This is a question that has puzzled many. It seems so cruel that the Lord would have His people kill all the men, women, and children of their enemies. There are several examples of this in the scriptures, let’s look at one of them: We read of the Lord’s commandment given through Joshua concerning the destruction of the city of Jericho in Joshua 6:17-21. Verse 17 tells us, “And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.” We then read in verse 21, “And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.”

Jericho was a terrible city, so much so that the Lord cursed the entire city and all its inhabitants. While the mercy of God is great, so is His judgment against sin. We read in Romans 11:22, “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” We need to consider the absolute truth that GOD HATES SIN. When sin continues and is not repented of, the Lord will deal severely in judgment of sin.

I think that we would do well to start off by establishing one important fact: Whatever God does is right! We read a rhetorical question in Genesis 18:25, “…Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” We have the words of Daniel in Daniel 9:14, “…for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth…” ‘Righteous’ means that whatever the Lord does is right! However, we are also told in Psalm 116:5, “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.” The Lord’s graciousness and mercy was displayed when He spared Rahab and her family because of her faithfulness to Him in hiding His spies. Isn’t it amazing how we never question the Lord’s grace on repentant sinners, but we often question His judgment on unrepentant sinners?

I admit that it may be hard to understand why the Lord would take the lives of the women, and especially the children, of His people’s enemies. However, let us remember what each one of us deserves. Romans 6:23 makes it clear, “For the wages of sin is death…” We all deserve DEATH. But what about the good people? We read in Psalm 14:3, “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” There are no good people! Next, let’s consider Romans 3:19, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Not just some, but the whole world is guilty before God. We read in Lamentations 3:22, “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” It is only the mercy of the Lord that prevents Him from consuming, or destroying, each one of us.

I encourage you to research the portions where the Lord commanded Israel to destroy cities, regions, or kingdoms. In most places, you will see that sometime in the history of these locations, grace was offered and rejected. With that in mind, let’s consider the Lord’s warning in Ezekiel 3:18, “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.” It is our responsibility to warn those who are without Christ. It is our privilege to share the wondrous Gospel of God’s grace with them. May we be busy in reaching out to others so that they may be saved! (158.10)