Why did Jehovah God, who is righteous and who loves the world, kill great numbers of humans in the past? We can only understand the reason for this if we understand the purpose of God in connection with the human family. Most humans have a low-shot view of God’s actions, but this article demonstrates what a bird’s eye view of God’s actions is.
The account of Job gives us a background
Job lost his ten children and he became ill with boils. He believed that this came from God. But still, he praised God. The account shows that God allowed Satan to test Job in connection with his sovereignty, in order to prove that Satan was a liar. Job would have viewed his calamities differently if he had known this bird’s eye perspective. This situation shows that we may view a situation differently if we know the background.
Satan’s challenge to God’s sovereignty
Satan had challenged God in two ways. He claimed that God was not treating Adam and Eve in the right way because he did not give them things that would benefit them. He also claimed that humans did not serve God out of love, but because they benefitted from this service. Job and other humans have shown that Satan is a liar.
This system of things is a vestibule for the coming system of things
Rabbi A.R. Jacob said: “This system of things is like a vestibule before the system of things to come.” Most humans view the present system of things as real life and not as a vestibule. But this is a low-shot view that prevents people from understanding the background of the acts of God. Only when we have a bird’s eye view that everything that happens in this system of things are preliminary actions in the vestibule, will we be able to understand the background of God’s actions.
The book of Ecclesiastes illustrates the viewpoint of Rabbi A.R. Jacob
The basic theme of the book of Ecclesiastes is: Death deprives man of everything, and because of this, everything is futile. There is no other book in the Scriptures than Ecclesiastes where death is used in different contexts throughout the whole book. Solomon says that each person should eat and drink and have a good time for all his hard work. At the same time, he shows that anything that is good for man is temporary because death will be the end of it. Several examples of this are discussed where humans “are chasing after the wind.” The book of Ecclesiastes shows that everything God has done is beautiful, and that he has an eternal purpose for humans. The book also shows there will be a resurrection from the dead.
Why did God take the lives of thousands of men, women, and children?
The general answer is that the situations in this wicked system of things, the vestibule, required God’s actions. Because of inherited sin, all humans must die. God destroyed thousands of humans in the great flood in the days of Noah because these humans were wicked and would ruin the lives of righteous persons. The important point is that all those who died, except the few who sinned against the holy spirit, will get a resurrection in the millennium together with all other descendants of Adam. And they are offered everlasting life.
All living humans will serve and worship Jehovah God
When the last test after the millennium is accomplished, the promise to Abraham that his seed would bless all the nations of the world will be fulfilled. And likewise, Isaiah’s prophecy that every knee will bow to Jehovah and every human will swear loyalty to him will be fulfilled. All persons who Jehovah killed will be offered everlasting life. The treatment of these persons by Jehovah, therefore, represent perfect justice.
When we read that Jehovah killed a great number of people, men, women, and children, in the great flood in the days of Noah and in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, and that he asked His people Israel to kill other people, we wonder how Jehovah, who is righteous, and who loves the world of mankind, could have done this. The account of Job can help us to see the broader picture.
THE ACTIONS OF JEHOVAH SEEN IN THEIR RIGHT SETTING
Hebrews chapter 11 tells about many of God’s ancient servants, such as Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who had a strong faith in Jehovah. One person who is not mentioned in this chapter but who also had a strong faith in Jehovah, was Job.
THE CALAMITIES THAT JOB AND HIS FAMILY EXPERIENCED
As mentioned, Job was a godfearing man, and he had seven sons and three daughters. The account shows that this was a happy family, but almost at the same time, several calamities happened, as we read in Job 1:13-19:
13 Now on the day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said: “The cattle were plowing and the donkeys were grazing beside them 15 when the Sa·beʹans attacked and took them, and they killed the servants with the sword. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”16 While he was still speaking, another one came and said: “Fire from God fell from the heavens and blazed among the sheep and the servants and consumed them! I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”17 While he was still speaking, another one came and said:
“The Chal·deʹans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them, and they killed the servants with the sword. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”18 While he was still speaking, yet another one came and said: “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house. 19 Suddenly a great wind came from the wilderness, and it struck the four corners of the house, so that it fell on the young people and they were killed. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
These were shocking situations, and how did Job react? We read in Job 1: 20-22:
20 At that Job got up and ripped apart his garment and cut the hair off his head; then he fell to the ground and bowed down 21 and said: “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, And naked I will return. Jehovah has given, and Jehovah has taken away. Let the name of Jehovah continue to be praised.” 22 In all of this, Job did not sin or accuse God of doing anything wrong.
Then there was a new situation, as we see in 2:7, 8:
7 So Satan went out from the presence of Jehovah and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And Job took a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself, and he was sitting among the ashes.
This was shocking situation that applied to Job himself. And we read about the reaction of this wife and the reaction of Job in 2:9, 10:
9 Finally his wife said to him: “Are you still holding firmly to your integrity? Curse God and die!”10 But he said to her: “You are talking like one of the senseless women. Should we accept only what is good from the true God and not accept also what is bad?” In all of this, Job did not sin with his lips.
Job did not know that Satan was testing him. But the words of Job show that he had a strong faith in Jehovah, and even though he believed that Jehovah directly was responsible for the calamities, he did not blame Jehovah.
THE REACTION OF GOD’S SERVANTS IN THE PAST AND OF MODERN PEOPLE TO CALAMITIES
Job was a good example of a person with an unwavering faith. How do people today react to catastrophes that they personally experience? A great number do not believe that the Creator exists, so they are indifferent. But many who believe in God blame him for the catastrophes. We have a similar situation among people who believe in God and who say that they are Christians. Some of them say that they believe in Jesus, and they appreciate his message of love and peace. But they do not believe in the God that we see in the Hebrew Scriptures who was a God of war and a God of killing.
There is one contradiction in this view. This is that Jesus believed in the God presented in the Hebrew Scriptures. According to Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus believed in the account of God’s creation of Adam and Eve. According to Luke 17:26-32, Jesus believed in the historicity of the great flood in the days of Noah and in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. And he did not blame God for these catastrophes.
His followers also believed in the God that is presented in the Hebrew Scriptures. According to Acts 3:13 Peter says:
13 The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our forefathers, has glorified his Servant, Jesus, whom you handed over and disowned before Pilate, even though he had decided to release him.
We note that Peter also accepted the judgments of God in connection with Sodom and Gomorrah. We read in 2 Peter 2:6:
6 And by reducing the cities of Sodʹom and Go·morʹrah to ashes, he condemned them, setting a pattern for ungodly people of things to come.
Jesus and Peter showed that they had no objections to Jehovah’s actions in the past when great numbers of men, women, and children lost their lives.
UNDERSTANDING THE TRUE SETTING OF THE ACTIONS OF GOD
The problem that we as humans have, is that we see everything around us, including the judgments of God as low-angle shots. We are not able, by our own might, to see our environment and the actions of God from the perspective of God. This was also the case with Job. He was not able to understand the setting in which the calamities that he experienced happened. But the servant of God who wrote the book of Job was inspired by God to outline the true setting.
