For it was The LORD who caused them to harden their hearts and come against Isra’el in battle, so that they would be utterly destroyed, so that they would not find favor but be destroyed, in keeping with the orders The LORD had given Moshe.
This is a tough truth. G-d is just, so it must have been just for the people in Canaan to be destroyed. How do we reconcile this? It is easy to see the narrative as foreign invaders came in, committed genocide and took over the land of these people. That is what many people think of the modern State of Israel.
In the Torah, we learn that the Land of Israel was originally part of Shem’s inheritance, not only that, but Ham’s descendants, Kena’an (Cannan) and Mitzrayim (Egypt) among them, were cursed to be slaves to Shem’s descendants. At some point in the history, the Cannanites took over the Promised Land from Shem’s descendants. With that history in mind, the Israelites are simply reclaiming their ancestral homeland.
This matter is challenging to me because we don’t know the full story. We don’t know the full measure of the sins of the Emorites and all the rest. We do know that throughout the Tanakh the Land of Israel is spoken of as rejecting the people of Israel when they are unrighteous as a whole. The Land vomits people out when it can no longer tolerate them. The Land of Israel is G-d’s chosen place. It is the home of His chosen people. I conjecture that the Temple is located where Eden had originally been because it is where the Divine and human dwell together. That explains the sensitivity of the Land, but I am still uncomfortable with the wholesale slaughter of the Canaanites. Thankfully, it was a one-time cleansing of the Land. I do not see a standing mandate for Israel to massacre foreigners in their land and the secular State of Israel doesn’t wantonly shed blood as so many accuse it of.
What can I say about this? I still think G-d is shown to be Merciful and loving through examining the harsh outcome. Israel was carried away into captivity. They were punished and chastened for their sin and depravity, just like the Canaanites. The only thing that saved them was the covenant G-d made with Abraham. He preserves Israel for his own sake. He refused to punish the Canaanites until their time had come, just as he waited to punish Israel until their time had come. I wonder what would have happened if the Canaanites had repented of their sins and recognized G-d as the One True G-d. Could they have been redeemed? Could they have simply given over the Land to Israel? Would that have worked, if they had been a godly people? I like to think so. The whole point of Israel is to bring Man back to G-d, to usher people into Eden.