Below is a debate about the ethics of the Canaanite apocalypse described in the Bible:

1 Canaanite Apocalypse Anonymous #132
2 Human Wickedness Mistaken for God's Straughen #133
3 Don't Call Mercy "Wickedness" Anonymous #134
4 Rebutting Aspersions on God Straughen #135
5 Canaanite Copout Williams #137
6 Is The Biblical God Good? Rogers #138
7 The Canaan Connection
Anonymous #138

A mercy to all humankind


(Investigator 132, 2010 May)


Is the extermination of an ethnic group ever right? What if it:
  1. Follows the rules of war of the target population and treats them as they treated others?
  2. Promotes morality and health worldwide?
  3. Brings "blessing" by saving billions of people from religious prostitution, idolatry, enslavement, human sacrifice, sexually transmitted disease and poverty?
  4. Gives the human race opportunity to prevent its extinction?
  5. Gives the target population 400 years to give up their evil?
  6. Spares families who didn't sympathize with prevailing standards?
  7. Saves from genocide another ethnic group through whom benefits "2" to "4" would largely come?
  8. For reasons 1 to 4 is commanded by God?


The setting was Canaan after the Israelite "Exodus" from Egypt:
 But as for the towns of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them — the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perrizites, the Hivites and the Jebusites… (Deuteronomy 20:16-17)
The "annihilation" was carried out when the Israelites moved into Canaan. (Joshua 10:28-40; 11:10-14, 21-22)

Cities on the outskirts of planned Israelite settlement areas were offered peace terms:
If it accepts your terms of peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in it shall serve you at forced labor.
If it does not submit to you peacefully, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it … and put all its males to the sword.
You may, however, take as your booty the women, the children, livestock and everything else in the town, all its spoil…
Thus you shall treat all the towns that are very far from you, which are not towns of the nations here. (Deuteronomy 20:10-15)
Women as "booty" referred to marriage, which proceeded after the women had mourned the loss of their parents for a month. (21:10-14) Critics speak of "rape" because the women had little choice, but if lifelong union is intended it's marriage. Even today in much of Asia and Africa women don't decide whom they'll marry — parents or guardians decide for them.


Also marked for destruction were the Amalakites (desert nomads south of Canaan), and Midianites (east of Canaan).

Amalakites "struck down" stragglers during Israel's Exodus from Egypt (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) and launched unprovoked attacks. Therefore, "I will blot out the remembrance of Amalek…" (Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:19). "Blot out" did not necessarily imply extermination but could be by assimilation or emigration subject to their future actions.

After Israel settled into Canaan, Amalakites regularly raided, destroyed crops, killed or stole livestock, and made Israelites fugitives. (Judges 3:13; 6:3, 33) They were also slave traders, kidnapping people to sell into slavery. Amalakite "plundering" (1 Samuel 14:48) continued for centuries, during which any peaceful Amalakites could settle in Israel. (Leviticus 19:33-34; 24:22; Exodus 22:21)

Retaliation finally came when King Saul was commanded to kill, "man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey." (1 Samuel 15:1-3) Some Amalakite clans survived and continued their terrorism: "They had attacked Ziglag and burned it down and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great." (1 Samuel 30:1-3, 11-14)

In ancient wars women and children were killed along with the men whenever peace treaties, resettlement or enslavement were impractical. Amalakites, for example, could not be neutralized by capturing cities since they were nomads, and survivors simply continued plundering.

Each new generation of Amalakites adopted the predatory lifestyle of previous generations and therefore to finally stop the cycle meant killing the children. It would have been suicidal strategy for Israel to raise them and produce another generation of enemies since raids by Philistines and trans-Jordan tribes were at their height and other Amalakite clans remained. That left a choice between death in the desert or death by sword. The livestock were ordered killed because this was judgment, not war for plunder.


Midianite women and children were initially spared. (Numbers 31:9) However:
Moses said to them: "Have you allowed all the women to live?  These women here … made the Israelites act treacherously against the LORD in the affair of Peor, so that the plague came among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him. (31:15-17)
The virgin females either became wives as explained above, or servants. The boys were killed for the same reasons as Amalakite children. Non-virgin women were killed because of "the affair of Peor" and "the plague" when many Israelites succumbed to their prostitution. (Numbers 25) Any Israelite leaders involved with prostitutes were executed too (25:4) Due to rampant prostitution the plague was probably sexually transmitted and execution halted further spread.


The Amalakite king was informed: "As your sword has made women childless, so will your mother be childless among women." (I Samuel 15:33) The Amalakites got the treatment they had dished out for centuries, a fulfillment of, "The one who curses you I will curse."

