What if You Were Born a Canaanite

Is Christianity objective, or does it have tunnel vision, viewing its own stories through the lens of its particular belief system? In my observation Christians read the Bible very selectively, if they read it at all. A lot of people approach Christianity in a very black and white way, they are looking for specific answers, and Christianity provides them with simple answers that they can apply without thought. They also tend to read the Bible in a very black and white way viewing it as a story of good guys and bad guys. In the Gospels Jesus and the apostles are the good guys and the Sanhedrin and Pharisees are the bad guys. Anyone who understands history knows that this is far from the truth. In the Old Testament it’s even worse because the bad guys have a tendency to get slaughtered by the good guys.

This brings me to my question: “what if you were born a Canaanite?” The Canaanites were a number of indigenous populations of people who inhabited what is now modern day Israel during the period circa 2500 to 1000 BC. Unfortunately for them this meant that they were inhabiting the land that God had promised to the Israelites during the period in which the Israelites were driving tribes out of Israel after the exodus to Egypt. In the biblical stories they are always presented as black hats, and oh how we cheer when they are slaughtered in their thousands by the Israelites. But if you believe that the stories are true then you must acknowledge that the Canaanites were actual real people just like you and I. People who cared primarily about their families and their friends, about making a living and being happy. They lived in a very cruel world which was dog-eat-dog for the most part, but that is no different from the Israelites. They were no more harsh or evil than their Israelite brethren and no doubt went to war not because they wanted to, but because they were forced to by their King, just like every other feudal people of the ancient world. Yet God did not hesitate to command the Israelites to kill them all: man, woman and child. So how would you feel about God if you had been born a Canaanite?[1]

It’s easy to pass judgement, it’s easy to say that they deserved it while we sit here comfortably in our modern world, in our warm houses with our refrigerators full of food, and consider them to be barbarians. Surprise! The Israelites were exactly the same. If you were a Canaanite you probably worshipped Dagon a God of fertility and crops. In exactly the same way as we see religion operating today, you worshipped Dagon not because you really liked the idea of worshipping Dagon, but because Dagon was the God of your fathers, and failing to worship him would hold you in bad stead not only with the gods themselves but also with your family and your tribe. You were also not educated, you didn’t have any deep understanding of philosophy, so you accepted the gods that your ancestors had because as far as you were concerned they must be the real gods. When a pack of heathens came along declaring that your gods were wrong and that their God was the real God and demanding that you leave your homeland or they will slaughter you, what do you instinctively think you would want to do? You would no doubt defend your homeland, your family and your tribe. And you would become a martyr for it. You would die for your faith, your belief in Dagon. But mostly you would die to protect your family and your tribe, killed by nomadic tribesman who had not inhabited your land for many years.

So what would you think about the God who had commanded them to do this? He would seem like the most horrific being imaginable to you. You would regard him as an evil God, in much the same way as Christians today regard Dagon as an evil god. This God who claims to be the God of all people, the creator of every person, chose to take the side of another tribe against you. Despite the fact that he created you and placed you where you are on the planet he chose to set his chosen tribe against you in order to drive you from your homes and kill your family. But this God who sends your enemies to kill you claims to be the father of all mankind, he claims to love every person. I wonder if you would believe him? I doubt it!

But believers today don’t spend much time thinking about the plight of the Canaanite. They don’t spend much time empathising or sympathising with the kind of life that one would have had to live in the ancient world. These people weren’t evil, they were people like you and I but with significantly less education who were forced to struggle just to survive. So the next time you hear one of the stories from Deuteronomy, Judges, Chronicles, Samuel, or gloss over the words detailing the Israelite’s slaughter of the Canaanites, spare a thought for your fellow man, and remember, you could have been born a Canaanite too.

[1] Deuteronomy 7:1-5; Deuteronomy 20:16-18.

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One thought on “What if You Were Born a Canaanite

  1. I (an ex-Christian), too, thought about this the other day… what if I was born in a funda-islam family? Then, my ex-belief that Jesus is one and only way to salvation would be already not right since the day I was born… I love your writing…as an ex Christian, I have many questions in my head, and I like seeing your point of view on things, since you did learn about the bible and all properly 🙂

    Like

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