ABC:1 Samuel 15

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Verse 2, Should We Kill?[edit | hide | hide all]

Dan Barker of FFRF claims there is a contradiction here and makes the following comments (italicized):[1]

The Hebrew word translated "kill" in Exodus 20:13, ratsach, is translated as "murder" or "murderer" 17 out of the 47 times it is used in the Old Testament by the KJV. It is also translated "slayer," "slain," or "slayeth" 21 times, and twice it is translated as manslayer. Only 5 times is it translated as "kill."[2] The confusion is in large part caused by the KJV not translating the same Hebrew words identically throughout the New Testament, and the word ratsach, had it been correctly translated into English as murder, would have removed any confusion.

God allows killing to stop, punish, or deter evil in cases of war or judicial punishment. See e.g. the commandment of "eye for an eye." However, harming others without provocation or even out of vengeance is prohibited; for God has always commanded that "vengeance is mine, I will repay." (Leviticus 19:18) The cases mentioned above do not violate the Biblical prohibition against murder; and were all judicial punishments ordained by God. In Exodus 32:7 the Israelites were sacrificing their own children alive to a golden calf to honor Baal and Molech while committing sexual perversions, so God ordered those responsible destroyed to prevent the spread of wickedly immoral practices.

In 1 Samuel 15:2-8 God ordered the destruction of a wicked group of people that had attacked the Israelites, murdering Israel's feeble rather than fighting Israel's warriors, presumably women, children, and the elderly. (cp. Deuteronomy 25:18) In the case of Hosea 13:16 the sins of Israel included idolatry involving child sacrifice (Ezekiel 16:20), for which they were punished horribly as a nation by God allowing their enemies to destroy them. The cases of 1 Samuel 6:19 and Numbers 15:36 were similarly judicial punishments commanded by God for disobedience, specifically working on the Sabbath and looking into the Ark of the Covenant, which represented God's Holy of Holies. At any rate, none of the cases could be considered murder as they clearly involved God-directed punishments through God's governance/government, not willful decisions by individuals to harm others without provocation or take vengeance into their own hands.

Verse 2, God Cruel or Good?[edit | hide]

Jim Meritt of Infidels.org claims the Bible contradicts itself here and asks "Cruel, Unmerciful, Destructive, and Ferocious or Kind, Merciful, and Good"?[3]

First of all, for a full explanation of how God could be justified in His destruction of the Canaanite nations and punishment of Israel, see 'Destruction of Canaanites where it is pointed out that both were being punished for widespread practice of the horrible crime of child sacrifice. Meritt in quoting Jeremiah 13:14 here ignores the fact that the Israelites were being so horribly punished by God for sacrificing their own children by burning them alive.

Concerning Amalek, God wanted to destroy the nation that had cowardly attacked the women and children of Israel. (Exodus 17:16)

Ultimately, the answer to this question of whether God is cruel or kind is both. God is cruel to the wicked and unrepentant and kind and merciful to those who turn from their wicked ways. This answer is reinforced throughout the whole Bible. Making this an Either/Or ignores the truth of the Bible.

Verse 2, Amalekites Killed?[edit | hide]

The ReasonProject lists the following as a Bible contradiction with the headlines "Was Haman an Agagite?" and "Did Saul and Samuel kill all the Amalekites?"[4] Critic claims relating to the latter page are italicized when quoted.

The critic is attempting to suggest that all Amalekites and Agagites were killed in 1 Samuel 15, which the passage does not say. It simply refers to a destruction of the Amalekites in that specific location. The critic omits the key verse 5 which when coupled with verse 7 shows these were only specific cities being destroyed, rather than all Amalekite cities.

Indeed, that 1 Samuel 15:7-8 does not refer to the destruction of all Amalekites and Agagites is clear just from the next few verses which show Agag, himself an Amalekite/Agagite, had not been killed.

Other passages show that other groups of Amalekites still existed, possibly including descendants of Agag (Agagites) as well. Ironically, Saul in disobeying God and sparing some Amalekites may have ultimately caused his own death, as it was an Amalekite who claimed to have killed him. (2 Samuel 1:8-13)

Finally, I would point out that even though the KJV translated 1 Samuel 15:8 as "destroyed all the people" there actually is no Hebrew word in the passage meaning "all." As seen from PowerBible's Interlinear:

The Hebrew word there is charam simply meaning destroyed.[5] It certainly does not specifically state all Agagites were destroyed, and the context of other passages makes clear that was not the case.

