Reading the list of kings in Canaan killed leads to the question, “What right does Israel have to destroy these kings and take their land?” This question naturally segues to today’s truth: On top of other evils committed, the Canaanites wrongfully were trespassers on Israel’s land. God promises the land to Abraham (Genesis 12:7, Genesis 17:7-8), then to Isaac (Genesis 26:3-4), and finally to Jacob (Genesis 28:13, Genesis 35:11-12). Abraham and Jacob (i.e., Israel) were the legal landowners before going down to Egypt (Genesis 23:17-20, Genesis 33:19-20), and when Jacob and his sons left the land, it was certainly meant to be a temporary absence. Thus, when Israel comes out of Egypt, they can reasonably believe they have the right to have their land back. Tellingly, Rahab declares the local recognition that the land rightfully belongs to Israel: “I know that the Lord has given you this land” (Joshua 2:8). When Israel goes up to attack the Canaanites, they are not just attacking workers of wicked deeds; they are attacking thieves engaged in active combat who refuse to return the land to its rightful owners.
Tomorrow, I will begin to step back from the historical details and deal more directly with our assumptions about justice and righteousness.