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Thursday, February 24, 2011

On Atheists and the Amalekites

"Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. 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.’” 1 Samuel 15:1-3 (NIV)

If there's one point that atheists positively love to hop upon their collective Moral High Horses about and criticize the Christian God over, boy is this ever the one. It's almost as if they think they have a magical ace up their sleeves that they love to play at what they deem to be the appropriate time during online, internet argumentation and then its throw it down with an implied AH-HA! Gotcha! WhuddaboutheAmalekitessmartguy?!

Well? What about the Amalekites? Let's examine the issue, shall we?

Point #1-The Amalekites were not sitting around playing tiddly-winks, committing various, pagan inspired acts of charity and leading the Ancient Near East toward any sort of awe-inspiring enlightenment. Quite the opposite in fact. A famous archeologist, William F. Fullbright, once noted that the Amalekite religion was "perhaps the most depraved religion known to man.” Or, as Mike Woodruff describes for us...

"..the primary reason the Amalekites were to be punished is because they were wicked. The tribes that fall under “the ban” and are to be wiped out are vile. We certainly see that with the Amalekites. They were distant cousins of the Israelites who gained God’s ire by going out of their way to provoke him. They likely knew that the promise God had made was to bless everyone through the blessing of Israel, and they certainly heard of the way God was providing for the Jews; but the Amalekites did not fear God. Instead, they attacked the weakest of God’s people. After giving their promise not to attack, they waited for the Jewish slaves to file through their land on the way to Sinai and then attacked the stragglers—the sick, tired, and elderly. This actually became a bit of a pattern for the Amalekites. They preyed on the weak, and they never missed a chance to attack the Jews.

Even if we leave the Jews out of it, the Amalekites were vile. They burnt their children in front of statues of the idol Molech."

The act of defending child sacrifice never seems to make it's way into the atheist psyche as this item is somehow conveniently glossed over and apparently forgotten. One technique utilized by atheist apologists is to cite what they feel is a lack of evidence that the Amalekites were actually that evil. Paul Edwards encountered this type of, *ahem*, reasoning while discussing the matter with arch-atheist Christopher Hitchens.

"His (Hitchins') initial response was to suggest that the historical record relative to the Amalekites and child sacrifice could not be trusted because it was in the Bible. Interesting that Hitchens trusts the Bible relative to what it says about what Israel did to the Amalekites, but the same Bible can’t be trusted on what it says relative to what it says the Amalekites had done to their own children. (Here is an excellent exposition of the question of whether or not the actions of Israel against the Amalekites constituted war crimes.)"

So You see folks, they just can't have it both ways.

Point #2-The killing of the animals owned by the Amalekites actually had a purpose. Chuck Colson, Norm Geisler, Hank Hanegraaff explain why...

"Why were the Isrealites to kill the Amalekites' animals? In a land without money and banks (these did not exist during the days of Saul), livestock-oxen, sheep, goats camels and donkeys-was a major form of wealth. But God did not want the Isrealites to go to war in order to enrich themselves at their enemies' expense. This solemn task was done to carry out a divine death sentence, not for personal gain."

Point #3-The weight of evidence suggests that God was being hyperbolic when he commanded the destruction of the Amalekites. Joel from Unsettled Christianity explains why he thinks this is most likely the case..

"The question, of course, being that if God said that He would so utterly wipe the Amalekites off the face of the earth – even the memory of them – then why do we remember them in our Sacred Texts? Even today, some Jews still see the Amalekites as those who opposed Israel – from Adolf Hitler to the Palestinians. Those who do so see no problem with the biblical text as they seemingly do not take it as literal as many Christians.

The author who penned the 83rd psalm didn’t see utter destruction for the Amalekites, instead asking God to humble them, among other names, to His Name:

"O my God, scatter them like tumbleweed, like chaff before the wind!
As a fire burns a forest and as a flame sets mountains ablaze, chase them with your fierce storm; terrify them with your tempest.
Utterly disgrace them until they submit to your name, O LORD.
Let them be ashamed and terrified forever. Let them die in disgrace.
Then they will learn that you alone are called the LORD, that you alone are the Most High, supreme over all the earth." (Psalm 83:13-18 NLT)

So, what do the biblical literalists do? Do we feign an answer and say that God hasn’t kept His promise yet but will? How could He when he put the history of the Amalekites into the Sacred Text which will never perish? Esther’s author changed the name of the Amalekites and the Psalmist instead sung of the day which they would submit to the Name of the Lord. Where they expecting a complete wipe of memory, especially seeing that they recorded the events?"

In the end, the Amalekites were not completely destroyed. They were however, diminished to the point that they werent quite the threat that they previously were.

If atheists are still going to cling to such a shoddy criticism of God as this one, then they must abandon another pet grievance of theirs, that of the problem of evil, pain and suffering. It seems that when God actually DID do something to a cruel, horrible people who caused pain and destruction, the best that atheists can offer up is that they think they certainly could have done better if they had the chance. Yeah right. Good luck with that line of reasoning. Keep believing that and there's a bridge on Brooklyn that I want to show you.


