The God I Don’t Understand 8: Canaan

We’re continuing the discussion on the Canaanite genocide by looking at Chris Wright’s remaining two frameworks. This isn’t easy stuff but worth sticking with.


God’s justice means that it is a consistent theme of the OT that God acts against evil and degraded cultures – whether other nations of the ANE or Israel herself. The conquest of Canaan is never talked of as ethnic victory, but always in terms of divine punishment for a culture pervaded by child sacrifice and sexual perversion. This, Wright argues, makes a significant moral difference, even if it makes it no less violent. As does the fact that it was Israel who experienced the pain of God’s judgement more than any other nation.

Wright focuses on Deut. 2:10-12; 18-23, commenting how numerous victories of various ANE nations are all under the direction of Yahweh. In other words, Canaan does not stand on its own. Everything is under God’s ultimate sovereign will.

We’re back here to how those three great truths stand together [post 6] – evil, God’s goodness and God’s sovereignty. And to the question of how (or if) God accommodates, but does not necessarily endorse, realities of a fallen human world such as war [post 7]. The advantage of the accommodation view is that it helps to hold all three together. But it’s controversial because it’s seen as giving too much to the ‘human factor’ in how Scripture is interpreted.



A third useful way of looking at the Canaanite conquest, Wright proposes, is in the overall story of the Bible – which ultimately is a narrative of salvation and hope. This foresees swords being turned into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks  (Is2:4).

This is a story of an inclusive salvation. This finds many echoes throughout the OT in the inclusion of foreigners like Rahab the Canaanite within the line of Jesus (Mt 1:5; Heb 11:3; James 2:25) and Ruth the Moabite and others. Often missed is how important the good treatment of foreigners was within OT Law. The final vision of the Bible is not for the eradication of the nations, but their salvation. Canaan’s defeat is a moment in this larger trajectory, leading to the healing of the nations (Rev 22:2).


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