God Kills, but God is Good

One of the hardest things to explain to children, is how God has killed many people in the past, and will kill many people in the future, but He is still good.  Even as adults, we can struggle with this aspect of God.  I personally find this hard to grasp sometimes, and to explain.  It is probably something we will never fully understand until we are face to face with our Lord and Savior.

I personally know many who profess to be a Christian, but really struggle with this aspect of God.  They struggle so much so that they have convinced themselves that parts of the Bible cannot be true.  The below are just a few examples of things people cannot believe are true.

  • God flooding the earth, killing every living creature upon the face of the earth, with the exception of eight people and the animals on the ark (Genesis 7:21-231 Peter 3:20)
  • During the conquest of Canaan, God ordered the complete destruction of entire cities and nations; men, women, children and animals.  They were the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and the Jebusites (Deuteronomy 20:16-17). And Joshua did what God had told him (Joshua 10:40).
  • God killing Egyptian first born (12:29-30).

The Old Testament records God killing multitudes of people, and some people want to believe this makes Him a murderer.  The misconception that “killing” and “murder” are synonymous is partially based on the King James mis-translation of the sixth commandment, which reads, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).  However, the word kill is a translation of the Hebrew word ratsach, which nearly always refers to intentional killing without cause.  The correct rendering of this word is “murder,” and all modern translations render the command as “You shall not murder.”  The Bible in Basic English best conveys its meaning: “Do not put anyone to death without cause.”

So to kill and to murder are different things. Murder is “the premeditated, unlawful taking of a life,” whereas killing is, more generally, “the taking of a life.”  The same Law that forbids murder permits killing in self-defense (Exodus 22:2).

In order for God to commit murder, He would have to act “unlawfully.”  We must recognize that God is God.  “His works are perfect, and all His ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 11:7). He created man and expects obedience (Exodus 20:4-6).  When man takes it upon himself to disobey God, he faces God’s wrath (Leviticus 26:14-18).  Furthermore, “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.  If man does not turn back, He will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready” (Psalm 7:11-12).

Some argue that executing the innocent is murder; thus, when God wipes out whole cities, He is committing murder.  However, nowhere in Scripture can we find where God killed “innocent” people.  In fact, compared to God’s holiness, there is no such thing as an “innocent” person.  All have sinned (Romans 3:23), and the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23a).  God has “just cause” to wipe us all out; the fact that He doesn’t is proof of His mercy.

When God chose to destroy all mankind in the Flood, He was totally justified in doing so: “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5).

During the conquest of Canaan, why did God order the complete destruction of entire cities and nations?  Israel was God’s instrument of judgment against the Canaanites, who were evil, almost beyond what we can imagine today: “You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates.  They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.” (Deuteronomy 12:31).  Their utter annihilation was commanded to prevent Israel from following their ways: “Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 20:18; Deuteronomy 12:29-30).

Even in God’s judgments in the Old Testament, God offered mercy.  For example, when God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, God promised Abraham that He would spare the whole city in order to save ten righteous people there.  God did destroy those cities, because ten righteous people could not be found.  But He did save righteous Lot and his family (Genesis 18:32Genesis 19:152 Peter 2:7).  Later, God destroyed Jericho, but He saved Rahab the harlot and her family in response to Rahab’s faith (Joshua 6:25Hebrews 11:31).  So God is always merciful, even during his judgments.

Every person dies in God’s own time (Hebrews 9:27Genesis 3:19).  Jesus holds the keys of death (Revelation 1:18).  Does the fact that everyone experiences physical death make God a killer?  In the sense that He could prevent all death, yes.  He allows us to die.  But He is no murderer.  Death is part of the human experience because we brought it into the world ourselves (Romans 5:12).  One day, as John Donne put it, “Death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”  God, in His grace, has conquered death for those who are in Christ, and one day that truth will be fully realized: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).

God is faithful to His word.  He will destroy the wicked, and He holds the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. (2 Peter 2:9).  But He has also promised that the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23b).

Somethings to remember:

  • It is just to punish evil, so if God is good and just, then He must punish evil.
  • Since God created us, it is not wrong for Him to decide when to move a person from this life into the next life. God has that authority.
  • God’s moral standard is far above our earthly view of a moral standard.
  • God can see the “ripple” events of everything, and we cannot.   So something that is evil, might cause a lot of good in the future.  God knows how everything interacts with each other, and the ramifications of all actions.
  • God is totally sovereign and can do what He wants, when He wants, and how He wants.  We are His creation, and He is the Creator.

Check out the below video of Frank Turek from Cross Examined as he answers a difficult question from an atheist student.

Objection: I Can’t Believe In God Because Of The Atrocities He Commits In The Bible

Your children are undoubtedly being told untruths about God and His character at school, so it would be wise for you to talk to them about this topic.  Find out their beliefs, then share what the Bible says.

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Ken Leaman

Ken Leaman has a passion for students, and for over 30 years has been volunteering within churches and other ministries, leading and mentoring students. These churches are:

Ken works for Amazon Web Services as a Support Operations Manager. Ken has also served on the boards of other non-profits like the DFW Technology Prayer Breakfast, and the DFW Help Desk Institute.

Ken, and his wife Karen, have been married for 31 years, and have a 30 year old son. They live in Allen, TX, just North of Dallas.

As Ken and Karen repeatedly witnessed many Christian students who were active within the Church walk away from their faith shortly after graduating high school, they grew frustrated.  Studies show that about 70% of young adults leave their faith after graduation, which is a huge issue since they are the future of the Church.  After much prayer and searching God's direction for many years, the Leaman's felt His calling to start a ministry to address this problem.  In 2014, they gathered like minded Christian professionals to help begin Young Adults of Worth Ministries.  We believe that this ministry is from God, and it will be blessed by Him for His glory alone.