Christians believe that abortion is murder. Pro-choicers, however, consider this claim to be hypocritical because the Bible speaks of infanticides approved by God. The charge is that those who condemn abortion based on biblical morality are duplicitous. Is the claim true that God kills babies in the Bible?
The Lord Kills and Makes Alive
There are several instances in the Old Testament in particular that reveal God commanding the genocide of various people groups. Indeed, God, Himself is responsible for killing babies and children in the Bible.
With this in mind, there are three basic positions that can be taken:
1. This is a fact. God did indeed do this.
2. This is not fact. God did not do this.
3. This is not fact. The places where it says God did this are metaphorical or poetic rather than literal and historical.
Because the historical narrative portions of the Old Testament are clear and accurate historical records, option one is the only legitimate answer.
God Is the Judge
To get right to the point: God is the Judge of the heavens and the earth. All of creation is His, and He is the one who decides what is right and wrong. Morality comes to us downstream from God, who is the fount of all righteousness.
What God says is right, is right; what God says is wrong, is wrong.
It seems as if this section should come later since it is the ultimate conclusion of the discussion—but it is best delivered at the beginning, allowing the rest of the article below to demonstrate this truth from the Scriptures.
God is the highest Judge. What He declares to be righteous is indeed righteous. Ordering the deaths of non-combatants, children, and others that humans may not consider to be worthy of death does not erase the cold, hard fact. There will be no apology made on behalf of God’s behavior; He speaks for Himself.
God Is Just
The Scriptures clearly and consistently reveal the God is perfectly just. In fact, this is one of the primary reasons that the death of Jesus Christ was needed to save sinners.
As enemies of God, human beings deserve death. Though all humans rebel against God, in His kindness He extends common grace in some measure to all people, whether they believe in Christ or not. Nevertheless, the bill comes due eventually. Without Him, our moral penalty cannot be paid—and the bill is due to the King Himself. Every sin committed by humans is an offense against a holy God.
The blood of Christ—and nothing else—is sufficient to atone for these sins. On the cross, the perfect Son of God bore the punishment for the sins of all who would believe in Him, absorbing and draining the wrath of God for those transgressions. Ultimately, all sins are punished—either the Savior bears the punishment on the cross, or the unbeliever bears their own punishment eternally in hell.
Are these truths in conflict with God’s mercy and love? By no means! God is perfectly consistent in His love for all things good and His hatred for all things evil. Those who love women hate rape; those who love babies hate abortion. God loves good; therefore, He must necessarily hate evil.
When God Sends Judgment
There are times in the Scriptures that God sends judgment on the earth and kills many people by His own hand. In other cases, He kills people through supernatural means that He directs—such as the sending of angels. It is reasonable to conclude that babies, children, and pregnant women perished in these events.
The most applicable of these three examples to our question is the death of the Egyptian firstborn—the final of the ten plagues carried out by God against Egypt before the exodus of the Hebrews.
This act of sovereign judgment mirrors the previous policy of Pharaoh to kill all Hebrew male babies less than two years old as a form of subduing the Hebrew slaves. Because Pharaoh represents Egypt—and because Egypt considered Pharaoh to be divine—the whole nation bore the reproach of his wickedness and for the ongoing abuse of God’s people.
The Lord sent His own personal agent to carry out the sentence. This plague was also the only one that explicitly included the Hebrews, who only escaped the judgment by spreading the blood of the spotless lamb on their doorposts, as they were instructed by God.
Another doctrine that must be grasped to understand the death of the firstborn is the idea of corporate guilt. At certain points in history, God chooses to annihilate people groups that depart from His will as a body, as in the case of the Egyptians. To use one of the previous examples, Sodom and Gomorrah—and the other cities of the plain—are held responsible for the vile behavior that takes place within them. It can easily be inferred that not all people in Sodom and Gomorrah are as depraved as others; however, the Lord is willing to lay out His case against the cities to Abraham, who attempted to intercede for their residents.
