God’s Judgments Reveal His Personality
DOES the Bible refer only to one time of divine judgment? No, there have been a number of times during the course of human history in which Jehovah God rendered specific judgments. An examination of these judgments is very enlightening. It reveals a God of infinite wisdom and justice, one who cares deeply about the welfare of his intelligent creation.
We can better appreciate the reasons for Jehovah’s judgments by viewing them in the light of his purpose regarding humankind. Before the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, he set the prospect of everlasting life on earth. In Eden, he provided a beautiful home for them—a lovely garden filled with a variety of fruit trees from which they could eat to satisfaction. Informing them of his purpose, Jehovah said: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.”—Gen. 1:28.
These words, addressed to the first humans, indicate that it was Jehovah’s purpose for the whole earth to become like the garden of Eden, filled with humans doing his will and looking out for the welfare of the animal creation. Adam and Eve, however, disregarded God’s law, thereby forfeiting their privilege to share in carrying out their Maker’s marvelous purpose. How did this come about?
Using a serpent as his instrument, the invisible spirit person who later came to be known as Satan the Devil deceived Eve into thinking that disobedience to God was a means of gain. Eve fell for the lie and afterward succeeded in persuading her husband to join her in the transgression.
The rebellion of Satan and of Adam and Eve made it appear that all intelligent creatures were in reality motivated by selfishness, even though they might appear to be willingly submitting to God’s rule. This was, in fact, Satan’s contention, as is evident from what he said centuries later respecting the faithful man Job: “Everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his soul. For a change, thrust out your hand, please, and touch as far as his bone and his flesh and see whether he will not curse you to your very face.”—Job 2:4, 5.
The issue that was raised by Satan was not one that could be settled by immediately destroying him and anyone else who might thereafter express like ideas and motives. Had that been done, the question would have remained, ‘Might Satan, if given enough time, have succeeded in proving his claim?’ As long as such a question persisted, it could undermine confidence in God’s rulership toward his intelligent creation. Therefore, since the time the first humans rebelled, God’s judgments have taken into consideration the issue that had been raised as well as his original purpose for the earth and man upon it.
THE CURSE ON THE GROUND
Consider the judgment pronounced on Adam. He was told: “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and took to eating from the tree concerning which I gave you this command, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life. And thorns and thistles it will grow for you, and you must eat the vegetation of the field. In the sweat of your face you will eat bread.”—Gen. 3:17-19.
This curse on the ground was purposeful. By sinning, Adam had lost the right to share in transforming the uncultivated land outside the garden of Eden into a paradise. It was, therefore, a just pronouncement on God’s part to make it impossible for Adam to produce even a semblance of such a delightful place.
Furthermore, Jehovah God fully understood the effect that sinning would have on his intelligent creatures. He knew that, unless there were impeding factors, imperfect humans would quickly plunge ever deeper into a course of degradation. In this connection, the curse on the ground may well have served to retard man’s sinful inclinations from speedily coming to a head. How? Because he would have to wrest a living from the ground through painful and exhausting labor, Adam would certainly have less time and energy to use for harmful activities.
As long as the curse on the ground continued, its wearying effects were keenly felt by Adam’s descendants. This is evident from the prophetic words spoken by Lamech at the birth of Noah: “This one will bring us comfort from our work and from the pain of our hands resulting from the ground which Jehovah has cursed.”—Gen. 5:29.
AN ADDED CURSE ON CAIN
Painful as the effects of that curse on the ground were, they were not enough to restrain the bad inclinations of Cain, a farmer. This firstborn son of Adam murdered his own brother Abel in the heat of great anger. (Gen. 4:5, 8) For this, God’s judgment against Cain was: “Now you are cursed in banishment from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood at your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will not give you back its power. A wanderer and a fugitive you will become in the earth.”—Gen. 4:11, 12.
