How could God condone genocide or extermination?

The Question: In the Old Testament, God commands Israel to wipe out various nations, including women and children. How can a ‘good’ God condone genocide or extermination, much less order his followers to kill innocent women and children?

God does indeed order the complete destruction of several nations in Samuel and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament and in other areas of the Bible shows what could be considered at first glance as unjust and even violent actions and commands against various peoples who may be ‘innocent’. This is an interesting topic and relates to the similar question of: how can a ‘good’ God ‘let’ bad things happen to good people?

As with the ‘how can God let bad things happen’ question, firstly it has to be taken into account that we as humans can’t fully understand God’s reasoning or his designs (Isaiah 55:9, Romans 11:33-36).

I’m not trying to say the ‘we cannot understand God’ answers all questions we as Christian’s are otherwise unable to come up with anything for; I’m pointing out that, taking into consideration the God we believe in is all powerful, exists outside of time (has experienced the past, present and future) and possesses all knowledge, it stands to reason that we, as humans could not even hope to fully understand the reasons and thought processes a being like that would have, it is simply impossible for us.

But that aside, I think there are some points that can be made in regards to this topic. Obviously I’m looking at this from the perspective of someone who believes in God and everything that entails, because if we are discussing the question of ‘why would God condone genocide or extermination’ it has to be under the pretense that God exists and is indeed all powerful etc. as the Bible says and that the Bible is historically accurate and true… If arguments are made against these responses with the basis that God doesn’t exist or the Bible isn’t accurate or whatnot that is really a completely separate topic entirely and would be addressed as such.

Firstly I’d point out that God created humans to begin with (not to mention all life), as well as life beyond what we know (aka, what happens after we die). In comparison to eternity we live an incredibly brief period of time before dying, so looking at that from the perspective of God, a person having a few extra years of life on this earth must seem so miniscule it would hardly be noticeable. From a humans perspective our years on earth are all we know and thus what we deem most important; so to us having a life ‘cut short’ as it were, is a huge deal, but to God I wouldn’t imagine it is.

Secondly God exists outside of time. He knows what each individual’s life that he commanded his people to destroy would have been had they not been killed, and he is a God of justice and mercy. I believe that His judgement of those people whether they would have died in their mother’s womb or died at 200 years old would be the same and that it would be/will be fair and true. So who are we to say he is ‘bad’ for reducing the number of years they got to live on this earth when he is the one that gave them life in the first place?

Thirdly and this ties in to the previous point, is that God knew what the outcome would be of those nations surviving and we see the results in the Bible as Israel disobeyed God and did not destroy them all. It ultimately led to the downfall of Israel and their enslavement and suffering.

Israel was God’s chosen people, a nation that followed God’s commands and statutes when other nations did not. Is God ‘evil’ for telling his chosen people what they needed to do in order to have prosperity and security? God knew the hearts of the people of those nations he ordered destroyed and knew what would happen to Israel if they lived. I don’t think He ordered their destruction because he didn’t love them and certainly not because he is ‘bad’. I believe he did it because He knew how they were living and their hearts and knew each of their futures and if they were not completely destroyed he knew they would cause great suffering and tragedy to Israel. I think He ordered their destruction because of their past, present and future actions, because of the choices they made, were making, and would continue to make.

So let me put it to you a slightly different way. How many people, if given the absolute knowledge of a serial killer’s past, present and future would say that person should be killed? Is there an ‘appropriate’ time for their life to be cut short, for example, is it only acceptable to have them killed after he or she murders their first victim? If we had absolute knowledge of their past, present and future and knew what they were going to do, is it even morally acceptable to allow them to exist at any stage in their life? How many people if given the option would not have the terrorists who crashed planes into the World Trade Center killed before they committed that atrocity if they had timeless, absolute knowledge of them and the power to cut their lives short?

If we, as flawed humans with different moral compasses and ideals and values have trouble answering the above question, how can we question God’s decisions on that same subject or pretend that we know better? God could have just wiped out those nations he told Israel to destroy instead of commanding them to do it, why didn’t He? Why order His people to do it, especially knowing they would leave some alive and that would be their downfall? God could have just caused those nations to not be born at all for that matter, eliminating the problem entirely…

I believe God has our best interests in mind, and I believe He has plans for our lives and loves us all. I believe He also gave us free will and won’t ‘prevent’ us from making bad choices or disobeying Him or doing things He knows will bring us problems and pain. I believe He does that because He wants our love and faith in return and that cannot be ‘forced’. Love and faith cannot be coerced through circumstances or control.

