Divine Killing in the Bible
***2 small speaking errors in the above audio:
– Acts 26:19-21 is quoted; not Exodus 26:19-21
– The judgment related in the book of Numbers is in Numbers chapter 25, not chapter 24.
The Bible says in Psalm 34:15-16: “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.”
Though these verses can apply in several different senses, especially to the new heavens and the new earth which God will leave to the righteous to inherit for eternity, it still is stating the general truth that God’s wrath is in general against those that do evil. And there is a very literal sense in which He sometimes expresses that wrath in this life and cuts off evildoers by going out of His way to kill them. And that is what this study is about.
If you search on the internet regarding God killing people in the Bible, I don’t know if the search results have been manipulated so that websites criticizing and/or mocking this are propped up or not, but regardless, an internet search on this will mainly get you websites that do such in the primary search results. People who are blatantly opposed to Christianity like to point to this topic to try to claim that the God of the Bible is morally inferior to themselves and so (they claim) the Bible is wicked or at least very misguided somehow. We should not (they claim) believe in and follow a God who acts like this. On the other hand, many professing Christians and websites that are said to be promoting Christianity avoid this topic like the plague. Or maybe they even try to claim that God’s ways have changed from Biblical times. And in the case of the Marcionites and the many influenced by Marcionism (which we have talked about in other studies- the belief that the god of the Old Testament is a god of wrath and judgment but the god of the New Testament is a god of only love and mercy), they make an argument to supposedly validate God which is baseless, illogical, and easily refuted (and will be here) by the fact that God expresses mercy and compassion, as well as wrath and judgment, throughout the whole of Scripture.
Behind both the blatant unbelievers and enemies of the God of the Bible who like to bring to light His killings in Scripture, and behind the professing Christians who don’t want to face this head on and not be ashamed of it, there is a humanistic spirit which values man’s happiness over God’s glory; or we could also say values man’s well-being over truth and righteousness; and we could also say there is in each an unwillingness to recognize their Creator’s right to Govern the Universe to vindicate what is true and right; and to expose and cast down that which is wicked and opposed to what is true and right. In His own timing and by the means which He best sees fit. So whether someone blatantly is opposed to the God of the Bible, or whether someone wants to see the Judeo-Christian God primarily as a means to make man happy and blessed, either way they’re not likely to see God’s killing of people in Scripture as something righteous and holy which those who believe in Him should by no means be ashamed of.
There are also people who might, in their attempt to justify their anger, try to cite examples from the Bible as a means to justify their own aspirations to kill or injure people which they are angry at and have grievances against. And of course, the blatant unbelievers who openly oppose the God of the Bible will point to such people as an example of how (allegedly) dangerous the Bible is and how it should not be heeded. Yet people who murder others and think they are justified because of God’s actions in the Bible are no different than the person who kills of his own accord- and then tries to say he is no different than a Government who kills those duly convicted of capital crimes through the due process of law! (And of course there are many who oppose even that, but they are wrong too!) A person who takes it upon himself to be judge, jury, and executioner is a murderer himself and ought to be killed himself when convicted through due process of law.
A person who is convicted of a crime worthy of death, like murder or treason, through a fair trial under an impartial jury, it is not murder to then kill him. Killings resulting from a righteous Judicial process, or the killing of those who are evidently in the process of doing harm to others which cannot be stopped, except through potentially deadly force, such is not murder. Not all killings are murder. In the Ten Commandments, when God says “Thou shalt not kill”, it is a reference to murder. The versions of the Bible which say “thou shalt not kill” would have been more accurate to say “thou shalt not murder.” Nevertheless, anyone who studies the Law of God and doesn’t just look for a verse here or there to justify whatever they want it to say, will see that the Law of God itself permits killing in self-defense (Exodus 22) and prescribes killing through the authorities for those justly convicted of crimes which God deems worthy of death. God had already said in Genesis 9:6 (Genesis is also written by Moses and regarded as the first book of God’s Law): “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” So we see right in this verse that:
1) All life belongs to God.
2) Human life is especially precious because man is made in God’s image.
3) To take a life at one’s own accord is murder.
4) To kill the one justly convicted of this is not the same thing as murder. It is rather just and righteous.
