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.