Jehovah God was thus banishing Cain from land that he had caused to be defiled with the innocent blood of Abel. Subjected to the effects of blood defilement on the ground, Cain from then on had to devote even more time and energy than previously to provide for himself and his family. (Gen. 4:12-17) This no doubt served to impress upon Cain the badness of what he had done.
However, as the centuries passed, violence intensified. The Bible reports: “The earth came to be ruined in the sight of the true God and the earth became filled with violence.” (Gen. 6:11) Bad as the situation was, it was not yet God’s due time for the earth to be cleansed and to become a paradise, inhabited by people who wanted to serve Jehovah God. Many centuries had been set aside by the Creator for the complete settlement of the issue raised by the rebellion of Satan and of the first humans. Nevertheless, Jehovah God had the wisdom to handle the problem of a violent world’s coming into existence so soon after Adam’s creation. In harmony with justice, he took action against that ungodly world. By means of a global Flood, Jehovah God destroyed wicked men and women whose violent ways threatened to interfere with the due fulfillment of his purpose to have a paradise earth inhabited by humans who loved his sovereignty.—2 Pet. 3:5, 6.
Only righteous Noah and seven members of his family survived the flood. As these deluge survivors had shown a heartfelt desire to serve God, they did not need to be punished by means of a new special curse on the ground. The pre-deluge curse was lifted in fulfillment of Lamech’s prophetic words regarding Noah. Then, too, in view of the reduced human life-span after the flood, the hardship that would have been imposed by a curse on the ground would evidently have made life more difficult for the sinful descendants of Noah.
REBELLION AT BABEL
Sometime during the 350 years that Noah continued living after the flood, many of his descendants chose to rebel against God’s will for them. There being a comparatively small human population on earth, there was certainly no need for people to band together in cities. Yet many of Noah’s descendants felt otherwise. Contrary to God’s will for them to spread abroad in the earth, they began building the city of Babel, along with a lofty tower. “Come on!” they said. “Let us build ourselves a city and also a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a celebrated name for ourselves, for fear we may be scattered over all the surface of the earth.” (Gen. 11:4) Jehovah, the God of justice, however, put an end to that defiant scheme to band together instead of scattering.
Presenting the reasons for God’s taking quick action against Babel’s builders, the Bible says: “Look! They are one people and there is one language for them all, and this is what they start to do. Why, now there is nothing that they may have in mind to do that will be unattainable for them.” (Gen. 11:6) These words show that the all-wise Creator foreknew that rebellious humans would stop at nothing to carry out their defiant schemes through organized and concerted efforts. As time would pass, one wrong thing after another would come to their mind. Then, by means of unified action, they would set themselves to accomplish their evil ends.
Wisely, Jehovah God did something to thwart such unified action for bad. He confused the language of Babel’s builders. No longer being able to understand one another, they stopped their building operation. From then onward, the language barrier hindered any successful banding together for wrong purposes.—Gen. 11:7.
We today should be grateful to God for his taking action in confusing man’s language. Think about what men have done in recent times, for example, in the development of weapons of mass destruction. Despite their being divided and working independently, they have built up an arsenal of weapons that could turn this earth into a desolate waste. It staggers the imagination to contemplate the greater extremes to which men might have gone had it not been for the divisions caused by the language barrier. Indeed, it was no exaggeration when, in connection with the building of Babel, God said of defiant humans: “There is nothing that they may have in mind to do that will be unattainable for them.”
God’s past judgments surely reveal his justice and wisdom. They also show that he has been handling matters with a view to fulfilling his purpose for the earth and man upon it. This will especially be true of God’s coming judgment against the present wicked system of things. That judgment will spell the end for all unbridled wickedness and pave the way for making this earth a paradise.
If you want to be among those to share in the realization of God’s glorious purpose for man and the earth, you need to live in harmony with it now. Unlike those who disregarded God’s purpose and experienced adverse judgment in the past, you should want to be like righteous Noah in doing what is pleasing to the Creator. Only then can you hope to witness and share in the transformation of the earth into a beautiful paradise.