Why Did God Command that Some People be Killed and Others Not in the Old Testament?

God is the only One who knows the desires and inclinations of the heart. As the human race, we see what is on the outside, but God sees what motivates man from the inside.


We were all given a free will to choose our destiny. We have the power to choose our every decision and action in life. This is a not only called a free will, it’s a gift given to us by God. His wish is that we choose the good. He wants us to choose what is righteous not evil.

In some cases, there are people whose hearts are always inclined toward evil. Just in the days of Noah the Lord saw “…how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5).

God decided to wipe this people off the earth, leaving Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives alive.

Why did He keep their life and not the others? While Noah and his family were human, and certainly not without sin, Noah had the wish to do what was right. Noah was considered “…a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 6:9).

What made him righteous? He walked…how?…faithfully…with who?…with God. We cannot be righteous without God’s consistent presence in our life. We have a choice. To walk with God…or walk alone. Sadly, to walk alone brings forth one thing from our hearts…every inclination to do evil.

Those whose hearts are inclined toward evil and have no room for good are dangerous to those who have a desire to do what’s right. Sin infects the soul, and sinful people unleashed on a population infect people. I believe that if those people in the Old Testament remained on earth they would have contaminated the little good in those around them.

Sin is a cancer to the soul. It crouches at the door wanting to devour its prey – man’s soul. But it only walks through the door of the one who wants to do wrong, those who choose to displease the Lord, and those who make it a point to walk without God. (See Cain’s story in Genesis 4)

Many people in the Old Testament chose to answer that door, to allow the sin to come to them as a friendly guest. The more they entertained this guest, the more this guest took over their heart. And in some cases, there were those who allowed this guest of sin to master them.

Total mastery of sin in our hearts will fully harden it.

If left to harden too long, there is a point of no return. Only God can see the person’s heart that has reached this place of no return. Like I said earlier, a person infected in this way becomes a toxic contagion that defiles others. For a hardened heart to survive, it feeds off of the righteous within their midst.

Think about it. There is the old saying, “Hurt people hurt people.” Hardened people who do not seek repair, seek to make others suffer with them. (A gossip can’t gossip if there isn’t someone to tear down and someone listening.) They find satisfaction in harming the happy. It becomes their food, their sustenance. I believe that God knew the hearts of those in the Old Testament. I believe that He knew they would not turn to Him, but instead they would go after those who were seeking Him; they would try with every bit of their energy to wreak havoc on their righteousness and turn their hearts away. (Sounds like puppets in the devil’s hand.)

Look at God’s people in Exodus. While waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain, some of God’s people became impatient. They gathered around Aaron, Moses’s right hand man, and they said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us.” Aaron, falling quickly under the pressure did as these men said. He answered, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons, and your daughters are wearing and bring them to me.” So they did this. And Aaron took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. They (I believe were the men who gathered around Aaron) said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

As the story continues in Exodus 32 we see that Moses finds out. Obviously God knows what’s going on. God sends Moses down. God’s anger burns against his people. Moses pleads with the Lord to save these people. While Moses’ pleading saved many lives, there were some who the Lord deemed a death sentence. And Moses, under the command of God, sent the Levites to kill the 3,000 in the camp that God said needed to die. Why them, and not all?

Again, we don’t know the heart of man, but God does. Some, I believe, had hearts too hardened to return to Him. And if left in the camp, they would have sought to harden others. They would have been a cancer to their tribes.

We do not decide who dies and who doesn’t. God does. His righteousness and his omniscience knows all, sees all, and can determine (with precise accuracy) whose hearts are totally incurable.

But the purpose of this blog is not to figure out who should die or who shouldn’t; but instead, it’s to become the person who is willing to walk faithfully with God, so that the sin crouching at our door does not become the guest of our heart. To walk faithfully with God and be impregnated with His presence is to repent of our sin and receive Christ, His Son, as our Savior, our Lord. Jesus is the cure for our evil inclined heart.

God said to Moses as he led these people, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). His presence gives us rest from the sin and temptation that haunts us. His presence is what gives us the courage to choose what’s right and resist the evil. We must submit to the Lord to resist the devil. As we come near to God, He will come near to us. His presence is our salvation. He cleanses and purifies our hearts. He replaces the evil with the power to choose what’s right.

Just as sin is a cancer to the soul, God’s presence is the treatment to the cancer. Live in the presence and you rise up by His Spirit. Like Noah, you will be infectiously blameless among the people.


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