Cruelty In The Bible?
Did God really tell them to exterminate seven nations?
THE CLAIMED CRUELTY: After the Exodus he ordered the Israelites to exterminate the men, women, and children of seven nations and steal their land (Deuteronomy 7:1-2);
Should evil be stopped? Should evil be punished? Or should those who do evil be allowed to continue? What do you think? If there is justice... yes, those who do evil should be stopped and punished... whether they are individuals or nations.
So... what does Deuteronomy 7:1-2 say?
When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. - Deuteronomy 7:1-2
God is telling Israel; to go into the land that was generally known as Canaan, and He will clear away the nations that are living in that land, using the Israelite to utterly destroy them. Why does God do that? The answer in in Deuteronomy 9 in which God makes it clear that He is not giving Israel; this l;and because they are such good (righteous) people, but because the people living there are wicked.:
Do not say in your heart when the Lord your God has driven them out before you, "Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land," but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. 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.
Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people. - Deuteronomy 9:4-6
God makes His point very clear with repetition. This has nothing to do with you Israel. You have done nothing to deserve this land. You are not righteous. He is doing this because the people who live there are so wicked and must receive what is due them for their wickedness. Evil must be punished, and the time has come for this evil to be punished.
Over 500 years before this God told Abraham that the people living in what would be Canaan were evil, and their wickedness would increase. They were evil people, but God was going to wait, giving them over 500 years to change their ways. What incredible grace and mercy!
God said to Abram, Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, [Egypt] where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete. - Genesis 15:13-16
God tells Abraham exactly what will happen, giving him a summary of what is coming. The Amorites were the major tribe living in what would be Canaan, and God reveals that they are evil, and that their wickedness will not decrease, but will grow. They will have 500 years to change their ways, but they won't.
So was God's plan to utterly destroy the people living in the land of Canaan cruel or harsh?
Not at all. It was incredibly merciful. They were wicked. In His incredible patience, love and mercy God had given them over 500 years to change their ways, but they had only grown more wicked. And while God was giving them time to change their ways, the Israelites were waiting... held in captivity as slaves in Egypt.
Finally God's patience comes to end. It's been a long, long time and the only change has been that they gotten worse. It is time to bring the evil to an end. The evil must be utterly destroyed, and God plans to use Israel. But notice in Deuteronomy 7:1-2, those evil nations are much stronger and more powerful than Israel. It is God who will bring victory. Israel cannot take any credit for defeating them.
Conclusion: God is not cruel, He was incredibly patient, full of grace and mercy. And the final judgment, utter destruction, was the just and fair consequence of their wickedness.
Next example: He killed King Davids baby because of Davids adultery with Bathsheba (II Samuel 12:13-18);
Click here to learn what God was doing...