The killing of whole tribes rarely make it into the Sunday morning message.
But we hear about it at other places. The world throws it right into our face and the critics proclaim it from the rooftops.
In the night, when no one is looking, their doubts become ours and we start to wonder.
Wrestling with hard issues is vital to trust the God we claim is love. Even if our answers aren’t perfect, we can never ignore the question.
God, the mass murderer?
Let’s look at the facts first. Even if we leave the flood out of the picture, in which God killed all of humanity except Noah and his family, we find an astonishing body count in the Bible.
Something doesn’t sit right here. How can we believe in a loving God after he killed all these people? Doesn’t he call himself a God of mercy?
We need to set up the ground rules first. If we ask why God killed whole tribes, we acknowledge that he is indeed God. He is the creator of life so he also has the right to take life.
We sometimes think of God as having equal rights as us but that’s not the case. He created everything out of nothing. We are his creation and a creator can do whatever he pleases.
That takes care of the politics. He has a right to do what he did, but it doesn’t really move us forward.
The New Testament talks about trusting and loving God. He adopted us into his family. He even claims to be love.
So while we can justify the killings philosophically, we have to ask if we can trust God.
Because that’s what matters in the end. Many people believe in some kind of higher entity.
What we need to pin down is why a loving God would create such a bloodbath.
Until recently, the western world had no context of evil. A lot of time passed since the Second World War and the West has prospered during this time of peace.
We know names like Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin and Saddam but their victims are mere numbers.
We see ourselves as civilized because the West, and especially our generation today who grew up in peace, is so detached from what the rest of the world’s experiences.
When the Taliban became famous after 9/11, this generation got its first glimpse of evil. But even the Taliban didn’t kill for pleasure, it seemed. They still had some kind of values and a conduct for warfare.
All of this changed with the rise of ISIS.
We heard about their merciless killings and ruthless conquest for everyone different from themselves. Yet what got us is the way they kill.
Can you feel your blood cooking? They are moving forward with their decisions and put their faith into action.
Just as ISIS today, the Amalekites choose evil above good.
Both groups had no regard for human dignity or life. Both don’t just kill. They slaughter, rape and destroy.
There comes a moment in time where the time for talk and pleading is over. Free people have made their choice and they will not change it.
It’s a time we have to take action. These people have to be stopped.
The tribes God ordered to kill did everything to wipe out the Jews. The Bible even tells us that they hunted down their weak and elderly. (Deuteronomy 25:18)
The destruction of the Amalekites was a consequence of their decision to wipe out the Jews. Just like radical Islam will never coexist with Israel, so it was impossible for Israel to coexist with the Amalekites.
The Amalekites, just as ISIS today, had to be stopped because of their own hatred.
Even though God told his people to wipe out certain people groups, it was not before giving them the chance to repent.
Rahab took that chance as Israel was about to attack Jericho (Joshua 2). Not only was she saved, but she even made it into the genealogy of Jesus Christ.
Same with Nineveh. After struggling with worries and whales for a bit, Noah ended up preaching repentance in that city. And guess what? The people listened and repented of their sins.
And God had mercy on them. The destroyed tribes had the same opportunity.
How about mercy for the Amalekites? Well, there are about 300 years between the time they first start to attack Israel and the time God orders King Saul to destroy them.
What about the children?
As human beings and especially as people of God, we care deeply about the innocent and ask how a merciful God could condemn those little ones to the sword. Why would he do that?
The kids of the Amalekites grew up in an environment that’s beyond repair. Everyone who ever influenced them demonstrated utmost depravity. They’d commit murders from a young age and see things most of us considered impossible to witness.
The Bible talks about the “age before accountability”(Isaiah 7: 16, Matthew 19:14, 2 Samuel 12:23). I’m convinced that those verses tell us that little children go to heaven.
What do you prefer? Eternity in heaven or a short life in condemnation?
Also, if we look at the situation in the context of warfare, we can assume that most women and children already fled before Israel’s warriors reached their settlement.
What God was after was the evil core, the warriors who would not back down and take their convictions to the grave. Those were the ones God wanted to stop.
Family above all
God is not only a warrior, he is also a protector. He had a relationship with Israel that he didn’t have with the Gentiles.
God is a father who loves his own. The foreign tribes that died through the hand of God were enemies to his family. They tried to touch the apple of his eye (Zechariah 2:8).
As a father, I understand. My family is my everything. Dare to touch them and I will do everything I can to stop you.
My first priority is my love for my family. If I have to choose between those two, I will choose my family.
And you might die.