I give God the benefit of the doubt, because of our relationship, when I don’t have all the details to make a judgment. I don’t expect skeptics to do the same, and God can handle scrutiny. How can a moral God approve of annihilating nations which included killing innocent woman and children (I Sam 15:1-3; Josh 6:21)? Some argue war is never necessary, but barbaric dictators exist and innocent lives will be lost naturally as a result of such conflict.
God did not randomly pick on innocent nations. God responded to those who detested His moral ways and engaged in horrendous behaviors such as child sacrifice and turning women into temple prostitutes. Canaanite practices included child sacrifice to please their false gods (Ps. 106:38; see also Ezek. 23:37-39). Nations were involved in child sacrifice as well as perverse sexual practices as bestiality and incest (Leviticus 18:6, 23). Current dictators gas their own people to remain in power. Leaders order or turn a blind eye as women are raped and mutilated.
God overall surely is a merciful and forgiving God, as I have benefitted from God’s accounting system. God often would allow the expulsion or relocation of the people from the land before annihilation due to evil in the land (Numbers 21:31-35). God always spares those who are willing to repent. Nineveh averted annihilation in Jonah. God gave all a change to enter the Ark. But, children obviously did not have much say so or women under the threat of men to not oppose them. When evil is so rampant and must be destroyed for the sake of future generations, death may be more merciful for all with a chance of a better place after death. Death may be better than abandonment, starvation, disease, or being torn apart by wild animals (Ex 23:28-29).
Jesus rightly accused the Pharisees as guilty as their ancestors for accepting and not condemning the practices of their ancestors (Luke 11:47-51). One can understand why but family members of terrorists often don’t condemn the barbaric behaviors of their husbands and fathers. Family members may justify their loved ones behavior, including genocide and cannibalism, by offering some excuse in hopes of avoiding severe punishment for their loves one. Parents frequently try to spare their teenagers of legal consequences for illegal behaviors, even when the young person doesn’t regret such behavior. The Holocaust was despicable, but this didn’t happen just because of the actions of one man. Others participated directly or indirectly but not standing up.
Dam if God does, damn if God doesn’t! If God doesn’t intervene we blame Him for allowing evil to be rampant. If God intervenes and innocent people get killed, we say God is not just. Total destruction may be necessary to destroy the influences of present generations on future generations. Walter Kaiser is surely right about God: “Just as a surgeon does not hesitate to amputate a gangrenous limb, even if he cannot help cutting off some healthy flesh, so God must do the same. This is not doing evil that good may come; it is removing the cancer that could infect all of society and eventually destroy the remaining good” (Hard Sayings of the Old Testament, 108).
In the Bible we may not be aware of migration options when God’s judgment becomes necessary due to evil. We don’t know what God knew about the possible spreading of evil on future generations, but God must have had good reason when He ordered the destructive of human lives. Because of freedom given humans from the beginning of Creation, we can begin to understand that God must sometimes condone or even order war and killings because of evil. No nation today though can claim direct communication from God, which was present in OT times, so innocent lives should be spared when possible.