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In The Old Testament Why Does a God of Love Destroy Entire Nations?

Our Christian faith teaches us that God is love (1 John 4:8). We also know that He demonstrates that love by sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins (Romans 5:8). According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 love is the preeminent virtue and will last for all eternity. In addition Jesus taught us to love our enemies and on the cross He cries out to the Father to forgive those who are trying to kill him. So if this is the God we Christians serve, how does he appear so different in the Old Testament?

As I began to research some of the genocides ordered by God, I did see some things that may help us to understand. Keep in mind, none of us understands God 100% of the time, but any revelation always helps our perspective.

We begin with the Lord wiping out the entire human race with the exception of Noah, Noah’s wife, their three daughters and the daughter’s husbands. This is what the account of this action by God is said in Genesis 6:5-7. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. And the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.’”

I think a clue is in the phrase “and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This suggests that the level of evil was constant and widespread. If it were something less I don’t think God would have destroyed everyone.

The next story of obliteration of entire peoples is Sodom and Gomorrah. In Genesis 18:20-33 we have the account of the Lord telling Abraham of His intent to wipe these two cities off the map. The clue again is found in verse 20. “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.”

Apparently the degree of evil was such that the existence of these cities was cancerous. What is interesting is in the rest of the passage Abraham discusses with the Lord would he wipe out every living person if there were 50 righteous people there? God’s answer is a resounding no!

Abraham then proceeds to negotiate God down to the point if 10 righteous were found, would the Lord spare the entire city. God says he would. We find out that there are only 4 righteous people: Lot, his wife, and two daughters. Therefore, the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah is settled. The good news is the Lord gets Lot and his family out of the city before He destroys it completely.

The next extinction of people is in the books of Exodus through Joshua where God commands the children of Israel to wipe out all the seven nations in the Promised Land. The reason for this complete devastation is so the Israelites wouldn’t be tempted to serve their horrible gods. Again research indicates that the level of debauchery was immense, and the Lord did not want that influence to corrupt His chosen people.

The most interesting situation involves the Amalekites. These were a group of people who unprovoked attacked the nation of Israel. As a result the Lord wanted Israel at a later date to completely wipe them out (Exodus 17:14).

Israel does not completely destroy the Amalekites. The only Amalekite name mentioned is King Agag. Centuries later we come upon the story of Esther in the book named after her. The background is Persia is now the most powerful country on the earth. The Israelites were a conquered people, but still persisted in worshipping the true God.

In the Esther story, there is a bad guy by the name of Haman who is a descendant of Agag. In other words Haman is an Amalekite. Haman is a high up official who expected ultimate respect from all the people. Esther’s uncle Mordecai refuses to bow down to Haman. Haman finds out Mordecai was a Jew and therefore wanted to destroy the entire Jewish population of Persia, essentially a holocaust.

Through a series of events Haman is exposed and the king has him hanged. But here is the point; God must have known that if any Amalekite lived then the entire nation of Israel would be destroyed. Now it makes more sense as to why God wanted to destroy the Amalekites.

One more thing to ponder! Our loving God says that those who reject Jesus as their Savior will spend an eternity in Hell. Hell being the total absence of God. So this says that even our “New Testament” God talks about complete destruction.

Until we get to heaven the destruction of entire nations will remain somewhat of a puzzle. While that is hard to grasp, the evidence is overwhelming that God truly loves people and desires no one to perish. That we can be certain!

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