Some critics and skeptics point to Israel’s conquest of Canaan in the OT as proof God is not good, but vindictive, hateful, and murderous. However, if you look at the Israelite conquest of Canaan in the OT from a biblical perspective, this event is part of the just judgment of God. Michal Kruger argues this well in chapter fourteen of Surviving Religion 101. One point he discussed was the biblical fact that “God uses a variety of instruments to accomplish his judgment.” In the Canaanite conquest, God used Israel’s army as the instrument of his judgment. Kruger wrote,
It is here that we come to a key difference between the Canaanite conquest and modern-day genocide. Yes, both involve great loss of life. And both involve human armies. But the former is done as an instrument of God’s righteous judgment, whereas the latter is humans murdering others for their own purposes. On the surface, there may be similarities. But they are decidedly not the same act.
An example might help. Imagine a scenario in which one human injects another human with a deadly toxin, causing that person to die. Is that murder? Well, it depends. If this were done by a criminal who wanted to knock off a rival, then the answer would be yes. But if this were done by an official at a federal prison who was authorized by the state to administer lethal injection, then the answer would be no. On the surface, the two acts might look the same. But everything comes down to whether the taking of life is properly authorized. The issue is not whether a life is taken but how and why it is taken.
Let me try to draw this all together. If every human deserves judgment (and we do), and if God is justified in taking a life whenever he decides to execute that judgment (and he is), and if God uses various instruments for that judgment (including human armies), then there is nothing immoral about the Canaanite conquest. Indeed, to object to the conquest would require us to object to all God’s acts of judgment. Do we also object to Noah’s flood or to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah or to the plagues on Egypt?
In the end, then, the objection against the Canaanite conquest is really just a general objecting against God judging anyone at all. And if we take that away, then we are left with something other than the God of Christianity.
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015