"The God of the Bible is evil for commanding the genocide of Canaanite nations ."
God’s command to destroy the Canaanites wasn’t genocide because it had nothing to do with their race, ethnicity, or nationality; the Bible is clear it was a judgment for the many atrocities the Cannaites committed (child sacrifice, idolatry, incest, beastiality, and temple prostitution (Deuteronomy 9:5, Jeremiah 19:5, Leviticus 18:3-30, 20:23)). Even secular Greek historians such as Carthaginian, Plutarch, describe the horrid practice of Canaanite child sacrifice. God mercifully gave the Canaanites hundreds of years to repent, but their depravity became so dark and widespread they had to be judged (Genesis 15:17). Critics of these passages claim it’s wrong for God to kill idolatrous people who burn children alive. However, if God is the source of morality and creator of all things, then it follows that He has the authority to punish evildoers as He sees fit (Deuteronomy 9:18-12).
It’s also illogical to claim that God is evil in any objective sense. If God exists, then He’s the foundation of morality and all moral opinions that differ from his would obviously be wrong (Leviticus 19:2,1 John 1:5). If God doesn’t exist, then objective, binding morality cannot exist and "evil" is nothing more than a subjective human construct. We can’t discredit God’s existence or goodness by appealing to external, subjective sources of morality.
"How could God justify the command to kill women, children, and other non-combatants?"
We can all agree that it would’ve been extremely evil if Israel had made the decision to kill non-combatants since humans don’t have the authority to kill one another (Exodus 20:13). However, this was a unique situation where the creator of the universe used Israel as a tool to directly judge an evil nation. Since God is the creator of human life, He has the appropriate authority to judge and take life—even the lives of women and children. Furthermore, no Canaanite women or children had to die; Only those who refused to leave the land were killed. God never told Israel to hunt them down. their job was simply to drive them out of the land and kill those who stayed. The reason God told Israel not to intermarry with Canaanites directly after telling them to destroy the Canaanites is because God knew many would flee the cities and survive (Deuteronomy 7:2-3, Deuteronomy 20:16-18).
Executing the women
The women in Canaan were just as guilty as the men because they participated in child sacrifice, beastiality, and idolatry. God shows no partiality and holds both genders accountable for the evil they do, including women (Colossians 3:25). Since God created women equal to men, He doesn’t have separate gender based judgements (Genesis 1:27).
Executing the children
As for the children, the Bible gives a straightforward explanation: In God’s infallible foreknowledge, He knew these particular children would revive the paganism of their youth and lead Israel into worshiping Canaanite gods (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). Sparing their lives would’ve meant perpetuating the depravity of the Canaanites in Israel, causing child sacrifice, idolatry, and beastiality for many more generations. Israel was the world’s only outlet of knowing the one true God (Romans 3:2). If their message was lost through pagan acts of worship or they were destroyed because of them (Deuteronomy 8:19), millions of people would be eternally condemned. Furthermore, the children would’ve faced much greater judgement if they grew up and brought back Baal worship and lived a depraved, murderous lifestyle.
“It doesn’t make sense for God to punish the Canaanites for sacrificing their children only to turn and tell Israel to kill the Canaanite children.”
Unlike the Canaanites, who murdered children to appease a god that doesn’t exist, God had a good reason to take their lives and the authority to do so. In God’s infallible foreknowledge, He knew that Canaanite children who stayed in the land would perpetuate human sacrifice for generations and cause Israel to do the same (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). God’s people would’ve become so corrupt that the world’s only outlet to eternal salvation would’ve been snuffed out, leaving countless people eternally condemned (Deuteronomy 8:19). As tragic as the death of these children was, sparing them would’ve lead to countless greater tragedies according to God.
"Why would God use Israel to judge and kill the Canaanites rather than use a natural disaster or plague?"
There is no objective moral rule that says it’s wrong for God to use a human army to judge a nation. If God created everything, then he has the right to use all of creation to serve his purposes. It makes no difference wether He uses a tsunami, earthquake, or human armies. God probably chose Israel to be the tool of judgment because it gave them a vivid picture of what would happen to them if they rebelled against Him (Deuteronomy 8:19-20). God’s promise to destroy idolaters in the promised land was no longer a hypothetical, abstract idea, but a tangible warning and reminder to avoid evil. Furthermore, using Israel to defeat these great nations caused the surrounding pagan nations to fear the Israelites and see that God was with his people (Deuteronomy 28:10).
