The Destruction of the Babies and Children of Amalek - God's Slaughter of the Amalekites
Biblical Slaughter of Amalekite Babies
In the Bible ~ the Old Testament Book of Samuel ~ there is a horrific story of genocide.
Here, God supposedly orders the annihilation of a whole tribe of people ~ the destruction of the Amalekites, or people of Amalek.
Every living being has to be killed by the sword.
Apparently, God particularly mentions the suckling babies. They must be slaughtered, too!
Little children and tiny babies! Unbelievable!
1 Samuel 15
This is the Story;
Samuel said that the Lord has sent him to anoint Saul as king, and to give him orders from God.
Since God remembered that the Amalekites had ambushed the Israelites, on their way out of Egypt, he now wanted Saul to slaughter all of the Amalek people.
The orders according to the King James Version;
"Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare nothing; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling baby, ox and sheep, camel and ass". KJV
The orders according to the New International Version (2010);
"Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys." NIV
Amalekites? - Info From the Jewish Encyclopedia
'AMALEK, AMALEKITES ~ Name of a nomadic nation south of Palestine.
'That the Amalekites were not Arabs, but of a stock related to the Edomites (consequently also to the Hebrews), can be concluded from the genealogy in Gen. xxxvi. 12 and in I Chron. i. 36. ....
'The Amalekites themselves always appear as hostile to Israel. ....
'.... it seems as though [Amalek] had actually been exterminated by the wars with Saul and David.'
Don’t spare them, but kill .. infants and children
So Saul gathered a huge army and they slaughtered the whole of Amalek.
The only person spared was the king, who was taken prisoner.
Everyone else was 'utterly destroyed ... with the edge of the sword'.
The only other lives spared were the best of the calves, lambs, sheep and oxen, which were to be sacrificed to God.
They took 'all that was good and would not utterly destroy them' but everything that disgusted them was completely destroyed.
' ...everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed'. NIV
Then Samuel heard God's voice saying:
"I am sorry that I made Saul king, because he has turned against me and has not followed my orders."
Saul thought that he had done a good job, but Samuel told him: "The LORD sent you to utterly destroy the sinning Amalekites, but you did not obey him. That is evil in God's sight."
But Saul said that he had obeyed the LORD ~ that he had brought back Agag, the king of Amalek, and had utterly destroyed all of the Amalekites. And they had brought back some animals to sacrifice.
Samuel asked him: "Do you think God
prefers your sacrifices or your obedience? ~ To obey is better than
sacrifice. Rebellion is as bad a sin as witchcraft and stubbornness is
as iniquitous aas idolatry. Because you rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king."
And Saul said to Samuel: "I have sinned: for I have disobeyed the commands of the LORD, and your own commands. It was because I feared the men ~ I obeyed them".
New Born Baby
Verse Three - Could We Have got It Wrong??
Let us just look at verse 3, where God, apparently, orders the slaughter of children, toddlers, and new-born babes. Could we have misunderstood?
The Bible: King James Version ~ 1 Samuel 15
"Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare nothing; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling baby, ox and sheep, camel and ass".
The Bible: New International Version. 2010 ~ 1 Samuel 15
"Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them;
put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys."
New American Standard Bible ~ 1 Samuel 15
3'Now go and strike Amalek and (A)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.'
Bible: New Living Translation ~ 1 Samuel 15
3 "Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.”
Bible: GOD’S WORD Translation ~ 1 Samuel 15
3"Now go and attack Amalek. Claim everything they have for God by destroying it. Don’t spare them, but kill men and women, infants and children, cows and sheep, camels and donkeys.”
* * * *
After checking a number of versions, it seems that there is no mistake. The Bible states that God ordered the slaughter of all of the babies and children in an entire tribe of people ~ along with their mothers, their unborn siblings, and everyone else
Think About It!
No, Really ~ Think About it!
It's cruel, isn't it, to slaughter animals for no good reason?
Maybe it's all right for food ~ though animal lovers might not even agree with that ~ but to slaughter them because their owners are your enemies? What unnecessary suffering!
But I am not going to concentrate on animals here ~ well, only on human animals, anyway. I want to think about the people.
Who would be found amongst the people of Amalek?
