The Bible reveals that there were circumstances when God struck an individual, or group of individuals dead. The first we find happened on a massive scale during the time of Noah when a flood destroyed all men and animals which were not on the Ark. “And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.” (Genesis 7:23) Most believe that the flood was over the entire earth. There are others who believe it was only over the area where the sons of Adam lived.
Why did this happen? Why was God so disappointed in man? We discover the reason at the beginning of chapter six of Genesis, where we are informed that a gross evil was taking place. Angels were interfering with God’s plan for man. They appeared on earth and were marrying into the family of Adam’s descendant’s, having children who were malformed, super-human hybrids. They were called giants. These fallen angels, along with their offspring, were a strong influence upon man. There minds were corrupted to the point where all they could think was evil thoughts, thus ushering in a time of wickedness. God was grieved about this, to such an extent that he regretted creating man in the flesh, except for the one man of God, Noah. “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
“And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
“There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
“And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:1-8)
Thus, we find the reason for the death of all man was the influence of evil angels corrupting man to such a degree that he had to be removed.
Multiple deaths also occurred on a large scale on the night of the Passover in Egypt. It was the blood on the two side posts of an individual’s door that caused the Lord to instruct the destroyer to pass over those houses.
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:12-13) Continuing, it describes: “And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.” (Exodus 12:29-30)
These deaths were a sign to the Egyptians and came about because Pharaoh refused to let God’s people leave.
A significant number of people also were struck down after, Korah, a relative of Moses, spoke out against Moses and influenced several others to rebel. We find that God thought very highly of Moses as he stated after Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ sister and brother respectively, spoke out against Moses. “Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:6-8)
It is difficult to understand why, but even after the ground opened and swallowed up Korah and his followers, some of the people still murmured against Moses. God became angry and put a stop to their rebellion. Over 14,000 people died that day.
First concerning Korah: “And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the LORD hath not sent me. But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD. And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them; and they perished from among the congregation. And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, lest the earth swallow us up also.” (Numbers 16:28-34)
Continuing, it is written of the following day: “But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, ye have killed the people of the LORD. And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron that they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation: and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared. And Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of the congregation. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces. And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the alter, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague is begun. And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed. Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah.” (Numbers 16:41-49) These people died because of their rebellion against God and Moses.
The expression, “the LORD struck him,” was used concerning King Jeroboam, who angered God by building two large calves for the people to worship. After reigning over Israel for eighteen years, Jeroboam went to war against, Abijah, the King of Judah. God intervened on behalf of Abijah and the children of Judah. “Thus the children of Israel were brought under at that time, and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the LORD God of their fathers.” (II Chronicles 13:18) Jeroboam and five hundred thousand of his army died. “Neither did Jeroboam recover strength again in the days of Abijah: and the LORD struck him, and he died.” (II Chronicles 13:20)
Here we find that the people died because they had turned against God and went to war against their own people.
Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, insulted God by an unholy or unclean act involving the lighting of the fire at the altar. Perhaps the two took fire out of a trash dump or manure pile to light the fire. It is not clear. Whatever it was, it insulted God. “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.” (Leviticus 10:1-2)
Nadab and Abihu died because they made light of that which was holy.
Another man who saw a swift death was King Belshazzar of Babylon who had used the utensils that had been taken from Jerusalem for a celebration or party. During the festivities a hand appeared and wrote on the wall. No one, but Daniel, was able to interrupt what the writing said. The warning was in the words on the wall.
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. (Daniel 5:1-6)
King Belshazzar was scared to death. He died that same night after Daniel gave him the warning. “And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.
“In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.” (Daniel 5:22-30)
King Belshazzar died because he mocked God.
The death of King Herod was not a pretty sight. Pride overtook him as he went before the people and encouraged them to worship him.
And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. (Acts 12:21-23)
King Herod died because of his pride.