Regarding the issue of God commanding Israel to destroy everyone in Canaan, the position of the critic and atheist seems to be that God gave an excessive punishment on an entire people group with no warning. Such a statement shows a selective reading of the Bible, for God had much dealings with people outside of Israel. It is true that Israel was specially chosen by God as His people who He dealt with directly. He gave Israel the Mosaic Law which He did not give to the other nations. But this does not mean that God never communicated to other nations. The following are but a few examples of how God communicated His expectations to the nations outside of Israel:
- God repeatedly sent Moses and Aaron to the leaders of Egypt with a message, and repeatedly relented when Pharoah asked Moses to appeal to God (Exodus 7 – 10)
- God sent Jonah to people of Nineveh, with a message of judgement. The Ninevites repented and appealed to God, and God relented the punishment. (Jonah 3:10)
- A eunuch from Ethiopia came to Jerusalem to worship, indicating that he already knew about the true God before he came on the trip. He also had a copy of Isaiah he was studying (Acts 8:27ff).
- Rahab the prostitute from Jericho, a city in Canaan, knew about God and appealed to Him, which resulted in her life being spared and living a long life (Josh. 2:9ff; 6:25)
- People from Israel went to surrounding countries, intermarried with them, informing them of the true God. One instance was the family of Ruth from Moab, who told them about God (Ruth 1) and when Ruth worshipped the true God, her life was spared and she was blessed by Boaz (Ruth 4:13-14)
- God gave military victories to other nations, such as Syria (2 Kings 5:1). God healed Naaman, from Syria, when he obeys God’s messenger (2 Kings 5:14)
- Isaiah gave messages about Babylon (Ch. 13-14, 21), Moab (Ch. 15-16), Syria (Ch. 17), land beyond Ethiopia (Ch. 18), Egypt (Ch. 19-20), and Edom & Arabia (Ch. 21).
- Jeremiah gave God’s messages to Egypt (Ch.46), Philistia (Ch.47), Moab (Ch. 48), Ammon, Edom, Syria, & others, (Ch. 49), and Babylon (Ch. 50-51).
- Ezekiel gave messages to Ammon, Moab, Edom, & Philistia (Ch. 25), and Egypt (Ch. 29 – 32)
- Daniel and his three friends taught about God and gave God’s messages in Babylon, to the point that the king of Babylon gave honor to God (Daniel 2:47; 3:28-29; 4:34-37)
- Joel gave messages to the people of Syria, Philistia, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, and Moab (Joel 1:3-2:3)
- Micah was a prophet with a message to both the Samaritans and Israel, and to all people on the earth (Micah 1:1-2)
- Zephaniah gave a message to many people of Canaan and surrounding areas (Zephaniah Ch. 2)
- Simon the magician, from Samaria in Canaan, appealed to God and was received, even though his heart was not entirely right (Acts 8:9-24
- Jesus repeatedly had compassion on various people from Canaan (Luke 10:33-37; 17:16-19; John 4; Matt. 15:22-28; Mark 5)
There are more, but I think you get the point. In each of the instances where people appealed to God for mercy and forgiveness, God was merciful, and not only spared them but blessed them. Whenever people would not listen to God’s prophet, God judged them according to the knowledge that they had (Romans 1:20).
We do not have every act of God recorded in the Bible (John 21:25). However, the acts we have show a universal theme, of God always making Himself known to people, and if they acknowledge God and change their ways, God spares them. Examination of the entire story of the Bible tells us that it is reasonable to conclude that God gave the people of Canaan adequate warning, but they refused.
The atheist and critic who merely reads one passage in one book and blames God for horrendous acts done in judgement, does not take the context of the Bible in consideration. To continue to ignore the entire message of the Bible, while also ignoring the child sacrifice committed by the Canaanites, shows that the atheist and critic do not desire to discuss the entire story, but only serve as fodder for excuses for what they want to do, which is deny God.