Men. Working men. Food hunting men. Fighting men.
Enemy fighting men! ~ Justifiable opponents, perhaps.
And who else?
Old men and women ~ possibly crippled or sick.
Younger women ~ some caring for the elderly; some caring for their children; some pregnant with unborn life; some actually giving birth; some suckling their new-borns.
Children: older ones, working with their parents; younger ones, running around playing; toddlers, learning to walk and talk; new borns, sleeping or suckling.
Picture the pregnant women having a sword thrust into their bellies.
Picture the mothers, as they see their toddlers cut down by a sword, in the hand of a huge fighting man.
Picture the new-borns, ripped apart, with their mothers, as they suckle.
Picture the children, watching their mothers and baby siblings being ripped apart ~ before the man with the sword comes after them.
Imagine the screams of old and disabled people, who cannot even attempt to run!
Imagine the screams of mothers and grandmothers, as they see their little children sliced apart; the screams of terrified children and toddlers; the cry of a new-born baby ~ suddenly silenced.
Imagine those toddlers and babies crawling around in pools of blood ~ their own and that of others ~ as they wait, in agony and fear, to die.
Everyone was 'utterly destroyed ... with the edge of the sword'
Everyone ... 'utterly destroyed ... with the edge of the sword'
To be honest, I don't want to imagine it. It is sickening and horrific.
Who would have done such a thing?
Who would have given such a horrific order?
1 Samuel 15 - Verse 3. King James Version
Death of Agag
The Order and the Response
As we have seen, Saul gave the order to his men, after being told to do so by Samuel, who had received his commands from the Almighty God ~ apparently.
This is how the latest New International Translation ~ 1 Samuel 15 ~ puts it:
1 Samuel said to Saul ..........
2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites .... 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants ....’
4 So Saul summoned the men and mustered them at Telaim—two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand from Judah. ......
7 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites ......'
First Book of Samuel
Did they Obey God's Orders?
The following quote implies that they did obey God's command ~ almost ~ except for King Agag:
'8[Saul] took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword'.
But this next part makes one wonder:
9 'But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.'
They kept all that they thought was good ~ just as armies generally tended to take spoils. Did they really intend to sacrifice the best of the animals to God ~ or had they decided to keep some of them for themselves??
When Samuel challenged Saul, 15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest".
21 Saul admitted: "The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God ....”
24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them."
It sounds as if the men wanted plunder and Saul was too frightened of them to say 'no'. After all, they numbered thousands!
When thousands of men annihilate a tribe and collect loot, it is unlikely that they would intend to sacrifice all of the animals. It is also unlikely that the women and girls would have been killed until they had been mauled and raped first.
So, as well as the fear, bloodshed, agony, chaos and murder, we have to add little girls, pregnant women and old maids being raped ~ perhaps repeatedly ~ in front of both their families and their enemies. And then pierced with a sword until dead.
Horrific, isn't it!
I find it very, very distressing to read about.
In Rabbinical Writing (Wikipedia)
1 + 2 Samuel - Commentary
Wikipedia on the Rabbinical Literature
'When he received the command to smite Amalek (I Sam. xv. 3), Saul said:
"For one found slain the Torah requires a sin offering [Deut. xxi. 1-9]; and here so many shall be slain.
"If the old have sinned, why should the young suffer; and if men have been guilty, why should the cattle be destroyed?"
'It was this mildness that cost him his crown (Yoma 22b; Num. R. i. 10) ~ the fact that he was merciful even to his enemies ...'
[Yoma 22b; Num. R. i. 10]
* * * * *
1 Samuel 15 - Verse 3. New International Version
Why Would God Order the Murder Of Babies?
I have asked a number of Christians about this and received a number of answers.
I have been told that it is not 'murder'. God gives life, so he has every right to take it away. That is not the same thing as humans disobeying the 'Do not murder' commandment.
I have been told that the Amalekites were the enemies of Israel and the enemies of God.They fought against the Israelites and they rejected God. Accordingly, they had to be punished.
The children also had to die because:
-> either ~ they were going to grow up evil, so had to be annihilated with their tribe,
-> or ~ with all of their family dead, there would have been no-one to care for them, and killing them was being cruel to kind.
