I discovered an article that is well worth reading. It deals with the problem of "alleged genocide" in the bible. I'll try to make this post short since the insights and exegesis are not mine.
This is the article. If you have any sort of open mind at all, please take the time to read all the way through it. It is long, but very thorough and very well researched:
Genocide in the Bible, argument refuted.
The summary of it is something like this:
1) God gave the Canaanites many opportunities to repent.
a) The forty years following Israel's exodus from Egypt.
b) The 400 years from when Abraham's descendants left Canaan, coming up to the exodus.
The Canaanites were fully aware of the judgement of God on Egypt. In fact Rahab is a really good example of this. Rahab tells the Israelite spies that they have heard of God's judgement on Egypt, and that their hearts melted with fear at a God powerful enough to defeat Egypt (who were the most powerful in the world). Rahab chooses the side of Israel, and she and her family are spared.
Rahab is also a good example of someone who did repent.
2) There are other examples of judgement in the Old Testament. In each occasion there is a LOT of opportunity for repentance.
a) Before the flood in Noah's day there was 120 years given for people to repent. Noah and his family were spared. (I.e not all were destroyed.)
b) At Sodom and Gomorrah, the people were given 25 years to repent, through the righteous warnings of Lot. Lot and his family were spared.
c) At Nineveh, the people were warned of the coming destruction by the prophet Jonah, and the people of Nineveh DID repent. God spared ALL of them. He is just.
3) In the case of the Canaanites they have a long list of societal wide rampant sins:
a) Every kind of immoral sexual relationship thinkable was occurring, people having sex with their parents, siblings, aunties and uncles etc, etc. Rampant incest.
b) That wasn't enough for the Canaanites, they had to have sex with animals too.
c) They were also homosexual.
d) They had cultic prostitution in their temples.
e) They sacrificed their babies to their god Molech.
f) They were systematic in their violence towards other nations around them.
They were viewed even by the other nations around them as particularly evil.
4) As said earlier, the Canaanites were give a long period of warning to repent. Some of them (Rahab and her family) even did.
God's plan was to drive them from the land, to disperse their culture so that their wicked ways would cease. They were to be subsumed by the many nations around them. Some of the people did indeed leave before the Israelites arrived. It was the people who refused to leave, who refused to repent of their wicked practices that were to be destroyed. These were the stubborn and most wicked who stayed behind, not the entire Canaanite people.
God told the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites that stayed behind, that is who refused to give up their wicked ways. These people would have taught the Israelites wicked practices. This was God's reason for removing the last of the Canaanites left behind.
God is very clear to the Israelites to leave certain areas of the land alone for descendants of Esau and Lot. The goal was never complete annihilation. The Israelites were also not meant to hunt down Canaanites who had already left the land.
5) The best example of God's fair practice is that the same judgement he carried out on the Canaanites he later carried out on Israel. God detested the wicked practices of the Canaanites and he warned Israel not to behave that way. Over the generations Israel largely ignored the many prophets that God sent them to warn them away from their wicked practices of idol worship and baby sacrifices. The Israelites practised the same sin as the Canaanites. Israel suffered the same judgement, first the northern kingdom of Israel was attacked by the Assyrians and the remainder carried off into slavery. Later the southern kingdom of Judah was attacked by the Babylonians and the remainder carried off into slavery.
It was only through the painful judgement of deportation, and many being destroyed that the Jews learnt what it really meant to be a righteous people.
God never ordered the total destruction of the Canaanite nation, he ordered the destruction of the ones who had stayed behind. God's goal was for the Canaanite sin to be removed from the land so that Israel could grow into a righteous nation. When Israel did not do this, God also carried out a fair judgement on Israel. God treated all nations the same.
For any of us to say that the Canaanites did not deserve judgement is to say that (a) their sins were nothing and (b) God has no right to judge. God indeed does have a right to judge, he is always patient, he always calls on people to repent. Ultimately there are always some who are spared because they do repent.
It would also be wrong of us to say that our own nations will escape judgement if we do not cease our detestable practices. The rise of homosexuality, abortion and the approval of society towards these practices, sees us on a slippery slope in the same direction as Canaan and Israel. The Lord is patient, not willing that any of us should perish, and it is waiting as long as possible for us to come to repentance so that he would not have to destroy our nations. I really hope that our nations in the west do repent.