Does God Believe in Genocide?

It would be easy to dismiss such a question if the idea hadn’t caught the imagination of many, and if its spurious arguments weren’t being taken up by those increasingly strident atheists opposed to the word of God and the gospel. Its arguments will be thrown in the face of young people in the same way that they have been bombarded with evolutionary propaganda for years. When they come to you for an answer what will you say? What passage might you turn to?

As a starting point for this article I want us to consider how the charge of genocide might sit alongside Saul’s treatment of the Amalekites in 1 Samuel chapter 15. You will notice that in that chapter we read, ‘Saul smote the Amalekites’, v. 7. Again, he ‘utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword’, v. 8. The events of this chapter seem to fit with verse48 of the previous chapter and describe how the Amalekites were smitten and why. They are a further account of failure on Saul’s part, failure which compounded the errors of chapter 14, and particularly the disobedience of chapter 13. However, there are many today who read such chapters and this one’s description of the slaughter of the Amalekites, and are shocked by the destruction of ‘all the people with the edge of the sword’, v. 8. Equally, the extent of the destruction is graphically given, ‘slay both man and woman, infant and suckling’, v. 3. It would appear to be an inexplicable and, in the mind of some, an inexcusable genocide. How can this God of love of whom we speak deal in such away with anyone? The situation seems worse when we notice that the slaughter of the Amalekites was by:

Divine command

– ‘the words of the Lord’, v. 1. Saul was not acting on his own initiative. The supreme reason for this battle and its resulting slaughter was that God commanded it. If we ask the question as to whether Britain was right to go to war with Germany in the Second World War there would be divided opinion. Equally, over the war with Iraq there is divided opinion, even in the same political circles. Divided opinions occur because of human reasoning, often without full possession of the facts, and the fact that politicians have proved untrustworthy. Here, however, we need not question the righteousness of the action as we know that the Judge of all the earth will do right, Gen. 18. 25. God is in possession of all the facts. He knew the sinfulness of Amalek, what those sins were and how great, as well as how unrepentant the people. This was clearly the reason for the judgement, as Samuel reminded Saul, God’s command was, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites’, v. 18. The slaughter of the Amalekites was God’s judgement for their sin. This is where we need to keep a right balance in our preaching of the gospel. We believe in a God who loves the sinner and has provided a way of salvation through the death of His Son. But we also believe in a God who hates sin and will ultimately punish the sin of those that reject Christ. Why do atheists despise the concept of God? It is because they do not want to be accountable for their actions and words. We need to emphasize that God does not and cannot overlook sin. But even in the execution of judgement, God took no pleasure in that judgement that was brought to bear upon the Amalekites. Ezekiel records, ‘As I live saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live’, Ezek. 33. 11.Let us rather ponder.

Divine long suffering

– ‘when he came up from Egypt’, v. 2. The passage refers back to Exodus chapter 17 and the battle of Rephidim. When the people were without water and weak, Moses struck the rock in Horeb and God provided refreshment in the water from the rock. It was at that point that Amalek came upon the people from behind. The point that God is making in what He says through Samuel to Saul is that after the battle of Rephidim they, the Amalekites, had not changed!It is worth remembering how many years had elapsed since God passed sentence upon Amalekin Exodus chapter 17. A rough estimate puts it at more than 400 years since God pronounced war upon Amalek. That they were still alive to trouble the nation is a testimony to the long suffering of God. Their sin had not abated, yet God had spared them until now. We might remind our hearts of God’s words to Abraham when He said, ‘The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full’, Gen.15. 16. There would come a time when that iniquity would be full, ripe for judgement, and at that point God would visit them in His wrath. The judge of all the earth will do right!But were all guilty?

Divine mercy

– ‘Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart’, v. 6. We have said, shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Are the righteous condemned with the unrighteous? Are the innocent subject to the same judgement as the guilty? Clearly, in the case of the Kenites they were encouraged to escape the soon-coming judgement that would be carried out by Saul. Think of what we are told of the flood. We are told, ‘The long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls were saved’, 1 Pet. 3. 20. The way of salvation was being prepared and the preaching of salvation went on for as long as it took the ark to be built. Those that perished were lost because they rejected God’s offer of salvation and continued in their sin.

Think of God’s judgement upon Sodom and Gomorrah. As Abraham interceded on behalf of that wicked city where his nephew Lot was dwelling, we hear God say, ‘I will not destroy it for ten’s sake’, Gen. 18. 32. If you can find only ten out of a city whose population was probably measured in thousands, God said He would not destroy it because of those ten righteous folk. Even though ten could not be found, God even sent His angels into Sodom to rescue Lot and his family.

Think of Jericho, the first city to come under the judgement of God as His people entered Canaan. James tells us that Rahab the harlot was justified by works, demonstrating her faith, she was saved from the destruction of Jericho. So scripture records, ‘Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had’, Josh.6. 25. So we see that God is not unrighteous. He does not condemn the innocent with the guilty neither does He punish the faithful alongside the sinner. But why children?

Divine principle of justice

Possible answer is given us by Samuel, ‘Thy sword hath made women childless’, v. 33. In judicial terms, what was visited upon the Amalekites was what they had visited upon others! The New Testament principle is this, ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’, Gal. 6. 7. What God visited upon Amalek was in keeping with their character and activity before that judgement fell. We might also appreciate that the eternal destiny of the innocent child is not the same as the responsible adult. Equally, these children were saved from a life characterized by those factors that had brought judgement upon their parents.

Inveterate enemy

– ‘I remember that which Amalek did to Israel’, v. 2. Amalek was an implacable foe of Israel. Were iterate that it was at Rephidim, Exod. 17, when Israel had no water to drink until Moses smote the rock, that Amalek came out against Israel. It seemed a time of spiritual and physical weakness when Amalek attacked. You will notice too that their tactics are remembered, ‘How he laid wait for him in the way’, v. 2. Amalek sought to ambush Israel, to catch them unawares. What subtlety characterized this foe! They were also a difficult foe for the outcome of the battle seemed to ebb and flow until Moses’ intercessory hands were held up by Aaron and Hur, Exod. 17. 12. God’s estimation of Amalek’ saction at that time was such that Moses recorded, ‘The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation’, Exod. 17. 16. Would Amalek have spared Israel? To spare any here would merely leave unfinished business and the potential for that foe to return later. In summary, then, this passage shows us a God who: Will judge and punish sin – ‘Be not deceived, God is not mocked’. Is long suffering – not willing that any should perish Will judge righteously – He will do, and be seen to do, that which is right. His judgement is not indiscriminate. Will, as Romans chapter 2 verse 6, puts it, ‘Render to every man according to his deeds’. Will, ultimately, subdue all this foes – they will become the footstool of His feet!