How much has a very strictly literal reading of the Hebrew Scriptures ( in particular ) influenced, not just the Foreign Policy, but the entire history to date of these United States of America?! The American Indian, that Noble Savage, could relate to us a very violent & horrific tale of how terribly they were treated from day one of their dealings with the 'civilized' White Man. Going even further back, Black South Africans could regale us with tales of like horror & terror from their history! The main question to be treated here is, 'did Almighty God actually commission His People Israel to commit ( almost ) complete genocide against the inhabitants of Canaan?
Many people today have rebelled against Christianity for this very reason: 'how could a loving God command His People to kill all the inhabitants of the Land?' Even some Christians, more & more, have rejected the Hebrew Scriptures ( except the Psalms & Proverbs ) for this reason. Some have reasoned that when Jesus the Son came along, He calmed His Father down, ie. 'tamed Him', while others reject these Scriptures outright, claiming as above, that a good & loving God would not countenance such behavior!
If, as someone has recently suggested, the Exodus & Canaanite Conquest, of which there is no real archeological evidence, was simply an example of Eastern Literature & Poetic License, then a much different light might be shed on this objectionable portion of Hebrew History! The Exodus itself, as described throughout the book, was doubtless a picture of the True Exodus. The Children of Israel being delivered from the ravages of slavery in Egypt was itself significant of Israel's Salvation from the sin & the death of Adam. This is not to say that the Story related in Exodus has no factual basis, or even that our Heavenly Father would not be just or loving if He ordered the wholesale extermination of a culture, just that these Stories are simply pictures, forerunners if you will, leading up to the Revelation of the Son of God!
Cleanliness, in its many facets, was maybe the biggest issue that Israel faced! Though most Christians have traditionally understood almighty God's sentence on the Canaanites as one of adverse judgement, if one were to closely examine the text, in context, it's not difficult to ascertain that the issue of cleanliness & purity were at the basis of these laws! The command forbidding the mixing of fabrics in a garment, for instance, while there was no doubt a good material reason for it, was aimed more at the purity of His People, who were not to allow themselves to be mixed with the Leaven of Egypt or Canaan, as the case may be.
The Story of the Exodus is full of metaphor; although clearly based in actuality, later writers, such as the apostle Paul saw an allegory in these tales, a greater spiritual truth that pointed Israel to Her Messiah, who was in reality Her God, the Creator of Heaven & Earth! Our Heavenly Father's command to Pharaoh to 'let My people go' was, as we can see from a further reading of the context, was not just so that they could worship Him in the wilderness! He wanted to remove His people from the influence of the Egyptians, just as He instructed them, for the period of time surrounding the Feast of Passover, to remove any leaven from their houses.
Did our Heavenly Father, the supremely just & loving Creator of Heaven & Earth, command His congregation ( Church ) in the wilderness to exterminate the Canaanite masses with extreme prejudice, or is that simply the way Israel understood His words? There is Scriptural evidence that certain criteria would allow certain Canaanites to persevere, to continue living & breathing; if they were willing to fully align themselves with the People of God, then their lives might be spared! On the other hand, there is as much evidence that many were destroyed for refusing to enter that communion!
The Foreign Policy of these United States, though not so much anymore, was based on the Scriptural notion that the Kingdom of God was based in the geo-political nation of Israel! The whole idea that one part of God's Creation was better or more special than another is a Scriptural one. However, it is an idea whose time is past; the Eschatology of Israel determined that! Our Heavenly Father, the Creator of Humanity, came to dwell in the midst of His Creation because He desires relationship with them. He does not desire that any should perish & He most certainly do not love one more than the other!
Many of our traditional & biblical notions need to be re-examined, this not least! The concept of an Angry God, though a biblical one, is longer a viable. As any father, our Heavenly Father is no doubt disappointed, even angered by some of the choices His children make, but He is not partial, nor is He petty, as some suppose! Through the Body of His Son, He seeks to live in blessed relationship with His Creation & it is largely dependent on how we present this Good News as to when & in some cases if His children choose to accept this relationship!
Charles Haddon Shank