I’ll get right to the point. I think President Obama would have bombed the Canaanites way before God annihilated them. Why am I even bringing up this hypothetical situation? Are statements like this even helpful for us today in our walk with God? For those questions I need to back up a little bit.

obamaI sat at the Credo House, in Heretics Corner, having a very important conversation. A young man who had been a strong believer the last time we met had grown shaky in many of his beliefs. This guy, whom I’ll call Jake, grew up in a very liberal part of the country and was born to liberal parents. His parents are intellectual people who view Christianity to be the opium of the masses.

Jake, slowly but surely, had been worn down by many conversations with atheist family members. Jake and I sat down to discuss many aspects of Christianity he was struggling to believe. After more than an hour and a half of great conversation he finally dropped the bomb. He said, “Alright, this is it, here’s the big one. My family and friends bring this up all the time and I’ve never heard a convincing response. Why is God so unjust in the Old Testament? How can God be loving when he does things like kill the Canaanites?

It’s a wonderful moment in any serious conversation to get to the real heart of an issue. Jake and I had been discussing issues in the periphery and now we were in the center of what was really bothering him. How does an intellectually honest Christian live with a God who called for the annihilation of the Canaanites? I know some of you reading this will think there is no such thing as an intellectually honest Christian, but please humor me for a bit while I talk nonsense.

Whenever we move into the issue of some of God’s actions in the Old Testament I typically have an image pop into my head. For some strange reason I go back to Thanksgiving. I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving many years ago when I finally was able to move from the little kids table to the adult table. At least at my house growing up we had a big table reserved for just the kids at Thanksgiving. We had another big table for all the grownups. Some cultures have elaborate ceremonies marking the passage from childhood to adulthood. The great ceremony, for me at least, was moving from the kids to the adult table.

I was so excited to move from the little kids table but it did have a distinct drawback. The conversations at the adult table were all about adult topics. If I wanted to sit at the adult table I needed to be willing to have an adult conversation. If you’re willing to criticize God for His actions in the Old Testament, you need to be willing to have adult level conversations.

If you are not willing to have an adult level conversation about God, please do not continue reading this post. Additionally, if you are under the age of 18, please stop reading this post. I’m going to get into some topics I want your parents to preview before you read. Seriously, stop reading if you have a weak stomach or are young.

Okay, I’m assuming everyone reading right now is consciously sitting at the adult table ready for an adult conversation. Here we go.

Before jumping directly into dealing with the Canaanites, let’s take a step back from that particular time and place and observe our world.

Let’s not pretend we live in a white-washed world. We live in a world where terms like Holocaust; Rwandan Genocide; and Darfur, Sudan have meaning. These atrocities were not committed by precocious little kids stealing candy from their sisters. These events were horrific. If my 6 year-old son asks me what happened during World War II, I can only provide a sugar-coated answer. I can only use simple words like good guys fought bad guys. I must hold back my more detailed adult knowledge.

Just last week I heard about an evil causing me to take a few shallow breathes. The details of this dreadful evil are difficult to even swallow at the adult table. Several men in New Delhi, India boarded a public transit bus and started gang raping a young girl. After raping her repeatedly they eventually rammed a metal rod up into her body which brutally ended her life. Four men were arrested and tried as adults. Some additional boys involved in the rape were so young they couldn’t be tried as adults.

Now, New Delhi is known as the rape capitol of India. Rape is common there and the men are usually given the benefit of the doubt. It is quite possible these men could have received a slap on the wrist. How could they get less than the full wrath of India?

I could probably make a case that none of these men would have done this terrible crime on their own. They were overcome by a mob mentality. The power of the group took over and each person lost their head. Yes, these young men should definitely be sentenced to prison but since they experienced a mob mentality there should be some leniency, perhaps.

Based on the knowledge the Indian society gained regarding the details of the crime, however, the young men were sentenced last week to death by hanging. The collective response throughout India was a recognition that justice had been served. When we put God on the stand and try him for being unjust, we need to remember there are terrible deeds happening in 2013 requiring extreme justice.

