In Part 2 of this series (read part 1 here: Kill them all! Part 1, introduction) we discuss how a God of love could vow to annihilate the Amalekites. They attacked His people, coming out of slavery in Egypt, vulnerable and unprepared for war. The Amalekites waylaid them, meaning they attacked them without provocation.
Like any protective father when his children are needlessly attacked, God’s reaction was, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’ 1
About 250 years after the event, God commanded Saul through Samuel the prophet, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” 2
Saul apparently obeyed, ‘Then [he] attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword.’ 3 It sounds as if the Amalekites as a nation were wiped out. Yet their history continued.
Further mention of the Amalekites
When David and his men stayed in Ziklag among the Philistines, he raided the Amalekites.4 Once when David and his men were away, the Amalekites attacked and burnt down Ziklag. They took all the women and children. David pursued them and ‘…there they were, scattered over the countryside.’ 5 He fought against them and none escaped except 400 young men on camels. 6 This proves that the Amalekites were not completely wiped out by Saul.
Later an Amalekite brought David the news of Saul’s death.7 Amalek is mentioned among the enemy nations that David subdued. 8 So there were still numerous Amalekites years after Saul ‘annihilated them’. It was only in the time of Hezekiah (around 715 BC) that the Amalekites were finally destroyed as a nation. 9 That was about 550 years after God decided to wipe them out.
So does the Bible text lie when it says Saul killed all the Amalekites? No! Obviously people flee in times of war (especially women and children). So we are dealing here with a phenomenon that is well known in our time: refugees. That is what must have happened with the Amalekites. Saul must have killed many, but many fled.
We notice that the Amalekites had plenty of time to mend their ways. This accords with God’s ever present grace and mercy. In the next blog, Part 3, we will discuss the Canaanites.
- Exodus 17:14
- 1 Samuel 15:2-3
- 1 Samuel 15:7-8
- 1 Samuel 27:8
- 1 Samuel 30:16
- 1 Samuel 30:1-18
- 2 Samuel 1:13
- 2 Samuel 8:12; 1 Chronicles 18:11
- 1 Chronicles 4:43