What About Genocide in the Bible?

May 19, 2024

Series: Confidence

Book: Joshua

This is a part of a sermon series on the book of Joshua. You can watch more here.

Sermon Manuscript

I am so proud of our church in Austin. I see us walking by faith, trusting the Lord. I see us working through conflict. I see us dying to ourselves. I see us living sacrificially and serving others. I hear stories of gospel conversation at work. It’s awesome!

Nobodies being forced to follow Jesus. Nobodies getting a book deal to follow Jesus. Just regular men and women who are captivated by Jesus and His Word so that we want to follow Him. Isn’t that awesome?

We are in our series on Joshua. Up to this point we have studied Joshua 1-5 affectionally referred to as “Preparation.” And before we jump into Joshua 6 we wanted to pause our series to talk about the violence we are going to see in Joshua.

Specifically, Joshua 6-12 we are going to see these military campaigns and there are going to be times where we might ask ourselves, “Why is God’s Word describing so much violence?”

Joshua 6:21, “21 They utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.”

This is God’s Word commanding Israel to “utterly destroy” the Canaanites and there is a totality to the language that can be uncomfortable.

It is to include man, woman, young, old, ox, sheep and donkey with the edge of the sword. Good morning! Joshua 6 is the passage where they march around Jericho 7 times.

It’s possible you grew up singing the children’s song of Joshua marching around Jericho 7 times or you’ve sung these songs with your children but then you read verse 21 and you realize, “Oh, these are real people, real events.” How does that work?

This is especially difficult when you read verses like this in God’s Word and then you contrast these verses with words of Jesus in Matthew 5 like, “Love your enemy” you can’t help but ask questions like, “What’s up with that?”

For some people we get to questions like this in our faith and we are so troubled by these questions that it rattles our faith in Jesus.

Maybe we have known some people who have turned away from their faith in Jesus because of these types of verses in the bible? Therefore, this morning we wanted to give ample time to address those questions because now more than ever the follower of Jesus is being asked to give answers to these types of questions.

Gone are the days where we could just shrug our shoulders and say, “The Bible says, I believe it.” That response is true but now more than ever people are asking questions and we need to be ready to give thoughtful answers, so don’t just listen for yourself but listen for that person in your life that is going to ask this question.

If you are new this morning, we would typically go verse by verse through God’s Word but this morning we are going to tackle three questions; Who is in the land? How do these things happen? What does it mean for our faith today? Let’s start with our first question, “Who is in the land?”

Who Is in the Land?

To understand Joshua 6, we have to understand the big picture. God creates everything to be perfect; Genesis 1-2. Everything falls apart in our sin; Genesis 3. That’s the bad news.

The good news is in Genesis 3:15 we see the God’s plan to send a rescuer to reclaim and restore all of creation to Himself.

That’s the purpose of Israel. Israel doesn’t start as a nation of God’s people. Israel starts with a guy named Abraham who is out worshipping rocks.

The God of Scripture calls Abraham to believe in Him by grace through faith and a promise is made that Abraham will bring forth a nation that births the Savior that reclaims and restores all of creation to Himself.

When you read the bible, it looks like the focus is about Israel but it’s not. The primary purpose for Israel is to bring forth a Savior. His name is Jesus!

Therefore, throughout the Old Testament we see key pieces established in Israel like priests, kings, prophets but all those pieces are established to make a way for Jesus and point us to Jesus. Does that make sense?

You want a king. Here’s the ultimate king. You need a priest to act as a mediator between you and God. Here’s the ultimate High Priest. You see the purpose of sacrifices. Here’s the ultimate sacrifice. The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

In Leviticus 18 we see God’s Word describing how Israel is to be set apart for His glory. Throughout history Israel is being influenced by outside nations, so that in Leviticus 18 we see God’s Word get really specific. Look at Leviticus 18:1-3:

Leviticus 18:1-3, “18 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes.”

When you read Leviticus 18 on your own you will see God’s Word describing characteristics of the people in Canaan that are inconsistent with God’s Word.

The Canaanite people are having sexual relationships with their siblings, children, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and grandparents, so that God’s Word is outlining parameters of sexual relationships that are of Him and not of Him.

But it wasn’t just sexual immorality in the Canaanite people but also spiritual immorality. In Leviticus 18 we also see the Canaanite people are participating in infant sacrifices, so that their children would be offered on the altar as an act of worship.

In addition, the sexual and spiritual immorality isn’t just a few Canaanite people or a few characteristics but God’s Word makes it clear that all the men living in the land are doing all these things.

Leviticus 18:27, “27 for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled.”

Therefore, the image we have in your head shouldn’t be the God in the Old Testament flippantly going throughout human history and reigning down judgment on different people groups at different times.

It is all about a promise to restore and reclaim creation to Himself and in God’s Word He does that by establishing a people to bring forth a Savior but for that to happen, Israel has to be established. Does that make sense? Let’s talk about our next question, “How does it happen?”

How Do These Things Happen?

In Joshua 6 we see the phrase “utterly destroyed” therefore, we need to ask ourselves the question, “What does that mean?”

Joshua 6:21, “21 They utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.”

There are three primary views that describe what “utterly destroyed” means and we will walk through those quickly.

What does “utterly destroyed” mean?

God Was Grumpy. There are some who will say, “This type of violence in the Old Testament was how God interacted with people in the Old Testament but today He is about love.”

They will say, “God was immature in the Old Testament but now He is mature, so that commands like this are inconsistent with God’s character and not applicable today.”

I can understand the allure of this response but this response is inconsistent with God’s Word. When you read the Old Testament we see strong acts of judgment like the flood or Joshua 6 but for the most part we see God’s character full of patience, grace, and love.