In the 18th chapter of Genesis, Abraham was told that Sodom and Gomorrah would soon be destroyed by God’s wrath. Abraham asked God if it was right for Him to kill everyone in the whole city—and God replied that it was.
Abraham then asked God to spare the city if there were fifty righteous people in it. God said that He would, but implies that there are not fifty righteous. Abraham continued asking if God would spare the cities for a progressively smaller number of righteous people. God eventually agreed to relent from destroying the cities if ten righteous could be found. Ultimately, however, God destroyed the cities.
The cities and their residents were corporately guilty of terrible sin, and they were corporately judged. Lot was the only known righteous man in the city—and he was delivered from judgment.
When God Sends Judges
In the Old Testament—from the time of Moses until the end of Joshua’s tenure as the leader of Israel—God directs the Israelites repeatedly to wipe out entire races from the land of Canaan. The residents had practiced detestable idolatry and had done so for hundreds of years.
People wrongly believe that Canaan was peaceful and idyllic before the Israelite invaders arrived at the Jordan River; however, the Canaanites practiced child sacrifice, ritual prostitution, self-mutilation, and various other barbarous rites. The myth of the noble savage is, in fact, a myth.
The Israelites’ arrival in Canaan coincided with the decision made by God to put a stop to the evil in that land. His chosen instrument was the Israelite people. God had given hundreds of years to the Canaanites for repentance. God even used the Israelites’ fame as a warning for the nations to turn from evil—yet most did not listen.
In the ensuing warfare, God’s instructions were to slaughter every human being—including the women, children in the womb, babies, children, kings, and even property and livestock.
How could this possibly be just? Can it be that God is just and that this command was given by Him?
Once again, Scripture informs us of instances where the iniquity of pagan nations like Canaan reached such an immoral and depraved state that divine destruction was the only remedy.
God’s vengeance on these people is not based on emotional impulse or an irrational state of mind. He is perfect in all of His attributes, slow to anger, and abundant in forbearance. This is seen especially in the demonstration of His justice and wrath.
The Mercy of Judgment
However, what about the deaths of infants in pagan societies? When babies in those civilizations die, what becomes of them?
To be fair, the Bible is not as explicit on these questions, and there is some dispute. Although deaths by miscarriage and abortion are heart-wrenching examples of the effects of sin on our world, God’s great mercy shines through even such thick darkness.
A child raised to worship idols will grow into a sinner to surely die and be judged by God. Would it not be merciful of the One with authority over every life to prevent those people from storing up a lifetime of wrath for themselves on the Day of Judgment?
As to the question of young people and babies, some believers draw on inferences from Scripture such as from 2 Samuel 12, when King David loses a son to illness. David explains to his curious advisers that through his repentance, the Lord may have relented and spared his son. But since his son died, he need not fear because he will see his son again in heaven.
It is difficult to base a definitive conclusion on the subject from limited texts like this one. But what we do know with certainty is that without a Sovereign God there is no meaning in the deaths of any children.
Only in God’s execution of His perfect plan and will is there any solace to be found for the Christian in this matter. He works all things for His glory. Although we are not permitted to peer into every aspect of His counsel, our refuge is found ultimately in His unchanging character. All of His ways are just, and as the Judge of all the earth, he will always do right.
Why Do Christians Condemn Abortion?
If this is all true, why do Christians resist abortion so strongly?
For the simple reason that we are not God—and neither is the mother of a preborn child. Neither is the doctor. Neither is the Supreme Court Justice. Neither is the President. Neither is Planned Parenthood. Neither is any secular constitution.
God alone is God. “He kills and makes alive, and none can deliver from His hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39). His instructions are very clear about murder. His instructions are very clear about who is a human being. God has delivered His Word to mankind once and for all. Subsequent directions to slaughter people groups will not be forthcoming. Permission will never be granted for abortion.
A time for judgment is ahead for all people—and it would be wrong to affirm that those guilty of abortion are not in grave danger. There is, however, a Savior willing to bear your punishment for you. Repent and place your faith in Jesus Christ and be saved. Take the warning that these biblical accounts are clearly showing. Flee from the wrath to come and embrace Jesus!