Why did God order the Israelites to kill children?

Discussion in 'Defending the Faith' started by tellville, Jun 19, 2009.

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  1. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    I thought I did address it.

    At any other time in history the man would have been sinning in stabbing the prophet. But that time, it was just the opposite. It was a sin not to. And there isn't any moral relativism or arbitrariness involved.

    Just like killing babies. You could go down to Compton or up to SanFran and find a crack house with the same sorts of people or worse than were in Canaan, and it would be a sin to kill their babies. The degree of sin involved has nothing to do with the law against killing babies. God forbids it, just like he forbids marrying a whore

    or anything else He says to do. If God says to do something, by it's very nature the action isn't sinful, and not arbitrary or morally relative.
  2. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    If you think that the exact same scenario was seen as good at one point and bad at another, then relativism follows. You even said yourself that good and evil are relative earlier!

    Anyway, the key to understanding how this doesn't make good and evil contingent on God's decree (but rather on His nature) is to understand that it is always wrong to kill a man who has not committed a capital crime when God has not ordered it, but it is always right to do so when God has ordered it. Because in the latter case, one would be acting in God's stead, and God obviously has the right to take life.
  3. Neogillist

    Neogillist Puritan Board Freshman

    I think God commanded the Isrealites to kill the Canaanites along with their women and children because of the political and cultural circumstances of the time. All the cultures in those days were racist, including the Israelites themselves who would not have been very willing to take care of those children and mothers, but at best to use them as slaves. If they had exiled them, then some other clan would have used them as slaves too, not solving the problem. Moreover, the children could have strongly resented the slaughter of their parents and been a danger to the Israelites themselves as they grew older. Hence, God commanded to destroy them along with the parents to alleviate their sufferings and ensure that the Canaanite culture would be annihilated as a whole. Besides, it would have probably been more painful for the children to stay alive and be turned into slaves after seeing all surroundings being destroyed. That God commanded it, however, does not imply that he took delight in infanticides, but rather that he chose to work within and along the political and cultural setting of the Israelites.
  4. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    The Canaanites were exterminated as an act of divine judgment for their wickedness. God specifically set apart the Israelites to be his instruments of judgment. Yes, there is typology at work as well. But God does not violate his own law just to make a theological point. It's contrary to his righteous nature to violate his law. It is similar to the case of the civil magistrate bearing the sword of justice. Man cannot take justice into his own hands. God has put in place the standards and rules. He does not countermand his own law in order to enact the death penalty. He simply grants to the guilty party what he deserves, rather than granting mercy. In the case of the Canaanites, the entire people were executed justly for their sin, the same judgment we all deserve, even our children. The question you must ask, and what the Israelites should have been asking is, why am I still here? Why have I not recieved the same punishment when I deserve the same judgment as the Canaanites? Why has God spared me? It is God who shows justice or mercy as he sees fit. Either he grants us the justice we deserve, or he lays what we deserve on Christ. He is perfect just and righteous with either option. :2cents:
  5. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I certainly don't believe that God sanctions or engages in moral relativism (thus making Him sinful) or encourages people to do what is in itself sinful. What He does and commands is always in line with His Own Holy Character.

    God had good moral reasons for commanding the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites, including children, just as He has had for sending the multitudinous natural and non-natural disasters that have befallen Mankind. We may only understand these reasons imperfectly but the judge of all the Earth always does what is right.

    Quote from Puritan Sailor
    Yes, there is typology at work as well. But God does not violate his own law just to make a theological point. It's contrary to his righteous nature to violate his law.

    I wasn't necessarily saying that the evident typology of the destruction of the 7 nations of Canaan gave God's moral justification for killing them. Evidently from what the Lord says to Abraham in Genesis 15, one reason was that their wickedness had reached a certain level by the time the Israelites arrived, and God's longsuffering had come to an end. They were given at least another forty years because of the Israelites unbelief. Also the conquest wasn't going to be overnight - just as the Church's conquest of the Earth hasn't been an overnight success.

    The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, for the wild beasts would grow too numerous for you. Deuteronomy 7:22 (NASB)
  6. Hippo

    Hippo Puritan Board Junior

    This is an interesting area because in answering these questions you can really highlight potential theological inconsistencies.

    I disagree with the notion that:

    Something is not good becasue God says it is, it is good because it is absoultely. The key point is that God acts according to his nature and this nature is the definition of good, God will not act against this nature therefore he cannot make an act that would be evil good by saying it is good.

    The reason why killing children is wrong for us is that we would do so out of evil motives, when God kills childresn, or command us to kill children he does so out of purely good motives (i.e. to pucish sin and glorify himself).

    This is the same reason that God is not the author of sin (as explained to me by James White in one of his recent programmes, I never claim to be original) when he decress a creature to commit evil (i.e. to kill a child), in making the decree God has pure motives but the creature in carrying out that decree according to his sinfull will has evil motives and is the author of the sin.

