I need to keep saying it.

 

  • http://growrag.wordpress.com Bobby Grow

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for the post!

    I have been thinking a lot about the “genocidal” passages lately. Normally I just appeal to a kind of Barthian cruciform hermeneutic to help me make sense of it in the bigger picture of things. But I am still left with a bit of an empty feeling in this approach of mine.

    So my question for you is; what difference does it make if I understand and employ the ANE context as my interpretive frame? As your post leaves it, it makes me wonder how Yahweh is any different than chemosh in this frame? The ancient understanding, from the way you have construed it, seems to relativize the God of Israel that makes him no different than the pantheon of local deities that surrounded Israel; as if he is just some kind of ancient projection (Feuerbach) particular to Israel juxtaposed with Chemosh or some other deity for Canaan. So how is the ancient understanding supposed to help me think about God in a more fruitful way (more realistic way) than not? And if I think in ancient ways, what difference should this make relative to God and the “ban?” Again, is this kind of Hebraic God talk merely a reflection of Israel’s own cultural projections, or should we understand what we read in these “ban” passages as genuine instances of God’s in breaking on His covenant people and revealing divine edict?

    I am not trying to argue with you at all; I am genuinely trying to understand the hermeneutical implications of what you are pressing, and I am hopeful that it will provide me with light in regard to this tenuous exegetical issue.

  • peteenns

    Bobby, these are all key questions. I don’t presume to have answered them, but I blogged on this last summer 3 or 4 times. One conclusion to draw is that, as I put it in one of those posts, “God let’s his children tell the story.”

    • http://www.rethinkingao.com Mike Beidler

      Pete, you suggest that “God let’s his children tell the story.” I think you’re right. But I also believe that He felt the need to abridge that story by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to serve as the definitive Word of God and bring Israel’s story back in to alignment with the Truth. As a modern analogy, Jesus is kinda like William Goldman’s “good parts version” of S. Morgenstern’s classic The Princess Bride.

    • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

      This is an issue that troubles many believers and unbelievers alike. How could God have ordered this extermination? I appreciate the comparison of Yahweh to Chemosh, and I can accept that “God let’s his children tell the story.” But I think we must be more clear than that. God DID NOT order such a thing!

      I am sure the Israelites thought he called for extermination; God was on their side and this is the way things were done. However, even today we are quick to declare confidently what God has said for us to do when he has said nothing of the sort. Just because we say God something does not mean that he has, and the same was true in the case of the extermination.

      • Zack

        I understand that sentiment but it always makes me worried when people argue about that because it doesn’t solve the big issue of WHAT God does order. Our personal opinions are not in the canon of Scripture; one would think that if God was so determined for us humans to have an accurate conception of Him, He would have made sure that we got good documents. Otherwise, how are we to choose which things really were the will of God? Once we start to select certain Scriptures as containing the “wrong” view of God, I guess I have trouble knowing why that view is wrong but the Golden Rule God is the right view…besides the fact that modern Westerners like that God best.

        • Zack

          BTW I’m not trying to be a fundamentalist ordering a “literal reading of the Bible.” I’m just worried about where we our authority about God comes from…and why should a book like Joshua be kept in the Bible at all if it is just the story of savages committing genocide and claiming Yahweh said so?

