Dan Popp
Judging God for murder
By Dan Popp
May 12, 2014

The death which men fear is the separation of the soul from the body. The true death, which men do not fear, is the separation of the soul from God. – Augustine

In the essay Judging God I tried to show that justice can be considered independently of God; which is to say that justice is a real thing, not merely "whatever God does." This means that we can determine whether He conforms to the demands of justice. And, surprisingly, He invites us in the Scriptures to do that. In a follow-up piece about The so-called "problem of evil" I examined one of the frequent charges against God: That He is to blame for allowing evil. I'd like to finish this little series by looking at another allegation against the Almighty.

Silly as it is, it's a charge I've heard more than once: That the Christian God is a murderer because of, you know, all that smiting in the Old Testament. Fortunately, it's easy to find the reason for God's extermination of, say, the Canaanites.
    When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. (Deuteronomy 18:9-11, NAS95)
To make someone pass through the fire was a ritual in the worship of Molech. There seems to be some disagreement about whether the child was burned alive, or merely conducted between two fires before being slaughtered. The fact that children were murdered in the service of several demons in this land is well documented.

There's more.
    Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'I am the LORD your God. 'You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the LORD your God. So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.

    None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the LORD. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, that is, the nakedness of your mother. She is your mother; you are not to uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife; it is your father's nakedness. The nakedness of your sister, either your father's daughter or your mother's daughter, whether born at home or born outside, their nakedness you shall not uncover. The nakedness of your son's daughter or your daughter's daughter, their nakedness you shall not uncover; for their nakedness is yours. The nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, born to your father, she is your sister, you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister; she is your father's blood relative. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister, for she is your mother's blood relative. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's brother; you shall not approach his wife, she is your aunt. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son's wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; it is your brother's nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, nor shall you take her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; they are blood relatives. It is lewdness. You shall not marry a woman in addition to her sister as a rival while she is alive, to uncover her nakedness. Also you shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness during her menstrual impurity. You shall not have intercourse with your neighbor's wife, to be defiled with her.

    You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion. Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.

    But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you. For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people. Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God.
    (Leviticus 18:1-30, emphasis mine)
Why were the Canaanites worthy of death? That's why. And not only them, but anyone who did or does such things.

God had already destroyed almost all of humanity in Noah's day because of corruption, violence and depravity – including what appears to be sex with demons. (See Genesis 6:1-12.) Not deterred by the outcome of that experiment, the Canaanites were pursuing the same things to the utmost of their abilities.

But the Lord had given mankind more than a century to repent before He sent the flood. What about the Canaanites? Didn't they deserve fair warning? Would it surprise you to learn that God gave these degenerates four hundred years to repent?
    God said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. "But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here [to Canaan], for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete." (Genesis 15:13-16)
Anyone truly concerned about justice wouldn't ask, "Why did God eradicate the Canaanites," but, "Why did He wait so long?"

There was another danger in the fornication/murder/occultism cocktail of the Canaanites: It was seductive. Wherever the Israelites came into contact with it (that is, wherever they disobeyed God and allowed it to survive), it lured them into the same abominable practices.
    When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you. But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire. (Deuteronomy 7:1-5)
The bulk of the Old Testament is the history of Israel's decline into idolatry, punctuated by brief revivals of true worship.

But what about the innocent children who lived in Canaan? (And the innocent children in Sodom and Gomorrah, and the innocent children in the antediluvian world)? How can anyone defend their execution by YHWH?

I haven't forgotten my premise: Justice means the same thing to God as it does to us. However, God is a different kind of being than us, and this fact may have practical implications. Human justice must be limited in order to counteract our limitations – for example, the "innocent until proven guilty" rule. Since God is omniscient, He has no need of such limitations. In fact, it would be wrong to impose such limitations on human justice if they weren't necessary to prevent greater injustice.

We don't know what the children of Canaan would have grown up to be. But God knows. If you could go back in time, per the thought experiment, and kill Hitler before he knew right from wrong, would you be just in doing so? If you see how an argument could be made for that, than you've agreed to exactly this scenario; someone with knowledge of the "future" goes to the "past" and kills an then-innocent to prevent certain guilt. This is not special pleading for an exemption for God. We see that we would do the same if we had His knowledge and His view of time. Same justice, different abilities.

Finally we have to remember that, in God's mode of being, every man, woman and child is already dead. We were born dead. We died when Eve bit the forbidden fruit. From this perspective God doesn't kill anyone; He merely makes out the schedule.

God's extermination of the Canaanites was an act of justice to them, and of benevolence to the world. He did it for the same reason He obliterated the people of Sodom and the people of Noah's day – He just used different means each time. When justice is executed on the wicked, the proper response is, "Hallelujah."

For more about Canaanite religion and depravity, read: http://www.theology.edu/canaan.htm

There is an excellent PDF available online called "The Abominations of the Canaanites" by David Padfield. I don't know how to direct you to it, but it should come up in a search.

© Dan Popp


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