If God is love (1 John 4:8) then how could he command the slaughter of innocent women and children? (1 Sam. 15:2-3)


1 Samuel 15:2-3 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 everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys."

Yes, God is love. His very nature is love. As John says, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:8, 16).

However, God is also holy (Ex. 3:5-6; 15:11; Lev. 11:44-45; 20:26; Isa. 57:15; Rev. 15:4). What does it mean to be holy? R.C. Sproul in The Holiness of God (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1985), states:

The primary meaning of holy is separate. It comes from an ancient word that meant, to cut, or to separate. Perhaps even more accurate would be the phrase a cut above something. When we find a garment or another piece of merchandise that is outstanding, that has a superior excellence, we use the expression that it is a cut above the rest. ... When the Bible calls God holy it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be other, to be different in a special way. The same basic meaning is used when the word holy is applied to earthly things.

We have already seen God's otherness (holiness) earlier. 1 Samuel 2:2 says, "There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God." Being holy, God hates sin and is separate from sin. While all humanity sins (Rom. 3:23), God is far above and separate from sin. As such, he is the judge and can only do right(Gen. 18:25) necessarily punish all sin. God's law says that "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). Thus, since God can only do right, and his law says the wages of sin is death, it necessarily follows that sin must be judged accordingly.

God is righteous and just in punishing sin and sinners. The Amalekites were descendents of Esau and had been longtime enemies of God and his seed, Israel. The Amalekites were not innocent, but wicked (1 Sam. 15:18). They fought against Israel at Rephidim (Ex. 17:8). Because of their wickedness, God had said earlier to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven" (Ex. 17:14). Therefore, the destruction of the Amalekites was not some arbitrary murder which is against God's nature and law, but rather it is in keeping with God's nature.

The Amalekites were the seed of the serpent. The seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent do battle throughout Scripture. Genesis 3:15 (NASV) states, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." From the Garden of Eden forward, we see the seed of the serpent attacking the seed of the woman. The serpent vs. Adam (Gen. 3); Cain vs. Able (Gen. 4:1-12); the world vs. Noah (Gen. 6); Egypt vs. Moses (Exodus); Mesopotamia vs. Othniel (Judg. 3:7-11); Moab vs. Ehud (Judg. 3:12-31); Canaan vs. Deborah (Judg. 4:1-5:31); Midian vs. Gideon (Judg. 6:1-8:28); Ammon vs. Jephthah (Judg. 10:6-12:7); Philistia vs. Samson (Judg. 13:1-16:31); Goliath vs. David (1 Sam. 17) are all "ites" who are Satan's seed who oppose the woman's seed which is Christ's body, God's elect, the invisible church, the sheep, etc. (Rev. 12:4). Ultimately all the seed of the serpent will be cast into hell (Rev. 20:11-15) and the woman's seed (those in Christ) will inherit the new heavens and the new earth and dwell with God forever (Rev. 21-22). God, who can only do right, is righteous and just to punish Satan and his seed who come but to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10; cf. John 8:44).


Sproul, R.C. The Holiness of God. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1985

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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).