        • Andrew

          So believing genocide is never justified is just something that “modern Westerners like best?”
          A common retort (and please don’t take this as a personal comment Zack, you come off as a reasonable believer grappling with the questions like the rest of us) to not taking all of the Bible as the Word of God is that it becomes modern people ‘cherry-picking’ what they are comfortable with and disregarding what they aren’t comfortable with. But I would respond with:
          A) The ethics associated with Jesus (Golden rule, mercy, charity) sound lovey-dovey but are actually the hardest dictates to follow in all of the Bible; much easier to wish wrath upon those unlike you or follow meddlesome commands about washing and sacrificing pigeons.
          B) As many have said, being a Christian means first and foremost being a follower of Jesus and what he stood for. Jesus went against some ingrained tradition and parts of Torah during his ministry. Thus, I don’t see it as unreasonable to disregard parts of the OT that don’t fit Jesus’s larger moral framework of love they neighbor. Orthodox Christianity (for a variety of reasons) co-opted the OT into what became the Christian Bible and simultaneously painted the narrative of Genesis-Revelation as “one connected story of God.” The problem is, the texts were never designed to act in that fashion (yes, I know a common past-time in seminaries is to “find Jesus in the text” of the OT and it just drives me nuts) and thus scholars/scribes have been muddling through the resulting confusion ever since.

          • Anna

            @Andrew: LIKE (no button for it!)

  • Kerrie-Anne

    To build on that idea, that “God lets his children tell the story,” I read somewhere else (maybe Peter might know where/by who!) that these stories are an early indication of God taking his people’s sin on to himself. Allowing them to “blame” him for their evil. Sacrifice was merely a ritual that helped the people move on from a guilty conscience, but the real forgiving action is recorded there in Scripture as God shouldering all responsibility.

    I haven’t seen this explored in great depth, something I need to remedy, but that thought resonated with me so strongly that it comes back to me whenever I think on these passages.

  • http://natural-philosopher.blogspot.com Mick Pope

    No, that is actually quite profound – it’s just not long enough, not teased out enough. It’s consistent enough with your book in inspiration, but again it leaves me a little uneasy and confused. While it’s one thing for YHWH to use ancient cosmological models to communicate who is the real creator, the role of humans, etc, how can one justify inspiration of divine justice in the language of a savage and genocidal God and it not appear as if YHWH is exactly that?

  • Kerrie-Anne

    Aha! It was Greg Boyd who dealt with this issue..

    http://whchurch.org/sermons-media/sermon/shadow-of-the-cross

  • Anna

    But, if God lets his children tell his story, and they’re telling it all wrong because they are making their God out to be the same as the other local gods, when he really isnt like that at all, how does that help us understand more about God? Or perhaps, these ancient stories arent meant to help US understand GOd at all, because they were never meant for us, they were only ever meant as ancient fables for an ancient people to tell around the camp fire? In which case, how do we make use of the OT stories? What DO they reveal about God if they are no more than Israelite cultural myths??

    • Kerrie-Anne

      Anna, perhaps it reveals to us a God who takes on the blame for our sins.. foreshadowing Christ who would take on the whole of humanity’s sinfulness at the cross.

      • Anna

        Do you mean, he didnt tell them to murder at all, but was happy for the tellers of the story to say that he told them to do it?

    • Derek

      I agree with your assessment Anna. If these events/stories have no basis in reality then the fact of the matter is that these events/stories are essentially repackaged tribal mythology. I don’t think any outsider with intellectual integrity would seriously consider the gobbledygook of holding that these events didn’t happen, yet still are true.

      Anyhow, I reject all that simply on the basis of how Jesus and the inspired authors regarded these events/stories, and pretty much the entire OT – as being true to reality. I think the safest ground to stand on would be to align our worldview with Jesus’ worldview.

      • Bev Mitchell

        Jesus’ world view? or the fact that Jesus, being God, is the very best revelation of what God is like that we have? The actual, honest to goodness, very real Incarnation of God in Christ should be the foundation for all our other thinking about what God is like. Jesus and the NT writers read the OT from this starting point, this solid foundation. We should too.

      • Anna

        @Derek: I’m not sure I understand. Are you saying Jesus’ worldview would be that these stories are “true to reality” – that God really did do these things? Or that Jesus regarded them as “repackaged tribal mythology”? I agree that it would be safest to regard them as Jesus did, I’m just not sure how he did. I am sure that, if Jesus is the exact likeness of God (I think he is) then God didnt do any of that stuff.

