Why does God kill when He commanded us not to kill?

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By BibleAsk Team


The question of why God kills when He commanded humans not to kill is a profound and complex issue that has been discussed by many seekers of the truth. Understanding this requires a deep dive into the nature of God, the context of His commands, and the purpose behind His actions.

The Nature of God

  1. God’s Sovereignty and Holiness. God is sovereign and holy, meaning He has absolute authority over life and death and is perfectly just and righteous in all His ways. His actions are inherently good, even when they are beyond human understanding.
    • Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV): “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
    • Deuteronomy 32:39 (NKJV): “Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.”
  2. God’s Justice and Righteousness. God’s actions, including taking life, are executed with perfect justice. He judges sin and evil, which sometimes involves capital punishment or divine retribution.
    • Psalm 89:14 (NKJV): “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; mercy and truth go before Your face.”
    • Genesis 18:25 (NKJV): “Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

The Commandment Not to Kill

  1. The Sixth Commandment. The commandment “You shall not kill” (often translated as “You shall not murder”) is found in the Decalogue, reflecting God’s moral law for human conduct.
    • Exodus 20:13 (NKJV): “You shall not murder.”Deuteronomy 5:17 (NKJV): “You shall not murder.”
    To kill is different than to murder. Murder is taking the life of an innocent person while killing is an act of judgment for an evil deed that was committed. This commandment refers to premeditated, unjustified murder. This commandment prohibits unlawful killing, particularly murder, which is the intentional and unjust taking of an innocent human life. It establishes the sanctity of human life and God’s desire for justice and peace among people.
  2. God’s Delegation of Authority. While God commands individuals not to murder, He delegates authority to governments and rulers to carry out justice, which can include capital punishment for certain crimes.
    • Romans 13:1-4 (NKJV): “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God… For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

Instances of God Taking Life

  1. The Flood. In Genesis, God judges the earth with a flood, destroying all life except Noah, his family, and the animals in the ark. This action was due to the pervasive wickedness and corruption of humanity.
    • Genesis 6:5-7 (NKJV): “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.'”
    • Genesis 7:21-23 (NKJV): “And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.”
  2. The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah due to their grievous sins, sparing only Lot and his family. This act was a judgment against extreme wickedness and moral depravity.
    • Genesis 19:24-25 (NKJV): “Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.”
  3. The Plagues in Egypt. The plagues in Egypt, culminating in the death of the firstborn, were acts of divine judgment against Pharaoh and the Egyptians for their oppression and idolatry.
    • Exodus 12:29-30 (NKJV): “And it came to pass at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock. So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead.”

When God ordered the extermination of individuals or cities, He did so in righteous judgment on a people whose corruption had caused extreme wickedness and suffering to many including children such as child sacrifice. This act of judgment was as necessary as cutting an organ that is plagued with cancer to protect the whole body from the spreading of the disease.

But did God destroy the righteous along with the wicked? No, in an exchange with Abraham, God indicated that He would spare the wicked to save the righteous in the case of destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. He demonstrated this principle by saving the righteous people from Sodom and Jericho prior to their destruction.

The Purpose Behind God’s Actions

  1. Judgment and Justice. God’s actions in taking life are often acts of judgment against sin and evil. He is the ultimate judge, and His judgments are perfect and righteous.
    • Nahum 1:3 (NKJV): “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked. The Lord has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.”
    • Romans 2:5-6 (NKJV): “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds.'”
  2. Protection and Purification. At times, God takes life to protect the righteous and to purify His people. This can be seen in the conquest of Canaan, where God commanded Israel to destroy certain nations to prevent the spread of idolatry and corruption.
    • Deuteronomy 7:1-2 (NKJV): “When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you… and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them.”
    • Deuteronomy 9:4-5 (NKJV): “Do not think in your heart, after the Lord your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out from before you.”
  3. Divine Discipline and Mercy. God’s judgments also serve as discipline, intended to lead people to repentance and ultimately to salvation. Even in His judgments, God’s mercy is evident.
    • Hebrews 12:6 (NKJV): “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”
    • Ezekiel 18:23 (NKJV): “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?”
    • Ezekiel 33:11 (NKJV): “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'”

The Ultimate Purpose of God’s Actions

  1. Fulfilling God’s Plan of Salvation. Ultimately, everything God does is to fulfill His plan of redemption. This includes His acts of judgment and mercy, which reveal His character and purposes.
    • Romans 11:33-36 (NKJV): “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?’ ‘Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?’ For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
    • Revelation 15:3-4 (NKJV): “They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.'”

Man’s Freedom of Choice

God created humans with the freedom of choice (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). Although they fully understood that sin will lead to death, they chose to listen to the devil (Genesis 3). But, God in His infinite mercy decided to redeem them. God sent His only begotten Son to carry the penalty of sin and set the human race free. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosever believeth on Him shall have eternal life” (John 3:16). The most One that truly suffered through the sin problem was God Himself. There is no greater love than this that a man may lay his life for the ones whom he loves (John 15:13).

The Lord wants to save all the sinners and invites them all to accept His salvation. He says to them, “‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die” (Ezekiel 33:11). But it is up to them to accept of reject His free gift of salvation.

Conclusion

The question of why God kills when He commanded us not to kill can be approached by understanding the nature of God, the context of His commandments, and the purpose behind His actions. God’s sovereignty, justice, and righteousness are foundational to His character, and His actions are always perfectly just, even when they involve taking life. The commandment “You shall not kill” is directed towards humans to prevent murder and maintain justice and peace. In contrast, God’s actions in taking life are often acts of divine judgment, protection, purification, and discipline, all aimed at fulfilling His sovereign plan and bringing glory to His name.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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