    God commanding the killing of canaanite babies is no different to a modern baby dying of cot death, both occur according to the will of God. The two scenarios cannot be seperated under a Reformed world view.

    The "pure" question really boils down to why do babies die and the answer is because it glorifys God in a way that we will understand one day, all we can do now is to have faith in the nature of God and be thankful that all this pain does have a purpose.
  7. Grimmson

    Grimmson Puritan Board Sophomore

    First of all I agree with what some had already said about infants or children being sinners. Like us all they have been affected by Adam curse as we all have and share in that guilt. Infants do not have it in them to love God with all their heart, mind soul , and strength, with maybe the exception being John the Baptist (am excluding Jesus here). It is true that it was God’s judgment against the people group that God had ordered to kill because of their sin. He wanted the nation blotted out as an example of what is to come by sin.

    There may have been a more practical example however for this practice in the wisdom of God and that is the delay of revenge. We have all read in 1 Samuel that Saul was ordered to destroy the Amalekites and their king Agag. However Saul did not kill the king. Which may be why Haman in Persia wanted to kill the Jews, revenge. So it could have been God means to save future lives of his people as long as they obeyed him. And thus giving an example on how God meant it for good.
  8. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Quote from Grimmson
    First of all I agree with what some had already said about infants or children being sinners. Like us all they have been affected by Adam curse as we all have and share in that guilt. Infants do not have it in them to love God with all their heart, mind soul , and strength, with maybe the exception being John the Baptist

    I don't want to get into an argument about the salvation of infants, but we have no way of knowing if a baby is regenerate until it grows up a bit and indicates one way or the other. This ties in with baptism of infants. The Baptists may say that the Presbyterians are baptising unbelievers; the example of John the Baptist shows that we do not know - if at all - if the child is regenerate before baptism, at baptism or after baptism, until later on. The normal evidences, one way or the other, are lacking.
  9. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    LOTS of children and infants died in the flood. How come we don't seem to have these same questions about that event?
  10. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    Because children were not explicitly commanded to be killed. It's not as if there's really a categorical difference between the two, just that one is more explicit.
  11. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    Exactly my point.
  12. Cranmer1959

    Cranmer1959 Puritan Board Freshman

    I can think of sevaral reasons offhand why in the Old Testament God commanded the genocide of entire tribes or even nations (Amalekites, for example). The first one is the principle of holy war as it was commanded by God. To keep Israel pure from idolatry and disobedience to God they were not to mix with other nations in marriage and religion. In the Ancient Near Eastern cultures the implications of sin extended not just to individuals but to every single individual within that community. To Americans and other modern thinkers this is a foreign language because of our overemphasis on individual freedoms.

    However, even today in national wars every citizen of a country is included when there is a disagreement between two countries. The individuals within a country are treated as part of the larger whole. So when one individual takes from something that is under the ban, the entire clan is wiped out. The president of the United States represents us all. So if the president takes a military action under his executive powers, we all suffer if that decision is a wrong one. In the same way, when Adam sinned we all became guilty of Adam's original sin every bit as much as if we had committed it ourselves because Adam is our federal representative or the head of the human race.

    This perspective helps us to understand the principle of holy war in the OT. God can justly condemn an entire clan, tribe, or even nation based on original sin and on the actual sins of representatives in that group. Whatever the Amalekites did (we're not told) it must have been something the entire nation was held responsible for. Also, let us not forget that in the flood God wiped out every human being on earth, including children, with the exception of Noah and his family.

    Speaking of which, this speaks strongly against the idea that infants or children of unbelieving parents are somehow "elect" by virtue of the age of "innocence." Scripture nowhere promises that the children of unbelievers will be given grace or mercy. That is not to say that we can know for sure if God does so. But it is to say that we do not "know." I strongly suggest that evangelism is the best answer to the problem of unbaptized infants who might die outside the covenant. (Matthew 28:18-21; Acts 2:38-39). Just as circumcision is the sign of the covenant in the OT, so baptism is the sign of God's covenant in the NT. I realize the Reformed Baptists practice believer's baptism but I think the covenantal aspect of the Christian faith is problematic for baptists. If anything, Baptists should be consistent at least with the principle that the promises are only for those in the covenant regardless of whether you hold to paedo baptism or credo baptism. (Acts 2:38-40).

    If we are sincerely concerned about the salvation of children, then we ought to be more aggressive in missions and evangelism!
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2009
  13. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    There is little special revelation on the subject of infant salvation. There may be indications that there is a special atonement for covenant babies, in the account of David's infant son.

    Without a special revelation from God we cannot say one way or the other because we cannot assess them as we can adults, by their speech and actions.

