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Why does God allow evil rulers like Hitler and Saddam to have power?

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The Bible does not explicitly explain why God allows evil rulers to come to power, but it does offer many principles that explain both the efforts and the limitations of rulers such as the Hitlers and Husseins of this world.

Romans 13:1 teaches, "For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." In other words, God knows ahead of time who will rule a given nation and those rulers exist under His sovereign control. Regardless of whether the particular ruler is evil or good, God has control of the person in charge of every nation.

Part of God's control is seen in His limiting the actions of governing leaders. Proverbs 21:1 teaches, "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will." In the Bible, there are many examples of evil rulers, yet God ultimately controlled their rules and the outcomes.

For example, Pharaoh sought to keep the Israelites as slaves, even when God sent Moses to tell him to let them go. Despite Pharaoh's evil oppression, God's will prevailed.

The book of Judges offers many examples of times when God's people lived under oppression, cried out for help, and then were given new leadership raised up by God.

When the Israelites asked for a king like the other nations, God sent Samuel to anoint Saul as king. Though he began well, he later rebelled against the Lord and died in battle (1 Samuel 31).

God chose David, a man after His own heart, as the next king after Saul. Despite many hardships, David became the king of all Israel, becoming the first Israelite king to have his own son rule after him, King Solomon.

Later, God raised up a pagan leader named King Cyrus who allowed the Jews to return to their homeland as the prophets had predicted.

In the New Testament, Jesus answered the question of paying taxes by teaching, "'Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?' They said, 'Caesar's.' He said to them, 'Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's'" (Luke 20:24-25). Jesus clearly noted that earthly rulers were given certain powers, but God held ultimate power. Another example of this is found when King Herod sought to kill Jesus when He was an infant, only to have God send angels to warn the wise men and the family of Jesus in advance (Matthew 2:1-18).

The early church also encountered much opposition from governing leaders. Herod (a descendant of the Herod mentioned above) put James to death and sought to kill Peter. Peter miraculously escaped and Herod soon died as a judgment from God (Acts 12). Governing authorities also persecuted the apostle Paul for his faith, though God used it to spread the gospel message to many (Philippians 1).

God may not reveal the reasons for certain evil leaders being in power, but He does use such evil leaders to accomplish His will. He has also provided numerous biblical examples of how He ultimately controls and limits the evil a tyrant can yield, and promises a future day when He will ultimately provide judgment and rule as King (Revelation 21-22).

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