Question:

As a new Christian I'm now studying the Old Testament. I am struggling with all the killing and death that God either does himself or makes his people do. I find it extremely difficult to wrap my head around the fact that he sent Moses up the hill and gave him the 10 commandments two of which are "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shall not steal". He then sends his people to the promised land and commands to kill everyone there and take their stuff! Is He not breaking His own commandment and ordering his people to do the same?

Is there a hidden list of exceptions after each commandment? Such as, Thou shalt not kill (except when I say so etc.). We look at Islam and say how could they kill everyone that does not believe their way, and yet that is exactly what our God CONSTANTLY said in the Old Testament. Worship idols, ZAP! Bow to other Gods, ZAP! Don't do what I say? ZAP ZAP. Look at how many people he killed during the exodus. This is not the God I want to worship.

This is driving me crazy and is really burdening me. I feel my Christian life is in jeopardy. I desperately seek answers before I walk away.


Answer:

It appears you don't grasp the serious nature of sin. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). From the very beginning God warned man that sin carries a severe consequence: "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17). That death penalty has been perpetuated by every one of us. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12).

People were not killed arbitrarily. Every one of the Ten Commandments carried a death penalty. By the way, the command was "You shall not commit murder." The King James translation of "Thou shalt not kill" was not a good translation of the Hebrew. See Is the commandment "You shall not kill" or "You shall not murder"?

Now, let's take a look at the Israelites conquering of Canaan. The reason they were given the land was because of the sins of those currently occupying the land. "But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete" (Genesis 15:16). Israel was specifically told that they weren't given the land because they deserved it.

"For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments" (Deuteronomy 7:6-9).

There wasn't anything particular about the Israelites which caused God to pick them as His chosen people. A big part of the reason they were picked was because God made a promise to Abraham and He keeps His promises.

"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. It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Deuteronomy 9:4-5).

There really wasn't anything particularly attractive about the Israelites. They were given the land of Canaan because the nations which occupied it before them were evil, not because the Israelites were righteous. The truth was that God found dealing with the Israelites a burden. "Furthermore the LORD spoke to me, saying, 'I have seen this people, and indeed they are a stiff-necked people'" (Deuteronomy 9:13). The only reason they survived in the wilderness is because Moses intervened on their behalf.

Basically you are claiming that God has no right to punish sin, but such cannot be true and is not true. If there was no punishment for sin, then God would not be just. See: Judge of All the Earth. For example, what right does the country have to impose a fine when you break a law? Isn't that "stealing" your stuff? The answer is "no." It is a penalty for breaking the law. If you can see that in the flawed system of man, why do you refuse to see it in the justice of God from whom men model their laws?