For example, when God calls Jonah to call the people of Nineveh to repentance we see that Jonah doesn’t want to go because Jonah knows the character of God is full of grace and mercy.

Utterly destroyed is hyperbolic. There are some who will say, “Utterly destroyed is hyperbolic language.” They will say, “In ancient times language like this was used to exaggerate power and influence.”

For example, when I say the Dallas Cowboys got “utterly destroyed” in the play-offs you don’t think there is blood and body parts scattered around the field. You know they lost again.

It is similar to Jesus’ Words in Matthew 5, “If your right hand is causing you to stumble, cut it off” Jesus doesn’t literally mean we should cut off our hands.

The problem with landing on this one is all that all throughout the Old Testament God is concerned about the influence of the Canaanite people on Israel.

In fact, Israel is eventually influenced by the Canaanite people, drifts from the Lord and Israel ends up experiencing God’s judgment, so it is hard for me to think the goal wasn’t to remove the Canaanite people.

God’s judgment is necessary. The last option, and the one that I lean toward is that, “God’s judgment is necessary.”

the Canaanite people aren’t innocent. You can read Leviticus 18. We see God’s’ judgment on the wickedness of humanity in the flood in Genesis 6.

We also know Israel will eventually fall under God’s judgment. And ultimately all of humanity will be held accountable to this same judgment, so that we should see Joshua 6 as a warning.

This is difficult for us today because we don’t see why humanity would fall under God’s judgment. Most people today tend to think we are basically good people with a few struggles.

But that means we either have a really high view of humanity or a really low view of God’s holiness. Does that make sense?

How is that we are offended with one another but we don’t think the holiness of God is offended with our sin? We are offended if someone cuts us off on Mo-Pac. We are offended if someone speaks to us in a disrespectful tone, “How could you!”

In fact, there are people in our life who have offended us to such depth that we feel completely justified cutting them out of our life but when it comes to the holiness of God we find ourselves saying, “Why is He making it such a big deal?” Can’t He just get over it?

If the Canaanites are living out corrupt and wicked patterns in humanity, it is likely the Canaanites aren’t the only ones?

It is likely that our hearts and minds are just as corrupt and given the time and opportunity we too would find ourselves living lives just like the Canaanite.

This is God sets out to bring a rescuer in Genesis 3:15. This is why Israel is established. This is why Jesus is so important.

We either trust that Jesus has come to take our judgment upon Himself at the cross or we will experience that same judgment as well, because wickedness and injustice can’t go on forever.

Can you imagine if all the wickedness and injustice went unnoticed? We would hate God if we thought wickedness and injustice is just went overlooked for all of humanity, so that the judgment in Joshua 6 is a warning. Let’s look at our last question; What Does It Mean for Our Faith Today?

What Does It Mean for Our Faith Today?

Does this mean God issued genocide? It is misleading to describe Joshua 6 as ethnic cleansing or genocide because Joshua 6 isn’t about an ethnic people group. It is about immorality that must be held accountable and that same standard applies to Israel and all of humanity.

Couldn’t God haven give the Canaanites a warning? He does. There are two verses to consider if that is a question you are wrestling with:

Genesis 15:16, “16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”

This is Genesis 15 talking about the moral corruption of the Amorite, a reference to the Canaanite people and in verse 16 we see the God of Scripture knows full-well about their immorality and He is being patient.

He doesn’t reign down judgment at the first offense but instead hundreds of years go by before we see Joshua enter into Jericho. Does that make sense?

Romans 1:18-19, “18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.”

We don’t need the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to turn in repentance. Isn’t that what we saw in the life of Rahab in Joshua 2. She saw His power and Rahab’s heart melt!

Romans 1 teaches us through creation alone we would be convicted of sin, because there is a conscience in every human being that tells us there are things that are right and things that are wrong and yet the majority of the Canaanite people never respond.

What if I still don’t like what happened in Joshua 6? Makes sense. When we look at God’s Word we need to remember a posture of humility. We want to ask questions like, “How can I learn? What can I read?” If our posture is, “Doesn’t make sense to me, therefore, it must be rejected” then we are placing ourselves in a position of authority instead of God’s Word.

Can someone use Joshua 6 to kill people today? No. Nowhere else in God’s Word do see a command to “utterly destroy” anyone. The idea of holy War is not applicable. It was a unique design for a specific point in history, therefore, there is no justification of modern genocide for any reason.

Next Sunday we will pick back up in Joshua 6 and studying through God’s Word. Until then I invite you to wrestle with God’s Word and seek out answers because God wants us to come to Him with our questions, so that we can grow stronger in our faith with Him.

This is why we exist as a non-denominational church in Austin. We’re not interested in hosting a worship service for people to observe. We want to be a people who are growing in our faith and inviting others to grow in their faith. That means we need to be willing to ask questions and seek out answers.

And we’re not doing that alone but we are on their journey with other men and women who want to grow in our faith. That’s why we are going to celebrate communion this morning.


North Village Church

This sermon is brought to you by North Village Church, a non-denominational church in Austin. established in 2009 and built around Jesus and Bible teaching.

Are you looking for a church in Austin? At North Village Church we put Jesus at the center of our church family. We worship together every Sunday at 10:30am, encourage Christ centered fellowship through groups, and host special events such as Bible studies and Theological Training, to ensure that we are rooted in in God’s Word. We also serve our local community in association with several Austin based organizations.

North Village Church is made up of professionals, married couples, singles, and families who are wanting to experience the life-transforming power of Jesus. If you are a family with children or teens, we can support you with either or both our Kids Ministry and Youth Ministry.


You are welcome to contact us if you would like more information.


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