The Religious A priori
The Amalekite Problem
The Amalekite problem should be a much bigger problem for Christian apologists than it is. As a Christian apologist, I say we don't take it seriously enough. The reason for this, however, is because the atheists harp on it constantly, and no answer is ever good enough for them. I can understand that, since doesn't seem to be a good answer, but one does get tried of trying. I am more appualed by some Christian answers tahn I am by the atheists constant harping. In the OT God orders the Israelits to wipe out many differt people's, but for some reason the Amalekites have become the icon of brutality and genocide disguissed as divine wrath.Christian apologists only make it worse when they try to defend it as a rational action. This usually takes the form of "well they deserved it, they were really evil, God gave them 400 yeas to repent, that's more than enough time,in fact its just down right generous; therefore, it's ok to slaughter little babbies." I always get visions of Gastopo and guys in jack boots.
I sometimes wonder what my fellow Christians think about in their spare time
This is one of the basic reasons I'm no longer an inerrentist. I cannot accept the idea that God would ever command salughter of infants. Slaughtering anyone is bad enough, but to slaughter innocents, that's never acceptable. I don't accept that God would really do that. Here I draw upon my models of inspiration: the Bible is a collection of writtings made by humans which reflect their encounters with the divine. That's not to say these writtings don't have a lot of purely human understanding in them. People were very cruel in the ancient world. Genocide, slaughter, infanticide, brutality in war, these were commonplace, and they are all refected in the book of 1 Samuel.
It's not that there is no value to the conventional answer, but it doesn't go all the way.
The Conventional Answer: The Amalekites were Jerks
The Amalekites were basically a grang of thugs, they tried to do to Israel what Israel did to them. In fact, they were foreign invaders, they were reaching beyond their own lands to raid others beyond their boarders. God's comman to wipe them out can be seen as an act of divine justice, the exicution of the highest authority agaisnt a lawless people who had to be stopped. But that answer doesn't cover allt he bases. It doesn't justify the slaughter of infants.
From Glenn Miller
The Amalekite initiative looks like an ordered annihilation.
This is what the LORD Almighty says: `I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'" (I Sam 15.2f)
The situation is thus:
"The Amalekites are a predatory, raiding, and nomadic group; and are descendants of Esau (and hence, distant cousins to Israel).
They would have been aware of the promise of the Land TO Israel, from the early promises to Esau's twin Jacob.
They did NOT live in Canaan (but in the lower, desert part of the Negev--a region south of where Judah will eventually settle), and would NOT have been threatened by Israel--had they believed the promises of God.
As soon as Israel escapes Egypt--before they can even 'catch their breath'--the Amalekites make a long journey south(!) and attack Israel.
Their first targets were the helpless:
Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. 18 When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. 19 When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! (Deut 25.17-19).
Before the attack on Amalek is initiated by Israel, the innocent are told to 'move away' from them: Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. 6 Then he said to the Kenites, "Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt." So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites. (I Sam 15.5f). This action would have also served to give the people of Amalek plenty of notice (i.e., time to 'move away' themselves), and the impending attack by Saul--especially with the troop counts reported!--would hardly have been a surprise. Some of them would likely have fled--we KNOW all of them were not killed, since they 'lived to fight/raid again' in David's time (I Sam 27,30) and even in Hezekiah's time (200-300 years later!, 1 Chr 4.43).
Kaiser notes in EBC: Exodus 17.8:
Amalek's assault on Israel drew the anger of God on two counts: (1) they failed to recognize the hand and plan of God in Israel's life and destiny (even the farther-removed Canaanites of Jericho had been given plenty to think about when they heard about the Exodus--Josh 2.10); and (2) the first targets of their warfare were the sick, aged, and tired of Israel who lagged behind the line of march (Deut 25:17-19).
But Amalek continues to repeatedly oppress, terrorize, and vandalize Israel for between 200 and 400 more years! And yet, Amalekites were freely accepted as immigrants to Israel during this period.
Let's note again that (1) they had plenty of access to 'truth' (at LEAST 400 years since Jacob and Land-promise), plus enough information about the miraculous Exodus to know where/when to attack Israel; (2) even their war conduct was cruel by current standards(!); (3) the semi-annihilation was a judgment; (4) God was willing to spare the innocent people--and specifically gave them the opportunity to move away; (5) children living in the households of stubbornly-hostile parents (who refused to flee or join Israel earlier) died swiftly in the one-day event (instead of being killed--as homeless orphans--by a combination of starvation, wild beasts, exposure, disease, and other raiders; or instead of being captured and sold as foreign slaves by neighboring tribes, for the older ones perhaps?)--they are victims of their fathers' terrorist and oppressive habits toward Israel; (6) the innocent members of the community (Kenites) and any change-of-heart Amalekites who fled are delivered (along with their children of the household
I think to some extent the action against adults was justified. One could understand this as the divine court passing sentence of lawless criminals; these were thugs who had tried to wipe out Israel; God gave them time to repent.
