The Conquest of Canaan

By Phil Hobbs

One of the frustrating things about Scripture is that it isn’t written to gratify our curiosity.

There are many things passed over in silence that we would very much like to hear about, and so many contrasts between the two Testaments. People go so far as to talk about the bad-tempered “Old Testament God” versus the more presentable “New Testament God”.  You can see what they mean; more people get killed in the Old Testament, and  a lot of the time God seems to approve.  However, there is a deep unity in the character of God as revealed by the whole Bible, Old Testament and New Testament.  Perhaps we can see this best by looking at the hardest question of all: the conquest of Canaan. Here’s what the Scripture says:

Then the LORD said to Abram, ”Know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and will be slaves there, and they will be oppressed for four hundred years….And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete. …To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites,the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.

( Gen 15:13, 16, 18-21, RSV, emphasis added).

When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than yourselves, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them; then you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them. You shall not make marriages with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons. For they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars, and dash in pieces their pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth.

( Deuteronomy 7:1-6, RSV)

Why did God tell Joshua and the Israelites to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan utterly: men, women, children, cattle, and even furniture? It seems horrible: conditioned as we are by television, we easily imagine a terrified child fleeing for its life, only to be overtaken and cut down by a blood-spattered warrior with a broadsword. Is that really something our God would demand? It’s worth sitting for a minute to let the image sink in: the God of Love, the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ the Son, ordering whole peoples wiped out: why?

The text gives the reason: to prevent them from corrupting the people of God and dragging them down in their own ruin.   They were going to fall anyway, and this way would at least limit the damage.  That’s pretty tough stuff, but if we look, we can begin to see the God that we know even here.

The Genesis passage shows that God did not act precipitately—He gave the Caanaanites hundreds of years to change their ways. Forbearance is one of God’s qualities. Over and over in Scripture we see Him calling and calling people to repentance, forgiving seventy times seven times before finally bringing judgement. Since that’s the sort of God he is, we may be confident that He did the same with the Canaanites.  We can’t judge the doctor without knowing the case; but what disease could need so terrible a surgery?

Television has taught us to think in pictures, so that we chronically confuse what is visible with what is real. We’re not good at keeping invisible realities in mind, and this prevents us from seeing the true horror of sin.  But then we make too much of our eyes.  As the Nicene Creed says,  God is the maker of all things, visible and invisible. Love is invisible; honour is invisible; peace is invisible.  God too is invisible to us, for a time; and without these invisible things, even life seems worthless.  Some invisible things are far more valuable than the solid and the visible things we spend so much time seeking.

Because people live forever, God’s concern is mostly for our heavenly glory rather than for our earthly comfort.  In the circumstances, it seems that he best thing He could do for the Canaanites was to wipe them off the face of the Earth. Perhaps we can begin to see why.

The first clue is the shocking character of Canaanite paganism (caution: this section is not for weak stomachs). We are specifically told that it involved ritual prostitution and child sacrifice: “passing their children through the fire to Molech.”  This isn’t an after-the-fact excuse or an example of victor’s justice: it’s been demonstrated archaeologically.

The Philistines and the people of Sidon and Tyre were Phoenicians, sea people, who founded the colony of Carthage in the western Mediterranean sometime in the early 8th century BC, at the time of the divided monarchy in Israel. The Carthaginians kept very close links with their mother city, Tyre. They sent her annual tribute even at the height of their power, when they had far outstripped her and could even challenge Rome for the control of the Western Mediterranean.  Thus it is reasonable to suppose that Carthaginian religious practice was similar to that of the Philistines and other Canaanites.

These Phoenicians worshipped the god Baal-Hammon, leaving chilling archaeological evidence. A tophet (a precinct dedicated to child-sacrifice) has been discovered at Carthage. It is more than two acres in extent, packed nine layers deep with urns holding the burned bones of babies and young children—approximately 20,000 of them—sacrificed in the terrible cult of Baal-Hammon and his consort Tanit. Over the few centuries that this tophet was used, this is an average of perhaps one child sacrificed per week.