SATAN’S CHALLENGE TO GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY
No human being can look into heaven. But the spirit of God can give a person a vision of what happens in heaven. And we see this in connection with Stephanus (Acts 7:56), with Peter (Acts 10:11-16), and with John in connection with his writing of Revelation. This was also the case with the writer of the book of Job, and we read in Job 1:6-12:
6 Now the day came when the sons of the true God entered to take their station before Jehovah, and Satan also entered among them. 7 Then Jehovah said to Satan: “Where have you come from?” Satan answered Jehovah: “From roving about on the earth and from walking about in it.” 8 And Jehovah said to Satan: “Have you taken note of my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth. He is an upright man of integrity, fearing God and shunning what is bad.” 9 At that Satan answered Jehovah: “Is it for nothing that Job has feared God?10 Have you not put up a protective hedge around him and his house and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock has spread out in the land. 11 But, for a change, stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your very face.” 12 Then Jehovah said to Satan: “Look! Everything that he has is in your hand. Only do not lay your hand on the man himself!” So Satan went out from the presence of Jehovah.
On the basis of the account of Satan’s use of a snake in the garden of Eden to mislead Eve and the quotation from Job above we understand that Satan raised some issues regarding the sovereignty of Jehovah. We read Genesis 3:1-5:
1 Now the serpent was the most cautious of all the wild animals of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it said to the woman: “Did God really say that you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” 2 At this the woman said to the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden. 3 But God has said about the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden: ‘You must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it; otherwise you will die.’” 4 At this the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die. 5 For God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.”
Satan argues that God held back something good that could benefit the humans and that God is lying. This is an attack on the sovereignty of Jehovah. The words in Job 1:6-12 imply that Satan claimed that humans will only serve God when they see this as an advantage, and therefore, they do not serve him because they love him. This is again an attack on the sovereignty of Jehovah. The actions of Job showed that Satan was a liar; Job also served God when he experienced bad things that he thought came from God. The perfect example is Jesus Christ, who stood firm in the face of all Satan’s attack. And Jehovah wants that a particular number of his anointed servants shall be killed by Satan’s servants in order to prove their integrity. (Revelation 6:9-11)
THE HAZY OUTLINE OF GOD’ JUDGMENTS
In connection with the perspective of God, Paul makes some comments in 1 Corinthians 13:9-12:
9 For we have partial knowledge and we prophesy partially, 10 but when what is complete comes, what is partial will be done away with. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, to think as a child, to reason as a child; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a child. 12 For now we see in hazy outline by means of a metal mirror, but then it will be face-to-face. At present I know partially, but then I will know accurately, just as I am accurately known.
The contrast Paul makes is between the viewpoints of the Christians in the middle of the first century CE, when this letter was written, and the view of Paul and the other anointed Christians when they get their heavenly reward. Mirrors in the first century CE were made from molten metal, and they only reflected a hazy outline of the objects. One reason why only the hazy outline of God’ purpose was understood, was that only a part of the Christian Greek Scriptures was written in the middle of the first century CE, and even those books that were written were accessible only for few Christians. One of the most important books for understanding the purpose of God is Revelation, and this book was written close to the end of the first century CE. Without having access to Revelation, it is impossible to fully understand the purpose of God.
Having all the books of the Bible is necessary to understand the purpose of God, but there is also a time factor that is necessary to consider. We read in Daniel 12:8, 9:
8 Now as for me, I heard, but I could not understand; so I said: “O my lord, what will be the outcome of these things?” 9 Then he said: “Go, Daniel, because the words are to be kept secret and sealed up until the time of the end.
As I show in the first chapter of my book, My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, the time of the end started in the year 1914, and it will end when the great tribulation comes. This means that today we need not view the purpose of God as a hazy outline.
THIS SYSTEM OF THINGS IS A VESTIBULE BEFORE THE COMING SYSTEM OF THINGS
I show in my book, The Atonement between God and Man, pages 181-183, that according to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Jews believed in salvation and everlasting life that were connected with the coming system of things. The tractate Avot in the Mishnah, 4:16, also speaks about a coming system of things with blessings that will come in the future. We read:
Rabbi A.R. Jacob said: ‘This system of things (hā ‘ōlām hazzæ) is like a vestibule before the system of things to come’ (hā ‘ōlām habbā).”
The Rabbi, who lived in the second century CE, had a good knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures and his words is the essence of the message of these scriptures. But there is one problem. Almost all humans of the world have a low-shot view of their lives and of this world. They live in this world, they work in this world, and they spend their spare time in this world. They do not know anything else! And therefore, this world is not like a vestibule before a banquet-hall for them. But this world is the banquet-hall. We should not criticize those who have this view because it is the natural view. The book of Ecclesiastes helps us see the truth in the words of A.R. Jacob, and we also learn to see this world from the viewpoint of Jehovah
EVERYTHING IS FUTILE
The book of Ecclesiastes is viewed by many commentators as an expression of strong pessimism in connection with human life. However, a careful study of the book will reveal that expressions that are viewed as pessimistic instead are expressions of realities of the life in this wicked system of things. Thus, Ecclesiastes more than any other book in the Holy Scriptures, shows that this wicked system of things is a vestibule to the banquet-hall of the new system of things.
THE BASIC THEME OF ECCLESIASTES: DEATH DEPRIVES MAN OF EVERYTHING
Solomon uses two particular expressions to show the realities of life, namely hæbæl and reuth ruah. The noun hæbæl has the meaning “breath; by extension: something with no substance; meaninglessness; worthlessness; vanity; emptiness; futility; idol.” (Kohlenberger and Mounce) It is used 64 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, including 36 times in Ecclesiastes. The noun reuth has the meaning “chasing after”, and the noun ruah has the meaning “spirit; wind” (the same source), and it is only used six times in Ecclesiastes in the expression reuth ruah (“chasing after the wind”). The author starts and ends the book with almost the same words, 1:2 (above), and 12:8 (below):
2 The greatest futility (hæbæl habalim)!” says the congregator, “The greatest futility (hæbæl habālim)!” Everything (hakkol) is futile (hæbæl)!”
8 “The greatest futility (hæbæl habalim)!” Everything (hakkol) is futile (hæbæl)!”
The two nouns hæbæl habalim together can be compared to the superlative of adjectives; the substantive hæbæl is in the most exalted and strongest state. The words hakkol also represent strong words; the expression consists of the definite article and the noun “all; every,” and they refer to everything around us. But how can it be said that “everything is futile.” We can only understand this if we view it in the light of the idea that is the common thread and the basic theme of the book of Ecclesiastes.
What is this common thread? We find the answer in 1:3, 4:
3 What does a person gain from all his hard work At which he toils under the sun? 4 A generation is going, and a generation is coming, But the earth remains forever.
The words of 1:3 follow the words about the greatest futility, and they imply what the meaning of these words are. The key words are, “a generation is going.” The Hebrew word halak (“to go”) is used by Solomon with the meaning “to die.” Some examples are: “All are going (halak) to the same place” (3:20); “he will go away (halak), just as he came” (5:15); “For this one came in vain and went away (halak) in darkness” (6:4) “Do not all be going (halak) to the same place?” (6:6); “for there is no work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the Grave (sheōl), where you are going (halak). (9:10)
Solomon asks in 1:3: “What does a person gain from his hard work?” This is a rhetorical question that is elucidated throughout the whole book. The answer is that a man can rejoice and have a good time because of his hard work. But this is only temporary because a generation is going, i.e., is dying. So, after some time, all he has achieved is gone. This is futility, and the man is chasing after the wind.
The basic theme of the book is: Death deprives man of everything, and therefore everything is futile and man is chasing after the wind.
