"When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it: And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee. Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:" Deut 20:10-17
It's a common trope among scorners to present passages like this one to the Christian in order to confront the Christian with the presumably bloodthirsty and vengeful God of the Bible. This highlights the tragic misunderstanding the scorner has towards the Bible, and their insincerity while 'searching for the truth'. Even more tragic , however, is how many Christians have no real reply for this, instead adopting a sort of embarrassed stance with some believers drawing at least a mental distinction between the 'mean God' of the Old Testament and the 'nice guy Jesus' of the New Testament.
The Bible offers no such path of escape, though. The Bible claims to be an accurate, inspired, consistent revelation of the Creator to His creation.The same God quoted in Deuteronomy 20 is, according to scripture, the same God who took on the likeness of sinful flesh and gave His life on Calvary in order to redeem His enemies. The Bible does not allow an honest reader to draw any distinction between the two.
I submit to you, as a Bible believer, that we owe it to ourselves to face this issue. After all, a Christianity that cannot withstand the scrutiny of intellectual midgets like Voltaire or the scribbling of a self-professed monkey man like Dawkins is not a Christianity worth defending. Rather than dismiss this attribute of God, we should examine in the full light of scripture. In doing so, we will find that the removal of the Canaanites was not only consistent with God's character throughout the Bible, but was the morally right thing to do.
1. You Aren't God, He is.
In the same way an ignorant child draws incorrect conclusions about the world, the scorner assumes that just because God didn't do things they way they would have, God was either wrong or non-existent. In order to establish the proper perspective, let's be frank; God doesn't solicit opinions from His creation. In fact, God says many times in scripture that His opinions and judgements are superior to that of man on the basis of Who He is and what He has done. In Isaiah 40, the Holy Spirit says;
"Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?
With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. ....All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity."In Isaiah 59:8-9 God says, in unequivocal terms that he is smarter than you.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.God asserts in Romans 9 that he stands above mankind, and outside the realm of man's ability to appropriately assess His actions.
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?The Lord, when speaking to Job, makes it very clear that Job should remember his place in the grand scheme of things.
Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed? Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place; That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? ..... Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth? Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all. Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof, That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof? Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great? Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war? By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth? Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder; To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man; To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth? Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? ... Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee? Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are? Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart? Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven, When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together? Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions,When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait?Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.In Deut 32, God claims to have the final authority in matters of life and death.
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.
Just to reiterate, God is smarter, wiser, and more powerful than His critics. He has superior intellect, superior information, superior ability and regularly does things that no man is even capable of understanding. He made all things, and He sustains all things. In fact, He is so far ahead of the curve of human intellect that His ways are "past finding out". God doesn't always explain Himself because not only are we not owed an explanation, but we wouldn't understand His explanation if He did.
That's interesting, because according to Romans 1, God wrote His law on the hearts of men, giving them a hard-wired sense of right and wrong, however marred by sin and muddled by culture it may be. God, as a moral being, created beings with a sense of morality derived from Him. He then interacts with those beings, knowing that His creation has the capacity to assess His actions in the light of the rules He laid down and based on the information He has provided them. He ensures, through scripture that an accurate record of these interactions exists for future humans to see.
It's perfectly legitimate for a man to look at what God has revealed about Himself, and, use his God-given sense of morality to assess those actions taken by God. But to make a proper assessment, a man must weigh all the factors before him, not just he ones that fit his bias against his Creator. The scoffer and the scorner see what they want to see, blinded by the darkness of their own heart.
Fret not, this is not my entire argument. I'm just laying the groundwork.