Some have tried to interpret the tophet as an ordinary burial ground; but many of the urns contain bones from more than one child, and many bear inscriptions containing the word MLK, meaning sacrifice, which is the biblical Molech. (Semitic languages are written without vowels.) In historical times, sometimes hundreds of children were sacrificed at once. According to the ancient Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, at the siege of Carthage by Agathocles in 307 BC, the Carthaginians burned alive two hundred children of the best families, and three hundred adult volunteers. who repented for having offered slave children rather than their own.

And then there was the cult prostitution.  From a human perspective, this seems much less vile, but the reality is otherwise. Canaanite cult prostitution has left little archaeological evidence, but it is mentioned by ancient historians,[1] its underlying fertility myths have been preserved for us to read,[2] and apparently similar practices survive into our own day. The devadasi of south India are temple dancers and prostitutes devoted to Krishna, and their history gives us a clue to the nature of cult prostitution.

While in practice it often has little religious content, its specifically cultic aspect is quite different from ordinary fornication. This is because the participants consciously take on the aspect of the gods: Tanit or Baal-Hammon or Ishtar or Tammuz or Krishna. The prostitute-priestess is worshipped as the goddess, and the visitor is also worshipped as the god. Thus besides sexual impurity, cult-prostitution is an act both of idolatry, in worshipping a created being in the place of God, and of the worst sort of blasphemy, in accepting that worship.[3]

Canaanite paganism was very durable indeed: even though Carthage was completely destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, the cult of Baal-Hammon and Tanit survived into the Christian era in the North African hinterland. The Roman emperor Tiberius, a pagan himself, finally stamped it out by executing all of its priests. Its virulence is also demonstrated by the way it took root in Israel, despite clear prohibitions in the Levitical law against even its seemingly most innocent practices, such as cooking a goat in its mother’s milk, or mixing wool and flax in weaving cloth, or kissing one’s hand to the moon. Paganism in the rulers led to the persecution of faithful Jews, the murder of the prophets, and eventually to the fulfillment of all the covenant curses, including the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions and the near-extinction of the Israelites.[4]

God’s attitude towards Canaanite idolatry can be seen in the book of Jeremiah, where Israel is described as an adulteress, degraded and scorned by the lovers she she ran after. God’s covenant with Israel is described in the Old Testament as a marriage; Israel’s adultery was pursuit of false gods.

God had been teaching these barbarians just what sort of God he is.

As it says in the Ten Commandments, God is jealous.  Do not misunderstand; God is the source of all things, and does not need us in the way we need each other.  His jealousy is not the green-eyed dragon of possessiveness or domination, but is protective, rising to defend his marriage and his spouse from disaster.  Good husbands don’t just sit by while somebody seduces their wives; well, neither does God.

It appears from Scripture and archaeological evidence that the Israelites did wipe out most of the Canaanites; yet even so, overcome by the Baal-worship of the remnant, perhaps brought in by Phoenicians like Queen Jezebel, the Israelites were very nearly wiped out in their turn (but not quite).

It is difficult to recover where the allure of this cult lay: perhaps in its orgiastic festivals. But perhaps it was its darker side. Perhaps dark gods seem best in dark times—for if they demand much, will they not also deliver much? The horrible virulence of their religion perhaps makes it possible to recognize our God’s hand in their destruction. After all, He treats us the same way. He loves us, and is jealous for us; like a good shepherd, He will not let us go easily.

God forgives and forgives. Over and over, He forgave Israel even when their repentance was cheap, when their hearts weren’t changed but they’d been defeated in war and were desperate. He submitted to being treated like a pagan deity for a time: something to be appeased, not loved, and otherwise ignored.  God’s promises are true: alone of all the ancient peoples of the Levant, the Israelites are still around, speaking the same language, in the same place.

But his patience has limits.  When our loved ones have deadly addictions, we eventually have to get tough with them, precisely because we love them. God’s attitude towards spiritual adultery and murder has not changed; not only was Israel punished, but Jesus says the same to us: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” ( Matthew 5:29-30).

It is sobering to realize that God was only a little gentler with Israel than with the Canaanites: after all, He was the one who sent Nebuchadnezzar to conquer Jerusalem. The obvious implication is that we are liable to be in the same spot ourselves, which is a very uncomfortable notion.

Our real problem with the Old Testament is not that its God is different, but that He is the same. We may try to forget what the New Testament says about God’s judgement, but there’s a lot of very tough stuff in there, and reading the Old Testament makes it hard to overlook. The prophets say, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life”.

