5.13 1 Samuel -- Chop! Chop!

         "As your sword has made women childless,
         so will your mother be childless among women."
         And Samuel put Agag to death before the Lord at Gilgal (1 Sam 15:33).

        

The gruesome death of Agag, king of the Amalekites, was consistent with one of the Biblical templates of racial relationships: destroy the outsider.  It is wrong that critics harp on this as THE primary attitude of God to non-believers.  It is equally wrong that some believers nullify the judgments of God in the solvent of Jesus' universal love.    

         

It is very important to recall that in this case, as with the other Canaanite nations, God's sentence of capital punishment was based on prior acts of those nations.  These sins included idolatry, violence, sexual deviance, and hostility to Israel.  More questionable to modern readers is the fact that in this case distant descendants were held guilty for the sins of their ancestors.  Furthermore, they apparently never knew why Israel attacked them, nor were they ever given any opportunity for repentance for the sins of their forebears.  This is indeed a severe judgment -- for which one of us can bear the responsibility for our own deeds, let alone the cumulative weight of the last ten generations of our parents?

         

In this case, however, Agag's death was also punishment for his own sins -- his sword had made women childless, so now it was his turn.  He who had not shown mercy would not receive it.  Still, this was not the general attitude of God or of the Old Testament to all foreigners.  Remember -- at the same time the Amalekites were defeated, Saul spared the Kenites for their age-old friendship with Israel (1 Sam 15:6).

       

An interesting reversal of roles took place in this execution.  Just as Saul previously usurped Samuel's priestly role in offering up the sacrifice at Gilgal, so now Samuel stepped into the role of the military leader and king.  He wielded the sword on the unsuspecting Agag.  It was a further attestation that God had removed the political mantle from Saul.