1. God's purpose was not annihilation but dispossession.
Miller tries to lessen the horror by saying that what God really wanted was for the Canaanites to migrate out of the land and allow the Israelites to have it. The Canaanites should have taken the warnings that were given to them and abandoned their land. He maintains that most did and the few die-hards that remained behind were the ones killed.
There is a strong possibility that most of the 'innocent' people left the country before the actual battles began in each local turf. Those that stayed behind were the die-hards, the "carriers" of Canaanite culture, the ruling, decadent, exploitative elite. We also saw that only a very tiny minority of people were actually killed in this campaign, relative to most military conquests in the ANE.
He argues this based on how many times certain words appear. He says:
"Dispossession" would include the words like "drive out," "dispossess," "take over possession of," "thrust out," "send away" (33 occurrences). "Destruction" words would include "annihilate," "destroy," "perish," and "eliminate" (11 occurrences). The Dispossession words would indicate that the population "ran away"--migrated out of the Land prior to any encounter with the Israelites; Destruction words would indicate the consequences for those who stayed behind.
What then is the mix of these two sets of words? The "Dispossession" words outnumber the "Destruction" words by 3-to-1! This would indicate that the dominant "intended effect" was for the peoples in the Land to migrate somewhere else.
Is there no limit to how far evangelicals will go in an attempt to defend the indefensible? I guess not. The fact that the so-called dispossess words outnumber the destruction words three to one is immaterial. The destruction words are still there and according to the Scriptures, the destruction or massacre took place. See the passages below:
Joshua 6:21--They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it--men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. (NIV)
Joshua 8:24-25--When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the desert where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. Twelve thousand men and women fell that day--all the people of Ai. (NIV)
Joshua 10:28-39--That day Joshua took Makkedah. He put the city and its king to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it. He left no survivors. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho. Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Makkedah to Libnah and attacked it. The Lord also gave that city and its king into Israel's hand. The city and everyone in it Joshua put to the sword. He left no survivors there. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho. Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Libnah to Lachish; he took up positions against it and attacked it. The Lord handed Lachish over to Israel, and Joshua took it on the second day. The city and everyone in it he put to the sword, just as he had done to Libnah. Meanwhile, Horam king of Gezer had come up to help Lachish, but Joshua defeated him and his army--until no survivors were left. Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Lachish to Eglon; they took up positions against it and attacked it. They captured it that same day and put it to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it, just as they had done to Lachish. Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron and attacked it. They took the city and put it to the sword, together with its king, its villages and everyone in it. They left no survivors. Just as at Eglon, they totally destroyed it and everyone in it. Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned around and attacked Debir. They took the city, its king and its villages, and put them to the sword. Everyone in it they totally destroyed. They left no survivors. They did to Debir and its king as they had done to Libnah and its king and to Hebron.
The fact is that the dispossession was accomplished through the massacre. Once the people were killed, they were in effect dispossed of the land. How does Miller know that most of the people left first and only a few were killed? He doesn't. He is just hoping that is the case because it seems to lessen the impact of his God killing innocent women and children. However, even if only one infant were deliberately killed in the entire campaign ordered by Yahweh, the moral problem still exists. If a person goes on trial for murder, is it any excuse for him to say, "Well I only killed one person." That is ludicrous.
2. It was more humane for the children to be killed than to be left alive.
. . .children living in the households of their evil parents apparently died swiftly in the one-day event (instead of being killed--as homeless orphans--by a combination of starvation, wild beasts, exposure, and disease; or instead of being captured and sold as slaves by neighboring tribes, for the older ones perhaps?)
Well, I guess I have heard it all now. It was better to kill these children and infants than to allow them to live. After all, they would have starved or been killed by wild beasts, etc. Did Miller not stop to think that perhaps the Israelites could have taken these children and cared for them? If he were to argue that it was not feasible for them to do so, I would remind him that his God supposedly caused the sun to stand still (Joshua 10:12-13)during one of these battles. If his God could have accomplished that, why couldn't he do something to save the infants and children? The only conclusion is that he just didn't care (assuming this really happened as Miller thinks it did).