(Judg. 1:28) Were the Canaanites utterly destroyed or not?

CLAIM: The Bible tells us that “Joshua struck all the land… He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded” (Josh. 10:40). However, here in Judges 1:28, we see that the people were not completely driven out.

RESPONSE: This is good evidence that Joshua’s conquest was not absolute. Paul Copan has argued that these terms were hyperbolic, and they were common of ancient Near Eastern war-rhetoric. He cites usages in Egypt’s Tuthmosis III, Hittite king Mursilli II, Ramses II, the Merneptah Stele, Moab’s king Mesha, and the Assyrian ruler Sennacherib.[1] Each of these kings uses language that is similar to Joshua. While the king claimed that “all” were killed, some still survived. Put another way, this war-rhetoric was used to describe utter destruction of the nation, rather than of each individual person. It might be similar to saying, “The Browns slaughtered the Bengals last night!” or “They annihilated them!” We wouldn’t consider these statements false; we would consider them hyperbolic.

[1] Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011. 172.