Death wasn’t part of God’s original plan; it entered the world through the Fall, first the fall of Lucifer and then the fall of Man.  All sorrow and death follows from this marring of God’s initial intention.  When He gave us free will, He really meant it, and we chose death.  The whole subsequent history of the world consists of God working everything towards the goal of reclaiming us from death.  We all die, and most of us die in pain and sorrow—sometimes a lot of us die at once, sometimes we go one by one.  God is there with us all the way; he shares our living and our dying, and He is sovereign over it all.

He created us; He sustains us each moment; and despite our rebellion and evil, He has redeemed us, bought us back, at the price of His own life.  On the Cross, Jesus Christ freely took our death upon Himself so that we might live forever.

God is Lord of our life and of our death.  One day, we will have to stand before Him and give an account of ourselves. On that day, Jesus will say to you and to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your master” or “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoer”. [5] The God of Love is also a God of Judgement. The two are not separable: perfect love, perfect goodness, is the most beautiful and the most terrible thing of all. Whether we see beauty or wrath when we come before God depends on our basic attitude. If we put ourselves first, and serve gods of our own making, we choose condemnation. If we love God and thereby love our neighbours, we choose blessing; both last forever. There is no third possibility; either we cling to our sin and get dragged down by it, or we let Jesus pay for it and go free.

It is a hard spiritual truth that our eternal destiny is very much more important than our temporal suffering.  God gives us life, and walks with us all our road, sharing every joy and sorrow;  He loves us too much to leave us as we are.

[1] Herodotus, Histories, Book I (5th C BC), Lucian of Samosata, Concerning the Syrian Goddess, Ch. 6 (2nd C AD)
[2] See, for example, D. Wolkstein and N. Kramer, Innana, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer, Harper, New York, 1983; B. Foster tr., The Epic of Gilgamesh, Norton, 2001; Sanchuniathon, quoted in Eusebius, Preparatio Evangelica, Chapter IX; and the Ba’al cycle found in Ugarit.
[3] The cult of the Roman Emperors—”the abomination of desolation”—also gave divine honours to a man, and this was one of the causes of the Jewish Revolt of AD 70.
[4] See for example Jeremiah 6-7.
[5] Deuteronony 30:19; Matthew 25:21; Matthew 7:23.


Feedback Please

I have let this blog go dormant over the last few years, due to a lack of time to write meaningful posts.  I’ve continued to post on twitter (@NYMensMinistry), Facebook (, Google+ and even Pinterest (, where we have nearly 8k followers.

I thought I would ask what is most valuable to you, in your walk?   Should we try to post more often here, and if so, on what topics?

If you’d rather not post publicly, you can always send us an e-mail at


Thanks and God BlessSmall Groups


Until YOU are My One Desire!

“Until you are my one desire!”   Lord, I seek YOU more than pleasure.


The Full Armor

Inspired by and taken from “The Magnificent Defeat” by Frederick Buechnerarmor of man, armor of God, ephesians
Which armor are you putting on?  Is it the armor for the war between flesh and flesh, or between flesh and the spiritual forces of evil.

The armor used for Flesh vs. Flesh wars is not the whole armor of God but, rather, the whole armor of man, because this is man’s war against other men.  In such a war perhaps you wear something like this:

  • Gird you loins with wisdom, the sad wisdom of the world which knows that dog eats dog, that the gods help those who help themselves and charity begins at home.
  • Put on the breastplate of self-confidence because if you have no faith in yourself, if you cannot trust to your own wits, then you will never get anywhere.
  • Let your feet by shod with the gospel of success – the good news that you can get just about anything in this world if you want it badly enough and are willing to fight for it.
  • Above all, take the shield of security because in a perilous world where anything can happen, security is perhaps what you need more than anything else – the security of money in the bank, or a college degree, or some basic skill that you can always fall back on.
  • And take the helmet of attractiveness or personality and the sword of wit

People are always criticizing the advertising business for its implied promise that the one who gets the best job or the prettiest girl is the one who wears the right clothes or uses the right toothpaste or drinks the right brand of vodka.  But the fact of the matter is that although this is by no means a happy truth about our society, it is nonetheless very often not far from being true… In the war of conquest, that is to say, in the war that we all wage for a place in the sun, it is the armor of man rather than the armor of God that will serve you best; and although I can’t value that armor as highly as some would value it, I also cannot mock it because the armor of man serves its purpose all too well, and because I wear some of it myself, and so do you.   – Fredrick Buechner


Ephesians 6:10-18

New King James Version (NKJV)

The Whole Armor of God

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[a] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—


The Numbers of the Book of Numbers

I wrote this post about a year ago and didn’t post it because I didn’t really feel like it provided enough value.  I’ve decided to post it now with the hope that others might add to these thoughts with their own.