EXAMPLES SHOWING THE STRESS ON DEATH IN ECCLESIASTES
I have already shown that the verb halak (”to go”) is used with the meaning “to die”. I will now show how this and other words are used to stress that the basic reason why “everything is futile” (hæbæl), is that death deprives all humans of everything.
THE CHANCE OUTCOME OF DEATH
Because all humans have inherited sin from Adam, all humans will experience the penalty of sin, which is death. But why does a person die at a particular moment? Is this predestined by God, or is it a coincidence? I quote 5:18-20:
18 This is what I have seen to be good and proper: that one should eat and drink and find enjoyment for all the hard work at which he toils under the sun during the few days of life that the true God has given him, for that is his reward. 19 Also, when the true God gives a man riches and material possessions along with the ability to enjoy them, he should take his reward and rejoice in his hard work. This is the gift of God. 20 For he will hardly notice the passing days of his life, because the true God keeps him preoccupied with the rejoicing of his heart.
When we read about “the few days of life that the true God has given him,” it might appear that God has predestined the length of life of each human being. Interestingly, Ecclesiastes is the only book in the Hebrew Scriptures that directly shows that the days of the life of humans are not decided beforehand by God. In the Hebrew Scriptures, there are scores of examples where actions are ascribed to God, but God only indirectly causes these actions. By allowing Adam and Eve to procreate children with inherited sin who eventually would die, God is indirectly responsible for the death of each human.
There is one Hebrew word occurring ten times in the Hebrew Scriptures, including seven times in Ecclesiastes that is important in our context. This word is miqræ. The meaning of the word is “happening by chance; fate; destiny.” (Koehlenberger and Mounce) The substantive miqræ comes from the verb qāra with the meaning “happen; meet; encounter.” (the same source). I will also add the Hebrew noun pæga‘ with the meaning “chance occurrence.” (the same source)
Let us now look at one of the three places outside Ecclesiastes where the word miqræ occurs, namely, 1 Samuel 6:9:
9 and watch: If it goes up the road to Beth-sheʹmesh, to its own territory, then he is the one who has done this great evil to us. But if not, we will know that it was not his hand that struck us; it happened to us by coincidence.” (NWT84 has “an accident (miqræ), it was that happened to us”, and NIV has “it happened to us by chance”)
The situation was that the Philistines had taken the ark of God, and many of them had got piles. They wanted to know if the piles were God’s punishment. In order to find that out, they placed the ark on a wagon, and two cows that were giving suck were hitched to the wagon. The cows were allowed to choose where they would go. The natural course would have been to go to the Philistines where their calves were. If the cows went to Beth Shemesh in Israel, which was unnatural, they knew that God was punishing them. If the cows went to the Philistines the piles had just happened by chance.
On this background, I will quote Ecclesiastes 9:11:
11 I have seen something further under the sun, that the swift do not always win the race, nor do the mighty win the battle, nor do the wise always have the food, nor do the intelligent always have the riches, nor do those with knowledge always have success, because time and unexpected events (qāra + pæga‘) overtake them all.
Instead of the words “unexpected events,” the footnote has the alternative “unforeseen occurrence,” and NIV has, “but time and chance happen to them all.” This verse clearly shows that events that happen to man on the earth are not predestined by God, but they happen by chance — a person was at a particular place at the time when something happened. In verses 1 to 3 in chapter 9, the chance happenings that occur all the time for the humans, are applied to death. We read:
1 So I took all of this to heart and concluded that the righteous and the wise, as well as their works, are in the hands of the true God. Men are not aware of the love and the hate that took place prior to them.2 All have the very same outcome (miqræ), the righteous and the wicked, the good and the clean and the unclean, those sacrificing and those not sacrificing. The good one is the same as the sinner; the one who swears an oath is the same as the one who is cautious about swearing an oath. 3 This is a distressing thing that happens under the sun: Because all have the same outcome (miqræ), the heart of humans is also full of bad; and there is madness in their heart during their life, and then they die (mūt, “to die,” qal participle plural)!
It is difficult to find an English word that contains all the meaning of miqræ, both that it happens, and that it happens by chance. The NIV has the rendering “a common destiny,” but both this rendering and the rendering “the same outcome” lack the central part of miqræ, namely “chance.” Therefore, my suggestion would be to translate both occurrences of miqræ by “chance outcome” or “outcome by chance.” In the two verses the righteous and the vise, the righteous and the wicked, the good and the sinner are compared, and the heart of each one “is full of bad.” And the chance outcome for all of them is that they die. Thus, the chance occurrence (miqræ) is the same as death.
Let us then look at the three other verses in Ecclesiastes where miqræ occurs, 2:14, 15 (above), 3:18-20 (below):
14 As regards anyone wise, his eyes are in his head; but the stupid one is walking on in sheer darkness. And I have come to know, I too, that there is one eventuality (miqræ) that eventuates (qāra) (RJF: “one chance outcome that happens”) to them all. 15 And I myself said in my heart: “An eventuality (miqræ) like that upon the stupid one will eventuate to me, yes, me.” Why, then, had I become wise, I overmuch so at that time? And I spoke in my heart: “This too is vanity (hæbæl).”
18 I, even I, have said in my heart with regard to the sons of mankind that the [true] God is going to select them, that they may see that they themselves are beasts. 19 For there is an eventuality (miqræ) as respects the sons of mankind and an eventuality (miqræ) as respects the beast, and they have the same eventuality (miqræ). As the one dies, so the other dies; and they all have but one spirit, so that there is no superiority of the man over the beast, for everything is vanity (hæbæl). 20 All are going to one place. They have all come to be from the dust, and they are all returning to the dust.
Particularly in the last quotation, we see the noun miqræ refers to death. Men and animals experience the same chance outcome; they die in the same way, and they go to the same place, they go back to the dust in the earth. This is also vanity, according to Solomon.
DEATH IS THE BASIS FOR ALL VANITY
I have already pointed out that the subject that is mostly mentioned and indirectly applied in Ecclesiastes is death. After I have shown that the time for a person’s death happens by chance and is not decided by Jehovah, I will now bring several quotes on the subject of “death.”
The life of man is short and it is futile
3 I explored with my heart by indulging myself with wine, all the while maintaining my own wisdom; I even embraced foolishness to find out what was the best thing for humans to do during their few days of life under the heavens.
12 Who knows what is best for a man to do in life during the few days of his futile (hæbæl) life, which he spends like a shadow,? For who can tell man what will happen under the sun after he is gone?
A human will go away naked, just as he came. He cannot carry away anything
15 Just as one came from his mother’s womb, naked he will go away, just as he came. And he cannot carry away anything for all his hard work. 16 This too is a great tragedy: Exactly as he came, so he will go away; and what profit is there to the one who keeps working hard for the wind?
No one has the power over the day of death
8 Just as no man has power over the spirit or can restrain the spirit, so no one has power over the day of death. Just as no one is discharged during a war, so wickedness will not allow those who practice it to escape.
There is no action and wisdom in sheōl (the grave)
4 There is hope for whoever is among the living, because a live dog is better off than a dead lion. 5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead ones know nothing at all. Nor do they have any mor reward, because all memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also, their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished, and they no longer have any share in what is done under the sun…10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might, for there is no work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the Grave, where you are going.
Life is short, and the life of a man may be viewed as “a few days,” which he spends like a shadow. A man goes away naked, the way he came to the world. No one has power over the day of death, and death stops everything because there is no action or knowledge in sheōl where he comes.
