The Destruction of the Amalekites


#1

Hi, I asked a Jewish friend how he would square Ex 23:9,

“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt,”

with 1 Sam 15,

“Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys”?

He replied, “The Amalekites attacked first and, according to Jewish lore, would never stop attacking until one or the other was completely destroyed. It is therefore considered self-defense.”

I wrote: “But why kill the cattle and sheep, too?”

“Because according to Jewish lore, Amalekites are shapeshifters and could hide within their flocks and such.”

“Interesting what pops up when you type ‘Amalekite shapeshifters’ into Google,” I noted.

One possibility is that the Amalekites were indeed some sort of human-reptilian space alien hybrids which God wanted wiped off the face of the earth. That would mean that the human race lacked unity. Did Christ die for the shapeshifters? Were they devil’s spawn, confirmed in evil like demons? All sufficiently “deep” conspiracy theories one way or another postulate that the “ultimate rulers” of mankind are not truly human: cold, unsympathetic, and full of contempt. Disturbing.

A second alternative was that Samuel was mad and heard voices in the air telling him to order Saul to commit a barbaric and scandalous act of mass murder and destruction.

Another possibility is that just as we do not take early Genesis as a literal scientific account of the pre-history of the universe, earth, man, neither is later Old Testament truthful.

Finally, we can take the view that “do not oppress a foreigner” is a general rule, and “kill all Amalekites” is an exception. Why the exception? Well, first, God has in His hands the threads of fate, of life and death. He has a right to allow anyone to die and even to have anyone killed. Second, God’s providence fulfills the most ambitious strictures of utilitarianism we can think of. So, perhaps the slaughter of the Amalekites somehow served total human happiness; those people were sacrificed for the greater good.

Which account is correct?


#2

The destroy ALL the Amalekites thing seems to me to be Semitic hyperbole which predominates in their war literature.

The sheeP thing I actually take literally though, because Samuel and judges before him did not want any looting, so they often had soldiers kill the livestock and destroy the valuables, so that, you know Pure motives, sacrifice to God, unkosher goods, all that.

But, overall, I see no real conflict when someone who says, Be nice to aliens, and also says, That jackass attacked me! Lets get em!


#3

“Let’s get em” sounds unseemly collectivist. I think the sheep would have preferred to be looted, and women, children, and infants, at least to be enslaved, rather than all annihilated.

Was no peace possible between Israel and the Amalekites? Why total war, the most savage and primitive type of interhuman relations? It’s like: I see you, and the sight makes me like a bear rise up to crush you. What sort of animals would behave like the Israelites did?


#4

Oh, no, I meant it in the singular. Like, on TV, when someone says that, they are usually talking about 1 guy.

I was making the point that a war with an army of aliens, if the alien army starts it, does not necessarily abrogate a command to be nice to them.

And, like I said, I think that their war literature is marked with Semitic hyperbole. I do not think they actually killed all the civilians. Sometimes in Judges and Joshua you will hear that they killed everybody, and then some of the guys they allegedly killed show up again, so, I really do think it fits in with the convention of their literature. And in Joshua, they will kill all the children in a military garrison that had no kids in it in all likelihood. I think we can safely call that hyperbolic.

The sheep thing, I still think might be literal, if only because this kinda property destruction fits into other narratives I will be honest with you, I really do not care about sheep and how they feel.


#5

But now that I look at it, knowing about Semitic hyperbole, and looking at the cataloging of animals at the end there, how they get 4 list items between conjunctions, while humans at any time get three max, that does sound like a good way to make clear that the author is going for hyperbole.

So, I dunno. Maybe they literally kill the livestock. Now that I really look at the text, maybe they do not.


#6

So, this is your interpretation and you’re sticking by it. The Israelites did not actually do what the Bible most unequivocally says they did. But the only reason to doubt the text is that otherwise God’s ways stand unjustified to men.

In other words, you prefer my choice (3): the Old Testament cannot anywhere be trusted to describe plain literal facts.


#7

At any rate, this event has a high amount of theological significance that cannot be interpreted away. Saul’s very disobedience in this matter, as related by Samuel, is why God took kingship away from him and gave it to David. And of course, Jesus was no proletarian but was born into the House of David, as a prince. This human birthright was one of the reasons the Jews thought that Jesus had ambitions to be a secular ruler, which is what led His death. Etc.


#8

Yeah, if you reject my reading of it, that is fine, I was not gonna get into a big thing, but I do not think that this reading means that none of the Old Testament can be literal, just this part for the reasons I gave, and other parts would be literal because the reasons I gave would not apply.

The whole, impugn the motive behind your interpretation thing, is genitive fallacy.

But whatever, if you disagree, fine. Have a nice day.


#9

Yes, I disagree that what you wrote qualifies as “reasons.”


#10

Well, at least you have a method then. Good luck, and God bless.


#11

There may be some hyperbole in there but I am going with the last option. God is God. He will always be, at least in part, a mystery to us. He is the master of life and death and can do what he wants.