Let’s start going back in time a few thousand years and analyze the morality of the Ancient Near East. You may have heard of Baal worship. Baal is frequently symbolized in the form of a bull. Why? Because the people recognized the large testicles of bulls. Why did this matter? Well, people who worshiped Baal were many times looking for it to rain. In an agricultural society rain is of utmost importance. Baal worshipers thought they could force the hand of their god and make it rain.

Baal worshipers would get together and have massive orgies. Their hope was to turn on their god and force him to have an orgasm. His semen would fall to earth as rain. Yes, that’s a hard thing for a pastor to preach on Sunday morning to a mixed-age congregation. Remember, we’re at the adult table discussing the morality of God. Here’s an ancient Ugaritic poem:

To the earth Baal rained,
To the field rained ʿAliy.
Sweet to the earth was Baal’s rain
To the field the rain of ʿAliy.

[Side note: I’m not trying to be shocking or overly emotional. I’m just trying to be honest with reality while sitting at the adult table.]

MolechYou can see why Moses was so upset coming down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments when the people were “celebrating” after forming a golden calf.

In addition to Baal worship, the Canaanites worshiped a god named Molech. How do you worship Molech? You heat a large statue of Molech up to an insanely hot temperature. You then take a living baby and place it in the hands of the Molech statue until the baby burns to death. Of all the world religions I have studied, the Canaanite worship of Molech is the most frightening. The Canaanites were not innocent people. If that’s how they worshiped their god, you can only imagine how they treated one another.

Do you think the continual burning of children alive, coupled with many other proven “crimes against humanity”, is much better than Syria utilizing chemical weapons in 2013?
Many of the proven atrocities from Canaan, Babylon and Assyria would certainly have caught the attention of President Obama if these were countries today. President Obama, interestingly, was elected in 2008 with an anti-war platform.

In no way is my intention to debate if President Obama should bomb Damascus. I simply want to point out that an intellectual lawyer and community organizer was elected in 2008 partly on his insistence that he was clearly against the Iraq war. No one, Republicans and Democrats together, would have accused President Obama as being a war mongering leader. He already, however, bombed Lybia in 2011 and tried to make a case for bombing Syria.

President Obama has come to recognize when an individual is in charge and has reliable information of wrongdoing, it may be necessary in the pursuit of doing good to destroy people.
This is adult table conversation. I don’t think President Obama is a moral monster for wanting to bomb a country that is willing to use chemical weapons. I don’t think President Truman is a moral monster for dropping atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 responsible for killing more than 230,000 men, women and children. For some reason Jake’s parents voted twice for President Obama, possibly support the actions of President Truman, but mock God as a moral monster.

There are, however, some incredible difference between President Obama and God. The one difference most applicable in this conversation is that God is all-knowing. He is fully aware of every tragedy. He is fully aware of every horrific event. God does not need to wait for an investigation to be done. He does not need to send in inspectors, he already intimately knows the situation.

India was aware of that horrible gang rape, but God knew every rape that day throughout the world. It is amazing, I believe, that God allows any country to flourish. If any president had full knowledge of every thought and action, he would probably be seeking congress to bomb all countries of the world.

Our observation of the Old Testament, however, seems to paint the opposite picture of God. Yes, God did pull the trigger a couple times throughout history and dropped atomic bombs. Many more times, however, His mercy and patience far outpaced that of humans.

Jonah is an excellent example. God sent Jonah to tell Nineveh that they would be destroyed. The Assyrians were bastards. That’s the easiest way to explain them. They invented ways to torture people. Crucifixion was first developed by them. They are known for conquering countries and then putting giant fish hooks through the cheeks of conquered people and marching them all the way back to Assyria. The Assyrians would have violated the Geneva Convention every day.

