The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Don't worry. The Amalekites are fine.

"Thus says the LORD of hosts: “I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (I Samuel 15:2-3, spoken by Samuel to King Saul)

If you read the rest of the chapter, you will see that Saul fulfilled this command, except that he spared some animals and the Amalekite king, Agag. Saul “utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword” (verse 8). Shortly thereafter, the prophet Samuel himself killed Agag (verse 33).

So I guess there were no more Amalekites left in the world after Saul and Samuel finished their job, right?


About 15 to 20 years later (according to some timelines I consulted), David went to war with the Amalekites (as recounted in I Samuel 30). David defeated them, and of the Amalekites “not a man escaped, except four hundred young men who rode on camels and fled” (verse 17).


How can we go from ZERO Amalekites to well over 400 Amalekites in two decades or less? I know where Amalekite babies come from, and so do you. Amalekite babies require Amalekite parents! But there weren’t any Amalekites at all, because they were all slain by Saul and Samuel, right?


We have here biblical proof that the language which, when literally understood, sounds like genocide, means anything but. Whatever Saul did, he left enough Amalekites alive that less than 20 years later 400 of them ran away from David.

We have here an example of an idiom. When God told the Israelites to kill all the men, women, and children, nobody at the time interpreted it literally. (Similarly, I’ve heard many Americans talk about “bombing such-and-so back to the Stone Age”, though nobody understands that literally.)

So next time someone is troubled about God commanding genocide in the Old Testament, you can assure him that God never did any such thing. He merely used language which has been ignorantly interpreted in a literal manner not intended. Can you imagine what people speaking a language yet unborn 3,000 years from now are going to make of our American documents that speak of “bombing X back to the Stone Age”? They’ll make a hash of it, even as we have of God’s supposedly genocidal commands.

It’s ridiculous. We grossly distort the Bible, then blame God for commanding something (i. e., genocide) that He never commanded.

Nice post, but I’ll add a bit of my own perspective. I don’t think Samuel did the right thing either. If I recall correctly, the text says that Samuel hacked the king to death. Was this really what God wanted? If God wanted this, then why did Elisha (If I remember correctly) spare the lives of those that were blinded by the chariots? He fed them and guided them home! At some level, I am starting to really have doubts about certain things ascribed to God in the OT.

Same with graven images and Moses. God calls him to create a snake on a pole… Heck, the people in Hezekiah’s day worshipped it until he destroyed it. Nehushtan. Read about it :slight_smile:

I think most likely, Saul went to whatever city the Amalekites had their “capital” in, their throne, and destryed it with the people in and around it. I dont think he scoured the surrounding countryside for every Amalekite village and farm and homestead.

Also, I think there is an aspect to God some people dont want to accept. God is a judge. God gets angry. And death is not as big a deal to God as it is to us because He knows death is not the end. God is shaping the world. We are shaping our own fortunes in our own minds. So, did God have to drown Pharoah and all His armies? Did God have to nuke Sodom and Gomorrah? Genocide is one people trying to destroy another people over ethic conflict. I don’t think the command to destroy the Amalekites had anything to do with ethnicity, I think it was more akin to Sodom and Gomorrah.

What about Jericho? The flood?

I mean at some point we have to accept the historicity of the OT or such relegate it to a book of myths and be done with it. it cant be both. The Word of God and a book of fables.Whenever our sensibilities are offended based on our limited perspective.

I have more respect for just throwing the whole thing out than picking and choosing the parts that are valid and the parts that are myth.

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Well, Jesus affirms the snake on the pole in GosJohn, and says it was a prefigurement for His crucifixion, so… :wink:

Yeah, the Amalekites weren’t the only tribes supposedly wiped out who weren’t wiped out at all. It’s standard chronicle language for the Ancient Near Middle East; the Hebrews were actually more restrained about using it than their neighbors (who tended to include inflated figures as well as genocide language).

Worth noting that the king hacked down by Samuel was killed specifically for being unmerciful to his own captives.

