Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Amalekite Genocide 4

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

We've been thinking about God's command in 1 Samuel 15 to kill the Amalekites. We've seen that the Amalekites were people who had set themselves in opposition to God's plan to bless the world; we've seen that the command gave plenty of scope for individual Amalekites to change their minds and escape from the attack. Now I want to look at the Amalekite genocide in the light of the cross.

Jesus is the True Israel

The first thing I want to note is that the theme of Israel as God's means of blessing the whole earth finds its fulfilment in Jesus. Jesus is where God reveals himself perfectly; Jesus is the one the nations stream to; he is the one who obeys God perfectly. Again and again, the gospels present Jesus as the True Israel. As Jesus says in Matthew 5:17

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

And as such, Jesus is the one whom God defends, and the one whom he appoints as judge over the nations.

Jesus is made the True Amalek

As the Bible goes on, it becomes clear that the enmity to God and his plans which was so clear in the Amalekites is found in each individual person. We all try to resist God's plan, to reject our part in it and oppose Jesus' lordship. And the Bible calls that sin. But in one of the most shocking verses of the Bible, we read this.

God made him who had no sin [i.e. Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV

Jesus became the personification of all opposition to God. He was made the true Amalek as well as the true Israel. He became the one who had to be killed so that God could bless the whole world. And he did that for us, for those who reject him and oppose him, so that we can know what it means to be part of God's true people.

That is the true and lasting significance of the sentence to destruction in 1 Samuel 15. It is the sentence that God himself in the person of Jesus chose to take on himself for us. Jesus becomes the person whom God destroys so that we can become the people whom God defends.


poppy tupper said...

In end, all you're doing is trying to justify genocide. Well, it won't work. Playing word games doesn't change what it is. It's just plain wrong, as ordinary people know perfectly well. It's this sort of moral juggling that gives Christians a bad name. I suggest you find some way of witnessing the killing of men, women and children and then think again.

John said...

Is "moral juggling" acceptable? Discuss, with reference to the Trolley Problem.

poppy tupper said...

I am confronting you with the issue of a God who orders the mass murder of women and children, and you reply with a flip answer about mental games. Have you ever been present at the murder of another person?

John said...

My point is that your (implied) position doesn't allow for the kind of ethical discussions that are necessary in order to be able to work out what is the best course of action in complicated situations.

For example, it is important to listen to what survivors of genocides say. It is, however, not necessary to have witnessed a genocide in order to be able to comment on them, or indeed to discuss whether the Amalekite instance was a genocide. If you'd read what I've written, you'd have seen that what was instructed almost certainly [b]didn't[/b] involve the mass murder of women and children in any case.

Most people have an opinion about the death penalty, and discussion about whether the death penalty is allowable or not should not be restricted to people who have first-hand experience of it. Indeed, such discussion needs some way of discussing and evaluating different situations ethically - it requires some "moral juggling".

Tcooper11 said...

Wow! Great job with the exegetical work. This clarifies so much. I am currently finishing my new testament degree and cannot stress enough to my family and friends the importance of a solid hermenuetical approach. I will definitely be sharing this blog