‘Thou shalt not kill.’ I’d say that’s a pretty obvious rule for a good life. A rule that should hardly need to be carved in stone. But, as we shall see in Chapter 5, it turns out to have meant only, ‘Thou shalt not kill members of thine own tribe.’ God had no problem with killing foreigners.
Dawkins, Richard. Outgrowing God (p. 79). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
I presume that what Dr. Dawkins refers to in this argument is that in the Old Testament, God sent the Israelites to fight and take the land from the inhabitants. Abraham came from Iraq and traveled to live in Cannan. During a time of famine, his family moved to Egypt. After 400 years in Egypt, the Israelites traveled back to Cannan, fought with the local people, and took their land.
A Light to the Gentiles
God’s plan from the garden in Genesis 1 to the city in Revelation 21 was for his kingdom to be for all people. We see this in the old testament here:
Isaiah 42:6 - “I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations.”
Isaiah 49:6 - “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Luke 2:32 - “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
And in the New Testament here:
Acts 13:47 - “For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 26:23 - "that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
God’s original plan was to use the people of Israel to introduce himself to the nations. A part of this was to eradicate evil and suffering. Unfortunately, at times, this had to be done through war.
A point could be made that God was trying to accomplish an end so important that the means could be justified, even though they are not ideal. For instance, if I were in a plane and flew over a city and dropped bombs, would that be a bad thing? I am sure you would say yes. Now, what if that city was Berlin. Still bad? What if it was 1943? Not so bad. What if I am bombing Berlin in 1943 to save the world from Nazism and save millions of people who are being murdered by a tyrannical regime? Why, that’s downright heroic! The Canaanite civilization was so out of hand that it compared to the atrocities of Nazi Germany. It was bad - the city systematically murdered children, who were being offered as a sacrifice to the god Molech.
What we read in Numbers and Deuteronomy is God’s plan to bring salvation to the entire world. In that, God used the nation of Israel to judge the wickedness of some of the surrounding nations.
To conclude, it is essential that we consider the character of God. We see in the story of Jonah - God sent a prophet to warn the people of Ninevah before bringing judgment on them. God does not engage in war unless it is an absolute necessity and the people it is waged against have had ample opportunities for repentance.