The Agora
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Were the Canaanites SO BAD?

Why were the Canaanites so bad that God told Israel to kill them all, including children?

Well, it's a tough question, isn't it? But the OT is full of the same question -- just phrased in different ways: Why was the whole world so bad that God destroyed them all, young and old alike, but saved only eight in the days of Noah? (And, of course, it can be pointed out that in the NT Jesus gives explicit support to the account. If we believe in Jesus, we can't help but believe that the story of Noah is literally true.)

On one level, the answer is: the Canaanites (so far as we know about them) were grossly idolatrous people; their systems of worship involved the worst forms of sexual abominations, hetero and homo and other things totally unmentionable. Their worship was totally tied up in these things; you couldn't "worship" the Baalim and the Ashtoreth, etc, without visiting the equivalent of brothels on a regular basis. There were male prostitutes and female prostitutes, who were called "priests" and "priestesses". The whole business was publicly witnessed, and glorified. And it was "fun" and "exciting". (Probably not much worry about getting young and old alike out to the "mid-week Bible class" there!) And then there was the offering of babies in the fires to their gods! Sex and violence galore. Las Vegas, Mardi Gras, and the abortion clinic all wrapped up in one!

One can't tell for sure, but there were possibly some terrible diseases -- including sexually transmitted ones -- epidemic in these peoples too. There are at least a couple of occasions when God tells Israel to destroy certain peoples, and leave alive only those.. young?... girls who were virgins.. no one else (was this because all the others were so infected?). Other times, of course, He commands that ALL be destroyed. Sometimes He even saves others -- like Rahab and all her family -- even though a decree of death was placed on all the people of Jericho. Presumable He knew what He was doing in every case... even if we can't understand it.

What problems might this have presented for Israel if there were pockets of these people, and their worship, everywhere in Israel? We know that some remained, and were "thorns" in the sides of Israel ever after.

On another level, there is this answer to the question: God doesn't OWE anyone anything. Life, even brief life, is a gift from God, and He is free to take it back when and how He pleases. He cannot be unjust. The only problem is: we have trouble understanding WHY. But that's our problem, not His. It's like Job... he keeps asking WHY. Why am I suffering? Why aren't THEY suffering? Why won't God explain it all to MY satisfaction? Why won't God at least come and talk to me?

The thing is: God finally does come to Job, and talk to him, but He DOESN'T explain it! He doesn't answer all Job's questions. Not really. Instead, He says, in abbreviated form, "I'm God and you're not. Were YOU there when I made the heavens and the earth? Who are you to question HOW I do anything?" And, apparently, Job is satisfied and repents -- having seen the great and terrible glory of God, up close and personal.

Is that an answer? Sort of, I guess. Not easy to put over to others, I suppose. Unless they are disposed to see it.

But I think that to see a lot of what the Bible teaches, on a very basic level, we have to be prepared to give up a lot of our preconceptions (some might call it "humanism"). To put ourselves in that right place vis a vis God and His Law and His commandments... is very humbling to the flesh and pride of us human beings. We are not the center of the universe, all things do not revolve around us... that's hard to grasp, because for everyone of us, they do! We are born thinking about ourselves, we live thinking about ourselves, we see the whole world through our own eyes, and no one else's. And we just have to keep learning, time after time, that there is something bigger than us!

Exhortation for the day concluded.
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