Bible Study #30: Evil in Canaan (WHY III)

Today we present the third possible explanation for the cleansing of the Holy Land.  It seems that the requirement for complete destruction was only directed towards those tribes that had giants in them; was this the continuation of the “war of seeds” prophesied in Genesis 3:15?  Enjoy the show!

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OT Bible Study #30: The Problem of Herem III – Holy War

Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

General question for these lessons: what are we to make of the commands of God and the actions of the Jews regarding the cleansing and taking of the Promised Land?

These three weeks will be hard (and we’ll probably have to work on understanding this as long as we live) BUT when the Bible gives us something that just doesn’t make sense, we can be sure that we can learn something useful if we take the time to understand it in an Orthodox manner.

Some ways of dealing with the problem (that don’t make God a monster or the Bible unreliable):

  • Allegorize the difficult parts. This is good and safe. It is the modal solution. 1 Cor 10:11
  • Understand the words and stories. The Bible is written in stylized and metaphorical language.
  • Progress of a type. Galatians 4:4-7. How do we get to the “fullness of time”?
  • Look at Morality. For various reasons, our American Christian culture focuses on the “gentler” virtues (e.g. kindness, humility, patience) rather than the “harder” ones like obedience (Deuteronomy 11:1; St. John 14:15), faithfulness (St. Luke 19:17), and courage and strength (1 Corinthians 16:13). For your consideration: are shepherds always gentle?
  • Maybe the Canaanites were worse than demonic. Can’t turn this into an excuse.

Heat your oven to 350 F; Herem, Holiness, and Holy War. Note: some of this is a minority view!

The Lord God said to the serpent … I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15; also 4:25).

Genesis 6: 4-9, 11-12. Note the “and afterward”! The mythology hinted at here is developed in the inter-testamental period that helped provide for the context of Christ’s coming. As with the prophecies of the Messiah, there are enough of the hints here to make for a coherent narrative. DBH recently wrote that the cosmic war is the dominant narrative of the New Testament.

But how does that work, exactly? And what about St. Matthew 22:30 (also St. Luke 20:34-36)?

  • Angels can take human form. E.g. Genesis 18:1-8; 19:10. Hebrews 13:20. Acts 5:19; 12:7. See also 1 Corinthians 15:39-40.
  • Angels are mentioned in the context of sexual sin. Genesis 6:4, Jude 1:6-7 (the comparison with Sodom is intentional; men wanted the angels!). 1 Corinthians 11:10 (not conclusive).
  • The angels need not have had sex in order to create the bloodline; could be manipulation.

The nations that are under Herem are ones that have giants in them (we’ll see that as we work our way through the battles). They are corrupted by their nature. It is blasphemous on many levels; note that we ARE called to be one with God through Christ. The non-tainted nations are just beaten; why?

The resulting cosmic warfare in Canaan is even more necessary than the cosmic warfare in Egypt.


Heiser, M. S. (2015). The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (First Edition, p. 187). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Lienhard, J. T., & Rombs, R. J. (Eds.). (2001). Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. IVP.

John H. Walton. (2017) The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest. IVP.