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Did God destroy the Amalekites?
Query for the Month
Next up-date: August 1st 2007 (God willing).
Previous "Queries" are available. Click here to access.
Some perpetual questions ....
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1 Samuel 15:2-3.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass”.
Isn't this the LORD telling them to slaughter the Amalekites? Why should He be giving such an order?
We do not have to overlook any words of the Bible when we are searching for the truth as it is in Jesus, for there is a wonderful harmony among them all. We may have to say at times that we as individuals do not understand how certain texts fit in with others that we know of, but we can then plead with the Spirit of God to explain these to us, for that is His desire. We should not put them aside “in faith” and wait, unless specifically told to do so as in Daniel’s case. “And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, ‘Go your way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end’.” Daniel 12:8-9.
Wrestling with the LORD (as in Jacob’s trouble) is one of the characteristics of the remnant church, and we should do it more often to prepare for the big one. The kingdom of heaven is to be taken “by force”, which means great enthusiasm. Matthew 11:12.
So let’s look at this present problem.
1 Samuel 15:
1 Samuel also said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you to be king over His people, over Israel: now therefore hearken you to the voice of the words of the LORD. 2 Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. 3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass”.
First, let us establish that it was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who gave that order. In the Scripture it is noted that God the Father has not appeared to men because His majesty is such that we would die if we met Him. This is why we have a Mediator.
18 No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared
The God of the Old Testament who appeared to men and women was ALWAYS the Son of God, commonly known as the LORD, as the apostle John has just told us. So it was Jesus who gave the order to kill men, women, children, babies and animals. But that’s not the problem. The real question is: WHY did He give such a command?
Let us not confuse the issue by using man’s way of interpretation and claiming that God gives and takes away as it suits Him. The commandment “You shall not kill” refers to murder and this applies to God as well as man. Murder is the crime of taking another’s life when that person protests against it. It is to deprive the person of the freedom to live. It is an intentional act as compared with an accidental action which causes death. It is NOT the act of love [agapé], for such love NEVER fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8. Therefore for God to kill sinners would be murder.
The commandment is still correct when it reads “You shall not kill”.
The ultimate “punishment” that most of us see in the Bible is death, the second death, therefore it is considered to be a terrible thing and should not be thought of as “simply the removal of life”.
It is true that at times it appears that the Son of God has initiated the action of killing, or execution in the first death, but we require a more careful search of the word before we accept that. For example, when the “spies” were sent into Canaan we have this word.
1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send you men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall you send a man, every one a ruler among them”.
3 And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel.
But we also have this one:
[Moses said to the people] 22 And YOU came near to me every one of you, and said, “WE will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come”. 23 And the saying pleased me well: and I took twelve men of you, one of a tribe.
Here we have an instance of the people wanting something and the LORD God agreeing to their request and specifying who should go – rulers and nobles! He who had promised them the land, and told them that they would have no problem acquiring it, found that His people were querying His word. He did not rebuke them but instead allowed them their own way, which was for some leaders in Israel to become “spies”, an underhand method of working, not the action of a righteous person.
It was the same principle when Saul was chosen as king of Israel. Through His prophet Jesus warned them not to have a earthly king in His place, and what would happen if they persisted. But when they absolutely rejected His advice and claimed the right to be like the other nations, He went along with them.
1 Samuel 8:
[lead] us like all the nations”.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel to Ramah, 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old, and your sons walk not in your ways: now make us a king to judge
6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, “Give us a king to judge us”[for he thought they were rejecting him].
And Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD said to Samuel, “Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you: for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.
8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, wherewith they have forsaken Me, and served other gods, so do they also to you.
9 “Now therefore hearken to their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly to them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them”.
We should be able to see that it was Saul and the people’s desire to take revenge on the Amalekites five hundred years AFTER the event. The manner of their contact with that tribe had bothered them ever since. The Amalekites had attacked the weak and the stragglers in the exodus, and a straightforward battle had never resolved their anger.
