Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy 2

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Deuteronomy 2

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God Is in Control 

In spite of the fact that the Israelites, because of their sin and subsequent punishment, had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, unable to enter the Promised Land, they were still being cared for and provided for by God (verse 7). Once "all the men of war had finally perished from among the people" (verse 16), God gave command to the new generation to begin to conquer the land (verse 24). He made clear, however, that it was He who was in ultimate control of events (verse 25), so that no flesh would glory before Him. In fact, God hardened the heart of King Sihon to provoke him into fighting against Israel (verses 30, 32). And God delivered him and his cities, as well as other specifically designated cities, into the hands of Israel (verses 33, 36).

At God's command, the Israelites "utterly destroyed the men, women, and little ones of every city" (verse 34). Passages like these have led many readers to conclude that the God of the Old Testament was harsh and cruel, in contrast to Jesus Christ, who is thought of as gentle and meek. The fact is, however, that it was the preincarnate Jesus Christ Himself who appeared to and gave this command to Moses (see 1 Corinthians 10:4 and our free booklet Who Is God?). It was He, the Giver of life who created mankind at the Father's behest (compare Hebrews 1:1-2; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 3:9), who rightly ordered taking the life of certain people. It appears that in God's infinite wisdom, He decided that, rather than the children of that evil, demon-worshiping society continuing to live in misery and pain, it was better for them to die and later be resurrected to physical life in a better world in which His right way of life would be taught to everyone and enforced throughout the earth (see Revelation 20:5, 11-12; "The Eighth Day: Eternal Life Offered to All," God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind, 1999, pp. 51-57).

Of course, the prerogative to take human life belongs solely to God. Only He has the right to kill a person or command someone else to do so.