Is God genocidal?

Let’s start with a definition:

“Genocidal – relating to or involving the deliberate killing of a large group of people of a particular nation or ethnic group.”

So now let’s consider God’s commands in the Old Testament:

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. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy[a] all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” 1 Samuel 15:2-3

God commands the Amalekites to be wiped out – not just fighting soldiers, not just the men – but the women and children – the babies. How can the baby Amalekites have been guilty of anything? They had no time to live. And the cattle? Hopefully we can agree that this is genocide. If a dictator commanded this of his army, then he would be commanding genocide.

Now the normal apologetic would be to suggest that God had a reason for the killing. That worse things may have happened if they had not been wiped out – that we can not know the future as God can. Or generally we can not know the reasons behind the will of God.

The answers I have read feel empty to me. In the New Testament Jesus talks about forgiveness and turning the other cheek – it seems that the God of the Old Testament (who is Jesus if you believe he and God are one) certainly doesn’t practise what he literally preaches.

Not only that but it says directly in the passage why they were to be wiped out – “for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt” – pretty straight forward really. They messed with my people, therefore they must die. That certainly doesn’t seem to be justice by human standards and you would think God could do better than our law. It also doesn’t seem to bear any relation to Jesus’ message.

Perhaps you have a better explanation, please comment or email


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