The Just War, Part 4: Who Was Supposed to Conquer Canaan?

Mike Bennett of UCG posted this photo of a painting by David Teague. It is “Miracle of the Israelite’s crossing the Red Sea…” It hangs at UCG’s Home Office in the lobby.

Now, I realize that this is only a picture, and even then an artist’s rendition, but how many soldiers do you see in the paining? You know what? I don’t see any!

Which brings me to a doctrine that I’ve often heard in COG circles. Namely, that the original intent was not that the Israelites would have to fight to win over Canaan, but rather that God would have driven the Canaanites out of the land Himself if Israel had not been so disobedient immediately after the exodus.

Again, I want to stress that this is not a salvation issue. However, over time I have come to believe this doctrine myself, although I will admit I was skeptical at first.

Consider the following:

1. Moses first believed that he would be the leader of an armed rebellion that would free Israel from Egypt (see “Moses, Man of War” posted the other day). However, it wasn’t until he was a shepherd for 40 years that God called him to lead Israel out of Egypt.

2. Not one Israelite soldier was required to free Israel.

3. Not one Israelite soldier was required to escape from Pharaoh at the Red Sea.

4. God takes them the round about way so that Israel will not see war.

5. God says His Angel will go before Israel to prepare the land (Ex 23:20), and He will cut off the Canaanites (v 23). Furthermore, He will drive them out little by little by “natural” means (vv 28-30).

6. If there is a passage in Exodus that says that Israel must fight for the land, I cannot find it.

7. Now, the Book of Exodus covers the time from Moses’ birth through the building of the Tabernacle. The Book of Numbers picks it up afterwards and covers their wandering through the wilderness area. It seems that it isn’t until the Book of Deuteronomy, after the 40 years, that we start to see words to the effect of “thou shalt smite them” (Dt 7:2).

Or, am I wrong? Can someone point out to me where it is before Deuteronomy?

“Deuteronomy”, of course, means the second telling of the Law. It was written shortly before Moses’ death, and it was a retelling of the Law to a new generation – the one that came after the previous one rebelled and refused to enter the Promised Land when God instructed them to. Therefore, it was written later.

When you look at it this way, there is a passage in the Book of Judges that begins to make a little more sense:

1 These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan 2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): 3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo a]’>[a] Hamath. 4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD’s commands, which he had given their forefathers through Moses.

~ Jdg 3:1-4 (NIV)

So, who was originally going to conquer Canaan? It seems to me that God had it in His mind to do so without any human aid.

So, what changed? Israel disobeyed. Is there a precedent for the change? The answer is that there is a precedent for such a change, but to see that we have to go back to the first murder and the subsequent command for human governments.

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