Many individuals who hate the God of the Bible, Jehovah, have claimed he was a genocidal maniac for commanding Israel to kill all people and animals who lived in the Promised Land. Is that really true? Did he really command Israel to annihilate everyone? I touched on some of the reasons why he told Israel to kill in my post “Why is there so much violence in the Old Testament?”. I also talked about how certain people in those lands were spared this judgment because they agreed to follow God and obey his laws to live among the Israelites in my post “Is Jehovah really a merciless murder?”.

There was one aspect I forgot to mention about Israel’s battles against the various tribes of Canaanites, and that was the fact God gave them plenty of opportunity to flee. He was essentially giving the Canaanite peoples an eviction notice. The first phase and primary goal was not to kill them, but get them off the land so Israel could inhabit the land to (1) fulfill his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 9:4-6), and (2) because the Canaanite peoples were very wicked (Leviticus 18:24-27). God even told Israel in Deuteronomy 9 not to lie to themselves by claiming it was because of their righteousness that the Canaanites were being evicted, because he called the Israelites a “stiffnecked people.”

Here are scriptures showing that God’s intent was for those pagans to flee and leave their lands:

28 And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.29 I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee.30 By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.31  …for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee. Exodus 23

And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite: Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way. Exodus 33

37 And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;38 To drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 4

Then after that, God gave Israel instructions on what to do with the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, and others who refused to obey his eviction notice by staying in the land:

16 But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:17 But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lordthy God hath commanded thee:18 That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods… Deuteronomy 20

Neither God nor Israel committed genocide since these people were allowed to leave with their lives and possessions. The foolish ones chose not to and paid with their lives in many cases. Unfortunately, Israel let many of them stick around, and that led to their downfall later.