Would God Order the Deaths of Babies and Other Innocents?
The Flood: Genesis 6-8
The deluge, or flood, for which Noah, apparently, built an ark, killed everyone else on the Earth. Apparently this was because of all of the corruption ~ but was everyone corrupt?
Were all of the babies and children who drowned really completely corrupt?
Would God Order the Deaths of Babies and Other Innocents?
Deaths of Egypt's First-Borns - Exodus 11: 1- 6
The Lord told Moses; I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and Egypt. Afterwards he will let you go. ....
Then Moses told his people; The Lord has said this: At midnight, I shall go into the midst of Egypt and all of the firstborn in Egypt shall die ~ from the first born of Pharaoh to the firstborn of the maidservant in the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. ... There shall be such weeping and wailing throughout Egypt, as there has never been before.
Some of the first-borns would have been older, but many would have been little children.
King James Bible
Would God Order the Deaths of Babies and Other Innocents?
Death of King David's Baby - 2 Samuel 12: 7~ 18
This story tells of how Nathan reminded David that the Lord had taken him from Saul's house, anointed him king of Israel, given him his master's house and his wives and, in response, David had been disrespectful to the Lord, doing evil ~ killing Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and taking his widow as a wife. Because of this Nathan said that the Lord would cause suffering to come to his household.
He was told: Your wives will be raped, in public, by your neighbour, in broad daylight.
David admitted that he had sinned, but Nathan told him that God had taken away his sin and that he would not die because of it, but that his newborn baby son ~ born to Uriah's widow ~ would die instead.
The baby became very sick and, after a week, it died.
Once again, the Bible tells us that God decided to kill a new baby. This time, it was as a punishment for David killing his mother's previous husband. Why would an innocent new baby have to pay for this 'crime'? Why would the sin of his father have to be paid for by this tiny baby?
Furthermore, why would the sins of David have to be paid for by his wives?
These women had already been taken from one man and given to another ~ undoubtedly without any say in the matter ~ and now God had arranged for them to be raped in the street, in front of all and sundry, in broad daylight.
What disgusting suffering, pain and distress for them!
Jeremiah 46 - More Blood on the Sword
Jeremiah 46: 10-12 ~ New International Version 2010
"But that day belongs to the Lord, the LORD Almighty ~ a day of vengeance, for vengeance on his foes.
The sword will devour till it is satisfied, till it has quenched its thirst with blood.
For the Lord, the LORD Almighty, will offer sacrifice in the land of the north by the River Euphrates.”
Deuteronomy 32 - Blood on the Sword
There are other examples in the Bible of God's sword being wielded:
Deuteronomy 32:36-42 ~ New International Version 2010
The LORD will vindicate his people ...
He will say: ....
“See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me.
I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear: As surely as I live forever, when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood, while my sword devours flesh: the blood of the slain and the captives, the heads of the enemy leaders.”
17th Century BC Swords
'Drunk With Blood' - Steve Wells
Did God order the deaths of babies and children?
I have to first acknowledge that I am agnostic, so I don't feel that I know whether or not there is a God or, if there is, what he is like, or what he would do,
And I have read that there is no actual proof of the existence of Saul and David ~ though that may have changed in the interim.
However, three things strike me as being obvious.
1. When ancient peoples believed in a God, they thought that this God controlled everything ~ life and death; battle wins and battle losses; thunder and lightning; volcano, earthquake and flood. Even today such events are known as 'Acts of God' ~ though they are really 'acts of nature'.
In such circumstances, it is not surprising that this Hebrew tribe felt that their God ~ Yahweh ~ was responsible for the slaughter of Amalek ~ even that God had ordered it.
2. It is also possible that someone desiring power might claim to hear orders from God, in order to gain some control over a tribe. Or they might actually (think that they) hear voices. That does not mean that they are really receiving orders from God. What is the truth about Samuel, I wonder? (Some people still commit murder, believing that God ordered them to do it.)
3. If something happens, which feels wrong, then it is not unusual for the perpetrator to blame someone else ~ possibly even God. Perhaps that happened here.
Some Christians ~ certainly not all ~ believe that, while God is the 'Creator' and 'Father', he would also slaughter new-born babies. I do not understand this. I think that the God of the Bible was a chosen deity for that tribe, at that time. There were many 'gods' The Israelites chose this one and placed their hopes, beliefs, stories and legends upon him.
