I am amazed at how some make outlandish claims that the God in the Old Testament seems to have so many divergent personalities; cruel, unjust, mean spirited, kind, loving, gracious etc. I think there are, however, two major areas which we humans (myself included) have a difficult time reconciling - God's love vs. God's righteousness. God is loving, but God's love requires God's justice. Just as I disciplined my two sons when they disobeyed, God disciplines us if we don't meet His requirements. The problem for us (me) is that we cannot keep all of God's laws because of our selfishness and self-centeredness. God would have been completely just and loving in destroying all of us for our disobedience to Him. It is only through His extraordinary love and grace that we are even allowed to exists and come into His presence.
If you were to read atheist's comments on this site, and others, you will often find complaints that the God of the Bible arbitrarily ordered the destruction of entire cities, such as Jericho, just to allow the Jews to have a homeland in the Middle East. How could a loving God command the destruction of all those "innocent" people? The argument sounds reasanable, but it is utterly false. The unstated assumption is that the people who God ordered destroyed were morally equivalent to the Jews, who replaced them. However, this is what the Bible says about the people who were destroyed:
"It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." (Deuteronomy 9:5)
Okay, how "wicked" could those people have been? How about killing their own sons and daughters by burning them in sacrifices to their gods:
"You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods." (Deuteronomy 12:31)
The wickedness of these people is confirmed in other verses of the Bible as well. So we see that these people are not quite as innocent as the atheists would like you to believe. The fact that these people practiced child sacrifice is also confirmed in the secular writings of the Greeks. Then again, maybe those atheists believe that killing your children is not all bad. After all, killing viable pre-born babies is legal in this country (it's called a choice, a.k.a. abortion). For these reasons (and others), God ordered the destruction of the peoples whom the Israelites dispossessed.
Did God kill any innocent people along with the evil ones? When God was about to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asked God if He would destroy the cities if there were 50 righteous people in them. God said no. Then Abraham asked the same question if there were 45 righteous people. Every time he dropped the number and got the same answer. The fact is that God would not have destroyed those cities if there were any righteous people in them. The few righteous who were in those cities He warned ahead of time to get out. So, God does not destroy the righteous along with the evil.
God's judgment of people groups found in the Old Testament actually pales in comparison to the judgment He will render at the end of time. According to the New Testament Book of Revelation, God will judge and kill billions of people who reject Him when Jesus returns, including 200 million killed in a single battle. Such large armies have never existed in the history of mankind until the last 100 years, suggesting the this judgment could come at any time.
In some instances, God ordered the killing of entire populations, presumably including the killing of babies and children. Isn't God unrighteous in killing these innocent little ones? First of all, the Bible indicates that all people are sinners, including babies, and worthy of judgment. However, the Bible also indicates that children are incapable of making moral choices, so that they are automatically rewarded with heaven. So, in having babies killed, God is actually doing them a favor, since, if they had grown up opposed to God, they would have gone to hell. If God were to have spared some of the children, it would have been difficult to determine the cutoff age. A one-year old is probably still relatively uncorrupted by his parents, but what about a two-year old? I have personally seen a number of spoiled two-year olds who had already been corrupted by their parents. In a society where moral corruption abounds, the corruption of the children would be early and severe. God was very clear that he did not want the sons and daughters of the corrupted peoples to marry the sons and daughters of the Israelites to lead them astray through false worship.13 Even so, there are many examples of the Israelites being polluted in their worship by the surrounding peoples.
In order to maintain His righteousness, God must judge sin, everything that goes against His character. If God let everyone into heaven, then He would have to allow in people such as Stalin and Hitler. Obviously, heaven would not be a good place to be with the likes of those people there. Therefore, God's righteousness requires the judgment of all sin. Only those people who agree with God and are willing to allow themselves to be changed into sinless beings can enter into heaven.