Why Did God Order the Death of Gentile Infants? A Possible Solution

The comments have been busy with conversations about God’s command that the Israelites should kill Canaanites, sometimes even the Canaanite children.

Canaanite Infant Sacrifice

See: Did God Command “Genocide” in Deuteronomy?

God specifies different orders for Israel regarding different kinds of Canaanites:

  1. For some Canaanite cities, only the men should be killed (Deut 20:12-15). Here, God specifically commands Israel not to kill the women, children, and livestock.
  2. In the case of other cities, God commanded that the men, women, and children be killed (Deut 20:16-18). Specifically, these are the “Hethites, and the Amorrhites, and the Chanaanites, the Pherezites, and the Hevites, and the Jebusites.”
  3. In the case of the Amalakites, the worst enemies of Israel, God commanded that the men, women, children, and livestock be killed (1 Sam 15:3-23).

King Saul, the first king of Israel, slew all the Amalakites (men, women, children, infants), but did not kill all their livestock. For this disobedience, King Saul lost the crown, which was given to King David.

I’ve been pondering these difficult verses. God commanded killing…children? Also, why is there a gradation in God’s command regarding Canaanites? I can understand the first one easily. Idolatrous men are dwelling in the Promised Land. When combatants (males) confront Israel, then Israel kills these men. That make sense.

Yet (2) and (3) are more difficult to understand since in these passages God directly commands the Israelites to kill Canaanite children.

The key here, I think, is the final inclusion of livestock in number (3) regarding the Amalakites. This got me thinking. Children and livestock are not moral agents. Children reach the age of reason somewhere between the age of 5 and 10 years – usually 7 years. Therefore, small children cannot be culpable of sins.  These pagan children have original sin, so did all Gentiles. Original sin alone cannot qualify these children for death under the Israelite sword. Moreover, animals are not culpable of sin. So why would God want these children and animals killed?

I was praying about this yesterday several times, asking Christ to show me a good answer. Then it struck me. Ancient pagan cities were cultic – the cities were centered on the community’s religion. These specific peoples (“Hethites, and the Amorrhites, and the Chanaanites, the Pherezites, and the Hevites, and the Jebusites”) and especially the Amalakites were foresworn enemies of Israel. This means they were foresworn enemies of God. This means that they served Satan more than any other people on earth.

Suddenly, an answer appears. These people were irrevocably given over to Satan and his demons. Demons can posses children and they can possess animals. Do you remember this passage:

The devils therefore went out of the man and entered into the swine. And the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake and were stifled.” (Luke 8:33, D-R)

God ordered the deaths of children and animals in the last case because the men, women, children, and animals were possessed by devils. It would not be fitting for Israel to adopt demon-possessed children and demon-possessed livestock. These pagan people consecrated their children and livestock to Baal who is a devil. Imagine if you poured goats blood on a baby and baptized the child for the devil. Would that baby have spiritual problems? You bet. These Canaanite children had been handed over to the devils that their parents worshiped.

For all the gods of the Gentiles are devils, but the Lord made the heavens.” (Psalm 95:5, D-R)

There is archaeological evidence to support that these enemies of Israel consecrated their infants to these devils. Archeologists have found that it was common for these Canaanites tribes to sacrifice an infant and place its body in the foundation of their house as some sort of bizarre “house blessing” ritual.

Their religious sites are filled with two things: the skeletons of sacrificed children and fertility figurines with enlarged sex organs. Ezekiel 16 indicates that pagan people (and even corrupted Israelites) masturbated with these sexualized idols.

The idolatrous people lived for Satan. They dedicated their children to Satan. They even sacrificed their children to Satan. Any surviving children would have been set apart to serve the devils and these children were likely filled with devils.

It should not surprise us that Satan and his devils focused on these poor peoples, since the devils knew that God desired Israel to live in the Promised Land and eventually that Christ would be born, die, and resurrect in this land. So Satan had been busy poisoning the inhabitants against the true God and His people Israel. This is why these Canaanite nations attacked Israel. They were attacking God.

In brief, it was a mercy for these children to be killed by Israel. If they grew up, they’d be demon worshipers and would plunge into Hell. If they were slain, they would simply go the limbo of the children where they would enjoy natural happiness.

As for the animals, killing these would free them of the devils.

This is merely my (working) hypothesis. It may be faulty and thoroughly incorrect, or perhaps it may bring some clarity. Remember also that the Jews did not have the sacrament of baptism which could have delivered these infants, and they did not have a ministry of exorcism that we have today in the Catholic Church.

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  • jc

    Most of the Canaanites were actually spared if they ran away. Genocide was not the object of Israel’s invasion, and there was no Canaanite genocide.

