Jehovah—A Cruel or a Loving God?
“BUT the God of the Bible is a cruel God,” the Japanese man insisted. The missionary standing in his doorway found himself before a person familiar with God’s Word, the Bible.
“What about God’s drowning people in the Flood?” the man continued. “And what about his incinerating Sodom and Gomorrah, not to mention his having the Israelites exterminate the Canaanites? How can you say that God is anything other than cruel? Besides, the God of the ‘New Testament’ is entirely different. Jesus taught about a God of peace and love.”
This perception of the “Old Testament” God as cruel and warlike permeates the thinking of many. Consequently, some people view even the “New Testament” God of love as suspect. How could anyone be moved to serve a God who appears to have a split personality?
“All His Ways Are Justice”
Humans, though, are hardly in a position to criticize God’s actions. Does a child at once comprehend why his father makes him endure the pain of a dentist’s chair? Likewise, we might not at first understand all of God’s actions. “Know that Jehovah is God,” said the psalmist. “It is he that has made us, and not we ourselves.”—Psalm 100:3.
Is it not unwise, then, hastily to conclude that God’s actions are cruel? “‘The thoughts of you people are not my thoughts, nor are my ways your ways,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8, 9) Moreover, the Bible assures us that “all his ways are justice.” Jehovah is identified as “a God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) Let us therefore look at some cases in which God has seen fit to execute judgment.
“Jehovah saw that the badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.” (Genesis 6:5) Such was the pre-Flood world. Yes, Jehovah God “saw the earth and, look! it was ruined, because all flesh had ruined its way on the earth.” (Genesis 6:12) Some might argue that God should have left people alone, letting them do what they wanted. But there were still honest, morally upright people left on the earth. Would it not have been cruel for God to allow the wicked to exterminate the last vestige of morality left on earth? God therefore arranged for a global deluge to rid the earth of its ruiners.
A cruel God would have made no provision for the survival of man or beast. Yet Jehovah did so. A cruel God would never have warned of the coming cataclysm. Yet he assigned Noah to be “a preacher of righteousness” for at least some 40 or 50 years! (2 Peter 2:5) People could choose either survival or death.
Sodom and Gomorrah
When two angels visited Sodom, the inhabitants soon revealed their perverted nature. The men of Sodom surrounded Lot’s house, “from boy to old man, all the people in one mob. And they kept calling out to Lot and saying to him: ‘Where are the men who came in to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have intercourse with them.’” (Genesis 19:4, 5) This was ‘going after flesh for unnatural use.’—Jude 7; see also Romans 1:26, 27.
God, “who searches the hearts,” saw that the cities were unsalvageable. Their annihilation was deserved. (Romans 8:27) Why, not even ten righteous men could be found in Sodom! (Genesis 18:32) The conduct of the Sodomites posed a real threat to righteous Lot and his family. Therefore, God’s rescue of Lot and his daughters was an act of love!—Genesis 19:12-26.
Executing the Canaanites
Jehovah promised Abraham that his seed would eventually occupy the land of Canaan. Note, though, that no execution was to take place in Abraham’s day. Why not? “Because the error of the Amorites [the dominant Canaanite tribe] has not yet come to completion,” said Jehovah. (Genesis 15:16) Some 430 years would pass before the wickedness of that nation had reached such proportions that Moses could say: “It is for the wickedness of these nations [of Canaan] that Jehovah your God is driving them away from before you.”—Deuteronomy 9:5.
Says the book Archaeology and the Old Testament: “The brutality, lust and abandon of Canaanite mythology . . . must have brought out the worst traits in their devotees and entailed many of the most demoralizing practices of the time, such as sacred prostitution, child sacrifice and snake worship . . . utter moral and religious degeneracy.” Nevertheless, the Gibeonites and residents of three other cities were spared. (Joshua 9:17, 18) Would a cruel God have allowed this?
A Split Personality?
However, some insist that the “Old Testament” God underwent a personality change in the “New Testament.” ‘Jesus’ teachings focused on love,’ they say.—Matthew 5:39, 44, 45.
Yet, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. came as a judgment from Jehovah, even as Jesus foretold. (Matthew 23:37, 38; 24:2) Further, unrighteous individuals such as Ananias, Sapphira, and Herod were put to death. God had not changed. (Acts 5:1-11; 12:21-23; Malachi 3:6) Nor were Jesus’ teachings about love a new development. Much earlier, the Mosaic Law had commanded: “You must love your fellow as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) Jesus’ teachings about self-sacrificing love, though, went further than this command. (John 13:34) Remember, too, that he also pronounced strong denunciations on hypocritical religious leaders. Read all of Matthew chapter 23 for yourself and see how powerfully Jesus denounced such ones.
The Bible record thus stands, not as a proof of God’s being cruel, but as evidence of his deep and abiding love for mankind. Thus we are moved to learn more about Jehovah and his loving ways. Our next article can help you to do just that.
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Was Jehovah just in sending the Flood, in destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, and in executing the Canaanites?