Wow, am I losing it. Turns out I had just written a similar blog less than a month ago here: http://dontaskthatinchurch.blogspot.com/2011/09/wrath-of-god-is-god-really-genocidal.html. I guess God must have just had this heavy on my heart. The previous article deals with more of the nephilim angle, so consider this blog may part deux.
On top of that, i had some errors which i've hopefully fixed.
One of the most common arguments (in my mind) for atheists rejecting the Bible or God being a loving God (or there even being a God) is the Conquest of Canaan and the "genocide" perpetrated by Israel. They can't believe that a loving God would demand "genocide". This is true, God is love, and He didn't demand genocide, or wonton slaughter merely for the sake of it. If He'd wanted that, He didn't need Israel, and could have just rained fire from Heaven, or allowed other nations to just wipe each other out. There are also a few places in the Bible where angels wiped out whole armies to keep Israel from destruction, so God used Israel, but had other options for punishment if needed.
In my view, and i would say the Bible's view, God didn't order genocide or death for land. Or just genocide for no reason.
He ordered judgment.
Because God loves us, and is good, and Holy, when we sin, it hurts Him. Sin in part is a rejection of the good things of God, for the fallen things of satan. And although God is patient, and slow to anger, He must eventually punish disobedience and things that hurt Him. Case in point, Canaan was a land of sin, so God had to punish them after more than 400 years (the time Israel was in egypt) of sin.
But even so, God allowed for mercy except in the few cases we'll get into. First, see that God commanded Israel to pursue peace where possible.
When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.
And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, [that] all the people [that is] found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.
And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:
Its also not unheard of for God to judge one nation, by using another to conquer them. We often see in the Old Testament that God used military action between nations to judge other nations for wicked behavior. We even see that Babylon and Assyria were used to judge Israel when they started to act in horrible ways (the same ways the Canaanites had acted). Because God is fair He dealt with Israel the same way. See the book of Judges, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel among others to see that God severely punished Israel in a similar manner to the way He used Israel to clear out Canaan. If it hadn't been for His covenenant, and His goodness to keep His word its possible that God might have even wiped out Israel for their sins.
But, thats not really enough justification. What about the "genocide"? So what if the Canaanites were bad, is it really necessary to wipe out whole peoples?
What follows is my best attempt to explain Israel's conquest of Canaan, the tribes affected (and how) and what that tribe had done that would warrant what they got.
To start, in Numbers 35:32-34 God says that murder pollutes the land. the Hebrew word in my concordance indicates that this is a moral defilement. Perhaps this creates a foothold for the devil due to the defilement.
I can't say 100% for sure but it makes some sense to me. Think about it, when a place has alot of murders, or suicides haunting stories are often not far behind. Or ghosts on famous battlegrounds (this is a whole new topic!). Satan and his demons love to see humans suffer, (and sexually defiled) so it makes sense that they would congregate where much blood (like in a sacrifice) has been spilled, thus a defilement occurs.
At least some of the Canaanites practiced human sacrifice, Molech worship as well as child bones have been found in canaanite areas.
There are also some examples of excessive cruelty when the Canaanite tribes fought each other. Sihon and the Amorites had fought Moab, and i gather that Moab took a good beating beyond what would be considered "just war".
Another thing to note is that the spies in Numbers (Caleb, etc.) Reported giants, that is nephilim. (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephilim) (as of 2016 I am less inclined to believe the conquest of canaan was to clear out nephilim. Sure, it's possible, but I am leaning less this way now.)
Genesis 6 outlines how nephilim came to be. Fallen angels mating with human women. The flood wiped them out, but somehow they returned in another form. I won't debate this, as its been argued many times over, but this topic is HOT right now.
Your kids are probably reading the "Fallen" series or Percy Jackson (half "god?" please, its a nephilim) which are nephilim viewed in a positive light. "Heroes, great men of renown".(My assumption, i havent read either. Please correct me if i'm wrong.) I might even throw x-men into this boat. Why not see the truth about "demigods" and nephilim from the Bible, that this DID happen at some point, and God saw it as an abomination, not enetertainment like the kids have.
Anyways, not to beat a dead nephilim, but its relevant. Canaan, the promised land had some nephilim in it. End of story.
So there were nephilim, and the non-nephilim tribes that lived in Canaan. Nephilim are usually said to be bloodthirsty. And the human tribes, in some cases, committed murder by doing human sacrifice, and brutally warring against each other. The land was defiled, at a minimum with spilled blood.
God clearly says (Num 35:33) the land will remain polluted until the murderer is killed. The canaanites were the murderers, so perhaps with their defiled hands, they couldn't be used to judge each other. Some outside force needed to get rid of all those who had spilled blood wrongly. Which is what He commanded Israel to do. Execute, in righteous judgement, those who had killed and rebelled against The Most High God.