Jonah, famously, goes in the exact opposite direction of Nineveh. Why? He knows the type of God he serves. A war mongering moral monster? No. He knows his God is quick to forgive people. He is slow to punish. He is slow to avenge. Jonah doesn’t want Nineveh to have any chance of forgiveness. Jonah wants to fly the Enola Gay over Nineveh. God, however, is more restrained than Jonah. He wants to give Nineveh a chance to repent. The book of Jonah is an adult table book. God forces Jonah, kicking and screaming, to Nineveh and the people repent. The book ends with Jonah wanting to commit suicide because God forgives people who don’t deserve it.

I am convinced, using only evidence from the Old Testament and the news today, that President Obama would have called for the destruction of Canaan long before God gave his assent.

    68 replies to "Would President Obama Bomb the Canaanites?"

    • Sam

      But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
      -1 Corinthians 2:10-16 (NKJV)

      However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written:“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of manThe things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
      -1 Corinthians 2:6-9 (NKJV)

    • Sam

      And he said:“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there.The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.
      -Job 1:21-22 (NKJV)

    • Robert

      Oh seriously Sam, most of that was just as retarded as if a Mormon called you a fool for using your mind to assess the likelihood that Mormonism is true. From an outsider’s perspective, it looks like a rather obvious attempt to avoid falsification.

      Please don’t read this as a personal attack. You are probably a very smart man. I’m just saying that your comments are not at all persuasive even if they include threats of eternal conscious torture.

    • Robert

      And on the other hand Sam, I want to acknowledge that there is (from my perspective) a small chance you (or the Mormons or the Hindus) understand things about the divine nature of reality that I don’t.

      It seems to me that for the Christian canon to be generally true, reality must be weirder than most of science and science fiction. Of course that’s possible, but today I don’t trust the testimonies of early Christian men enough to believe it is. Maybe someday I will, but I doubt that threats of hell – Biblical or not – will motivate me in that direction.

      To get back on topic, it is a lack of trust in these ANE authors and redactors that keep people like me from saying, “Yeah, maybe God ordered genocides, but he’s still worthy of worship.” It seems more likely that these Bible passages are just plain wrong. People get stuff wrong all the time and I don’t see evidence that these *particular* stories are so great an exception that I should let them trump my own judgements and moral intuitions.

      Are my moral intuitions and judgements sometimes faulty? Well yeah, of course. But I’m not going to yeild them to the Torah unless I’m pretty darn sure the authors of the Torah knew better than me.

    • Sam

      Well logically speaking and making the assumption that Nothing is done without God allowing it. Is not every person who dies dead because of God allowing it? Rather it be by natural causes, disease, murder, or otherwise. Therefore under that premise all death was authorized by God.

      You are unwillingly to acknowledge a higher power therefore you have no other option but to worship time and the miracle that time accomplished. (that is the creation of the world and all that you see)
      Your faith is firmly put in time my faith is firmly put in God

      I accept the sovereignty of God you accept the sovereignty of time I accept the sovereignty of God. In the end we will both be dead. You believe you will cease to exist I believe I will live forever.

      We can go in circles all day long but in the end it’s your choice. You have been warned you can take or you can leave it. For you have that freedom.

      If you want the biblical perspective I suggest you read the book of Job.

      Otherwise follow your heathen philosophy

      29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised
      “Let us eat and drink,
          for tomorrow we die.”[d]

      Live it up for time is ticking away. Good luck.

      Pink Floyd
      Time Lyrics

      Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour) 7:06
      The Dark Side of The Moon

      Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
      You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
      Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
      Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

      Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
      You are young and life is long and there is time to…

    • Sam

      Pink Floyd
      Time Lyrics

      Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour) 7:06
      The Dark Side of The Moon

      Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
      You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
      Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
      Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

      Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
      You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
      And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
      No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

      So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
      Racing around to come up behind you again.
      The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
      Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

      Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
      Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
      Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
      The time is gone, the song is over,
      Thought I’d something more to say.

    • Terri

      Can I just say that I am more than a little surprised at the tone of this post and the comments?

