A biblical topic is making news headlines this week. The Telegraph “Science” section carries the headline, “Study disproves the Bible’s suggestion that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out.”
Wow! That’s pretty bold. Does the study really disprove a biblical suggestion (whatever that means)?
I’m going to discuss one article at length in a discursive manner. I hope you can come along for the trip.
This article from The Independent opens by quoting “leading atheist” Richard Dawkins, who said “that the God of the Old Testament was ‘a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser … a genocidal … megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.’”
A number of problems with this opening paragraph. To wit,
Starting off an article about the Bible by quoting an atheist, let alone an acknowledged “leading atheist,” is shamelessly biased.
By specifying “the God of the Old Testament,” the article attempts to draw a distinction between that God and the God of the New Testament, which, according to the New Testament (Jesus and His apostles), is blasphemous and counter to the evidence at hand.
The article says God “was,” as if He no longer is. They portray Him as a character in an ancient book rather than Almighty God.
Dawkins, this “leading atheist,” says elsewhere that “Ecclesiastes, in the 1611 translation, is one of the glories of English literature (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/may/19/richard-dawkins-king-james-bible). Ecclesiastes begins with a lament that only an existentialist-atheist-humanist could love:
“Vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?” (Ecc 1:2b-3).
Does Dawkins know how that book ends?
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecc 12:13-14).
So let’s take that notion to heart and bring this journalistic work into judgment, to see whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Dawkins’ claim that God is “a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser … a genocidal … megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” – and presumably the claim of the article’s author, “Science Correspondent” Ian Johnston – must be considered in proper terms.
We’re talking about man’s opinion about our Creator, the Lord God Almighty, and Jesus Christ. We’re talking about man’s judgment of God, and that some men slam down the gavel and declare God lacking in moral uprightness. Does that seem a little unbalanced to you?
Does God have the right to have people slaughtered?
The fact is, people get slaughtered every day. People get sick and die, of no immediate fault of their own. Sin inflicts collateral damage.
In defense of God’s rights, Paul says in Romans,
“As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid … O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Romans 9:13-14…20b-21).
If you’re able to entertain the concept of a sovereign creator, then you must confess His right to destroy His creations.
Moving past that opening paragraph, we come to the main presupposition of the article:
“For God had ordered the Israelites to slaughter the apparently sinful Canaanites, saying: “You shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them.” And, according to the Bible, they did just that.”
The cynical author of this article can’t help but insert the word “apparently” before “sinful Canaanites.” Is he suggesting that perhaps the Canaanites were not sinful? Is it up for our own judgment to decide the matter? The article concludes, “Also known as the Phoenicians, the Canaanites proved to be great seafaring traders and established colonies across the Mediterranean,” suggesting that they did, indeed, have redeemable qualities that should have saved them from the wrath of God.
More to the point, though, the article says that the Bible says the Israelites utterly destroyed the Canaanites.
What does the Bible say?
“They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the Lord commanded them: but were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood. Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions” (Psalm 106:34-39).
That’s a psalm! Psalm 106 is dedicated to this subject. How do these “scientists” overlook an entire psalm?
Yes, God commanded the Israelites to utterly destroy the Canaanites (Deut 7), but we see as early as Joshua 6:21ff that they saved one family of Canaanites, Rahab and her relatives, who then dwelled with Israel “to this day.” Further, Judges 1 contains passages recounting the cities and tribes of Canaan who were spared by the Israelites and dwelled among them “unto this day.”
This was an instance of Israel disobeying God’s commandments, which was a habit of theirs. In fact, this is a habit of all of ours! We’re incapable of obeying God’s commandments perfectly, so we’re guilty of the worst crimes, and so we need a savior. As Paul wrote,
“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Gal 3:23-25).
Thank God for His saving grace in Jesus Christ!
Anyway, back to the article, what did these geneticists discover? Canaanite bloodlines are evident in the DNA of living Lebanese people.
“The Bible reports the destruction of the Canaanite cities and the annihilation of its people; if true, the Canaanites could not have directly contributed genetically to present-day populations,” the researchers wrote.
Well, the Bible does not report the annihilation of all Canaanites. In fact, it reports the opposite:
“And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: and they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods” (Judges 3:5-6).
Of course, who would expect a bunch of humanist “scientists” to know the Bible? They are of the world, and they write the headlines to suit their needs.