Why did God condone/command this?

1 Samuel 15:3: "This is what the Lord Almighty says … “Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

Because they were evil.


Read Hard Sayings by Trent Horn.

Not everything in the OT is literal.

What points does he make to disprove the veracity of the event?

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Ok im really paraphrasing here, you should read the book but:

  1. they might be literal, in which case God would have rewarded the innocent canaanites with rewards in heaven. The primitive people of that time had no real concept of just war theory. Total war = kill everything. God was working with what he had.

  2. the slaughter happened but God didn’t order it - the Isrealites justified their actions / misunderstood their orders.

  3. it never happened. There are some inconsistencies in other OT passages that seem to indicate that the canaanites weren’t wiped out. It could have just been hyperbole, like how you might say you ‘slaughtered’ the opposing sports team.

I prefer interpretation #3, but that’s because I don’t like the other two options.

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This is the problem with some bible interpreters.Even when the words are plain and clear enough they doubt its meaning because the words will appear to be uncomfortable with some wrong concepts they have in mind.
Here, the clue is this.God wanted it to be that way.We need not justify his specific actions as correct and appropriate,before anybody nor does he want that.Go through the Revelations once in a while.You will be at a loss to find out why God purposely and mercilessly inflict so much wrath and destruction one by one on earth dwellers.Who has understood His ways! How greatful we should be that He has invited us to join in his glory and live forever with him…


Actually, taken in historical context, a lot of the bible is not literal, because early history was passed down by oral tradition and was not a literal account of what happened. For example, great flowery speeches by famous roman emporers would often be made up by historians who knew the gist of what happened.

For example, a lot of the creation story is known to be allegorical. People didn’t actually live to 900 years old but a large age was used to symbolise greatness. Stuff like that.

So it’s not all black and white. A deeper understanding of the bible will be achieved when reading it with historical and linguistic context.

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The historical books of the OT should be read similar to an ancient classic (The Iliad, etc.) not as a Catechism. Jews in the ancient world did lots of brutal stuff, much of it related to the tribalism and general underdevelopment of the world at the time. If you do just read the passage at face value, it wouldn’t be surprising, as either enslaving or obliterating an entire town was pragmatic. You can spare a girl, but in 10 years or less that girl will be a woman and a mother to your future enemies. You can spare a boy, but in 10 years or less that boy will be a man.

It is extremely counter-intuitive to spar your enemies which is why it has taken thousands of years for human civilization to move past that point, and even then it only happened gradually. The OT was eons before international diplomacy or other institutions we take for granted. We’re not better than people from the past; we simply have the unearned privilege to stand on their shoulders.

The CCC from Vatican II is what you can consult for a moral compass.


People who doubt the plain literal meaning of the Scriptures doubt it not only for OT but for the the 4 Gospels and obviously for the Revelation as well.Those who say that the day mentioned for creation of earth is not be taken as literal (for obvious reasons) ,may argue,if the situation so warrants,that the days or numbers specified in the Gospel for example feeding 5000 or even 12 disciples or 3rd day resurrection etc may not be taken literally.Take literal meaning if convenient and comfortable,otherwise confuse by suggesting allegorical meaning… is this the principle?


As I said, read each book in its historical and linguistic context. The gospels are written as factual accounts, yet obviously the parables Jesus told were just stories - there was no Good Samaritan for example.

Some scholars might say nothing in the bible is literal to suit their own needs. But the reality is that we know a lot of the bible genuinely isn’t literal. The Catholic church recognises this - Catholics do not reject evolution for example.

An obvious ‘flaw’ in the creation story (if it were literal) is that apparently days existed before God created the sun :blush:

Many scholars believe Judith never existed - even though it would be awesome if she did, it is recognised that it is just an allegory illustrating Isreal’s victory over its enemies.

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In this case in 1 Samuel it is not Canaanites but Amalekites.

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I don’t see how child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey could all be evil. Can you explain how you know that they were evil?


As a few other people said, the Jewish people needed to survive and this is how a tribe survived at that time in history.

It was kill or be killed. It took a long time for humanity to move beyond that and get to the point where they could just enslave another population or make them pay tribute rather than having to wipe them off the face of the earth in order to take their land, water, and other stuff a tribe needed to survive.

The point is that God is protecting his people and trying to establish his followers over those who do not follow God and in many cases were doing truly evil things, like human sacrifice.

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This is something I have noticed also.

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It says that the bible can be allegorical in the Catechism.

senses of Scripture

115 According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.

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The Haydock Commentary:

Verse 3 Now therefore go, and smite Amalec, and utterly destroy all that he hath: spare him not, nor covet any thing that is his: but slay both man and woman, child and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

Destroy, as a thing accursed. (Haydock)
Child. The great master of life and death (who cuts off one half of mankind whilst they are children) has been pleased sometimes to ordain that children should be put to the sword, in detestation of the crimes of their parents, and that they might not live to follow the same wicked ways. But without such ordinance of God, it is not allowable in any wars, how just soever, to kill children. (Challoner)

— The Israelites were now to execute God’s orders with blind obedience, as he cannot be guilty of injustice.

Nor covet…his, is omitted in Hebrew, &c. (Calmet)

— Amalec is stricken when the flesh is chastised—He is destroyed when we repress evil thoughts. (St. Gregory) (Worthington)


CCC 116 says:
"116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of
Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound
interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the
literal."83 "
It does not say to ignore literal interpretation and consider only the spiritual meaning but only say that both aspects should be taken note of.For example when it is said that 5000 men were fed and balance was collected in 12 baskets believe that it is so.It may be around 5000 men,could be around 12 baskets…No.It is a dangerous trend.What is the harm in believing that it is the exact 5000/12 as plainly and clearly mentioned in the verse?
Now it’s spiritual aspect could be that Jesus can feed any number of people,he provides the physical and spiritual nourishment to those following him etc…
In short give due consideration to the literal meaning.Do not ignore it for or replace it by a perceived spiritual meaning which also it may have…

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Are you saying this event did not actually occur? If not, by what means do you determine which events in the OT are literal?

That’s a real stretch to make a point that human sacrifice is “worse” than the slaughter of babies.

Would you like to live in an area where there is ongoing human sacrifice every day, week, month? Do you think that’s a healthy culture to maintain and propagate?

In those days, unhealthy cultures were destroyed and replaced with healthy ones. It’s how the world worked in tribal times. You’re applying our modern standards to life thousands of years ago.

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