Note that similar principles still operate today. In WWII Germans bombed, displaced or killed whole populations, then got similar treatment. Hundreds of thousands of German women and children were killed and 10,000,000 Germans were displaced

Another ethnic group, the Kenites, was spared:
And Saul came to the city of the Amalekites, and lay in wait in the valley. Saul said to the Kenites, "Go! Leave! Withdraw from among the Amalekites, or I destroy you with them; for you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt." (1 Samuel 15:2-8)


1 "It is … because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is dispossessing them before you, in order to fulfill the promise that the LORD made on oath to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." (Deuteronomy 9:5)

Canaanite depravity such as Baal worship and sex with daughters, sisters, sons and animals would, unless stopped, contaminate Israel:
Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, for by these practices the nations I am casting our before you have defiled themselves. Thus the land became defiled; and I punished it for its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. (Leviticus 18:24-25)
Canaan must have been worse than the Greco-Roman world of which Boswell (1995) says: "Exploitation of males owned or controlled by other males was widespread; it was both a common act of aggression against defeated foes to rape them, and a very ordinary use of slaves." Barber (1973) writes that Greeks not only condoned "Homosexual love of an older man for a younger boy…but idealized it."

2 Human sacrifice:
No one shall be found among you who makes a son or daughter pass through fire, or who practices divination, or is a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or who consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the LORD; it is because of such abhorrent practices that the LORD your God is driving them out before you. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)
3 The Canaanites had dispossessed previous cultures and were in turn dispossessed. Humans, not God, invented war but neglected to enact a Geneva Convention. Therefore, when empires declined they got treated as they had treated others. By default that was the law: "Woe to the guilty…for what their hands have done shall be done to them!" (Isaiah 3:11)

4 To prevent perpetual civil war. (Numbers 33:55) This aim failed because the Canaanite annihilation was not done thoroughly, centuries of war followed, and Israelites repeatedly adopted Canaanite depravity. (Psalm 106:36-38)

6 The sheer level of Canaanite depravity; few towns had even ten decent people. Abraham once asked:
Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?  Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?  Far be it from you…to slay the righteous with the wicked…  Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is right?  (Genesis 18:23-25)
The reply was: "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it." (18:32)


Human sacrifice is impressive and free sex enticing. If Israel with laws condemning such practice still succumbed, it's evident such worship would, if Canaan wasn't extinguished, eventually have merged with similar worship of Africans, Celts, Pacific Islanders, Aztecs and others producing a world of barbaric rituals and sexually transmitted disease.

But God, according to the Bible, wanted something better:
The New Testament explains the "blessing" comes through Jesus Christ:
You [the Jews] are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' So God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways. (Acts 3:25-26; Galatians 3:8-9, 29)
To be "blessed" refers to happiness from possessing or anticipating salvation, prosperity, righteous government, security, health and peace.

The blessing is firstly theological — friendship with God and salvation by Jesus Christ. (John 3:16)

After that are the "works" by Christianity. Jesus said, "The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, in fact, will do greater works than these…" (John 14:12)

A few of the great "works" that followed are:
  1. Legislation against infanticide in the Roman Empire (315CE).
  2. Abolishing the Roman "games" — 700,000 had died in the Colosseum alone.
  3. Abolition of human sacrifice.
  4. Modern abolition of slavery.
  5. Factory reform that limited work hours and endorsed education.
  6. Founding of many scientific disciplines, bringing prosperity worldwide.
  7. Significant impact against infanticide, widow burning, and the caste system in India and other lands.
  8. Thousands of hospitals and schools — in Australia alone Catholic agencies run 21 public hospitals with 9500 of the nation's 89,000 hospital beds.
  9. Democratic political systems, universities and libraries.
  10. Thousands of charities around the world. East Timor, for example, has the Timor Children's Foundation which sponsors orphans, Mary Mackillop East Timor Mission (healthcare and education), Friends and Partners of East Timor (education and health), Alola Foundation (children's and women's health and handicrafts), and many more.
  11. Elevation of women's rights — Eve was Adam's "helper as his partner" (Genesis 2:18) hence his equal, therefore early Christianity was radically pro-women.
  12. Numerous beneficial laws including pensions for ordinary people (1 Timothy 5:9) can be traced to the Bible.
Many people don't appreciate modern prosperity as the "blessing of Abraham" and work to destroy the foundation — the Bible. If the above great things began with minorities against the tide, imagine the achievements if the "tide" supported them!!


Reason 8 for Canaan's apocalypse is by implication, not direct statement. It's to give humans the opportunity to prevent the end of the world.

The "fire and burning stone" that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah can be explained as a small comet (similar to Tunguska, 1908). The New Testament says this was an "example of what is coming" upon the whole world. (2 Peter 2:6; 3:10-12)  By about 1990 some astronomers even declared it inevitable.

Genesis, however, states, "Nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them." (11:6)  And if nothing is impossible then humans could potentially stop comets from hitting Earth. The "blessing of Abraham" could therefore, by leading to Christianity and modern technology, stop the end of the world.

If Canaanite religion had stayed intact and Abraham's blessing cancelled, idolatry, ritualized sexual abuse, human sacrifice, infanticide, homosexual rape, and slavery would have dominated the world perpetually until blasted into extinction by "fire" from Space.