        • Derek

          Bev & Anna thanks for your replies. Essentially these points should cover what I am trying to get across

          1) Jesus and Yahweh are part of the same triune God. Our thinking of what God is like ought to take into consideration the totality of biblical revelation – that includes the OT actions of this triune God.

          2) Jesus’ mission was to come to earth and be a sacrifice for our sins, this included absorbing the holy wrath of God against sins – substitutionary atonement. These OT stories of God’s holiness provide a beautiful backdrop to the cross of Christ

          3) To see such radical differences between Jesus and the God of the OT is to skirt very close to repeating the heresy of Marcion. Moreover, Jesus himself is depicted in revelation as treading the wine-press of God’s wrath, and his white garment being stained red from the blood of His enemies. Jesus also talked a lot about hell.

          From and outside perspective I would imagine “God let’s his children tell the stories” would be dismissed and the conclusion would be “children (primitive people) tell stories”. The God part is really not necessary at that point…

  • Gary in FL

    Thanks for this post, Peter. I really appreciate all your posts. This is yet another instance in which context changes _everything_. The shameful thing is, I not only KNOW this, and teach it to others, but strive to let this perspective inform my own weekly preaching. Even so, I needed to be reminded again (today) of how very different is this near/middle-eastern culture/mindset from the context I live in today. Thank you.

    @Anna: “In which case, how do we make use of the OT stories?” I think this is a tremendous question. My own first cut at an answer is this: The Israelite writers and redactors were inspired to record an _interpretation_ of what happened to them as a people which reflected their belief that God was dealing with them according to the sacred Covenant. For us, in light of the New Covenant, we are able to reinterpret the same stories to reflect our belief that the _same_ God is saving and renewing us, through Jesus Christ. In this reinterpretation there is, admittedly, a subversive aspect. Just as the Christian Gospel successfully subverted the Roman meta-narrative, Christianity also willfully subverted the stories of Jewish struggle, which comprised the spiritual soil from which the Christian Gospel sprang.

  • Fr. Stephen

    On one level, this does seem obvious…
    But I’m wondering how this fits with an Apostolic hermeneutic, i.e. that the texts of the Old Testament were written for us. St. Paul doesn’t seem to have an issue with arguing that the text was to some great degree opaque to the original audience (eg. II Corinthians 3:12-18). Regardless of how we determine, say, the story of the destruction of Ai to have been originally heard, whether endorsing genocide or something else, what allegiance do we as Christians owe to Apostolic interpretation of the king’s fate as pointing to Christ becoming a curse for our sake?

    • Mark Chenoweth

      Fr Stephen,

      Are you an Anglican, Catholic or Orthodox priest?

      You’re not Stephen Freeman of Glory to God for All Things http://glory2godforallthings.com/ are you? ; ) Because what you said sounds like something he would say. I’m Eastern Orthodox myself.

      Anyways, I’m going to re-post a portion of an article by Metropolitan George Khodr’s where he addresses the killings in the OT. The entire article can be found here. http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/misc/george_khodr_violence.htm

      It complements what Enns and Sparks have to say about this but as a complementary reading to the typological exegesis of Fathers.

      “Confronted with the irreducible opposition between these two faces of the Lord, Marcion, in the middle of the 2nd century, thought that the wars, judgments and punishments described in Scripture could not be attributed to the good God, Father of Jesus Christ, but to an inferior deity, the just God of the Jews. It was obvious that the Church, in order to preserve the unity of the Scripture, had to reject Marcionite dualism. Byzantine iconography is so impregnated with the identity between Yahweh and Christ that it always writes on the nimbus that surrounds Christ’s head o wn, the Septuagint translation of Yahweh in the epiphany of the Burning Bush. The patristic exegesis of the Old Testament is basically typological. Clement of Rome, who tells the story of Rahab and the spies in detail, says that the scarlet coed that the prostitute attaches to the window is a type of the blood shed by Christ. The raising of Moses’ arms above the battle between Israel and Amalek will be interpreted by the Tradition as a type of the Cross, and exegesis reflected in Byzantine hymns and vigil readings.

