Saturday, March 23, 2013

War Against The Amalekites (Deuteronomy 25:17-19; 1 Samuel 15)

The following quote is taken from

"Mass Murder - "This is what the Lord of  hosts has to say: 'I will punish what Amalek did to Israel when he barred his way as he was coming up from Egypt.  Go, now, attack Amalek, and deal with him and all that he has under the ban.  Do not spare him, but kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and asses."   (1 Samuel 15:2-3 NAB)

To get a better sense of what is going on in this passage, it would be helpful to read what the Amalekites did to the Israelites earlier on in their history.  You can read the story here:

            The Hebrew word used in 1 Samuel 15:3 is charam, meaning "the complete consecration of things or people to the Lord, either by destroying them or by giving them as an offering" [1].  Only God could decide when this type of devotion occurred, and it was always in response to a grievous sin that the person or people had committed against the Lord.
            For example, when the Israelites were travelling out of Egypt, the Amalekites attacked the weakest and most vulnerable people among them:Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!" (Deuteronomy 25:17-19, NIV). 
            In response to the Amalekites murdering the weakest of the Israelites who had fallen behind the others (the text seems to indicate that these included the elderly, the sick, and those with young children, although this is not specified), God determined that the Amalekites would be destroyed (1 Samuel 15).  He was, in essence, sentencing them to death for their crime.
            There was another reason that God ordered the elimination of the Amalekites; they were a nation hostile to Israel, who were constantly at war against them, seeking their destruction.  Because Saul did not carry out God's command to destroy them, they continued their raids against Israelites, at one point burning towns and carrying off women and children as plunder before being stopped by David (1 Samuel 30).  Centuries later, Haman, a descendant of an Amalekite king named Agag, plotted to wipe out all of the Jewish people living in Persia (Book of Esther).  God knew that the Amalekites were determined to completely destroy the Israelites, which is why he issued the command for them to be killed.
            As in previous passages, the command to kill the women and children is a difficult issue.  We must remember that the children would have grown up following the same customs and practices as their parents; they would have been taught to hate Israel and seek their destruction, and would have been lost for eternity.  God took their lives in childhood to prevent this from occurring.

[1] Footnote in the Holy Bible, New Living Translation (NLT).  This term (charam) occurs in the following verses: Exodus 22:20; Leviticus 27:21, 28-29; Numbers 18:14; 21:2-3; Deuteronomy 2:34; 3:6; 7:2, 26; 13:15-17; 20:17; Joshua 2:10; 6:17-21; 7:1, 11-15; 8:26; 10:1, 28, 35, 37, 39-40; 11:11-12, 20-21; 22:20; 1 Samuel 15:3, 8-9, 15, 18-21.