- Means of God’s Judicial Retribution
- Characteristics of God’s Judicial Retribution
- The Wicked and God’s Pending Judgment
- Repayments for the Wicked and the Righteous
- Epilogue: God’s Judgment of Israel – and His Mercy
The topic of God’s judgment – particularly its manifestation – is often avoided, as it contains much that is anything but “nice”. However it contains some of the most awe-inspiring teaching, and even reason for hope for God’s people.
Ps 78:49 [A psalmist, referring to God:] He inflicted his burning anger, wrath, indignation, and distress, sending destroying angels among them. ISV
Ps 105:28-35 The Lord sent darkness and made the land dark, but the Egyptians turned against what he said. 29So he changed their water into blood and made their fish die. 30Then their country was filled with frogs, even in the bedrooms of their rulers. 31The Lord spoke and flies came, and gnats were everywhere in the country. 32He made hail fall like rain and sent lightning through their land. 33He struck down their grapevines and fig trees, and he destroyed every tree in the country. 34He spoke and grasshoppers came; the locusts were too many to count. 35They ate all the plants in the land and everything the earth produced. NCV™
Ezek 38:22 [God, speaking of Gog:] I will judge him with plague and bloodshed. I will rain down on him, his troops and the many peoples who are with him a torrential downpour, hailstones, fire, and brimstone. NET
Rom 13:4 The ruler is God’s servant to help you. But if you do wrong, then be afraid. He has the power to punish; he is God’s servant to punish those who do wrong. NCV™
Hab 1:6, 12b [God:] Look, I am about to empower the Babylonians, that ruthless and greedy nation. They sweep across the surface of the earth, seizing dwelling places that do not belong to them. … 12…[Habakkuk:] Lord, you have made them your instrument of judgment. Protector, you have appointed them as your instrument of punishment. NET
Ezek 25:14 [God:] I will exact my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel. They will carry out in Edom my anger and rage; they will experience my vengeance, declares the sovereign Lord. NET
Note that not all instances of God’s judicial retribution display all of the following characteristics – certainly not to the extent of which they are spoken of here. Much of the judgment spoken of in this section is conclusive in its purpose, bringing the finality of death – as opposed to, for example, God’s disciplinary judgment.
Jer 25:31-32 The sounds of battle will resound to the ends of the earth. For the Lord will bring charges against the nations. He will pass judgment on all humankind and will hand the wicked over to be killed in war.’ The Lord so affirms it! 32The Lord who rules over all says, ‘Disaster will soon come on one nation after another. A mighty storm of military destruction is rising up from the distant parts of the earth.’ NET
The “mighty storm” (v. 32) denotes a very powerful force – the Babylonians – and/or its destructive effects.
Rev 6:16b-17 [Ungodly people:] “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” ESV
Jer 11:11 So I, the Lord, say this: ‘I will soon bring disaster on them which they will not be able to escape! When they cry out to me for help, I will not listen to them. NET
Rom 2:3 [Paul:] And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment? NET
Nah 2:10 Destruction, devastation, and desolation! Their hearts faint, their knees tremble, each stomach churns, each face turns pale! NET
Heb 10:26-27 For if we choose to go on sinning after we have received the full knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27but only a terrifying prospect of judgment and a raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. ISV
Jer 4:8, 19 [Jeremiah, to the people of Judah:] So put on sackcloth! Mourn and wail, saying, ‘The fierce anger of the Lord has not turned away from us!’” … 19I said, “Oh, the feeling in the pit of my stomach! I writhe in anguish. Oh, the pain in my heart! My heart pounds within me. I cannot keep silent. For I hear the sound of the trumpet; the sound of the battle cry pierces my soul! NET
Ezek 32:4-6 [God, concerning Pharaoh:] I will leave you on the ground, I will fling you on the open field, I will allow all the birds of the sky to settle on you, and I will permit all the wild animals to gorge themselves on you. 5I will put your flesh on the mountains, and fill the valleys with your maggot–infested carcass. 6I will drench the land with the flow of your blood up to the mountains, and the ravines will be full of your blood. NET
Jer 4:23-26 [Jeremiah:] I looked at the land and saw that it was an empty wasteland. I looked up at the sky, and its light had vanished. 24I looked at the mountains and saw that they were shaking. All the hills were swaying back and forth! 25I looked and saw that there were no more people, and that all the birds in the sky had flown away. 26I looked and saw that the fruitful land had become a desert and that all of the cities had been laid in ruins. The Lord had brought this all about because of his blazing anger. NET
Ps 73:3-5, 12 [A psalmist:] For I envied those who are proud, as I observed the prosperity of the wicked. 4For they suffer no pain; their bodies are strong and well–fed. 5They are immune to the trouble common to men; they do not suffer as other men do. … 12Take a good look! This is what the wicked are like, those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer. NET
Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. NET
Job 22:18 But it was he [God] who filled their houses with good things – yet the counsel of the wicked was far from me. NET
Jer 12:1 [Jeremiah:] Lord, you have always been fair whenever I have complained to you. However, I would like to speak with you about the disposition of justice. Why are wicked people successful? Why do all dishonest people have such easy lives? NET
Job 24:22b-23 These people [the wicked] may prosper, but they will never feel secure about life. 23God may let them feel confident and self-reliant, but his eyes are on their ways. GW
Nah 1:3 The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will certainly not allow the wicked to go unpunished. He marches out in the whirlwind and the raging storm; dark storm clouds billow like dust under his feet. NET
Deut 32:35 [God:] To me belong vengeance and recompense. In due time their feet will slip, because their time of calamity is near and the things prepared for them draw near. ISV
Isa 42:13-14 The Lord will march out like a strong soldier; he will be excited like a man ready to fight a war. He will shout out the battle cry and defeat his enemies. 14The Lord says, “For a long time I have said nothing; I have been quiet and held myself back. But now I will cry out and strain like a woman giving birth to a child. NCV™
Ps 94:23 He will pay them back for their sin. He will destroy them because of their evil; the Lord our God will destroy them. NET
Isa 13:6, 9-13 Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come! … 9Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. 10For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. 11I [God] will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless. 12I will make people more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. 13Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. ESV
Passages such as this that refer to “the day of the Lord” largely speak of a time of God’s intervention and judgment – usually in what was then the near future or at the end of the age, or with links to both. It is generally understood by Christians that prophecies of “the day of the Lord” – or of such a “day” of God’s reckoning – will be consummately fulfilled at the end of the age.
