Today I begin an extended argument which defends God’s justice in calling Israel to violently dispossess the Canaanites. In the next few days, I will highlight one truth per day in hopes of amassing an adequate defense against the charge that God commands genocide, as well as widespread claims that YHWH is morally corrupt in the book of Joshua.
Today’s truth is: Israel is dispossessing the land because the Canaanites are evil, not because Israel is good. Achan proves the rule when he takis items devoted to destruction, directly disobeying God’s one command for Israel. Achan and Israel are receiving the land promised to them; all they need do is obey God, and all will go well. Achan rebels and brings punishment upon his entire family (Joshua 7:24), in contrast to Hagar’s family being spared (Joshua 6:25). These events exemplify what God told Israel in Deuteronomy, in a passage I passed over initially to bring it to your attention today. God tells Israel, “It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but 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” (Deuteronomy 9:5). Many notorious genocides begin with the idea that one group is superior to another (e.g., Nazis, Hutu). God never suggests this as the basis for Canaanite expulsion. Yes, God is destroying Canaan because they are evil; God is not using Israel because they themselves are good, but rather because God is good to Israel. Of course, this truth alone is not adequate. May God grant me wisdom in the days ahead to help you continue to trust God’s goodness in working through Israel.