I think we are responsible for our actions and the actions of others and that as long as evil is in the world we will have to deal with the results of that. I think that trying to say that God isn’t good because of something we think or decide he should or could have done is absolutely foolish and ignorant.

I don’t believe God answers to us nor owes us anything, I don’t believe God exists to give rewards to ‘good’ people or to punish ‘bad’ people, nor is He people’s wish-granting genie. I do believe He is right and just and merciful, and that He loves us despite our actions and thoughts against Him. I believe He desires a personal relationship with us, and that by following Him we can find real purpose and peace in this life. is a site devoted to addressing questions frequently asked about Christianity and arguments made against Christians or the Christian religion and/or about God and/or Jesus Christ.

All the views and beliefs expressed on The Frequently Asked Christians website are from individual’s and are their personal belief and understanding of the subject matter. We are not claiming ultimate authority or knowledge on any subject or area addressed in the website, nor are we claiming to speak on behalf of all (or any aside from ourselves) people of the Christian faith.

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6 thoughts on “How could God condone genocide or extermination?”

  1. Your entire argument is circular and presuppositionalist– “I believe God is good and loves us so therefore anything that he does is proof that he’s good and loves us.” Your claim is also your evidence, and your evidence comes from a set of beliefs that reference themselves. It’s a bit like when Nixon said that the president doesn’t commit crimes because when the president does it, it’s not a crime.

    To your first point, god is supposed to be all knowing so does he choose not to consider our perspective or does it just not matter very much to him? Is he unknowing or uncaring? Why does god choose not to know or not to care if he is, as you say, good and loving?

    Secondly, I’ve always found arguments like this to sound a bit like defending an abusive parent. God made me so god can destroy me? God knew I would sin and where I would go after I died so he brought me to life only to kill me. What’s the point of that exactly? And, why do you consider that to be good or loving?

    Your third point seems to negate the entire point of free will. God believes that an entire nation of people is beyond redemption so he must destroy them yet you say that he doesn’t try to coerce or control us? Killing a nation of people to prevent them from destroying themselves sounds an awful lot like control to me. And he must burden humans with the task which will cause intense emotional distress and also ensure that not everyone will die and thus ensure our downfall. What exactly is supposed to be the downfall that you describe which arose from letting some live? I’m having trouble viewing this as the perfect plan of a perfect being who loves us and wants what’s best for us. At best, god is imperfect and making a lot of guesses that he thinks will result in the best possible outcome but has no idea that he’s actually hurting us. At worst, humans are killing other humans and using god to justify it.

    Your argument focuses on one instance in the Bible of god killing humans. What of the others? The flood comes to mind. It wasn’t a human that made it rain so long that the entire world would be flooded. And, in this scenario, god didn’t just kill the unrighteous., if we’re to assume that every human killed was unrighteous. He also killed many animals and plants and fungi and microorganisms. Why did they all deserve to die? If the belief is that the unrighteous would destroy the world then why kill anyone but the unrighteous? What about the plagues of Egypt? Did god know that the first born son of every person who didn’t splatter their front door with red would grow up to be an unrepentant sinner that would destroy a nation? What about Job’s children? Their father was the most loving and loyal of god’s followers and they died simply to test that love and loyalty. How did god not know how loyal and loving and devoted Job was if he knows everything? How did he not know that Job would continue to worship him? You’re arguing that he knows every past, present, and future actions of all those people he destroyed or had destroyed but he didn’t know those of his most loyal follower?

    And keep in mind that all this is speculation on your part– a justification by someone with a very clear bias. This is not the word of god. You’re interpreting his actions as good because you believe that he is good. But to someone without this bias, these actions don’t sound good at all. They sound confusing, contradictory, and extremely harmful to life. I think the biggest and most frightening issue with this unwavering belief in god’s goodness is that any act committed in his name can be justified as righteous. The very actions that you’re defending– humans commiting genocide as a command from god– would literally be considered terrorism today.

