The Just War, Part 3: Why the Conquest of Canaan?

Before we get too far down the road of describing what a “just war” may or may not be, I feel it is important to explore the why and how of what was meant to be. The reason for this is simply because critics of the Bible and proponents of the Just War Theory alike point to OT examples of war in justification for their positions. Perhaps nowhere is this more significant than in the Biblical example of ancient Israel and their conquest of Canaan.

First of all, let’s clear the air about sin. Sin is dangerous. Sin, by definition, is evil. It also spreads and multiplies like a disease. Cancer seems to be the best physical analogy to sin. It must be purged, even if that sometimes means taking healthy cells with it, or the entire body will die.

The analogy is not so far fetched when you consider that we learn about the unseen attributes of God from the physical universe (Ro 1:20; cf Ps 19). More importantly, even most theologians seem to be willfully ignorant of the physical consequences of sin. STDs are some of the more well known examples of how the consequences of sin can manifest itself in the physical realm.

We know that the Canaanite religions were fertility religions. Fertility religions usually involve ritual prostitution and child sacrifice, and so it was in the land of Canaan. “Sexual freedom” is by no means a modern nor postmodern idea. Ritualistic sex was available of either kind. And, if you think it was just limited to that, then you have not read Lev 18.

3After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances. (Leviticus 18:3, King James Version)

Speculation? I am not trying to exaggerate here. I fear I may actually be understating what was happening in that society. Take the Incas as a parallel example. They also practiced child sacrifice, and some of what has been discovered by archaeologists is enlightening (or, shocking at very least):

Scientists say human sacrifice was common within the Incan culture, which flourished immediately before the arrival of the Spanish in what is now parts of Peru, Chile and Ecuador between 1400 and the mid-1500s.

“Most of the remains belong to young women, around 15 years of age. One of them appears to have been pregnant because in her abdomen, the collarbone of a fetus, probably around 4 months, was found,” Mr Webster said of the latest find, made over the past year and a half.

~ (4 June 2009). Human sacrifice: Dozens of Incas killed in ritual found in Peru. Retrieved from

Now, I suggest you re-read Lev 18, and you will get a different perspective of why God might command what otherwise appears as nothing more than a bloodthirsty campaign.

You know something really scary? The US is heading in the same direction. The so-called “Hate Crimes Legislation” opens the door with vague language to all sorts of behaviors that certain members of Congress refused to define in the bill. When Rep. Steve King of Iowa wanted to at least include an amendment that pedophilia would be excluded from the bill, he was ridiculed and voted down. Furthermore, the legislation has no protection for expression of religious speech.

There are news reports of Canadians being brought before a kangaroo court, otherwise called a “Human Rights Commission”, in which large fines were imposed. It seems we in the US are not far behind them.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is often pulled out and dusted off as an example of God’s judgment against a society filled with homosexuality. That view actually somewhat misses the point. It is missing the forest by focusing in on one of the trees.

The story of Sodom is about entitlement. It is a story where some people’s “rights” become elevated above others. Those “rights” included sexual rights. “Don’t want to participate? Too bad!” was their attitude. That’s what occurs when morality breaks down. When individual morality breaks down, society suffers.

Once you define a sexual proclivity as something one is born with, in the same manner of skin, hair and eye color or gender, then you have elevated a choice in behavior to a right, an entitlement. People are thereby demoted to beings ruled by impulses and hormones instead of what they should be viewed as: created in the image of God.

Ancient Israel slid time and time again into the same idolatrous practices that the Canaanites practiced. The result was the loss of the protection of the real God. The result was constant war, which eventually led to enslavement. The descendants of ancient Israel, many of whom have remained ignorant of their ancestry, are doomed to repeat the same mistake and suffer the same consequences.

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