Solomon speaks of what will happen by chance to every human being. Because he says that those who die come to sheōl, he shows that all humans will have a resurrection. That death stops everything a human has achieved, shows that this wicked system of things is not the real life, but it is a vestibule to the new system of things where Adam’s descendants will experience the real life by a resurrection from the dead.
HUMANS ARE CHASING AFTER THE WIND
Solomon does not advocate that humans should lead an ascetic life. On the contrary, he says that everyone should enjoy life:
Rejoice and have a good time
12 I have concluded that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good during their life, 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and find enjoyment for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.
19 Also, when the true God gives a man riches and material possessions along with the ability to enjoy them, he should take his reward and rejoice in his hard work. This is the gift of God.
7 Go, eat your food with rejoicing, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for already the true God has found pleasure in your works. 8 May your clothing always be white, and do not fail to put oil on your head. 9 Enjoy life with your beloved wife all the days of your futile (hæbæl) life, which He has given you under the sun, all the days of your futility (hæbæl), for that is your lot in life and in your hard work at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might, for there is no work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the Grave, where you are going.
9 Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and go where your eyes lead you; but know that the true God will bring you into judgment for all these things.
While everyone should enjoy life, any rejoicing and enjoyment would not last. This is particularly seen in 9:7-9, where the admonition is to enjoy life in this futile system of things because in the grave, where everyone is going, there is no possibility of enjoying anything. I will now discuss how Solomon shows that every side of the life of humans in this system of things can be futile:
Enjoying pleasure can be futility and chasing after the wind
10 I did not deny myself anything that I desired. I did not withhold from my heart any sort of pleasure, for my heart was joyful because of all my hard work, and this was my reward for all my hard work. 11 But when I reflected on all the works that my own hands had done and on all the hard work that I had toiled to accomplish, I saw that everything was futile (hæbel), a chasing after the wind (reūth rūah); there was nothing of real value under the sun.
Even though Solomon did not deny himself any kind of pleasure from all his hard work, he found that this also was chasing after the wind. This must again be viewed in the light of the short life of humans and death that stops everything. But man should seize the opportunity and rejoice because of his pleasures during his life.
Material possessions and glory that cannot be enjoyed
1 There is another tragedy that I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: 2 The true God gives a man riches and material possessions and glory, so that he lacks nothing that he desires; yet the true God does not enable him to enjoy them, although a stranger may enjoy them. This is futility (hæbæl) and a severe affliction (literally: “evil sickness,” håli ra‘). 3 If a man should become a father a hundred times and live for many years and reach old age, yet he does not enjoy his good things before he reaches the grave, I must say that a stillborn child is better off than he is. 4 For this one came in vain and went away in darkness, and his name is shrouded in darkness.5 Even though he never saw the sun or knew anything, he is still better off than the former one. 6 What is the benefit of living a thousand years twice over but not experiencing enjoyment? Do not all go to the same place?
There can be several reasons why a person cannot enjoy his or her material possessions and glory. One reason may be sickness, and another reason may be an early death. The words in verse 6, “Do not all go to the same place?” may suggest that both these reasons may have been in the mind of Solomon. Having riches without being able to enjoy this situation, but another man will enjoy this situation is futility (hæbæl).
Wisdom is good for man, but it is not a lasting benefit
12 Then I turned my attention to wisdom and madness and folly. (For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done.) 13 And I saw that there is an advantage to wisdom over folly, just as there is an advantage to light over darkness.14 The wise one has his eyes in his head; but the stupid one is walking in darkness. I have also come to realize that there is one outcome that befalls all of them. 15 Then I said in my heart: “What happens to the stupid one will also happen to me.” What, then, did I gain by becoming excessively wise? So I said in my heart: “This too is futility (hæbæl).” 16 For there is no lasting memory either of the wise one or of the stupid one. In the days to come, everyone will be forgotten. And how will the wise one die? Along with the stupid one.
It is pointed out that being wise is an advantage. But this is only for a time because the same thing will happen to the wise one and the stupid one; both will die and after some time they will be forgotten.
Leaving everything a person has worked for to another person
16And how will the wise one die? Along with the stupid one. 17 So I came to hate life, because everything being done under the sun seemed distressing to me, for everything was futile (hæbæl), a chasing after the wind (reūth rūah). 18 I came to hate all that I had worked so hard for under the sun, because I must leave it behind for the man coming after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be wise or foolish? Yet he will take control over all the things I spent great effort and wisdom to acquire under the sun. This too is futility (hæbæl). 20 So I began to despair in my heart over all the hard work at which I had toiled under the sun.21 For a man may work hard, guided by wisdom and knowledge and skill, but he must hand over his portion to a man who did not work for it. This too is futility (hæbæl) and a great tragedy (literally: “great evil,” rā‘ā rabbā). 22 What does a man really gain from all his hard work and ambition that drives him to work hard under the sun? 23 For during all his days, his occupation brings pain and frustration, and even at night his heart does not rest. This too is futility (hæbæl). 24 There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and find enjoyment in his hard work. This too, I have realized, is from the hand of the true God, 25 for who eats and who drinks better than I do? 26 To the man who pleases him he gives wisdom and knowledge and rejoicing, but to the sinner he gives the occupation of gathering and merely collecting to give to the one who pleases the true God. This too is futility(hæbæl), a chasing after the wind (reūth rūah).
In the first part of the quotation, the focus is on death. The outcome for all is the same, and in time, everyone will be forgotten. In the second part, the focus is on the fact that everything that a man has worked for, he must give it to someone else that he may not know when he dies. This is futility and chasing after the wind.
Humans are oppressed by other humans
1 Again I turned my attention to all the acts of oppression that go on under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, and there was no one to comfort them. And their oppressors had the power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2 And I congratulated the dead who had already died rather than the living who were still alive. 3 And better off than both of them is the one who has not yet been born, who has not seen the distressing deeds that are done under the sun.
8 If you see any oppression of the poor and a violation of justice and righteousness in your district, do not be surprised about the matter. For that high official is being watched by one who is higher than he is, and there are others who are still higher than they are.
Being oppressed is a really bad situation. But in this system of things, there is much oppression. And from one point of view, it is better to be dead than to be oppressed.
Good and bad persons may be treated similarly
15 During my futile (hæbæl) life I have seen everything—from the righteous one who perishes in his righteousness to the wicked one who lives long despite his badness.
14 There is something futile (hæbæl) that takes place on the earth: There are righteous people who are treated as if they had acted wickedly, and there are wicked people who are treated as if they had acted righteously. I say that this too is futility.
5 There is something distressing that I have seen under the sun, the sort of mistake made by those in power: 6 Foolishness is put in many high positions, but the rich remain in low positions. 7 I have seen servants on horseback but princes walking on foot just like servants.
Both Job and Solomon are concerned that righteous people live a short life and are treated in a bad way, while wicked people live a long life and they experience many pleasures. But because this is only the vestibule of the coming system of things, we must expect that such things will happen.
Events occurring by chance
11 I have seen something further under the sun, that the swift do not always win the race, nor do the mighty win the battle, nor do the wise always have the food, nor do the intelligent always have the riches, nor do those with knowledge always have success, because time and unexpected events overtake them all. 12 For man does not know his time. Just as fish are caught in an evil net and birds are caught in a trap, so the sons of men are ensnared in a time of disaster, when it suddenly overtakes them.