Since all life belongs to God, and since God is totally just and righteous, God cannot unjustly take away life by killing someone or by commanding someone to be killed on terms He has laid out regarding execution. And it is the concepts that our lives rightfully belong to God, and that God holds man accountable to live in accordance with His precepts (which His judgments are intended as a reminder of), that are especially uncomfortable and offensive to rebellious, sinful man.
We’re going to almost totally focus here on times when God intervened directly and killed people in Scripture. To list every single instance of this is not realistic due to the constraints of time and the human attention span. But it is realistic to list a handful of these events and to analyze them for the lessons which we ought to take from them. As we go through these, keep in mind the principle of precedent. If God kills someone for an action, then that proves His wrath is against that action. It is surely an action which warrants damnation on Judgment Day and in eternity. His judgments in this life, as well as righteous law and order being carried out overall, are previews of Judgment Day and its eternal implications.
And keep in mind as we go on with this study that there are some basic groups of people which tend to especially be the objects of God’s wrath.
1) Sinners among His people
2) Those who oppose His people
3) Nations and societies in general which are especially corrupt and evil before Him. Their judgment can serve as a reminder to the rest of the world of His wrath against sin and the horror which all sinners before Him will face on Judgment Day. Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”
And I think it’s also worth noting that considering the moral corruption of the earth, and considering how many people had lived by the first century AD (when the New Testament was written and the Biblical canon closed), it is an amazing demonstration of the long-suffering of God that the number of Biblical killings is not much higher.
It should also be noted that in the Bible we are given an inside insight on whom God went out of His way to kill. People have been dying from natural disasters, accidents, heart attacks, etc from the beginning of human history. Those whom the Bible says God killed were killed by God. Otherwise, we should be really careful about saying such when someone dies. If God makes it obvious to thinking, reasonable logical people who acknowledge His sovereignty (i.e. His reign) over the Universe, with all the information they have considered, that someone who has died has been killed by Him, then that should be acknowledged. But we already have much reason to take heed and fear before Him by what He has surely already said and done in Scripture. Regarding anyone who dies a sudden and unexpected death, the perspective we should have is seen by what Jesus said in Luke ch 13. His point I believe is that we should be ready to meet God at all times because anyone could potentially die at any time and go to face God in their sins if they are not ready to meet Him at the moment. That is a conclusion which is always reasonable to draw.
Luke 13:1-5: “There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
Some Biblical Judgments Analyzed
- The flood in Noah’s time (Genesis chs 6-8): This is the foundational judgment in Scripture, and it has applications to everyone throughout history, including the common man or woman. It is a strong foreshadowing of Judgment Day and proof that if you just go with the flow of sin around you, you will go in the flood of judgment which the Lord will bring on all transgressors against Him. It also shows how when judgment comes, it comes! Noah had been preparing the ark and preaching for 120 years, longer than anyone hearing this has lived. Life went on as normal, there were accidents and there was chaos induced by man’s hatred and violence- but that all seemed normal. God intervening drastically did not seem normal. Some say it had never rained before the flood, but I think now that is hard or impossible to prove one way or the other. It had certainly though never kept raining in order to produce a worldwide flood! There is something called normalcy bias. People think things will always continue as they are because life has never drastically changed for them up to that point, even despite obvious evidence to the contrary. This was definitely a key factor in why Noah’s warnings about coming judgment were not heeded by virtually everyone. And it was a key factor in why virtually everyone was so shocked when the flood finally came. That applies also now regarding people’s apathy related to Christ’s second coming, Judgment Day, and eternity! We have an even stronger basis to believe in these things now with the amount of revelation in Scripture and the amount of fulfilled prophecy that are available to us. There is even less excuse to be unprepared! So people need to be warned and instructed from God’s Word so that they will heed and get prepared. And though relatively few find the way to life, and even fewer endure on it to the end to actually be saved, there is such a strong foundation to find eternal life available now with a completed Bible and the fullness of God’s revelation in Christ having been made known. It was possible (and expected) then with much less help available!
- Sodom and Gomorrha and the cities about them (Genesis ch 19):
We looked in our last study at Jude verse 7 which proves that God did indeed destroy these cities for practicing homosexuality. It says in Ezekiel ch 16 verses 48-50: “As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters (God is rebuking Israel here). Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.”