As for the Flood, click here:

I, too, accept the full historicity of the Bible. All that stuff really happened. We must be careful, of course, not to get so attached to our assumptions and interpretations of the Bible that we equate our fallible thoughts with the Bible. In regard to the Amalekites, we too often bring to the text our assumption that Saul and his men killed little crying babies and their mothers, and that this was the express will of God. Please note that the text does not say that Saul and his men did that! It simply says that they partially fulfilled God’s commandment, except for not slaying some animals and Agag.

When our interpretations lead us to the conclusion that God ever commanded the slaying of babies, I think we need to pause and examine our interpretations. It reminds me of this middle school student I was tutoring in math. He punched something into the calculator (something like 23 x 17) and he got something like 89,436,552, and he blithely accepted that as the right answer! :laughing: I had to say to him, “Wait a minute. You really think that’s even close to right?” His response?

The calculator says so!

“Um, I think you mis-keyed. Try again.” So he got 391 the second time around. “That’s better!”

Similarly, when I encounter interpretations that have God acting like Pharaoh or Herod, I say, “Wait a minute. Can that be right?”

But the Bible says so!

“Um, I think you mis-interpreted. Try again.”

We have to keep constantly in mind the fact that (for example) the Old Testament was written thousands of years ago in a language not even in the Indo-European family of languages. Their culture and implicit assumptions were foreign to ours. We tend to read these texts only in translation. We read them through the lenses of our culture and environment. Look at how clueless people are when they read Shakespeare, even though he wrote in English and lived a mere 400 years ago in England! Multiply that by many times to get an idea of how inept we tend to be with understanding God’s word. (And as per the main thrust of this site: Look how wrong people get Hell! It drives me to distraction that people translate the Greek word for “the Valley of Hinnom” as anything other than “the Valley of Hinnom”.)

Again, imagine how preposterous a scholar 5,000 years from now who speaks Rutikian (a language not yet invented) who tries to understand accounts written in English of American attempts to “bomb X back to the Stone Age”:

“The USA must have had a type of temporal explosive device that, when detonated, opened a time warp and sent the people in the area of effect of the explosion back in time to the Stone Age.” :laughing:

Now be fair: those of us who do in fact keep in mind the language characteristics and the socio-cultural context, know Gehenna can very easily mean more and other than merely “the Valley of Hinnom”. :wink:

I have no problems with multiple meanings, Jason. It’s the translations that bother me. :slight_smile:

I don’t. Truth is truth, no matter where it is found. I don’t understand why some of you think picking and choosing is any different than picking and choose your interpretation of the text. MacDonald supported the idea to reject anything that we consider low. If it be true, we will at some point believe it. Asking me to believe that God wanted people to massacre women and children is asking me to violate my own conscience. But the way you state it, you have more respect for me if I reject Jesus along with the Amalekites than just the Amalekites. That makes no sense. Think about it.

There is no way to eliminate the severity of God from the scriptures in the Old or the New Testament. Believe me, I rejoice that mercy triumphs over judgment, and I believe at the root, everything God does is moving the corporate human towards the all in all, which is unbounded love. But I am not talking about picking a pea out of the soup. I am saying that the whole tone and much of the content of the scriptures become false and weightless if we remove the severity of God from them. God’s character is something we might want to project upon Him, rather than seeing Him for who He is- if the scriptures bear witness to Him, as I believe.

P.S. I was not speaking of rejecting Jesus. I was speaking of rejecting the whole idea of scriptural authority and veracity. However, if one rejects the testimony of the scriptures over so vast an area as the severity of God, then whatever witness the scriptures bear on Jesus is pretty shallow, since Jesus Himself bore witness to severe judgments to come, such as those that fell upon Jerusalem.

In the final outworking, is God any less guilty for that which He allows, than for that which He enacts?

In the final outworking, is God any less guilty for that which He allows, than for that which He enacts?

No because James said if we know to good and don’t, it is sin therefore if God can stop evil and does not it would appear to be sin according to James. Except for the fact there is a greater good in allowing evil that we simply can’t see right now because we can only look through the glass darkly.

One of the risks about parsing scripture is that it does undercut Jesus because he clearly affirmed Moses and the entire OT by his numerous references.

Yes, the OT is full of the supposed violence which Yahweh wreaks upon people. Just two examples:
Presumably God gave this law to the Hebrews:

And here, supposedly, are the words of Yahweh through His prophet:

I think that was the view of the Israelites concering the character of God. But Jesus, the LOGOS of God, came and revealed the Father as He really is!

