Ok, I see your train of thought. I shall play ball! Btw, I am enjoying this convo immensely and appreciate your insights.
I do believe in objective morality. I do believe human rights are derived from the God of the bible. In Genesis, the creation of man is described as being “in the image of God,” therefore ascribing worth and value to humanity above other created things.
I don’t see this being contradicted in Joshua. I believe we need to understand God’s intentions before we can analyze his commands accurately. The Canaanites were involved in child sacrifice, bizarre sexual practices tied to their idol worship, etc. So by God’s standard they were in violation of his law and therefore they deserved death. The Canaanites had been practicing these things for centuries and God postponed judgment (Gen 15.16). This is the same God willing to spare the Canaanite city of Sodom for the sake of just ten righteous people (Gen. 18:32), so understanding his motives and reasons is a complex task involving much more research than this.
I would argue that based on the following passages, God instructed certain peoples to be destroyed in the OT as a form of judgment:
“It is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God is driving them out before you…” (Deut. 9:5)
“Do not defile yourselves by any of these things, for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled.” (Lev. 18:24-25)
“When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations… because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you.” (Deut. 18:9, 12)
None of it seems arbitrary nor contradictory to the Ten Commandments. God didn’t tell Joshua to exterminate a random people group for any superficial reason. These commands were exercises of capital punishment on a national scale, payback for hundreds of years of sin. He judged them as a whole for the collective immorality. God sentenced His own people to similar destruction when they sinned in similar ways. It may be unsettling, but it is not inconsistent with the rest of the OT and how God is characterized.
Today, we ascribe rights to people that are taken away – sometimes even with death – when a person commits a crime. Our culture has changed, our context has changed, so the appropriate punishment for crime has changed. But the value of human beings transcends culture and context.
This was not carte blanche for any and all genocide or ethnic cleansing, but instead a directive limited in time to these particular conquests, limited in scope to the Canaanites, and limited in location to the Promised Land after hundreds of years of withholding judgment. To pull this narrative out of the context of the entire bible and use it as proof that God condones mass killings of random ethnicities, genders or age groups based on their physical characteristics alone (abortion, holocaust) is a poor and limited understanding of the text.
I am wiped after doing a bunch of reading about this topic, but thank you for challenging me! This is really making me think.