Humans are hopeless at selecting the best future. For example, "In 1619 a ship arrived in Jamestown and brought a curse of injustice and violence that lasted for centuries." (Demaris 1970)

The cargo was 20 Negroes. These weren't lifelong slaves but could work off their "indentures" and gain freedom. However, many White "gentlemen" of Jamestown hated manual work. As more Negroes arrived the Whites made slavery the solution and changed Negro status from indentured servants to slaves for life.

By 1650 slavery was institutionalized. Slave owners considered Negroes animals and bred them for profit, branded them, cropped their ears, and whipped them. Slavery led to the American Civil War that killed 600,000 followed by the racist Klu Klux Klan which committed terrorist acts eventually numbering millions.

The Canaan events, in contrast to Jamestown, showed long-range foresight. Judged by blessings gained, principles followed, and horrors minimized they suggest guidance by a supernatural intelligence that cares about us.


One critic writes: "God's solution is not one we would expect from an all-wise being… It could easily have initiated massive social reform programmes aimed at eliminating the social and moral evils...."

In reply we need a brief "theodicy", an explanation of why humans suffer if God exists and is good. The answer is humanity's "knowledge of good and evil." (Genesis 3:5) This is the subjective feeling of being right and good which everyone has and which everyone puts ahead of God's standards. This "knowledge" is being tested by humans being allowed to invent their own ethics, institutions, governments, and religions and experience the consequences until it's established that humans need God. And for the "test" to be unbiased requires God's absence so humans aren't pressured. (See Investigator 104)

The onus for any reforms, therefore, was on the Canaanites by them adjusting their "knowledge of good and evil" and reforming themselves.

Furthermore, if reform programs make evil people good, why didn't England initiate reform programs in 1940 rather than fight WWII? South Korea tried to "reform" North Korea away from its atomic bomb project with a "Sunshine Policy" of billion-dollar payments. North Korea simply accepted the payments and continued its project.

Despite modern prosperity, and reform programs everywhere, 20th-century immorality produced 1,500,000,000 cases of sexually transmitted disease with 200,000,000 deaths; 1,000,000,000 cases of child sexual abuse; plus countless infanticides and sex-selective abortions:
 "More than 100 million women are now missing in Asia, not just in China and India, but also in Bangla-desh, Iran and Pakistan, according to…the United Nations Development Program." (The Weekend Australian, April 10-11, 2010, p. 5)
Sometimes evil and its consequences are so terrible that God becomes a "God of war" to stop it. (Exodus 15:1-3). Children have parents and that's a blessing since without adult care they'd die, but the downside is that children often suffer for parental crimes.


The parameters for Canaan's judgment (see opening paragraph) have never recurred, and therefore all genocides stand condemned. It also followed the principle: "For with the judgment you make you will be judged…"

Canaanites had instituted their "knowledge of good and evil" and produced barbarism. Their destruction has allowed wide-scale tryouts or tests of other human ideas of good and evil such as Roman Emperor worship, divine right of kings, witchcraft and witch-hunts, atheism, Nazism, Communism, etc. A thorough test of human ideas of good and evil requires that all be tried rather than a few.

If Israel had perished instead of Canaanite culture, then idolatry, human sacrifice, slave raids, infanticide, routine sex with relatives and animals, homosexual rape, pederasty, and resultant diseases would have continued perpetually. Such practice would eventually have merged with similar practice in Africa and America creating worldwide networks of barbaric evil not moderated by "Abraham's blessing" in the form of Christ, Christianity and modern science.
Barber, L. 1973 The Penthouse Sex Index, p. 195
Boswell, J. 1995 The Marriage of Likeness, p. 54
Demaris, O. 1970 America The Violent
Kennedy, J. & Newcombe, J. 1994 What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?

When Human Wickedness is mistaken for God's Word

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 133, 2010 July)

Parts of the Bible portray God acting in a reprehensible manner more consistent with a cruel and merciless dictator than a being considered the epitome of moral virtue. I have no doubt that most Christians are sensible enough to see these passages for what they are - merely examples of the Biblical writer's own prejudices projected onto God, rather than a true reflection of a morally perfect divinity.

Unfortunately, fundamentalists see the Bible as being unerringly true — every word of it. Therefore, if God is portrayed as ordering the killing of children (I Samuel 15:2-3), then they unquestioningly believe it happened, and believe that such acts of savagery are acceptable.

I find this quite disturbing, for if believers think that God sanctions such barbarous acts, then they may come to believe that extreme violence is righteous when authorized by divine command.

This may sound merely academic. However, recent history shows the tragic results that can happen when people come to believe their questionable actions are supported by supernatural fiat, and proceed to act on such assumptions:

"President George Bush has claimed he was told by God to invade Iraq and attack Osama bin Laden's stronghold of Afghanistan as part of a divine mission to bring peace to the Middle East, security for Israel, and a state for the Palestinians.
The President made the assertion during his first meeting with Palestinian leaders in June 2003, according to a BBC series which will be broadcast this month."
Bush: God Told Me to Invade Iraq.

