Why did God tell Moses to kill children?

Here is the passage:

“Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately” (Numbers 31:17-18).

I read an article of a mother who lives in a gang-infested part of town with her son. Each morning the child dresses for school and the mother checks to make sure he’s not wearing any gang-affiliated colors. Then they pray for his safety. The boy sets off for school, taking a zigzag, maze-like route down alleys and neutral streets to avoid gang members who intimidate other youth.

Reading of youth gangs in newspaper articles like these help me see how bad it can get among the youth. The stories of children killing on campus tell me how bad it can get even with the young. Stories like these shine a glaring beam of light illuminating the problem facing the Hebrews as God brings them into the land he promised them. In other words, we’re not talking about Boy Scouts here.

The Hebrews could not possibly reform the youth of the land they were entering. God was bringing the Hebrews into the land to judge the peoples of gross sin. God is the judge of the whole Earth and it is his prerogative to execute judgment. God did not call the Israelites to destroy all children in the land, however, and he even gave the reasons why children should be killed in this one instance: “Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord” (Numbers 31:16). This passage tells us that God limited his judgment to a specific group of people, including their children, for a specific purpose. According to the passage quoted at the beginning of this answer, not all children were to be killed.

Amazingly, God chooses to withhold punishment more often than not. God has declared that all of us today have sinned and are worthy of death. He does not desire that we perish in @#!*% , and for the most part has resisted carrying out the punishment we all deserve. Instead, he invites us to believe on Jesus Christ that we may survive the coming judgment.

What Do You Think?

a. Several children in schools and campuses in recent years have opened fire on teachers and children. If the killers had lived, should they have been tried as children or as adults in the courts? Why or why not?

b. America dropped atom bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in WWII, killing an estimated 120,000 men, women, and children. Was the act justified, even though children were killed? Why or why not?

About Steve Husting

Steve Husting lives in Southern California with his wife and son. He enjoys encouraging others through writing, and likes reading, digital photography, the outdoors, calligraphy, making iPhone apps, and chocolate. He has written several books, iPhone apps, and hundreds of Christian devotionals. Steve is also having a great time illustrating God's Word with calligraphy.
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One Response to Why did God tell Moses to kill children?

  1. Glen says:

    I totally agree with the blog/article…

    Question A) I believe they should be tried as criminals of a capital offense, or as adults. I believe that swift punishment for such crimes is justified and sends a strong message to others who may be toying with wrong ideas in their minds. Also, if the criminal remains alive, unless untold amounts of money, which could be better-spent, are spent on the criminal, he or she will just continue along that same road of criminal behavior. Lastly, my understanding of the Bible ( see Is This the Only Day of Salvation? ) shows that there is a second resurrection at a point in time when Satan the Devil will not be here to influence the masses, and God’s Spirit will be available to all; at this point they will have an opportunity to repent and overcome their sins.

    Question B) that is a tough scenario… on the one hand I have to wonder if it is anyone’s business to deal out such retribution, except God’s. On the other hand, Japan’s attack on the USA was totally unprovoked and they appeared to have absolutely no remorse for their actions… they mistreated US soldiers, and worshiped their emperor as a god. It is terribly sad that so many had to die in those bombs, but overall I do think it was justified, simply because it was most likely absolutely necessary to make the Japanese surrender.

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