In a recent podcast, I heard a Christian apologist attempt to explain away the killing of the Canaanites. The following are the primary points made.
1. Not that many people were actually killed since the “cities” were actually villages. (This is to tacitly admit it would have been somehow morally wrong if more people had been killed.)
2. Because there were not that many people killed, it was not all that immoral. (An argument made just a few minutes later suggested that the Canaanites had to be killed since there were too many to be assimilated.)
3. Only combatants were killed since the noncombatants had already fled. (Though the issue is actually whether Jehovah commanded noncombatants be killed…and he did. And are we to imagine the elderly and infants were all able to flee prior to the slaughter?)
4. The number of people claimed to be killed was exaggerated as exaggeration was the custom of books written in that day. (In addition to avoiding the actual issue of whether a just and loving God would order the slaughter of all the Canaanites the Israelites encountered, it exposes the fact that the Bible does not have the fidelity and style if written by a God of Truth.)
5. The order by Jehovah to kill infants was “hyperbole”. (Is this the “Word of God” we are talking about, or just another book written with the human style of exaggeration common to that time?)
6. Jehovah’s order to kill everyone must have been hyperbole. “In the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them — the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites — as the LORD your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18) (Except that Jehovah here clearly gives the reason to kill all of them.)
7. The reason to kill infants was that Jehovah knew they would grow up to be like their allegedly wicked parents. (Would we today ever employ this silly argument when dealing with the children of criminals? Would not the adoption of infants and children by loving Israelites parents have made them just as righteous as Israelite children?)
What is perhaps most mendacious is that fact that, in this podcast and another dealing with this issue I’ve listened to recently, both over an hour in length, neither one ever mentioned the fact that God commanded infants to be killed. This is like arguing a murderer was not actually illegally parked during the murder, completely ignoring the most egregious act committed that day.
(Exodus 23:28-33, 33:2, 34:11-16, Numbers 33:50-56, Deuteronomy 7:1-5, 9:3, 11:23, 12:2-3, 20:10-18, Joshua 3:10, 13:6, 23:5)