Follow up to the question "By what standards does Judaism hold infants accountable for sin?". The issue raised was how could God hold infant Amalekites accountable for sins they did not commit and order for them to be slaughtered with others of the Amalekite nation.

The given answer stated that due to God's omniscience, God can also foresee a person's future actions. Therefore because time is not a parameter, God can punish a person for something they had not yet committed. We humans, unlike God, do not have the capacity to foresee the future, and therefore this is something only God is capable of doing. And so an example of this would be the famous "would you kill baby Hitler?" dilemma.

Assuming this is the case, this raises an issue. If God demanded that the infants be killed for their future sins, and then those infants are killed before they commit them, then they would never commit those sins, meaning they are punished for something they never committed, rendering their punishment futile and unjust.

The main question is, are there other instances of God punishing someone for something they have yet to have committed? and how do we explain away this paradox?

  • What's the paradox?
    – Double AA
    Aug 23, 2020 at 1:17
  • @Double AA The paradox is that if they are kill-punished for a sin in the future, then they are killed before they ever commit the sin, and so they are punished for a sin they would never commit.
    – RandomUser
    Aug 23, 2020 at 5:55
  • What's the paradox?
    – Double AA
    Aug 23, 2020 at 11:51
  • @Double AA If you disagree that there is a paradox then maybe you can explain your line of thought to me
    – RandomUser
    Aug 23, 2020 at 11:52
  • You just said a sentence. A paradox is a contradiction. What's the paradox here? I dont see any contradictions here
    – Double AA
    Aug 23, 2020 at 11:53

2 Answers 2


The Babylonian Talmud in Rosh Hashana 16b states:

וא"ר יצחק אין דנין את האדם אלא לפי מעשיו של אותה שעה שנאמר כי שמע אלהים אל קול הנער באשר הוא שם

R. Isaac further said: Man is judged only according to his actions up to the time of judgment, as it says, God hath heard the voice of the lad as he is there.

The same idea appears in the parallel passage in the Jerusalem Talmud Rosh Hashana 1:3 which states:

רבי חנניה חבריהון דרבנן בעי ואין הקב"ה רואה את הנולד ולא שמיע דא"ר סימון בשם רבי יהושע בן לוי אין הקב"ה דן את האדם אלא בשעה שהוא עומד בה מ"ט אל תיראי כי שמע אלהים אל קול הנער באשר הוא שם

R. Chanina the friend of the rabbis asked: But does God not know the future? And he [must] not have heard that R. Simon said in the name of R. Yehoshua Ben Levi [that] God does not judge man except in the moment in which he is standing. What is the reason? "Do not fear for God has heard the call of the lad where he is there."

This is expanded upon in Bereshit Rabbah 53:

אמר רבי סימון קפצו מלאכי השרת לקטרגו אמרו לפניו רבון העולמים אדם שהוא עתיד להמית את בניך בצמא אתה מעלה לו באר אמר להם עכשיו מה הוא צדיק או רשע אמרו לו צדיק אמר להם איני דן את האדם אלא בשעתו

R. Simon said: The ministering angels jumped to accuse him. They said before Him, "Master of Worlds, a man who is destined to kill Your children by thirst You provide for him a well?" He said to them, "what is he now? Righteous or wicked?" They said to Him, "righteous". He said to them, "I do not judge a man except in his moment.


The main question is, are there other instances of God punishing someone for something they have yet to have committed? and how do we explain away this paradox?

Yes and no.

There are other instances where people are killed prior to their embarking on a evil path.

From the most well known examples would be the case of a Ben Sorer Umoreh.

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 72A) explicitly says he is being killed for future not past behavior but as the Gemara there continues it is for his benefit that he die before embarking on an evil path.

The premise behind this question seems to be that if someone is getting killed to prevent them from embarking on a path of evil it is a punishment. The Gemara is saying that it is for their benefit and not a punishment at all.

Killing a baby Hitler would not be a punishment. It would be a tremendous act of kindness . Not only for his victims but for Hitler himself. Who can even imagine the suffering in Gehennam he is currently undergoing? Today he certainly would appreciate had someone killed him when he was still a baby and spared him from it.

  • To clarify, is your answer asserting that all instances of killing before sin are preventions rather than punishments?
    – Alex
    Aug 23, 2020 at 3:37
  • I don't know if ALL killing before sin is for prevention reasons ONLY but I am asserting that no one is punished for sins they did not yet commit
    – Schmerel
    Aug 23, 2020 at 3:53
  • So does this agree or disagree with the linked answer's explanation for killing Amalekite babies?
    – Alex
    Aug 23, 2020 at 3:57

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