How Can God Command Genocide?

Over at New Attitude, Justin Taylor responds to the question “How Can God Command Genocide in the Old Testament?” Here is an excerpt from the introduction of his article and the barebones outline of it:

This is a good, hard question. The way we answer it will both reflect and inform our understanding of justice and mercy.

The question is about what happens in the book of Joshua when God commands Israel to slaughter the Canaanites in order to occupy the Promised Land. It was a bloody war of total destruction where God used his people to execute his moral judgment against his wicked enemies. In moving toward an answer it will be helpful to think carefully about the building blocks of a Christian worldview related to God’s justice and mercy

  1. As the maker of all things and the ruler of all people, God has absolute rights of ownership over all people and places.
  2. God is not only the ultimate maker, ruler, and owner, but he is just and righteous in all that he does.
  3. All of us deserve God’s justice; none of us deserve God’s mercy.
  4. The Canaanites were enemies of God who deserved to be punished.
  5. God’s actions were not an example of ethnic cleansing.
  6. Why was it necessary to remove the Canaanites from the land?
  7. The destruction of the Canaanites is a picture of the final judgment.

Read the whole thing.

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