If you have read through the Bible before or maybe you are doing it now for the first time, you’ve noticed that when it comes to the genealogies, the descriptions of the ceremonies and sacrifices and also the references to locations in and around Israel, it can be hard to read and even harder to understand what they mean, and how they are relevant today.

Well, they are difficult and there are some good books that can help (see post on New Year’s resolutions) but since I just finished the Book of Numbers, I thought I would share a thought on the census data provided.

In Numbers chapter 1 and chapter 26, we hear about the first and second census of the Israelites.  This is why the book is called Numbers.  Here is what the numbers look like graphically:

Book of Numbers, Census of Israelites, Bible

I believe there are at least 3 things you should note from these numbers.  First, the size of the family of Simeon dropped by over 63% in the 40 year period between the two census.  Second, the family of Judah is the largest at both times.  Finally, the family of Manasseh has the largest increase.

The question to ask is why?  By looking at the history of the family, Jacob’s blessing and Moses blessing, we can find these answers and make Numbers more interesting at the same time!

  • Jacob’s blessing (or curse) on Simeon stated “I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel” – Genesis 49:6.  This seems to be exactly what happened during these years.
  • Moses blessing ( – “The prophecy I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel (in Genesis 49:7) was given to both the tribes of Simeon and Levi. For the tribe of Levi it was a blessing, as they were scattered throughout the nation to minister to the people and to bring God’s word to the whole nation. For the tribe of Simeon, the scattering was a significant curse; they are not even mentioned among the tribes being blessed here.”
  • Jacob’s bless on Judah “You are he whom your brothers shall praise…as a lion…the sceptor shall not depart from Judah, not a lawgiver from between his feet…to Him shall be the obedience of the people…until Shiloh comes”  Judah would be separated from the rest of Israel but had kingship even during the time of Daniel.  out of line of Judah, came the Messiah.  
  • This leaves Manasseh’s growth to explain.  We do know that Jacob adopted both Ephraim and Manasseh but he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.  It was clear that both were blessed, although they would later both sin and be cursed.  I can’t fully explain this growth, it might be best to look at both of Joseph’s sons together and understand that they were more in number than any other single tribe.  Do you have a better explanation?  Share in the comments!

Finally, this map from really helped me picture the scene in my mind.  Notice that Simeon is surrounded by Judah and would later be swollowed up by it.  Also, notice the size of Manasseh.  Finally, you will notice that the Levites received no inheritance.

I hope this helped put a little more context around the Book of Numbers and encouraged you to keep reading.  Please let us know what you think in the comments!  Thanks


The King Shall Come!

The King shall come when morning dawns and light triumphant breaks;
When beauty gilds the eastern hills and life to joy awakes.
Not, as of old, a little child, to bear, and fight, and die,
But crowned with glory like the sun that lights the morning sky.

The King shall come when morning dawns and earth’s dark night is past;
O haste the rising of that morn, the day that shall ever last;
And let the endless bliss begin, by weary saints foretold,
When right shall triumph over wrong, and truth shall be extolled.

The King shall come when morning dawns and light and beauty brings:
Hail Christ the Lord!  Your people pray, come quickly, King of Kings.

– Greek (Unknown)

dawn, jesus' return, Jesus, King, The King Shall Come, Jesus, dawn, sunset, sunrise


May We All Have Such Dreams!


Looking For a Job? Join us!

WorkingTogetherUpdate: Next Meeting is February 13th!

Are you looking for a new job, out of work, or know someone who is?  We created a transition group in October that now meets every month.  Our goal is to provide support, connection and prepare you for the job search.  Our tagline is Together, Let’s Get Back to Work!

