Why did God command the destruction of all these peoples and cities? From Joshua six through eleven, you read of victory after victory. The caption, utterly destroyed is used time and again to explain how decisive and complete their victories were. Phrases like “great slaughter”, “consumed”, and “utterly destroyed” are used to describe this battles.
Some have deemed the actions of faith and obedience by Israel as nothing but colonialism, genocide, and land grabbing. As a Christian, you repudiate any claim that God would act in this way, because you see Him as a God of grace, mercy, and love. Maybe you have struggled with the questions as you read through this passage, “is this okay?”
The simple answer is yes, of course it is okay. Our God is indeed a loving, merciful, and gracious God who is longsuffering and loves all people. God is not an unhinged deity out with bloodlust. We know better than that. God has proven that He is all we know Him to be today, and He cannot be anything other than that. So what is going on here than?
Alright here is the longer answer. One of the reasons God allowed Israel to stay in Egypt so long (400 years) was because the wickedness of the Canaanites was not fully reached yet. God told Abraham in Genesis 15:16 – “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” In His foreknowledge, God knew that the peoples of Canaan would increase more and more in their wickedness.
If you know anything about the culture of the Canaanite people, you know they were very wicked. They offered human sacrifices, worship very pagan gods, and were at constant war with one another, committing some of the most unimaginable evils upon each other. One of their gods was Molech, and to worship him they would heat a metal statue of the god and then place a baby in its molten arms. Their practices in sexual sin were unmatched, and they were rife with any and every immorality you could imagine.
God’s act of wiping them out had little to do with Him giving Israel the land and a lot to do with judging their sinfulness. As a consuming fire, God would not allow such wickedness to continue. God was going to give Israel the Land of Promise, and He did. But the wiping out of these people was not genocide it was judgment. God spewed them out of the land for their sinfulness, and He warned Israel that He would do the same to them if they sinned.
I love that in the midst of this slaughter, we have stories of redemption, forgiveness, and humility. Rahab was forgiven, the Gibeonites were forgiven, and we can’t help but wonder who else may have found a place of repentance had they sought it. It is a reminder that even when God’s judgment is being executed there is hope of restitution.
God has not called us to enact His wrath and judgment today. Instead we have clear instructions to love our enemies and do good to them that despitefully use us and persecute us. We ought to be quick to defend the honor and glory of God and slow to defend our own.
Today, make a choice to see God’s mercy even in judgment. Is God punishing you for sin and wrong in your life? Decide that He is right, and submit to His authority. Learn the lesson, and seek the favor and mercy of God. Even in His judgment, our merciful God is quick to forgive and slow to anger.
Daily Scripture Reading
Joshua 9 - 11
“And all these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel.”