      The problem concerns the how of revelation, the real meaning of inspiration. If it is right to affirm that, in a certain manner, the Old Testament is an icon of the New, the latter is also type or prototype of the Old, in the way that Saint Basil calls the bread and wine of the Eucharist before the epiclesis antetypes of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Thus I would rather apply the term type to the realities of the New Testament, with the Gospel already inaugurating the eschaton. Nevertheless, the typological exegesis of the Fathers adopted by the liturgy can veil the historical meaning. That is why I would like to propose, in a complementary sense, what could be called a kenotic reading of the Scriptures. I borrow the term from the Epistle to the Philippians where it is a question of the humiliations of Christ, from the form of God to the form of man, from the form of man to the form of a slave, from the form of a slave to death on the cross. In the kenosis the divinity of nature does not disappear but it is not made manifest. In this mystery divine knowledge becomes operational only through human growth. The synergy of the two natures also runs through Scripture, which is the body of Christ. Because of divine condescension the Word is sometimes profoundly hidden beneath words, underneath the fleshly covering of Scripture. This is what the West calls the personality or subjectivity of the sacred author. In fact, all divine writing shapes itself in human terms and everything human bears in itself the divine model. In the light of this explanation I refuse to attribute the wars waged by Israel to the divine will. Otherwise we get trapped in the morality of means, making death an instrument of life, and the destruction of various tribes becomes a condition of faith, and part of God’s plan for the exaltation and prosperity of a particular people.

      Yahweh cannot be pardoned for his mighty deeds of war by peoples who were crushed because of the weight of history and the unreadiness of Israel through the ages. In any case, the notion of progressive revelation can be understood only in terms of spiritual maturity, a purification even within divine beauty. For there is no possible path from the warrior-God of Exodus and Joshua to the God of Jesus Christ. That monstrous image cannot be made acceptable. The progress of revelation seems to me to depend on Hegelian dialectic and there is no trace of this awareness of evolution in Hebraic thought. I do not believe that the Bible is truly a history of salvation: God reveals himself in time, but history is not the matrix of divine thought. It is the locus of revelations, and later, the incarnation of the Word. Hence it is the area of faith’s intelligibility, but it can in no way be its formative principle. If history is all human, it receives the divine without any confusion. That is why Scripture is not the unfolding of the divine in time but the identity of divine epiphanies across time; the only difference between the epiphanies is that they are not clothed with the same splendor, because of the divine pedagogy, or the economy that God uses, out of love, veiling himself to different degrees.

      But if everything was consummated on the cross, the ultimate truth about God is a truth of love. If Christ is the revealer and locus of divine discourse, He presents himself, in His life and death, as the only exegete of Scripture and its sole reference point. On this basis God was not the author of the sufferings of Canaan and of conquered peoples. When Joshua commanded armies, He who will later bear the same name was already, in his precedence to Abraham, on the side of the victim, just as he was on Isaac’s side when God of Abraham commanded him to offer his son as sacrifice. Yahweh was not revealed by his raised arms and his powerful hand but in every weakness of those whom the armies of God Sabaoth were overwhelming. That God was a simplistic reading that Israel made of its own power. Israel was the people of God but not the body of Yahweh. This reality of God’s body was not able to be revealed prior to the intra-Trinitarian kenosis and the nothingness of love brought about by Jesus. It was necessary for the Lord, by his suffering, to attain the perfection of his humanity so that the very perfection of God would be known.

      It is only by beginning with this feebleness of God that we can understand Jesus’ teaching and the unanimous tradition before Augustine about not resisting evil.”

