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.


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


Newtown Connecticut: Back to Normal?

On Friday, a mass murderer broke his way into an elementary school in Newtown, CT,  killed 20 children and 6 unarmed adults before killing himself.  We’ve all struggled with this tragedy and prayed for the families.  We’ve wrestled with the reason for it, and how it should have been avoided, while contemplating how we can prevent it in the future.

commuters, NYC, Grand Central, busy, mindless, roboticToday, is Monday, and many of us go back to work and to our normal lives.  It reminds me of a discussion my wife and I had with a friend who lost someone very close.  She said, ‘I was outside the other day and everyone is continuing as if nothing happened!’  The surprise and shock in her voice was obvious and genuine.  We didn’t doubt it, because we had the same thought years earlier when our 2 year old daughter went on ahead of us to heaven.

It is true, the world continues and God is patient.  I have to think that out thoughts in that moment were closer to God’s than our own.  I wonder if He is in awe when it comes to our robotic and occasionally thoughtless way of going through life.  The Bible says:

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” – Romans 13:11

God's outstretched and pierced hand, Isaiah 65:2

Even though, His grace is new every morning, we are one less morning away from our last.  May God continue to be patient with those that haven’t taken the time to know Him.  I’m thankful that He continues to hold out his hand to all that will accept it.

“I (God) have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts; A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face” – Isaiah 65:2-3a

We have hope because our eternal Father sent his Son, and His hands were pierced and He was crucified for us!  Our father now looks at us and says ‘how can they continue as if nothing happened!’  May we all wake from our sleep, before it is too late.
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Newtown Connecticut: Back to Normal? by Westchester Men’s Ministry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


Do You Know Who God Is?! May Our Eyes be Open

40 day challengeToday is day 16 of our 40 day challenge, how have you been doing?  Why not write a comment here or tell us on our Facebook page.  You can find us on Facebook at:

God had been reminding me about Himself, that is who He is, and that He is trustworthy.  I thought I would share this below, recent journal entry.  I hope it blesses you!

God is in Control – Trust God, Follow Him

“Peter … said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?’   Jesus said to him, ‘… what is that to you?  You follow Me'” – John 21:21-22

“My eyes are on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me…” – Psalm 101:6

“Then the angel showed me the river of life rising from the throne of God and the lamb, and flowing crystal-clear.  Down the middle of the city street, on either bank of the river were the trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are cure for the nations.  The curse of destruction will be abolished.”   – Revelations 22:1-3

Heaven, River of Life, Trees of Life, Revelations 22, Revelations 22:1-3

  • River of life is rising from the throne – Life originates from God
  • The water is crystal-clear, that is absolutely no imperfections
  • Abundant crops – twelve a year!  Signifying God’s abundance!
  • Curse abolished – no destruction, satan has been destroyed
  • Tree of life – instead of being associated with the first sin, it is now the cure for all nations

Hymn – Open My Eyes that I May See – Clara Scott

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of the truth you have for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
that will unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
Ready, My God, your will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit Divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth you send me clear;
And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
Everything false will disappear,
Silently now I wait for thee,
Ready, my God, your will to see.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit Divine!

Open my mouth and let me bear
Gladly the warm truth everywhere;
Open my heart and let me prepare
Love with your children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee,
Ready, my God, your will to see.
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit Divine!

(Judgement on Judah)

“And in that day the Lord God of hosts called for weeping and for mourning, for baldness and for girding with sack cloth.  But instead, joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating meat and drinking wine: ‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'” – Isaiah 22:12-13

Lord, I ask that You open my eyes, as you did John’s in his writing of Revelations.  May I not look at others to judge or to prevent your Your will but seek Your will for me!  May I be sad and repent when I grieve You.  May I celebrate when You are happy.  May my life be a tree of life, supplied and nurtured by You, and a blessing to all that see, taste and are touched by it.  May I be silent and humble before You.  May I be ready to hear You and to act in Your name.  May I be a joy to You.  May Your eyes ever be on me.

In Jesus’ very precious name.  Amen
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A Father’s Testimony

My daughter lived 780 days (2 years and 2 months) and we often wondered after she died, if she knew Jesus.  She Did!  We know we will see her again and I hope her story will be a comfort to others who have experienced loss.  May God comfort you and bless you!

Westchester Men's Ministry - Christian Fathers

Emily was born on February 13, 2002 with Carnitine-acylcarnitine translocase (CACT) deficiency which is a genetic disorder that prevents the proper breakdown of fats.  This leads to excess ammonia in the blood (hyperammonemia), an enlarged liver (hepatomegaly), and a weakened heart muscle (cardiomyopathy).  Emily died on April 3, 2004 of cardiomyopathy.

Carolyn and Terence miss Emily very much.  We know that she lights up heaven just a little more with her presence but this world is that much dimmer without her.

God Bless!

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A Father’s Testimony by Westchester Men’s Ministry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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This Year will be Different – SkitGuys

Do you feel sometimes that your life consists of waking up, eating, going to work and doing it all over again tomorrow.  Make next year different.  You can start today!




Heard a great sermon yesterday by James MacDonald on Repentance.  Definitely worth a listen.  Let us know what you think below!

  Pastor James explains, when you get specific about what God wants to change, God provides no shortage   of opportunities to work on it. God loves us so much that He doesn’t want to leave us the way we are. Learn the importance of repentance in the process of change.

 Process of Change – Step 1 Repentance


Passover Poem

On that night, so long ago, when Adonai heard the plea.  Of the Jewish slaves in Egypt, through Moses they would see, The plagues were sent, the shout rang out,  “LET MY PEOPLE GO!”

But Pharaoh defied the Great “I AM” responding with a “NO”

The lambs were slain, the blood applied, Adonai would pass them by,  The homes without the blood, meant their firstborn would die,

They fled the land, …Moses staff in hand, the LORD parted the Red Sea.   And God’s chosen ones, the Israelites, were finally set free.

On that “Passover” so long ago, Adonai heard the plea, And sent HIS Son “Yeshua”,  So all the world would see, HE was the Passover lamb, for all the world to know, HE IS… the “MASHIACH”, foretold of long ago,

When we apply HIS blood, to the doorposts of our hearts, The sea of “sin” inside us, is now, what parts, HE fills us with His Ruach, who helps us to obey, So we can honor his Torah, in a graceful, loving way.

On that Passover, so long ago, our Father showed His Love, And on that day, every year, we praise the LORD above!

Author: unknown
Images courtesy of:,

Jesus: The Lost 40 Days

This Wednesday, April 20th at 9 PM EST, THE HISTORY CHANNEL is airing a new documentary about the forty days between Jesus’s Resurrection and Ascension…

              The History Channel: Jesus: The Lost 40 Days

Tim Keller, Eric Metaxas, Dick Staub, Fr. Jonathan Morris and others will be featured on the side of orthodox Christianity, along with notable dissenting voices such as Elaine Pagels, The “Jesus Seminar’s” Bart Ehrman, and others… Hope you can watch it.

Tim Keller

Eric Metaxas

Dick Staub


The Gospel in 7 minutes