That the invasion was both unnecessary and unjustifiable is now acknowledged by most people. Estimates of the number of civilians killed vary — 100,000 to over a million. That the war has caused immense suffering is beyond doubt:

So five years after Bush and Tony Blair launched the invasion of Iraq against the wishes of a majority of UN members, no one knows how many Iraqis have died. We do know that more than two million have fled abroad. Another 1.5 million have sought safety elsewhere in Iraq. We know that the combined horror of car bombs, suicide attacks, sectarian killing and disproportionate US counter-insurgency tactics and air strikes have produced the worst humanitarian catastrophe in today's world. But the exact death toll remains a mystery.
What is the Real Death Toll in Iraq?
So, would God (if such a thing exists) order the invasion knowing in advance (if It is omniscient) the appalling suffering that would follow as a direct result the war's destabilizing effects on Iraq?

Would God order the killing of thousands? Would God consider it acceptable to have children blown to pieces by bombs or, in more primitive ages, to have their throats slit by rampaging Israelite warriors? Some Christians may ague that God would. But I think that most would not, and I am surprised that no Christian subscriber to Investigator has written an article countering some of the claims for the affirmative which have been published in this magazine.

As none have done so to date I find myself (an Atheist) in the unusual position of playing the role of theologian and producing a counter argument from a Christian perspective, which is probably going to be more comprehensible to people who share that particular view than any non-theistic objections I can raise.

I shall begin my counter argument with an appeal to the Bible (Revised Standard Version), which shall then be followed by some philosophical objections based on the nature of God.

1 John 4:8 says "He who does not love does not know God; for God is love." If God is defined as love, then what is love? 1 Corinthians 14 gives the following exposition:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for our tongues, they will cease; as for our knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Deuteronomy 5:17 has God command "you shall not kill," and Jesus is reputed to have said "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also" (Luke 6:27-29).

In the light of these quotations what, dear reader, is more likely that God (who is Love) would order the killing of children, and George W. Bush to invade Iraq, or that misguided and delusional men have subconsciously attributed their own desires to God in an attempt to justify the unjustifiable?

Having concluded my theological protests I shall now move on to some philosophical objections, which are based upon the Ontological Argument of St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109 AD).

This argument in its original form is extremely difficult to understand. The following restatement, however, may make thing a little clearer:
Proposition 1: By the term "God" is meant a being than which none greater can be conceived.
Proposition 2: Whether we affirm or deny the existence of God, a being than which none greater can be conceived exists in the understanding.
Proposition 3: It is possible to conceive of a being than which none greater can be conceived existing not only in the understanding but in reality as well; and this is greater.
Proposition 4: If, therefore, a being than which none greater can be conceived exists only in the understanding, it is not a being than which none greater can be conceived.
Proposition 5: Therefore, a being than which none greater can be conceived exists also in reality.
Page 124 in Halverson, William H A: A Concise Introduction to Philosophy, Random House, New York, 1976.
What St Anselm is arguing is that we can't deny the existence in reality of a being than which none greater can be conceived without contradicting ourselves. Now, if we define God as a being than which none greater can be conceived, it follows (at least in St. Anselm's view) that God's existence is necessarily true.
God is considered the creator of the universe. If this is true then God must necessarily possess a degree of intelligence and power far greater than that of human beings. But when the Bible is examined we find God resorting to killing children as a solution. This is a very primitive and barbaric way of dealing with a situation, and is not in keeping with a God so ingenious that He, She or It could devise a universe as complex as ours.

Now, I can conceive of a God so intelligent that He can solve problems without resorting to killing people — either directly or by proxy through His followers, and since this conception of God is ethically greater than that of the Biblical god then it follows by St. Anselm's proof that it is this more moral divinity that actually exists. Therefore, God would not resort to killing children.

Don't Call Mercy "Wickedness"


(Investigator 134, 2010 September)

In Investigator #132 I showed that the Bible portrays the Israel-Canaanite conflict as God's judgment on Canaan. As explained, that judgment:
  1. Followed the rules of war for those times (except for buggering the defeated and raping the women) and treated the Canaanites as they had treated others.
  2. Was based on moral grounds (Deuteronomy 9:5; Leviticus 18:24-25).
  3. Was delayed 400 years to give opportunity for reform.
  4. Was preceded by warnings (e.g. Sodom and Gomorrah, Ten Plagues of Egypt).
  5. Spared people who demonstrated opposition to Canaanite ways.
  6. Was a step to bringing "blessing" (i.e. monotheism, salvation, prosperity, morality, health, peace) to "all the nations of the earth" (Genesis 22:18).
  7. Gave the human race opportunity to prevent its extinction.
  8. Saved from genocide another nation (Israel) through whom the "blessing" would commence.
  9. Condemned — because the above criteria include some that are impossible-to-copy — all mistreatment of populations throughout history.
Point "3", the 400-year delay, was itself merciful but included another mercy — when a great grandson of Abraham predicted poor harvests and organized the stockpiling of grain. (Genesis 39-42) This saved Egypt and Canaan from famine and was a foretaste and validation of the prediction that Abraham's descendants would bring "blessing" to all nations (Point "6").

