God’s ordering the Israelites to eradicate the Canannites (Josh. 6:2; 17-18; 21; 24) has led many to attack the Bible and call into question its divine inspiration. People object especially to the Israelites’ killing of children.
In the past, I have taken various approaches in answering such attacks. Based on my recent reading in Scripture, I think that God may have given me insight into another helpful aspect of how to deal with this objection that I have not thought of before.
Because His own people had become very wicked in the time of Ezekiel, God commanded that they be slain (Ezek. 9:4-11), including the little children:
And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city. And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem?
Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not. And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head.
And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me.
This passage shows that God dealt in the same way with His own people when they became very wicked as He had dealt with the Canannites in the past. He thus has impartially ordered at times the eradication of certain people, both Canaanites and Israelites.
Although pointing out this fact may not fully take away the objections to His dealings with the Canannites, presenting that He has treated even His own people in the same manner may help to some extent.
The teaching of these passages concerning God’s dealings with the children of wicked people is a difficult truth for us to handle on the human level. To help us put this issue into its proper biblical perspective, both for ourselves and for others, we should carefully note His impartiality in dealing in such a manner with wickedness among both the Canaanites and His people.