Atheist's Attacks

Answering Humanist's Accusations Against the Bible

Christian Resources

Cruelty In The Bible?

God orders king Saul to kill woman and infants

THE HUMANIST CLAIMED CRUELTY: At I Samuel 15:3, the prophet Samuel gives King Saul this commandment from the Lord: “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”

Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him, but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. - 1 Samuel 15:3

I'm wondering, what ethical standards do humanists use to judge God? On what basis do they say this is wrong? Their appeal is to "civilized systems" and "civilized standards of morality." (See ap-pendix A.) Which civilization? The opening paragraph of this section of the humanist’s web page states:

Besides the unfairness and heartlessness contained in many well-known Christian teachings, the Bible has other violent tales that are opposed to civilized standards of morality. Among the most shocking Bible passages are those that portray God as ordering or approving the extermination of various people, including children and the elderly.

What hypocrisy! I have already mentioned that humanists are in favor of killing babies. They also are in favor of euthanasia. How does that affect the lives of the elderly?

What are the consequences of accepting euthanasia? According to a Dutch study investigating the effects in Holland, where eu-thanasia is tolerated while not strictly legal, it was found that in a single year there were more than 2,700 reported euthanasia deaths. Over 50% of these were involuntary, i.e. the patient was not given a choice. In one case, an elderly lady required admis-sion to hospital for her illness, but feared that she would be eu-thanased if she was admitted. Her physician assured her that he would take personal responsibility to see that this would not hap-pen. However, having returned after a day absent from the hospi-tal the physician found that the bed was occupied by another pa-tient. Upon inquiry to the doctor in charge he found that the pa-tient was killed because they needed the bed! If involuntary eu-thanasia is occurring in a country where euthanasia is not even legal, one can easily foresee the horrible results of legalising eu-thanasia. - Dr Mathew Piercy, "Euthanasia: Hospital Humanism"

Let’s look at this hypocrisy from another angle. Based on humanist beliefs, what are some possible sources of moral values that might be used to guide a humanist in determining whether killing a group of people is right or wrong?

- Evolution: If we follow the principles of evolution, survival of the fittest, then there is no moral problem with a stronger group of people wiping out a weaker group. That is how evolution works.

- Humanist Web Site: They state that, that which is moral is that which is in the interest of human society.

Morality emerges from humanity precisely because it exists to serve humanity. - Dr Mathew Piercy, The Human Basis of Laws and Ethics

Different groups of humans have different interests, so it is easy to see there will be conflict. In addition, this definition means that it is morally acceptable for my group (based on serving our human interests) to wipe out other groups of humans who oppose our in-terests. Eventually humanism always comes down to the principle that might makes right.

- Evolved Cultural Beliefs: Some humanists claim that our current culture defines our moral values. As we supposedly continue to evolve and humanity improves, our morals also evolve and improve. This means that, by definition, our current moral values are superior to what they were in the past. It also means different cultures, and different times, have different moral values that were true and right for them. Who are we to say that they (God and Israel), during the time of the prophet Samuel, were doing something wrong? Based on the humanist’s moral standards, there is nothing wrong or cruel about what is described in 1st Samuel 15. They were doing what was right in their culture at that time.

What about the Biblical Perspective?

Where do morals actually come from? God’s character. Justice is part of God’s character, and that means evil will be punished. The Amalekites meet the definition of evil. They were raiders who were constantly attacking the people of Israel, as well as others, stealing, destroying, pillaging, and raping. God, after giving them time to change, God commanded Saul to destroy them. Unfortunately, Saul does not obey God and the Amalekites continue their evil ways until they are finally destroyed, hundreds of years later, as described in the Book of Esther.

Who Were the Almalekites?

The Amalakites were a nomadic people who were constantly attacking Israel, as well as other people groups. The Egyptian Amarna tablets call them the “Khabbati,” meaning the “plunderers.” They had a very bad reputation, and justifiably so. In Exodus 17 we find the first description of an Amalekite attack on Israel:

Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek." - Exodus 17:8-9a

The Amalekites are responsible for the repeated destruction of Israel's land, water, and food supply. In scripture they are seen at-tacking Israel in Numbers 14:4; then again in Judges 3:13; and again in Judges 6:3. Even 500 years later, as described in the book of Es-ther, an Amalekite (a descendent of King Agag) devises and puts into action a plan to exterminate every single Jew.

It is obvious that the Amalekites hated Israel, and were vicious enemies of God's people. They continually tried to destroy Israel and all her people. God, who fully knows what happened in the past, and what is coming in the future, had to judge them and impose the death penalty for all the evil they had done; and for their continuing to do evil, and to prevent future Amalekite evil.

God could have wiped them out back in the time of Exodus 17. However, as we see over and over, God is incredibly gracious, and patient, giving them hundreds of years to change their ways. However, they do not. Even 500 years after the time of King Saul, an Amalekite is Israel's greatest enemy. (Read my book: The Presence of God, A Commentary on Esther)

So was it cruel for God to command Saul to kill every Amalekite, as well as destroying everything related to the Amalekites? No. It was justice.

If God allowed an Amalekite to live, it was likely their descendants would continue to hate Israel, steal from and harass them, kill them, and continually attempt to destroy Israel. That is exactly what happened. God commanded Saul to kill every Amalekite. Saul did not do that. As a result, the existence of the entire nation of Israel was threatened five hundred years later.


Conclusion: God was not cruel, but was just to command the destruction of the Amalekites.

Next example: Ezekiel 9:4-7 has this harrowing account: “And the Lord said unto him, Go through . . . the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark. . . .”

You've probably already learned enough to know the answer, but there is something different in this example. God is killing His own people. Click here to find out what is going on in Ezekiel.