Although the "blessing" eventually improved billions of lives, Straughen (#133) says, "No". Better than Canaanite boys being killed mercifully, the Israelite children should instead have been sexually mistreated by Canaanites and/or sacrificed to idols, and Israel exterminated, and the "blessing" cancelled". Monotheism, improved morality and science would then not have flourished, and Canaan's cults would eventually have merged with cults elsewhere producing a world of barbaric rituals, infanticide, institutionalized sexual abuse, and human sacrifice.


Humans, not God, invented war in the unrecorded past.  And everyone involved children — Assyrians, Egyptians, Romans, etc — probably because:
1.    Children were part of the economy, therefore legitimate targets.
2.    Kings owned the people who therefore were legitimate targets to reduce his power.
3.    Children were possessions of fathers, therefore shared their fate.
4.    If not killed, children without parents would die from exposure or wild animals — therefore killing them was merciful.
5.    Children often fought alongside parents and would later seek revenge if spared.
Consider point 5: The Weekend Australian reported a "schoolboy revolt" in Kashmir with "street battles between stone-throwing boys, some as young as eight, and security forces". (July 17-18, 2010, p. 19) When I was five my parents got into fights with their landlord and his wife with kicks, fists and stones. I joined in, not incited to do so, but simply copying my parents. If mere example makes a 5-year-old fight, then incitement and indoctrination with training would make even younger boys dangerous.

When human evil in ancient times threatened to prevent the future "blessing to all nations" such evil had to be stopped. And when stopped, the standards of right and wrong of the perpetrators were applied to them and sometimes their families — the rule was "judged as they judge".   

About 600BC the Scriptures indicated a change — that children should not suffer for parental evils:


The prophet Ezekiel wrote that retribution should be individual, each person should be punished for his own sins:
2 What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge"?
3 As I live says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel.
4 Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine; it is only the person that sins that shall die…
20 A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child… (Ezekiel 18)
This principle was and is widely ignored. In World War II, for example, 5-10 million children died and Muslim terrorists today often murder the families of critics.

Ezekiel's principle nevertheless became central in modern law — and is part of the "blessing to all the nations of the earth."

Consider also infanticide:

Sex-selective abortion and infanticide although illegal has produced a sexual imbalance of 100,000,000 in Asia (See #132). In ancient times, therefore, with infanticide institutionalized, the infant death toll must have been staggering.

Discarded kids in Rome who were found by strangers were routinely put to work as beggars but first mutilated to make begging more profitable. Roman philosopher Seneca (4BC-65AD) even argued that such children had no cause for complaint since their own parents didn't want them.

Christianity, however, got infanticide banned in the Roman Empire (See #41) and eventually world-wide because:
1. The Bible opposes murder;
2. "Sons are indeed a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward." (Psalm 127:3)
3. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them." (Luke 18:16)
So when I write of Abraham's "blessing" saving and improving "billions" of lives, as New Testament standards increasingly permeated the world, I'm not exaggerating.

For the "blessing" to begin, required that Canaanite religion with its fertility rites, human sacrifice, child sexual abuse, and sex between close relatives and humans with animals, not become the worldwide norm.


Straughen (#134) compares Canaan to the 2003 intervention in Iraq.

I discussed Iraq in #119. Most of the killing was done by Sunni terrorists seeking to re-establish Sunni minority-rule, and Al Qaida terrorists seeking to destabilize Muslim states to create a worldwide Caliphate.

The Kurds of Iraq have democracy and increasing prosperity; the rest of Iraq is progressing also. Shiites, Kurds and Kuwaitis gassed, starved or tortured by Saddam's regime are glad he's gone.

Prosperity and rule of law often require violence to achieve. Consider cases where international intervention delayed or failed:

  • Ruwanda — 700,000 massacred in 1994.
  • The Congo — 4,000,000 died in civil war.
  • North Korea — 2,000,000 died from famine; another 2,000,000 languish in gulags.
  • Somalia — Somalians dismantled their own country, even pulled out cables, railway lines and water pipes, and produced millions of refugees and thousands of pirates.
  • Zimbabwe — the economy is crippled and the army stacked with cronies to keep the president in power: "…nearly 6 million people desperately need emergency food aid … Zimbabwe's troubles … reflects an absolute failure of the international system, which is based on the division of the world among sovereign governments … and … a right of non interference… (D. Flitton, Zimbabweans pay dearly for world's failure, The Age, December 12, 2008, p. 17)

  • Flitton writes: "A government's ultimate purpose is to ensure the physical safety of its citizens."

    But who has the responsibility to protect when governments act like gangsters? Flitton, citing "academics and international jurists", says: "Where a local regime fails in that duty, the responsibility to act and protect human rights, by military force if necessary, passes to the international community."

    Canaan's demise benefited the human race; and the intention for toppling Saddam's regime was superficially similar. I don't see further useful analogy.


    Thousands of Christian ministries fulfill Jesus' prediction that his followers will do greater deeds than he did. (John 14:12) Again, it's part of Abraham's "blessing".

    For example, Heidi and Rolland Baker went to Mozambique in 1995. Beginning with 80 diseased, malnourished children in a rundown orphanage they later provided for 10,000 children.