      I have my “adult table” credentials (including advanced degrees in theology), I know the background to the story and the horrific practices of Canaanite nations and the theological implications of God’s sovereignty.


      I am still quite horrified at the command to kill entire people groups, including unarmed women, children, and animals. And that’s ok. Doesn’t mean I’m not a Christian, doesn’t mean I have an agenda, doesn’t mean I’m immature in my faith, doesn’t mean I haven’t thought through all the issues. It just means I’m wrestling with a really horrible picture found in my Bible–one that can’t be easily meshed with the rest of Scripture. For instance, we know that offering babies to Molech was horrible because of the nature of God and his revelation to us about the value of life and the worship of idols. It is difficult to reconcile how killing babies then remedies that. It just is. Don’t make fun or patronize me or others for struggling with that. (and the “adult table” part was patronizing)

      If this post was meant to help people who are having doubts about their faith because of this story in our Scriptures, then I believe it is ineffective and might likely do more harm than good. Not what I’ve come to expect from this site.

    • Sam

      As I said you could say due to the corruption of their culture a huge percentages of these babies would grow up to do the same evil. Since they were killed before the age of consent auld not go to hell. So from an eternal perspective you could call it an act of mercy.
      From the perspective of earth God was stoping the corruption of the earth as happened in the days of Noah so that he would not need to destroy the world before God’s time.
      From the perspective of the Israelites it was to vacate the land so that they could inhabit it, to prevent the intermixture of cultures therefore corrupting God’s chosen people.

      Also, I suspect there may have been inherit diseases which may be the reason for the extermination of all living things.

      You are trying to second guess God with limited information. If you believe the Bible than you should believe that God is just. If you understand the holiness of God you will understand that every breath we take is because of God’s mercy for not only the Canaanites but all of us deserve nothing less than this and eternity separated from God.
      Thank God and his son Jesus Christ for giving us a way of been perfect through him so that we can live all eternity in the presence of a holy God. If you do not want to be in the presence of a Holy God for all eternity then God will grant your wish. But remember all that is good in this earth is a blessing from God, for God cause it to rain on the land of the wicked (those who reject God and his Son as the only way to be able to be in the presence of a Holy God not of works but by His righteousness) and the good (those who accept the free gift of his Son). The wine that an alcoholic enjoys on this earth from the grapes of his land shall be no more but the desire to drink will be in your soul, the desire for fulfill companionship will be no more for you will be alone, The regret of not receiving God’s free and perfect gift just for the taking will be with you forever. Be carefully what you…

    • Sam

      Be carefully what you wish for you just might get it.
      1 Surely God is good to Israel,
          to those who are pure in heart.
      2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
          I had nearly lost my foothold.
      3 For I envied the arrogant
          when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
      4 They have no struggles;
          their bodies are healthy and strong.[a]
      5 They are free from common human burdens;
          they are not plagued by human ills.
      6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
          they clothe themselves with violence.
      7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity[b];
          their evil imaginations have no limits.
      8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
          with arrogance they threaten oppression.
      9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
          and their tongues take possession of the earth.
      10 Therefore their people turn to them
          and drink up waters in abundance.[c]
      11 They say, “How would God know?
          Does the Most High know anything?”
      12 This is what the wicked are like—
          always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
      13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
          and have washed my hands in innocence.
      14 All day long I have been afflicted,
          and every morning brings new punishments.
      15 If I had spoken out like that,
          I would have betrayed your children.
      16 When I tried to understand all this,
          it troubled me deeply
      17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
          then I understood their final destiny.
      18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
          you cast them down to ruin.
      19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
          completely swept away by terrors!
      20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
          when you arise, Lord,
          you will despise them as fantasies.
      21 When my heart was grieved
          and my spirit embittered,
      22 I was senseless and ignorant;
          I was a brute beast before you.
      23 Yet I am always with you;
          you hold me by my right hand.
      24 You guide me with your counsel,
          and afterward you will take me into glory.
      25 Whom…

    • Robert

      Sam, is it possible that the extent of corruption attributed to these victims was exaggerated by their enemies? Why should I think that those Biblical descriptions are unbiased? Why should I fully trust the testimonies of men who openly believed that genocide was okay? Is it not plausible that these religious texts served (among other things) as political propaganda?