He Himself, who is the exact imprint of the Father’s essence (Heb 1:3) didn’t kill people or put people to death, or require prostitutes to be stoned to death.Rather He did quite the opposite. He showed compassion to sinners, healed people, brought the dead back to life, etc.

Also Jesus’s description of the Father is quite different from the way God is depicted in the OT.

Why is it that God never tells us the content of this “greater good”? Since He never does, how do we know there IS a “greater good”? I wonder if this “greater good” idea is but man’s invention to try to get God off the hook. I think one of the main reasons God seldom prevents man’s inhumanity to man is that He wants man to come under His authority of his own free will, and He is patiently waiting for him to do so. Thus He seldom interferes with man’s free will.

Did Jesus EVER quote a passage about God destroying people or cutting off women’s hands, or commanding disobedient children to be stoned, or other heinous acts? Jesus depicted the Father only as supremely good!

Did Jesus EVER quote a passage about God destroying people or cutting off women’s hands, or commanding disobedient children to be stoned, or other heinous acts? Jesus depicted the Father only as supremely good!

But he referenced Moses several times and never hinted that anything Moses said should ever thought of as uninspired. Jesus did say "You have heard it said, — but i say to you—. However i never got the impression he was questioning Moses authority , but rather Jesus was actually giving new commands.

But he referenced Moses several times and never hinted that anything Moses said should ever thought of as uninspired. Jesus did say "You have heard it said, — but i say to you—. However i never got the impression he was questioning Moses authority , but rather Jesus was actually giving new commands

There is one thing Jesus said, that God granted divorces because of the hardness of their hearts. Makes me wonder if that process may have applied for any other things.

Before I came to recognize the truth of apokatastasis, I thought it obvious that the Bible taught everlasting damnation in Hell. Now, however, I shake my head at my former blindness on this point. The New Testament affirms the apokatastasis on virtually every page! It is humbling to me to remember that I was blind to the clear teachings of Christ and His Apostles.

Similarly, we are raised in our culture to interpret the Old Testament to teach that God commanded the Israelites to do wicked things. We thus get caught on the horns of a dilemma:

  1. We can pretend that it’s somehow OK for God to command wicked things, or

  2. We can pretend that the Old Testament is not accurate in its portrayal of God.

Choose your poison!

I assert that the problem is NOT with God nor with the Old Testament. It is with us, with you and me. We are so wicked, so stupid, so uneducated that we cannot yet see what is obvious in the Old Testament (even as we didn’t see the obvious universalism in the New Testament). Therefore, when I read a passage in the Old Testament that seems to me wicked, I do NOT doubt God nor do I doubt the Old Testament. I doubt myself. It’s the only safe and reasonable thing to do. I then try to look closely at the passage and ruthlessly exclude assumptions that I bring to the text. Often (as in the case of the Flood and of the Amalekites) I can see that the wickedness I thought I saw was only a delusion. Other times my stupidity reigns supreme. In the latter case, I simply tell myself, “I don’t see the truth in that passage yet. I will pray to God for more light. In any case, I will neither pretend that God is wicked nor that the Old Testament is wicked. There is no question, however, that I am wicked.”

George MacDonald counselled this practice. (I don’t have the quote to hand.)

Ah, here it is, from one of George MacDonald’s finest writings, his sermon “Justice”:

Excellent quote!

I agree with this, and with much of what Paidon posted. As God is bringing man out of chaos(Let there be light) in stages(and the waters above were separated from the waters below, and the waters above were called “heavens”), and those stages for reasons beyond our knowing(Who has known the mind of the Lord and who has been His counselor) and in an order He has predestined(Eacn in his own order 1 Cor 15)

A man could not do what God has done, or judge God in the doing, who makes a vessel for wrath or base use, and another vessel for glory, or noble use. Jesus certainly spoke of Sodom and Gomorrah as being more likey to repent before His works that Capernaam, but surely there were women and children in Sodom- and those children as yet not guilty of any sin, yet they were corporately destroyed, and the smoke of their punishment rises forever. Maybe this was like spiritually cutting out an infection. I am not trying to attribute to God works that an honorable man would abhor, so much as wondering if the Dr must take a gangrenous limb to save the life of the body, and God dealing with man in a much more corporate way than we imagine. But I must accept the testimony of scripture, and search for a higher reasoning than, “Gee that seems awful harsh”- or else I must forsake the authority of scripture altogether and render God according to my own reason and character.

