Was God being cruel when God told Joshua
to kill all the Canaanites?
Both Christians and non-Christians occasionally wonder,
“How could an all-loving God command Joshua to
kill every single person that had already been living
in the Promised Land by the time the Israelites arrived
--all the men, women, children, and elderly--and
thereby commit genocide of all the Canaanite
nations--all the Hittites, Hivites, Perrizites, Jebusites,
Amorites, Gibeonites, Gergusites, Geshurites and the Philistines?”
The traditional Christian answer has always been about God’s Justice, and often goes something like this:
"The child-sacrifice type of idolatry of the Canaanites
was so offensive to God and would be so corrupting
to the Israelites that God’s Justice, Righteousness and Holiness demanded that God tell Joshua to
commit genocide of the entire Canaanite population."
But neither the Christian nor the non-Christian is asking about God's justice, righteousness and holiness; he is asking about God’s love. He is really asking,
“Couldn’t an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God
find a better solution for the Canaanite child-sacrifice
idolatry problem that was more in the character of God
as an all-loving God, rather than killing all the innocent Canaanite babies and killing all the younger Canaanites
that had not yet worshipped idols?”
The answer to this question that I will give you is the only answer I am aware of that explains how God's command for Joshua to kill all the Canaanites was actually the most loving solution for the idolatrous Canaanites themselves and also the most loving solution for the innocent Canaanite babies and children as well.
Just as the key to God's justice involves the crimes of the Canaanites, the key to God's love in involves the nature of the afterlife that the Canaanites will be entering for all eternity.
So before we continue, we need to talk about Paradise. John 3:13 tells us that:
“No one has ever gone into heaven except the
one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.”
(John 3:13 NIV)
This teaches us that before Christ rose from the dead and went back to heaven, that NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON had gone to heaven yet. So evidently, for the first 4000 years of earth’s history (from the time Cain killed Able in Genesis 4:8 until the time Christ rose from the dead) NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON had gone to heaven. So where did all of them (including Enoch and Elijah) end up going? Jesus tells us that they all went to a place called PARADISE. For it is written:
Jesus answered [the thief on the cross], “I tell you the
truth, today you will be with me in PARADISE.”
(Luke 23:43 NIV)
At that time, Paradise was the afterlife-dwelling place for all the righteous before Christ rose from the dead and took them to heaven with him. And so the very day when the thief died, he joined Jesus in PARADISE.
But remember, Jesus did NOT ascend to heaven that day, did he? Instead, Jesus descended into hell (I Peter 3:18-20; 4:6) and stayed there for the next three days. For it is written:
"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the
belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three
days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
(Matthew 12:40 NIV)
The Bible tells us that after Jesus died on the cross he immediately descended into HELL for three days and preached to the "spirits in prison" (I Peter 3:18-20; 4:6). Therefore, when the thief on the cross died a few hours after Christ died and immediately joined Jesus in Paradise, this can only mean that PARADISE and HELL must be side-by-side in the very center (i.e. the heart) of the earth. Thus, the Bible teaches that there is a relatively small HOLLOW section in the very center of the earth that contains both HELL and PARADISE.
Luke 16:26 teaches that there is an uncrossable chasm between HELL and PARADISE so that no one can travel between them. Now many Christians mistakenly believe that in the Luke 16:26 parable, the rich man in hell was seeing Abraham and Lazarus in heaven. But that cannot possibly be true, since according to John 3:13 (quoted above), no one had gone to heaven before Christ's death and resurrection and so NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON was living in heaven when Christ spoke that parable. So the rich man in hell had to be seeing Abraham and Lazarus in Paradise, evidently located directly across from Hell in the center of the earth. And since Jesus has the "Keys to Hades" (Revelation 1:18), then he took everyone living in paradise with him to heaven when he ascended from hell to heaven. For it is written:
“When he ascended on high, he led captives
in his train.” (Ephesians 4:7 NIV)
So what was Paradise like back when it was fully populated with all the saved who would eventually go to heaven with Christ? Well, Paradise was most likely an underground Garden of Eden. Why do I say that?
Well, Revelation 21 and 22 tell us that we will have access to the fruit of the tree of life in heaven and Isaiah 65 says the animals in heaven will be friendly. Since this is an exact parallel to the Garden of Eden itself (when Adam and Eve also had access to the fruit of the Tree of Life and all the animals in the Garden of Eden were friendly), this can only mean that the Kingdom of Heaven itself is an indoor Garden of Eden, and that Paradise is most likely a subterranean equivalent of a Garden of Eden at the center of the earth.
With that in mind, here is my answer about the "Joshua Genocide".
Most of us believe it is correct to forcibly remove a child from an abusive home when the child’s life is clearly in danger and then place them in a foster home for their safety and protection. Well, all the Canaanite children’s lives were in danger of being sacrificed to idols by their parents or by their parent’s priests, even though it was the first born Canaanite children whose lives were at greatest risk. So God did the same thing to protect the Canaanite children that we routinely do here on earth. Using the sword of Joshua, God forcibly removed the Canaanite children from their homes and brought them into paradise. After all, growing up in a perfect world like Paradise or Heaven is the most wonderful blessing an innocent baby or child could ever have. So rather than considering this a tragedy, the deaths of the innocent Canaanite babies and children becomes a wonderful blessing for them instead. And according to Isaiah 65:17, upon entering the Kingdom of heaven, “former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind”, so presumably God also erased all the children’s memories of their parents so they never missed them at all and were never sad when they entered paradise. So why is it so right and loving for us in the 21st century to remove children from homes where potential life threatening child abuse may occur and so wrong of God to do the same thing three thousand years ago?
Further, just like a loving mother naturally overcompensates her child for having to go through the pain of an injection from the doctor by buying her child ice cream or toys, etc. and even more greatly overcompensates the child for going through ever greater suffering like a tonsillectomy, God’s omnipotent power allows God to eternally overcompensate all these Canaanite children for any and all the suffering they ever received on earth. God is far more loving than any of us will ever be and Paradise and Heaven are far safer and more wonderful places to grow up than any foster home on earth could ever be, and so God can easily overcompensate any child for any degree of suffering he received from the sword of Joshua. So as I said, rather than considering this a tragedy, the deaths of the innocent Canaanite babies and children becomes a wonderful blessing for them instead.
(To better understand this next part, it would be helpful if
you first read my essay entitled,
"Does everyone in Hell get the identical punishment?"--
"A New Understanding of Hell".)
Even further, since the sword of Joshua would significantly decrease the age of death for the Canaanite adults by an average of, let’s say 50%, each of them would be held accountable at their Judgment for only 50% of the sins that they would ordinarily have committed during their natural lifetimes and therefore their punishments in the Lake of Fire would be less. Consequently, rather than viewing God’s order to Joshua to kill the Canaanites as an evil genocide by our all-powerful, all-loving God, instead, through the sword of Joshua, God has actually been merciful and loving to the entire Canaanite population, from the innocent Canaanite babies and children to the guilty Canaanite adults.