      We would have to be naive not to seriously consider these things.

    • a.

      Robert – probably have to settle in your mind if all Scripture is inspired by God, written by men moved by the Holy Spirit, speaking from God, otherwise… whatever, right?

      Terri –can’t one appreciate the tone as one does Elihu’s; and hopefully after hearing from him (Job 32-37), hearing from the Lord (Job 38-41); hopefully then saying something like, “surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know, therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42.)

      Not that we aren’t to seek more understanding, but, as believers, not sinning with a heart contemplating charging God with wrongdoing.

      Re: your point, don’t you think for unbelievers, there is no gain to try to persuade to satisfy human judgment of what God should be, because the need is to see our desperate, hopeless condition without the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • Sam


      Research secular history. You will see that the bible is true and accurate

    • James-the-lesser

      All right, let’s concede that killing innocent little children is bad and morally reprehensible. Perhaps, then it would have been better to have left all the little kids to fend for themselves in the arid and inhospitable country side and let them die slowly of starvation or thirst or exposure. Or perhaps mercy killing was not so bad after all. As cruel as it may seem (and it is) war is a last resort to bring about justice and peace and as such there will be collateral causalities. An untimely death only portends the inevitable in the worst case scenario anyway.

    • Robert

      Sure James-the-lesser, mercy killing is superior to adoption. /s

    • James-the-lesser

      Tell that to soldiers under enemy fire who are fighting for the survival of their own lives and that of their country. Sure if the Canaanite or Israelite Red Cross would have only swooped out of nowhere and rescued the children, I am all for it.

    • James-the-lesser

      Robert, unfortunately, we live in the real world and it is cruel at best. God in his great mercy shall however wipe away every tear, and we shall live in a place where there is no more death or suffering. That is his promise. And, if we can not accept that, then we have no right to believe that he actually permitted these deaths. We can not have it both ways. Evil is present. This we know because we also know that Good is also real.

    • […] Tim Kimberley recently posted on the question of the commands to exterminate Canaanites in the Bible. In the post, he suggests that the genocide may have been justified since the Canaanites were practicing things like child sacrifice. […]

    • Ben Schuldt

      So the question isn’t “why did Yahweh command genocide,” but instead, “why did Yahweh stop with the Canaanites?” Genocide for everyone! All teh time! There should be like a Noah’s flood level mass murdering every week of the year. You know, with different substances other than water, since otherwise that would make Yahweh a promise breaker. And that would just be morally wrong. Unless he’s allowed to lie to his property. Since we are just property, after all.

      lmao, man…it’s a good thing you aren’t just willing to bend over infinitely backwards for literally any heinously immoral thing our ancestors crapped out in their “holy” texts. That would just be embarrassing, wouldn’t it?

      And why *doesn’t* Obama nuke India? Seriously.

      These comments are so sickening. Why did I read them all? Couldn’t look away from the 65 car pileup, I guess…

      Oh, and the US deserves divine genocide because of abortion? Why is it wrong to kill babies again if they are either evil and/or mercifully going straight to heaven? Reasons, I’m sure.

      Why would Christians even endorse a criminal justice system if everyone has always deserved everything they’ve ever gotten? Isn’t every rape and murder just a foretaste of the everlasting fires of hell?

      Wouldn’t a liberal Jesus who never commanded genocide also be infinitely above scrutiny no matter what the evidence looks like from our peon perspective? Someone’s worldview has a few too many get-out-of-credibility-inducing-arguments-free cards… Can you guess who?

      Christians. Are. Scary. Well the genocide apologists are anyway. I’m so glad you’ve arbitrarily decided that genocide is a bad idea these days. I’m sure it’s for the utmost principled of reasons.

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