If God commanded an evil?


A friend asked me what I’d do if God commanded me to do something evil. I did not know how to answer that because of God telling Abraham to kill Isaac.

What would the response be?


God was testing Abraham’s faith in telling him to sacrifice his son. It was an allusion to the eventual sacrifice on the Cross for our sins.

He would never tell someone to murder. That sounds more like satan.


If God commanded evil He’d be worse than satan, since satan is still only a created being. If that were the case there would be no reason to follow or obey Him because He’d be completely untrustworthy.


God is Goodness and Love. He can’t command evil. He would be contradicting himself.


It would NEVER happen, but if it were known for an ABSOLUTE FACT that the one commanding an evil thing was God than I would have to say that one should most certainly follow through with it, as God is the most powerful being and the one whom we owe everything, including our very lives to and He did suffer and die that so we could live forever in Heaven. However, since it would NEVER happen, I would not worry about it.


Truth be told, I am deeply bothered by one instance in The Bible when God appears to have given an evil command.

Specifically, when he told the Israelites to kill all of the Canaanites (women and children included). I can not for the life of me find a way to justify the killing of someone simply because of their race: human nature is the same today as it was 3000 years ago, so there it is impossible for an entire race to be evil. There is never a situation in which killing a child is justified, not even if its a Canaanite Child whose only crime was being born in a region that a God he’s never heard of decided should belong to someone else.

This is especially odd considering that God agreed to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if only five good people lived there (and even when there was only three, he rescued those three).

Was God testing the humanity Israelites to see if they would beg for mercy on behalf of their enemies? Did the Israelites commit the atrocities on their own and decide afterward to claim it was God’s orders (thereby absolving them of something that would obviously be sinful)? Or is God really just that cruel?

The matter of the Canaanites has really put me in a dilemma.


What about in the Old Testament, when God commanded the people to kill the women and children of another people?


A lot of people struggle with this. There are some good treatments of the subject you can find online. The Canaanites were very evil people. They engaged in child sacrifice, immoral sex like incest and beastiality, and other great evils.

Some people suggest they were so wicked their culture needed to be eradicated, even unfortunately the young folks. I understand the natural distaste for this harsh a judgment. But I don’t think it is impossible that God in his omniscience didn’t know that by leaving some from the culture that wouldn’t pollute the people He was cultivating for His purposes. Think about how much the Israelites did fall to the influence of others. Had a strong Canannite culture been around it could have been much worse.

It is also possible that God in His omniscience would know that even the Cannanite children would all grow up to do great evil, including sacrificing future children. If they were to die young that might leave the possibility of Heaven for them. Many people are uncomfortable which such considerations but if this is logically possible it offers an explanation.

As I recall others suggest the command was hyperbolic. It suggest that the message was these people are evil. You need to drive them out completely and destroy their culture. This did not mean commit genocide. I believe a piece of evidence for this argument is that there were still some Canannites after they were utterly destroyed.


Here are some thoughts:

A related question is why does God allow an evil? A good example is the slaughter of the Innocents right after the birth of Christ. God can allow evil, such that some greater good can come out of it.

God has told us that we cannot decide to murder the innocent. But God can, and does cause those things to happen. When we do it all on our own, it’s evil because God told us not to. When God does it, it’s not evil because God created all things, and can do with them as he wishes.


What about commanding/approving the killing of…[fill in the blank with whatever, whomever]?

You answer it by asking the person to answer the question they just begged.
“Why would the killing of [whomever] be “evil” or “wrong”? How do you define “evil”?”


Hyperbole was a literary device in great use at the time. I don’t know, of course, but I, personally, believe it is hyperbole.

If I felt God was commanding me to do something evil, my response would be the same as Christ’s, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” Christ did tell us that we will know them by their fruits. I don’t intend to follow anyone who produces bad fruit, and I intend to do all I can to produce good fruit myself. Killing isn’t good fruit.

Sorry to butt in.


Why should it put you in a dilemma? What makes you think they were killed simply because of their race? Why does it matter that you and I can’t find a way to justify such an act? Are we so god-like that we can presume to know the hearts of those we didn’t create and pretend we would have found someone innocent among them who would have grown to love God?
And didn’t God minister to them anyway, when Christ descended to preach to the souls in Abraham’s Bossom? Why is an earthly life the end-all be-all when it comes to life?


So since God gave orders for Old Testament people to kill other innocent human beings, doesn’t it follow that if God told somebody to do this today, it would be OK?

If I had a vision where God told me to kill some innocent person, I would think that the vision was from the devil. Why didn’t they think something similar?


He could have caused a flood to drown them. He could have simply caused them to not exist. He could have prevented them existing in the first place.

If you go with the not unreasonable assumption that hacking children to death is not a good thing and if you believe that God cannot order evil, then…it didn’t really happen, did it.


This is true. nothing God does can be inconsistent with the love of man, inconsistent with love.


You have to look at why God was asking this - to purify the land of Pagan Gods and Pagan belief which is one of the ten commandments he gave to them. Should he give this command and then put them in a land of pagan belief? Of course the Israelite did not follow Gods Command and look what happened - they fell back into paganism and fell away from God because the land was not cleansed of pagan Gods and pagan belief.

These words came right from Moses mouth who did not have a vision but actually sat there with God speaking face to face. Well not face to face - God told him he would Die if he was to show him his face. Moses only got to see Gods back as he walked by.

Did God have the right to ask this?

From our perspective life is very precious and it would be evil - but God had a purpose and I know in faith he showed mercy to the innocent who are in heaven. Gods Vision is not our vision of things If they are in heaven they suffer no more and are in God’s loving light. Everyone seems to miss why God asked for this they simply look at the outcome - so the first question you have to ask is why did God ask this of the Israelites and move on from there.

Jesus, after he died on the cross, descended into Hades (or Sheol) and preached the gospel to the souls of the dead. Those who believed then ascended with him to heaven. This is the traditional interpretation of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.So all those who accepted the Gospel were saved and are in Gods loving light.

This one is very hard to understand but we are not God and do not see things as God does. My thoughts are not your thoughts my ways are not your ways.


To explain why an evil order coming from God is problematic and why I can’t just say obey blindly (blind obedience means there’s no line you won’t cross upon command), I should clarify as to WHY I worship God. While God is All-Knowing and All-Powerful, and while both of those are deserving of respect and reverence, those alone aren’t why I worship God.

I worship God because he is the Summum Bonum. That means God is the Highest Good, that everything he does and commands is absolute Good, and that all Good everywhere comes from Him. In my opinion, being the very Embodiment of Good is the most important aspect about God.

If God wasn’t Good, if He was All-Powerful yet still capable of Evil, than we wouldn’t worship him: we’d fear him.
During Antiquity, the Greeks and Romans believed in (thankfully false) Pagan Gods who raped, murdered, and caused suffering out of little more than spite and vindictiveness. The Romans and Greeks did not love or adore their Gods; the tribute they offered to the temples of Poseidon and Mars were essentially Pizzo. This lead The Romans to be very cruel, to place little-to-no value on human life, and to have a dreary and sad outlook on life. That’s one of the reasons why Christianity spread so quickly across Europe: the idea that a God actually loves humanity and isn’t capricious was a concept that was previously unheard of on that continent.

Now on the subject of the Canaanites. Sure they were brutal, but it is impossible for every single member of that ethnic group to have been irredeemably evil from cradle to grave: human nature has simply does not work like that and never has. Take for instance The Aztecs: the Aztecs practiced grizzly and bloody human sacrifices of thousands every year, and you could argue that their culture was worse than the culture of the Canaanites. Yet when people today talk about the end of The Aztec Culture, they describe it as a genocide and a horrible atrocity. That’s because there is no group where the members are monolithic, and the brutality of the Aztec High Priests did not make the women and children deserving of death.

Fortunately, there are some ways to interpret God’s seemingly-harsh orders that wouldn’t make him evil. It is possible that God was testing the Israelite People to see if they would ask him for mercy on behalf of their enemies (as Job did for his three unsupportive friends, as Abraham did for Sodom and Gomorrah, and as Jesus did for the Roman Guards who were crucifying him). It is also possible that “leave no Canaanites alive in the land” was less of an extermination order and more of a deportation order; this is supported by the existence of Canaanites centuries after The Holy Land was conquered. It is possible, as others have pointed out, that God was just being hyperbolic to place emphasis on how important it was that they didn’t intermingle with the locals. It is also possible that the people who recorded the events of The Old Testament exaggerated or simplified the actions of The Isralites (if they didn’t have writing at the time, than oral tradition would have been how those stories would have survived).

There are ways to explain things like this while keeping God as the Summum Bonum, but “If He demands genocide, than we should obey blindly” isn’t one of those ways.

Lily, you make a good point.


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