None of that answers for total destruction and slaughter of infants.
I will argue that God didn't order the slaughter of infants. While we cannot prove this with an actual text, there's a very good likleyhood that it was an addition to the text, and thus not the original command.
Purpose of the Narrative
Narrative and Theology
1 Sam 7:3–15:35. The emergence of monarchy is the theme of 1 Sam 7:3–15:35, which is particularly linked to the person of Saul. There is no doubt that this narrative is the result of an intensive redactional process, but the exact features of this are impossible to determine. While the story is cast around the disputed leadership of Samuel and the emergence of Saul, the real debate does not concern personalities. Rather, it concerns the relationship between the faith of the community and public forms of power and how the trust Israel has in Yahweh should be implemented in institutional forms.
The narrative discloses to us opinions which believe not only that monarchy is required to cope with historical threats, but that monarchy is a gift from Yahweh to Israel for the securing of the community. A counter opinion, more forcefully expressed, argues that monarchy is a departure from faith in Yahweh even as it is a departure from the old tribal organization. Both opinions are expressed in this complicated narration of chaps. 7–15. It is a truism of scholarship that the narrative contains two sources reflecting two strongly held political opinions which judge the institution of monarchy positively and negatively. Scholarship moreover has held that the pro-kingship source is from the period itself, whereas the anti-kingship sources are later, reflecting disillusionment with the tyranny of Solomon.
The slaughter of the infants, which is just one phrase in a larger command, is not a major focuss at all. It is a refelection of the attitude of ancient peole, and the over all passage is designed to show that Saul did wrong by not wipping out enough people! The redactor doesn't really care about the infants at all, the only point is that the action is part of showing strength of Sauls character in following God's command. The action is not a polemic justifying slaughter of enemies, but a mere after thouht, part of a larger whole.The point of the passage is the justification of monarchy. Samuel represents the old form of power, the weak system which had to be changed because new times reqiured strong leadership. But Saul was not that leader; the monarchy was good but Saul was not the man for the job. He didn't obey God compeltely enough. There is also a discordant voice that God didn't want the people to have a monarch, but that voice is brought under submission to the will of the people.
The text of 1 Samuel is one of the most heavily redacted in the Bible. As we will see, it's very presence in the canon has been brought into question, but the version we have is probably a corrupted second rate copy, and the LXX is closer, and Q4Sama at Qumran closer still, to the actual original.
Institutte Bibilcal Scientific Studies:
Biblical Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls and OT
"For the past two centuries textual critics have recognized that the Masoretic Text (MT) of 1&2 Samuel has much textual corruption. The Samuel MT is shorter than the LXX and 4QSama. The Samuel MT has improper word division, metathesis, and other orthographic problems. Certain phrases and clauses go against the Hebrew grammar rules. Parallel passages vary from each other" (See Charlesworth, 2000, pp.227-8).
"In 1952 Roland De Vaux and Lankester Harding found manuscripts of Samuel under three feet of debris in Qumran Cave 4. 4QSama shows that the Old Greek Bible (LXX) was based on a Vorlage similar to 4QSama. Josephus agrees with 4QSama in 6 places against the MT and LXX. Josephus, 4QSama, and LXX share about three dozen readings against the MT" (See Charlesworth, 2000, pp.229).
"Where the book of Chronicles parallels 1 Samuel, the readings of Chronicles follow 4QSama rather than the MT 42 times. Only one time does Chronicles agree with the MT. Over 100 times 4QSama does not agree with any ancient reading" (See Charlesworth, 2000, pp.230-31).
The Book of Samuel varies widely and frequently from the Masoretic Text. 4QSama preserves a number of superior readings that help correct errors in the Masoretic Text (DSS Bible, 213). Let's look at some of these.
One dramatic example is in I Samuel 11 where the MT and KJV left out the first paragraph. The Longer reading in the DSS explains what happens in this chapter. It says:
"Nahash king of the Ammonites oppressed the Gadites and the Reubenites viciously. He put out the right eye of all of them and brought fear and trembling on Israel. Not one of the Israelites in the region beyond the Jordan remained whose right eye Nahash king of the Ammonites did not put out, except seven thousand men who escaped from the Ammonites and went to Jabesh-gilead" (The Dead Sea Scroll Bible translated by Abegg, Flint, and Ulrich page 225). Then verse one of I Samuel 11 starts.
1 Samuel 14:30
There is a mis-division of words here in the MT. The 4QSama divides it differently which makes better sense. The MT has hkm htbr rather than hkmh hbr in the 4QSama.
