Callington House Group
4th February 2015
Read: 1 Samuel chapter 15.
We are often presented with this passage as evidence that our God is guilty of demanding an unfair and extremely violent genocide of the Amalekite people.
How do we as Christians answer critics who say that God is evil for such things and is no better than some today who behave today in similar ways due to their belief system?
How do we justify the extermination of the Amalekites in the light of the New Testament teaching of God's love for the world? How do we reconcile the apparent contradiction?
Some “Christians” claim that this cannot be an accurate account of the events. Our thoughts?
Some declare it to be Samuel's command but not God's dictate. See Deuteronomy 18:15-22 Our thoughts?
Some even say that God was acting in line with the moral standards of the day and that He would never act in such a way today. Our thoughts?
Can we get around the issue by simply appealing to God's holiness and His hatred of sin and so say therefore that the Amalekites only got what they deserved as sinners in much the same way that we all do?
How do we reconcile this act that to us is probably difficult to understand? It would be easy simply to pass it by and try to ignore it just because it is a difficult passage. As we know from the temptations of Christ that the devil knows and understands scripture well enough to use such passages to devalue our gospel witness. We cannot therefore ignore this and other similar events in the hope that they will go away. Critics of the Lord God soon jump on these issues and parade them around in order to destroy gospel truth. Therefore we must try at least to understand what is happening and why God so forcefully demands that Saul and the Israelites kill every man, woman child and infant along with their flocks and herds.
To do this we need to step back in time and try to understand who the Amalekites were.
- Followers and descendants of Amalek who was Esau's grandson. Esau and Jacob (otherwise known as Israel) were twin brothers. Esau as the eldest brother should have followed Jacob as head of the family but sold his birthright to Jacob for a plate of stew. This in effect was tantamount to an act of family treason and so Esau lost his prime position in the family and handed it over to Jacob. We ought at this point to remember that this family was to become a nation that was especially chosen by God to be holy to Him. They were also to demonstrate God's greatness to the surrounding nations by the way that they loved Him and obeyed His word and also as they worshipped Him correctly. Esau from the moment that he sold his birthright was an enemy to Israel and wanted to get rid of them in order that he might gain superiority once again. As with all such family issues things if not dealt with only get worse with time therefore by the time of Esau's grandson Amelek; hatred for Israel had become their burning passion.
- They were not as the Canaanites who were under threat for their land but they were the extended family. They were not at any time before under threat from Israel but yet along with the Edomites (another strand of the Esau clan) they were violently opposed to Israel's need to pass through their land on their way to Canaan. (Numbers 20:14-21)
- Israel's first battle after coming out of Egypt (Exodus 17) was with the Amalekites even before they had reached Sinai. This caused Moses to write:
The Lord said;“write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner, saying “ a hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
- The Amalekites were always at war with Israel, constantly attacking them but Israel were never the aggressors. For example:
Numbers 14:45 the Amalekites attacked Israel again in the desert.
Judges 3:13 they joined Moab in attacking Israel.
Judges 6;3 they invade Israel along with the Midianites taking the harvest produce leaving nothing for Israel including sheep, ox or donkey!
- In Judges 6&7 they invade again and are fought off by Gideon.
- Time and time again they are a constant thorn in the flesh of Israel even beyond the time of Saul! Haman a descendant of King Agag whom Saul tried to spare tried to get rid of the Jews in the time of their captivity in Persia. (Ester 3:1-6)
This nation of Amalek many times attempted acts of genocide upon the nation of Israel. That makes their crime even worse. It is clearly wrong for any nation to simply wipe out another for the furtherance of ideals of any type but yet instead of turning to God the Amalekites fought against Him in their numerous attempts to destroy the people of promise.
It is at this point that we see a far more significant issue, Israel is God's people through whom Jesus would come. Salvation is through Israel and has always been available for all who see God through His people. Amalek would not recognise the God of Israel and instead put all of her efforts into destroying the nation and as such the promised Saviour to come. This nation is clearly working in league with the god of this world who is Satan.
“Part of what it means for God to bless the world is for God to protect Israel, His pipeline for blessing to the world!”
The Amalekites were an evil nation who when attacking delighted in killing children and babies, they were ruthless in their quest to destroy the people of God and so therefore extreme actions were necessary. This is a far cry from the reasoning for the wanton murder and destruction of people who happen not to believe as you do. God displayed His character of being slow to anger in His dealing with this dysfunctional nation. All of the time as always with God there is a way of escape for any who turn away from evil . Even in the account in 1 Samuel 15 there is mercy made available. Saul informed the Kennites who were descendants of Jethro (Moses' father-in-law) of the impending judgement and allowed them safe passage.
God in His law also provides a way of escape: see Deuteronomy 20: 10-13. If Saul was true to God's word then there would have been an offer; we cannot tell if Saul made that offer. If he did not then he has much to answer for. In this God cannot be blamed when he had made clear provision in His law. It was probably unpalatable to the Amalekites to submit to servitude to Israel and so most unlikely that they would have even considered God's terms; thus they were sealing their own fate.
So to sum up and to try to answer our question:
- When Israel were occupying the land, the Canaanites had to be driven out. They did not belong in the land, they had had plenty of opportunities to move away. For 40 years they had feared the day knowing that the Lord was with Israel (see the spies report in Numbers 14:6-10) and yet would not peaceably move away for the rightful inhabitants. Instead they built fortified cities that they thought were impenetrable but which could not even withstand a blast from the trumpet of God. They were belligerently standing in the way of God building His nation and so they were removed in accordance with their arrogance. Once the land was secured the moving out process would have finished but the Israelites were poor at the job and so the land never reached it's potential. Israel of course is a prophesy in itself and points to the church which God is building for which even the gates of hell will not stand in it's path. God is calling a people from every tribe and nation to repentance and salvation,. Those who stand against are not annihilated in this life but are punished eternally afterwards. The Amalekites and the other enemies of God are a prophesy of the kingdom of Satan that will always no matter what oppose the work of Christ and fight against the church who are now His people. The only weapon of war that the people of God have today is the Sword of the Spirit which is the word of God which is powerful and active in dealing with personal sin.
- The Amalekites are the prototype of those who ask this question which we are considering, their whole purpose is to trip up the Christian and to make him doubt the truth and as such become useless to the church and fearful of his own understanding of who God really is.
- They are about the business of destroying the truth about God and selling a lie in its place.
- This whole issue is not about extremist groups versus Christianity, or even truth against error it is all about an attack on truth, the protagonists do not really want to hear our answer and they will pillory it no doubt, but it is truth and it is the truth that has set us free. Our explanation will be used by God because whenever truth is declared that word will not return without achieving its purpose!
“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
1 Peter 2:9-12
Peter is urging the church to be true to her calling which is to be the fulfillment of all that Israel was to point to. Where she failed we must succeed, the enemy will one day be totally annihilated. He is already a defeated foe but until that day the church is on a rescue mission. Called to save many from judgement and disaster.