Reynold said...

It's a good thing that god told them to make sure to spare all the infants and little ones, even the pregnant women of their enemy, otherwise they'd be no better than the amalekites themselves.

This is god, after all, and he'd be able to help provide food for those little ones taken in, and given a proper raising. He did so for his "chosen people" (manna from heaven did he not?)

Just think how stupid it would look to kill off the wee ones of those people given that one of the reasons the adults had to be killed was that they were killing off their own kids.

Otherwise, you'd look like a complete idiot for posting this article while complaining about abortion in your other posts.

JD Curtis said...

*Cough* petitio principii, much?

Jquip said...

No, I think it's a valid point. Do we exterminate those that may perpetuate the culture or not? That is the only question.

Must Western Culture be destroyed by igniting it's children or no?

Reynold said...

No question begging here; just being really sarcastic.

Sometimes it's all I can do when faced with such idiocy as this.

JD Curtis said...

It's nowhere near an apples to apples comparison.

Look, simply provide a reasonable explanation as to why those aborted in this day and age would quite likely grow up in a despotic, parasitic culture that preys upon it's weak neighbors and ritualistically sacrifices their children to their preferred deity and I concede the point.

If not than it's a non-starter.

JD Curtis said...


I get the distinct feeling that you really didn't read the above article.

3 points are raised I I would be pleased if you would address them rather than changing the topic to abortion.

That would be as incredibly stupid as confusing Ann Coulter arguments on race and equating them with an entirely different topic such as science.

Gregg said...

First, when the plain sense of scripture makes sense, seek no other sense. The literal interpretation of Scripture makes the most sense, except in those places where it is usually clear that hyperbole, analogy, or figurative language is being used. Scripture interpretation is not easy and was never intended to be. So, to rely on sources that deny or denounce the literal interpretation of scripture is dangerous.

Second, we are warned by Paul not to enter into foolish discussions that lead to division and the dishonoring of the Lord and His glory. I don't know if this question should be included in that warning or not.

Third, I haven't exegeted this section of Scripture so until I do, my comments are limited and may not be of much help.

Fourth, look at the Exodus passae, yes verse 14 includes the phrase, "I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven." Verse 16 reads in part, "The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." Verse 14 must be interpreted in light of or in conjunction with verse 16.

I have no problem, at first look at this issue, with the thought that this might have a future reference. Why? Because of the words blot, memory, and under heaven. In the future after the great white throne judgement when Hell and the wicked are put into the Lake of Fire, the memory of the wicked will be blotted out of the book of life and forgotten.

However, without further study I am not going to die on this hill. We do know at least three things:

God does not lie
God does not fail, even when he uses human beings to accomplish his will
God will at some point fulfill all of his Word

So, answering this question for atheists and those critical of God, His Word, and His revelation will not lead them any closer to Christ. Nothing will, unless the Holy Spirit chooses to regenerate the lost individual.

You have added one more thing on my large list of passages to study. Hopefully I can get to it before the return of the Lord! :)

Even if I can not satisfactorily exegete this passage, and even if I never come to fully understand it, by faith provided the Holy Spirit of God I have deemed the Scriptures to be the literal Word of God and I trust it with my very soul. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.

The Maryland Crustacean said...

J.D. Though I am sympathetic to the point you are trying to make, I don't think we can claim that the order to destroy the Amalekites was intentionally hyperbolic. Sure, the promise that He would wipe out the memory of Amalek is hyuperbole, but I don't think you can say that God's commandment to Saul through Samuel was hyperbolic. That would have been Saul's excuse for not carrying it out to the letter. Neither God nor Samuel bought his excuse. Or am I missing something?

JD Curtis said...


There are laws in my state concerning harassment via internet.

Before continuing, are you quite certain that you have not been previously banned from this site under another blogger ID?

Please answer honestly, yes or no.

JD Curtis said...


CHeck out the Mike Woodruff link when you get the chance. He brings up the following...

"A friend of mine wrote his doctoral dissertation on this topic and argued that this is clearly hyperbole, pointing to three factors: First, in the Hebrew language, “totalizing terms” like “all” and “every” are seldom absolute. Second, not long after all of the Amalekites were supposedly wiped out they show up again. And third, throughout the Psalms we are told that God drives the people out of the land, not that he wipes them out. My friend may have a point, though it doesn’t sound like hyperbole to me.

I find myself leaning heavily toward a fourth option. This passage means what it says, and we just do not get it, because we look at things quite differently than God does. Our human view is that this life is more valuable than anything else—and that God somehow owes it to us. God’s view is that all we are owed is punishment for our rebellion and selfishness—that life is a gift he can give or take; that he has authority over all things, including us; that he owns all things by virtue of the fact that he created them. And one day he will judge us all—and far more than the brief span of this life is at stake."

I think that if God really wanted the Amalekites to be totally wiped out, then it most probably could have been most efficiently accomplished ala Fire and Brimstone raining down and covering everything quickly and completely.