In the Bible, the term “the righteous” basically denotes God’s people, those who live in accordance with God’s laws and will. The OT particularly often contrasts the wicked and their circumstances with the righteous and their circumstances. Some of the following contrasting repayments for the wicked and the righteous are natural or intrinsic outcomes of their actions. Other outcomes are spoken of as being directly due to God’s intervention and judgment.
Bear in mind that OT verses often speak of what were ramifications of wickedness/disobedience and blessings of righteousness/obedience under the first covenant. Generally these have a spiritual application under the new covenant and also an application to the afterlife. Also note that verses from OT wisdom literature speaking of outcomes of wickedness and righteousness often contain what are considered to be generalizations.
Job 4:8 [Eliphaz:] Even as I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble reap the same. NET
Prov 21:7 The violence done by the wicked will drag them away because they refuse to do what is right. NET
Prov 11:18, 30 The wicked person earns deceitful wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a genuine reward. … 30The fruit of the righteous is like a tree producing life, and the one who wins souls is wise. NET
The wicked person’s wages are probably described as “deceitful” (v. 18) because although they at first seem fine, they can bring trouble (cf. 15:6) and do not last. “The fruit of the righteous” (v. 30) refers to what their lives produce.
Ps 5:12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield. ESV
Ps 1:6 The righteous are guided and protected by the Lord, but the evil are on the way to their doom. GNT
Matt 6:31-33 So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. NET
Ps 112:6-10 For he [a righteous person] will never be upended; others will always remember one who is just. 7He does not fear bad news. He is confident; he trusts in the Lord. 8His resolve is firm; he will not succumb to fear before he looks in triumph on his enemies. 9He generously gives to the needy; his integrity endures. He will be vindicated and honored. 10When the wicked see this, they will worry; they will grind their teeth in frustration and melt away; the desire of the wicked will perish. NET
Prov 24:16 Although a righteous person may fall seven times, he gets up again, but the wicked will be brought down by calamity. NET
Mal 3:16-18 Then those [in Israel] who respected the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord took notice. A scroll was prepared before him in which were recorded the names of those who respected the Lord and honored his name. 17“They will belong to me,” says the Lord who rules over all, “in the day when I prepare my own special property. I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18Then once more you will see that I make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and the one who does not. NET
Matt 13:40-43 As the weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everything that causes sin as well as all lawbreakers. 42They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one who has ears had better listen! NET
2Ki 17:13 The Lord solemnly warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and all the seers, “Turn back from your evil ways; obey my commandments and rules that are recorded in the law. I ordered your ancestors to keep this law and sent my servants the prophets to remind you of its demands.” NET
Jer 15:6-7 [God:] My people, you abandoned me and walked away. I am tired of showing mercy; that’s why I’ll destroy you 7by scattering you like straw blown by the wind. I will punish you with sorrow and death, because you refuse to change your ways. CEV
2Ki 25:8-10 On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard who served the king of Babylon, arrived in Jerusalem. 9He burned down the Lord’s temple, the royal palace, and all the houses in Jerusalem, including every large house. 10The whole Babylonian army that came with the captain of the royal guard tore down the walls that surrounded Jerusalem. NET
Dan 9:12 [Daniel, to God:] You said these things would happen to us and our leaders, and you made them happen; you brought on us a great disaster. Nothing has ever been done on earth like what was done to Jerusalem. NCV™
2Ki 17:22-23 The Israelites followed in the sinful ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat and did not repudiate them. 23Finally the Lord rejected Israel just as he had warned he would do through all his servants the prophets. Israel was deported from its land to Assyria and remains there to this very day. NET
1Chr 9:1b The people of Judah were carried away to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness. NET
Note that the two Israelite kingdoms were conquered at different times. The northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, who captured the main city of Samaria in 722 B.C. Later the Babylonians destroyed the southern kingdom of Judah, with the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. On both occasions the conquering nations exiled the Israelite people.
2Ki 19:30-31 [Isaiah, speaking a message from God:] Those who remain in Judah will take root in the ground and bear fruit. 31For a remnant will leave Jerusalem; survivors will come out of Mount Zion. The intense devotion of the sovereign Lord to his people will accomplish this. NET
Ezek 20:41-42 [God, to the people of Israel:] When I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, I will accept you along with your soothing aroma. I will display my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. 42Then you will know that I am the Lord when I bring you to the land of Israel, to the land I swore to give to your fathers. NET
Ezra 2:1 Here is a list of descendants of the province of Judah who returned from the captivity, from those who had been exiled. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had taken them to Babylon. They came back to Jerusalem and Judah, each one to his town, … ISV
After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, descendants of the southern Israelite kingdom of Judah did return to the land – and rebuilt the temple and Jerusalem’s walls. They were known as “Jews”, the term coming from the name “Judah”.
2Ki 13:22-23a Now King Hazael of Syria oppressed Israel throughout Jehoahaz’s reign. 23But the Lord had mercy on them and felt pity for them. He extended his favor to them because of the promise he had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. NET