A person can work hard, and he may have the qualifications to reach a certain goal, but “time and unexpected events” may prevent him from achieving what he had planned. Man does not know his time.
Everything is miserable occupation
13 I set my heart to study and explore with wisdom everything that has been done under the heavens—the miserable occupation (‘injan rā‘) that God has given to the sons of men that keeps them occupied. 13 I saw all the works that were done under the sun, And look! everything was futile (hæbel), a chasing after the wind(reūth rūah). 14 I saw all the works that were done under the sun, And look! everything was futile (hæbel), a chasing after the wind (reūth rūah).
The word ‘injan has the meaning “task; work; labor; misfortune; troubles.” (Koehlenberger and Mounce) And the word rā‘ has the meaning “bad; disagreeable; inferior in quality; by extension: evil; wicked in ethical quality.” (the same source). The rendering “miserable occupation” is fine. God had given the humans the mentioned situation because he let Adam and Eve have children that were born imperfect with inherited sin. Because of this, their actions cannot be perfect.
THE HOPE OF THE BANQUET-HALL
We have seen that according to Ecclesiastes everything is futile, and humans are chasing after the wind. This corroborates excellently the words of Rabbi A.R. Jacob that this system of things is a vestibule for the system of things to come. But can we, on the basis of all the pessimistic descriptions of the human life, look forward to the new system of things, that can be viewed as a banquet-hall? Absolutely! We read Ecclesiastes 3:10-14:
10 I have seen the occupation that God has given to the sons of men to keep them occupied. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has even put eternity in their heart; yet mankind will never find out the work that the true God has made from start to finish…
14 I have come to know that everything the true God makes will endure forever. There is nothing to add to it and nothing to subtract from it. The true God has made it this way, so that people will fear him.
Solomon shows that everything that happens with man in this system of things is futile and it is the same as chasing after the wind. But everything that God has made is beautiful and will endure forever. This means that God has not made anything futile. But death, that is caused by Adam’s sin is what is makes everything futile —and death terminates everything; “the dead know nothing at all, nor do they have any more reward,” as 9:5, says.
The quotation implies that in this system of things, this vestibule, anything that we can expect is futility. Solomon says that “everything the true God makes will endure forever,” and this shows that God has an eternal purpose with the beautiful things he has made on this earth. This purpose also includes man, who in this system of things will experience death. And we see this by the words that “He has even put eternity in their heart.” This shows that God’s purpose is that man will live forever on the earth, and this will imply a resurrection from the dead. This is clearly shown in 11:9 (above), and 12:13, 14 (below):
9 Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and go where your eyes lead you; but know that the true God will bring you into judgment for all these things. 10 So remove troublesome things from your heart, and ward off harmful things from your body, for youth and the prime of life are futility.
13 The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole obligation of man. 14 For the true God will judge every deed, including every hidden thing, as to whether it is good or bad.
Jesus refers to the words in Ecclesiastes 12:14 in Matthew 12:36:
36 I tell you that men will render an account on Judgment Day for every unprofitable saying that they speak.
Ecclesiastes uses the words “judge” and “judgment” while Jesus uses the word “Judgment Day.” We note that Luke uses the word “judgment” in the same texts where Matthew used the words “Judgment Day.” (compare Luke 11:14 and Matthew 11:22). This means that Solomon speaks about Judgment Day, and in order to be present on Judgment Day one has to get a resurrection. So, we see that while Ecclesiastes speaks about the vanity in the vestibule, the book also points to the eternal things in the coming banquet-hall.
Whether Paul had the book of Ecclesiastes in mind when he wrote chapter 8 in Romans, we do not know. But his words in 8:18-21 exactly fit the situation of futility described by Solomon, where humans are chasing after the wind. Paul’s words also corroborate the view of Rabbi A.R. Jacob of this system of things as a vestibule for the coming system of things. We read:
18 For I consider that the sufferings of the present time do not amount to anything in comparison with the glory that is going to be revealed in us. 19 For the creation is waiting with eager expectation for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility (mataiotēs), not by its own will, but through the one who subjected it, on the basis of hope 21 that the creation itself will also be set free from enslavement to corruption (mataiotēs) and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.
The word mataiotēs is defined as “vanity; folly; futility.” (Mounce), and the Septuagint consistently translates the Hebrew word hæbæl with the Greek word mataiotēs. The word “creation” refers to all descendants of Adam. They were subjected to futility, but not by their own will. When Adam and Eve sinned, God could have executed the death penalty immediately and created new humans. In that case, you and I would not have been born, so we appreciate that God allowed the offspring of Adam to be born, though subjected to futility.
Paul also has the same perspective as Rabbi A.R. Jacob because he says that creation was subjected to futility “on the basis if hope.” And the hope was that the creation, all Adam’s descendants, should “be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” This means that the situation of futility in the vestibule would lead to the banquet-hall where futility does not exist.
. In my book, The Atonement Between God and Man, I use the English expression “this world” and “the world to come” because this is the rendering in English translations of the Mishnah. But the Hebrew word ‘ōlām, which corresponds to the Greek word aiōn, refers to a time period characterized by particular events (system of things) and not to the world, which generally is a translation of the Greek word kosmos.
. In my book, When Was the Book of Daniel Written? A Philological, Linguistic, and Historical Approach (2017), pages 58-65, presents good arguments that the book of Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon in the tenth century BCE.
WHY GOD HAS KILLED MANY PEOPLE — UNDERSTANDING THE SETTING
Let us return to the example of Job that was discussed at the beginning of this article. Job lost his seven sons and his three daughters, as well as a great part of his animals, and he became very sick with boils. He believed that Jehovah was behind all these calamities. But nevertheless, he praised God.
How would you have reacted if you had experienced the calamities that Job experienced, and you believed that God was the cause of the calamities? Most of us would not have reacted in such a noble way as Job did by praising God. But would it have been easier to make the right decisions if you had received the information that Satan was testing you and the reason why he did this? In such a situation it would have been much easier to keep your integrity because you knew the setting behind the whole situation — you were not tested by God but by Satan in order to show that he was a liar.
And now we are approaching the crucial point. Job viewed his situation from a low-angle shot, and only if he had received information about the conversation between Jehovah and Satan, he would have understood the real setting of the situation and would have had a bird’s eye view. As humans, we often view the actions of God from a low-angle shot, and we need information in order to understand the real setting of God’s actions.
The key to the setting of God’s actions is the words of Rabbi A.R. Jacob: “This present system of things is the vestibule to the coming system of things.” God has reasons to act differently in this system of things compared to what he will do in the new system of things.
THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE OLD SYSTEM OF THINGS AND THE NEW SYSTEM OF THINGS
Let us follow the lead of A.R. Jacob and look at the contrast between the vestibule and the banquet-hall. Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes that “Everything is futile,” and that the life of humans in this world generally is the same as “chasing after the wind.” The basic reason for this situation is that all humans will die. And he points out that because of this, positive things such as wisdom and material possessions that can bring joy, will not last — they are taken away by the death of each one. He also pointed out all the injustice that exists, that many people are treated in a bad way.