"Even if God is the foundation of morality, He’s evil by his own standard. God said murder is a sin in Exodus 20:13, then told Israel to kill the Canaanites."
Murder is when one human unjustly kills another. The reason it’s wrong is because we lack the authority to choose who lives and who dies. Since God is the creator and judge, He has the appropriate authority to take the lives of evil people as he sees fit. The Canaanites committed many atrocities and deserved to die according to God’s law. If Israel killed the Canaanites without a direct command from God, it would’ve been murder. However, this was a unique situation carried out under God’s direct authority, not Israel’s. As an analogy, companies don’t allow employees to fire peers with equal authority. However, if the CEO ordered you to fire your peer/co-worker, you wouldn’t be breaking company policy since it would be done under the authority of the CEO. The general policy of not firing your peers would still exist despite this unique situation. Just the same, God‘s command not to murder wasn’t broken since Israel killed under God’s authority.
"If someone says they have God’s authority to kill someone today, does it makes it okay? The 9/11 terrorists justified what they did by claiming they had God’s authority to kill."
It’s both evil and blasphemous to kill in the name of God because we don’t have His authority to kill today. When God used Israel to judge nations, it was a unique situation never to be repeated. The Bible is very clear about that these commands were only for those people at that time in history (Deuteronomy 4:1-2). Israel was under a theocracy in which God spoke directly through their leader Moses. God never commanded the crusades, inquisitions, witch trials, Muslim terrorists, or anyone else who kills in the name of God. If someone claims God told them to kill someone, they’re either mistaken or lying. God no longer speaks directly to us through prophets, and has made it clear that murder is wrong (Exodus 20:13). Jesus was God’s final revelation to the world as recorded by the apostles and prophets (Hebrews 1:1-2, 1 Corinthians 14:3). As for the 9/11 terrorists, they were following commands written by a false prophet who never actually heard from God. There are many evil things written in the books of false religions, and Christians don’t defend them.
"It was wrong for God to command Israel to take another nation’s land."
If God created and owns all things, He has the right to give and take away the land He created. God graciously allowed the Canaanites‘ to live in His land for centuries, but took it away because of their continual idolatry and child sacrifice. He made it clear that anyone who partook in these sins would be driven out of the land, including Israel (Leviticus 20:22-14). The Canaanites were dwelling in land that was no longer theirs, and it was right for Israel to drive them out as God commanded. There’s no reason to think God is evil for taking His land away from people who murdered children and worshipped false gods.
"God is xenophobic towards non-Israelite nations."
The claim that God is xenophobic is illogical for the following reasons:
1.It’s irrational to claim that an all powerful God who created human beings could somehow be afraid of a person because of their nationality.
2.God constantly commands Israel to love the foreigner in their land, provide for them, and treat them justly (Deuteronomy 10:19, Leviticus 23:22, Leviticus 19:33, Exodus 22:21).
3.Everyone is made in God’s image and He loved them enough to sacrifice His only Son on cross for their sins (John 3:16, Genesis 1:27).
4.God’s destruction of nations in the Bible cannot be interpreted as xenophobia since they were only destroyed as judgements for their crimes. God never destroyed a nation out of fear, hate, national identity, or race (Deuteronomy 9:4).
"But some Bible scholars say these passages are hyperbolic. When God says to destroy all the inhabitants, he doesn’t literally mean to kill everyone"
It’s certainly possible that these texts are hyperbolic because it was common in ancient culture to record battles hyperbolically as Paul Copan cites in his books . Furthermore, the Bible uses hyperbole in other places (Isaiah 55:12, Matthew 5:30). However, I think it’s extremely unlikely that the language is hyperbolic because of the reasons God gives for destroying the Canaanites. The destruction of the Canaanites was both a judgement for their sins and a way to keep Israel from being led astray by them (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). A hyperbolic slaughter where they only killed combatants wouldn’t have accomplished either of these goals.
People cite Deuteronomy 7:2-3 as proof that God’s destruction language was hyperbolic. They reason that it wouldn’t make sense for God to command the total destruction of a nation and then tell them not to intermarry with the destroyed nation in the very next verse. This does support their view, but the passage also supports a literal reading of the destruction language. God told Israel to “drive them out of the land" and only commanded the destruction of Canaanites that stayed in the cities (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). Many people, especially non-combatants, would’ve obviously fled the cities if they believed they were going to be destroyed by God’s army. I believe the command not to intermarry was to stop Israeli men from marrying Canaanite women who fled and might return someday.