We meet every second Wednesday at Community Bible Church of Northern Westchester

Due to a scheduled event this month, we are meeting TONIGHT!  Please feel free to join us at 6:30pm for coffee and encouragement.  You don’t have to go through your job search alone.

For directions, see CBC’s website at:

Tonight’s Discussion: Preparing for an interview

Please don’t forget to bring a notebook and business cards if you have them.

Feel free to forward this to anyone you feel would benefit.  All our invited.  Thanks!


Livestream: A Night of Hope and Healing Concert

You can find it here:

Hope and Healing concert


My Father; My Hero

written by Gene Wiggins

My father is my hero. He hasn’t always been, I’m ashamed to say, but he is now.

dad, hero, mentor, model, MENTOR, father, fatheringHere are some of the reasons that my father is my hero:

  1. He’s always composed and calm.  Never out of control, nor does he ever yell, unless someone is yelling too much and too near him.  (A person can only take so much.)
  2. He recognizes he makes mistakes and he apologizes when he hurts someone’s feelings.  He knows he’s not perfect but he accepts it for what it is.   Some people strive to be perfect and others like to point out other’s mistakes.  Which are you?
  3. He smiles and talks to people he likes and loves.  He doesn’t talk to people that he’s either annoyed with, or plainly doesn’t like.  But doesn’t say anything negative about that person.  He generally nods them to death and pictures a donkey in his head.
  4. He prefers a person’s company rather than gifts.  But if your going to give him clothing make sure he has plenty of room, but that it’s not too big.  If you give him candy, make sure it is butterscotch, or chocolate or caramel or all of the above, and always salty.
  5. He knows when someone wants something from him.  He may look like a western hick, but he’s as smart as they come.  He’ll catch you in a lie.  He’s not forgetful, he’s just slow of hearing.
  6. He’s not materialistic.  He would be happy anywhere as long as he has something to keep the rain off his head, something to keep him warm and a bed to rest in.  (I hear you giggling, Donna and Lynda)
  7. He’s generous and caring.  He’s generous with gifts and will give away all his possessions without thinking about it.  But somehow he knows who’s genuine, and who’s trying to play him.  The devil himself would give up and go back to hell before he got anything out of my old man.
  8. He’s helpful.  He’ll go out of his way to fix something or build a fence for a neighbor.   I heard a story from a neighbor who lived next door to my father once.  My father overheard his neighbor talking about hiring someone to cut down a tree in his front yard.  The man heard my dad shout “I’ll be right back.”  Shrugging the man continued his conversation with his friend.  A moment later my father came back with the longest chainsaw he ever saw (that’s my dad–overkill).  He started the motor up and went to work. The man said he witnessed sawdust and chips flying all over the place.  So much that he couldn’t see my father or the tree.  Another moment later, the tree slowly toppled to one side.  And low and behold my father still stood there completely covered in sawdust, including his glasses.  He took his glasses off and said ‘there ya go’ and promptly began sawing it up into fireplace sized pieces.  It was all done in ten minutes.  He helped his neighbor stack the pieces in the side yard off the lawn.  And they became best friends and the neighbor later on became my best man.  He loves telling the story to outsiders, just so they would know what kind of man my father is.
  9. He’s a veteran of three wars.  World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam war. Although he never saw combat, he sat behind a gunnery tower keeping his eyes on the night sky and drinking the world’s strongest coffee.  Navy coffee.  What’s left over they use to remove the paint off the ship.  No really, seriously.  What does that do to your insides then?
  10. He is a true believer.  He believes in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  He’s always believed God will get you out of any fix you’ve stumbled into.  And he’s had a few close calls.
  11. He loves me unconditionally.  After recovering my long term memory in the hospital I remember how much he had to put up with me.  All the trouble I would get into.  All the trouble I would cause, and all the trouble makers I would hang with.  I always said the wrong thing at the wrong time, pulled the wrong pin, or cut the wrong wire.  My dad would just shake his head and sometimes let out a breath of air at the same time, but just walk away.  But never did he hit me, never did he say a discouraging word, and he most certainly never spanked my bottom.  But he knew there was something not quite right with his son.  Dad let me tell you what it was, hormones and the scantily clad girl across the street.

These are just some of the reason my dad is my mentor.  I love him very much, as much as my wife loves her friends and family, and I’m glad he’s my father, but mostly, I’m proud to call him my hero.
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