The Slaughter of the Canaanites – Part 1
Jehovah, the god of the Old Testament, is cruel, unjust, and evil. Jehovah, therefore, is NOT God, because God is, by definition, a perfectly morally good person. Since Jesus promoted worship of Jehovah, obedience to Jehovah, and prayer to Jehovah, we can reasonably conclude that Jesus promoted worship of a false god and thus Jesus was a false prophet. But if Jesus was a false prophet, then it is very unlikely that God, if God exists, would raise Jesus from the dead. God would not be involved in a great deception, and raising a false prophet (who promotes the worship of a false god) from the dead would mean being involved in a great deception. (Perhaps Jehovah would have wanted to raise Jesus from the dead, but such an event would have no theological significance, because Jehovah is NOT God.)
There are many reasons for thinking that Jehovah is cruel and unjust, but one of the most glaring and obvious reasons is that Jehovah commanded the Israelites to kill the Canaanites living in Palestine and take their land. Jehovah’s command appears to be a command to commit genocidal killing of thousands of people:
Deuteronomy 20:10-17 American Standard Version (emphasis added)
10 When thou drawest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.
11 And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that are found therein shall become tributary unto thee, and shall serve thee.
12 And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:
13 and when Jehovah thy God delivereth it into thy hand, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:
14 but the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take for a prey unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which Jehovah thy God hath given thee.
15 Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.
16 But of the cities of these peoples, that Jehovah thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth;
17 but thou shalt utterly destroy them: the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite; as Jehovah thy God hath commanded thee;
There are three main Christian responses to this disturbing Old Testament passage:
1. The Conservative Christian response:
The story of the slaughter of the Canaanites is FACTUAL, but Jehovah was morally justified in commanding the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in Palestine.
2. The Liberal Christian response:
The story of the slaughter of the Canaanites is FICTIONAL, so Jehovah did NOT actually command the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites, nor did such massive slaughter of the Canaanites actually occur.
3. The Moderate Christian response:
The story of the slaughter of the Canaanites is partly historical but is greatly EXAGGERATED in some Old Testament passages. The Israelites did fight with and kill some Canaanites in Palestine, but Jehovah did not command the wholesale slaughter of all Canaanites (men, women, and children) in Palestine.
The conservative approach is taken by the Christian apologist Clay Jones:
We Don’t Hate Sin So We Don’t Understand What Happened to the Canaanites
Killing the Canaanites
Clay Jones (blog)
The liberal approach is taken by the biblical scholar Peter Enns:
The Bible Tells Me So…
Blog Posts by Peter Enns on Canaanite Genocide
The Bible for Normal People (website)
What I have called the moderate approach has been taken by the Christian apologists Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan:
Did God Really Command Genocide?
Is God a Moral Monster?
Interview of Matthew Flannagan on Did God Really Command Genocide?
Interview of Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan on Did God Really Command Genocide?
God and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part I (blog post by Matt Flannagan)
God and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part II (blog post by Matt Flannagan)
God and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part III (blog post by Matt Flannagan)
To be continued…