All scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
Have you ever been asked a question about God that you couldn’t answer? For many of us, that question is, “If God is love, then why did He command Joshua to kill every man, woman and child in the Canaanite nations?” Skeptics point to the 6th commandment and claim that God is a hypocrite, telling His people not to commit murder in one verse and then commanding them to murder in another. If we are honest, we will admit that this is a perplexing event. There are many different proposed explanations, but we are going to look at the two theories that I believe have the most biblical support.
The first possibility is that God used the Israelites to execute His judgment against these nations because of their great sin, which is based largely on God’s word to Abraham in Genesis 15:15-16…
Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.
In the verses preceding this promise, God gave Abraham an outline of future events. God told Abraham that his descendants would be strangers in a foreign land where they would be afflicted for 400 years. Then, He would judge that land and Abraham’s descendants would leave with great possessions and return to the land that He had given them. The reason for the delay was that the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete. (The Amorites were one of the Canaanite tribes and the name was probably used in this context to refer to all of the Canaanite people.)
The Canaanites were an utterly wicked and immoral people. Their culture was defined by child sacrifice, witchcraft, divination, sorcery, necromancy (consulting with the dead, aka demons) and debauchery of all kinds, including bestiality, incest and temple prostitution. God required the death penalty for every one of these practices. Yet, because God is patient and long-suffering, He waited several centuries to send His judgment. In other words, the sin of these people did not come to the point of warranting God’s judgment until the time of the Exodus and by that time, the Bible implies that every single person in the culture was corrupted.
Scripture clearly demonstrates that God uses nations to judge other nations – even nations that are not righteous themselves. For example, God describes Assyria as the rod of His anger in Isaiah 10:5-6…
Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.
I will send him against an ungodly nation,
And against the people of My wrath
I will give him charge,
To seize the spoil, to take the prey,
And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
Then, in Jeremiah 25:8-9, God declares His intentions to use Babylon in judgment against Israel…
Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ says the Lord, ‘and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations.
Ironically, God sent Assyria and Babylon to judge Israel for the very same reasons He used Israel to destroy the Canaanites.
For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God… and they had feared other gods, and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made… the children of Israel secretly did against the Lord their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities… They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the Lord had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger, for they served idols…they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them that they should not do like them. So they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.
2 Kings 17:7-17, abridged
When we see the destruction of the Canaanites as judgment, we can understand that it was not genocide. God was not sending Joshua to kill a certain race or ethnicity of people, but was employing Joshua and his army as a sword of judgment on a society who had permanently rejected Him and plunged headfirst into unrestrained evil. Despite what skeptics allege, God’s love was shown to humanity in this instance and others. He knew that if evil was left to continue to spread, more people would be lost for eternity and He could not allow that to happen. It was a cleansing of the land similar to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the global flood of Noah’s time. Yet, it is likely that had they repented, God would have spared them, just as He did for Rahab and all that she brought into her home.
The second explanation is referred to as the “angel view.” While it is controversial in some circles, it is certainly not a fringe theory. The angel view was universally accepted doctrine in the early church up until the 5th century A.D. At that time, critics used anything they could to attack and mock the church. Because of this, many Christians began to discard certain beliefs in exchange for new, more palatable theology. In recent times, many respected Bible scholars have subscribed to this belief, including:
M. R. DeHaan, founder of Our Daily Bread Ministries
Merrill Unger, author of various works including Biblical Demonology
Henry Morris, founder of the Creation Research Society and the Institute for Creation Research
Hal Lindsey, best known for his books on the end times
Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel founder
Chuck Missler, founder of Koinonia House
So, what exactly is the angel view? To fully explain, we must go back to Genesis 6:1-7, which says…
Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.
And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
A basic reading of these verses does not aptly convey the meaning of the words. I am grateful to the late Chuck Missler for his teachings on this subject, which served as a springboard for my research. Much of my explanation comes from his messages.
The word that is translated “giant” in our Bibles is actually “Nephilim.” Nephilim means, literally, “fallen ones.” The word giant came about as a translation of the Greek word used in the Septuagint, “gigantes.” While the word giant is derived from gigantes, that was not the original meaning of the word. Missler taught that the original meaning of gigantes was “Earth-born.” Greek and Roman mythology support that definition as the Gigantes were said to be the offspring of Gaia and Uranus.
The Hebrew words for “Sons of God” are bene ha’elohim, a phrase which, as Chuck Missler explains, is reserved in the Old Testament for direct creations of God, like angels or Adam, the first man created from the earth by the hands of God. In fact, even in the New Testament, Adam is the only person in Jesus’ genealogy who is called a son of God.