    God said he would send terror upon the Canaanites (Exodus 23:27). How do you send terror? By creating an awesome reputation for God, and an invincible one for Israel. The plagues on Egypt, the defeat of the Amorites east of the Jordan, and the crossing of the river were all to convince the Canaanites they were not to fight, but run.

    After Jericho and Ai, most Canaanites were too afraid to defend the cities and fled. Just put yourself in their position after hearing of the “magic” that Israel wielded at Jericho. The evidence can be seen in the following:

    1) The 5 city alliance of the Gibeonites decided on guile rather than risk conflict. They offered to be slaves to Israel as long as they were spared.

    2) The Canaanite kings tried two alliances in open battle rather than depend on their walls.

    3) Israel took some cities in 1 or 2 days (Joshua 10:23, 32, 35). Compare this with 37 men at Harlech Castle holding off the entire Welsh Army in 1294AD. This was only possible if the cities were severely undermanned. No miracles or tactics were recorded.

    4) Isaiah 17:9 tells us many of the cities were deserted as Israel approached.

    5) If genocide was the goal, no Canaanite would dare return to any city after Israel had taken it. And yet, Caleb found some in Hebron to drive out (Joshua 15:14).

    6) Joshua chapters 15 to 22 lists approximately 260 cities allotted to the tribes, all with no record of battles or sieges.

    7) Thutmose III, pharaoh of Egypt circa 1500BC claimed over 350 Canaanite cities paid him tribute. Joshua 12 lists 31 kings and their cities actually defeated (less than 10%!)

    8) There is no archaeological evidence of massed graves in Canaan for that time period.

    God built a formidable reputation for Himself in Egypt, and an awesome one for Israel over 40 years in the wilderness, culminating with the destruction of the Canaanites east of the Jordan. An invincible reputation was supposed to be established at Jericho and Ai. This would have forestalled any resistance and saved lives. Too bad one greedy man stole what was reserved for God at Jericho, and Israel suffered an initial defeat at Ai. This encouraged some Canaanites to fight.

    God directed Israel against the strongest and most organized of the Canaanites. Once they were defeated, further killing was minimized. Only those Canaanites most responsible for the evil culture, and those who had the most to lose would have stayed and fought. These were slain to the last man or woman. It was the genocide of a wicked culture, not the genocide of a people. The people who ran away were later driven out.

    Should this be called cultural genocide? Even today, some nations in the world have laws where citizenship can be revoked, and people deported. God has His own thoughts on religion, culture, race, and politics. Leviticus chapters 17 and 18 lists sins that God says “cut off from his people”. Since this applies even to foreigners, it means foreigners are cut off from their own nations, and not just from God or Israel. In other words, people who commit those sins were not considered a religion, culture, race or political group. We can go by what the world says, or we can go by what God says.

    (Perhaps it should not be even called a culture. This was a culture imposed from the top by cruel kings and sadistic priests. This culture did not arise from the common people, who were poor and uneducated.)


    • James Scott

      I might point out according to Jewish Tradition a warning had to be sent ahead to the cities giving them time to flee & or a chance to accept the Noachide Laws.

      • Francis Miville

        There is no such thing as a jewish mandate to have the other nations converted to the so-called Noachide laws, that is a very late corruption of Jewish tradition that has more to do with Enlightenment philosophy and deism, aka the quest for a minimalist religion common to all humankind, than with even the Talmud, it appeared in western liberal Judaism about the same time it appeared in Anglicanism under the form of latitudinarianism. The Jews can only convert into their own religion, since they acknowledge of no other as God-given, and hope for a whole world, including animals and plants, practising their religion only to the minutest detail with mathematical rigour. What the Talmud rather implies through various dialogues is that among the pagans there are more righteous souls and also nations that are to be distinguished by the degree they already obey the seven Noachide commandments (like having courts of justice, like prohibiting torture…) on the backdrop of others who have no concern at all for justice.

        • James Scott

          I never said Jews or the Talmud was interested in world conquest.

          But in taking the Canaanite lands they would have according to the Rabbis spared any who adopted the Noachide Laws. There is a difference in the OT and the Talmud between Wars of the Lord which God commands vs other wars. Taking Canaan would have been a war of the Lord and thus they would have sent heralds ahead to invite the populace to adopt the laws of Noah.

    • yeah right

      So then obviously when the bible says in Joshua “They defeated them and pursued them all the way to Greater Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim, and to the Valley of Mizpah on the east, until no survivors were left. (Joshua 11:8)”, I guess that’s just the bible exagerating, and you can’t take it as the literal word of god? Christians are such hypocrites.

      • Linus77

        The Bible says that they destroyed them all. There is no mention of God instructing the Israelis to allow runaways to survive. If it’s not in alignment with the Word of God, is not true.

