Recently I was posed the following question:
Why did God order a whole generation including CHILDREN to be slaughtered in the Old Testament and why does He seem to change from a God of vengeance and judgment in the Old to a God of mercy and grace in the New Testament?
In Part One, I shared instances of God extending grace and opportunities to repent to those nations sitting in the bull’s-eye of God’s judgment. Other examples can be found in Jonah’s reluctant ministry to the people of Nineveh and the sound of Noah’s mallet hammering out a message about an imminent global flood.
But what about God’s call to annihilate entire people groups, including babies and children?
First, let’s examine something God told Abraham. Genesis 15: 13-16 shares:
13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
Notice God stays His righteous hand of judgment on the Canaanites for 400 years! God extends a 400 year grace period! This once again attests to the longsuffering and patience of a God who wants
“none to perish but all to come to repentance.”
Note the phrase:
“Has not reached its full measure.”
By the time the Canaanite’s sin had reached its full measure, they practiced ritual prostitution and child sacrifice. But still some wonder,
“Why destroy them all?”
Deuteronomy 20:17-18 answers that question.
17“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, 18so 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.
Think of it this way. God allowed those peoples to transgress His laws and His call to holiness for hundreds of years, until their unrighteous acts were no longer tolerable. He used the armies of Israel to carry out His righteous judgment.
But what about the children?
God commanded the complete destruction of entire pagan people groups to prevent them from being future antagonists of Israel and leading future Jewish generations to chase after false gods. God also warns of potential future ungodly unions. Deuteronomy 7:3-4 shares,
“You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods.”
Obviously God is serious about Holiness and His people being set apart.
Question: Does God know the future?
God foresaw the future of the Canaanites and because of their hard hearted nature and their love of sin, He knew the Canaanites would not be repenting and following after Him. In ordering the deaths of children and babies, He was actually extending grace and mercy. These young innocent children who were destined for hell because their future generations would not repent nor acknowledge the God of Israel, found an eternal home in Heaven. God’s judgment resulted in their salvation.
Scholar William Lane Craig writes,
‘Nothing could so illustrate to the Israelis the seriousness of their calling as a people set apart for God alone. Yahweh is not to be trifled with. He means business, and if Israel apostasizes the same could happen to her. As C.S. Lewis puts it “Aslan is not a tame lion.”‘
He may not be tame, but He is righteous and holy.
God knows best.