Was it OK to kill all the Canaanites? (Part 4 of 4)
If you've been following these Q&A's for the past month, you know we've been thinking through the divine command that the Israelites completely destroy the Canaanites.
We've looked at bad ways to avoid these texts, historical considerations to help us understand them better, and some possible explanations for why it fits within our understanding of a God who is love.
Today, I'd like to talk about 2 very interesting approaches to resolving this problem.
One approach considers divine accommodation. Divine accommodation simply means that prior to the fullness of God's revelation (Jesus Christ), God accommodated the fallen-ness of humanity by speaking to them at a level they could understand. In the ancient world, the only way to communicate power and authority was by a show of military might. God would have preferred humanity was more mature, but they weren't. So God stooped to their level and communicated on their level in order to prepare them for fuller revelation later.
A final, and more radical, way to resolve the tension between the God's command to annihilate the Canaanites and Jesus' command to love our enemies is the suggestion that God utilized that historical situation to show humanity that violence simply does not work. After all, the conquest of Canaan was ultimately a colossal failure. Turn the page from Joshua and you find Judges. National warfare was only a short-term solution. Its failure points toward the need for a greater solution. The Gospel is that solution.
Personally, I am still thinking through all the issues I've presented over the past month. I am eagerly awaiting the publication of a book on this subject by one of my favorite preachers (Greg Boyd). His book is set to be titled The Crucifixion of the Warrior God.
But to summarize everything we've said over the past month, here's how I would presently respond to the question 'Was it OK to kill all the Canaanites?' Well, in my opinion most all the Canaanites likely fled before or at the beginning of the conquest. Only stubborn soldiers at military strongholds remained. These people were guilty of great crimes, had superior weaponry, and would have quickly led Israel astray. God not only has the right to judge them, but the aftermath of Israel's failure to completely destroy them (read Judges) vindicates God's earlier command. God helped Israel in a way they could recognize so that He could create the time and space to teach them greater truths (ultimately including enemy-love).