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It seems pretty clear in some of the texts that when Land of Canaan was conquered, there were no one left alive, all were killed:

Joshua defeated the whole land, including the hill country, the Negev, the lowlands, the slopes, and all their kings. He left no survivors. He annihilated everything that breathed, just as the LORD God of Israel had commanded. Joshua conquered the area between Kadesh Barnea and Gaza and the whole region of Goshen, all the way to Gibeon. Joshua captured in one campaign all these kings and their lands, for the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel. (Joshua 10:40-42 NET)

It seems like the same thing is also said (but not as clear) in Joshua 21:44 and Joshua 24:11.

BUT in other texts like:

The men of Judah were unable to conquer the Jebusites living in Jerusalem. The Jebusites live with the people of Judah in Jerusalem to this very day. (Joshua 15:63)


After Joshua died, the Israelites asked the LORD, "Who should lead the invasion against the Canaanites and launch the attack?"


The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem and captured it. They put the sword to it and set the city on fire.


The men of Benjamin, however, did not conquer the Jebusites living in Jerusalem. The Jebusites live with the people of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this very day. (Judges 1:1, 8, 21)

It seems like not everyone was killed in the land. What are the options for harmonizing those texts?

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No, the Caananites were not destroyed by the Jewish people. The cited verse in Joshua 10:40 speaks only of the completion of Joshua's campaign against the Canaanie tribes of the south. In the next chapter Joshua fights the nortthern tribes. In chapter 13, when Joshua is already too old to continue the fight, G-d tells Joshua that his job is incomplete; he still must destroy the kings of the Philistines, Gazathites, Ashdodites, Ashkelonites, Gitttites, Ekron, Sidonians and others the Bible considered part of Canaan. This site has some maps that illustrate the three campaigns that Joshua led, although I do not vouch for any of the other contents of the website.

We know that Joshua did not complete the job. In the Book of Kings we read that all of the survivors of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites who did not belong to Israel — that is, those of their descendants who survived in the land wherever the Israelites had been unable to annihilate them — all were employed by Solomon as perpetual forced labor, "which they still are" (I Kings 9:20-21) at least until the time the Book of Kings was written.

While the Canaanites lived among the Jews, their idols and worship practiced -- which included sexual rites with temple priestesses -- tempted the Hebrew lay persons and even their kings. 1 Kings 14:22-24. While the prophets made clear that the continued presence of the Canaanites and their debaucherous rites were a drag on Israel's spirtual purity, see e.g. Hosea 4:12-14, the removal of the Canaanites and the spiritual threat it posed cannot be said to have been accomplished by the Jews militarily.

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Yet this is what my first quote says: "Joshua defeated the whole land[...] He left no survivors. He annihilated everything that breathed". Or is it something from your answer I don't understand (English is not my native language)? How to harmonize the two accounts? – Niclas Nilsson Jun 7 '13 at 18:48
@Niclas Nilsson: It's pretty likely that Joshua 10 is hyperbole. Ancient writings often exaggerated the accomplishments of kings in this way. See, for instance, the Merneptah Stele which (falsely) asserts that a number of people groups, including Israel, were wiped out by Egypt's pharoah. – Jon Ericson Jun 7 '13 at 20:26
@JonEricson Yeah! I know that it's not uncommon. But that answer challenges my view of the scripture. And I'm not sure I want to go where such an answer leads me ;-) But that of course is a much bigger discussion which is beyond the scope of this question! – Niclas Nilsson Jun 8 '13 at 11:29
Joshua 10 is not hyperbole; it is speaking of the success of hat campaign, like discussing the Allied forces sucess in N. Africa when they still had Europe to conquer. – Bruce James Jun 9 '13 at 3:57
@Bruce: In that case, I misunderstood your first paragraph. Would you consider an edit to expand on the idea that Joshua 10 is just the southern tribes? (A map would probably help for those of us with only a passing knowledge of geography in the region.) – Jon Ericson Jun 9 '13 at 5:03

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