In “God’s remedy for defilement” Jefferson Vann explains why hell has to eliminate sinners, not just punish them.
Deuteronomy 20:15-18 (JDV)
Deuteronomy 20:15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are far away from you and are not among the cities of these nations.
Deuteronomy 20:16 However, you must not let any breathing thing stay alive among the cities of these people Yahveh your God is giving you as an inheritance.
Deuteronomy 20:17 You must completely destroy them– the Hethite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, and Jebusite – as Yahveh your God has commanded you,
Deuteronomy 20:18 so that they won’t teach you to do all the repulsive acts they do for their gods, and you make mistakes against Yahveh your God.
God’s remedy for defilement
God’s solution for the defilement of the land was to eliminate any breathing thing (neshemah) in it, and replace it with only his people, undefiled by idolatry and repulsive acts. If he had wanted the Israelites to round up the Canaanites and subject them to perpetual torture, he could have done it. But that is not God’s solution to the sin problem. What is true on the micro level is also true on the macro level. The wages of sin are the same. Our loving God will not subject humanity to an eternity of potential defilement by keeping those who have not been cleansed around to reinfect those he has cleansed.. His solution is to destroy them — soul and body in hell.
Those who argue for eternal conscious torment often claim that if we only knew how holy God is, we would not object to that perpetual punishment. But this passage and many others show how God intends to demonstrate his holiness. The command “You must completely destroy them” makes it clear that God shows his purity by purifying, and that purifying is accomplished by death.
For more on the final punishment of the wicked, see: