The Canaanites Weren’t Displaced Because They Sinned
The second section of The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest posits an interesting perspective—that what God did by devoting the inhabitants to destruction or driving them out was not the result of their sin (see part 1 of this series of posts). The authors, first, use Job as proof that evil people are no more treated unkindly than a good person is because of what they have done. Job was sinless, and he suffered on earth. The inhabitants of the land taken by Israel are not presented in Joshua as sinful and receiving divine retribution, so the authors contend. To further support this point, an appeal is made to the man born blind in Jn 9. The audience of Jesus, just like the friends of Job had tried to attribute their friend’s suffering to his own sin, wondered who had sinned so that this man was born blind, he or his parents. Jesus’ point was that he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed, therefore, pointing readers to a purpose for Canaanite expulsion or annihilation from the Promised Land. One issue I’d take with this view is that both the man born blind and Job were God-fearing people, unlike the Canaanites, so the equivocation isn’t entirely apples to apples.
A stronger point made to this end by the authors is that no language or account of Canaanite sinfulness appears in Joshua. The inhabitants fear Yahweh not because they have sinned and will be punished, but because Yahweh is mighty (cf. Josh. 2:9–11; 5:1; 9:9–10, 24). Due to the lack of Hebrew terms associated with one being punished for a crime or sin not appearing in Joshua, the authors offer “that the document’s narrator is not expecting the audience to understand the Canaanites as being punished” (p. 42). This particular point, I believe, is somewhat more compelling than the previous, though the former isn’t without its merits.
As I read onward, I was lead in my mind to wonder if and when they would address what’s written in Gen 15:16, “But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Much to my surprise and happiness, they did so next in proposition six. However, I’m not sure that they did so satisfactorily. The authors focused on the Hebrew of the text and made several good points that would lead us to believe that a better translation should have been given, but the fact is there’s even one particular clause of this passage that is uncertain to the authors. Nevertheless, they suggest the following translation: “It won’t be until after your lifetime is over that your family will return here because the destiny of destruction that has been decreed for your friends and allies has been and will continue to be deferred.” Rather than attributing sin to the Canaanites as the reason for driving them from the land, the authors here argue that this is not done for moralistic reasons but for orderliness since they Canaanites are living unordered lives according to Yahweh. Stay tuned for more.