“When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, 2and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.” (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)
Students, scholars, and skeptics of the Bible all agree that there are some very difficult passages to process. Many people, even within the evangelical community, struggle with harmonizing the Great Yahweh of wrath and vengeance often portrayed in the Old Testament with the meek and loving Yeshua the Messiah of the New Testament.
Any serious student of the Bible knows, however, that the Old Testament is replete with passages showing the goodness, grace, and mercy of the LORD, who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 103). And the true, complete picture of Jesus that we discover in the New Testament is much more than meek and mild. Consider Paul’s description of the return of the Lord Jesus .
“when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9)
Even still, there are some divine acts of judgment recorded in the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament, that appear on the surface to be morally problematic. I am speaking specifically about the world-wide flood of Noah’s day, which destroyed all life on earth including children, and the conquest of the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, where the LORD commanded that all the wicked nations in the land be dedicated to destruction. In other words, God commanded the Israelites to kill everyone — men, women and children — and show no mercy to them.
It is precisely this – total annihilation – that many consider a stumbling block. As one skeptic said, “if your God is a God who would tell His people to ruthlessly murder innocent women and children, then He is a sick, evil, sadistic God who is not worth worshipping.”
Now, there are many approaches when answering and addressing this potentially problematic issue, and many have written in depth from various perspectives to provide a rational solution. But for sake of time, I would like to make one simple observation and also provide one simple solution.
I believe that the key to understanding why God commanded Joshua and the Israelites to dedicate the Amorites and Canaanites to destruction is found in Genesis 6. There is one obvious connection between God’s judgment in the days of Noah and His judgment in days of Joshua — the Nephilim.
When Moses sent the 12 spies on a reconnaissance mission into the land of Canaan, what did they report? Who did they see? Why were 10 of the 12 spies convinced they had no chance of defeating the inhabitants of the land? Read it for yourself.
“However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there… So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, ‘The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.’” (Numbers 13:28, 32-33)
In Deuteronomy Moses again refers to the sons of Anak, the descendants of the Nephilim, living in the Promised Land. He says, “Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ (Deuteronomy 9:1-2)
Is it mere coincidence that the only two times the LORD God commanded the total destruction of a race of people involved the Nephilim giants? Not only were these giants defiled spiritually and charged demonically, but also they were utterly corrupt genetically. The Bible is clear that the abominable practices of these wicked nations living in Canaan included demonic practices of sorcery, witchcraft, divination, child sacrifice, and necromancy (Deuteronomy 18) and also every debased act of sexual immorality including, homosexuality, incest and bestiality (Leviticus 18). These are the very same satanic practices that were taking place during the days of Noah.
So to understand why the LORD would have commanded the Israelites to completely destroy every man, woman and even child living in the Promised Land, one must also understand the connection between the demonic incursion of Genesis 6 leading to the flood and the reintroduction of this very same wicked race of giants leading to the conquests of Canaan. Something so profane had happened among theses nations that God knew they must all be utterly destroyed. Anything less would give these demonic beings the chance to survive and potentially eliminate the promised seed of Messiah and usurp God’s ultimate plan of redemption.