There are a few Old Testament passages where God tells the Jews to “completely and utterly destroy” a nation (Deuteronomy 7:2 20:17 & Joshua 10:40). Some people have accused God of committing genocide. The word ‘genocide’ is a combined Greek and Latin word meaning ‘race killing’.
Consider the following points:
1st…Please use the word correctly. The improper use of words, like genocide, can give an incorrect word picture of someone/something. God’s commands were motivated by moral concerns, not racial ones. Note, for example, that God judges nations for outrageous moral acts (Amos, chapters 1&2, Leviticus 18:20-30), not for what race they belong to. In fact, Israel was to love & treat other nationalities just like their own people (Leviticus 19:33,34). This was unheard of in other ancient Near Eastern nations. God was concerned with sin, not ethnicity. God treated the Jews the same way as these other nations when they did these moral atrocities (Deuteronomy 13).
2nd…Who gets to determine if a nation or culture is irredeemable, beyond the point of no moral or scriptural return? Aren’t these considerations too weighty for any human being to judge? Yes, they are. Only God should be the judge, thru special revelation thru His prophets. Without such clear divine guidance, Israel wouldn’t have been justified in attacking these nations. When Israel did attack nations without this divine approval (Numbers 14:41-45, Joshua 7), they lost. Such a divine call is NOT a universally binding standard for all time and for all cultures. It was given to Israel only for a specific time and nation.
3rd…All languages have figures of speech. When you say you have a million to one chance of winning the lottery, no one literally means it. It’s hyperbole, overstating something to prove a point. Joshua used this language when he said to “completely and utterly destroy all who breathed” (Joshua 10:40-42 11: 16-23). In reality, Joshua did no such thing, he was just saying he had trounced the enemy. Compare Deuteronomy 7:2 with 7:3-5. If they were all destroyed in verse 2, why would He say not to intermarry with them in verses 3-5? Even later (Joshua 23:7, 12, 13 15:63 16:10 17:13 & Judges 2:10-13) Joshua warned the Jews not to mention, swear by, serve or bow down to their gods. The knowing Near Eastern reader recognized these types of words as hyperbole. This language wasn’t meant to be taken literally.
Also, remember that God’s mercy was always available to any Canaanite who responded positively to God’s message (Joshua 2:1-14 & Hebrews 11:31). It’s important to remember that Israel NEVER used these commands to justify attacking non-Canaanite peoples. These commands were given as one time orders only.
4th…We are far removed from the moral depravity of that time. It’s really hard for us to imagine what was going on back then. Even the women, the elderly and the children were involved in this depravity. Incest, adultery, beastiality, homosexuality, temple prostitution, child molestation, child sacrifice, the Canaanite treatment of their enemies….and the list goes on and on (Leviticus 18 & 20:1-5). The Canaanites were a depraved people. And yet, God gave then over 400 years to change their ways (Genesis 15:16) but they didn’t. The USA hasn’t even been a nation that long.
Lest we think we wouldn’t do such things, consider what we’ve done in the last 50 years;
…killing babies in the womb
…changing the biblical definition of marriage
…legally discriminating against Christians for holding to biblical morals
…giving rights to rather than medically treating gender confused persons
Things that may fall in the next few years;
…polygamy (one man marrying several women)
…polyandry (one woman marrying several men)
…beastiality (having sex with an animal)
…the lowering of the age of consent to have sexual intercourse with a minor
5th…When you make judgements about what is right or wrong, what system of morals are you using? Your own ideas? Where do they come from? How do you decide what is right or wrong? Is it your own preference or do you compare an action to an unchangeable moral standard?
We can complain about the indecency of God’s wrath but would we want to live in a society where there was little punishment for violating moral standards? God’s wrath is because of His love and protection of us.
How many of us, as children, thought our parents actions towards us were unfair only to find out we agreed with them when we became parents? Could it be the same here with God’s wrath? It’s possible we may have to defer to God’s judgement now and only get full answers when we’re in heaven and can see things from His perspective.
“77 FAQ’s about God and the Bible” by Josh McDowell & Sean McDowell, page 81
“That’s Just Your Interpretation” by Dr. Paul Copan, page 161