Joshua: Did God Order Genocide in Canaan?


Mass killings of men, women, and children. Not a human breath left. Christmas in Berlin, 2016? Or Canaan 3000 years ago?

If Mel Gibson made a movie of Joshua, not only would it sicken an already violence-saturated society with its extreme cruelty, his anti-Semitic rap would become a public lynching.

To say that this is just an allegory of spiritual warfare is to belittle the reality, the brutality, the shock of intentional murder and total destruction of an existing society. And this was done by God’s chosen people in obedience to Him, the God of Love.

For example, Joshua 10: starting at verse 28:

And that day Joshua took Makkedah, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof, utterly destroyed them, and all the souls that were that were therein; he let none remain

This goes on and on in almost the exact wording, city after city.

Here’s what I think.

The fullness of Being, the eternal essence, that is the creator of space and time, cannot be revealed in its entirety to those who are swimming in in the river of time. We cannot see the face of God and live. And that reality is in appalling opposition to our everyday reality.

The Bible seems to me to be a document that reveals the nature of God in stages over a span of time, in never to be repeated moments Time and eternity intersect at a particular, unrepeatable point.

The historical moment in Joshua is all about taking possession of the land promised  by God to His people. TAKE possession. Because the land was already occupied. By people not chosen  by God. The book doesn’t say whether or not the people were evil. It seems they mostly just wanted to keep their land. In other places there are indications that they sacrificed to some demons. The people of Israel had just been through hundreds of years of purification and had been given the Book of the Law. And now they were to be given land to become a nation under God, and God was still teaching his children.

Three thousand years ago that meant clearing away the obstacles. Peaceful coexistence with demon worshippers was not an option. Cultural diversity would be ludicrous when God was training a People.



YES, God ordered genocide, mass murder. Perhaps we are looking at a spiritual evolution that goes from physical struggle to inward struggle. Perhaps God was teaching his people that his love was not the same as pacifism when it comes to creating a divine kingdom on earth.

Peter Kreeft, in his book How to be Holy, makes the point better than I could:

Love wars. Love fights. Love even hates its enemies…and the war of God is not war with neighbor, self, or God, but war with greed, lust, and pride, with the world, the flesh, and the devil (pages 128-130).

A child plays with physical objects and gradually learns abstract concept. During the prolonged  childhood of man we learned the same way. Or have we learned anything?


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