Keep in mind this rule was made at a time before Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Now, His work on the cross, and His blood is sufficient to cleanse a murderer or cleanse a defiled land as His power and authority, proven by His resurrection, place Him above any spirit that would reside in any such defiled place. Controversially, David Berkowitz has publicly accepted this atonement and thus will be spared on judgment day as he has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
Back on track, after much set up. What follows is my best attempt to identify the tribes Israel displaced or wiped out. If i've missed any, or assigned evil to them that they didn't do, please correct me. It was quite difficult to find out what these tribes were all about, and with my limited resources, this is what i could find out about what they did, and how they were punished.
One more thing to keep in mind as we consider how Israel committed "genocide". We are told that they (tribes) all were stronger than Israel in Deuteronomy 11:22 and 23 and that the Lord would do most of the work. Also, the inhabitants were evil. (Nephilim are unsaveable, they always oppose God and Israel) and many of the humans were evil as has been shown.
For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him;
Then will the LORD drive out all these nations from before you, and ye shall possess greater nations and mightier than yourselves.
First, the Nephilim tribes. Ahiman, Sheshai, Talmai are all descended from Anak (Numbers 13:22) (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anak). As said earlier, nephilim had an automatic death sentence. They can't be saved, they were evil and irredeemable. Christ died only for people, and no nephilim would ever want to repent anyways. For God to order a complete destruction of this group is to eliminate a class of being that is wholly against God's natural order and the result of rebellion by beings who should have known better.
Bashan - King Og attacked Israel first, so he brought it on himself to start with. (Numbers 21). Not only that, he (and presumably the Bashanites) weren't human. In Deuteronomy 3:11 he is described as last of the giants (H7497 which is actually Rephaim or Rapha).
How exactly a Rephaim differs from a nephilim, i don't know. But if you're interested, check out Judd Burton's "Interview with the Giant". He gets into the other giant tribes Israel had to deal with, like the zamzummin (Ammonite name for Rephaim) and the rest.
For more on nephilim in the land, see my early september post linked in the opening paragraph. Suffice it to say, they were the easy ones to justify.
Now, the humans. God makes it clear that certain tribes were to be wiped out, and this judgement was multifold. So Israel wouldn't turn from their God to follow false ones. To judge them for the abonimable things they'd done. And my conjecture: the blood they'd spilled in murder/sacrifice and that they were perhaps demonized.
Exodus 33 outlines that God would drive out certain tribes, and it appears that the same tribes are in Deuteronomy 20 and have been selected for judgment, but i'll go through them in no particular order. I've brought up a few tribes that are dealt with in different ways to show there were differences in what God commanded.
Exodus 34:11 & 12
Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.
Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:
V 16 - 18
But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee [for] an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
But thou shalt utterly destroy them; [namely], the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:
That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.
Amelekites (not listed above, but judged) - These guys appear to be kind of like Edomites, who were descended from Esau. (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amalek).
Exodus 17 indicates they attacked Israel unprovoked, which involved some back and forth fighting. Deuteronomy 25 has God talking about dealing with people fairly (related to trade) and gives the order to wipe them out because of their unprovoked attack on Israel. This suggests that they generally treated ALL passersby in horrible ways, suggesting completely irredeemable hearts.
They weren't wiped out in the conquest of Canaan, but were judged by God (1 Samuel 15) for their unrepetent persecution of Israel and their general uncouth conduct. It seems they had grown exceedingly wicked and repentence was far from their mind, much like Sodom and Gomorrah. (See the susancanthony article later. Apparently S&G were wicked in WAY more ways than just homosexuality.) So, Amalek was judged the way other cultures were and even Israel was when they practiced evil. Though they were to be wiped out, Saul didnt complete the task in any event. This of course cause problems later.
Here is a look at some of Amalek's shining moments. In summary, they were often cruel, and cowardly and often opposed to Israel for no real good reason.
Hittites - These guys were hard to find in regards to what they did wrong. It seems these guys lived north of Israel, near the black sea. Maybe where Turkey is today. Here's some basic info. They also seem to have pretty standard Babylonian religious beliefs, some of the same gods appear.
We do know that peoples practicing pagan worship were selected for judgment. Israel was too when they partook of it. As i said earlier, pagan worship likely gets people demonized and probably involves human sacrifice. We don't know what exactly the Hittites practiced but it likely was abominable and offensive.
Exodus 33 God says He will drive them out. But later in Deuteronomy 20 God does select them to be wiped out. Though Israel was told to wipe them out, they don't seem to have done the job as there are Hittites after the Promised Land was occupied, and Israel seemed to live with them. And Uriah, king david's general was a Hittite.
My new conclusions are that God drove the Hittites away, until such a time as Israel was populous enough to live in their land. But when the time came to get rid of them, Israel just never did it.