Did the pride, the gluttony, and the sloth in Sodom do much to lead to its practice of homosexuality. Of course! And of course God hated these things as well. It can be seen throughout the world how haughty, rich nations who spend much money on luxury and trivial things while taking virtually no care for the poor and needy (at least on an individual level in regards to majority of the people) have embraced homosexuality much, while it has not caught on nearly as much in 3rd world nations. Even those who say they are opposed to homosexuality are contributing to its increase by practicing these things.
- Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:26):
Don’t forget about her. She was not a homosexual to our knowledge, but she valued the things of the world which were abundant in Sodom over righteousness. She even valued them so highly that she despised the warning by the angels to escape for her life in order to look back on the things of Sodom as it was being destroyed! When people are vain and attached to fashion, pleasure, excessive comfort and/or situations for monetary advantage then they are under God’s wrath. There is no hope for their salvation while they are in such a state.
Genesis 19:24-26: “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his (Lot’s) wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”
Luke 17:32-33: “Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”
1 John 2:15-17: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
- Er and Onan (Genesis ch 38):
Genesis 38:6-10: “And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also.”
I included this because it shows how people can be very wicked in God’s sight when perhaps they didn’t do anything which most people would be too bothered by. You have to consider here that God took a special care to purify Abraham’s offspring in their earliest generations, and also of how these two young men would have had such a great knowledge about God’s ways since they were so close to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in terms of generation (they were Jacob’s grandchildren). But nevertheless, Onan’s zeal for his own name, his pride in dishonoring his father, and his overall lack of benevolence and bad character were things God took note of which caused God to intervene and kill him young. We don’t know exactly what Er’s sins were, but we do know that he was wicked in the sight of the Lord despite not having anything on his record which was seen worth mentioning in Scripture- and that is very interesting and should be a push for us to carefully examine our own hearts before God.
- The multitude killed through God’s plagues on Egypt and the Egyptian Army killed in the Red Sea (Exodus chapters 7 to 14):
It is important to understand that though not all the Hebrews were righteous (not even close), they were not idolaters like the Egyptians were. They did not worship the Egyptian gods (at least corporately, though obviously some violated the religion of their people on a personal level). The Egyptians identified the Hebrews with the God of the Hebrews; and to a great extent they hated them and treated them ill because of that association. The Egyptians thus despised the true God and all who participated in the ill treatment of the Hebrews were wickedly opposing God, as well as wronging their fellow man. Many no doubt weren’t actively involved in the enslavement of the Hebrews, but likely most cooperated with it by not doing all they could reasonably do to oppose it and rebuke it (like Moses did when he was still identified as an Egyptian- Moses was a defender, not a murderer!). So even such were guilty through neglect and omission. At this time God’s worship was centered among the Hebrews as a people- a people which eventually after their deliverance from Egypt became the political entity of the nation of Israel. The Egyptians then who were involved in the enslavement of the Hebrews, as well as the nations later who attempted to subdue Israel and instill idolatry there, were essentially challenging God. They thus invited His righteous judgment (think also of David killing Goliath).
So many now pity the Egyptians who died during the plagues and in the Red Sea. They portray God to be a villain who wrongfully killed them. The real villains though were the Egyptians- and those who pity them reveal their own bad character and hint at what they’d be doing if they were put in the same circumstances. Now God’s worship is not centered on one concentrated people or on one nation, but is rather scattered among the nations in Christian churches. Governments who make laws that, in one way or another make being a faithful Christian illegal, oppose God, and mistreat His people at this very hour. They have thus put themselves in the same category as the Egyptians and the nations who opposed Israel while God’s worship was centered there. In modern times these tend to be Communist nations and nations dominated by Islam- and many nations are rapidly on course to becoming one or the other also. There are also nations dominated by other religions and powerful people who are also in this category. When a Government won’t allow God’s people to be faithful to Him and practice His worship then all who enforce, cooperate with, and/or do not reasonably oppose such oppression are especially under God’s wrath like the Egyptians and the nations which sought to subdue Israel when God’s worship was centered there.