    Worldwide 8.5 million children die yearly from pneumonia, diarrhea, and malnutrition. Micah Challenge is a coalition of Christian ministries to save these children. The name comes from the prophet Micah who wrote: "He has showed you what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (6:8)

    New Scientist reported that 270,000, children died from AIDS in 2007 and there are "15 million AIDS orphans worldwide". (November 22, 2008)  AIDS is tackled by governments, but Christians help with orphanages and by teaching biblical morality — in Africa AIDs is spread by immorality more than by drug-injection.

    Imagine if Straughen's misrepresentation of God discouraged just one Christian ministry. His supposed concern for ancient children would then hurt many children alive now!


    Why couldn't "God", if He exists and has unlimited power, have judged Canaan without killing children?

    I'll answer this query via Theodicy. "Theodicy" examines why evil exists if God is both good and powerful.

    In God, Tsunamis and Evil (# 104) I quoted Bible verses to argue that all humans reject God's standards of good and evil and follow their own. God permits this as an experiment until humans learn from experience that they need God's guidance. The human race has the capacity to achieve virtually anything — even go to the stars. (Genesis 11:4, 6) Unlimited potential plus freedom to choose would be inconsistent with forced submission; therefore God does not compel compliance. Instead, His strategy is to let humans try out all the ethical theories, governments, values and religions that they think of and experience the consequences. In the meantime God arranges a "savior" to save humans from the punishment they deserve.

    This whole scenario requires that God stays away as if non-existent; so that humans aren't intimidated by His power. To intimidate humans would bias their decisions in what sort of governments, religions, ethics, and laws they set up, and would be inconsistent with permitting independence in the first place.

    The need to be incognito explains why communication is by prayer, why miracles seem in short supply, why suffering children don't get miraculous rescue, and why God uses people as proxies to act on his behalf.

    If you missed the point, here it is again: Ongoing, large scale, miraculous invention would be obvious to everyone and could not be hidden. God's cover would be blown, and prevent unbiased evidence of what happens when humans ignore God.


    In the 1930s the nations could have stopped Nazi plans for world conquest at a cost of 50,000 lives. But they didn't, and then it cost 40,000,000 lives.

    The Bible portrays God as looking ahead to eternity and from that perspective doing what's best.

    Canaan was situated near the confluence of three continents, in the middle of the world. Whatever values and religion thrived in Canaan could potentially spread worldwide. The Bible implied as much by stating that God gave Canaan to Abraham and that via Abraham's offspring "all the nations of the earth will be blessed."

    Rather than Canaanite standards dominating the world, we have Jesus, monotheism, science and technology.


    Rebutting Aspersions on God

    K Straughen

    (Investigator 135, 2010 November)

    I was hoping that a Christian would offer some rebuttal of Anonymous' position on the "Canaanite Holocaust" since his claims seem to cast aspersions on the concept of a loving and merciful God.

    I would like to think this deafening silence is not because the majority agree with what to me is a debased and evil theology.

    I find the situation worrying. The world already has enough fanatical Muslims who believe people should be killed for one reason or another.

    It is all very well for skeptics such as myself to point out that religious violence is wrong, but do you know of any Christian minister willing to write an article rebutting Anonymous' claims?

    This isn't just a point scoring exercise. What happens if Anonymous' writings influence impressionable minds and lead them to believe God sanctions violence against children?

    I'm arguing for a more balanced view that is representative of mainstream Christianity rather than that of a fanatical minority.




    John H Williams

    (Investigator 137, 2011 January)

    I reassure Kirk Straughen (Letters, #135) that his writing on the ‘Canaanite Holocaust' has not gone unheard.

    Those who have "a fundamental belief that the Bible is the Word of God" are inclined to rationalise its horrors, part of the all-encompassing YHVH/Yahweh/Jehovah myth, and attempt to justify the morally indefensible.

    A reading of some parts of the OT will dispel the idea of a "jealous" deity that Israelites believed was theirs alone was "loving and merciful": instead, it sometimes behaved in a ruthlessly cruel way, much like the survivalist, then aggressive and expansionist Jewish culture which conveniently sanctioned the idea of justifiable genocide through the anthropomorphism of its god.

    The victors wrote their history subjectively, with nil dissent from rival tribes they made extinct, a retrospectively written defence of invasion and conquest. In the words of Yehuda Bauer, Professor of Holocaust Studies at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, "As a Jew, I must live with the fact that the civilisation I inherited encompasses the call for genocide in its canon."

    I remember a 1960 major court case, brought under the UK's Obscene Publications Act (1959), which put on trial Penguin's unexpurgated edition of DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928). I wondered, considering what I'd learnt about the lethal and violent happenings in the Bible, why children were encouraged to read and accept supposedly true unexpurgated mayhem, while a story about a fictional illicit love affair was regarded by some as obscene.

    The "deafening silence" that Kirk decries will continue, as the hideous reality can only be sanitised by the most dexterous air-brushing: the ‘I Am That I Am' god, which evolved to become the mythical Christian god, ‘was', at times, amoral and genocidal, apparently ‘approving' the erasure of Baal-worshipping Canaanites.

