Rawlings School of Divinity
Doctor of Philosophy in Theology and Apologetics (PhD)
Conquest, Canaanites, Holy War, Herem, Joshua, Ban
Christianity | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion
Ballard, Jordan Peter, "The Kindness and Severity of God: A Defense of the Conquest of Canaan" (2022). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 3815.
The Conquest of Canaan has become a hot-button issue in Christian apologetics because of the moral dilemma it poses. Would an all-loving God command the wholesale slaughter of the Canaanite men, women, and children? Christians throughout the centuries have grappled with this problem and have offered many interpretations to alleviate the tension between God’s love and God’s wrath displayed in the Conquest. This dissertation defends a straightforward reading of the account: God really did command the destruction of the Canaanites, and the Israelites carried it out as described in the pages of the Old Testament. When understood in its biblical, historical, and theological context, the Conquest is the long-awaited and just punishment of the Canaanites. The God of the Bible is the Author of life and can take life whenever He chooses by a variety of means at His disposal and in accordance with His greater purposes. Sometimes this includes the wholesale destruction of men, women, and children because, in a fallen world, the innocent often die along with the wicked as collateral damage. However, the innocent are not judged eternally for sins they have not committed. Such is the case with the Canaanite children. The Conquest also fulfills Gods promises to the patriarchs in accomplishing His purposes for Israel within the plan of salvation for the world. Mercy was available to the Canaanites, as seen in the conversion of Rahab, but the greater concern was the spiritual preservation of God’s chosen people, Israel, because of their role in God’s plan to bless the world.