When we read the bible, we come across events that are hard to justify in our conscience; honestly, they just seem wrong. For example, Joshua 10. Israel has crossed into the Promised Land and is going city to city, village to village, and killing every single man, woman, and child. All of this is happening under the orders of God. And the question we are scared to ask is, “how can we justify God giving orders to execute women and children?” “How can a God who is loving and merciful be so violent?”
You should never be afraid to ask hard questions of the bible. It has stood up under the examination and interrogation of elite scholars for 2,000 years; it can handle questions from us!
There is a clear answer to the question of Joshua 10:
Deuteronomy 9:3-6. “3 Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the LORD your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the LORD has promised you. 4 “Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. 5 Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 6 “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.”
God was killing two birds with one stone. Yes, He was giving the Promised Land to Israel. But, whether He gave the Promised Land to Israel or not, the window of God’s grace to the nations of the Promised Land had run out and it was time for their insistent, prolonged rebellion against the one true God to be brought to justice. God chose to use the Israeli military as His agent of justice to punish those nations. This is completely consistent with Romans 13:4 — God uses armies, (governments) to punish evil and reward good.
When Jesus Christ comes again, a similar narrative to the nations of the Promised Land will play out. The window of God’s grace to the people of the world will have run out. All who have not humbled themselves and pledged allegiance to the King, Jesus Christ, will receive justice for their insistent, prolonged rebellion against the one true God. So then, in Joshua 10, God wasn’t doing anything that He isn’t going to do again when Christ returns.