Finally, “daughters of men” is literally “daughters of Adam.” In contrast to what some who oppose the angel view teach, there is no indication that these women who bore the Nephilim were specifically descendants of Cain.
So, if we take the Bible literally, the text says that the Sons of God (fallen angels) took wives from the daughters of Adam and produced offspring called Nephilim (fallen ones). Those who hold to this view believe that except for Noah’s line (Genesis 6 says that he was perfect in his generations), all of humanity was contaminated with these Nephilim genes and God sent the flood to wipe them out in order to preserve a pure line through which Jesus could come as our Messiah. There are many other indications that this theory could be true, including in the New Testament. In his article, “Mischievous Angels or Sethites? Textual Controversy” Chuck Missler point to 2 New Testament verses that seem to confirm the angel view:
“In the mouths of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.” In Biblical matters, it is essential to always compare Scripture with Scripture. The New Testament confirmations in Jude and 2 Peter are impossible to ignore.
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Tartarus], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; 2 Peter 2:4-5
Peter’s comments even establishes the time of the fall of these angels to the days of the Flood of Noah.
Even Peter’s vocabulary is provocative. Peter uses the term Tartarus, here translated “hell.” This is the only place that this Greek term appears in the Bible. Tartarus is a Greek term for “dark abode of woe”; “the pit of darkness in the unseen world.” As used in Homer’s Iliad, it is “…as far beneath hades as the earth is below heaven`.” In Greek mythology, some of the demigods, Chronos and the rebel Titans, were said to have rebelled against their father, Uranus, and after a prolonged contest they were defeated by Zeus and were condemned into Tartarus.
The Epistle of Jude also alludes to the strange episodes when these “alien” creatures intruded themselves into the human reproductive process:
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Jude 6,7
The allusions to “going after strange flesh,” keeping “not their first estate,” having “left their own habitation,” and “giving themselves over to fornication,” seem to clearly fit the alien intrusions of Genesis 6. (The term for habitation, oivkhth,rion, refers to their heavenly bodies from which they had disrobed.)
These allusions from the New Testament would seem to be fatal to the “Sethite” alternative in interpreting Genesis 6. If the intercourse between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” were merely marriage between Sethites and Cainites, it seems impossible to explain these passages, and the reason why some fallen angels are imprisoned and others are free to roam the heavenlies.”
The connection between the pre-flood Nephilim and the Canaanite destruction can be found in verse 4, “There were giants (Nephilim) on the earth in those days, and also afterward…” So, there were Nephilim in the Earth after the flood, but, who were they and where did they live? Deuteronomy 9:1-2 tell us that the people of Canaan were descendants of the Anakim and Numbers 13:33 explains that the Anakim came from the Nephilim. They were numerous and included:
The Rephaim, Emim, Horim & Zamsummim of Genesis 14-15
Arba, the father of Anak, Joshua 14:15, 15:13
Anak and his 7 sons, the Anakim from Numbers 13:33
Og, King of Bashan, mentioned in Deuteronomy 3:11 and Joshua 12
Goliath and his 4 brothers, 2 Samuel 21:16-22; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8 (“giant” used in these verses is literally, “Rephaim”)
The Canaanites were descendants of the Nephilim and, if the angel view is correct, then it would indicate that the human line in this area was corrupted. According to this view, God commanded Joshua and his army to kill every man, woman and child in Canaan in order to prevent them from corrupting the people that He had chosen to become the lineage of the Messiah.
Whichever view is correct, it is clear that the destruction of the Canaanites was not genocide, but judgment of pervasive sin. God made clear that He was the one that would be dealing with the inhabitants of Canaan and that He was not doing any of it because of Israel’s righteousness, but only because of the wickedness of the Canaanites.
“Therefore understand today that the Lord your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you; so you shall drive them out and destroy them quickly, as the Lord has said to you.
“Do not think in your heart, after the Lord your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out from before you. It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Throughout the Bible, God judged nations that rejected Him and embraced wickedness, including His own people Israel. This does not make God evil, but instead demonstrates His perfect righteousness. Just as we would not expect a murderer or rapist to be spared justice, so we cannot condemn God’s actions against wicked people. In reality, all of us deserve the sword of God’s judgment. Yet, through His amazing grace, God Himself came, the seed of the woman, to take that judgment on Himself at the cross. Just like Noah’s great Ark and the home of Rahab with the scarlet cord hung from her window, Jesus is our escape hatch. He is coming back one day to judge all people and nations who have rebelled against Him, but if we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will not have to face that judgment. As long as the Earth remains, there will be things we don’t understand, but we can take comfort in these words….
Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”Tags: Canaan, Canaanites, Exodus, Giants, Joshua, Nephilim