A Question I Was Asked:

Was It Genocidal For God to Want the Total Destruction of the Amalekites?

The Question:

My question isn't an easy one and yet I must ask it.

How do you reconcile all the various "terror texts" in the old testament with a loving God? Here's one example: 1 Samuel 15:2-3, "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.'"

Do you believe that God actually gave genocidal commands such as this, including the execution of children and infants? According to my God-given conscience, no matter what the circumstances, to hack apart innocent children is a vile and evil act so how could a God of love command such a thing? Jesus said to know Him is to know the Father but can you imagine Jesus making such commands? I certainly cannot. And so I am stuck. For if I reject the belief that God made such commands, I would give up on biblical inerrancy, which would make me question how much I can really trust the bible. Yet with everything that I know about God revealed through Jesus, I simply cannot bring myself to believe that God would ever command such things.

Any insights you can provide would be most appreciated.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Your approach here is very emotional, yet not very reasoned. This area is known as the subject of theodicy, regarding suffering in this world and the fairness and justice of God.

It's very hard for us to accept in our day, maybe, but does not the One who plainly has the power to grant life and also death, have the right to give the Israelites such a command in order to test their obedience and faithfulness? Yes, a terrible command, and coming from anybody else it would be evil and reprehensible (because nobody in human history has ever had the moral right to issue such a command), but does not the life-giving and Creator God have such a right? After all, he took millions of human lives in the Great Flood. He also, it must be believed, decides the time of death for every person in the world. In the case of the flood, and also on this occasion, He knew (and knows) that He has the power (and intention) to resurrect everybody who has ever lived. On that day, many such people, I have no doubt, will find mercy.

We cannot reject a God of judgment just because the concept of judgment has now become unfashionable. Yes, God is love, but the love of God is nothing like the soft, appeasing, 'let-'em-do-what-they-want' form of 'love' of modern liberalism. God's love includes strong principles of justice and judgment, He forces people to face their inadequacies and the reality of sin. The Book of Revelation reveals that Jesus Christ Himself will wage war on sinful humanity at His Second Coming! Would you also reject that?

I think the following articles refer to your dilemma in more detail:

Understanding More of the God We Serve

The Modern Liberal and Christianity

Robin A. Brace. December 15th, 2013.