Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD. 2Thus saith 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. 3Now 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. — 1 Samuel 15:1-3...

And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt. 8And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword — 1 Samuel 15:7-8

Glen Miller of the Christian Think Tank argues that the Israelites were forced to kill the women and children because they would have died in the wilderness otherwise, and they couldn't have been brought into Israel as slaves because it was very likely that the Amalekites would have killed the Israelites en masse at some point in the future.

The article is here: http://christianthinktank.com/rbutcher1.html

His explanation makes sense to me, but it doesn't seem supported by the text itself, because God seems to command the killing of the Amalekite women and children purely because they were part of the Amalekite nation which was to be eradicated, and not for any practical reason.

Is it possible based on the wording of the text and the historical context, or based on any other examples in Scripture, that God could have framed His command in such terms, but at the same time had a practical reason for having the women, children, and animals killed (regardless of what the reason is)?

Thank you.

  • 1
    I don't see any improvement in this repeat of yesterday's question. I think @Bach 's comment from yesterday is still relevant to today CMK this is a very important theological question, but unfortunately not well-suited for BH, as this will generate personal speculations rather than evidence-based answers. I'm voting to close. Perhaps you should ask on Christianity SE or some other SE site. – Nigel J Aug 2 '19 at 15:04
  • @NigelJ I am asking for evidence, as I clearly stated in the last paragraph, if the answer to my question is no, then someone can just say no. – CMK Aug 3 '19 at 16:14

The Amalekites had a very difficult and polemic relationship with Israel as shown by the brief history below.

  1. Their first encounter with Israel was when they attacked the rear of Israel but were defeated by Joshua at Rephidim (Ex 17:8-13, Deut 25:17, 18). This brought a curse of ultimate annihilation from Moses (Ex 17:14-16, Deut 25:19) and Balaam (Num 24:20).
  2. Amalekites oppressed Israel with the help of Moab (Judges 3:12, 13)
  3. Amalekites appressed Israel with the help of Midian (Judges 6:3, 7:12)
  4. Saul military campaigns against the Amalekites, while under God's instruction, did not please God because the annihilation was far from complete and probably only included most of the army. Saul was severely rebuked for this incomplete job and his attempted lie suggesting that all had been eliminated, when, clearly, they had not, brought immediate condemnation on Saul.

The Amalekites were a very wicked nation, so wicked, that God instructed the Israelites to completely destroy them. The usual procedure when Israel came against a terretory was as follows:

  1. Generally, when Israel attacked a city (only after offering terms of peace Deut 20:10-12), then the army was permitted to take booty and livestock. Deut 20:13, 14, Josh 8:2.
  2. However, if the city had been particularly wicked and idolatrous, and only at the explicit instruction of God, everything in the city was to destroyed, including the livestock. Even the booty was to be burned. Deut 13:15, 1 Sam 15:1-4.

Amalek fell into the second category. If the army took booty including some of the people as slaves (Deut 20:12-15) then this could corrupt the religion of Israel; that is why in especially egregious and wicked nations like Amalek, they were instructed to completely destroy everything.

I disagree with Glen Miller's explanation because in no cases were people left in the wilderness - they were either made forced labor (eg, Gibeonites) or annihilated as shown above.

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