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Killing of the Canaanites: What Does This Say About God?
by Robert Driskell
There is no denying that God, in the Old Testament, commanded the nation of Israel, His chosen people, to exterminate many nations of people. Atheists use this fact to condemn the character of God. They say they refuse to believe in any being that could be so cruel and heartless. The passages that record God’s command to slaughter the Canaanite cities have even caused many Christians some confusion. I probably will not answer every question in this short article, and even some of the answers I give will not satisfy everyone, but I do hope to present a solid biblical argument for the goodness, holiness, love, and justice of our Creator God.
God is Judge, not man
Who is more qualified than the Creator to decide how long one lives? God gave us life, and He has the right to take it away. Here we encounter the issue of authority. Christians believe that all authority belongs to God (Matthew 28:18, Romans 13:1, Colossians 2:10). The non-believer has no objective authority. Their authority is based on the current societal perception of morality. However, what is good and right or what is bad and wrong changes with society’s opinions.
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This was God’s judgment carried out on the people of Canaan using the chosen people of Israel.
William Lane Craig reminds us God is not subject to our judgment of His actions; He has no moral obligations except to Himself. Humans do not have the right to do whatever we want. Craig writes, “For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses. We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as “playing God”…God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second. If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative” (Reasonable Faith . com; Question and Answer Archive, Question #16).
We must keep in mind, also, that Israel did not decide to exterminate the Canaanites, God did. Israel received direct word from God that they should do this. This was God’s judgment carried out on the people of Canaan using the chosen people of Israel…
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