The very manner of the warfare against them shows that the power of God was never fully in it.
[This was obviously a manmade situation.]
11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.
12 But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun[he needed help from other men].
13 And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword[but never vanquished them].
14 And the LORD[knowing human nature] said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven [one day]”.
15 And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it “Jehovahnissi”[the LORD my banner]: 16 for he said, “Because the LORD has sworn that the LORD [or rather His people] will have war with Amalek from generation to generation”.
This is the principle at the heart of the question.
The Son of God allows men and women to have their own way when they are determined to do so, and then tells them the best way for all concerned to accomplish their desire. But, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” for you may get what you want. Hebrews 10:31. And you will be just as guilty even though the LORD gave you permission to have it.
That’s why the LORD gave the command. If they were going to exact revenge, then, to ensure that a feud did not develop, they would have to exterminate ALL the Amalekites, men, women and children, and even their living possessions. That should have sickened the fighting men, but they hated with a total hate and did not waver in their resolve.
Our compassionate God told them to do it, and so takes the blame! However, when our Saviour accepts the guilt for the results of sin He is stating a fact, not bearing false witness. He who created the universe has put in place the laws and principles by which creation lives. It is these laws and principles, which are based on His own character, that allow sin to exist through the freedom of choice. He accepts the guilt because He is guilty of being sovereign and will not take away that most precious gift He has given us. Rather than do that, He came to bear the punishment of our actions for us. That should show us how much He values that privilege.
How can I explain this? This is a poor illustration, but it’s the best I’ve got at present. It’s like the gamekeepers in Africa. They are there to protect the animals from men, not from each other. When animals kill and eat each other the keepers do not interfere, but when they come on a badly wounded animal that is suffering greatly, they end its life. In the same way, God has to allow sin to work out its principles in the most “humane” way, and only interfere occasionally.
A much closer look at the story of Job may help us understand this point. Job himself declares that he was in the wrong and that Christ was right in withdrawing from him (or more correctly, in not being able to get to him past his protestations of innocence). Elihu, the fourth friend of Job, was the only one who spoke correctly of God in the whole story. (See Job 42:7.)
Of him it is written:
1 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2 Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God.
3 Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.
I suggest you read Chapters 32-37 for the full story.
Towards the end of the book Job confesses: “ I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees You. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes”. Job 42:5-6. He did not consider himself the spotless innocent at that point.
We should beware of limiting the Spirit to a few solutions when we have a problem in the Bible. Jesus put a question to the people of His time one day which made them realise this.
[the Messiah]? Whose son is He?” They say to him, “The son of David”.
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, “What think you of Christ
43 He says to them, “How then does David in Spirit call Him ‘LORD’, saying, 44 ‘The LORD said to my LORD, Sit You on My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool?’[Psalm 110:1] 45 If David then called Him ‘LORD’, how is He his son?”
46 And no man was able to answer Him a word, neither dared any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions.
There are always many other ways of looking at a problem through God’s eyes and we need the spiritual “eyesalve” to see them. Who is it that makes His enemies His footstool? The Holy Spirit is in charge on earth now, so it is He who does the work for the Father.
When reading statements in the Bible it is impossible to comprehend them correctly without the right base. When Jesus told His disciples that they would have to eat His body and drink His blood many of them could not understand what He was saying. (John 6:53-54.) But, instead of asking the Spirit for the deeper meaning, they gave up on Him and clung to their preconceived understanding. (Verse 66.)
The problem of Pharaoh is as old as history. “For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘Even for this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might show My power in you [for good or for bad, for the gospel destroys when it does not save], and that My name [of righteousness] might be declared throughout all the earth’. Therefore has He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens”. Romans 9:17-18.
Let’s check that:
15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not to them; as the LORD had said . . .
19 Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God”: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not to them; as the LORD had said . . .
32 And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go . . .
34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.
