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When people lost sight of God and began to worship the planets, demons, and hero gods, they practiced horrifying acts of cruelty, obscenity, and perversion (unnatural sexual acts). Even sons and daughters were burned in the fire (Lev. 18:21; 2Ki. 3:26-27; 16:3; 17:17,31; 21:6; 23:10-11; 2Chr. 28:3; 33:6). Seven general sins having death penalty: 1. Incest (Lev. 18:6-18,24-30) 2. Sex relations with a menstruous woman (Lev. 18:19) 3. Adultery (Lev. 18:20; Ex. 20:14) 4. Idolatry (Lev. 18:21; Ex. 20:4) 5. Blasphemy (Lev. 18:21; Ex. 20:7) 6. Homosexuality (Lev. 18:22; 20:13) 7. Bestiality (Lev. 18:23; Ex. 22:19) All "the nations of Canaan" practiced these things (Lev. 18:24,27-29) and for such sins they were destroyed as predicted, and their land was given to Israel (Lev. 18:24-30). God warned Israel that He would spew them out also if they practiced the sins of nations that they were dispossessing (Lev. 18:28-30). That God did reject Israel and spew the nation out when they backslid and went into the sins of the Canaanites is clear. He raised up sixteen different judges to deliver them from seven servitudes to other nations because of sin. The laws regulating warfare with the cities of Canaan and the whole promised land were different from those regulating war with foreign cities (cp. Deut. 20:10-15 with Deut. 20:16-18). Inhabitants of the cities of all nations inside the promised land were to be totally destroyed so there would not be a remnant left to teach Israel the abominations for which these inhabitants were condemned to destruction (Deut. 20:18). Fruit trees and crops were not to be destroyed during sieges of cities (Deut. 20:19).
In the Old Testament, God did indeed order the annihilation of the Canaanite tribes in the cities He had given to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). These Canaanites appear to have been involved in abominable practices that God feared would be adopted by His people were they to be allowed to in any way mix with the Israelites. Some of the practices included promiscuity, ritual temple prostitution as a form of worship of their gods, child sacrifice, ritual incest, bestiality, witchcraft, astrology and so on (Deuteronomy 18:9-14 and Leviticus 18). The Greek historian Herodotus (not in the bible) indicated that the people of those regions "have sexual intercourse openly like cattle". So you can imagine that God felt that the Israelites would adopt these evil practices if He allowed the Canaanites to live among His chosen people. (Exodus 23:33). Now, it must be noted that God did not despise the Canaanite RACES but rather the Canaanite PRACTICES. In fact, during the times that the Israelites went astray and chose to adopt some of these idolatrous and immoral practices,they would endure plagues, or be attacked by Canaanites and others, sometimes they were decimated by war or enslaved by foreign tribes until the surviving remnant repented then they would be restored once more. (Judges and Jeremiah 44) This happened several times, until God finally decided (as he had done to the Canaanites), to utterly destroy the nations of Israel and Judah through the Assyrians and the Babylonians by 586 BC. Ever since that time, Israel was not a proper nation again until recently in 1948 AD. Remnants of Israelites remained in the region and all over the world and were always distinguished from the other tribes by their monotheistic practices (one God), their refusal to fashion any representation of their God in the form of an idol or carving, their dietary practices and their circumcision. Finally, it must be noted that God kept His promise to Abraham that ALL nations of the world will be blessed (Genesis 22:18) under his plan for humanity because there are several Canaanites and other foreigners in the geneaology of Christ listed in Matthew 1. Firstly, the wives of Israel (Jacob) were Syrians; Leah and Rachel, that is. Judah, the son who formed the most important tribe of Israel (the Chaldean "nickname" Jews is derived from Judah's name) had a child with the Canaanite woman Tamar so she is effectively the mother of the tribe of Judah. Rahab the Canaanite woman from Jericho is also named in the geneaology. Ruth the Moabitess woman is also in the geneaology. So effectively, King David's great grandmother was a Moabitess and his great great grandmother was the Canaanitess Rahab. Solomon's wife and mother of his heir to the throne Rehoboam was an Ammonite, yet the Ammonites were among the most detestable tribes with their god Molech who demanded child sacrifice. During the time of King David, we see that he murders one of his mighty men, Uriah the Hittite for his wife Bathsheba. The Hittites were amongst the most hated foreign tribes yet God almost destroyed David's reign because of what he did to this Hittite man (2 Samuel 12 and 15 and 16). The wife of Joseph and mother of the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh was an Egyptian woman. These are just a few notable foreigners in Jewish ancestry. Among other notable non-Jews who experienced God's favor are: Naaman the Syrian General, Moses' wife was an Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12), Obed-Edom the Gittite /Philistine (2 Samuel 6:11). God's favour was on all those who worshipped Him, regardless of origin; and His punishment fell upon all those who engaged in abominable practices, Israelite and Canaanite alike.
God gets no pleasure when he destroys man. He always offers an alternative to judgement. God brought ten plagues to Egypt, nine of which were just "nasty". There was no loss of life. Due to there stubbornness, the last plague resulted in death. God gave the people of Jericho two choices, leave or perish. Co-habitation with the hebrews was not an option. Joshua circled Jericho once a day for seven days. The Talmud teaches us that Joshua was commanded by God to allow the inhabitants of Jericho to leave, unharmed, anytime during that time. They perish due to there own stubbornness. God felt the same compassion for those people as we feel for them now. It is hard for you and I to realize there are far worse things then death, that is eternal suffering. Think of it as if you brought your herd of sheep into an area with which is home to wolves. You don't hate the wolves. You don't want harm to come to them, but if they remain your herd of sheep will be totally destroyed. So you do your best to get them out of the area. If they refuse to leave, they will have to be destroyed, puppies include. Not a pleasant task. That is what God was faced with. He choose to protect his chosen people.
People are either for the Lord or against Him. Jesus said in Matthew 12:30, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” (I loved this verse the first time I read it 55 years ago, and I still love it.) And if they are against Him, they must suffer the consequences. —Warren Wiersbe Today there are many agnostics in the world. These are people who say they don’t care whether or not God exists. It is not important to them or their lives. They say that they are neutral. Jesus eliminates neutrality as a possibility. You are either with Him or against Him. There is no middle. So make up your minds. If you don’t cast your lot with Jesus, then you must suffer the consequences. Study and obey.
The Amalekites were not Canaanites. They were descendants of Esau through his son Eliphaz and his concubine Timna (Gen 36:12) and lived to the south of the Canaanites. Michael's answer appears to be in response to a previous question about the Amalelites. The true Canaanites had indulged in the abominable practices, as described by Brother Selva and others for hundreds of years (Gen 15:13-16). God's judgement for a nation isn't accomplished immediately with the first sin. He is long-suffering and gives ample time for repentance. When the possibility of repentance is over, judgment is unavoidable. Cutting off the entire biological line is always possible in divine judgment, such as in the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Canaanites. There are no innocents in these cases. Using other humans to exterminate a line may seem to us unduly harsh today, but it does have the advantage of preserving the land itself from total destruction. Since the Israelites were promised the land, it was preserved from the kind of destruction occurring to Sodom and Gomorrah, for example.
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