When we look at the world today, we can add a lot of negative things to the description of Solomon. In 2020, 1 billion people lived in slums, and in 2022, the World Food Program showed that 828 million people were facing hunger. Since the year 1900, 187 million people have died as a result of war, and in addition, about 500,000 have died or have been injured in the present war between Ukraine and Russia. There is also a high crime rate in the countries of the world. In recent years, we have seen many different catastrophes because of the manmade climate change. And we expect that many more catastrophes will occur in the future. There can be no doubt that today “everything is futile” and humans “are chasing after the wind” to a much greater extent than in the days of Solomon.
We have now seen a part of the situation in the vestibule, and I will now present a part of the banquet-hall by quoting three different prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures: I quote Isaiah 65:17-25 (above), Isaiah 25:6-9 (middle), and Micah 4:1-7 (below):
17 For look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be called to mind, Nor will they come up into the heart. 18 So exult and be joyful forever in what I am creating. For look! I am creating Jerusalem a cause for joy And her people a cause for exultation. 19 And I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people; No more will there be heard in her the sound of weeping or a cry of distress.” 20 “No more will there be an infant from that place who lives but a few days, Nor an old man who fails to live out his days. For anyone who dies at a hundred will be considered a mere boy, And the sinner will be cursed, even though he is a hundred years of age. 21 They will build houses and live in them, And they will plant vineyards and eat their fruitage. 22 They will not build for someone else to inhabit, Nor will they plant for others to eat. For the days of my people will be like the days of a tree, And the work of their hands my chosen ones will enjoy to the full. 23 They will not toil for nothing, Nor will they bear children for distress, Because they are the offspring made up of those blessed by Jehovah, And their descendants with them. 24 Even before they call out, I will answer; While they are yet speaking, I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, The lion will eat straw just like the bull, And the serpent’s food will be dust. They will do no harm nor cause any ruin in all my holy mountain,” says Jehovah.
6 In this mountain Jehovah of armies will make for all the peoples (‘am) A banquet of rich dishes, A banquet of fine wine, Of rich dishes filled with marrow, Of fine, filtered wine. 7 In this mountain he will do away with the shroud that is enveloping all the peoples (‘am) And the covering that is woven over all the nations (gōy). 8 He will swallow up death forever, And the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will wipe away the tears from all faces. The reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, For Jehovah himself has spoken it. 9 In that day they will say: “Look! This is our God! We have hoped in him, And he will save us. This is Jehovah! We have hoped in him. Let us be joyful and rejoice in the salvation by him.”
1 In the final part of the days (’aharit hyyamim), The mountain of the house of Jehovah Will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, And it will be raised up above the hills, And to it peoples (‘am) will stream. 2 And many nations (gōy) will go and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah And to the house of the God of Jacob. He will instruct us about his ways, And we will walk in his paths. ”For law will go out of Zion, And the word of Jehovah out of Jerusalem. 3 He will render judgment among many peoples (‘am rab) And set matters straight respecting mighty nations (goy ‘ātsam) far away. They will beat their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning shears. Nation (gōy) will not lift up sword against nation (gōy), Nor will they learn war anymore. 4 They will sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, And no one will make them afraid, For the mouth of Jehovah of armies has spoken.
5 For all the peoples (‘am) will walk, each in the name of its god, But we will walk in the name of Jehovah our God forever and ever. 6 “In that day,” declares Jehovah,“ I will gather the one who was limping, And collect together the dispersed one, Along with those I treated harshly. 7 I will make the one who was limping a remnant, And the one far removed a mighty nation; And Jehovah will rule as king over them in Mount Zion, From now on and forever.
The three texts describe the system of things that can be compared to a banquet-hall, in contrast to the present system of things that must be described as a vestibule. In my book, The Atonement Between God and Man, chapter 8, I give evidence that the prophecies of Isaiah 25:6-9 and Micah 4:1-7 will be fulfilled during the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ. The nations play an important part of these two prophecies, and the nations with their inhabitants will be present in the millennium. Here is a list of some of the blessings mentioned in these prophecies:
No weeping or cry of distress.
Houses will be built.
Jehovah will answer before the inhabitants call out.
The wolf and the lamb will feed together.
A banquet of rich dishes and fine wine.
Death will be no more, which implies a resurrection.
Jehovah will wipe the tears from all faces.
The nations will beat their swords into plowshares.
No nation will make war against another nation.
People will sit under their vine tree and under their fig tree in peace.
No person will make another person afraid.
What a contrast this new system of things will be to the world of futility described by Solomon, and to the present world. And the words of Solomon about God fit the description above: “He has made everything beautiful in its time… He has even put eternity in their heart.”
THE TRANSITION FROM THE OLD SYSTEM OF THINGS TO THE NEW SYSTEM OF THINGS
The transition can only occur when the earth has been completely cleaned from any part of the old wicked system of things. This means that all the descendants of Adam must die, except a small group. I quote Revelation 7:9-17
9 After this I saw, and look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. 10 And they keep shouting with a loud voice, saying: “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell facedown before the throne and worshipped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Let the praise and the glory and the wisdom and the thanksgiving and the honor and the power and the strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
13 In response one of the elders said to me: “These who are dressed in the white robes, who are they and where did they come from?” 14 So right away I said to him: “My lord, you are the one who knows.” And he said to me: “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 That is why they are before the throne of God, and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple; and the One seated on the throne will spread his tent over them. 16 They will hunger no more nor thirst anymore, neither will the sun beat down on them nor any scorching heat, 17 because the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, will shepherd them and will guide them to springs of waters of life. And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.”
The great tribulation is the last event in this old wicked system of things before the millennium begins when the earth will be cleaned. The great crowd “came out of the great tribulation,” which means that they survived the tribulation. The reason why they will survive is that “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They have shown faith in Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, and the ransom sacrifice of Jesus has been applied for them.
Who are the members of the great crowd? This can be answered on the basis of a historical observation. The only worldwide religious denomination where the members believe that they will survive the great tribulation and that they in the first part of the millennium will be used by God to make the earth ready for the resurrection, are Jehovah’s Witnesses. They believe in Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, and they work hard to follow the laws and principles of Jehovah. They must be identical to the great crowd that will survive the great tribulation. The Witnesses will survive, but do they have the capacity for the great work to make the earth ready for the resurrection?
At the end of the 1960s, there was a great persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Malawi in Africa. Their houses were burned by mobs, many were beaten, and some were killed. Because of this, most of the Witnesses in Malawi fled the country, and many of them crossed the border to Mozambique. At one time, there was a refugee camp, or rather a city, with 30,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mozambique. In this city, the Witnesses were organized in the same way as they are throughout the earth. There were congregations and circuits, and there were qualified brothers who took the responsibility for the congregations and the circuits. All the different normal services in this city were carried out by Witnesses and there was no need for police.
I would like to mention that not only are Jehovah’s Witnesses the only ones who believe that they will survive the great tribulation and be used to make the earth ready for the resurrection. But the program in their congregations have trained them in a way so they can work together in unity and do the required work after the great tribulation. Therefore, they were able to manage the city in Mozambique so everyone got their needs covered in a peaceful way.
What would have been the situation if 30,000 non-Witnesses, some of which were soldiers and criminals, were sent to live in the city of the Witnesses? That would have resulted in utter chaos and great problems for the Witnesses. And the situation is similar in connection with the great tribulation. If there are 20 million+ Jehovah’s Witnesses who survive the great tribulation and 20 million+ persons who survive but who do not follow the laws of God, there will be utter chaos and great problems for the Witnesses.
