They knew better. They were not that far away from the knowledge of God.
I am amazed as I read through the Bible, at how many immediately turned from God to idols.
I hear comments from people, especially skeptics, who think that God unfairly judges people. Their reasoning seems to say that people should be warned before they get destroyed. After all, it's only fair and right that people are told about the punishment that will come to them when they do wrong.
Let's look at some examples from the Bible. We have Adam and Eve, who had a close relationship with God. They were the first created human beings, and we know that Adam walked with God in the Garden. We can conclude that God told Adam not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, for Eve knew that was wrong and was hesitant at first to eat the fruit while being tempted. We also can tell that God had shown them about animal sacrifices, as they knew they were to do that after they had sinned.
We really don't know all that God spoke to Adam about during his lifetime, but we know it was enough to give him spiritual insight into his life. We also know that whatever he learned from God was passed down in the home. Abel understood about sin and the animal sacrifices, and his sacrifice was pleasing to God. Cain, on the other hand, came from the same home, but did not offer animal sacrifices. He also had a wicked heart and did not fear God. Out of anger and jealousy, he killed his brother Cain. He knew what God had said, but chose to go his own way instead.
Then there was Noah. He was 10 generations from Adam, and he still had much information stored from what he learned from his father and grandfather. He did what was right and was God fearing. After the Flood, Noah, his wife, and the three sons, and their wives got out of the Ark. Almost immediately we see one of the sons going astray. Ham's son, Canaan, did not follow the ways of the Lord. What went wrong? Whatever it was, we still see this pattern today, even in our own country!
Canaan was the father of the Canaanites, the really evil people. They turned to idolatry and turned away from the true and living God. Not too long after that, the whole land was filled with people who were in idolatry and who were worshiping false gods. Where did the fear of the Lord go?
Then you have all the kings of Israel. You had one good king, then he had a son to replace him after his death, and the son was an evil king. Then somewhere down the road, there sprouted up a good king who feared God. Then his son would be king and he would be an evil king. God had to let this nation go in exile, and be subject to other nations until they repented.
The point is, it is not like the people who are evil were never told about right and wrong, or even about God and His standards. It is more like, they knew better, but they chose to not go the way of the parent or ancestors. The message that God was giving to them was not distant from them. They had the information, and they chose to disregard it and do their own thing instead.
There was a time when people in our land knew better. There used to be a standard of right and wrong, good and evil, etc. Those who broke the law were penalized. Today though, people can break the law and not be penalized. But people who preach the Gospel at a shopping center are in danger of being arrested and even put in jail! People can deal drugs and not get caught. Certain people can get away with embezzlement, while others are threatened because they told someone what the Bible says about homosexuality.
We live in a perverse society where good is called, 'evil' and evil is called 'good'. People are stiffly fined for hurting a special kind of turtle, yet we kill thousands of children every day under the reasoning of 'convenience'. Something is wrong with this picture.
And we know better. It was not that long ago when everyone practically knew John 3:16. Everyone was familiar with the 10 Commandments, and if anyone wanted to commit adultery, or even live in a relationship with someone outside of marriage, they would do it secretly, because they knew it was wrong, and they didn't want to be caught.
Today people live together outside of a marriage relationship as if it is nothing. Not many even know the Commandments today. If a woman gets pregnant and doesn't want the baby, she just goes down to an abortion clinic where her baby will be sliced up inside her body. She doesn't even care. The only thing that is important to her is to get rid of the inconvenience.
So, the next time you hear a skeptic say that God is not fair to wipe people out, remember that the people who were wiped out did know what God said. They just disregarded it and did what they wanted to do. The fear of God was lost, and the people suffered.
"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened......
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error..... Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." Romans 1:21, 26, 27, and 32 ESV