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Question

Moses was commanded to kill people who did not worship God. If you were in his position would you have killed 3000 people and would you think this was just?

Answer

Thank you for your question, it's a really good one, very specific, and about a seemingly very real dilemma!

The short answer to your direct question is yes, if I were Moses in that situation I would have thought it was just, but I completely understand why that seems totally insane! I can assure you that I would never do such a thing in any other situation than that exact context, firstly because who God is and his direct command, and secondly because of what the people were guilty of.

I can also assure you I know I won't ever have to do that and I would have very good reasons for not doing it from the Bible.

I believe the passage in question is Exodus 32:28 and the context explains the situation well. The people in Exodus 32 had only just come out of Egypt, with Exodus 19:1 telling us it was only three months since they left Egypt. The events that brought them out of Egypt were truly spectacular: God brought plagues upon Egypt, many of which didn't touch the Israelites; Moses was shown and proved to be God's messenger by many signs and wonders; and after leaving Egypt the nation was brought through the Red Sea on dry land but the Egyptian army following was destroyed by the waters falling back down (I've not included references as that is a summary of Exodus 3-14). All of those things were so clearly the hand of the Lord and the song in Exodus 15:1-18 shows that the people all knew this with no doubt whatsoever.

Exodus 17 has already recorded the people grumbling, and our reaction reading it surely has to be amazement that a people that saw such incredible things could already be forgetting and complaining, but Exodus 32 is even worse. Exodus 32:1 tells us that all it took for the people to reject the Lord and create a god of their own was Moses being up the mountain for a long time. How can a people who months before were slaves, who were freed by the most spectacular miracles, so quickly reject the God who freed them?

What the people did is a far more serious thing than we might think. The very first words of the law given in Exodus 20 declare that this law is being given by the Lord who freed them from Egypt, and the first thing they are told is that they should not have any other gods, and then that they should not make idols. God, as creator, and especially for them as their redeemer, deserves their worship and praise, yet here they are breaking the very first things he says and rejecting him.

For those reasons I have to say that the judgement for sin was right, and that's why I say yes to your question. However, I can also add that I know for certain that I will never have to.

John 1:17 tells us that the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. The change that Jesus brought about is incredible! The Apostle Paul explains it that for all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.' Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for 'The righteous shall live by faith.' But the law is not of faith, rather 'The one who does them shall live by them.' Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.' (Galatians 3:10-13)

A few verses later in Galatians 3:24-26 he says, so then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

Jesus Christ, in dying for our sins on the cross, has brought in the new covenant where we are no longer under the law, but under grace. Paul describes the law in Colossians 2:14 as nailed to the cross with Jesus! All its demands are met in him, and though we fall short of it we don't have to fear judgement because he has taken the punishment for us (see 1 Peter 2:24).

But this doesn't mean that God's standards have changed. What Jesus offers is grace, and we are now living in what 2 Corinthians 6:2 calls the day of salvation. This will end when Jesus returns, and when he comes back he will come as judge. Then, all sin will be settled; all sin will be paid for. For the person trusting in Jesus, no matter what they have done, their sin has already been paid for in full by Jesus on the cross and they will be welcomed into heaven (Hebrews 9:27-28). But for anyone who rejects Jesus, they will have to bear their own sin, and they will be cast into hell for all eternity (Revelation 20:13-15). Neither person deserves hell more than the other, or heaven less than each other, the difference is only whether they accept Jesus as their Saviour.

So in conclusion, God's holy standards will be upheld and sin will be punished, but because of Jesus I know that no situation like Moses' will ever happen again, and praise God I know that my own sin has been paid for by Jesus and I won't ever suffer punishment for my sin either. I hope and pray that you can say the same; salvation is offered to you in Jesus. I pray that you will trust in Him and find the wonderful grace and forgiveness that He can give.

Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:

  • He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
  • And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)
  • And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:13-15)

I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video

I encourage you to attend a local Bible believing church and speak to the leader about your question. If you want to find a local church, our Church Finder may help you: Find a Church

Please feel free to submit a question to us or to read our answer database: Ask a Question

*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise

*If anything in this answer affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at www.ucb.co.uk/prayerline


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