The Bible identifies, describes, and labels God in many ways. God is love, He is the redeemer, the savior, the beginning, the all-knowing, etc. God is also perfect and the Bible also says that God is a Judge, a righteous Judge above all. A righteous Judge administers the most fair and the most just methods as well as awards and punishments (the end result).
So why did God have Joshua and Aaron kill babies? Was that fair to the babies? If it's because the price of sin is death, no one is righteous, and all have fallen short from the glory of God including babies, then was being slain and cut open by a sharp blade a perfect punishment that fit the crime?
The babies didn't choose to be born. God did. The babies didn't have the free will to sin against God. So pretty much God created those babies just to be sliced up by sharp swords later on. How is that a perfect punishment from a perfect Judge? I understand that the babies most likely went to Heaven, but why didn't God send angels or chariots of fire to bring them up or punish them accordingly? Why did they get the same method of punishment as the rest of the evil people?
In our society when a thief steals, we punish them by the perfect method, which is imprisonment, community service, or fines. The end result and consequences are lost time, loss of dignity, and labor. When a serial killer murders, the method is hanging, firing squad, electric chair, and the end result is a loss of life. So you still have to make up for what you did, but you still have to get punished.
I know the end result and consequence is that the babies went to Heaven, but why was the method unfitting? Chopped to pieces by a sword really fair?
If this is not a perfect punishment and perfect method, then God is not a perfect Judge.
Most of your argument is emotionally based. You object to something being done, so you selected babies as your prime example. Your real question ought to be broader than this, but you are aiming for a high emotional impact. In the same way, you don't talk about the death of children by other means, you selected the one that again would register a higher revulsion in people. Your question is legitimate, but I want you to see that by appealing to strong emotions, you hinder rational thought. "For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:20).
I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to ignore all the emotional appeals.
First, off we need to get something straight. You assume that we have the right to live and that God doesn't have the right, in general, to take life away. Such an assumption is contrary to what the Bible teaches. "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). God has the right as the Creator of this universe to do as He pleases with His creation. Because sin entered the world through the violation of God's command at the beginning, death accompanied that sin. "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17). We continue to deal with the consequence of Adam and Eve's sin to this day. "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).
In general, everyone dies: the elderly, the middle-aged, and the young. Death is going on even as you read this note, and it will continue until the end when death is conquered. "For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death" (I Corinthians 15:25-26). So, we are looking at things backward. It isn't that death is unusual or a punishment in itself, it is the fact that God is allowing us to continue to live to this point that is noteworthy. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).
""But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?"" (Ezekiel 18:21-23).
This illustrates the importance of what Jesus came to offer. We get so focused on this life that we forget it is temporary and ends in death. Jesus came to offer man life -- real life. "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
There have been times when men became so wicked that God was forced to put an end to the wickedness. Like a contagious disease that was out of control, God at times took drastic measures to keep sin in check.
"Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart" (Genesis 6:5-6).
That destruction, which came in the form of a global flood, wasn't arbitrary or done in a fit of rage. Even as bad as the world had gotten, God gave men 120 years to change (Genesis 6:3). Noah preached righteousness to a world condemned to death, and only his own family listened.
"For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) -- then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment" (II Peter 2:4-9).
Salvation was offered to the people who lived before the flood. It was their own rejection of life that condemned their innocent children to death. What we understand, as Christians, is that God won't hold the parents' bad choice against their children. They will have eternal life despite the evil done by their parents.
The same is true with Sodom and Gomorrah.
"And the LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know" (Genesis 18:20-21).
Abraham realized that God would do something about Sodom and Gomorrah's sin. God let Abraham (and us through Abraham) know in advance what would happen to show that the choice wasn't an emotional lashing out. Abraham asked that the innocent be spared and asked that if just ten righteous people could be found in the cities, would God destroy the towns. God agreed. Ten is such a small number when you consider the populations of several major cities. Yet, ten wasn't found. Lot, his wife, and two daughters were rescued, but the rest were all destroyed. Lot delivered the warning the night before the destruction, but no one would listen. It was the refusal of the evil to listen that resulted in the death of children.
Nineveh becomes an illustration of the opposite. Here again, God decided a city had to be destroyed because of the evil within it. He sent Jonah to warn the people that they had forty days (Jonah 3:4). But they repented and God did not destroy the city (Jonah 3:10). These people saved themselves and their children by changing.
God does nothing arbitrarily or without warning. God decided to give Canaan to Abraham's descendants, but they had to wait 400 years. "But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete" (Genesis 15:16). It wasn't because Israel was so deserving of the land, but because God was doing two things at once: He was removing a sin-ridden people and giving the land to other people. "Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, 'Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land'; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out from before you. It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Deuteronomy 9:4-5).
Even with these nations which were so wicked, they were given the option to flee. "And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them; and He brought you out of Egypt with His Presence, with His mighty power, driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land as an inheritance, as it is this day" (Deuteronomy 4:37-38). A part of the reason for their destruction was their refusal to take losing their land as a punishment for their sins.
Sin is contagious, so Israel was instructed not to intermingle with the Canaanites who were being destroyed -- a command that Israel violated repeatedly and which eventually led to their downfall. In removing those involved in deep, disgusting sins all connected to the evil were destroyed. Starting in Leviticus 18:20, God starts listing out what the Canaanites had been involved in:
- Adultery (Leviticus 18:20)
- Sacrificing children to Molech (Leviticus 18:21)
- Homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22)
- Bestiality (Leviticus 18:23)
"Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants" (Leviticus 18:24-25).
"When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods" (Deuteronomy 12:29-31
Even possessions and livestock were destroyed because God did not want the Israelites profiting from the evil of others. Some ask why the children could not be saved. If only the adults and older children were destroyed, who would care for the children? Which is a crueler death: an instant death by the sword or a lingering death of starvation? If the Israelites took these children in, then it could be claimed that they were profiting from the wicked. God chose, instead, to destroy the adults and bring the children home to Him. Of all involved, the children were the greater beneficiaries because growing up in such a wicked culture would have fated them for facing God's wrath at the end of their natural lives. It is sad, but children end up bearing the result of their parent's sins. "And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness" (Numbers 14:33).
Could these deaths have been postponed until natural death? Certainly, if the wicked gave up their sins. An example of this is Rahab. She and her family were not a part of the destruction of Jericho because Rahab acknowledged God and His justice. The deaths of all these people never had to happen in this fashion, but the nature of sin is that people too often won't let go of it.
What we find in looking in the Scriptures is that complete destruction was not often done by God. We forget that the Bible covers thousands of years of history and mentions only the significant events. Only when wickedness became extreme did God order destruction. Even then, He gave those destined for destruction a chance to repent and in some cases to take a different punishment. It was the choices of the adult sinners who eventually tried to call God's "bluff" and found to their dismay that God doesn't bluff. It was their choice that led to the death of the entire group, including their children (whom in many cases they were already killing).