    Here’s a bit of a tangential question– how do you know that the Bible itself isn’t a test? Like, you’ve been handed down this book for generations with everyone saying that it’s the infallible word of god and to believe it without question but what if that’s not what god wants? What if god is actually using the bible to separate those who are good and loving with no promise of a reward or fear of punishment and those who would use his name to justify murder if they thought it would make them more righteous? Maybe the bible is meant to separate the wheat (those who do what’s right regardless of what they believe might happen to them) from the chafe (those who will do and believe and justify whatever they need to in order to get into heaven)?

    1. Hi Alicia, firstly thank you for taking the time to comment/question, I really appreciate it and you obviously are thinking about these topics seriously which is great to see. I have formulated some (long winded, I apologize) thoughts on your comments.

      So to start off with your first item. I think you might be misunderstanding what I’m saying. My point isn’t “I believe God is good and loves us so therefore anything that he does is PROOF that He’s good and loves us.” Per-say. My point is that if God is indeed God, then the bottom line is He IS good (because He is God), because He says He is. So let me put this another way, if the creator of everything in the universe makes a statement about the universe or a creates a law of the universe or anything like that, that thing is TRUE/REAL/EXISTS (because He is God and has made it so).

      So in essence, the argument really is that God is God, which is the presupposition, if that makes sense. And that is essentially the ultimate question really isn’t it… Is there an all-powerful creator (aka God)? You may want to check out the post which sort of speaks to that. Bottom line being someone who doesn’t believe in God cannot PROVE God doesn’t exist, someone who does believe in God cannot PROVE God does exist even if they were to perform miracles in front of you, if God were to appear and talk to you, etc.

      I would suggest that if you want to know the truth that you ask God if He exists to reveal Himself to you and seek those things and I guarantee you if you are genuinely searching for Him that He will reveal Himself in a way that speaks to you personally and will begin to grow a faith in you based on experience with Him (not a blind faith as so many people seem to think that is all followers of Christ have).

      Once you start down that path you will begin to experience the ‘goodness’ of God. We can discuss and or argue about how God is ‘good’ or not for eternity but it’s relatively meaningless if it’s not grounded in any experience personally. I know God is ‘good’ (based on my limited human understanding of ‘good’) because He has proven Himself to be ‘good’ and do what is best for those who follow Him.

      We can try and make claims that God isn’t ‘good’ based on our extremely limited comprehension of life and existence, but those claims are extraordinarily weak considering our position.

      So I guess my question back to you would be: Why SHOULD God, who knows all (if He is indeed God) be expected to ‘consider our perspective’ so to speak? What are you supposing God would gain by considering our perspective or what are you expecting He might change or do differently from considering our perspective?

      I think God does indeed consider our perspective already (again, because He is good and works things for our good), but I’m not really understanding why you or any other person would EXPECT God to consider our perspective as if we are in some sort of position to offer anything useful to Him in terms of making decisions. But perhaps I’m not understanding what you mean by that.

      I believe that God does indeed know AND care, and again not because of a blind faith based in nothing, but because of my experiences with God, because of the experiences of other’s with God (lots in the Bible about this), etc.

      Regarding the abuse parent item. Again it sort of goes back to the ‘God is God’ concept. God CAN do whatever He wants, because He is God. That doesn’t mean that God arbitrarily destroys people just because He ‘can’ though.

      But regardless I think you are missing the point I was making. “God made me so god can destroy me? God knew I would sin and where I would go after I died so he brought me to life only to kill me. What’s the point of that exactly?” See this question right here is why I think God ensured the Bible was preserved for thousands of years, because it gives the exact answers to this critical question…
      God made you to have a good relationship with you. When humans ‘sinned’, separating themselves from God, God in His mercy choose to bring about a way of redemption by sacrificing Himself in the form of Christ for us to pave a way for us to be reconciled to Him. The Bible tells of that incredible journey.

      Now, you and anyone else can just say “Well why go through all that trouble and the complexity, and why create humans in the first place knowing they would sin and then have us exist with pain and sickness and all those things and go through a difficult and often painful life FINALLY to (maybe) end up in heaven with God? Why not just skip all that and have us in heaven from the get go?”
      That’s an excellent question and one I really don’t have an explanation for, there are aspects of free-will and other things that I believe are involved with it, but nothing where I could say ‘THIS reason is why God did that.’ Per-say, and I’m not sure if we can ever really comprehend God’s choices and motives especially with such large scale things like this.