      • Fr. Stephen De Young

        I’m Orthodox, and a former student of Pete’s, and not Fr. Stephen Freeman. I find Metropolitan George’s answer appealing, and I think its a fuller, richer explanation of what I was sort of poking towards with my question, i.e. its in the fate of the king of Ai’s fate that we see Christ revealed, not Joshua’s slaughter. That still leaves a tension, though, with what His Eminence calls ‘the identity of the Divine Epiphanies across time’, i.e. was God’s self-revelation as opaque to Moses (or Samuel, or Jeremiah, or Ezekiel) as it was to their hearers? The passage I quoted from St. Paul previously would seem to say ‘no’. And I suppose that change would probably be best understood (based on Numbers 11:24-30) in terms of Pentecost.

  • Jacob

    Pete,
    The Bible is definitely an ancient book that reflects ancient ways of thinking. I do have a question though. How do we differentiate between “what God said” and “what Israel said God said”? In reading the Bible, how do we differentiate between theological truths and theological guesses? It doesn’t fly to say ” God inspired the biblical writers to make up wild speculations about Him.”

    • Anna

      Exactly. So what do we do with the stories? I can see why the Jewish people would want these God-ordained victories in their scriptures, but what use are they for us?

  • Leo

    I always wondered why there was no preacher for the Canaanites as Jonah was to the Assyrians. A good case can be made for their wickedness, but beyond redemption? Those in Corinth were a foul brood even after their conversion, but no such mercy for the Amorites? Discuss amongst yourselves.

    • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

      I think we also have to take into account the very different constructs and “facts” that the different narratives relate. For example, we have passages that tell us the Canaanites were completely obliterated, and other stories in which they weren’t – we have passages that tell us that God would use hornets to drive out the inhabitants, and other stories that they were driven out by the sword. I think it is important to note that the theological agenda of the authors shaped their inclusion/exclusion and interpretation of events.

  • http://www.iquestionthat.com John D Rich, Jr.

    I wrote something recently about this myself: http://www.iquestionthat.com/2013/01/31/a-brief-history-of-the-judeo-christian-ethos/
    If we look at these stories as justifications for the extermination of other peoples and the thievery of land, through the use of God language, we don’t have to wrangle about why God would give such orders, since God had nothing to do with it.

  • http://growrag.wordpress.com Bobby Grow

    Thank you, Peter.

    I think Jesus’ view of the OT is determinative of mine (as are the NT authors in general). Gordon Wenham makes a good inductive argument for that.

    I will continue to consider the impact of your thoughts, Peter.

    By the way, I don’t think Boyd has the best theological remedy, Barth and Torrance do though :-)!

  • James

    The ancient song Moses recites to Israel (Deuteronomy 32) before they conquer Canaan contains mythological allusions like a recognition of the “gods” of surrounding nations. It seems there is a cosmic struggle going on and though YHWH “thinks” to destroy his people for their idolatry he can’t quite bring himself do it because his actions would be misinterpreted and reputation tarnished among the nations (and their gods). Seems Elyon (the Most High) authorizes allotments for all nations (vs 8; see also Paul’s discourse to the Athenians in Acts 7) but he needs a beachhead in Palestine–why? According to the end of the song he has bigger fish to fry–the worship of the entire cosmos including ” all you gods (vs 43).” Fascinating to study a passage like this through “ancient ways of thinking” as you recommend.

  • rvs

    I especially appreciated this: “Once we see that Yahweh’s actions toward the Canaanites are like that of the gods of other nations toward their enemies, the discussion cannot continue as before.”

  • AHH

    Is “God lets his children tell the story” effectively the same as the old phrase “witness to revelation”?
    Which I personally have no problem with (provided some doctrine of inspiration of the witnesses is retained), but the phrase is anathema to much of the fundamentalist-leaning part of evangelicalism.

    But it leaves me thinking that maybe there is nothing new under the sun, just different ways of pointing the church toward a necessary (if much-resisted) adjustment to some common dogma about Scripture. Can anything be learned from the arguments of previous generations about “witness to revelation” that can help our discussions be more constructive and productive this time around?