#12

The Amalekites were evil. They attacked the Jewish people without provocation, as they were fleeing Egypt. They made themselves an enemy of God. They were eventually destroyed, but their spirit remained. Any nation which sought the destruction of the Jewish people was deemed to be Amalek. There was a Rabbi, (Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld (d.1932) on the eve of WWII in what is now Israel that refused to meet with the German Kaiser because Jewish tradition believed that Germany was Amalek. I will post the link.

"When Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany visitedJerusalem during his journey to the Holy Land almost all the religiousleaders of Jerusalem came to the city gates to greet him. Rabbi YosefChaim Sonnenfeld (d.1932), the spiritual leader of Ashkenazic Jewryin Israel at that time, did not go. When asked about his refusal heanswered that although the Kaiser himself was deserving of the honorbestowed upon him, “I have a tradition that Germany is Amalek.”

Very chilling, considering the Holocaust and Germany’s role in the destruction of the European Jews.

breslov.org/who-and-where-is-amalek-today/


#13

“The Amalekites were evil.”

Well, I guess case closed.


#14

Actually, it is.

The Amalekites were worshipers of the “Baals” i.e. demon gods. They had been for over 300 years when they first came into contact with the Israelites. They had over 300 years to repent, yet they continued to reject God, attack his people, and worship demons by offering child and infant sacrifice (bloody and very disgusting) and by perverted sexual practices intended to sate their “fertility gods”.

They were thoroughly and completely evil, having rejected any and all opportunities to repent and be redeemed but rather embraced fully every vile, perverted, disgusting and violent practice directly contrary to God’s law and the well being of his chosen people.

God is God. He gets to decide, not us. His justice is not ours, but apparently he decided that after 300 years of “second chances”, they were beyond redemption.

A famous archeologist, William F. Fullbright, once noted that the Amalekite religion was "perhaps the most depraved religion known to man.” Or, as Mike Woodruff describes for us…

"…the primary reason the Amalekites were to be punished is because they were wicked. The tribes that fall under “the ban” and are to be wiped out are vile. We certainly see that with the Amalekites. They were distant cousins of the Israelites who gained God’s ire by going out of their way to provoke him. They likely knew that the promise God had made was to bless everyone through the blessing of Israel, and they certainly heard of the way God was providing for the Jews; but the Amalekites did not fear God. Instead, they attacked the weakest of God’s people. After giving their promise not to attack, they waited for the Jewish slaves to file through their land on the way to Sinai and then attacked the stragglers—the sick, tired, and elderly. This actually became a bit of a pattern for the Amalekites. They preyed on the weak, and they never missed a chance to attack the Jews.

Even if we leave the Jews out of it, the Amalekites were vile. They burnt their children in front of statues of the idol Molech."

treesforlunch.blogspot.com/2011/02/on-atheists-and-amalekites.html


#15

@dchernik,

When I read that this Rabbi; now remember, he died in 1932, before Adolf Hitler took power in 1933. When I read that Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld refused to meet with the last Kaiser because Germany was deemed to be Amalek, I was chilled. This man was touched by the Holy Spirit because Germany was Amalek. No nation ever persecuted the Jews like Germany, except Amalek. There is also a tradition that Haman (The story of Queen Esther) in ancient Persia was Amalek, as he too sought the destruction of the Jewish people.


#16

The Amalekites were worshipers of the “Baals” i.e. demon gods.

Oh, so they were not monotheists. Ergo, they must all die. I suppose the Jews were not interested in freedom of worship and conscience.

Jews today fail to recognize the Trinity. Their concept of God is almost as mistaken as the concept of the Amalekites. Must they all be cleansed, too?

They were thoroughly and completely evil, having rejected any and all opportunities to repent and be redeemed but rather embraced fully every vile, perverted, disgusting and violent practice directly contrary to God’s law and the well being of his chosen people.

“They,” including women, children, infants, and cattle and sheep. “They” sacrificed children to Baal; God instructed the Israelites to murder the children as a sacrifice to Himself. That it?

“Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25)

The purpose of the Jews was to prepare the world for the coming of Christ. It was not to be their region’s judges, juries, and executioners who would wipe out whole civilizations of allegedly “evil” people. This Manichean outlook is anachronism and nonsense.


#17

#18

I disagree. Either 1. the Amalekites were indeed genetically some sort of human-space alien hybrids who all needed to die so as to purify the human race, or

  1. their destruction had nothing to do with their own sins; in fact, the Amalekites are irrelevant to the Biblical storyline; God would not normally bother with them at all; but somehow He wanted them dead for utterly mysterious proximate reasons but ultimately, in order to advance His agenda with the Incarnation.

#19

#20

because the “space alien” hypothesis makes so much more sense than the explanation I have provided above

That’s a version of what my Jewish friend suggested Judaism teaches.

Which I suppose is a perfectly acceptable perspective as well, if you are content with not trying to understand. That is fine, but many people aren’t content with that perspective.

And that’s why you propose as an explanation that a certain nation in those days was “thoroughly and completely evil,” with not a single “righteous among the Amalekites.”

Let’s apply this to the modern world. The world population today is orders of magnitude greater than during the times of the Old Testament. Reason suggests that finding “thoroughly and completely evil” nations should be that much easier. So, whose cities would you like to carpet bomb today?


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