Jebusites - Exodus again says that God would drive them out, and Deut. 20 gives the instruction to wipe them out, but they also appear to fall into the same boat as the Hittites as they too were around after Israel took over Canaan. In Joshua it seems the Jebusites take up arms against Israel, before He struck so Israel had to fight them because they wouldn't leave. Now keep in mind, most, if not all of the inhabitants of Canaan had all heard about Jericho, and Og and Sihon being wiped out and were afraid of Israel and God.
But even knowing God was with Israel, the Jebusites took up arms anyways, which is no less than a rebellion against God and demonstrates that they were unrepetent. They knew they were being judged, and rather than repent (like ninevah) they resisted.
Still, it seems that God was still merciful or Israel again dropped the ball as they didn't get wiped out.
Amorites (King Sihon) - Numbers 21 outlines that they had previously wiped out many Moabites (in a brutal way) and were hostile to Israel even passing through. Israel had even sent ambassadors to ask if they could pass. Not only did Sihon deny Israel passage, he went to attack them! Again, this may be like the Jebusite situation. He knew judgement was coming, and rather than repent, Sihon sought to get rid of the instrument of judgement: Israel.
They also don't seem to have been completely wiped out, as later on, Israel was influenced by their idol worship, which got Israel in major trouble with God.
Canaanites and Perizzites - There is really little on these guys. I can find no reason they were judged, or if they survived it. Again, they also practiced "abominations" which involved idols and possbily human sacrifice. If anyone has anything to add on these guys, by all means. But for now, they're on the naughty list.
The Canaanites were also said to worship Molech which involved child sacrifice.
Moab - not completely wiped out, nor selected for getting wiped out, but idol worshippers of Baal Numbers 25, and Chemosh (who might also be related to Molech which involved child sacrifice). The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary implies that Chemosh was not adverse to human sacrifice, citing 2 Kings 3:27.
In any event, they don't seem to have been harassed much by Israel as the Amorites had already taken their (Moabite) land which was then taken by Israel.
Midianites - Are resident in Numbers 25 and were basically baal worshippers. This involved prostitution (which could easily have spread demonization, not to mention STD). They were slated for punishment by death because their idolotry caused problems for Israel, so God judged them.
The daughter of the midianite leader was involved in defiling Israel with idol worship and God ordered them killed for it in Numbers 31. Perhaps because someone in power was responsible, more people had to be punished. This makes some sense, as the leader usually is a representative of the people.
Also, the Israelites involved in this scandal were to die so as not to defile all of Israel. God didn't just single out the Midianites.
In Numbers 31 the Midianite men were killed, as were some women, because they led Israel into idolatry. Virgins were spared and allowed to marry into Israel. Presumably the sexual contact would have opened Israel up to STD's, and/or demonic influence and if Israelites had sex with the non-virgins, they would become demonized or infected with VD as well.
Also, verse 21 has a requirement to burn all the metals Israel took. This i think lends credence to the demonized theory which would sterilze the implements, but also presumably remove any demonic attachment.
Again, at this time, before Christ had come, there really was no way to effectively exorcise people, let alone on a mass scale, so execution was the order. Anyone who thinks possession is no big deal should read about Jesus' encounter with Legion. Sure, God could have just removed the demons but that seems to not be the way God operates.
This seems to be all of the tribes selected for "genocide" so if i've missed any, please note what the tribe name is, and the punishment alotted to them. If i uncover more, i will add them. Also note that in many cases Israel didn't obey anyways which cause them to stray from God.
This should be perfectly clear that God, as a loving God did not order a wholescale genocide of the promised land. Rather, it was a judgement on the groups of people living there for the wickedness they'd done. In many cases, Israel didn't even kill them (even when they were supposed to) or only killed when attacked first. The only instances of successful "genocide" appear to be directed to the inhuman nephilim of the area. Other similar orders were only given when a tribe had really led Israel astray, or once the specific Canaanite tribe had proven they were beyond repentence.
It is also worth noting that God is not only good, but also just. Israel's conquest was a judgment, and because God is just, He turned Israel over to the same fate when they started to do the abominations the Canaanites had done.
So for those who question why a loving God could ask for "genocide" or the death of people let me reiterate what i said earlier and paraphrase Chuck Missler. God is good, God is just. Sin, is rebellion against a God who is good, and loves us. As a just God, He must punish sin. But, because God is good, He only punishes people to this extreme when they are beyond repentence. Read the book of Jonah. Ninevah was at least as bad as some of the Canaanite tribes, but because they responded to God's threat of judgement, they repented. The Canaanite tribes seemed to know judgement was coming and opted not to repent, but to resist.
General evil in Canaan (Sodom and Gomorrah too. I haven't read this in depth yet.)
This is a general overview. Some of this info is conjecture on my part or is based on incomplete information. Please feel free to bring up tribes or other examples of Israel's genocide and i will address it. I apologize if any info is wrong.