The critic also mistakenly misinterprets 1 Samuel 27:8-9 as indicating the utter destruction of the Amalekites, which is also not mentioned. The lands themselves were destroyed with those in them, but the nation of the Amalekites apparently had Amalekites outside, perhaps on journeys, who returned afterwards.

Similarly, 1 Samuel 30 does not describe a complete destruction of the Amalekites also, simply a confrontation with a band or "company" of the Amalekites. This too is a false accusation by the critic.

Verses 29, 35: Does God Change His Mind?[edit | hide]

Dan Barker of FFRF claims there is a contradiction here and makes the following comments (italicized):[1] Don Morgan's list at Infidels also claims this is a contradiction (passages are included with those mentioned by FFRF).[6] Jim Meritt of Infidels includes on his "List of Biblical Contradictions" the question, "[Does] God change?"[3] The EvilBible also makes this claim.[7]

Clearly God by saying "I change not" is referring to His covenants with Abraham, Jacob, and David to preserve a lineage as His chosen people. God does not change His covenants and promises, and this is repeated throughout the Bible. Nonetheless, God can be seen numerous times to change His mind or regret His decisions. (e.g. Ge. 6:6; 1 Sam. 15:11,35; Jon. 3:10) While God does not regret doing wrong (since God does not sin or do wrong), He can be seen to regret justifiable punishments enacted on evil human beings.

Some of the confusion may be caused the archaic usage by the KJV of the word "repent" which is used to mean God simply being sorrowful, even for executing just punishments, and usage of the word "evil" which is used simply to mean a harsh punishment. See for example its usage in Jeremiah 18:8-13 where God says He will "repent of the evil" He does in punishing evil nations as long as they turn from their evil, and that if they do evil then He will "repent of the good."

Perhaps the best answer is that provided by CARM, "When God says that He does not change, He is speaking about His nature and character. But this does not mean that He cannot change how He works with people throughout history."[8] For a similar passage to Malachi 3:6, see Psalms 89:34 - "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips." Here it is explained why the "sons of Jacob are not consumed" and what change is being discussed.

Clearly God by saying "I change not" as seen in the above passage is referring to His covenants with Abraham, Jacob, and David to preserve a lineage as His chosen people. It is for this reason that God numerous times when disgusted with Israel did not wipe them off the face of the planet (which judging by his frustration levels expressed numerous times, He would certainly have liked to do). Instead as God promised David, He used punishments (v. 32) but He refused to break His covenant that David's seed would endure for ever. (v. 36)

This can also be seen from the following passage with Moses where God ends up "repenting" for punishing Israel's idolatry of the golden calf:

God does not change His covenants and promises, and this is repeated throughout the Bible:

Nonetheless, God can be seen numerous times to change His mind or regret His decisions. (e.g. Ge. 6:6; 1 Sam. 15:11,35; Jon. 3:10)

While God does not regret doing wrong (since God does not sin or do wrong), He can be seen to regret justifiable punishments enacted on evil human beings. (e.g. Ex. 32:14; Deut. 32:36; Jg. 2:18; 2 Sam. 24:16; 1 Chr. 24:15; Ps. 90:13; 106:45; 135:14; Jer. 26:19; Am. 7:3-6; Jon. 3:10)

Some of the confusion may be caused the archaic usage by the KJV of the word "repent" which is used to mean God simply being sorrowful, even for executing just punishments, and usage of the word "evil" which is used simply to mean a harsh punishment. See for example its usage in Jeremiah 18:8-13 where God says He will "repent of the evil" He does in punishing evil nations as long as they turn from their evil, and that if they do evil then He will "repent of the good". In KJV-speak, verse 12 even continues with "Thus saith the Lord; Behold I frame evil against you... return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good."

Unfortunately, the KJV's continued popularity results in confusion over archaic wording that is centuries out of date. Perhaps people forget that words in the English language meant different things when the KJV was translated in 1611 than they do now, over 400 years later.

Sources[edit | hide]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Barker, D. (2019). "Bible Contradictions." FFRF.
  2. Brown, Driver, Briggs, and Gesenius (2019). "Ratsach." BibleStudyTools.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Meritt, Jim (1992). A list of Biblical contradictions. Retrieved from http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "meritt" defined multiple times with different content
  4. Marlow, Andy (2009). Contradictions in the Bible. Project Reason.
  5. Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius. Hebrew Lexicon entry for Charam. The KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon.
  6. Morgan, Donald. Bible Inconsistencies: Bible Contradictions? Internet Infidels.
  7. Thiefe, Chris. Biblical Contradictions. EvilBible.com.
  8. Does the Lord Change or Not? Christian Apologetics Research Ministry.