Why is Moses more popular than Joshua? While the exodus remains marketable, the conquest is an embarrassment to many. Sure, “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho,” but let’s do a exodus to conquest film count. Whole theologies, false ones mind you, have been built up around the exodus, what of the conquest? Perhaps some fundies and charismatics might make much of it, but they’re made little of, which proves the point.
I believe one reason is that in the exodus Israel is seen as the oppressed, while in the conquest as the oppressor. Egypt put Israel to hard slavery and killed their male newborns. What did the Canaanites do to Israel? We root for the underdog. We like the overthrow of tyrants. We hate genocide.
The problem with all of this is it puts the events in terms of Israel, not God. The questions to ask are, “What did the Egyptians do against God? What did the Canaanites do against God?” That we frame the events in terms of man, and not God, shows that we’re not far from the same wicked idolatry that evoked such wrath and judgment. Liberation theology says God has a heart for the oppressed and delivers them. Surely, God hates oppression, but many oppressed peoples perish. The ten wonders were not first an expression of God’s hatred of Egypt’s sin as it was against Israel, but as it was against Him. The deal with Israel is that God has linked Himself to her in covenant. Mess with her and you mess with Him.
If you think little of sin you think little of God. Sin is heinous to the degree God is glorious. If sin is trite, if God should pass easily over it, it means He is not that big of a deal, and if God is not that big of a deal, nothing is. The death of sin is the death of significance. But this death can only happen theoretically, because God is, and He is glorious and holy without measure, and therefore sin is infinitely evil.
Now, back to the conquest. The irony of conquest shame is that the exodus was for the conquest. You cannot celebrate the exodus and debase the conquest. Further, the iniquity of the Canaanites appears to have been worse. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and sulfur from heaven for their great wickedness, and the rest of Canaan was only a few centuries behind. God told Abraham that one reason why Israel would not enjoy the land for sometime was because, “the iniquity of the Amorites [was] not yet complete (Genesis 15:16).” For five hundred years God patiently waits, and when their depravity knows no bounds, then His wrath comes.
Read the conquest language carefully. Yes, unlike the Exodus, Israel takes up the sword, but this is Yahweh’s fight. Yahweh is a warrior and Israel is His sword. Salvation always comes by judgment. At the time of conquest, as on that last day when we prepare to enter the eternal land of rest, Jesus’ war is against idolatry and for worship. We simply bow the knee to Him as the rightful, glorious, and worthy King of kings.