I ask this in a spirit of gentleness, not of acerbity: How does this differ from the reasoning of those who believe in everlasting Hell?

As for myself, when my spirit is grieved after reading Scripture, I do not think that God has done any wickedness, nor do I think that Scripture attributes wickedness to God. Instead, I tell myself, “Geoffrey, YOU are wicked. Your spiritual sight is thereby so utterly corrupted that you are misunderstanding the Scriptures. It seems to you in your blindness that the Scriptures are ascribing evil to God! You had better try harder.”

That is what I did with the doctrine of Hell, and God granted me the mercy to see that Hell is not in the Bible. (NOT, please note, that the doctrine of Hell isn’t actually wicked, as common sense and decency dictates). I think the same thing is going on when we think that the Old Testament portrays God as commanding wicked things. I’m thoroughly convinced that the Old Testament is no less kind and gentle than the New Testament. Our translations, misunderstandings, cultural baggage, and personal wickedness blinds us to it–just as they blinded us to the Bible’s clear teaching of universal salvation.

I understand why you might ask the question, but the answer, for me, is clear.

I believe in Universal Recocnciliation because of the testimony of the scriptures. When ETrs use the scriptures they are not correctly interpreting the word, not properly prioritizing the building blocks, “the elementary principles of the oracles of God”(Heb 5). The arches, the stoicheion.

Their exegesis is in error. There translation is in error. They have not been taught by the Holy Spirit and have not sought out the “mystery”- which I certainly accept can be true of me as well on one level or another, but…

The only conclusion the scriptures allow is that God will be ALL IN ALL, and since God is love- that is a beautiful and reasonable conclusion.

There remains an open question in the mind of man about the process.

“Why need Christ die?”

“Why 10,000s of 10,000s be martyred”

“Why must death be the ground in which God sows the seed of life”.

“Why ever the law in the first place?” Why stone an adultress or adulterer?

“Why judge Sodom and Gomorah?” “Jericho?”

None of it makes a lot of sense to me unless there is something in operation that we don’t understand, because no wickedness can be ascribed to God except for our own misunderstandings, as you said.

I have to wonder if our abhorence of death is a misunderstanding based in our focus on survival as the ultimate good, causing misplaced priorities in our paradigm, because as yet, altho I would love to believe God never commanded men to kill one another or to judge a whole city or to cause a flood that destroyed millions or even billions of men, women and children- I believe He did, and recorded it.

I see an answer somewhere in the area of a post I read on here earlier about how God slew all the first-born of Egypt, but He also gave up His own first-born to die.

Even if God did not command the “genocide” of the Amalekites, and I am perfectly ok with that, in terms of the language as you put it, the same as “blown to hell and back”, a euphemism, hyperbolic language, etc. That doesnt change the issue much, since it seems clear that multitudes of women and children perished in Jericho, Sodom and Gomorah, the Flood, etc.

My earlier question about God’s guilt for what He enacts and what He allows was a rhetorical one, but does God leaving a handful of Amalakites to reproduce really mitigate the “crime” of putting so many to the sword?(again, rhetorical :wink:)

I accept that He is just and fulfills His will in mercy and love, but the seeds to those trees(mercy, love) are seemingly sown in a measure of chaos that I don’t understand, but I cant get around without turning the whole OT into a myth no different that the myths of the Sumerians, Egyptians, Babylonians and Greeks. If that is true then I probably wont see it in this life :slight_smile:

I would also say that by the standard of “wickedness” set to the judgments of God against nations and cities and violence done to them- an eternal hell would be categorically “wicked” in my view, since there is no remedy for it. Death on the other hand is remedied already, and as such, the exercising of death upon the wicked is way more merciful than sending them to an eternal hell of torment.

I am however, very open to being shown I have missed evidence in the scriptures, or wrongly interpreted it.