Useful Bible Studies > 1 Samuel Commentary > chapter 15

An especially severe act of judgement

1 Samuel 15:3

Godís instructions in 1 Samuel 15:3 may give us a shock. The modern rules for war do not allow soldiers to kill anyone who is not actually opposing them. Soldiers should not kill their enemiesí children. However the reality, even in the modern world, is that very many children constantly die because of wars.

In the ancient world, these instructions would also have caused shock, but for a different reason. When soldiers fought battles on behalf of their nation, they expected to receive a reward for their efforts. After a successful battle, they took from their enemies anything that had any value whatever. Every soldier expected to take away animals, knives, clothes and perhaps even silver and gold. They took home women and children to be their slaves. They even took whatever they could from the bodies of dead and dying men. Everyone considered that soldiers had a right to these things as their wages.

So it was an unusually severe act of judgement when God ordered the soldiers to destroy everything. It happened very rarely in the Bible. God only made such a judgement against a nation or a city that had become completely evil. He would not allow anyone to remain alive who could continue the wicked acts of that nation or city.

In fact, some of Amalekís men did remain alive after this war. 1 Samuel 30:1-2 shows us that they continued to carry out cruel and wicked acts. In the end, one of them killed King Saul (2 Samuel 1:5-10).

Even when God issues such severe judgements, he always shows mercy (kindness). He is kind to the people who obey him. He saved Noah from the great flood (Genesis 6:9-22); he saved Lot from Sodom (Genesis chapter 19). He saved Rahabís family from Jericho (Joshua 6:25). He saved the people called Kenites from Amalek (15:6). His judgements are severe, but his mercy is great (Exodus 34:6-7).

Next part: Saulís vast army (1 Samuel 15:4)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.