    The "Christian minister" Kirk mentions, if one can be found, may theodicise, unless he or she happens to be a Jack Spong or an Honest to God liberal like John Robinson, James Pike and Don Cupitt. There's a wide political spectrum: so too with Christian ministers, and liberal thinkers are outnumbered by fundamentalists, conservatives and traditionalists.

    Kirk needn't fret about those "impressionable minds", since they first have to believe in a supernatural being, and many don't; some indoctrinated, literal-minded, misled and misinformed youngsters eventually grow up and realise that all demons, ghosts, (eg the Holy Ghost), gods, fairies, angels, jolly seasonal visitors and the like are fictional stories some adults like to tell their young.

    By transmitting these memes, part of children's enculturation, one generation helps prepare the next for a mendacious world, reinforced, in my case, by Sunday school, church and a bible reading, prayer and hymn every school day, in incomprehensible Welsh on Fridays, my lot for seven years, plus a steady diet of my Dad's platitudinous lies, such as "The devil makes work for idle hands …" and "Cleanliness is next to godliness."

    In my opinion, Kirk's many cogently and dispassionately argued articles in this magazine have been influential and valuable.

    John H Williams

    Is the Biblical God Good?

    Kevin Rogers

    (Investigator 138, 2011 March)

    In Investigator #133 Kirk Straughen argued that a good God cannot be reconciled with the God of the Bible, especially the God of the Old Testament. Worst still, the Bible creates precedents for people or even political leaders to make silly decisions that may have disastrous consequences.

    Kirk quotes 1 John 4:8, where it states that God is love. In other words, love is God's essential nature. Kirk then quoted 1 Corinthians 13, which is Paul's exposition on the nature of love. This chapter is essentially targeted at human love, rather than God's love. However, it is fair to assume that it should also be mostly applicable to the nature of a loving God. Kirk then considered Anselm's Ontological argument. If God exists, He must be the greatest conceivable being, which must include love. Kirk's arguments so far are quite fair.

    How then can a God of love be reconciled with the violent God of the Old Testament? Kirk cites the case from 1 Samuel 15:1-3,

    ‘Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'"

    This seems quite horrific. How can we reconcile this with a loving God? However, before we leap into judgment, we should consider the context.

    Israel's first contact with the Amalekites was at Rephidim while they were wandering in the Sinai desert. The Amalekites attacked and killed the stragglers; the Israelites then defeated them in a battle (Exodus 17). Deuteronomy 25:17-19 states,

    "Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!"

    The book of Judges records at least 3 occasions where the Amalekites attacked Israel when they allied with other nations during the times of Ehud, Gideon and Jair (Judges chapters 3, 6 and 10). After the period of the judges, Saul became the first king of Israel. He was given the task of fulfilling the command given so many years before in Deuteronomy 25. In fact the key factor in Saul's rejection as king was his failure to completely fulfil that command. He spared king Agag and the best of the animals!

    Saul obviously didn't do a thorough job, as the Amalekites reappear later. While David was staying with the Philistines, David pretended he was attacking Israel but in fact conducted raids against the Amalekites as well as other enemies of Israel. He didn't want his true activities to be known to the Philistines, and so he didn't leave any survivors! The last mention of the Amalekites is in 1 Chronicles 5, where the Simeonites invaded and occupied their territory during the time of Hezekiah (715-685 BC), thus fulfilling the prophecy of Deuteronomy 25.

    The primary reason for the ban on Amalek was the judgment of God for the event recorded in Exodus 17. However, other factors should also be considered. Israel and Amalek were often at war and their relationship was violent. In the Ancient Near East, there were no rules of war or a United Nations Organization. War was a fact of life. Each nation had to be prepared for war or it would not survive. The slaying of women and infants is horrible, but understandable. The infants of today are the enemies of tomorrow; and women breed infants. Israel was probably relatively civilised compared with other nations. There is no evidence of sadism or torture. Compare this with the Neo-Assyrian annals of Asshurnasirpal (tenth century BC), which take pleasure in gruesomely describing the flaying of live victims, the impaling of others on poles, and the heaping up of bodies for display.

    We are more civilised; we don't do that anymore, or do we? Most national borders have been decided by acts of war. We Anglo-Saxon Australians occupy Australia through violence and power. The aboriginal population has been decimated. We fortunately live in a time of peace, but we sanitize the basis for our occupation. We can smugly enjoy the benefits of the dirty work done by our forbears. The problem with the Bible is that it is too transparent.

    Morality is dependent on time and situation. What was right then is not right now and what is right now was not right then. Israel was a nation in transition. They started off as nomads, became slaves in Egypt and then were formed into a theocratic nation via the leadership of judges and kings. They spent time in exile and then returned to their land under the control of foreign powers. After their rebellion against Rome, the temple was destroyed, their sacrificial system was ended and Israel was scattered to the nations. The specific details of the laws and rituals of the Torah are largely inapplicable to modern Judaism or Christianity. They were mainly applicable to the pre-exilic times of the Judges and the Kings. The Torah is still of value, but it must be analysed in the context of the times in order to extract principles that have more general application. You should not quote a passage and assume it has universal application.