      All that being said though, I as a human am thankful to God for the life He has provided me (even though it is sometimes difficult and painful). Additionally, I will say, I am more thankful for the life He has promised me in the future.
      So I guess you can look at life with either of those two perspectives, you can rage at God and say, “How could you make me exist! How dare you do this to me! I want a life full of perfect health and wealth and anything I desire and if you don’t do things the way I want then you are bad!” type thing, or you can say, “I’m thankful for the ‘good’ things I have experienced in this life, but moreso (especially to those who have experienced very little ‘good’ in this life) I’m really thankful for the eternal future in heaven you have made for me.”

      One life will be full of bitterness and disappointment and unfulfillment and anger REGARDLESS of how many ‘good’ things are in that life or how great their life is (people who ‘should’ be happy according to the world’s standards, aka wealthy, popular, healthy, etc. are typically very unhappy). The other life will be full of meaning and comfort and peace and purpose DESPITE their circumstances and how difficult their life is. To me it’s a very simple choice which one is better…

      So on the point of free will and control. It seems from what you are saying that you’ve got it a bit backwards. Free will is the reason evil exists in the lives of humans in the first place! Hence the wars and ‘bad’ things people do (although if God isn’t real and good and evil are just social constructs then are they really ‘bad’ things?).

      So, you are essentially doing the same thing you are accusing God of doing, by calling into question God’s plans from the perspective of you as human believing you know what is ‘better’ for people or what outcomes will be the result of different choices, the difference is again though, that God (if He is God) actually DOES KNOW the results of those things, hence He is the ONLY one who would be capable and competent to direct people. HOWEVER, notice that He doesn’t FORCE anyone to do anything, and in many cases throughout the Bible, people do NOT listen to Him and you can see the results of those choices… So I’d say in fact the history of the Bible and the experience of people that follow God proves that God does indeed know what is best, and has our best interest in mind, EVEN and perhaps ESPECIALLY when we think we know better.

      Regarding the flood, I think again you are making your own presuppositions in this scenario. Your presupposition is again that you know better than God or that your morals are superior or that you know that a different scenario would have resulted in a ‘better’ (whatever metric you may define or believe to be ‘better’ is) outcome.

      The question of ‘Why did they all deserve to die.’ is also based on a premise/presupposition of ‘We all deserve to live.’ Isn’t it? So lets look at that… Why do you deserve to live? Why do I or anyone else deserve to live? I speak for myself only but I can say that I haven’t done anything to ‘deserve’ to live that I can see or understand. I don’t really think anyone else has either, and I think it kind of goes back to the main point of, if God is God, then He knows everything and everyone and what people WILL or WOULD do in their lives regardless of whether they live them or not, THEREFORE, He is the only one capable of making those choices or giving those directions BECAUSE, He is the ONLY one that knows the outcomes.

      HOWEVER, even all that being said, He is also still God and can still choose to do what He wills to do regardless. But the character of God is ‘good’, not ‘evil’, and even from our limited understanding of what good and evil are, we can see from the experiences everyone who has trusted in Him have had throughout the Bible and history and in our day now and in my life personally demonstrate that He is, has been and will continue to be good to us.

      The other part of this is the assumption that life on this earth is what is most important and good, and thus if a ‘life’ on this earth is ‘cut short’ as it were (for example, Job’s children), that therefore, God is ‘bad’ because He didn’t give someone a hundred years of life on this earth but only gave them 50, or 30, or 1, etc. I think again this is a foolish way of thinking considering that God desires us to have life with Him eternal, and in comparison to eternity, a hundred years or even a thousand years on this earth is such an insignificant amount it seems barely worth mentioning. Yet, because it’s the only existence we know, it is everything to us, and thus seems to be of course ‘good’ if we get a ‘average’ number of years to live on this earth and ‘bad’ to us if we don’t get those average numbers of years.

      The area that really pulls on my heartstrings regarding this is baby’s that die. As a father I can tell you there isn’t anything more precious to me in this world including my own life than the life of my children. Baby’s that die in the womb or shortly after being born or in the first few years of life when they are so helpless and innocent is such a difficult thing to comprehend and deal with. And I’ll be honest I don’t know how people cope without Christ and the Word of God to comfort them, because when we had our first miscarriage it was the knowledge that our baby was with Christ that was the only comfort we had. Sure it would have been great to see that child grow and experience some years of life on this earth with them, however in the grand scheme of things, I’m just as excited (perhaps moreso) to see them in the next life and I’m not bitter or angry that they didn’t get a few years in this life EVEN if this life would be perfect in every way for them, because it doesn’t really hold a candle to eternity with Christ regardless of how ‘good’ this life may have been.