- A note about the Canaanites: When God deputized Israel as a nation to kill the Canaanites and take their land, this was not one person’s own idea which everyone else just complied with. God had pronounced His judgment on the Canaanites hundreds of years before when He promised the land of Canaan to Abraham’s seed. God gave them many hundreds of years to repent. These were especially wicked murderers, idolaters, sexual deviants, etc who not only were exceedingly corrupt, but knew very well how God had miraculously delivered Israel from Egypt by drying up the Red Sea and stopping the Jordan River to bring them out of the wilderness. Any one of them could have acknowledged Israel’s God as the true God, forsaken their idolatry, turned against their own corrupt people, and been spared from death. We see an example of this happening in Israel’s initial conquest of Jericho when God spared Rahab and those of her house who sided with her for Israel’s God. It is possible other Canaanites repented and were spared also (we shouldn’t expect every instance of this to be recorded in Scripture). This Canaanite people were so hardhearted and attached to their sin that they didn’t surrender even when God miraculously brought down the walls of Jericho and delivered the people there to the Israelites. And Rahab’s deliverance at this time was likely also well known so that all who heard about it would have known for sure they could side with the true God and be spared from death. Don’t feel sorry for the Canaanites.and understand that since the Christian church is not synonymous with a political entity, God will not use the Christian church as the means to execute judgment on the world through the sword. This is one area in which some Roman Catholic theologians have erred greatly and justified murder in the name of God in an attempt to uphold their own corrupt religious entity. Earthly Governments, when acting righteously, will still execute people who are duly convicted of many of the crimes which were commonly practiced among the Canaanites, especially murder.
Deuteronomy 12:29-32: “When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”
- Those killed in relation to the Golden Calf (Exodus chapter 32):
Since God so hates and so judges those who seek to impose idolatry upon His people, and those who in anyway would seek to prevent them from worshipping God in the way He has prescribed, it makes sense that He would also hate and judge those who would try to corrupt His worship from within- especially by trying to mix it with idolatry. Hence we have in this chapter God commanding those chiefly involved in this idolatry to be slain and God plaguing the Israelites for accepting this great sin in His eyes. We also see in this chapter how easily idolatry can lead those involved in it to reconcile worshipping God with practicing lasciviousness, fornication, etc. God hates being represented by statues and other images- and hence He forbid this in the 2nd commandment (and it is no surprise that the Roman Catholic Church alters the ten commandments by eliminating the second commandment which forbids bowing before graven images and dividing the tenth commandment in two). To change the glory of the incorruptible God into any likeness fashioned by man is wicked. And we see in Romans chapter one that this is a chief expression of man’s refusal to properly recognize His Creator and give Him the glory and thanks which He is rightfully due. Man wants a god he is comfortable with. People give into this enticement through involving graven images in worship, but this can also be done simply through concepts of God in one’s own mind. Idolatry is rampant in the professing Christian world today. There are graven images being bowed to in certain segments for sure. Yet even when these aren’t present, multitudes of professing Christians adopt an idolatrous concept of God by only receiving the passages and phrases in Scripture which they are comfortable with while discarding (at least practically) Bible passages and plain truths which they are not comfortable with. That is a big reason why having honest, productive conversations about Biblical truth can be so difficult- and an even bigger reason why having productive conversations which actually build upon the last conversation can be even more difficult. And that is certainly a key reason why sin and blatantly improper worship are so rampant among professing Christians. The judgments against the worshippers of the Golden Calf, which surely involved those who complied with it, are a terrifying testimony against all such idolatry. Remember that idolaters don’t usually label their idolatry as idolatry, just like most sinners give their sins a more generous name than the Word of God gives. And that is probably true of idolatry even more than most sins due to man’s great attachment to it and due to the fact that it is a key foundation stone for many other sins which man practices.
- 24,000 Israelites killed in a plague due to Israel’s fornication and idolatry which the Moabites had seduced them to (Numbers chapter 25):
These were people that had survived in the wilderness and were about to enter into the promised land of Canaan. God had said over and over that being in His favor and inheriting His promises are not unconditional. You see in the next chapter (Numbers 26) how God made sure to obliterate the unfaithful generation which would not go into Canaan at God’s command 38 years earlier, except for the few who wanted to go and tried to persuade Israel to go. You would think every Israelite would have learned this lesson by now! But many hadn’t. They gave into the enticements of heathen idolatry and the fornication which accompanied that- and God thus made an example of them to purify Israel and to remind them that being in His favor and inheriting His promises are not unconditional. We have to exercise a living faith which submits to God, works righteousness, and denies the pleasures of sin to be in His favor! It is a lesson which Israel had trouble learning (though some did take it to heart, not all were wicked); and Israel’s main reason for crucifying Jesus and rejecting His Apostles was their refusal to believe and to practically apply this lesson on the righteous terms of God’s Law. Jesus preached against how Israel’s leaders had subtly seduced them into accepting sin- even various forms of idolatry, lasciviousness, and fornication. He demanded the fruits of righteousness from Israel, as did John the Baptist and His Apostles. They were all rejected by the nation of Israel as a whole- until God finally rejected them when He allowed the Romans to destroy their Temple in AD 70.