  • Beau Quilter

    Pete, wait …

    “God let’s his children tell the story.”

    …which god and which children? Yahweh and the Israelites or Chemosh and the Moabites?

    • Anna

      Apparently, all gods and all their children??

  • Beau Quilter

    Derek

    You expressed my opinion quite succinctly when you said:

    “the fact of the matter is that these events/stories are essentially repackaged tribal mythology. I don’t think any outsider with intellectual integrity would seriously consider the gobbledygook of holding that these events didn’t happen, yet still are true”

    I would only extend your analogy to include the NT. I’m not saying that there isn’t a kernel of history in both testaments; but as presented, they are clearly highly mythologized.

    • Derek

      Hi Beau,

      I think there are many scholars who would take issue with your conclusion and the reasons for their disagreements are quite robust, I imagine. Aside from that, however, if one does reach your conclusion then I think to remain a Christian at that point will result in serious cognitive dissonance – which is why you have rejected Christianity, right?

      • Beau Quilter

        Oh Darn! You figured me out! (Though you seem to have overlooked the large number of scholars who would agree with my conclusions with robust reasons).

        Sorry, Pete, now Derek can point to me and say, “see Pete what your liberal theology leads to?”

        • Derek

          No I haven’t overlooked the scholars that agree with you, I just wanted to highlight the scholars that are equally, if not more familiar with this material than yourself, yet come to different conclusions..I’m thinking of Dr. Walton for one, just to throw a name out there.

          Haha, no, I think you might be projecting your possible fundamentalist past onto me here, I don’t react in that manner. I see Dr. Enns as a needed voice when it comes to these matters because he is qualified, yet I don’t need to agree with all his conclusions either.

          • Beau Quilter

            Very good, Derek! I feel the same way – don’t always agree with Dr. Ebbs, but appreciate what he has to offer and the spirit in which it is offered.

          • Beau Quilter

            DR. Enns rather. My Ipad thinks it can correct what I type!

          • Beau Quilter

            John H. Walton at Wheaton?

  • Hanan

    >Once we see that Yahweh’s actions toward the Canaanites are like that of the gods of other nations toward their enemies

    How so? This wasn’t JUST a land grab, but a land grab within context. The context being God could do nothing to the caananite as long as they didn’t “deserve” it. He tells this to Abraham. The extermination of Canaanite is within the same context as Noah’s flood. They have become immoral and now God was to punish them. They are not God’s enemies because they are Canaanite. They are God’s enemies because of their immorality. It seems God is simply now using man as his instrument. Israel would have no right over that long as long as the Canaanite was acting within a moral framework. They didn’t, so they lost it.

    So you say Yahweh acts like any other ANE God. Fine. Show me where another god punishes their “enemy” on moral grounds and not on selfish grounds.

    • Anna

      But Hanan, your analogy of the Canaanite massacre with Noah’s flood just emphasises the mythologising of the land grab massacre. The Israelites imagined that God killed the antedeluvian population as punishment because they were immoral (other ANE cultures had different reasons why the gods flooded the world). It isnt true of course because the world wasnt ever flooded, and even if that had been the reason, it obviously didnt work so its unlikely to be the reason). So the same amount of credibility has to be given to the Canaanite story too, to be consistent.

      • Hanan

        Anna

        Whether happened or didn’t is irrelevant. I am going by the context of the text, not what may or may not have actually happened. If Peter wants to compare Yahweh with other gods, then he has to do so by comparing the moral reasoning for their extermination. So even to an ancient Israelite, their God was a god of morals, not a god that would arbitrarily decide to kill people. Under their theology, their God reminded them that they were nothing special. That they didn’t get the land because they were holier then anyone else but because God made a promise to their forefather and that the previous residents lost their moral right to remain there.

  • Mike Berry

    “That they didn’t get the land because they were holier then anyone else but because God made a promise to their forefather and that the previous residents lost their moral right to remain there.”

