Monday, September 19, 2011

Justified Genocide?

The Old Testament has a passage in it that people who tend to be anti-God like to point out as a weakness for the belief in a loving God.  I'm addressing it here, because it involves mythology when you look at it closer.  here is the passage:

I Samuel 15:1-3 (NIV)

 1 Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. 2 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. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

The question is raised, when is genocide the answer?  If you are to avoid absolutes and say that there could be times when genocide is best for the world, then you'd have to agree that the culture in question really needs to be a vile one, one that is beyond redemption.  So, were the Amalekites beyond redemption?

Let's look at these people.  The point mentioned as a the final straw was the Amalekite attack on the Israelites on their way out of Egypt (you remember the movie The Ten Commandments or Prince of Egypt depending on your age).  The Amalekites agreed to let the Isrealites move through their land; however, as the line of refugees moved through, the Amalekites continued to attack them from behind, picking off the elderly and the sick.  Why is not really known.  This part of the caravan was not particularly wealthy.  It seems that they just enjoyed killing easy targets.  Now, Saul is being told by Samuel to kill them all several generations later.  I guess this is because God gave them a few generations to change their ways before this punishment and apparently they did not.  This, though, doesn't seem to warrant the complete destruction of the entire culture (note it specifically mentions women, children, and infants).

So what else do we know about Amalekites?  Well, their religion seems to be the main thing.  This is where this blog steps in.  What a culture chooses to believe says a lot about who the people are.  Once the Israelites moved through their lands, the Amalekites went into to Egypt for easy pickings.  Egypt was weak after the plagues and the Amalekites took over several outlaying areas.  They took with them two of the Egyptian gods: Set and Apep.  Set, you may recognize as the donkey headed villain god of chaos who killed Osiris.  Apep is the fiery serpent who tries to kill Ra twice a day.  This tells us quite a bit about who these people are.  They don't want to worship Horus, Osiris, or Ra.  Instead they choose their enemies.  Interesting.

More interesting than choosing Set or Apep is their main god.  They didn't get their main god from Egypt.  They had him before.  His name was Moloch.  Moloch looks like an older man with ram horns sprouting from his head.  We don't know a whole lot about him except that his worship involves child sacrifice.  Not children of your enemies, your own children.  The sacrifice is not quick and painless, either.  The proper way to sacrifice to Moloch is to burn them alive.

The fact that these people choose these gods lets us know that they were more than likely pretty bad guys.  God told Saul to wipe them out.  He even told them to kill the animals so that it wouldn't be a war for plunder.  Saul, however, didn't listen and did not wipe them all out.  David must fight them later and there is one more time the Israelites face them.  The picture of Moloch here comes from a pretty interesting blog post on the Jewish concept of Hell and how this burning children in sacrifice plays into the concept of it.

So the question I leave with you guys is this: could you justify genocide if the culture was full of child burning bad people?  Leave your own viewpoint of Christianity or Judaism out if it.  Leave a comment to weigh in.