Why would a just and righteous God, a loving God, order his people to utterly destroy all the people of an entire geographical area? Was it just a land-grab by another name? After all, they’ve been going on for as long as there’ve been humans on this planet. And there’s always been one pretext or another.
So, was this one of them? Or did God order it and, if He did; why?
There was a huge furore over my article, ‘Caning Canaan’ last week, with people asking for evidence of the absolute degradation of the Canaanites. So I’m going to present the evidence; historical, contemporary and archaeological. It’s not going to stem the tide of vituperative abuse that’s bound to come my way, but hey, what’s life without a little diatribe to liven the day?
We’ll begin with Professor H.H.Rowley and, although he was a Christian, Baptist to be exact, was a highly respected scholar and archaeologist. He believed there was a misinterpretation of the Scriptures in light of the life and teachings of Christ. He could not harmonise the God of the Bible, who would sacrifice His son on our behalf, ordering all those slayings.
Yet, if the Bible is to believed, they happened as written, and were ordered by God. Yet, four hundred or so years before this, before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham must have been wondering the same thing, when he said, ‘Will not the judge of all the earth do right?’
In Deuteronomy, Moses says, ’It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but only on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’
So it’s not because Israel is righteous, it’s because the other nations are exceedingly wicked that God uses Israel to punish them. And God did warn them for a very long time. Now Canaan was not the only nation that practised these abominations; it was widespread in almost all the countries of the Fertile Crescent. God ordered the Canaanites of that particular area wiped out, because He’d promised that land to Abraham and his descendants.
This was not carte blanche for Israel to go on a war of attrition and wipe out all their neighbours. God ordered Israel to offer conditions of peace to the nations surrounding them, but they were not to spare Canaan. Further in Deuteronomy 20: 10-15, God orders them to offer truce to the other nations. Verses 16-18 however, make no such allowances for the Canaanites.
This is not to say that Israel was permitted or even ordered to treat all other nations the same way, for Deuteronomy 20:10-15 orders them to offer conditions of peace rather than extermination to all others. However, the verses that follow, namely 16-18, disallowed the same offer to be given to Canaan. In fact, the Hebrew wars with other nations (except Canaan) were designed to be only in self-defence.
And I’m going to approach this in a rather roundabout way, by answering another question posed to me. If all the people of the earth sinned, why did God send a flood and kill the animals as well? Again, I’m giving my opinion.
Let’s say God sends a plague, or just supernaturally kills them all, you would have maybe thirty to forty million corpses, which would be rotting and fouling the air and the ground, along with all the groundwater. The animals would have died out from disease so, in that sense, drowning was merciful.
Rodin keeps harping on with the Sixth Commandment, ‘You shall not murder’, which is what is written in the original Hebrew. ‘Thou shalt not kill’ is only to be found in the Authorised Version, or King James Version, as it is commonly known. Nowhere else. But it suits his argument to continually cling to the one translation that was not taken from the Hebrew, but from the Latin Vulgate Bible. That way, God is seen to be contradictory.
So the first source we can turn to regarding the Canaanites and their practises, is a relatively contemporary one from Philo of Byblos. He was working from the Ugaritic materials of the time. Philo lived about 100 AD, when these horrors were still being practised. He was a Phoenician scholar and Phoenicia was part of the original Canaan.
His material was gathered from the Phoenikika or, ‘Phoenician Matters’ which were designated Phoenician History by later Greek scholars. He translated the writings of an earlier Phoenican named Sanchuniathon, who lived between 500 and 700 BC.
As was the case with the Bible, these writings were regarded with suspicion by critical scholars, until the discovery of the epic Ugarit literature on the north coast of Syria between 1927 and 1937. D.F.A. Schaefer discovered these important poetic texts in this series of campaigns, which clearly describe their barbaric practises.
The Ugaritic Poems have been dated from about 1400 BC to about 700 BC. Philo has this been justified, even though he was writing after the fact.
Another pleasant little god of the Canaanites was Anath. A fragment of the Baal Epic shows her indulging in the massacre of young and old alike:
She smites the people of the seashore
Destroys mankind of the sunrise
She piles up heads on her back
She ties up hands in her bundle
Anath gluts her liver with laughter
Her heart is filled with joy
Egyptian texts represented Astarte and Anath as goddesses of violence and war, showing them naked astride a galloping horse, waving weapons of battle.
What the Ugaritic literature has done is to reveal the absolute depths of depravity to which the Canaanites sank. This was polytheism at its most debased and had a retarding and deleterious effect on every aspect of Canaanite life. It was inevitable that people should sink to the level of the gods they worshipped.
William F Albright wrote:
It was fortunate for the future of monotheism that the Israelites of the conquest were a wild folk, endowed with primitive energy and ruthless will to exist, since the resulting decimation of the Canaanites prevented the complete fusion of the two kindred folk which would almost inevitably have depressed Yahwistic standards to a point where recovery was impossible. Thus the Canaanites, with their orgiastic nature-worship, their cult of fertility in the form of serpent symbols and sensuous nudity, and their gross mythology, were replaced by Israel, with its nomadic simplicity and purity of life, its lofty monotheism, and its severe code of ethics. In a not altogether dissimilar way, a millennium later, the African Canaaanites, as they still called themselves, or the Carthaginians, as we call them, with the gross Phoenician mythology which we know from Ugarit and Philo Byblius, with human sacrifices and the cult of sex, were crushed by the immensely superior Romans, whose stern code of morals and singularly elevated paganism remind us in many ways of early Israel.
Now the fact that the majority of atheists on this forum are in no position to judge spiritual matters doesn’t seem to bother them in the least. They are happy to call evil good and good evil, as Isaiah says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!’
For these people, idolatry, homosexuality, adultery and many other practises condemned by God are absolutely fine, so how else would they view the slaughter of the Canaanites, when they practise many of the same things?
It’s easy to shout genocide, when in fact it should rather be viewed as capital punishment, for they had been repeatedly warned, and seen for themselves the destruction of the cities of the plain.
However, the same people who have the effrontery to condemn God for genocide, do not so much as bat an eye at the slaughter of millions of unborn babies every year. In South Africa alone, it is six hundred a day.
I’m not in the position, so I cannot judge, but a woman who is carrying a badly deformed child, or has been raped would, I believe, have grounds for an abortion, but that is not what we’re speaking of here. We’re speaking of the wanton slaughter of millions of unborn babies, and they’re doing it in the way the Nazis did, by dehumanising them.
The Nazis called the Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals schtukke: pieces. This meant they were getting rid of unwanted pieces of debris, so it wasn’t murder. People today talk of foetuses, so it’s not murder, it’s eliminating a foetus.
Try telling an expectant mother who’s just had a miscarriage that it’s alright, it was only a foetus. I’m sure it’ll comfort her immensely. Women who want the child, know it’s a person from the moment they know they’re pregnant.
What atheism offers the world is nihilism. There is nothing they can offer; no words of comfort, no insight or any true words of comfort, because they have none, and can have none, as their lack of belief in anything worthwhile prohibits it.
You have my pity, but you cannot have my sympathy.
That is reserved for people who need it.
That atheists are incapable of judging spiritual matters leads some Christians to wonder why we even need to answer them at all, especially if they lack any objective, moral, or epistemological foundation for their claims. Moreover, most atheists do not customarily condemn the very practices that God condemns, for example, idolatry, adultery, and homosexuality. Predictably so, their values conflict with what God hates.