    What about 1 Corinthians 13? This letter was primarily written to a local church in the city of Corinth? Does it have wider application? It certainly does, but its original context must be taken into account. Where 1 Corinthians 13:7 states, "[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres", this may be fine in a church or family setting, but I can easily imagine some situations where it is not appropriate. The point is that the Bible must be interpreted in its context. You can cherry pick quotes if you like, but this method is vulnerable to error.

    1 Samuel was one of the first books of the Bible that I read to my children. It has wonderful stories that children (and adults) enjoy. It certainly has its fair share of violence. However, strangely, my children were not damaged by the experience. My children are not violent at all. It is not their life's ambition to kill Amalekites or anyone else. They somehow managed to intuitively understand the stories and their meaning and also perceive something about the nature of God and the morality that is applicable to them.

    So far I have covered understanding of the context and determining applicability, but can 1 Samuel be reconciled with a loving God? The Bible provides very little in the way of explanation or justification for some of these statements. We are expected to think it through for ourselves. Paul recommended, "Behold both the kindness and severity of God" (Romans 11:22). "Behold" means "Look"! The God of the Bible is multi-faceted and nuanced. He is not a doting, sentimentalist whose greatest desire is for our happiness. The God of the Bible addresses a wide range of life's issues. This includes love, mercy and forgiveness as well as death, evil, suffering and judgment.

    The views of the typical believer are pertinent. When a believer encounters an issue such as this, it may puzzle or perplex them to some degree, but not sufficiently to "knock them off their perch". The reason is that they have a perception of the total character of God from the whole Biblical narrative. There are some things that they do not understand, but they have overall confidence in the character of God that He can work it out and resolve all loose ends. Christians believe in a final judgment where God will judge everyone according to their deserts. In the face of the impending doom of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asked, "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" Indeed He shall.

    The Bible is quite vulnerable to misrepresentation, misinterpretation or misuse. You need to study it carefully in order to interpret it in a reasonable manner. Romans 9:33 says, "I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall". So, stumble if you must. No one will stop you, for God has given you both the responsibility and dignity to make choices that have eternal consequences.


    (Investigator 138, 2011 May)


    Mr Williams claims that my exposition of the Bible's account of Canaan was an attempt to "rationalize its [the Bible's] horrors" and "justify the morally indefensible".

    The obvious lesson from the Old Testament's account is that:
    •    Only God has the right to command the extermination of certain peoples; and
    •    Only on moral/ethical grounds for the good of the entire world;
    •    Only if the targeted population itself practiced, and so approved of "genocide"; and
    •    Only after giving the target population several centuries to repent.
    These criteria condemn all massacres of populations in history and declare all genocides wrong. And that is not a "horror" or "indefensible".

    The threat was that Canaan occupied the "centre of the world" and standards that prevailed there would become the worldwide norm. Those standards included sexual intercourse of everyone with anyone including children with parents and animals with people, human sacrifice, slave raids, religious prostitution, mutilation of captives, buggery of captives, etc.

    By replacing Canaan's population with Israel the result would eventually be "blessing to all the nations of the earth". (Genesis 22:18)

    "Blessing" refers to contentment/happiness resulting from such benefits as peace, prosperity, equality in justice, good relationships, long lives, good health, security, etc.

    "Blessing" mediated to all humankind through Judaism and Christianity and benefiting the modern world include an end to, or reduction in, the following:
    •    Infanticide;
    •    Idolatry;
    •    Slave raids and slavery;
    •    Child prostitution;
    •    Religious prostitution;
    •    Mutilation of children to make them effective beggars;
    •    Mutilation, enslavement and buggery of prisoners of war;
    •    The Roman games;
    •    Human sacrifice.
    Benefits mediated include the establishment of:
    •    The principle that children should not be punished for crimes of parents;
    •    Freedom as distinct from slavery;
    •    Pensions for ordinary people;
    •    Hospitals and healthcare for the general population;
    •    Thousands of charitable ministries;
    •    Modern science and technology.
    Future benefits include the end of death and pain (Revelation 21:4), human rule of the Universe (Hebrews 2:5-9), and the power to make everything imaginable possible. (Genesis 11:6) The Canaanite way of idolatry would have left the human race in permanent degradation and misery until extinguished by asteroid or comet impact. (2 Peter 2:6; 3:10-12)

    The military operation to replace the Canaanites also followed the rules of war the Canaanites believed in (except for rape of women and buggery of the defeated) — a case of judged as they judge.

    To justify his accusation of "biblical horrors" Williams needs to praise and justify the practices listed in the first list, and badmouth the benefits listed in the second.

    For further detail the reader should read the entire debate commencing Investigator #132. Williams did not read it carefully for he is implying that Israel should have been exterminated instead of Canaanites, producing a world dominated by barbaric evils. 

    Skeptics versus the Bible on this websitehundreds of articles; dozens of debates: