Why Did God Kill Innocent People in the Old Testament?
The atheist Richard Dawkins in his book called the God Delusion describes God as being a moral monster who is a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser.
Atheists basically argue that the God in the Old Testament killed many innocent people beginning from the flood that destroyed the earth to the people in Sodom & Gomorrah and then also the destruction of the Canaanite people where even women and children were destroyed.
Therefore these are the arguments that both atheists and skeptics put forward as an argument against the God of the Bible and justify that such a God cannot exist.
So the question is this is – is God a moral monster? Why did God command the death and destruction of people including children? Does God have the right to kill innocent people?
The above questions can be answered by understanding the following things:
Nobody is Innocent
There are no innocent people in the world. Everyone is guilty of some kind of wrong doing. Everyone has told a lie at some point in his/her life; everyone has had an impure thought; everyone has done some kind of wrong against his/her neighbor.
Before a just and holy God – nobody is innocent. Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Romans 3:10 says that there is nobody who is righteous.
Everyone Will Face Death
Everyone will die at some point in his/her life. Death came into existence because of the sin of Adam and Eve. Death is a curse that came upon the earth in which the Bible says “It’s appointed for man to die once, and after that comes death” according to Hebrews 9:27.
Therefore we will all face death whether it’s through sickness, a car accident or through old age. The important thing to understand is that it’s up to God to choose when we die and how we die.
Why Did God Destroy People?
Therefore when it came to situations where God would destroy people in the Old Testament, God was both sovereign and justified in doing so.
For example, when God caused the whole earth to flood with the exception of Noah and his family, the Bible says that the intents of man during Noah’s time was continuously evil (Genesis 6:5). Mankind had become so morally & spiritually corrupted in his conscience that his every thought and action was evil. Mankind had become irredeemable, unrepentant and his conscience was seared.
God’s only option to save humanity at that time was to flood the earth and save Noah & his family because they found grace in God’s eyes and they were not corrupted to the extent of the rest of mankind.
Another example is with the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah. Before the destruction of these cities, Abraham pleaded with God and interceded for the people that if there were at least a few righteous people in those cities that God would spare Sodom & Gomorrah from utter destruction (Genesis 18:16-33).
However there was none found righteous or innocent in Sodom & Gomorrah and so God destroyed them not only because they were sinners but because they were unrepentant and their sinful lifestyle would be infectious and detrimental to those people who lived outside those cities.
The same can be said also when God commanded the killing of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites (Deuteronomy 20:16-18).
These people had abominable and detestable cultures. The Canaanites for example were said to be people who had a culture of child sacrifice, beastiality and incest. These people were irredeemable and unrepentant.
God commanded their destruction so that they would not spread their abominable practices and culture to the Israelites.
Hopefully from the above explanation we can learn something about the nature of God and the nature of mankind. God is a just and sovereign God and He has the right to judge His own creation as He sees fit. Everyone will die and it’s up to God to choose when we will die and how we will die.
However, it is not God’s desire that anyone should perish in hell but instead His desire is that all people should repent and come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:9).
Therefore the most important thing is to have a relationship with God by believing in Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour because it is Jesus who paid for the sins of mankind on the cross (John 3:16).
Jesus Christ is the ONLY innocent person to have lived on the earth. He was without sin, and therefore this qualified Him to pay for our sins in order to redeem us (2 Corinthians 5:21).