God Commanded the Israelites to Commit Genocide

God Commanded the Israelites to Commit Genocide

One of our atheist friends asked why God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide in 1 Samuel 15:3. “Now go and 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.”

The atheists say there was no reason to kill babies and innocent animals in retribution for what the Amalekites had done to Israel. With that argument, many atheist and skeptic articles and websites use this passage to prove that the God of the Bible is a violent, merciless, abusive, genocidal tyrant. Is that a valid argument? Is it true that a ruthless God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide?

Before they entered the promised land, God warned the Israelites to avoid the practices of the people who lived there. You can read that in Deuteronomy 18:9-13. Leviticus 18:1-30 goes into more detail about what practices to avoid. The actions warned against include sacrificing their children by fire to pagan gods.

God also commanded the Israelites to avoid divination, sorcery, witchcraft, spiritualists, and black magic. The passage in Leviticus also warns Israel against illicit sexual relationships, including sex with animals. The passage concludes by saying, “This is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. For all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you and the land became defiled … Do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came.”

Archaeological studies have confirmed what was going on in these cultures. Excavations in Gezer and Carthage have shown that children were placed alive and screaming in pain into the fire as a sacrifice to the pagan gods. Archaeologists have found tombstones and headstones detailing how people died. The forensic studies of bones and burial tissue confirm STDs in the people and animals. Our recent battle with COVID should make it easy for us to understand how disease transmission from animals to humans could happen. The moral instructions, dietary practices, and quarantine commands God gave to Israel avoided those diseases.

So how could God take care of the awful situation? As terrible as it was, the only solution was to completely destroy the practices and all possible diseases of the Amalekite society. God had no choice. Even today, with all of our medical knowledge and expertise, we are having great difficulty managing STDs, COVID, and destructive dietary practices.

God is a God of love and mercy. The first and second of the ten commandments involved love, and Jesus taught that people would know His disciples by their love. (See John 13:34-35.) Those who argue that God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide don’t know the whole story. The tragic consequences of ancient pagan living required a drastic response. It was not abject cruelty but an unfortunate necessity.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Theological Atheism

Theological AtheismBiologist Richard Dawkins expressed his theological atheism in his book The God Delusion.

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” – Richard Dawkins

Yesterday we discussed atheists’ use of the Bible to defend their denial of the existence of God. We pointed out that they are ignoring all of the scientific evidence of a Creator. Bad theology dominates the other biblical arguments to reject God’s existence. Not separating the history of human actions from the commands of God is bad theology. Sloppy reading of what God tells us about hell and the human soul is another cause of theological atheism. The above statement by Dawkins highlights some other errors of those who reject the existence of God because they don’t like biblical statements about God’s actions and attitudes. Some examples are these:

JEALOUS – God is a jealous God. Passages like Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 32:16 and 21; and 1 Kings 14:22 state that fact. All of those statements are in the context of infidelity and are statements of a broken heart. None of them show a childlike “you have something I want” context.

UNJUST ETHNIC CLEANSER- The usual reference to this claim is 1 Samuel 15 n reference to the destruction of the Amalekites. The question, in this case, is what was the cause and why was such drastic action needed? The Amalekites were a bloodthirsty pagan tribe that attacked Israel as they came out of Egypt (Exodus 17:8). It is a historical fact that these people participated in everything that violated God told His people not to do. They participated in cannibalism, bestiality, pedophilia, all kinds of immorality. The result of this hygienic catastrophe was clear. We have seen HIV decimate human populations in places today where similar actions have taken place. In a primitive society, there was no remedy available outside of complete sterilization. This was not a political situation, but a hygienic one. Even the livestock were burned to stop the spread of disease.

MISOGYNISTIC- To suggest that God is a woman-hater is to ignore not only human history but also the changes brought by the teachings of Christ. In the Old Testament, many women were honored for their heroic roles – Sarah, Deborah, Ruth, and Esther are just a few examples. In the life and teachings of Jesus, women were elevated beyond any other religious or political system on Earth. Christ stated in Matthew 19:4-8 that it was the hardness of men’s hearts, not God’s will, that caused the demeaning of women. Galatians 3:28 clearly states what Jesus practiced, that there is: “no Jew or Gentile, no slave or free, no male or female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Dawkins is a brilliant biologist, but he is not a theologian. His theological atheism shows his lack of understanding of the Bible and God as revealed in the Bible. A better-informed atheist like Michael Ruse has said that Dawkins makes him “embarrassed to be an atheist.”

Tomorrow, we will deal with more of the Dawkins description of God.
— John N. Clayton © 2019