Cruelty In The Bible?
God orders king Saul to kill woman and infants
section of our web site answers over 180 accusations against the Bible. These
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THE HUMANIST CLAIMED CRUELTY:
At I Samuel 15:3, the prophet Samuel gives King Saul
this commandment from the Lord: 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.
go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him,
but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and
donkey. - 1 Samuel 15:3
I'm wondering: what
ethical standard do humanists use to judge God? On what basis do they say this
is wrong? Their appeal is to "civilized systems" and "civilized
standards of morality." The opening paragraph of this section states:
the unfairness and heartlessness contained in many well-known Christian teachings,
the Bible has other violent tales that are opposed to civilized standards of morality.
Among the most shocking Bible passages are those that portray God as ordering
or approving the extermination of various people, including children and the elderly.
Based on humanist beliefs, what are some possible
sources of moral values, such that we can say that killing a group of
people is right or wrong?
- Evolution: If we use the principles
of evolution, survival of the fittest, then there is no moral problem with a strong
group of people wiping out a weaker group.
Web Site: That which is moral is that which is in the interest of
humans. Different groups of humans have different interests, so it is easy to
see there will be conflict... and it must be morally acceptable for my group (with
our human interests) to wipe out groups of humans who oppose our best interests.
Evolved Cultural Beliefs: Some humanists claim that our current culture
defines our moral values. As we supposedly continue to evolve and humanity improves,
our morals also evolve and improve. This means that, by definition, our current
moral values are always superior to what they were in the past. It also means
different cultures, and different time periods, have different moral values that
are true and right for them. Who are we to say they, in their time and culture,
were doing something wrong.
Conclusion: Based on humanists beliefs
there is no basis on which we can judge God as being either good or evil
when He tells King Saul to wipe out the Amalekites. So what are they basing their
moral judgment on? The Bible.
Okay... let's use the Bible to determine whether
God is cruel in commanding King Saul to wipe out the Amalekites.
The Amalekites were a nomadic people who were constantly
attacking Israel... as well as other people. The Egyptian Amarna tablets call
them the Khabbati, meaning the plunderers. So they had quite a reputation.
Exodus 17 we find the first description of an Amalekite attack on Israel:
Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, Choose
men for us and go out, fight against Amalek." - Exodus 17:8-9a
Amalekites are responsible for the repeated destruction of Israel's land and food
supply. In scripture they are seen attacking Israel in Numbers 14:4,
then again in Judges 3:13, and again in Judges 6:3. Even 500 years later, as described
in the book of Esther, it is an Amalekite (a descendent of King Agag) who comes
up with and puts into action a plan to kill every living Israelite.
is obvious that the Amalekites hated Israel, and were vicious enemies of God's
people, Israel. They continually tried to destroy Israel and all her
people. God, who fully knows what is coming in the future, had to judge them and
impose the death penalty for all the evil they had done; for their continuing
to do evil (not repenting and turning away from evil), and to prevent future attacks
God could have wiped them out way back in the time of Exodus
17. But, as we see over and over, God is incredibly gracious, and patient... giving
them hundreds of years to change their ways. But they don't. And even 500 years
after Saul an Amalekite is Israel's greatest enemy. (See: The
Presence of God, A Commentary on Esther)
So was God cruel to command
Saul to kill every Amalekite, as well as everything related to the Amalekites?
No. It was justice.
If God allowed an Amalekite to live, it was
likely their descendants would continue to hate Israel, harass them,
and attempt to destroy Israel. And that is exactly what happened. God commanded
Saul to kill every Amalekite... Saul did not do that. As a result the existence
of every Israelite was threatened five hundred years later.
Read more at:
God was not cruel, but was just to command the destruction of the Amalekites.
example: Ezekiel 9:4-7 has this harrowing account:
And the Lord said unto him, Go through . . . the midst of Jerusalem, and
set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations
that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing,
Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have
ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children, and women:
but come not near any man upon whom is the mark. . . .
probably already learned enough to know the answer, but there is something different
in this example. God is killing His own people. Click
here to find out what is going on in Ezekiel.