TODAY’S SIGNATURE VERSE ••• A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:8 ESV)
PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Of all the questions in this two-week series, today’s is probably going to be the hardest one to address. Today, we’re asking, “Why does God say not to kill, but then instruct Israel to turn around and kill men women and children to take the promised land?” It’s something that believers have struggled to answer and that non-believers use as an argument against the faith.
For this question though, the answer really boils down to this simple truth that we’ve already discussed — God’s thoughts and ways are different from ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). But that answer, especially in this case, is as frustrating to hear as it is for a child who is told “Because I said so.” But just as our parents have a higher knowledge and way of thinking than we did as kids, so does God have a higher point of view than we do. With that said though, I want to explore some thoughts to consider about why God would tell us not to kill, and then basically order a genocide.
Let’s take a look at Moses. You probably know the story. The Egyptians had ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed, but Moses’ mother put him in a basket in the river where he was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter. She pitied him, and decided to raise him as her own—it was a quite a bold move on her part, but that’s a different topic. So Moses was raised in an Egyptian palace (Exodus 2:1-10). Yet, despite the luxuries he enjoyed, when he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew man, Moses didn’t defend the Egyptian. He killed him to protect the Hebrew (Exodus 2:11-15).
What does that tell us? Honestly, it tells us a lot. People seem to intrinsically gravitate to their roots. For instance, my husband’s family is from Germany and though his first ancestors arrived in America several generations before Wayne was born, he is very drawn to German history. Similarly, I’ve always been drawn to Ireland and felt quite validated when I discovered my Irish heritage through my 24th great-grandfather (who I traced back to the 1100s).
We also have to remember that there’s a difference between murder and killing in war. Soldiers who kill an enemy aren’t considered murderers. And while the effects are devastating nonetheless, there is a time for war (Ecclesiastes 3:8). God didn’t arbitrarily tell the Israelites to kill for the sake of killing. Those who He ordered killed were enemies of God’s chosen people. They were killed as a part of war.
As far as killing the women and children are concerned… I admit that my knee-jerk reaction is that it seemed to be overkill. But I don’t know everything that God does. We have to remember that foreign women were often the downfall of Hebrew men (Samson and Solomon being two prominent examples). And as previously referenced, a surviving child may have grown up resentful and brought with him a whole new set of problems. Only God knows. Just as humans have hard decisions they make in war, so did God.
I can’t help but think of the two atomic bombs dropped in World War II. I’m a history fan, but this era is more my mom’s expertise than mine. Nevertheless, when the decision was made to drop atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, women and children died. It’s a decision that President Truman labeled “the hardest of my life” and one that has been debated for years. Was it too much? What did this mean for future use of nuclear technology? As I said, I don’t have a strong background in WWII history (I prefer early American history – the Civil War). Wherever you land on the two arguments about that long-ago decision, we can all agree it was a tragic loss of life; the pictures of the aftermath are very hard to look at. Yet, those bombings expedited the end of the war and possibly saved more lives than were lost in the bombings. It’s impossible to know, but it was a decision made in war. The soldiers who pulled the trigger were not classified as murderers.
I’m going to refer today’s readers to one of my favorite websites, GotQuestions.org. There is a very well-written article there called, “Why did God command the genocide of the Canaanites?” I consulted the website as I started getting into this topic and I want to share this point they made:
Unlike us, God knows the future. God knew what the results would be if Israel did not completely eradicate the Amalekites. If Israel did not carry out God’s orders, the Amalekites would come back to trouble the Israelites in the future. Saul claimed to have killed everyone but the Amalekite king Agag (1 Samuel 15:20). Obviously, Saul was lying—just a couple of decades later, there were enough Amalekites to take David and his men’s families captive (1 Samuel 30:1-2). After David and his men attacked the Amalekites and rescued their families, 400 Amalekites escaped. If Saul had fulfilled what God had commanded him, this never would have occurred. Several hundred years later, a descendant of Agag, Haman, tried to have the entire Jewish people exterminated (see the book of Esther). So, Saul’s incomplete obedience almost resulted in Israel’s destruction. God knew this would occur, so He ordered the extermination of the Amalekites ahead of time.
This, along with humanity’s intrinsic tendency to be drawn to our heritage, helps explain God’s command for complete eradication of certain people. It doesn’t mean we have to like it. But we have to understand that it doesn’t mean that God isn’t loving and it doesn’t mean that God can’t be trusted. It’s just another aspect of who He is that is a mystery to us. Our bigger picture reminds us that God is also the one who sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins. He’s the One who redeemed us and offers the gift of salvation to ALL who accept it — no matter what their culture, background, or race. So while we don’t fully understand God’s why’s, we can still trust in His goodness. And as I’ve said many times, we either completely take God at His word or not at all.
Today, as you pray, thank God that He understands our questions. Thank Him that He is always good, even when we don’t understand His ways. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you trust, even when you feel a bit conflicted. Ask Him to help you focus on the goodness of God in all circumstances.
SHARING ••• Please share with others! Visit www.MyGraceFullLife.com to read past blogs. ***Unless noted otherwise, all Scripture references are from the ESV translation.