Did God Commit Atrocities by Ordering the Killing of Entire Cities of People?

by Rich Deem

The God in the Old Testament seems to have many personalities; cruel, unjust, kind, loving, etc.”1 There are, however, two major areas which we humans have a difficult time reconciling – God’s love vs. God’s righteousness. God is loving, but God’s love requires God’s justice. As I discipline my three children when they disobey, God disciplines us if we don’t meet His requirements. The problem for us is that we cannot keep all of God’s laws because of our selfishness and self-centeredness.2 God would have been completely just and loving in destroying all of us for our disobedience to Him. It is only through His extraordinary love and grace that we are allowed into His presence.

Atrocities by God?

If you were to read atheist’s websites, you will often find complaints that the God of the Bible arbitrarily ordered the destruction of entire cities, such as Jericho, just to allow the Jews to have a homeland in the Middle East. How could a loving God command the destruction of all those “innocent” people? The argument sounds good, but it is utterly false. The unstated assumption is that the people who God ordered destroyed were morally equivalent to the Jews, who replaced them. However, this is what the Bible says about the people who were destroyed:

“It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 9:5)

Okay, how “wicked” could those people have been? How about killing their own sons and daughters by burning them in sacrifices to their gods:

“You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:31)

The wickedness of these people is confirmed in other verses of the Bible.3 So we see that these people are not quite as innocent as the atheists would like you to believe…

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Did God Commit Atrocities by Ordering the Killing of Entire Cities of People?