Mark 12:1-11: “And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.’ And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?”
John 7:7 “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” (Consider too here that Jesus only preached in Israel)
Acts 26:19-21: “Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.” (Note too that the same Gospel, with the same terms of being reconciled to God , is for both Jews and gentiles)
There is no true hope or comfort for anyone in Christ’s atonement who does not heed these terms and work righteousness in obedience to His righteous authority. As Jesus was dying on the cross:
Luke 23:28-31; “But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”
And though this was spoken probably more directly of the more imminent judgment that God was going to bring on Israel if it rejected Christ, which eventually came in AD 70, this judgment was also a preview of Judgment Day. Jesus elsewhere in the Gospels spoke of it as such- and He even spoke of the events which were to proceed them synonymously to a large extent (see esp. Matthew ch 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21).
This judgment in Numbers 24 is another rebuke to introducing the idolatry of the nations into God’s worship, as well as a rebuke to fornication and a demonstration of how it is utterly incompatible with His right and holy ways. Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”
- Nadab and Abihu killed by fire for offering strange fire (Leviticus 10:1-3)
The context is the inauguration of God’s worship in the Tabernacle. God makes it clear that He is pleased with it and will dwell there as Moses and Aaron complete His instructions to inaugurate it. This is recorded at the end of Leviticus chapter 9.
Leviticus 9:22-24: “And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.”
And now Nadab and Abihu want in on the action.
Leviticus 10:1-3 “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.”
They had been doing their part ministering as these things went on, but they then chose to innovate. While the Bible never says specifically why they did this, the obvious effect would have been to generate a show- or in this case to add to the event which was happening already, which was not a show, but which a man looking to make a show might emulate or try to add to. There are many churches now of all varieties, but I especially think of megachurches and so-called Pentecostal churches, which could not exist without making a show! That is mainly how they draw people and they would be out of business without this. They innovate in worship to produce a show for man, to gratify man, and to produce emotional experiences calculated to man’s satisfaction rather than just doing what God has prescribed for corporate worship and leaving whatever effects that might produce to Him. God has testified that His wrath is against this by the example of Nadab and Abihu. As is the case with the example of Ananias and Sapphira which is coming up shortly, the people who do this today are actually lucky that God is not really among them in a special way like He was among the Israelites in this example and like He was with the Apostolic churches in the Book of Acts.
- Bear Attack (2 Kings 2:23-24)
2 Kings 2:23-24: “And he (Elisha) went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.”
The one who was mocked and did the cursing here was the Prophet Elisha, who was mentored by the Prophet Elijah. The ones cursed, attacked, and (likely, at least some) killed here were not little children in the way we tend to think of little children. This was a gang of relatively young adults in their teens or twenties who lived in or around the idolatrous city of Bethel. They were mocking Elisha and mocking the great event which had recently happened (recorded earlier in this very chapter) of God taking Elijah to heaven in a chariot of fire. These were idolatrous thugs who were very hardened against God and bent on mischief. The word used to describe these “little children” in Hebrew is the same word Solomon used in 1 Kings 3:7 to describe himself when he was likely in his early or mid twenties. It often or always refers to a young adult between the ages of twelve and thirty, which was basically the Hebrew definition of a young man. God has creative ways to deal with malevolent young punks bent on mischief, especially should they oppose and seek to drive away someone who has shown evidence of being a true servant of His. This judgment was a mercy to the rest of Israel to warn them to come to repentance and return to God’s Law. Israel at this time had descended into open idolatry and much other godless behavior. Books such as the Book of Amos describe such and testify against it. Sadly Israel as a whole did not heed this judgment and was taken into captivity by the Assyrians not too long after this event happened.