  • George

    If God wanted to deliver these infants/children and cast the demons out of them, He might as well have done that through His prophet Samuel. Prophets had God’s power to heal, raise the dead and eventually cast out evil spirits. Killing innocent infants because they were thought of as being possessed by demons is not a healing solution by any means. Besides, during the time of Jesus and even beofre His time, there were so many Israelites who were demon possessed, why didn’t God then order His righteous ones to kill them?

    • Yup

      Because God is not all-knowing, all-powerful, or ever-present. He is not merciful, loving, or just. He’s a petty, vengeful liar.

    • Linus77

      Samuel came much much later…by that time, those babies would have grown up and had children of their own up to 3 or 4 generations, and intermarriage would have been prevalent. That means that the root of the sins that their families that God had them killed over would have plenty of time and opportunity to infect the whole of Israel, which it still did generations later because they did not eradicate completely as God told them to.
      God knows the future. I agree with the writer…it seemed more likely that it was mercy that God dictated the children be killed so they can enter into heaven, instead of years later and go to hell…and taking many many with them. What say you? God WANTS everyone to go to heaven? Or does He just not care?

      • Sudah Langsing

        Lol. God knows the future, god is almight. But in the same time powerless so he had to come to manslaughter as the last resort. What a lame excuse. As a Christian you should know better that Christian is a monotheist religion. Satan is merely a god’s creature and has no power to undermine god’s will.

  • yam

    faciesm in its purest form.
    The ones who kill any children are the ones who are possessed by demons. I do not think that the israelites have killed anybody as they adapted to the culture and language of the cananite. the ones who written the bible are pathatic and mad. the word of God was always consistent from the time of Moses……. do not kill and If God is not consistent in his message , then this God is false but thanks because God is not wicked and does not order the slaugter of people. It is wicked humans and rabbies who twisted the word of God and included their ideas in the old testment. If God has oedered the israelites to kill cananites because they sinned , this means that God ordered Hitler to kill jews because they sinned and hence we will justufy the killing of any group of people by other group is because they sinned. …………..this is pathatic, madness and stupid and can be faciesm in purest form…………… God is love and it can not order thekilling of anybody.
    We know that in the ancient world a ot of bad practices were widespread all over the world and God did not order the israelites to go and wipe them out or go and correct them or invite them to God. After all why the Israelites escaped from Iraq where bad practices prevailed including polythiesm.
    Why the Israelites or heprews escaped to palestine or land of caanan , the only state to give them refuge , safety and food or income support.how come the early heprews lived for several decades in palestine and adopted the culture of the palestinean and adopted the language of palestinean ‘the heprew’ the so called language of heaven or God.
    If the land of canaan was a holy land , how come the left it when they have lots of business in Egypt.IF the canaanite were bad people. whey the isralites continued to use the cananite langauge and culture while in egypt.
    When the israelites fled from egypt , they come back again as refugees to palestine and they lived sise by side along the cannanite and may be the engaged in tribal fighting with other cannaite tribe as the cannanite considered the israelites as another canannite tribe and we know that in the ancient world those tribe fought for territory, water and resources .it was normal sometimes some tribes formed alliances and other formed mini kingdom. Some of these Kingdoms have only several hundreds oeople in population, some of these kingdoms are few kilometre long and wide. the kindom of the israelites who were a moving nomad like arabs was a religous kingdom.
    We have to understand the message of God as a peaceful and consistent from the time of the ten commandments and any corruption or mutelation of this message that appears in the old testment is added to the Tawra by mad wicked ancient faciest who wanted to corrupt the true message of God and i am sure that majority of jews do not believe in them.

    • Aaron Welwood

      The idea that God said “do not kill” is is a half truth… Which means that’s a lie. GOD said “You shall not Murder”. There is a big difference. When God commands judgement of someone or something it is not murder, it is judgement. Kind of like the death penalty for criminals in the justice system. The difference is that God is the perfect judge and knows the end from the beginning and the hearts of all men women and children, past present and future.
      There are details that are not clearly explained in every situation in scripture but that being said, to say God is inconsistent in scripture and therefore it must be wrong is an ignorant attitude. Maybe you don’t want an answer that clarifies the situation. If this is a concern then seek an answer. Trust in God that he can keep his word untainted. If he can’t do that then how can he do anything?

      • Guest

        “If he can’t do that then how can he do anything?”
        You’ve reached the end of the game. He can’t do anything. He’s fictional. Congratulations, you’re free.

  • Paul

    I have often wondered the same thing and this was what came to me. During those times God actually walked on earth and spoke with men.He manifested himself in the sight of men..did great miracles in front of men and yet they still rejected him in favor of demonic idols. And so swift judgment came upon people,as they were not yet under Jesus’s covenant of grace. Athiests use this argument all the time saying they would never follow a baby killer God.But I like to point out that children are innocent as you said so they return to God.You see God doesn’t view death as we do. “Precious in Gods eyes is the death of a saint”..God views everything from an eternal perspective…thats my input….

