They fought 31 city-kings, and killed every man, woman and child.
I get it. Kind of. The Israelites had a hard time staying faithful to God in the best of times; they quickly slid into idolatry. The more Canaanites were left alive, the more opportunity for temptation and sin would increase. Another version of if your hand causes you to sin, chop it off.
Start with the fact that God never changes. He has always been full of compassion and mercy.
Centuries before, God had told Abraham that "the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." (Genesis 15:16, NIV) The wording makes me think of the flood, when men did evil, only evil, day after day, all day long, and God destroyed to destroy them all.
I have to believe sin saturated the culture of the Amorites. It not only extended vertically, in their worship of idols, but also horizontally, in their treatment of each other. Perhaps they celebrated sin, and made heroes of whores and murderers.
Four centuries earlier, they had heard and seen Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abimelech, at least, king of the Philistines, seemed to show respect for Abraham's God.
In other words--they had had opportunity to see and know the truth, but instead rejected it. They threw themselves into sin with a whole heart. They earned every ounce of punishment that they received.
Again I ask, though, were they that much more sinful than ancient Rome? or contemporary America? If someone were to write The Rise and Fall of the Amorites, what would it say?
The problem is, that the verse also says it was God's idea that they would continue fighting, so they would be cursed and annihilated without mercy.
I suspect that wording, though, is a lot like Pharaoh's heart. In some cases, it says God hardened Pharaoh's heart. Other times, it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. The locals were all too eager to go to war against the invading Israelites.
And yet, still, how is what Israel did any different from what Hitler did in conquering Europe? What America did in subjugating Native Americans? What happened in Rwanda?
I don't know. I don't have any quick, easy understanding. I do offer a few thoughts:
- God doesn't change.
- God takes sin seriously.
- God is in charge. We are not equals on the playing field. His rules govern us.
- Often, when God in his grace extends the period for repentance, we see it as weakness and continue sinning more and more.
- God wants to perform radical surgery to remove sin not only from us but from tempting us.
- We don't have to have all the answers.
I will close with these words from Joel 2:13:
Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.