This illustrates that there is only one way that the transition from this wicked system of things to the new system of things (the millennium) can occur, and that is that all the inhabitants of this old system must die, so they later can get a resurrection in the millennium after the earth has been prepared for the resurrection.
Now we have the setting on the basis of which we can understand why Jehovah took the lives of thousands of humans, men women, and, children, in the past. The judgments of God must be seen in the light of Paul’s words in Romans 6:23:
23 For the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.
Most of the humans that have lived between Adam and the present time have died a “natural” death, or have been killed in war or by different catastrophes. But in some situations, God has intervened and he has killed thousands of humans. Why did he do that?
JEHOVAH KILLED THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY WERE VERY WICKED
We can illustrate the harsh judgments of God with a person with a big cancer tumor with several boils with pus on the skin. The whole cancer tumor must be removed. But the first intervention of the doctors is to remove the boils with pus on the skin. In a similar way, all the humans that are a part of this wicked system of things must be removed by their death to pave the way for the millennium. But humans who are particularly wicked and ruin the lives of others must first be removed like boils with pus.
We do not know how many humans were killed in the great flood in the days of Noah. But 1,600 years had elapsed from the creation of Adam, and all humans on the earth, except Noah and his family, died. Their number was probably several hundred thousand. Genesis 6:5-7 shows the reason why all these people were killed:
5 Consequently, Jehovah saw that man’s wickedness was great (rabbā rā‘ā) on the earth and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad (rā‘ā) all the time. 6 Jehovah regretted (nāham, nifal imperfect) that he had made men on the earth, and his heart was saddened (‘ātsab, hitpael imperfect). 7 So Jehovah said: “I am going to wipe men whom I have created off the surface of the ground, man together with domestic animals, creeping animals, and flying creatures of the heavens, for I regret (nāham, nifal perfect) that I have made them.”
The verb nāham in the nifal stem has the meaning “to relent; repent; change one’s mind; be grieved.” (Koehlenberger and Mounce) God does not make errors and he does not regret his actions. Because of the meaning of the verb, God changed his mind regarding the humans from allowing them to live to take their lives. The verb ‘ātsab in the hithpael stem has the meaning “to be filled with grief.” (The same source) This suggests that God was filled with grief both because of the bad actions of the humans and because he had to take their lives. The people were like boils with pus, and if they had continued to live, they could have ruined the lives of righteous people who would be born later.
The situation is quite similar in connection with Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 18:20 says:
20 Then Jehovah said: “The outcry against Sodʹom and Go·morʹrah is indeed great, and their sin is very heavy. 21 I will go down to see whether they are acting according to the outcry that has reached me. And if not, I can get to know it.”
The sin of the inhabitants was “very heavy,” and God could not find ten righteous persons in the city of Sodom. For this reason, the inhabitants lost their lives.
The nation of Israel had wandered about in the desert for 40 years. And now they were on the point of passing Jordan and entering the promised land. The nations that lived in the land would be driven away or killed. This is a situation that people today would call “genocide.” Jehovah did not only allow this, but he ordered the Israelites to do this. Moses gives the reason in Deuteronomy 9:1-6 (above) and 18:9-12 (below):
1 “Hear, O Israel, today you are crossing the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified to the heavens, 2 a people great and tall, the sons of the Anʹa·kim, about whom you know and have heard it said, ‘Who can stand up to the sons of Aʹnak?’ 3 Therefore, you should know this day that Jehovah your God will cross ahead of you. He is a consuming fire, and he will annihilate them. He will subdue them before your eyes so that you may quickly drive them out and destroy them, just as Jehovah has promised you.
4 “Do not say in your heart when Jehovah your God drives them away from before you, ‘It was because of my own righteousness that Jehovah has brought me in to take possession of this land.’ Rather, it is because of the wickedness of these nations that Jehovah is driving them away from before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you are going in to take possession of their land. Instead, it is because of the wickedness of these nations that Jehovah your God is driving them away from before you and in order to carry out the word that Jehovah swore to your forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 6 Know, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that Jehovah your God is giving you this good land to take possession of, because you are an obstinate people.
9 “When you have entered into the land that Jehovah your God is giving you, you must not learn to imitate the detestable practices of those nations. 10 There should not be found in you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, anyone who employs divination, anyone practicing magic, anyone who looks for omens, a sorcerer, 11 anyone binding others with a spell, anyone who consults a spirit medium or a fortune-teller, or anyone who inquires of the dead. 12 For whoever does these things is detestable to Jehovah, and on account of these detestable practices Jehovah your God is driving them away from before you. 13 You should prove yourself blameless before Jehovah your God.
God allowed the birth of Adam’s descendants with inherited sin, and he allowed Satan to be the ruler over the human world. This has led to the present wicked system of things, and to the situations where everything is futile and a chasing after the wind. Because this system of things is just the vestibule that only would exist for a period of time, everything is temporary, except death that everyone will experience.
Most people become old and die, or they die because of sickness or particular catastrophes. But most of these people do not behave in a way that they ruin the lives of other people. But in some instances, whole groups of people have become so wicked that they have ruined the lives of others, or that they were on the point of doing this. In such cases Jehovah has intervened and taken the lives of all people in these groups. This was the case before the great flood, in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and among the inhabitants of the promised land. Was there injustice with God when he killed all these people? Absolutely not, as we see in the next section.
ALL THE PEOPLE JEHOVAH KILLED, EXCEPT THE FEW THAT HAD SINNED AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT, WILL GET A RESURRECTION
The justice is that all the descendants of Adam have inherited sin, and the penalty for sin is death. This means that all Adam’s descendants at some point in time will die. This is necessary because to get a resurrection in the millennium, one must first die. (1 Corinthians 15:35-38) People who are particularly wicked and who ruin the lives of others will also at some point in time die. But in order to prevent these people from ruining the lives of others, God has taken the lives of these people before they “naturally” would have died. This cannot be viewed as injustice, because all those whose life God took, men, women, and children, will get a resurrection during the millennium.
But there is one belief that would invalidate God’s actions as just if it were true. There are persons who claim that the men, women, and children, who were killed in the great flood and in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra are everlastingly annihilated. These persons may sincerely believe this. However, the following texts contradict this belief: I quote 1 Timothy 2:6 (above), and Revelation 20:13 (below):
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all—this is what is to be witnessed to in its own due time.
13 And the sea gave up the dead in it, and death and the Grave gave up the dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds.
The words of Paul say that Jesus died for all Adam’s descendants, including those who lost their lives in the great flood and in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. These people did not have the possibility of accepting or rejecting the ransom sacrifice. Therefore, based on the ransom sacrifice and on the righteousness and love of God, all these people will get a resurrection on Judgment Day to get the chance to accept or reject the ransom sacrifice. Those who lost their lives in the great flood, died in the sea. And the words of John show that those who died in the sea will get a resurrection. This means that those who deny that those who died in the great flood and in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, in reality, deny both the ransom sacrifice and the righteousness of God.
ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED AND EVERY KNEE WILL BOW TO JEHOVAH
Those whom God killed in the past because of their great wickedness were like boils with pus that had to be removed. But how and when will the big cancer tumor be removed? It will be removed in the great tribulation, and Jesus said according to Luke 17:26-32:
26 Moreover, just as it occurred in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of man: 27 they were eating, they were drinking, men were marrying, women were being given in marriage until that day when Noah entered into the ark, and the Flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it occurred in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building. 29 But on the day that Lot went out of Sodʹom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 It will be the same on that day when the Son of man is revealed. 31 “On that day let the person who is on the housetop but whose belongings are in the house not come down to pick these up, and likewise, the person out in the field must not return to the things behind. 32 Remember the wife of Lot.
