Q. What’s all this violence in the Old Testament? How can God order the extermination of a whole race of people, slaughtering men, women and children without exception? He is worse than Hitler or Pol Pot!
A. Instead of sitting under God’s judgment, critics and skeptics sit in judgment of God, charging Him to be a moral monster who butchers innocent people. They accuse God of being an out-of-control despot, killing those who oppose Him indiscriminately. Is that what’s happening? Of course not, because the accusers do not know the facts and are just ranting their false allegations.
What does the Bible say?
• Deut 20:17-18 But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God.
On the surface God did command the Israelites to utterly destroy the nations around them. Why? So that the nations may not teach the Israelites to do all their detestable things they have done in their idolatry. What detestable things? Archeology tells us a lot about the evil practices in the nations’ pagan worship, but let me quote just two passages from Scripture to illustrate.
• Lev 18:24-25 Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.
God was punishing the nations who defiled themselves by doing all the detestable things by casting them out from the land. The list of “these things” is given in Lev 18:6-23, which includes:
• all forms of immoral sexual relations with blood relatives i.e. incest;
• adultery with neighbor’s wife;
• offering offspring to Molech as a whole burnt sacrifice;
• bestiality, among others.
The second example is in:
• Deut 18:9-12 When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you.
This again includes burning children and all forms of the occult. As such, God is just in punishing the nations for their grievous evil. If God doesn’t judge them, He would not be righteous.
But even in His righteous judgment God is slow in anger and abounding in loving-kindness, being very patient in giving time to repent:
• Gen 15:16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.
As an example, the Amorites were allowed four generations before judgment finally struck, when God used the Israelites to execute judgment.
Some feel the men and women deserved to be punished, but children? What evil could they have done? I need to point out two things. First an analogy. In dealing with cancer, you need to remove all the cancer cells, not just some parts of it. Otherwise what’s left behind will kill you. There can be no leniency in leaving parts behind. The same is true in dealing with the depraved nations, which need to be totally removed.
Secondly, in destroying the children, God is actually showing mercy to them, because children who are under the age of accountability, who do not yet have the capacity to distinguish right from wrong, are accepted into God’s Kingdom by grace. They are born sinners and do not deserve heaven, but God is compassionate and gracious. He gives grace when the young children are not yet developed to such an extent that they know how to trust Him. I have written on the evidence for this in previous posts. Those interested can refer to:
So in conclusion I say “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Gen 18:25) Don’t be so fast in condemning God, worry about how you will face Him as Judge instead.