02 January 2010

The Amalekite Genocide

Nothing much needs to be said about this one.

You only need to read the first three verses from 1 Samuel 15 to know for sure that the God of the Bible is evil. (Thank goodness he doesn't exist!)

Still, it is good idea to look at the story in context.

(Bible believers often tell us to look at the context. But context nearly always makes Bible stories worse, not better. This story is no exception.)
Samuel also said unto Saul ... Thus 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. Now 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
Notice that Samuel speaks here for God. Why would anyone believe that then or now? Was it because it sounded like something God would say?

And if the genocide was so important to God, why didn't he tell Saul directly?

But let's assume that the Bible is right and Samuel quoted God correctly. If so, then (unlike many of God's killings) we know why God wanted to Saul to kill all the Amalekites -- because God remembered what their ancestors did hundreds of years before they were born (they defended themselves when the Israelites tried to kill them and take their land).

And Saul pretty much did as God commanded. He sent 210,000 soldiers to kill everyone and everything among the Amalekites: men, women, children, babies, animals -- except for the king, Agag, and some of the more valuable sheep, oxen, and lambs.
Saul gathered the people together … two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah. … And Saul smote the Amalekites ... And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly. 15.4-9
Saul killed the old men, the pregnant women, the children and babies. But he spared the king and some of the more valuable animals, and God would never forgive him for it.

Samuel cried his little eyes out all night and God repented of making Saul king.
Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night. 15.10-11
It's good to know that God repented. When you order someone to commit genocide for stuff that happened centuries ago, you should be a bit sorry about it.

But that wasn't what God was sorry about. God wanted all of the Amalekites to be killed. In some sick way it made God happy every time an old Amalekite woman or a little baby was killed.

No, God repented of making Saul king because he didn't kill everyone, and God wanted everyone killed.
And if you believe in the Bible, you wanted them killed, too.

[If this Bible story is true (which it isn't, of course), how many Amalekites were killed at God's command? I originally gave it the usual 1000 for a standard massacre, but Saul sent 210,000 soldiers to do the killing. He wouldn't send that many soldiers to kill only 1000 civilians, would he? So I increased it to 10,000.]

God's next killing: Samuel hacks Agag to pieces before the Lord


busterggi said...

Now if Yahweh didn't want any Amalekites why did he make them?

Bad fiction makes bad religion.

Matthew Blanchette said...

True enough; it's not even consistent when it comes to town names and civilizations.

Any chance we'll get to see the witch of Endor covered on these pages, Steve?

Unknown said...

Funny how this story never made it into the readings I heard while attending Catholic mass every Sunday growing up....

It's good to know that this story is fiction. Unfortunately, the believers in this story (like the Catholics in the SS, or the Orthodox Christians in the Army of the Republika Srpska, or the Catholics in the Hutu Interahamwe) committed similar acts that were all too real.

twillight said...

Add to what you said Saul WANNED to kill all the captured animals - as a sacrifice for his god, fully burnt, next morning.
But the god of the bible is impatient in that fairytale.

I Am said...

You've got to sympathize with God on this one. It's just so hard to find good help. You ask your servant to kill every Amalek and everything they own, and he spares one man and some choice animals. FAIL!

Seriously, does God have to do all the killing single-handedly? Can't he trust his followers to pull off total annihilation without hand-holding them? When will his followers figure out that the more dead, the merrier their God is??

God must be pretty bummed about his most recent generation of followers, most of which haven't killed even one person.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, there are still those who actually believe this crap and might kill an entire race of people if they thought God wanted it.

Autumn said...

Twilight, I thought you were going to be a fundamentalist.
Calling the bible a fairytale is blasphemy.
Leviticus 24:16
And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death , and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death .

Actually, it might not be blasphemy but its still an fundamentalist thing to do.

Autumn said...

***an unfundamentalist thing to do.


twillight said...

Sry to disappoint you Abeille. I'm just good at mockery, but bad with humour.

Puzzled said...

Why do you believe it didn't happen? The text, if not divine, came from somewhere. Why would people write it? It seems most likely to me that something like the event did take place (although you would follow the minimalist principle to figure out exactly what happened) and the text exists to explain the event. If it didn't happen, why would it be there?

really said...

First, there are general reasons for the annihilation of peoples like the Canaanites. These are the peoples who possess the promised land which God gave to Israel. The primary reason stated above is that these peoples are exceedingly wicked. If they are not totally wiped out, they will teach the Israelites their sinful ways and thus bring them under divine condemnation. I read this today a commentary on this passage
"It is easy to see why all the fighting men of the enemy should be killed, but why the women, children, and cattle? The sin of the Canaanites involved had defiled and corrupted their animals, and God would not allow any to survive." How can any sensible thinking person believe this?

Unknown said...

Does the name Haman have any thought on any of your minds?

Earl Purple said...

Yes of course, and we particularly read this chapter every year on the Shabbat immediately before Purim.

Haman is referred to as an Agagite. Because Saul kept Agag alive for one night in chains, he was somehow able to father children and by the time of the exile several centuries late, a new nation called "Agagites" had emerged.

Obviously they were brought up in history, being told that Jews are the sworn enemies, and kill them first or they kill you, and that one can avenge something from several centuries earlier, so when he rose into a position of power, he seized his moment. He wanted all the Jews dead.

Mordechai was one of Saul's descendants though..