Atheist's Attacks

Answering Humanist's Accusations Against the Bible

Christian Resources

Cruelty In The Bible?

God orders king Saul to kill woman and infants

THE HUMANIST CLAIMED CRUELTY:At I Samuel 15:3, the prophet Samuel gives King Saul this commandment from the Lord: “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.”

Now 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. - 1 Samuel 15:3

I'm wondering: what ethical standard do humanists use to judge God? On what basis do they say this is wrong? Their appeal is to "civilized systems" and "civilized standards of morality." The opening paragraph of this section states:

Besides the unfairness and heartlessness contained in many well-known Christian teachings, the Bible has other violent tales that are opposed to civilized standards of morality. Among the most shocking Bible passages are those that portray God as ordering or approving the extermination of various people, including children and the elderly.

Based on humanist beliefs, what are some possible sources of moral values, such that we can say that killing a group of people is right or wrong?

Free Atheist's Answers Book

- Evolution: If we use the principles of evolution, survival of the fittest, then there is no moral problem with a strong group of people wiping out a weaker group.

- Humanist Web Site: That which is moral is that which is in the interest of humans. Different groups of humans have different interests, so it is easy to see there will be conflict... and it must be morally acceptable for my group (with our human interests) to wipe out groups of humans who oppose our best interests.

- Evolved Cultural Beliefs: Some humanists claim that our current culture defines our moral values. As we supposedly continue to evolve and humanity improves, our morals also evolve and improve. This means that, by definition, our current moral values are always superior to what they were in the past. It also means different cultures, and different time periods, have different moral values that are true and right for them. Who are we to say they, in their time and culture, were doing something wrong.

Conclusion: Based on humanists beliefs there is no basis on which we can judge God as being either good or evil when He tells King Saul to wipe out the Amalekites. So what are they basing their moral judgment on? The Bible.

Okay... let's use the Bible to determine whether God is cruel in commanding King Saul to wipe out the Amalekites.

Who Were The Amalekites?

The Amalekites were a nomadic people who were constantly attacking Israel... as well as other people. The Egyptian Amarna tablets call them the Khabbati, meaning the “plunderers.” So they had quite a reputation.

In Exodus 17 we find the first description of an Amalekite attack on Israel:

Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek." - Exodus 17:8-9a

The Amalekites are responsible for the repeated destruction of Israel's land and food supply. In scripture they are seen attacking Israel in Numbers 14:4, then again in Judges 3:13, and again in Judges 6:3. Even 500 years later, as described in the book of Esther, it is an Amalekite (a descendent of King Agag) who comes up with and puts into action a plan to kill every living Israelite.

It is obvious that the Amalekites hated Israel, and were vicious enemies of God's people, Israel. They continually tried to destroy Israel and all her people. God, who fully knows what is coming in the future, had to judge them and impose the death penalty for all the evil they had done; for their continuing to do evil (not repenting and turning away from evil), and to prevent future attacks on Israel.

God could have wiped them out way back in the time of Exodus 17. But, as we see over and over, God is incredibly gracious, and patient... giving them hundreds of years to change their ways. But they don't. And even 500 years after Saul an Amalekite is Israel's greatest enemy. (See: The Presence of God, A Commentary on Esther)

So was God cruel to command Saul to kill every Amalekite, as well as everything related to the Amalekites? No. It was justice.

If God allowed an Amalekite to live, it was likely their descendants would continue to hate Israel, harass them, and attempt to destroy Israel. And that is exactly what happened. God commanded Saul to kill every Amalekite... Saul did not do that. As a result the existence of every Israelite was threatened five hundred years later.

Read more at: Got Questions

Conclusion: God was not cruel, but was just to command the destruction of the Amalekites.

Next example: Ezekiel 9:4-7 has this harrowing account: “And the Lord said unto him, Go through . . . the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark. . . .”

You've probably already learned enough to know the answer, but there is something different in this example. God is killing His own people. Click here to find out what is going on in Ezekiel.