The LORD: the Author of Calamity
The LORD brings calamity to a single person.
As I showed from scores of Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, the LORD brings calamity to large groups of people for their aggregate sins. However, it is also true that He brings calamity to single individuals, usually for “exceptional sins” (for lack of a better term). Sometimes, the calamity culminated in the death of the one afflicted.
We should not find this surprising: sin brings judgment and wrath.
This must be true for all persons and nations or the LORD would be guilty of favoritism and/or inconsistency, something not possible in the Holy One. As the Scripture says:
For there is no partiality with God.
The following are arranged in Bible order. Note that in many cases, the sin being punished is deliberate in nature, not something done ignorantly or accidentally.
[Note that a separate chapter is devoted to the remarkable example of Job.]
Er and Onan, sons of Judah
Now Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord took his life. Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord; so He took his life also.
[Er is stated simply to be “evil”, and thus died as a result. His brother Onan should have noted the gravity of divine lesson, but instead deliberately refused to fulfill his responsibility to “raise offspring for [his] brother” and died as a result.]
Any disobedient Jew who was brought out of Egypt during the Exodus
so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood. It shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will boast, saying, ‘I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land with the dry.’ The Lord shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the Lord and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven. Then the Lord will single him out for adversity from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in this book of the law.
But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel. … He brought his household near man by man; and Achan, son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, was taken. Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I implore you, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.” So Achan answered Joshua and said, “Truly, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel … Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor. Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. They raised over him a great heap of stones that stands to this day, and the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day.
[This is a particularly dramatic example because 36 Jewish soldiers also died in the initial attack on Ai because of the LORD’s displeasure with Achan. The Scripture does not provide the details on why they were included, but we know that the LORD is absolutely holy in all He does.]
Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and he camped against Thebez and captured it. But there was a strong tower in the center of the city, and all the men and women with all the leaders of the city fled there and shut themselves in; and they went up on the roof of the tower. So Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it, and approached the entrance of the tower to burn it with fire. But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head, crushing his skull. Then he called quickly to the young man, his armor bearer, and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that it will not be said of me, ‘A woman slew him.’” So the young man pierced him through, and he died. When the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, each departed to his home. Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father in killing his seventy brothers. Also God returned all the wickedness of the men of Shechem on their heads, and the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal came upon them.
King Saul of Israel
King David of Israel
2 Sam 12.11
Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.
[The judgment inflicted on David after he raped (or, at the very least, seduced) Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah (and the soldiers who happened to be with Uriah).]
2 Sam 12.18
Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was still alive, we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do himself harm!”
2 Sam 24.16
When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
1 Chr 21.15
And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it; but as he was about to destroy it, the LORD saw and was sorry over the calamity, and said to the destroying angel, “It is enough; now relax your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
2 Sam 17.14;18.9-15
Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had ordained to thwart the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring calamity on Absalom. … Now Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. For Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. And his head caught fast in the oak, so he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him kept going. When a certain man saw it, he told Joab and said, “Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.” … Then Joab said, “I will not waste time here with you.” So he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through the heart of Absalom while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak. And ten young men who carried Joab’s armor gathered around and struck Absalom and killed him.
[Absalom was expert in political intrigue and scheming. He was brought to his end when he attempted a coupe against his father David, the one chosen by the LORD as Israel’s king.]
1 Kin 9.9
And they will say, ‘Because they forsook the LORD their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them, therefore the LORD has brought all this adversity on them.’
1 Kin 11.6, 25
Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done. ... So he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, along with the evil that Hadad did; and he abhorred Israel and reigned over Aram.
1 Kin 14.10
therefore behold, I am bringing calamity on the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every male person, both bond and free in Israel, and I will make a clean sweep of the house of Jeroboam, as one sweeps away dung until it is all gone.
[The LORD gave ten of the tribes of Israel (the “Northern Kingdom”) to Jeroboam as a result of Solomon’s astonishing carelessness and idolatry. Jeroboam feared that the ten tribes would one day return to the Kingdom of Judah (1 Kin 12.26-30), so he made a pair of golden calves and set them up as places of sacrifice—something clearly forbidden! This was the “beginning of the end” for the Northern Kingdom, even though it had barely begun!]
The unnamed widow of Zarephath and Elijah
1 Kin 17.20
He called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?”
[As we see as the account unfolds, the LORD intended to bring about a miracle for the woman who cared for Elijah. At first, it seemed that calamity struck her son (and this is how Elijah interpreted it), but it was for good instead.]
Ahab of the Northern Kingdom
1 Kin 21.21
Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel;
[Note how this actually happened in the next references.]
1 Kin 21.25-29
Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him. He acted very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the sons of Israel.
It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.”
[The LORD saw and responded to Ahab’s genuine repentance.]
1 Kin 22.23
“Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you.”
