Did God Order Infanticide?

Joseph Francis Alward
November 24, 1997
From: http://members.aol.com/JAlw/saul_and_the_amalekites.html

Writing about the Book of Samuel in their King James Bible study guide, the editors said, "To young children this is one of the most wonderful books in the Bible." On the contrary: Samuel is just one of several books which contain stories which no child should ever read.

Samuel was elder statesman to Saul, the King of Israel. In the first days of Saul's reign, he told Saul that the Lord wanted the Amalekites--who hundreds of years earlier had been in conflict with Israel--destroyed utterly. Here are the words of Samuel:

The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (1 Samuel 15:1-3)

If Samuel is correct, God urged the slaughter of suckling babes--infants feeding at the breasts of their mother. Of course, this wasn't the first time God sent innocents to their deaths. The God most people believe in would never order the death of infants and sucklings (1 Samuel 15:1-3) because of something their ancestors did four centuries earlier. Did the Lord forget that he inspired the Kings and Ezekiel authors to command that the sins of the fathers should not be visited on the children?

Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sins. (2 Kings 14:6)

The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. (Ezekiel 18:20)

Which is more likely? That Samuel was told by the Lord to have Saul murder infants and sucklings, or Samuel was mistaken about what the Lord wanted? Thomas Paine expressed well his objection to Samuel's story in a letter from Paris to a Christian friend in 1797:

"What makes this pretended order to destroy the Amalekites appear the worse, is the reason given for it. The Amalekites, four hundred years before, according to the account in Exodus 18 ...had opposed the Israelites coming into their country, and this the Amalekites had a right to do, because the Israelites were the invaders, as the Spaniards were the invaders of Mexico. This opposition by the Amalekites, at that time, is given as a reason, that the men, women, infants and sucklings, sheep and oxen, camels and asses, that were born four hundred years afterward, should be put to death"

More Innocent Deaths in Other Books

God-ordered acts of supreme cruelty toward children are described in several other books of the Old Testament, including Genesis, Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, and Hosea. Here they are:

Genesis:

According to Moses, who is said to have written Genesis, a disappointed God deliberately drowned every living creature on the earth, including man, pregnant woman, child, and innocent suckling babe--except Noah and his family:

And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth....and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth...And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man. (Genesis 6:5-7, Genesis 7:4, Genesis 7:21).

Deuteronomy:

If the stories in Deuteronomy are true, then a jealous God ordered the swords down onto the suckling because its parents worshiped other gods: "They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God...I will spend mine arrows upon them....The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs."(Deuteronomy 32:21-25).

Ezekiel:

The priest-prophet Ezekiel tells of the following pitiless order from an angry Lord: "And the Lord said unto him, Go through...the midst of Jerusalem, and... smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children, and women..." (Ezekiel 9:4-6)

It gets worse.

Hosea:

The prophet Hosea, who pointed to the rottenness and faithlessness in Israel as the cause of its unhealth, gave this description of a punishment from the Lord brought down on a rebellious people: "Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up." (Hosea 13:16)

If Hosea's god existed, then one can only hope that Hosea misunderstood him. If the words of these prophets are untrue--either because they misunderstood God's words, or deliberately or carelessly misspoke, then there are important falsehoods in the Bible. The readers thus have two choices: believing in a heartless, horrific, jealous god who murders suckling babes, or accepting the fact that the Bible writers were mistaken.