Joshua helps the remaining Israelite tribes acquire and divvy up last of the lands. As Joshua wraps up this work, let me summarize my extended argument about God’s justice in Joshua and His purposes in using Israel to drive out and dispossess the Canaanites living in the land of promise.

  • God wills to bless the world through Israel, as Israel is blessed by God to become holy.
  • God intends to use Israel not because Israel is great, but because God loves them (Deuteronomy 7-9).
  • The Canaanites participate in morally egregious sins—some we know about, including child sacrifice, and likely other evils of which we are unaware—that would tempt Israel to live unholy lives and endanger their blessings.
  • Even as God intends to use Israel to defeat the Canaanites, the language of utter destruction occurs less frequently than language suggesting Israel will see the Canaanites “flee,” “driven out,” or “vomited out.” This leads some Biblical scholars to argue that God intends for Israel first to cause the Canaanites to run in fear, and second to destroy all those who choose to remain and fight.
  • Those who fight against Israel do so knowing that Israel has legal rights to the land, even if they don’t know God’s purposes for Israel in the land.
  • Besides these particulars, some of God’s commands to Israel can strike us as harsh. At these moments, it is important to remember God’s unique prerogatives as creator, sustainer, and judge to give life and take it away. It is also important to remember God’s perfect love and infinite knowledge when we do not receive exhaustive defenses or explanations of God’s justice.

Finally, it is important to note something I had omitted previously. Israel’s rules for warfare make it clear that, while God grants exceptions in the instances found in Joshua, these exceptions should not apply to Israel’s future relations with surrounding nations.

Perhaps this entire extended argument is not as helpful to you as it has been for me. As a child, the book of Joshua did not pose the same intellectual and emotional problems as it has in more recent years. Taking the opportunity to dive further into God’s actions, including much learning that I could not put into this blog, has been helpful to deepening my faith in the goodness of our God.