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Amalekite Problem

Hi. Just wondering if anyone has had any success in refuting the Amalekite objection to Christianity.

(If you're not familiar with it, it goes something like "Christians (via Jews and the Old Testament) believe in genocide. They wiped out the entire Amalekite race, women and children. How do you serve a God like that?")

Ways I thought of responding to it are:
- The dispensational paradox: God was different then and there was a different covenant (this line of reasoning could be problematic...)
- The Amalekites were a voluntary association: (like the Israelites.) Anyone could join or leave (see the book of Esther for the voluntary Israel reference), kind of like ISIS does not require one to be of Arab descent, and Christianity does not require one to be Jewish or Greek
- Women and children could be soldiers also: It does not include infants. Perhaps the death warrant was issued against women and child soldiers only. Certainly many terrorist organizations of today are training women and children as suicide bombers.
- Textual criticism: I'd love for the LXX or Dead Sea Scrolls to prove the Amalekite passage was an interpolation; however this is unheard of.
- Archaeology: Proof that the Amalekites were not wiped out; where is Indiana Jones (or his son) when you need them?

In short, asking if any fellow believers have had success in confronting the Amalekite dialemma - - what an Orthodox Jewish rabbi once referred to as, "the dark side of Judaism."

Grace be with you.

rimgrund's picture

Amalekite problem

Well, I just stumbled across this looking for something else and thought I'd offer my answer, since no one else has in three and a half years.

First off, a pretty good explanation, I would say, is offered around 9:00 in this YouTube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qkizYwnTCA

This, obviously, is a Catholic priest leading a Catholic men's Bible study. I'm sure you know as well as I that other Catholic priests could be found who would prefer to explain away this problem instead of confronting it like a man.

That said, I view these problems with the reminder provided us by Saint Paul: "These things were written for our instruction." The prophecies, proverbs and even the events of the Old Testament were directed by God through the Holy Spirit, at least in part, so that we could learn from them. So what can we learn?
1) God's holiness cannot endure the presence of sin. We don't really learn that by being told that, or by philosophical reasoning to it. We need a stark, exaggerated example to make the point. Set the sinful nation - Amalek - next to the holy nation - Israel - and the sinful nation must be destroyed. To drive home the point, Israel herself must take up arms and do the destroying.
2) As Father points out earlier in that video, the Christian must take that approach as well to the sin in his own life. Seek out and destroy every sinful habit and tendency in its infancy, and don't hold any back.
3) All of the Amalekites (like all of the Israelites, and all of us), are under a sentence of death because of our sin. They would all be dead by now, anyway, so what does it matter how they died? This is really just a variation on the theodicy argument. It's not as if God continued to command the Israelites to wipe out nations: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans. No one thinks today that God has commanded or will command another genocide, and that judgment is based on moral principles derived from God Himself. Even as the ritual and dietary commands of God have been completed and are now abrogated, so the moral demands of God in the New Covenant are even more strict.
4) And who told you (not you, the hypothetical presenter of the Amalekite problem) that genocide is immoral anyway and displeases God? You're attempting to apply to God a standard He Himself gave you, and find him wanting? Let yourself be instructed by the Church, the custodian of the Bible and the preacher of the gospel, and be not one who reads the Scriptures, as Augustine pointed out, seeking to find fault rather than understanding.

Hope this helps.