Sending a fallible man, especially a goof like Saul, seems like a recipe for God's commands not to be carried out to the letter, and we know, they actually werent.

JD Curtis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GentleSkeptic said...

Our human view is that this life is more valuable than anything else… God’s view is that all we are owed is punishment for our rebellion and selfishness—that life is a gift he can give or take; that he has authority over all things, including us; that he owns all things by virtue of the fact that he created them. And one day he will judge us all—and far more than the brief span of this life is at stake.

JD, I don't think you (or Mr. Woodruff) could have summarized more perfectly the Stockholm syndrome that is inherent in True Christianity. You absolutely love your Tyrant and Judge. Nothing HE does can ever be wrong, even if it 'seems' wrong to us mere humans. If it seems wrong, it's obviously because we "just don't get it", because we know — by the Power of His Grace, of course — that everything HE does — including wholesale slaughter — must be True and Right.

I could be wrong here, but it just really seems like you are deeply enamored with both the idea of absolute power represented by your God and your proximity to said power.

JD Curtis said...

Yore not a bigot Reynold, just screechy monkey like IMO.

There, feel better?

Arielle said...


Yes. Absolutely we believe that God is perfect and can never be wrong. He created the standards by which we judge right and wrong. Wrong is simply anything that is not of God. If there is an error, it is in how we approach these standards and whether or not we bring our own prejudice to the table when examining these standards. This is a core concept found within Christianity - that man is fallible and fallen but that God is infallible and perfect. You may as well complain about the fact that Christians believe in God and an immortal soul.

Arielle said...

As for the Amalekites and the requirement to destroy even their pregnant women and children:

When a surgeon must remove a gangrenous leg, he cannot spare the toes. The whole leg must be eliminated or the infection could spread to the entire body and kill it.

If the Israelites had spared the Amalekite children, they would have had to raise those children themselves (or they would have died of starvation, exposure, or wild animals, a far crueler end to their existence). If the Amalekites had grown up among the Israelites, it is almost a certainty they would have interbred with the Israelites, thus preserving the Amalekites and any of their diseases or genetic abnormalities - things that God did not want among His people, as they were to be "set apart" from the peoples around them.

We also know that the formative years of a child's life - their most impressionable years - occur before age six. Most young Amalekite children would already have been formed in the vicious mold of their culture's norms and mores. Amalekite children as young as two or three would remember the religious practices of their people, as well as their parents' deaths at the hands of the Israelites, something they would probably resent and perhaps even seek to avenge when grown.

We also do not fully understand how heritage works: it has been noted by studies performed on twins and on certain family lines that there are parallels in behavior among those related to each other, even when they grow up apart from each other and with no knowledge of each other. This suggests that behavior IS affected by genetic heritage, not simply physical characteristics. The Amalekite children could have grown up to display the same propensity for depravity and violence as their parents before them.

Interestingly enough, the idea of behavior being a heritable thing actually is mentioned in the Bible - in at least four different places we find mention of the fact that God will visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children and grandchildren, to the third and fourth generations. Thus the moral weaknesses of one generation are passed on to the next as well.

JD Curtis said...

One thing I really don't see being discussed by those critical of the action against the Amalekites is a comprehensive study (citing sources and data and how rthey could possibly claim such knowledge) that shows how the number of kids that were definately being murdered by their own people was so significantly lower than the number that theoretically would have been killed during conquest by the Isrealites. Keep in mind that there was concern that such barbaric practices were beginning to spread to other tribes as well.

GentleSkeptic said...

Genesis 19:30-36

And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.

Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.

Arielle says:

Absolutely we believe that God is perfect and can never be wrong. He created the standards by which we judge right and wrong. Wrong is simply anything that is not of God.

Incest: right or wrong, by God's standards?

Arielle said...

Is that a rhetorical question? If you've read the Bible, you'll know what God's Law had to say on the subject of incest.

I don't even understand the point of quoting the passage above. It shows - by the very fact the two girls had to get their father drunk to the point of insensibility - that he would not ordinarily have participated in such an activity; that he would have found it wrong. Not only that, it is an incident that took place hundreds of years before God made a nation out of Israel and handed His Law to them. Thirdly, just because something is written in the Bible as a historical account does not mean it's being written as a how-to guide, or that its inclusion in the Bible means God condones such an activity. Much of what is included in the Bible illustrates man's sinful nature and need for God!

JD Curtis said...

It deserves a seperate thread.

JD Curtis said...

GS, I have your latest comment awaiting moderation. It's a bit off topic, however how about we dedicate an entire thread o the subject at a future date? I've been a bit busy lately.

GentleSkeptic said...

Well, OK. Not sure how it's off-topic, as it's a direct response to Arielle on a thread about biblical morality… but I respect that it's your site and I'm sure I'll have something to say about it regardless of thread. ;)

RobertT said...

Velikovsky, in his book World in Chaos, has a very interesting take on the Amalekiites.