  • tdg

    when van the seven nations of canaanites finaly be destroyed?have canaanites seeded themselves in the u.s.a. and van we round up and send them to the 7 cities tp be destroyed?

    • Craig

      Yes, well a secular culture, and have a good legal system, so any would-be Canaanites would have to restrain their evil to Saturday night seduction, and burning effigies.

  • me

    I have seen many idotic reasons why God orered the genocide. Buit this is by far the most inane, rediculous reason I have ever read. It doesn’tt even deserve a response. I was born and raised Catholic. But I’m starting to realize that devout Catholics r becoming very dangerous peolpe.

    • James Scott

      Argument by outrage is not convincing.

      I also find it hypocritical Atheists are outraged by the deaths of people in a book they regard as mere fiction but have little or no problem supporting things like Abortion on demand or partial birth abortion.

      • StEwPiD_MoNkEy

        What a great strawman argument. It’s not that we are upset about fictional killings. It’s the arrogant stance of Christians on moral topics. Theist like to act like they’ve cornered the market on morality. They feel this gives them the right to dictate to others how they should live.
        So although for us, your book my be fictional, it isn’t in your view. So, speaking of being hypocrites, how can you possibly judge something like abortion to be immoral when your god has no problem, and by extension christians, killing mass amounts of people simple because they don’t agree with your views.
        It’s funny how theist want to claim objective morality yet their morality is either dependant on the wishes of their god (which makes it subjective) or they totally disregard scripture when it suits them.
        so you have a problem with abortion but okay with “ripping infants from their mothers wombs”?
        Who is the hypocrite here?

        • James Scott

          I am morally consistent. I believe God has the absolute right of life and death. Human beings do not have any right too take any life without God’s permission.

          Logically God may take life just as I may erase a computer program I have written.

          The only open ended permission we have to take life is Governments have the authority from God (sanctioned by Romans 15) to impose Capital punishment on evil doers and wage just war against evil doers.

          That is it.

          Also I believe Haraam Commands (i.e. commands in the OT where God orders the wiping out of whole peoples including women and children) are not open ended since the Church teaches they can only be given via a public revelation to a God appointed civil authority. With the death of the Last Apostle there is no more public revelation and with the extinction of the OT Israelite commonwealth there is no authority to carry it out anyway.

          Of course Atheist Regimes don’t seek sanction from the Power that created and sustains life. They following the Law of the Jungle & just kill and wipe out innocents at will since they have no morality.

          Yeh that is so much better. NOT!

          • Guest

            If god wanted to stop abortions, he would have done it already. So maybe god is using his absolute right of life and death through people to perform abortions, just as he used his absolute right of life and death through Joshua to kill thousands of people in te promised land.

  • Young Hassan

    Ridiculous argument. Nowhere does it say children can be possessed and it clearly states swine. Not the ox, sheep, camel and donkey. Good try though

    • Linus77

      Mark 9:17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son
      so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And
      whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground.
      Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid.[a] So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

      19 Jesus said to them,[b] “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

      20 So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the
      child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and
      foaming at the mouth.

      21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.

      He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

      23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

      24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

      25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil[c] spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”

      26 Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion
      and left him. The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the
      crowd as people said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up.

      • Young Hassan

        The bible is a book changed and corrupted by humans. This is confirmed by Christian scholars as well. Your book is tainted by humans and is not God’s Word.

  • Craig

    Hello, your theory makes sense regarding the differential treatment of the different Canaanite Tribes. However, is it not the case that God ordered the killing of the Midianite boys, but kept the Midianite girls, hardly what you would do if BOTH were demon possessed.

  • Gary Dyarman

    I have been reading about this issue of Biblical genocide that exist in the Old Testament….and there is quite a bit of it……it begs many questions. “Why is God not doing his own ‘dirty-work’? How does God justify “Thou shall not kill!”, and in the next breath say wipe out men, women, children and animal? What sin did the animal do????????? The Gnostic’s believed that there were two different supreme beings….one in the Old Testament who was evil and the one in the New testament that was Good of course Main stream Christianity did their best to wipe them out and discredit them…..and their ideas. Which leads me to believe deeply that the Bible great book that it is…..has been a bit less than Divinely inspired and written more along the lines of; “Lets use God to justify all our really bad behavior….He told us to do it!!!! That makes it right….we are just following orders! I think the last group that used that line big time was Nazi’s justifying trying to exterminate all the people they didn’t approve of….and we all know how that turned out!
    Gary Dyarman

  • Leviticus 1:12

    Wow, you are completely insane. God is imaginary. You are justifying slaying infants. Face it, your religion is false. Grow up. Your primitive beliefs are damaging us as a species. YOU ARE JUSTIFYING INFANTICIDE!!!