Biblical Illiteracy and the Canaanites

31 Jul
July 31, 2017

USA Today recently reported that the Bible was proven incorrect through genetic research that revealed descendants of the Canaanites still existed in spite of what they reported was the Bible’s “claim” that they were exterminated.

The article is fascinating and frustrating. On the one hand, the genetic research is incredibly interesting; it is fascinating to see where the descendants of the Canaanites ended up. Especially given, as the article correctly points out, how little we have in the way of historical records about them.

HOWEVER.

The reporter didn’t do his homework. The verse cited, Deuteronomy 20:17, does not claim the Canaanites are destroyed. Instead, it is a command to wipe them out – one which the Bible clearly points out the Jewish people, under the command of Joshua, did not follow. The story of the walls of Jericho gets the most press with the narrative recorded in Joshua 6. In that instance, they did kill and destroy everything following a dramatic story of marching, trumpets, yelling, and walls collapsing.

But just a few chapters later, a different type of story is recorded. In Joshua 9, the story of the Gibeonites is described. They were Canaanites as well who managed to trick Joshua and the others into thinking they were from far away. Scripture notes that Joshua did not go to the Lord about it, but instead agreed to a treaty and made a promise to not wipe them out. When they realized the deception, that they were actually from nearby and one of the cities they were to wipe out, Joshua honored his promise and did not wipe them out. In fact, the story ends with this comment:

“So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the assembly, to provide for the needs of the altar of the Lord at the place the Lord would choose. And that is what they are to this day.” (Joshua 9:26-27)

So, to sum up, not only does the Bible NOT claim that the Canaanites were totally destroyed; at the time of its writing, it notes their continued existence. Which ultimately points to the importance of carefully researching scripture before jumping to conclusions.

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