I am continuing to answer the objections of atheists I talked to in San Diego. The flyer on their table said 1 Samuel 15:1-3 shows God approves of genocide. 1 Samuel 15:1-3: Then Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the LORD. 2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. 3 ~'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.'”
I have to admit these are the type verses that on the surface can strike fear in the heart of believers in Jesus Christ. They seem so brutal. Why did God have to completely wipe out a people group, including men, women, children, infants and animals? Is this the God of love the Christians worship? Or is this a vindictive God the atheists contend?
First we must understand who these people were. Were they innocent victims of an angry God? Or were they a horrible pagan nation that practiced incredibly evil acts? The Bible is clear, the inhabitants of Canaan (Canaanites) were as evil as could be imagined. They were deserving of the worst punishment a holy God could inflict. And yet God was patient with their gross immorality giving plenty of time for them to turn back to Him. In Genesis 15:6 God tells Abraham his people will leave the Promised Land but later will return. We read Genesis 15:16 “Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” God’s desire was for this evil nation to give up their immoral practices and turn back to Him. They never did and God was going to judge them. Multiple verses outline how wicked these people were.
Deuteronomy 9:5 “It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Leviticus 18:24-25 ‘Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. 25 ~'For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.
Deuteronomy 18:9, 12 9“When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. 12 “For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you.
One of the horrible practices was sacrificing infants to Molech. Leviticus 18:21 ‘You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. Molech was a Canaanite underworld deity that had outstretched arms that were heated up. Babies were set on the fiery hot arms and from the heat would shrivel up and slip into the cauldron. Archeology has revealed children sacrificed to Molech numbered in the thousands.
The immorality of these pagan nations made God furious. And he had good reason. Even by ancient standards the Canaanites were a nasty group of people. They were a sexually erotic group that had sexual practices tied to the planting and harvesting cycles. They practiced prostitution, divination, bestiality, homosexuality, and sex with little boys.
Today what would we say of a God who stayed silent and let all this wickedness continue? People would scream, where is God? Why isn’t he doing something? And yet when we look back and see God punishing these evil nations, atheists scream God practiced genocide. You cannot have it both ways; either God ignores evil and lets the criminals go free or He punishes the evil doers. God did what was right and good.
God also had a plan for the nation of Israel. It was all part of the Abrahamic Covenant. This unconditional eternal covenant was a promise to Abraham that a vast nation would come out of his loins. God’s covenant promised a nation, protection, and blessing. The blessing would be both for the nation of Israel and through Israel to others. This blessing was a restored relationship with the living God. Isaiah mentions this blessing of salvation in Isaiah 49:6 “He [God] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’”
God was going to protect the nation of Israel from the aggressive and violent pagan nations just as he had promised. He protected them so they could be a light to others and bring salvation to everyone. Through the Jewish line of David a king would come, one who would rule forever. The fulfillment would occur when God came to earth as the man Jesus. Under the New Covenant salvation was only through Jesus Christ. Luke writes, Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” The nation of Israel was valuable to God as an instrument to bring reconciliation between God and man.
As part of God’s promise to Abraham, He protected the spiritual purity of the nation at all costs. This meant at times judging these pagan nations killing men, women, children, and infants. Can God kill the innocent? I answered that question in my previous post “Is it Moral for God to Kill an Innocent Human Being?” The answer is yes. God is not under the same obligations as we are. And we know this to be true. When people argue against capital punishment they ask, are you trying to play God? We know God has the prerogative to create life or to take life.
From a more practical standpoint, each time Israel failed to kill everyone, these pagan individuals negatively influenced the nation of Israel to worship their idols. We see examples of this all through the book of Judges. The culture of evil of the survivors was cancerous to the Israelites.
Let me finish with one last point. I believe the Bible implies through various passages that infants and children before the age of accountability, at death will be ushered into the presence of God. These pagan children are in heaven today.
So does God support genocide? No! God judged evil pagan nations and they received the punishment they deserved. God is a just God and those who practice evil will receive the punishment they deserve. That applies to us today. No one escapes God’s perfect justice. Only through the death of Jesus on the cross and His taking the penalty we deserve can anyone enter heaven. This is the solution all atheists reject. Similar to the Amorites (Canaanites) in 1 Samuel 15, God is patiently waiting for all who would repent of their evil deeds and turn to Jesus. Justice and punishment is awaiting all who don’t.