One of the harshest criticisms leveled again God in the Old Testament are His orders to take life, and in particular, large groups, such as the Jews devastating the Canaanites in order to occupy the land. In fact, many have charged God with genocide. Comparisons to the German Holocaust of the Jews are often raised, but this is not a fair comparison and is only intended to disparage and not illustrate.
Did God Commit Genocide?
God never ordered the Jews to annihilate the Canaanites, but to dispossess them. They were to kill those who refuse to be dispossessed. They were not allowed to chase down those who ran away. It was also located to a very specific geography, the land of Canaan. There were people racially similar whom God had not any order to attack and kill, and that’s because they were not living in Canaan, the Hebrew land of promise.
It was much more than they were living in the land God intended for the Jews. They were a wicked people. If you reconsider what we discussed in the Second Part of this series, God has the right to be angry at sin and punish it.
- The Canaanites practiced “abominable customs” (Leviticus 18:30).
- They engaged in “detestable things” (Deuteronomy 18:9).
- Their idolatry involved witchcraft, and they tried to cast spells on people and summon the dead (Deuteronomy 18:10-11).
- They would even “burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:30).
Add to this that God was long-suffering with these people and gave them time to repent. Going back to the time of Abraham over 400 years prior, they were evil, but it was not yet in full bloom. He patiently waited until the sins of these people were complete before he ordered any action against them (Genesis 15:16).
And still, critics claim God is blameworthy of evil because oftentimes children were slaughtered along with the adults. The insistence that this is innocent life being taken reckons blame on God, according to the skeptics. These lives are innocent, but upon what basis does the atheist declare this? By denying the Bible as the Word of God, they have also rejected any objective and absolute code for human morality. Therefore, the skeptic has no grounds to say anything in God is wrong since they cannot prove anything is wrong.
What is both ironic and sad is that these same skeptics do not really believe that it is morally wrong to kill all children or to take away all innocent lives. By seeing man in purely a materialistic way, we are no more than a body, just flesh and nothing more. When the unborn child in inconvenient or unwanted, killing it is not only not immoral, it is often called the right thing to do. Life does not being at birth, but at conception, and that is because we are more than flesh. We are all given by God a spirit.
The atheist will sometimes blame God for babies that died in the Canaanite captivity, saying that they lost their life, and this life is all we have. As beings with souls, this life is not all we have. All of those babies killed in Canaan died innocently, and thus are barred from the doom of hell and are guaranteed a place beside God in the eternity of Heaven. If those babies had grown to maturity, there is the greatest probability that they would have become as depraved as all other Canaanite adults.
To this, the atheist often responds that if this is true, then we should kill all babies and make sure they go on to Heaven. That is unreasonable because we, as limited humans, do not know the consequences of all action, unlike God. Some, like Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, not only favored abortion, but would justify killing sick children and the elderly. But neither she nor anyone else can tell if that young hemophilic will cure cancer or lead warring nations into peace.
Only God is in the position to legislate the death of innocents because only God knows what will be the consequences of these actions. All life begins with God and we are all in His hand. When we die, our eternal spirit returns to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7). And while we are alive, it is only in God that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). If all life belongs to God, He may legitimately determine when a life has or has not achieved its purpose. And from there, God alone may designate when a life may legitimately end. God is not blameworthy for the deaths of the Canaanites, even their innocent children, just as He is not guilty of any wrong for any person who dies even today. Instead of blaming God and being angry with God, we should love and serve Him, and submit to Him with all of our heart.