I wrote on the Israelite genocides a couple posts ago and am going to respond to a few of the response here.
When the Bible tells us that Samuel said “Thus sayeth the Lord of Hosts”, it is entirely possible that it is giving a literal account of words actually spoken by the actual prophet Samuel. I rather expect that it is; although that is not the only possible interpretation, and inerrancy only really guarantees that true and accurate interpretations exist, it doesn’t guarantee that I have it right.
But Samuel saying those words as a formal preliminary to issuing commands doesn’t necessarily imply what folks think it implies. We know that, as Popes do now, prophets had authority from God. But the fact that Papal authority comes from God doesn’t imply that every word and deed of every Pope is tantamount to a literal act of God. In reality Papal infallibility is something very rarely invoked, and the use of a formal introduction for the words of a Prophet doesn’t convert those words into a set of axiomatic syllogisms from which a positivist theory of everything can be constructed. Samuel’s formalism could conceivably mean that God actually spoke those words from a burning bush; but in the full context of the OT that seems less than likely. At best we can say that we don’t really know whether the formalism “thus sayeth the Lord of Hosts” is a formality – like the wearing of a crown – when the prophet gives orders.
This is intellectually untenable.
To argue that a prophet of the Lord when saying he is proclaiming the will of the Lord is not proclaiming the will of the Lord, ruins any ability to take anything from the Bible. If we can not trust a God-anointed prophet of the Lord to be proclaiming the will of the Lord while saying he is proclaiming the will of the Lord, how can we trust the words of any of the other prophets or teachers? Why would we give heed to Isaiah? Why would the words of John the Baptist be trustworthy? Why would we trust the revelations of John? For that matter, why would we trust the words of Jesus? (Not to mention, for the Catholics, why would we trust Peter or those who claim to be the successors of Peter?)
It is also not just Samuel’s introduction, but Samuel’s pronouncement of judgment on Saul where he also directly claims to speak for the Lord. Saul accepts Samuel’s judgment as being from the Lord, and, as far as I know, no one in the Bible argues that this judgment was ever outside the Lord’s will. Given that Samuel’s appointing of David as king, and, ultimately, the birth of Christ through the lineage of David hinge on this event, it is hard to argue God wasn’t behind this.
And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And the LORD sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. (1 Samuel 15:17-20 ESV)
To add to this, without accepting Samuel’s words, we have no reason for why God rejected Saul. David’s crowning and 1&2 Samuel lose their meaning and coherency if this event does not take place as written.
What is being pitted against each other is some folks’ personal interpretations of the OT against the intrinsic immorality of murder.
What is being pitted against each other is Zippy’s personal interpretation of natural law against the direct words of the God-ordained prophet of the Lord on a mission from the Lord directly commanding the people of the Lord as the voice of the Lord to destroy the Amalekites. Then the prophet of the Lord stripping Saul of His kingship over the people of the Lord in the Lord’s name for disobeying the Lord’s commandments.
There are 5 ways this event could be interpreted: God commanded the destruction of the Amalekites, God lied to Samuel, Samuel lied to Israel, some other spiritual force deceived an anointed prophet of the Lord and the writer of a book of the Bible in such a way that influenced that entirety of the Christian story and the prophet was never corrected, or the Bible is lying to us (or being metaphorical, which in the case of a book purporting to be history recounting a historical event would be functionally equivalent to a lie).
The second is blasphemy, the third renders the words of the Biblical prophets meaningless, the fourth renders God ineffectual, and the fifth essentially makes the Bible impossible to decipher. Any but the first would make any attempts at understanding Christian natural law impossible.
If you read the Bible and come to the conclusion that a bedrock Christian doctrine such as the absolute prohibition of murder under the natural law is wrong, this doesn’t demonstrate a problem with bedrock Christian doctrine.
The claim is not that murder is okay. The claim is (or in fairness, if this was a criticism of someone else, my claim is) and was specifically ‘Murder is unlawful killing and God’s law is the highest law. If God orders a killing, it is by definition lawful, and is therefore, by definition, not murder.’
God ordered the genocide of the Amalekites, therefore it was not murder. It has not demonstrated that this was murder; the argument ‘murder is wrong’ misses the point entirely.
In the comments Zippy states the following:
I am equally intolerant of an approach that is unwilling to start with what we actually know – e.g. that slaughtering infants is intrinsically immoral, always wrong, and therefore not something God would ever command – and work the problem from there.
Zippy should prove, not assert, not simply repeat ‘natural law’, but show logically and scripturally that 1) God would never command the slaughtering of infants (despite His prophets specifically commanding the slaughter of infants in His name) and 2) the slaughter of infants is wrong even if God does command it.
The only way to know apodictically that God is ordering it is if you are God. Otherwise it is always possible that you are deceived: that you are wrong. So we can’t escape from comparing how likely it is that we are deceived that murder is always wrong versus how likely it is that it is actually God telling us to do it.
We might not be able to know for certain and no matter what we think we might, but we can and shold reason out the most likely answer. If we follow through on Zippy’s argument how can we know God orders anything? We aren’t God. We can’t know anything of His will apodictically. In that case and what Zippy’s position implies in the context of this debate why even bother trying to ascertain God’s will on any issue? We’ll never know apodictically and it will always be possible we’re deceived.
We can’t escape from comparing how likely is is that Samuel as recorded in the word of the Lord, speaking as a prophet of the Lord in the name of the Lord to the Lord’s people who accepted his words as being from the Lord was deceived or deceiving versus how likely it is that Zippy’s interpretation of the natural law is wrong?
Something claiming to be the voice of God commands you to kill children.
Do you obey, or are you convinced this was the voice of Satan, and refuse?
I would test the spirits:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:1-6 ESV)
If after a period of prayer, fasting, consultation with trusted Christian leaders, and testing the spirits I understood the spirits were those of the Lord I would obey. Depending on the ‘level of wrongness’ (for lack of a better term springing to mind), this period would be longer and more intense. I might also try to bargain with God as per Abraham.
Anonymous Coward stated:
This is the same argument that the Muslims make: we cannot put man’s law above God’s law, and man has no right to judge God. Anything Mohammed did is good by definition.
So clearly your argument is wrong, because it defends and promotes the great evil of Islam.
The Muslims are wrong in that their god is not God and Muhammed is not God’s prophet.
I’m not sure you guys really appreciate the full implications of Euthyphro’s dilemma. Defining god as good either denies god agency, the ability to choose, or it makes good relative, not absolute. I didn’t take you for a moral relativist. God could have never sent the angel to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac and it would have been equally good as sending the angel. If right and wrong are absolute and not apart from god then he has no will of his own. The temptations of Jesus would be meaningless since he never had the capacity to sin in the first place.
Bottom line, you can’t use god to justify something. Either justice stands on its own or is rendered meaningless.
You seem to mistakenly think you can separate justice and God. God is just. He is the yardstick by which justice is measured; morality is relative to God. I am unsure how would that render justice meaningless.