1 Samuel 14:47
There is a singular instead of a plural noun in 4QSama. 4QSama is the better reading.
1 Samuel 15:27
There is an omission of the subject in the MT. According to 4QSama Saul is the subject who grabbed the garment, not Samuel.
The Place of 1st Sam in Canon
Revisited Albert C. Sundberg, Jr
Thomas J. Sienkewicz and James E. Betts
"The Old Testament of the Early Church"
published by Monmouth College
in Monmouth, Illinois in 1997.
The Prophets collection was canonized about two centuries after the Law, i.e., about 200 B.C.E. This collection is divided into two sections, the Former Prophets (the historical books): Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, which were in circulation about 550 and reached their final form before the Latter Prophets. Except for minor editorial changes made later, the Chronicler utilized the Former Prophets in their final form. However, apparently he did not regard them as canonical because he took great liberties with them, especially with Samuel and Kings, in his rewriting of the national history.
The Latter Prophets (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah and the Twelve12) contain sections undoubtedly from the third century (cf. Isa. 24-27; Pfeiffer 1941:61, 441-443). This places the terminus a quo after the Chronicler. On the other hand, the absence of the Book of Daniel (dating 164 B.C.E.) from the collection indicates that the collection was already closed at its writing, otherwise it would have been included. Thus, the Prophets collection must have been canonized about 200 B.C.E. Sirach13 44-49, a list of famous men in Jewish history, is a summary of the Law (ch. 44-45) and Prophets (the Former, 46-48.18; 49.1-50; the Latter, 48.20-25; 49.6-10, even naming the Twelve). H. J. Cadbury found that Septuagintal language has influenced the Greek of Sirach. He says, "That the translator knew the prior Greek translations of some of the canonical books is not only implied in the preface. . .
but is sufficiently proved by his use of identical Greek with the Septuagint in the same context" (Cadbury 1955:219-225). This is shown in verbal coincidences that are most striking in the catalogue of famous men and their respective parallels in the Old Testament and in detailed descriptions of the accouterments and service of the High Priest. In some cases these coincidences are striking because of the unusualness of the words, or the transfer of a word in the same context where Sirach and the Septuagint agree against the Masoretic text (1 Sam. 13.3), or where the translator shows a knowledge of Greek Chronicles. This evidence that the translator of Sirach knew a standard Septuagint text tends to confirm the judgment that the statements in the prologue testify to the canonical status of the Prophets. Thus, it is evident that the canon in Sirach consisted of the Law and the Prophets. Daniel (9.2) cites Jeremiah (25.11 ff.) as "the word of the Lord to Jeremiah."
This tells us that the place of Samuel in the canon was by no means assured. Because the redactor didn't feel the former prophets were canonical, great libertties were taken. We also see differences between the Ms which form the parent of the LXX translation, and those of MT. What all of this amounts to is that 1 Samuel is a very corrupt text, and the likelyhood is quite high that the passage is redacted. This is even more certain when we consider that the infant passage itself has been redacted.
James A. Sanders, Inter Testamental and Biblical Studies at Clairmont, Cannon and Community, a Guide to Canonical Criticism. Philladelphia: Forterss Press, 1984, 15-16.
"There are remarkable differences between the LXX and MT of 1 and 2 Sam. Jeremiah, Esther, Daniel, Proverbs and Ezekiel, 40-48, and on a lesser level numerious very important differences in lesser books such as Isaiah and Job. Before the discovery of the Scrolls [Dead Sea] it was difficult to know wheather most of these should be seen as translational, Or as reflecting the inner history of the Septuegent text, or all three. Now it is abundantly clear that the second period of text transmission [which is BC], actually that of the earliest texts we have, was one of limited textual pluralism. Side by side in the Qumran library lay scrolls of Jeremiah in Hebrew dating to the pre-Chrsitian Hellenistic period reflecting both the textual tradition known in the MT and the one in the LXX without any indication of preference. So also for 1 and 2 Sam."
Redaction of Infant Slaughtering Passage
Notes in the New Oxford Annontated Bible on 1 Sam 15:1-35
"Another story of Saul's rejection: The late source. Compare this section with 13:7-15, Samuel, not Saul is the leading figure once more."
This is the very passage in which Samuel relays God's command to wipe out the infants. So even though I still need to find more speicific evidence for that very passage, there is a good chance of proving redaction. While its true that I can't produce an actual MS showing no infant slaughter command, the passage in whcih that command is given has been redacted. The odds are very high that this command was not part of the orignal passage, or we can regard it as such. We know that slaughtering infants in evil, and we have no obligation to accept a command as divine that we know to be totally at odds with God's law and God's moral code.
The Religious A priori