The Destruction of the Amalekites


If atheists, heathens, and yes, Jews, see the “explanations” so far proposed, they’ll laugh at and despise our faith.


Truth is Truth.


Or we can just say that the Amalekites attacked first and the Jews killed the cattle to prevent further use of them by other nomadic tribes? There are surely some tactical explanations.

This doesn’t even seem like it can be used as an allegory.


A simple explanation would suffice.

God promised blessing to those who blessed Israel and calamity to those who cursed her and that through this nation the world would find blessing. The Amalekites posed a threat to this promise.


dchernik, I do not think I will have a productive conversation with, and that is fine.

But, for the rest of you, since it is an interesting question, and I did not explain myself well, dchernik is correct that Samuel gets mad at the Israelites’ failure to follow the Lords command here.

However, the part Samuel and God get mad at them for, is LOOTING. God wants them to forgo looting, not to be nice, but to prove that they are doing it for him and not for their own profit. He is mad that they took cattle and sheep and took the valuable hostage, the king, as prisoner.

When Samuel partially corrects this error by killing the king, he says he does it, because of stuff the KING HIMSELF IS PERSONALLY GUILTY OF.

Samuel does not get mad, nor can I think of any place in the Bible where God gets mad, because a human does not kill a baby. In fact, he says that even the Canaanites killing Canaanite babies gets him mad. I can, however, think of plenty of times where God gets mad for looting after a battle.

Which is why I think that “Kill the livestock!“ Is more literal than “Kill the noncombatants!“ But even here, I think what Samuel meant was not “Kill the livestock! Even if, like a donkey starts running away, and the donkey is like far, and you would have to go on a big campaign to kill it through enemy territory, you just, you really gotta be meticulous about killing it.“
Not because that would be immoral (cause I really do not care about how livestock feel), just because it would be weird, and not make sense. What would be the point? The Israelites weren’t gonna steal it and the Amalekites were not using it anymore. The point of the command is relevant in interpreting it.

The same attitude is how I look at the command to kill the children. Just, why? So, I think it fits with the noncontroversially many many times that one sees hyperbole in war literature from the ancient near East, and in specifically the Bible. Which is so common, it got the title “Semitic hyperbole.“

I know that answer may not be as cool and Kierkegaardian as some answers, and not as appealling as the academic neoMarcion answer, but I think it difficult to get away from its possibility.


Oh, and to reinforce the point, Samuel, when he is about to kill the king, delivers an insult that works way better if the kings mom is still alive**.**

If they did not kill his mom and no one is upset about it, then, this says to me that the whole “Kill ALL the Amalekites“ thing may be hyperbole.


I am surprised that no one brought up the obvious inaccuracy in the OP’s question, which is that Samuel somehow came up with this idea of destroying “Amalek” later on. In fact, Amalek opposed the very existence of the Jewish people and sought to wipe them out completely, beginning from right after the Exodus. At that time, God commanded the Jews to eliminate Amalek. See the last few verses of Exodus chapter 17.
By the way, that alien theory is totally made up and has nothing to do with Jewish teachings.


Well, Moses, to be fair to someone who is not very fair, his problem is not who attacked first, he conceded or at least ignored that point when I brought it up.
His problem seems to be that innocent noncombatants would be ethnically cleansed no matter who started it.

I disagree obviously with his interpretation.


Thanks, Clay. Looking back, he actually wrote this, which is correct: “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.”

There is only one nation in history that the Bible commands unequivocally to wipe out, and that is Amalek. It’s not the typical way we are supposed to deal with people. And there is no application of this in the modern world. Amalek, as an identifiable entity, is long gone.


Let’s summarize what we’ve obtained in this little thread so far.

My Jewish friend contends that the Amalekites must’ve been inhuman shapeshifters, #1.

If there was a cynical atheist around, he might pick #2, that the whole thing with God was made up to justify genocide. Maybe an Amalek dude knocked up Samuel’s daughter and left her, which annoyed Samuel exceedingly. Whatever.

claymcdermott believes that the Bible should not be taken literally in this passage and is instead a hyperbole, #3.

SMOM proposes that the reason for the Amelek’s destruction was that they were totally evil and depraved. I did not quite had the imagination to come up with this one, as if the Amalekites were of any concern to God, any more than any other boring pagan nation.

(Moses613 points out the uniqueness of the command to destroy them utterly; I find SMOM’s interpretation of it – that the Amalek was the one and only “thoroughly and completely evil” nation ever in the history of the universe – implausible. Carthago delenda est, seriously? Great Satan? Either there are plenty of such nations or, much more reasonably, there have been no such nations at all. Implausible, but, I grant, certainly not impossible.)

And Moses613 would take theory #4, that God had them wiped out for his own somewhat mysterious perhaps reasons but, being God, had a right to do so.

Let you and them fight.


As indeed we were.


The argument in parens in my post is not well put. Let me try again.

Total war was a staple of human relations, or lack thereof rather, until fairly recently, and the 20th century saw a revival of this barbarism. From the point of view of many groups, certain other groups were to be destroyed utterly. Don’t establish laissez-faire free trade with them, don’t even make them slaves, don’t in the final analysis kill them and take their property: annihilate everything.

It reminds me of the narration in Warcraft 2: “The Alliance has finally been crushed, with all those surviving being slain and cremated as is dictated by the rituals. At long last Azeroth and all of its lands belong to the thunderous force known to those foolish enough to stand in its way as the Horde!” Fun in games, less so in reality.

Now either this opinion was right or wrong.

If it was right, then there were numerous “evil” nations to be wiped out in their entirety. Amalek was nothing special.

If they were wrong, then the destruction of their alleged enemies was never either justified or rational. I hope you’ll agree that they were wrong. The Amalek then stand as a bizarre and unique case. Nothing like it has ever happened or will happen. This seems strange to me, that’s all I’m saying. I am content to let God defend this one by Himself when I come into His kingdom.


But to that point, I was just about to ask Moses, why be literal here? Elsewhere this sort of language is more clearly hyperbolic, Merneptah Stele, Book of Joshua, why not here Moses613?


It supposes a theory that God’s providence is not real. This supposition is incorrect.


If a person decides to mistreat a foreigner by taking advantage of him in some way, then this is an example of human injustice.

If God decides to punish or even destroy an entire nation because of their wickedness, then this is an example of Divine justice.

Thus, the passages of scripture are easily reconciled.


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