      So to the next point, I wouldn’t say speculation on my part no, because speculation is generally considered theoretical with very little or no evidence to support it (at least that’s what I think of when I think of speculation, maybe I’m not defining it correctly). Again it goes back to the experience and history of God’s people, which is what my faith and ‘bias’ is based off of, although I’m not sure it can be considered ‘bias’ in that context either.

      I’m interpreting His actions as ‘good’ because again of that experience and history we have with God that shows His goodness. That being said, I certainly wouldn’t expect you or anyone else who doesn’t have that experience or perspective to share that, which is why I’d go back to seek God and He will reveal Himself to you and start to show you who He is for yourself.

      Again, we can discuss and argue and go back and forth for a thousand years, but it’s ultimately meaningless if there is not tangible experience to put things into perspective for you. People can ‘know’ everything there is to know about God and His Word and the history and all that, but knowledge doesn’t change anything, it’s only when we start to seek God and to find out for ourselves and begin to be changed by Him and experience His goodness that we can really appreciate who God is and what He does and that is where that trust in God comes from. Not from thin air like your arguments suppose.

      The last comment you have regarding the Bible being God’s Word, I have written an article on that one already, I’d suggest you check it out as a starting point:

      But also you are making some assumptions about followers of Christ that I think should be cleared up. No where does God ask His people to ‘believe without question’. In fact, you look at all the ‘famous’ men of God in the Bible and pretty much every single one did a whole lot of ‘questioning’. Additionally and maybe more importantly, and I feel like I keep repeating this so I apologize, each of them began an experiential walk with God, their faith in God and His goodness growing based on the experience they had with Him, not because God ‘told’ them to have more faith.

      You look at Abraham, who went up to sacrifice to God with nothing but his son Isaac… He KNEW, because of the experience he had with God up to that point, that God was good and that even if Abraham himself didn’t understand the plan or the circumstance that God was still good. He wasn’t willing to kill his son because he had blind faith in God. He was willing to kill his son Isaac because He knew God was good and would turn that seemingly terrible situation for good EVEN though it was God that told him to sacrifice Isaac in the fist place.

      So to sum up, I think one of the main presuppositions you are making in all your arguments is that you as a human know better than God who, if He is God, knows everything including all possible outcomes, whereas you as a human cannot, and thus can not be in any position to judge God’s decisions with any sort of accuracy or reasonable competency in terms of determining what is ‘wrong’ or ‘right’, EVEN if we as humans had a perfect understand of wrong/right good/evil, etc. which we clearly do not.

      So, I would humbly suggest re-evaluating your arguments/questions and posing new ones without that bias and those pre-suppositions that essentially invalidate them in their entirety. And I’m not trying to be facetious or condescending and I think they are all great questions/arguments, but if you are interested in the truth you’ve got to strip away the things that hide it as it were to get the root of the issues.

      The other main thing I see in your arguments is the assumption and position that life on this earth is the most important thing, which in comparison to eternity starts to put things into a different perspective. So with that in mind, I think it might change the direction of some of your arguments/questions, and of course that all goes back to the presupposition we started with at the very beginning! Is God really God or not? Because IF God is really God, then you can’t make those kind of assumptions in your questions as they all sort of fall apart without that presupposition.

      I suppose if we are going to try and discuss whether or not God is ‘good’, it MUST be under the pretense that God is God and real and all-powerful all-knowing (otherwise He is not God after all) and that eternity and Heaven are real based on what God has told us from His Word recorded from His followers. If not, then those other pretenses must be investigated first (Is God really God, is eternity/heaven real, is the Bible really God’s Word. Etc.) because without those truths and answers underlying the foundations of the other questions (is God good for example) we’ll never reach any sort of productive discussion that can lead to the truth of those questions either…

      I hope this wasn’t too long winded and I hope you aren’t offended of put-off by any of my wording, please know that wasn’t my intention and I’m not saying any of these things in that way. It’s difficult to convey tone in writing but please know I’m writing/responding in a tone of sincerity and respect and genuine interest.

      – Timothy

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