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Did God Condone Infanticide?
by Daryl E. Witmer
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘…go and strike Amalek and 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.'” – from I Samuel 15:2-3, NASB
So what’s up with this, man? It sounds to me like your God is a regular butcher here – slaughtering kids, women, and pets – total disregard for even the basic standards of the Geneva Conventions!
What initially may sound rather atrocious becomes a lot more understandable when you hear the other side of the story.
Which is – in a fallen, evil, world (unlike the one that God created), there are seldom any really happy alternatives. What God eventually condoned here as necessary is certainly not what He originally envisioned as ideal.
But let me ask you a few questions. Would you ever think it justifiable to put two teenage boys in the scope of a rifle and pull the trigger? Does that sound unthinkable, atrocious, and absolutely unjustifiable?
Well, what if those teenage boys’ names were Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris? Few folks would condemn the SWAT officers who were prepared to do just that at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.
So you’re comparing lots of innocent Amalekite babies to two brutal Columbine murderers?
Well, what is clear from history is that these so-called innocent Amalekite babies were part of a self-perpetuating system of evil that often defied description. There are many reasons to believe that these babies represented a rising generation of Mohammed Attas, Osama bin Ladens, and Adolf Hitlers.
Ancient sects and nations like the Amalekites would often heat up an idol like Molech (inset) with fire until it was glowing. Then they would take their newborn babies, place them on the arms of the idol, and watch them burn to death. (Source: New Bible Dictionary, ©1962 Tyndale) At other times they would kill disabled, weak, and elderly people without so much as a second thought (Deuteronomy 25:17-18).
In The Case for Faith, ©2000 Zondervan, author Lee Strobel poses a question similar to the one you’ve asked. He says: “[I Samuel 15:3] sounds more like a violent and brutal God than a loving one. How can people be expected to worship him if he orders innocent children to be slaughtered?”
Apologist Norman Geisler responds, ‘[The Amalekites] were not nice people. In fact, they were utterly and totally depraved. Their mission was to destroy Israel. In other words, to commit genocide… The destruction of their nation was necessitated by the gravity of their sin. Had some hardcore remnant survived, they might have resumed their aggression against the Israelites and God’s plan.”
Are you saying that the end justifies the means – that their killing some babies justifies God killing more babies?
In many cases, innocent people do inevitably suffer when justice is being wrought. But aside from that, when the Righteous Judge of the universe is sitting on the bench, any means that He may choose to use is self-justified. After all, He is the very creator and sustainer of human life.
Still, there’s more to the story here than mere punishment for wickedness. In a scenario not unlike America’s 2001-2002 role in Afghanistan, God was using Israel at this time to ‘clean house’ in a world gone awry.
R. C. Sproul says this in Now That’s a Good Question, ©1996 Tyndale: “God said to Israel, ‘I am using you here in this war as an instrument of my judgment upon this nation, and I’m bringing my violence upon this unbelievably wicked people… I’m going to have them destroyed’ (Deuteronomy 13:12-17).
“He said, ‘I am calling you out of my grace to be a holy nation. I’m tearing down in order to build something new, and out of what I build new, a holy nation, I’m going to bless all of the people in the world. Therefore, I want you to be separated, and I don’t want any of the influences of this pagan heritage to be mixed into my new nation that I’m establishing.’ That is the reason (God) gives. People still choke on it, but if God is, indeed, holy -as I think he is- and we are as disobedient as I know we are, I think we ought to be able to handle that.”
Wasn’t God harsher in ancient times, and more loving today?
Josh McDowell & Don Stewart in Answers to Tough Questions, ©1980 Here’s Life Publishers: “…when the two testaments are read as they were intended, they reveal the same holy God who is rich in mercy, but who will not let sin go unpunished.”