Making Sense of the God of the Old Testament-Canaan Conquest

A troubling issue to many non-Christians is the bloody conquest of Israel as they made their way into the Promised Land against ancient Near East societies. Many find this conquest difficult to grasp. For many, this dilemma is a major roadblock to embracing Christianity. I’ve spoken to a few atheists and agnostics regarding this hot-button topic in today’s culture. My own family member who has fallen away from the faith finds the story disheartening. Below, I provide a way to conceptualize a way to make sense of this seemingly blind atrocious act of violence from God through Israel.

1. God is the Creator of the universe. Everything in it rightfully belongs to him. All people are caretakers and stewards of God’s property. Which means take care of what God is allowing you to manage!

2. God is the Divine moral lawgiver, therefore, He has set the standard for righteousness by his divine moral law. Israel received the 10 Commandments, but these laws are observable and identifiable because it’s in our conscience. This is often called natural law. Which means everyone can act upright not just those with the advantage of the law.

3. God chose a nation among many nations to be a guiding light to the nearby pagan nations.

4. God promised that His chosen nation would inherit a promised land only after they obliterate and completely destroy the population and belongings.

5.Why obliteration? These nations practiced horrific rituals such as child sacrifice, bodily mutilation, divination, and fertility cults to appease their god. These practices run contrary to the moral law of the world.

6. God chose a nation, He wanted it to be consecrated (set apart) from the world and nothing mimicking pagan communities.

7. So when God commands annihilation, he doesn’t want any lingering pagan rituals pulling away from his nation. Just like you would move into a new place, you’d get the place fumigated to rid of an infestation of pest invading your prized possessions. The same is how God wanted Israel to clear the territory to prevent syncretic practices.

8. Therefore, God executed judgment for sin against the Canaanites and other ancient Near East states as a result of their blatant disregard of the moral law due to their cruel practices.

Certainly, there could be many ways to approach this conundrum. Ultimately, the conquest points out that unrepentant sin always goes punished. Maybe not immediately, but eventually, it will. We could all learn a thing or two about the importance of how sin destroys fellowship with God. Hence, why God is allowing us time to be receptive to the Sacrament of Penance for forgiveness.

Friends, God is merciful. Just as he was going to destroy Nineveh because of sinful conduct through the prophet Jonah, he relented because of his loving kindness at their contrition. This is available to us by the font of Divine Mercy. Let Canaan serve as a reminder for us!

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