The world is an amazing place. We do not need an ancient set of documents to tell us that. We may or may not believe in God, but to believe that 'God' is a being who would create babies, only to destroy them, in an event that, by modern standards, would be termed 'genocide', makes little sense to me.
"A Moral Atrocity"
Farrell Till and Biblical Arguments
Edit: 17th Feb. 2011:
I thought that it might be worth editing this article, in order to add some 'arguments' regarding Biblical atrocities.
I was interested in the thoughts of Farrell Till and in the opinions of those who disagree with him on this subject.
According to Wikipedia, (John) Farrell Till was a Christian missionary and minister in the 'Church of Christ'. However, he left the church in 1963, in his 30th year, and became an atheist. He was editor and publisher of the 'Skeptical Review' and he runs a discussion 'forum' called "Errancy". It concentrates on errors and contradictions to be found in the Bible subject which Till happily debates with believers.
Here are some relevant quotes from Till:
"What happened on that day, if indeed it did happen, must by all standards of decency and morality--except for biblical standards, of course--be considered a moral atrocity. After all, this is a case where an attacking army went beyond the killing of the soldiers they fought against to the butchering of women and children and even infants still nursing their mothers' breasts. Please notice that Yahweh's order was to slay even "infant and suckling" (v:3); noone--nothing--was to be spared. As we will soon note, it was Yahwistic vengeance at its bloodiest.
"My position, which is the position that any humanitarian would take in the matter, is that such an event as this must be considered a moral atrocity."
"A favorite justification of the Yahwistic massacres in the Old Testament, one that I even used myself when I was an inerrantist preacher, is that "God" created life, so he has the right to take life. Four problems in this "excuse," which I will simply list here without discussing, are that
(1) it begs the question of "God's" existence with apparently no consideration at all to the possibility that "God" doesn't exist,
(2) it begs the question of whether the Hebrew deity Yahweh was in fact "God," with apparently no consideration at all to the possibility that Yahweh was simply another tribal deity who was no more real than Dagon, Chemosh, Baal, Ishtar, and other regional gods,
(3) it assumes that even if the god Yahweh is a real deity, he did in fact order the massacres in question and ignores completely the possibility that superstitious Hebrews at that time, like their surrounding neighbors, believed incorrectly that "God" was ordering them to massacre other nations, and
(4) it assumes that what is universally recognized as immoral conduct on the part of humans is somehow morally right for gods to do."
"There are biblical claims that the Amalekites attacked the Israelites on their way out of Egypt (Ex. 17:8-16) and then later after they had entered Canaan (Judges 3:13-14; Judges 7:12), but these encounters had happened some 400 years before Yahweh commanded Saul to destroy totally the Amalekites. ......
"... I will say that even if the Amalekites were "predatory" and "raiding," that would have made them no different from the Israelites. ... on their way toward Canaan, the Israelites ravaged Midian and brought back "all of their cattle, all of their flocks, and all of their goods" and then killed all of the male children and non-virgin females but kept the virgin girls alive for themselves .." (Num. 31:9-18)
Sources / References / Further reading:
William J. Kesatie on the Subject
An Opposing View to Till
Here is an example of an opposing view ~ from Jerry McDonald:
is a divine being and is the creator of all life on earth. As such he
has the right to decide who will live upon earth and who will die. Since
God decided that these babies should die, could he not give them
eternal life in the hereafter? Of course, he could and did! He, being
the all-knowing God that he is, knew that these babies would grow up and
rebel and then they would not have eternal life. However, if they died
as babies he could give them eternal life. Now, if Mr. Till was [sic] a
divine being, he would have the right to challenge God on his actions
here, but since he is not, he has no such right.
"It was more merciful to kill them outright rather than to allow them to die of starvation, thirst, and exposure. The parents had died in battle. What was God supposed to do, Mr. Till, allow the babies to die a slow, painful death? I guess that would be more merciful in Till's mind. No! If God had done this, Mr. Till would be complaining about that way as well. You know, it sure is funny that Mr. Till (who does not even believe in objective morality) will classify this as a moral atrocity."
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