    Oh well, if you put it like that, it makes so much more sense.

    Just kidding.

    You say that Israelites weren’t more moral (“holier”) than the Canaanites, but God favored the Israelites and exterminated the Canaanites because the Canaanites lost their moral right to be there. Why did they lose their moral rights to the Israelites if they were not less moral than the Israelites?

    “…their God was a god of morals, not a god that would arbitrarily decide to kill people.” So exterminating an entire group of people, including children, is not abritrarily killing people? Because of a promise made to a random sheepherder generations in the past?

    • Hanan

      I am strictly working with context of the text. Nothing more. Take it as a work of fiction. In this work of fiction this diety judges nations as a whole any their moral history on their earth. This is no different then the tale of Noah and the flood. The judgement is upon all of mankind because there is just too much abhorrence. And it’s passed from generation to generation. The canaanite is a micro-tale of Noah. Instead of a flood, Israel is a tool. And when I say arbitrary, I specifically meant that this diety doesn’t just destroy for the hell of it. There is a moral justification behind it. And, this moral justification is sent to Israel as well when they are warned the same fate will await them if they do what the Canaanites did.

    • Hanan

      >Because of a promise made to a random sheepherder generations in the past?

      Wait, you JUST ignored the reason. God says to this sheepherder that he will give him the land. but he CAN’T because the Amorite’s sin is not upon them. Only later were they able to enter the land. And moses warns them not to be arrogant as to why they are getting this land. He says they are getting because the canaanites depravity made them lose the rights to the land and thus fulfilling what he promised to the sheepherder. And, the same fate awaits them as well if they screw up.

    • Hanan

      >Oh well, if you put it like that, it makes so much more sense.

      Well of course it makes more sense. It doesn’t make it easier to swallow, but contextually it makes sense and it responds to Peter’s assertion that Yahweh acts in the same manner as any other local diety. Yahweh does not punish other nation’s lack of faith in Him. He punishes them based on their moral behavior

  • Vad1er

    You seem to be forgetting that Cannanites, Philistines, Amelekites, Gibboriam, and like they that “cause to fall”. Watchers, Nephalim. The goal of G-D was to keep the bloodline pure untill Yeshua the Messiah. Athleast from the literal sense. of course it debends on how we translate Gen. 6 In the narative and chronology of scripture you will find this war. all related to the “sons of G-D”

  • Paul Owen

    I think this issue could be resolved with greater clarity if we were to recognize that the NT gives us the freedom to distance ourselves from the historical and cultural “wine skins” of OT religion (Matt. 9:17). Jesus set aside what Moses had instructed concerning divorce (Matt. 19:8), and numerous other topics (Matt. 5:21-48). There is no reason why we should not do the same with OT instructions concerning holy war. We do not have to defend these directives in themselves. The slaughter of the Canaanites, which was not fully implemented in the Conquest at any rate, was simply the lesser of two evils. Either the Israelites could coexist with the indigenous populations and be assimilated to their cultures, or they would have to destroy them and drive them out of the cities. Furthermore, the instructions prohibited Israel from engaging in this warfare in the holy land with selfish motives (keeping the normal spoils of war for themselves). The culturally defined spoils of war (Deut. 20:14) were to be dedicated to YHWH, in recognition of his generous gift of the Land. Finally, in light of the sporadic implementation of this policy (it was often ignored by Israel according to the author of Judges), one has to wonder what was the historical purpose of Deuteronomy 20:15-18 within the framework of Israel’s sacred history. Is it not more or less a commentary on the dangers of assimilation to pagan practices and a prediction of Israel’s compromised coexistence with the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites? Given God’s providence and foreknowledge, does this not belong more to the category of prophetic vision, than practical directions for warfare?

    • Jacob

      Like button.. Pressed

    • mroge

      You can rationalize this any way you want, but murder is stil murder…


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