- Ananias and Sapphira (Acts ch 5:1-14):
“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)”
Ananias and Sapphira’s sudden deaths here are evidence that God did not vacate His throne or cease to be a God of judgment in the era of the New Covenant. They deliberately misrepresented themselves to be doing a good work which they were not doing. They lied to enhance their reputation in the church- and God chose to kill them for this. A principle reason for this was to make all people from then on to know that being part of a true Christian church is a fearful thing which brings great accountability; and to know that lying to advance one’s reputation, especially within the church, is a great sin which His wrath is especially against. Ananias did not have to give all the money from the land sale. He could have just given a part of it. He lied though because he forsook the fear of God and neglected to walk faithfully before Him. He wanted to have a better reputation, and to not have to make as much monetary sacrifice as someone who would have genuinely been of the character which he was trying to put himself forth as having. His wife complied with this and received the same judgment. This is also an instance in Scripture which proves that the wife should not submit to her husband when doing so would mean lying or being unrighteous in any way. One mark of a genuine Christian church following the Lord faithfully is that people fear to be a part of it and don’t join themselves to it lightly. Many liars within churches now are very lucky that they are not part of a church which God actually regards as His own that He would go out of His way to keep pure. We also see here how a genuine fear of God being known through a church will keep people out of it for the right reasons and bring people into it for the right reasons as well (many modern churches would say that it would turn everyone away- and maybe that is actually true of everyone in their churches!).
- Herod (Acts chapter 12):
God proves here that He judges those without the Christian church as well as those within. We see in Acts chapter 12 how Herod persecuted Christians and killed at least one Apostle (James the brother of John). He also didn’t give God glory when he was called a god while making a speech (no wonder he persecuted the faithful Christians). His judgment is a reminder that God’s judgments in the Old Testament against those complicit with suppressing His prescribed worship didn’t end “back then” and still stand as a warning to all people in every generation.
- The Judgments in the Book of Revelation:
God’s character has always been the same. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The same God who destroyed the ungodly by a flood of water has yet warned that He will destroy the ungodly at the end of time by fire. He will ultimately punish all the ungodly who refuse to repent and follow all His righteous ways in the fire of hell forever (Isaiah 66:24, etc). He has always been a God of Judgment who will by no means clear the guilty, which yet (because of Christ’s atonement) delights to show mercy to those who will take warning, forsake their sin, and turn to Him with their whole hearts (illustrated so well by the Old Testament Book of Jonah about a people whose destruction was imminent, but were spared because they repented at the warning of God’s Word and brought forth works worthy of repentance).
God’s description of His own character to Moses has never changed and never will change.
Exodus 34:5-7: “And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation (implying they continue in the iniquities of their fathers and don’t break off from them- so much sin is a continuation of the evil ways and habits of previous generations).” God’s goodness and severity were always intended to be looked at together, as inseparable (Romans 11:22).
2 Peter 2:4-9: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished’
- See also 2 Peter chapter 3 in its entirety
Matthew 24:37-39: “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
Revelation 6:12-17: “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”
The deeper and more habitual one’s practice of sin is, and especially the more one hardens themselves against the light of Truth, the harder it then becomes to detach from one’s sin. People should be warned to repent here and now because they may never get a better chance, and even if they did, hardening themselves at the chance they have now might render them so hard that they will never repent no matter what God does to them to testify against their sin.
Revelation 9:18-21: “By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt. And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.”
Revelation 16:9-11: “And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.”
This could have been a study of many parts. There are many more examples and lessons related to this topic which we did not look at. Long studies could also be done on the great goodness and mercy of God. The greatness of that does not depend on how many people end up saved or how many people end up damned. The point is that God’s ways are right, man is accountable to Him, God has done great things to show mercy to man and draw man to Himself- and this includes His judgments in this life on those He sees fit to make examples of. So we want to heed the lessons we can get from these for ourselves, for those we talk to, and further study to understand the rightness of God’s ways and all the things He has given in His Word which He wants us to know. We should never, ever judge Him and make assumptions about Him based on the ideas and errant ways of fallen man. That is a sure way to come to destruction.
“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” The Bible says this in Proverbs 14:12; and then it reiterates the same again quickly in Proverbs 16:25.
Psalm 76:5-12: “The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep: and none of the men of might have found their hands. At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep. Thou, even thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry? Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still, When God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth. Selah. Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain. Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared. He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth.”
For any questions or clarification on this study, contact bro Aaron at [email protected]