Campfire Scripture: Uncommon scriptures every weekday full of manly wisdom, inspiration and hard truth. Great for pondering over a warm campfire.
So whip up a cuppa, rest your head on red gum stump and enjoy.
Book Author and Date:
Not Samuel (Whaaat!?). Actually the book of 1 Samuel records the death of Samuel, so clearly someone else wrote it. Probably they used writings compiled by Samuel and others as their primary source, but it was not Samuel strictly speaking.
The author is in fact unknown. A fairly specific date is also unknowable. It could have been anytime during the divided kingdom of Israel and Judah, or during their exile. Most likely it was during the former.
Judgement, God’s will, Power, Victory, Battle.
This passage outlines God’s instructions to Saul the first King of Israel, through the prophet Samuel. In fact it is these very instructions that Saul disobeys, marking his very literal fall from grace. From here he gradually descents into madness and paranoia, until he’s defeated in battle, falls on his own sword, and is succeeded by King David.
What I Reckon:
The Amalekites were decisively immoral; burning/sacrificing infants alive, worshipping false God’s, hating and persecuting the Israelites and a host of other atrocities. It was very normal for them to be willingly and happily evil.
God is sovereign, and perfectly Holy. These instructions were an act of justice and punishment for the wicked against the Amalekites as a people group going back to their persecution of the Israelites when they were wandering through the wilderness during the time of Moses. These acts of judgement are a stumbling block to many, and a bone of contention to many atheists. Plenty of ink has been spilled on the justification for these white washes in scripture.
Most people today reel at the severity of this. Some of the more belligerent atheists do so out of spite moreso than any actual concern. However in the modern West this kind of punishment seems particularly severe and the idea of war as an act of punishment is generally seen as unjustified. For most of human history however, this just wasn’t the majority view.
This is just one of many instances where God commanded war as an act of justice.
Importantly, God commanded not just the people (women and children included), but all the livestock and animals to be completely destroyed also.
This is not trivial. It begs the question, what benefit spiritually is there in wiping out livestock? Well what this meant was that the Israelites wouldn’t be able to take the livestock as plunder (an extremely valuable economic resource at this time). This would’ve been like blood money.
It was to demonstrate to Israel that the Amalekites were being punished. This was not a war of conquest, or seeking land and booty, it was punishment. It was not God’s intention for the Israelites to prosper from this engagement. This was a point that was missed on Saul, because it was in fact the livestock that Saul spared, and it was for this reason Saul too was then punished. Although more specifically, it was Saul’s lack of repentance (see 1 Samuel 15:20-26).
Yet another of the numerous passages of God commanding violence for the sake of righteous indignation, this passage demonstrates the seriousness God takes when dealing with sin, especially the sins of blasphemy, idolatry and persecution of his people.
And of course it’s another passage full of masculine imagery and language that is as good of a reason as any for any adventure seeking man to pick up the Bible to just read for pleasure.
All Campfire Scripture passages are taken from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise stated.
John MacArthur, 2006, The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (1995 edition).