35 And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.
Did God do it to him, or did Pharaoh do it to himself? It is written that “Pharaoh himself chose the way” so we have no argument here, although it was the Son of God who began it with His attempt to get him to repent.
It is not necessary to take one’s own life to be one’s own executioner, another agent can do it. In this case the question is, Who? Jesus the restorer, or Satan the destroyer? The answer is that it was Satan who then led Pharaoh and his men into the waters of the Red Sea at the height of their rejection and thus forced the LORD to withdraw His protecting power so that they all drowned.
Jesus told us that it is good to lose hand or eye rather than the whole life. Matthew 5:30. The Bible clearly teaches that God as a doctor attempts to remove the “disobedience” from His patients, but often fails because it must be with their consent. Exodus 15:26.
The illustration of a doctor removing a lung to save the life of the patient is a good one when looked at carefully. We applaud the doctor when he “prunes” or “cleanses” by removing the lung, but would frown upon him if he chose to kill his client instead as a hopeless case. However, should the patient die from the disease despite the doctor’s best efforts to save him then we understand.
In the case of Jericho, we can read:
2 And the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given into your hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. 3 And you shall compass the city, all you men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shall you do six days”.
Joshua was promised victory over the fighting men as his legitimate prey but no mention was made of the rest of the inhabitants. However, we find a few verses later that Joshua adds to the word of God and sets up the horrible picture of God as a child-killer and punisher.
16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout; for the LORD has given you the city. 17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 18 And you, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest you make yourselves accursed, when you take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it”.
The detailed description of how they were to conquer the city which was given by the Captain of the LORD’s host should have made the people stop and think, but their blood lust put paid to that. From that time on, Jesus had to work with a people who thought that He wanted all His enemies dead, even though one of the great commandments is to love your enemy. “You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the LORD [who behaves that way]”. Leviticus 19:18.
He repeated this thought in the New Testament.
[that’s man’s way]. 44 BUT I SAY to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
43 You have heard that it has been said, “You shall love your neighbour, and hate your enemy”
The false understanding of the fall of Jericho also teaches that He has favourites, for Rahab and her family were not killed. Yet we know that that is not true, for it is written, “But in every nation he that fears [listens to] Him, and works righteousness, is accepted with Him. Acts 10:35. It is obedience which saves us from earthly problems.
And finally, when two of His disciples misunderstood one of the great stories of the Bible we are told,
54 And when His disciples James and John saw this [the rejection of Christ by the Samaritans], they said, “LORD, will You that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did?” 55 But He turned, and rebuked them, and said, “You know not what manner of spirit you are of.
56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them”.
Jesus understood the correct interpretation of that story in 2 Kings chapter 1 while many of us have failed to see it. There are two “spirits” and how we read the Bible depends entirely on which one we are following. The god Baal has always had a fascination for the people of Israel (see Judges 2:13), and it is he who is the god of death. Hebrews 2:14.
On an earlier occasion, when Elijah decided that the false prophets at Mt. Carmel should be killed and had his LORD’s sad agreement, the anger of the people had already been aroused and they were ready to obey. See 1 Kings 18. But by the time of the second incident with the groups of fifty soldiers, he had learned his lesson, and pleaded with them not to die. When he said, “If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume you and your fifty”, he was pleading with them not to attack him, not threatening them, for their action would remove their protection. 2 Kings 1:12.
Jesus gave the order(s) to annihilate and destroy when His people wanted it so, and He could not dissuade them from their purpose. Then He gave them clearcut commands which were best for all concerned. Not just for His people, but also for their victims.
Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.
Some of the comments on this page are adapted from books in my library. No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.
Next query. To be discussed from August 1st, 2007.
Remember you the law of Moses My servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb [Mt. Sinai] for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: and he [Elijah, through his experiences] shall turn the heart of the fathers [the Old Testament faithful Jewsl] to the children [the New Testament faithful Christians], and the heart of the children [of the New Testament] to their [spiritual] fathers [of the Old Testament], lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Is Elijah coming back from heaven?
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