[There still was great personal culpability which culminated with Ahab’s death during the battle which followed this text. cf., 2 Chr 18.22]
2 Kin 21.10-15
Now the Lord spoke through His servants the prophets, saying, “Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations, having done wickedly more than all the Amorites did who were before him, and has also made Judah sin with his idols; therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am bringing such calamity on Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle. I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. I will abandon the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies, and they will become as plunder and spoil to all their enemies; because they have done evil in My sight, and have been provoking Me to anger since the day their fathers came from Egypt, even to this day.’”
[Manasseh’s sin was so great that he ensured the destruction of Jerusalem by the LORD! cf.,
2 Kin 24.3-4
Surely at the command of the Lord it came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood which he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; and the Lord would not forgive.]
2 Chr 21.12-15,18-20
Then a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet saying, “Thus says the Lord God of your father David, ‘Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father and the ways of Asa king of Judah, but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have caused Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot as the house of Ahab played the harlot, and you have also killed your brothers, your own family, who were better than you, behold, the Lord is going to strike your people, your sons, your wives and all your possessions with a great calamity; and you will suffer severe sickness, a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day.’” ... So after all this the Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable sickness. Now it came about in the course of time, at the end of two years, that his bowels came out because of his sickness and he died in great pain. And his people made no fire for him like the fire for his fathers. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years; and he departed with no one’s regret, and they buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.
[Jehoram was a particularly violent ruler; the Scripture records the fact that as soon as his position as king was secure he murdered his six brothers. As the Scripture above shows, his death was especially painful and prolonged. When he finally died, it was “with no one’s regret.” What a legacy!]
Hananiah (a “prophet” during the time of Jeremiah)
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah after Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Go and speak to Hananiah, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, “You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made instead of them yokes of iron.” For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they will serve him. And I have also given him the beasts of the field.”’” Then Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen now, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you have counseled rebellion against the Lord.’” So Hananiah the prophet died in the same year in the seventh month.
Jehoiakim (and the Kingdom of Judah)
“The wind will sweep away all your shepherds,
And your lovers will go into captivity;
Then you will surely be ashamed and humiliated
Because of all your wickedness.
[Jehoiakim the son of Josiah during the ministry of Jeremiah]
“I will also punish him and his descendants and his servants for their iniquity, and I will bring on them and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah all the calamity that I have declared to them—but they did not listen.”
[Spoken to Jehoiakim the king of Judah after he destroyed the scroll written by Jeremiah.]
Jonah, along with the sailors of the ship carrying Jonah as he fled from the LORD
Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you? He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.”
Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, “How could you do this?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. So they said to him, “What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?”—for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy. He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.” However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them. Then they called on the Lord and said, “We earnestly pray, O Lord, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O Lord, have done as You have pleased.
So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. Then the men feared the Lord greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows”
[Note how initially the LORD brought the calamity on both the sailors and Jonah, but kept the ship from destruction and the sailors from certain death while they were ignorant of the reason for their calamity (Jonah's rebellion). When Jonah told the sailors that they would have to cast him into the sea (something they assumed would be a fatal intervention), they balked—they wanted to avoid what they ignorantly considered the shedding of "innocent blood".
The real issue was not their shedding of "innocent blood" but the sailors' culpability of standing in the way of the LORD's wrath against Jonah. As the intensity of the storm increased, the sailors realized that their "intervention" would cost them their own lives if they persisted. Jonah would preach to Ninevah regardless if he was a willing prophet.
Once the sailors threw Jonah into the sea, their calamity disappeared, and Jonah's began.
There is a similar event here, when Ahab failed to put Ben-hadad king of Aram to death after he had defeated him. 1 Kin 20.42-43]
Anaias and Sapphira
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.
Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
[This is the first example of personal calamity in the book of Acts.]
Saul of Tarsus
Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.
[Saul hated the disciples of the Lord Christ more than any other of the Jews of his day. This is a wonderful example of divine wrath brought upon a stunning enemy of the early church, but one which also showed the power, depth and scope of the grace of God to turn the premier enemy of the early church into the greatest evangelist the world has ever seen.]
Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. ... Now he was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; and with one accord they came to him, and having won over Blastus the king’s chamberlain, they were asking for peace, because their country was fed by the king’s country. On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. The people kept crying out, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.
[Remember, Herod murdered James the Apostle (the brother of John). The LORD remembered this and inflicted him with a particularly gruesome death.]
And what is the portion of God from above
Or the heritage of the Almighty from on high?
Is it not calamity to the unjust
And disaster to those who work iniquity?
He who mocks the poor taunts his Maker; He who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished.
For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.
How blessed is the man who fears always, But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
[This is a very interesting example: it is global in its scope, yet inflicted only on those who receive the “mark of the beast” or engage in idolatry to the beast.]