    If there was a special atonement for babies who die, it wouldn't be because they are cute and cuddly as another thread said. Some babies aren't that attractive and some attractive women are referred to as "cute" these days. It would be because babies sin and rebellion is -or appears to be - unconscious but that probably opens another :worms:

    Infants and babies are sinners/sinful. If Christ died for them it would be purely of God's grace and mercy even if they are unconscious in their rebellion, which may not be the case. They are like little serpents, except worse, because serpents aren't moral creatures made in God's Image and Likeness.

    I have no clear evidence from Scripture that Christ did die for them, apart from maybe David's son which indicates that some/many/all covenant children who die in infancy may be regenerate.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2009
  14. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    Somehow I knew the question of infants dying in infancy would be risen.

    I always find it a curious issue, for it seems like most people who defend the view that all infants dying in infancy are elect, they do so on the grounds that God just has to do that (because He's so loving) and move from there. I don't know about members on this board, but that's how I've seen it with other people that I've met. The extreme weakness of this position is that it implies some general innocence in children -- what else would it imply? And what else could be so wrong? "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."

    But when we realize that God would be perfectly just in damning every single human on earth, including infants dying in infancy, then everything is put in proper perspective. Infants are conceived children of wrath, and it is God's right -- not his obligation -- to save them in His mercy. The default state of all infants is wrath.

    I don't think we need to point out the fact that Scripture does not speak specifically on the issue. Scripture also doesn't say whether all left-handed thirty-year-old Asian chefs who die will be elect, probably because they're already understood to be sinners. We know that God can kill children who have not reached the "age of accountability" and that He does. Do we really need a specific passage that says, "God does not save every infant dying in infancy" in order to be swayed?

    I don't know, sometimes I just get the impression that people (not all) say that there isn't enough Scriptural support either way because they don't want to say that God damns infants dying in infancy. It's easier to tell an unbelieving couple "I don't know" than to tell them the sad truth. But I don't want to impugn anyone who sincerely believes there is limited Scriptural evidence. I might just be more confident in my position.

  15. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    I say there is not enough scriptural proof either way because... there is not enough scriptural proof either way. I can leave it at that. If I were to say they all definitely deserve hell, scripture supports that view. Beyond that I tread into areas God has ordained that we not wander. I will not be surprised that all are saved, some are saved, or none are saved. God will be fully glorified in any of those cases.
  16. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Ben you've gone a bit overboard. "I don't know" is a good answer. And truth isn't sad, whatever it is, and neither of us know what it is. In addition there are other options open. A human egg fertilized ten minutes ago that is naturally aborted or not used in an implant but destroyed isn't necessarily going either to heaven for eternity or to hell for eternity. Perhaps, but we just don't know.
  17. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    First, I meant "sad" for the couple, not as if God is doing something wrong.

    Second, I wouldn't say I've gone overboard for simply qualifying what I think is reasonable to deduce from Scripture. Not necessarily proven, but if I had to say it leaned one way, I'd say it leans pretty strongly towards the view that not all infants dying in infancy are elect.
  18. John Weathersby

    John Weathersby Puritan Board Freshman

    God is just


    I am not sure if this is your position or a position you expect to hear that you are presenting.

    But, I would suggest that you speak of a specific passage of scripture rather than of general ideas. Speaking of general ideas begs for generalizations coming from the heart, which of course is "deceitfully wicked above all things who can understand it ( Jer 17:9)".

    That said we must always understand that God is just in everything he does. “Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use (Romans 9). Not knowing the circumstances you may be dealing with or that you may be presenting it is difficult to take a position.

    However, Isaiah 55:8 always has an answer in store for everyone who questions Gods motive! Please let me know if you can be more specific as –to how you plan to apply the answer or if you are referring to a specific passage of scripture.

    In Him for the Gospel
  19. Zenas

    Zenas Snow Miser

    Haven't read through the thread because I'm just stopping in for a second but one thing that popped into my head other than the obligatory responses that others have likely posited preceding this post:

    With the Amalekites in particular, the slaughter of their own children was a judgment upon their own practices of child sacrifice. This judgment was cemented in the words of God's prophet Samuel before he did was Saul presumptuously failed to do, i.e. kill the king of Amalek, "As you have made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women."
  20. Grillsy

    Grillsy Puritan Board Junior

    I would say, as has been mentioned, that children are sinners too. Original sin is real and demands death.
    I am a little concerned that I have read a couple of entries where people are giving the "God works in culture of the time" argument. I feel it is not satisfactory to say that. I also do not think that is Biblically consistent with this issue. I feel that is a interpretive mistake we make. That approach has it origin in Kant and early liberal thinking. So I am leery of that explanation.
    I think the original sin argument is the most Biblical. God was just to order the infants killed because the infants were sinful.
    I would also disagree with most and say that it is likely the Bible DOES give us enough information to know that not all infants are saved and not all infants are damned.
  21. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    Psalm 115:3
    "But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased."
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