Kill them all! Part 2, the Amalekites

In Part 2 of this series (read part 1 here: Annihilate the AmalekitesKill 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.

References

  1. Exodus 17:14
  2. 1 Samuel 15:2-3
  3. 1 Samuel 15:7-8
  4. 1 Samuel 27:8
  5. 1 Samuel 30:16
  6. 1 Samuel 30:1-18
  7. 2 Samuel 1:13
  8. 2 Samuel 8:12; 1 Chronicles 18:11
  9. 1 Chronicles 4:43

‘Kill them all.’ Part 1, Introduction

The God of the Bible is a God of love, forgiveness and care. Kill them allYet there are passages that show a part of Him we would not associate with a God of love and compassion. More than once He tells the Israelites, ‘Kill them all.’  We want to discuss those examples to understand them better:

  1. The Amalekites ‘Write this on a scroll… because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’  1 
  2. The Canaanites: ‘My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out.’ 2
  3. The Midianites: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites.” 3  After the campaign, Moses told the Israelites to kill all the married women and boys. 4

When we read these passages superficially, they seem strange. Did the same God not send Jonah to preach to the wicked city of Nineve? 5 Did He not save that city from annihilation when they repented and changed their ways? Why did God want these nations annihilated instead of calling them to repentance?

It is God’s judgement on these nations that causes His enemies, under the leadership of the devil, to deride and ridicule Him. For example, someone as notorious as Richard Dawkins (notorious for his lack of Bible insight), says about God, ‘The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: …unjust, unforgiving control-freak, vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, …racist, infanticidal, genocidal …capriciously malevolent bully.’ 6

Can we, as believers, vindicate God’s honour? Can we justify His actions? Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is the Book of Truth.7  There is no way we can try to skirt around these Bible passages and give some vague answers. We need to examine them critically and come to a conclusion. It is important because the enemies of Christ, like Dawkins, insist that they have God in a fix. He is guilty of genocide and that makes Him a cosmic tyrant who does not deserve loyalty or worship.

We will discuss the three nations chronologically as they appear in the Bible in the next few weeks. There are interesting facts that are often overlooked in the Bible’s account. This will lead us to some startling conclusions that are completely opposite to what people might think.

References

  1. Exodus 17:14
  2. Exodus 23:23; Deuteronomy 7:1-5
  3. Numbers 31:1
  4. Numbers 31:17-18
  5. Jonah 1:1
  6. Richard Dawkins, The God Hypothesis, Bantam Press, 2006, p 31
  7. Daniel 10:21

God, atheists and fatherhood

Many atheists love to lambast God because He is such a terrible tyrant. They just can’t get over it that He instructed God caresIsrael to kill their enemies. Let us look at two incidents.

# 1. The Amalekites. The Amalekites attacked the unsuspecting Israelites when they moved from Egypt to the promised land.1 God’s attitude was very clear, ‘The Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.2  Israel is God’s firstborn son.3  God, as a Father, took action to protect His firstborn son.

We assume that the critical atheists know the Bible. So they know Israel is God’s firstborn. In addition we assume that they probably have children, which includes firstborns. So are they very happy when someone attacks their firstborn? Don’t they mind? Well, God cares. Since He is real, He has emotions of love and loyalty. He is not going to allow anybody to wilfully attack His son. He cares and acts, while atheists presumably don’t care to defend their firstborns.

# 2. The nations in Canaan. God commanded the Israelites to destroy the nations that lived in Canaan.4 Why? The land was their inheritance that God promised to Abraham.5  Because of the terrible sins of the Canaanites (they sacrificed their sons or daughters in the fire, engaged in witchcraft, consulted the dead, et cetera), God gave the country to the descendants of Abraham.6   

God wanted the Israelites to live and enjoy their inheritance. How? By serving the only true God and not the idols of the Canaanites. Idols are destined for doom, ‘These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.’ 7

God, like normal loving fathers, tried to protect His son from losing the inheritance (Canaan) through outside influences. We assume the complaining atheists don’t care if their own children lose their inheritance. At least the Israelites had a Father who cared and loved them enough to take preventative action.

Conclusion: God is a father who cares. He is loyal to His own. He wants to protect His son from making stupid mistakes, so He acts. Anybody who criticises God’s fatherly duties, apparently don’t regard it as important to protect and care for his own children and help them secure their inheritance.

In the following blog we will look at how the Israelites did not keep their inheritance because of disobedience.

References

  1. Exodus 17:8-16
  2. Exodus 17:17b
  3. Exodus 14:22
  4. Deuteronomy 20:16
  5. Genesis 15:18-21
  6. Genesis 15:16b
  7. Jeremiah 10:11
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