A lot of Bible critics point out how “cruel” God was in the Old Testament, destroying entire populations to include women and children. They state that if this God was so cruel, how can we aspire to worship him.
However, they are not telling the entire story. God’s justice may appear cruel to non-Christians, but he also is long-suffering before passing judgment, and it is in the best interest when he does so. As an example of that, let us look at the Book of Joshua and the destruction of Hazor after the final major battle in the Promised Land. But first, a little background information.
In the Bible, Abraham asks God how he (Abraham) will know that his seed will inherit the promised land (Genesis 15:1 – 15:8). God tells Abraham his seed will be the chosen people; however, they will have to take refuge in Egypt for 400 years because of a strife he has with the people of Canaan called the Amorites:
And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.
And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not their’s, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.
But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
We know that the family of Jacob (Israel) does indeed take refuge in Egypt, and stays there for ~400 years by Exodus 12:41:
Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.
And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.
We know from Genesis that when they first went into Egypt, they were highly favoured, but after the sons of Jacob (Israel) had died, they were forced into servitude, thus the difference between total years in Egypt (430) and years of affliction in Genesis 15:13 (400 years).
As for the 400 years delay in God judging the Amorites, we can deduce that he was giving them a chance to repent; however their sin was SO great at the end of the 400 years there was no more chance of repentance. As to a precedent for this on God’s part, we can read in the Book of Jonah where God send’s Jonah to Nineveh to proclaim their destruction because the sin’s had become so great there:
And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying,
Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.
Jonah then tells the city that in 40 days Nineveh will be overthrown. However, unlike the Amorites, the Ninevites believed God and Jonah, and repented:
So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
Because of their repentance, God decided not to destroy the city for the King’s sake:
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
So, as God does not wish for anyone to perish, he gives even the seemingly horribly wicked a chance to repent. However, in the case of the Amorites, they were so exceedingly wicked that there would be no repentance.
In part 2, we will learn who the Amorites were and what they did that was so wicked.