When the great tribulation comes, there will be 8 billion+ people on the earth, and the words of Jesus show that all these will die in connection with the great tribulation, except the 20 million+ members of the great crowd who will survive. The earth was completely cleaned in the great flood. Both the wicked system of things and the humans were removed, and only Noah and his family survived into the new system of things that came after the flood. In a similar way, the old wicked system of things and the humans will be completely removed in the great tribulation, and only the great crowd will survive into the new system of things that will come after the tribulation.
But what will be the destiny of the 8 billion+ people who die in the great tribulation? Jesus died for these people and bought each one of them. In my book The Atonement between God and Man, chapter 6, I show that at least 6 billion+ of the 8 billion+ have not had any chance to accept or reject the ransom sacrifice; probably almost all the 8 billion+ have not had this chance. There can be no doubt that all these 8 billion+, except the few that have sinned against the holy spirit, will get a resurrection in the millennium
JEHOVAH’S UNIVERSAL PROMISE TO ABRAHAM
Abraham is called Jehovah’s friend, and he received a promise that relates to all Adam’s descendants. This promise was quoted by Peter, and we read in Genesis 22:17, 18 (above), and Acts 3:25 (below):
17 I shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore; and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. 18 And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves (bārakh, hitpael perfect) due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.
25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your forefathers, saying to Abraham: ‘And by means of your offspring (sperma, neutrum, singular dative) all the families (patria) of the earth will be blessed (eneulogeō, future passive indicative).’
As the promise is expressed in Genesis, all the nations in the world will bless themselves. Peter uses the Greek word patria instead of ethnos (“nations”). The word patria has the meaning “descent, lineage; a family; tribe; race.” (Mounce) The word “nations” will of course include all the inhabitants of the nations, and Peter makes this explicit by saying that “all the families of the earth” will be blessed.
There is only one way the promise to Abraham can be fulfilled, and that is during the millennium when all the descendants of Adam, except the few that have sinned against the holy spirit, will get a resurrection. When hadēs and the sea have delivered the last dead person, almost all descendants of Adam will be together in the paradise on the earth. And now it can rightly be said that “all the families on the earth” have been blessed by Abraham’s seed, which is Jesus and the 144 000 members of the heavenly government.
JEHOVAH’S UNIVERSAL PROMISE THROUGH ISAIAH
This promise is found in Isaiah 45:22-25 (verses 22, 23 NWT13; my translation of verses 24 and 25). It is universal because it includes all humans on the earth.
22 Turn to me and be saved, all the ends (’æfæs) of the earth (’æræts), For I am God, and there is no one else.23 By myself I have sworn; a word has gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and it will not return: To me every knee will bend. Every tongue will swear loyalty (shāba‘).
24 ‘Only in Jehovah one will say to me, are true righteousness and strength, and one will come to him. All those who express violent anger against him will be put to shame (bōsh). All the seed of Israel are righteous (tsādak), and they will be rejoicing (hālal) in Jehovah.
As was the case with the promise to Abraham, there is only one way the promise through Isaiah that “every knee will bend” to Jehovah, can be fulfilled. This can only be fulfilled during and after the millennium when all the descendants of Adam, except the few that have sinned against the holy spirit, will get a resurrection. At the end of the 1,000 years, all humans are perfect and without sin. At that time, Satan is released from his prison, and he will try to mislead the humans on the earth. He will not mislead the nations at the four corners of the earth, but only some people from these nations will follow Satan. When Satan and all his followers are thrown into the lake of fire, which symbolizes eternal annihilation, Isaiah’s prophecy will be fulfilled. Every knee will bend to Jehovah, and all humans will swear loyalty to him.
At this point, Jehovah’s purpose with the creation of Adam and Eve has been fully accomplished. The whole earth is a paradise where billions of the descendants of Adam live peacefully together while they are worshipping Jehovah.
. My book, The Atonement between God and Man presents detailed evidence that all Adam’s descendants, except those who have sinned against the holy spirit, will get a resurrection on Judgment Day and have the chance to accept or reject the ransom sacrifice.
. A detailed discussion of the prophecy in Isaiah 45:22-25 is found in chapter 9 of my book The Atonement Between god and Man.
CONCLUSION — THE TRANSITION FROM THE VESTIBULE TO THE BANQUET-HALL
Job believed that the calamities he experienced, both the loss of his ten children and his own sickness with boils, were caused by Jehovah. Nevertheless, he had a strong faith in God and he praised God. Job had a low-shot perspective of what happened because he did not know that Jehovah allowed Satan to test him in order to show that Satan was a liar. Regarding God’s actions in the past, in the present, and in the future, all humans, except a few, have a low-shot perspective.
If you were in the same situation as Job was, would you not have wanted to see the situation from a higher perspective, i.e., would you not have wanted to know about the conversation between Jehovah and Satan and about the question of God’s sovereignty that this situation made clear? Of course, you would have wanted that. But in connection with God’s actions in the past, in the present, and in the future, would you like to get rid of your low-shot perspective on the basis of knowing what is going on “behind the scenes”?
If you fully accept the words of Rabbi A.R. Jacob and understand them, you can look at God’s actions from a higher perspective. He said:
“‘This system of things (hā ‘ōlām hazzæ) is like a vestibule before the system of things to come’ (hā ‘ōlām habbā).”
These words show that anything that happens in our world is preliminary and that all the actions of God must be seen in light of this preliminary situation. In other words, any action of God must be seen in light of the purpose of the new system of things, whose first part is the millennium.
Let us apply this to the great flood in the days of Noah. God took the lives of a great number of men, women, children, and babies. Regarding the adults it could be said of most of them that “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.” But this could not be said about the children and the babies. These had inherited sin, but they had not done any wicked acts, and it could not be said regarding most of the children that his or her thoughts were bad all the time. But in spite of this, they were killed.
What will a person with a low-shot perspective say? “There is no excuse for anyone who consciously kills children and babies, not even for God!” These words cannot be contradicted, provided that this world is all there is. But what would we do or say if the perspective was that this world is a vestibule, a preliminary stage in the existence of the human family? We would scrutinize the Scriptures in order to see if there is a just reason why the children and babies died in the great flood.
And then we would probably find the reasons that are given in this article. Most of the adults who lived before the great flood were wicked, and they had to be removed so they would not ruin the lives of children who grew up and for their children. When the adults died, it was not possible for children and babies to remain on the earth. So, all people, regardless of their age, lost their lives. But God’s action of judgment was a part of the preliminary stage because all these, including children and babies, will get a resurrection in the banquet-hall, in the millennium.
|All the calamities that Job experienced seem from a low-shot view to be unjust. But when we have a birds-eye view of the conversation between Jehovah and Satan, we understand that the situation was just.
That Jehovah took the lives of thousands of persons in the past, including men, women, and children, seems from a low-shot view to be unjust. But when we have a bird’s eye view that the present system of things is a preliminary stage before the millennium and that all those whom Jehovah killed, and all other descendants of Adam, except those who have sinned against the holy spirit, will get a resurrection in the millennium with the offer of everlasting life, we understand that Jehovah’s actions were just.