It has been alleged that the God of the Bible is cruel, unmerciful, and sadistic because He punishes humanity with plagues, mass murder, ethnic cleansing, slavery, genocide, incest, torture and other horrors. Is it true, or is He the benevolent God that Christians believe that He is?
In Jeremiah 13:14, God says that He will “Fill all the inhabitants of the land….with drunkenness ..and I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the Lord: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.” In Deuteronomy 7:16, Moses tells God’s people, “And thou shalt consume all the people which the Lord thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them: neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee.” In 1 Samuel 15:3, God tells Saul, “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” Sounds cruel, does it not?
First, consider the context of Jeremiah 13:14. In verse 11, God says, “For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the Lord; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.” In verse 13, God tells Jeremiah to tell (as in warn) the people what He intends to do to them. Then, in verses 15-16, He urges them, “Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness…”
Second, in Deuteronomy 18 God tells Israel, “Thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee: That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the Lord your God.” These people were a wicked people. From the Bible and archaeological findings we learn that in the time leading up to and during the conquering of Canaan by Israel, the inhabitants of Canaan and surrounding nations were involved in wicked behavior. Such things as idolatry, sexual immorality (including temple prostitution), and sacrificing babies to pagan gods were prevalent activities of the Canaanites before the Israelites attacked them. Further, through the counsel of Balaam, the Israelites had been seduced by Moabites and Midianites to commit fornication and join themselves to idols (Numbers 25:1-3; 31:15,16). If they were left to live among God’s holy people, they would influence them to practice their evil ways. Further, they had opportunity to know of God’s will, but had rejected Him (Romans 1:20). But, what of the innocent children among them? Was God not evil in ordering their destruction? Think about it. If their wicked parents were destroyed, thousands of children would be left orphans. Further, these innocent children would be with the Lord, and far better off than on earth where they would likely grow up to be evil like their parents. So it was a benevolent act of God to spare them from an evil life here on earth.
Now consider some additional passages. In 1 Chronicles 16:34, David sings, “ give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.” Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 3:33, “For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.” In Ezekiel 18:32, God says, “or I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” Under the New Covenant of Christ Paul writes that God “…will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Peter writes, The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Indeed, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
So, what do we have? Do the passages in the latter paragraph contradict those of the previous paragraphs? Is God a cruel, unmerciful, sadistic God, or is he a kind, merciful, forgiving God? The truth is that God is a kind, merciful, sinless God. As such, He cannot overlook sin. When men sin, and refuse to repent, He must punish them. But, He always gives them plenty of warning, so that they are without excuse. That is why He has commanded us to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), and makes the promise/warning, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).