The Canaanites and the Justice of God


The God of Israel is sometimes criticized as being a cruel God for instructing Israel to destroy utterly the inhabitants of Canaan as they entered the Promised Land. Superficially, this criticism may appear to be justified. The searching question is asked, Is this the manner of a loving and compassionate God? Surprisingly to many, the answer must be, Yes, it is, and the discoveries of archaeologists show us why the Canaanites had to be destroyed.

When Abraham arrived in the land, although he had been definitely promised it by Almighty God, he did not receive it, nor did his descendants for several centuries afterwards. Why? "for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full" (Gen. 15:16). What was the iniquity of the Amorites?

Archaeology has given us the answer. Inscribed baked clay tablets at Ras Shamra (Ugarit) in Syria, and at other sites, have revealed something of the horrible nature of the Amorite religious practices. They worshipped gods who have been shown to be sexual perverts of the most grotesque kind, and who had no respect for the sanctity of human life. Countless children were sacrificed to their gods by being thrown into the fires of their god Moloch. Israel was forewarned about this abominable practice in Leviticus 18:21.

Also, funerary jars have been found containing the remains of young children distorted by suffocation as they struggled for life, after having been buried alive as a sacrifice to Canaanite gods. Such children have been found in the foundations of Canaanite houses. Thus archaeological discoveries have revealed a people whose moral sense was so debased that the God of Israel could not tolerate them in His land. Insurgent Israel, under God's instructions, was to purge out this people who were not fit to live. It was an essential task to be accomplished before the land was fit to be occupied. These Amorites were to be judged by their own standard of the expendability of human life, even of their own children.

That incoming Israel failed to complete this cleaning operation became the direct cause of their own moral degeneration, leading to their eventual dispersion. Israel became tainted by adopting some of these heathen practices. Knowing beforehand of this very real danger, the God of Israel clearly instructed His people of the need to be utterly ruthless. By so doing He was showing Himself to be, in fact, the loving Shepherd of His sheep, caring for their welfare in a very practical manner, by issuing these drastic instructions to cleanse the Promised Land on His behalf.

By John V. Collyer