In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here is this week’s question: “Dear Dave and Tom, In bringing up the issue of the Islamic terrorist bombing of innocent men, women, and children in Israel, I recently read a passage in 1 Samuel, in which God directed King Saul to wipe out the Amalekites, including nursing babies. How can I convince myself and other people that the God of the Bible is fair, just, merciful, and loving in doing such a thing?”
Tom: Dave, this is a tough question, and it’s a tough issue because I know, for many people, myself as well, it affects our view—I’m talking about man’s view of God, and the last thing we want to do, I would think, is to sort of anthropomorphize: “Well, I feel this way; God must feel this way,” you know what I mean—we are bringing Him down to our level. At the same time, He is absolutely fair, He is absolutely just, loving, so on, and so forth.
Dave: It’s not a question of bringing him down to our level. That’s of course, what the Calvinist would argue: “Well, you can’t judge God by your standards.”
But God put His standards in our conscience, and He says, “Come now and let us reason together.” So, we can reason about this, and when Jesus said, “Forgive your enemies, love your enemies, bless those what curse you,” and so forth, “that you may be the children of your Father in heaven,” that indicates the kind of a Father in heaven we have—that we would be acting like Him if we are loving and forgiving even to those who hate us. So we know that God does not just go around slaughtering people. There has to be some good reason.
The Muslims, of course, who spread Islam by the sword and who still are killing people today to spread Islam—they will take something like this and justify themselves and say, “Yeah, but what about those Israelites? God sent them in there to wipe out the Canaanites,” and so forth, ”and the Amalekites…so we’re no worse than they are.” Well, but the Muslim must fight the entire world. Everyone in the world must come under submission to Islam. In the case of the children of Israel, they were sent into this land because of the wickedness of these people. We get that very clearly in Genesis, chapter 15, verse 16: “But in the fourth generation, they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” The Amorites really represent all of the Canaanites; they were among the nations that dwelt in the land of Canaan, and it says the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Girgashites, and so forth—there’s a whole lot of people dwelling in this area who are not wicked enough at the point when God is talking to Abram to wipe them out, but God says, “In four hundred years, they will be so evil that I will be forced to destroy them.” And I do not know the details of that. I don’t know what genetic diseases they had. I don’t know what horrors they were engaged in, what demonism, demon possession. Tom, the Bible doesn’t tell us that. We fall back on what the scripture says, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” So we know that there were a people, a number of tribes or nations, dwelling in the land of Canaan in that area whose wickedness was so great—like Sodom and Gomorrah—that God had to wipe them out in His righteousness. Now Israel failed to do that and…
Tom: Dave, couldn’t…because it says in the verse that this person refers to, 1 Samuel, it mentions nursing babies. Couldn’t that be God’s mercy?
Dave: Well, Tom, you don’t ever want to say it’s God’s mercy to kill nursing babies because those babies could have been taken and nursed and raised by the Israelites, presumably.
Tom: But in terms of the iniquity of the Amorites, if this people had become so depraved, so evil—we have little snatches of it; you and I have been looking at a video in which we have the training of Palestinian children at the kindergarten level to sing songs about strapping themselves with bombs and killing Jews. There’s a little taste of an environment, of a system, in which they are bringing children up to be this way. Not that there is no escape for them, but that’s just my point.
Dave: Yeah. I don’t have the full answer to this, Tom, why God wiped out—or wanted these people wiped out—because of His justice and their wickedness, but we know that it was in a narrowly prescribed land, it wasn’t the whole world, it wasn’t like the Muslims who say, “You either confess there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet, or we kill you.” That was not the situation at all. They were not to try to convert these people, but because of their wickedness, whatever it was, something so bad that they needed to be wiped out.
Tom: The time of the flood would be a…but that’s God doing it, not through the instrument of man to men.
Dave: Right. So you could say, “What about the flood?” He wiped out everyone but Noah and his family because of their wickedness, okay? So I’m sure that that is the case here. Now the Amalekites were descended from Esau, so they were not the original inhabitants of the land, but they dwelt in the land and apparently partook of the same wickedness. They joined with Canaanites, it says, in attacking Israel. So I could only assume that they were in the same category. For that reason God determined that they should be wiped out.
Now again, Israel did not wipe them out. They didn’t wipe out a number of the people. The Philistines, for example, eventually were exterminated. I don’t know that it was by Israel—they just died out.
But I will have to fall back on the love of God, the justice of God, and that He does not just wipe someone out for no reason. So there had to be a good reason, and it was not in order to get them all to worship God, but it was because of their wickedness. Now, babies, I believe, even these babies were covered by the blood of Christ. They had not committed any sins of their own—they were not old enough—and I believe that they are in heaven now.
So, you said that was the mercy of God, but we don’t say, “Well, let’s go around and kill all the babies so they will all end up in heaven.” The reason was because the wickedness of these people was so bad that even the nursing babies had to be destroyed. But God does not give us the details of that.