Why God Sometimes Instructs His People To Kill

Examples of it in the texts:
Joshua bringing Israel into Canaan.
There are really no other examples than this of God’s people being asked to kill whole societies including their younglings and women. In the old testament, there are symbols. Everything is a symbol. In fact the Book of Mormon in Alma 34 says that every whit of the law of Moses was to point to Jesus Christ, aka everything. So what could this slaying everything in the wicked city, even the seemingly innocent sheep and other animals, signify? It could signify how in our lives there are certain things that we should have nothing to do with. No hints at pornography. Don’t even enter a casino. Don’t get angry, lest it led to murder, don’t covet lest you steal. Don’t even start using drugs lest you get addicted. Don’t play around with chastity lest you lose your virtue. Don’t even affiliate with apostate groups. We see this is symbolic of having no back doors, no negotiating at the table of my enemy, no pitching my tent toward Sodom, no flirting with the women who aren’t of the covenant lest one loose the exalting blessings of the eternal posterity. To be spiritually worthy to enter Gods house, our lives need to be totally clean, every whit. No unrepented sins. The Kingdom of God is not a filthy place; no unclean thing can enter.
It is important to understand that the time period of the Bible was very brutal in the Middle East. So while it’s very strange to us, it wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary for that time period.
Wicked societies don’t desire to have children, those in Cannan who Israel went to slay may not have had many infants among them.
Also consider that bad things happen to good people sometimes so they can grow
The children of the Cannanites could have had an eternal vendetta against Israelites.
Perhaps if the slaying of the animals could be so that if any of them remained, they would not have inheritance, or to not have the Israelites lusting after property, or being constantly reminded of the wicked ways of the Cannanites, perhaps having them want to turn to the ways of the Cannanites.
Everything that is written in the Old Testament is symbolic. So, ask yourself the following questions: who were the people that they were commanded to exterminate? What did they represent? Why was it important for that symbolic ideology to not be a part of God’s chosen people? etc.
In reference with Moses entering the promised land, The people were practicing the Canaanite religion (which included sacred prostitution in the groves by the priests). The people were corrupt and for the people of Israel not to have a contaminated environment and have a chance to thrive and be successful, everyone needed to be removed. That did not happen. and there began to be intermarriages and corruption of the culture Moses began. Eventually, it became part of their downfall, that and their own sins and disobedience.
To prevent the perpetuation of evil teachings and practices, from father to son, from mother to daughter, and on and on.
Perhaps to stop indiscriminate sinning and thereby, preclude individuals from engaging in further and deeper sinfulness, that would inevitably damn their souls.
In a world where men controlled and determined the conditions of women’s and children’s lives, perhaps to “rescue” women and children (and some men) from systemic and egregious abuse and mistreatment.
Strangely, death, though it can be a harbinger of damnation for some, for others can sometimes be, indeed, merciful.
Study Biblical accounts of Joshua bringing the Israelites into Canaan. I think those narrations will provide you with the answers you are seeking as the Israelites were commanded to wipe outall of the Canaanites who inhabited the land. Particularly look for what they were told to do, and the chastisement they received when they didn’t fully destroy the people.
Review Nephi’s account with Laban. One could consider Nephi to be an Old Testament figure in terms of his culture and when/where he lived. After all, he killed Laban in Jerusalem.
Some good talks to read on this
See link (“Killing Laban, the birth of sovereignty in the Nephite constitutional order” by Val Larsen: https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/JBMRS/article/viewFile/20115/18675; some of the points made therein pertain to Nephi acting as a political sovereign establishing his reign, as is often done in political violence, the slaying of an abusive political foe as an act of taking them over, etc;
See also this link (“Legal Perspectives on the slaying of Laban” by John W. Welch): https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/JBMRS/article/viewFile/19665/18232
God sees mortality as a short time, he may see it as better for those people not to live
God punishes the sins of the people upon their children to the 3rd and 4th generation (this doesn’t mean the children are accountable personally for sins of their parents, it merely means that their lives are going to be harder because of those things; their eternal salvation is always up to their own chosing, and God won’t tempt anyone more than they are able to resist, and God will take handicaps into account in the judgement day
God has power to slay for his own reasons (namely the wickedness of the people). Israel is becoming like God, and having them slay others could be a trial of their faith, a way of proving them. Israelites are to become like God.
This is a hard question, philosophers have been trying to answer it for millennia.
God gives people hard trials, very hard. These are called “Abrahamic trials”. Joseph Smith said that everyone will have to pass through a trial of this level, or they can’t be exalted. Joseph Smith said it would be ludacris to think that we could dwell with Christ and Heavenly Father without having gone through immensely hard things.
Accounts of “Abrahamic trials” we know of
Abe to slay his son Issac
After showing willingness, Abraham was released from the requirment
Joseph Smith to administer poison to his wife Emma
After showing willingness, brother Smith was released from the requirement
John Taylor to give his wife to be a plural wife for Joseph Smith
After showing willingness, brother Taylor was released from the requirement
We keep our faith in our loving Heavenly Father despite not having all of the answers.
We can still live in a house despite not having inspected every nail in it or having a perfect knowledge of construction, landscaping, engineering, and all the social statistics of the neighborhood.
Killing wicked societies in those days may have been culturally more acceptable
Destroying a nation doesn’t necessarily mean that you are annihiliating every person in the city, it means that you are wrecking the structure of that society. (Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, p. 239)
Joseph Smith said that the Kingdom of God is governed on the principle of revelation: when God says to do something, we do it.
At times the Lord says thou shalt not kill, at other times he says thou shalt utterly destroy.
God knows the beginning from the end, we do not. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
the word for “kill” in “thou shalt not kill”, in Hebrew is “murder”. There are separate words for kill and murder in Hebrew. Here the world murder is what is forbidden.
The word murder has the sence of anger and revenge, whereas killing doesn’t.
Those who have been destroyed it has been foretold to them by the prophets of the Lord (2 Ne. 25:9).
We don’t know all the answers of the past, but so far as the future goes, the scriptures show that the destructions of the last days will be done by plagues, and wicked people. That the wicked will slay the wicked.
My BYU Book of Mormon professor Kerry Hull PhD in Mesoamerican studies points out that like pruning a tree, one must get rid of the dead parts, so they don’t hinder the growth of what you want to grow so that maximum fruit is produced. Once the branches are pruned, you can’t just leave them on the ground, you must BURN them, so that they won’t suck up nutriaents from the ground which steals from the good tree, or so they have no chance of growing into corrupt trees. Read Jacob 5, it shows how God gives all the mercy he possibly can.
the children of an extremely wicked society could be psychologically programed in such a dreadful way, that there is no chance for them, and God is putting them out of their misery by slaying them. Think of the Cananites: they were so wicked, so so wicked, slaying the children themselves and all manner of sin. They were the worst of worst. Extreme wickedness. God had to “clean house” there, and wipe all of this out, and get things ready for a different civilization there.
Indeed, with the Cananites, there is that rare case where Israel was not just to destroy a nation, but to annihilate them, not leaving any living thing behind. Even the women and younglings. This is very rare. God was clearing ground there for it to be a land for Israel.
with Jonah, he prophecies that they would be destroyed, but they repented, so God changed the prophecy. God looks for ways to spare us, not for ways to condemn us.
with the flood of Noah, we see this as an act of mercy. The wicked were getting too much in the way of the righteous. It is mercy toward the righteous. The wicked deserve what God gives them, and the righteous deserve likewise what God gives to them.


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