PonderIt

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Agag, Saul, and the Church in Politics

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 15:3
What western mind doesn't recoil in horror at such a command from the Lord as this one delivered to Saul? We see it as a primitive and barbaric command. And we may be right.

Perhaps, upon receiving such a command, any of us would refuse the order from the assumed safety of our moral high ground.

Of course we realize that Saul didn't fully obey the commandment either. Probably not for the same reasons that you or I might be reluctant to do so, but he failed to obey nevertheless. Saul was supposed to kill all of the Amalekites, but he didn't. He saved (at least) the king of the people alive. That king was Agag.

Perhaps Saul thought of a dozen reasons for preserving the life of the king. Perhaps he recognized the morale booster it would be for his people to see their enemy in captivity. Perhaps Saul was respecting the customs of his people. Perhaps he saw future political advantage in dealing with other nations by saving Agag alive. We don't really know all the reasons why Saul didn't obey. We just know that God wasn't happy.

Samuel the prophet comes in and kills Agag himself.

Years later the story gets more interesting. Fast forward to Esther 3:1. In this verse we meet Haman and we learn that Haman is a descendant of Agag. That is supposed to cause you to do a double take. Isn't this the same Agag who wasn't supposed to have any descendants?

If you're halfway up with the times, you've seen the VeggieTales version of this story and you know who Haman is. (How did anybody know Old Testament stories before they invented VeggieTales?) Haman nearly succeeded in orchestrating the massacre of the Jews in that kingdom. Only the heroic Queen Esther saved the day.

If only the earlier command of the Lord had been followed! How did a descendant of Haman survive? We don't know, but it seems clear that the Israelites didn't do a very good job with their earlier assignment under Saul. Even though it creeps me out to think that such a command to end the lives of women and children could ever be right, it appears that the Lord might have a higher and more merciful purpose in mind. (I suppose it goes without saying that you had better be darn sure you're getting your revelation from the right source before you carry out a command of this magnitude.)

My thoughts are definitely not God's thoughts. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out where I could be headed with the title of this post.

5 Comments:

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  • Bradley, this story has often given me pause. I had never made that Agag-Haman link. Thank you for pointing it out.

    My family loves the Veggie Tales version of Esther, but my wife *really* likes the Liken the Scriptures version. Jeff Stevens is a talented performer that does an excellent job of making Haman look like a self-absorbed, but charming creep.

    By Blogger Reach Upward, at 6/26/2006 9:17 AM  

  • I think you've hit a key point. We don't always understand the full purposes of the Lord's commands, and may believe we are following a higher moral road. The implications from your post are very far reaching, but I shan't identify anything specific myself. I simply must agree that we must be certain we are following God's command and no one else's, but if he commands something that we may believe to be morally wrong (Nephi killing Laban, as another example), we should still be certain to follow through. The Lord certainly has the highest ground on these matters.

    By Blogger darth_ender, at 6/26/2006 4:59 PM  

  • I find myself lately 2nd-guessing what's from the Lord and what's from the person claiming to speak for Him.

    Maybe Samuel had a thing for blood?

    What deep dark damage and canker does it do a (wo)man's soul to run a sword through an infant, nay, another human being? How could this possibly be a good thing to do? How could it not possibly scar them spiritually?

    I think there's a lot of justifying and rationalizing that goes on and is blamed on the Lord. I think Samuel and that the whole bunch of Israelites had their sick moments, Prophet notwithstanding.

    By Anonymous spiegel, at 7/01/2006 11:38 PM  

  • spiegel doesn't realise what agag and the amelakites symbolise - demonic powers which must be destroyed utterly and completely...or they come back to haunt you. The OT is not just a set of contentious stories; The OT is for our spiritual instruction/edification.
    Thanks for the Haman lumination.

    By Blogger gabrielle, at 7/12/2006 8:57 AM  

  • Still regardless it is the life of one race for another based on their use of human sacrifice. It is also clear that the tribe of Agag has a tendency for temper and anger, but then still do the Jews, I am one and I can say that. As an Arab Jew the story of the first genocide is troublesome.
    There are some Buddhists who fear the earlier God was actually a jealous god, or Mara owner of heaven and Earth for his preference for blood and sacrifice, which caused negative Karma to build for his people, causing them to remain trapped in Samsara. A very interesting idea, and that a benevolent deity conquered him later, perhaps the son, and began preaching peace, Jesus. Interesting thoughts.
    But there is a story of Buddha also killing a single man who might have killed many others in an earlier incarnation out of compassion for the victims, and the man who would have made negative karma for himself.
    Regardless, killing a race is wrong. To generalize about an entire tribe or race of people, and kill them for a believed tendency, well today for instance, people have many choices outside of custom.
    The first Agag or King of the Amalekites attacks the Jews during Exodus (Baalam) through the desert for walking through their lands as many tribes would do. The military killed all but one prince which causes them to be exiled (the Jewish military) to the area of Medina.
    This prince no doubt developed hatred of the Jews from the genocide of his people. Then Saul spares a son in another genocide years later after the race regained itself. 500 years later this child's descendents of course hate the Jews from this genocide. Yet a Amalekite oversees Saul's suicide and relates it to David, saying he killed Saul. David then kills him for reicide.
    It is obvious that Haman was raised in to seek retribution, as his fathers before him due to the act of the Israelites. His children would have done the same, but I believe his 10 sons did the same. However with this tendency to have many sons after 500 years others were there as well.

    By Anonymous habib, at 8/12/2007 10:46 PM  



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