God’s Commands for Israel to Kill the Canaanites – Where’s the Love?

  • Many critics of Christianity argue that God’s commands in the Old Testament for Israel to kill the Canaanites contradict his teachings on love and forgiveness in the New Testament. How can these seemingly competing realities be reconciled?
  • The answer lies in the nature and character of God. God is holy and just and cannot tolerate sin (Romans 1:18). At the same time, God is gracious and compassionate and wants none to perish (2 Peter 3:9).
  • When God commanded the Israelites to kill the Canaanites in the Old Testament we see God’s holiness, justice, and judgment. The Canaanites were one of the most perverse cultures in history, committing many abominations in God’s eyes, including child sacrifice (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). In his grace, God had allowed the Canaanites over 400 years to repent, but they persisted in their sin (Genesis 15:16). Therefore, God used the Israelites as his instrument of judgment against them.
  • God is not partial when it comes to violations of his righteous standards. In fact, in the Old Testament we see God judge Israel by the very same standards that he judged the Canaanites; and when Israel persisted in their sin and rebellion against God, God used foreign nations as his instruments of judgment against them (2 Kings 17:16-20).
  • While it is true that in the person of Jesus Christ we see the greatest demonstration of God’s grace and love. It is simply not the case that the New Testament does not equally portray God’s holiness, justice, and judgment against sin.
  • The paramount example of God’s holiness, justice, and judgment against sin in the New Testament is found in Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the cross, where Jesus took upon himself God’s wrath against fallen humanity’s sin because of his great love for us (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; 1 John 3:16).
  • We also see God’s holiness, justice, and judgment against sin in God’s prophetic revelation about the end of this present age. God’s word is clear that he will one day eradicate sin and rebellion completely (Revelation 20-22). This final judgment will be the most fearsome experience of God’s righteousness the world has ever seen.
  • Thus, the most important question anyone could ask is, “Where do I stand with our holy God?” If you’re not sure, please read John 3:16-18 and put your trust in Jesus.

For more information on the nature and character of God, please check out Dr. Carlson’s lecture, What is God Like? available in CD or MP3 in our online store.