What Does the Bible Say About the People of Canaan?

The land of Canaan is much at the forefront these days, mostly due to the poplular atheist criticism of God’s command to Joshua to kill the people of Canaan. The atheists do not seem to read their Bibles, but only quote a few proof texts, so we will have to have a basic lesson in Old Testiment. To properly understand the story, a brief review will be helpful. This is by no means exhaustive, but a meer summary, since the passages are numerous and multi-faceted and the stories numerous.

The Old Testament deals with Canaan a great deal. God begins to deal with Abraham in Genesis 12:1-2, promising him and his descendants a land they will inherit forever. Abraham’s grandson Jacob is renamed Israel, and has twelve sons who become the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. They live in Canaan (Gen. 37:1) until they go to Egypt, as described in Gen. 46:6. 430 years later, Moses brings Israel out of Egypt in Exodus 13 & 14 ff., to return to Canaan (Ex. 13:11). Israel eventually gets to the land in Joshua 4.

Israel was, as every atheist seems to know, commanded to kill all the Canaanites. The people of Canaan had heard of what happened with Israel when they came out of Egypt, as Rahab, a Canaanite, tells us in Josh. 2:10. Rahab, the Canaanite, is already familiar with the God of Israel, since she immediately uses His name (YHWH) when she is introduced in Josh. 2:9. She appeals to the men of Israel in the name of YHWH and she and her family is spared. (This was the subject of the most recent post).

Israel then does not kill all the people of Canaan, but instead intermarried with them and worshipped their gods (Judges 3:5-7).

Most of the rest of the Old Testament is a series of confrontations between Israel and the various peoples in Canaan. The books of Kings and Chronicles give a series of Jewish kings who increasingly follow the ways of the people of Canaan, to the point that Israel is sacrificing their children to Molech, as described in 2 Kings 23:10, Ezekiel 16:20,  and Jeremiah 32:35. The child sacrifice is assumed often when Kings and Chronicles says the leaders repeated the evils done by their forefathers.

By the time we get to the late part of the Old Testiment chronology,  the abominations of sex worship (Micah 1:7) and child sacrifice, which the Israelites had gotten from the Canaanites, was so bad that they had almost entirely ceased to worship the true God, YHWH and instead were worshipping the idols of the Canaanite peoples.

The idol Molech was an iron diety that would have its hands heated with fire, then a baby placed on the hot iron until it died. The sex worship around the idols would inevitably cause venereal disease throughout the population. This happened for many years, in spite of God sending the many prophets in the Old Testament to warn against it.

By the end of Jeremiah and 2 Kings, God allows Assyria and Babylon to invade Israel and take them away out of the land.

Thus, Israel in fact did what the modern critic desires, which is to not kill all the people of Canaan. It ultimately caused rampant sex worship and child sacrifice for hundreds of years in Israel. If God’s ways would have been followed from the beginning, Israel might have been the holy nation God intended for them to be.



About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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17 Responses to What Does the Bible Say About the People of Canaan?

  1. Nate says:

    This still evades the problem of God supposedly commanding the slaughter of innocents, even if the adults in the Canaanite nations were deserving of such deaths. Adoption, proselytizing, divine revelations — those are just three things that could have been done with the Canaanites to help solve their problems. Annihilation is a pretty poor and despicable solution.

    It’s a shame that Yahweh couldn’t distinguish himself enough from all the false gods that the Israelites continued to prefer occasionally sacrificing their own children to an iron statue utterly devoid of power. Strange, isn’t? Unless of course, he’s just as false and non-existent as all the others.

    • Mike says:

      It all makes better sense if you know that the whole story is nonsense and a fabrication. That’s what Israeli archaeology has showed us.

    • Nate says:

      True. I don’t think this stuff really happened. I wish guys like humblesmith could more easily see all the problems with it.

    • Erica Williams says:

      Check it! U don’t know what your say or talking bout. Those people weren’t people they were tainted by the fallen Angels seed read genisis 6. Also the Israelites were judged cuz of that. It’s funny people wanna say this bout the Bible and God but don’t know nothing. Those who have ears listen those who who have eyes see. It’s spiritual. You can read the Bible and trust your own mind without the Holyspirit and never fully understand it. Nicodemus you must be born again. Why speak on something that you don’t know. That’s way above you. It’s best to shut up. Hear me. Your a fool peace. God bless

  2. portal001 says:

    Then there’s Jesus and the Canaanite women,

    Matthew 15:21-28

    Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.

    And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
    But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.

    But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
    Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

    But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.
    And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.

    Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

  3. Nate says:

    Glad you referenced that. It just reinforces the lunacy of thinking an entire population of people would be wholly evil, to a person. People just don’t work that way. In any given population, you’ll have some good ones, and some pretty bad ones. I don’t think the Israelites ever came out of Egypt and attacked the Canaanites anyway, but even if they had, some of them could have been converted, especially considering the miracles God was supposedly willing to show back then.

    The most reasonable conclusion to make about all this is that the Israelites were just like all the other ancient Canaanites: they believed in a tribal god, and they used his name to justify everything they ever did or that ever happened to them. You can look no further than the Moabite Stone and see how the Moabites talked about Chemosh to see that the way Yahweh is spoken of in the OT is very typical for their time and place in the world.

    Humblesmith, I really hope you’ll think about this. You’ve got my email if you ever want to discuss it offline — I’ve been where you are.

  4. portal001 says:

    Just as a side note, Gen. 9:20–27 talks about Canaan being cursed

  5. Margaret says:

    At what point is the slaughter of children, babies, and the unborn deserved?

  6. portal001 says:


    I’ll ask you this question again,

    Why is it that if an action of genocide was carried out by a community of atheist’s, many apologists would (and do) use this as a reason to explain how immoral atheism is?

    • humblesmith says:

      Why is it that when we bring up the subject of innocence and guilt it’s ignored by the atheists? Why is it that atheists want to allow a guilty and murderous people to go free? Why is it that atheists ignore me when I point out that Israel DID pardon the children, and the children grew up to murder more children and influence Israel to do the same? Why is it that atheists miss one of the clear, oft-repeated themes of the Bible, namely that we are all sinners, and none are innocent before God?

  7. portal001 says:

    ok, maybe not a “community” of atheist’s, But apolegetics make distinctions that Pol Pot, The Holodomor famine ect. originated from atheistic and godless governments, yet what is the difference between these acts and the acts committed in the bible?

  8. portal001 says:

    I asked this question in your previous post/video

  9. Pingback: Was God Racist When He Commanded The Destruction of Canaan? | Thomistic Bent

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  11. humblesmith says:

    It seems when God does distinguish Himself enough from false gods by appearing and presenting clear rules for holiness that must be followed, the atheists accuse Him of being unloving and not allowing freedom to do what people want. But when God allows people to do what they want, He is accused of being distant and not distinguishing Himself from the idols.

    As the post and the responses show, we humans wink at our own sin, but hold God to an impossible paradox. Modern atheists, who worship logic and reason, are blind to their own illogic here.
    The several posts I’ve done on Canaan show that 1) the people of Canaan were not innocent or disease free, 2) Israel did exactly what the comments here are asking them to do, and it resulted in an increase in innocent death, not a decrease, and 3) they do not understand holiness or sin. It’s as if their minds are already made up and didn’t read the post, which is what I suspect happened.

  12. Pingback: Is Daniel Accurate About the Attack of Nebuchadnezzar? | Thomistic Bent

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