The Amalekite Destruction a Moral Atrocity?
Mr. Till agreed to affirm: "The Israelite destruction of the Amalekite nation as
recorded in the Bible constituted a moral atrocity." His first affirmative asserts much and
proves nothing. Clearly, he has no case to make. Mr. Till's proclivity to bluster about the
affirmations of Christians led me to insist that he set forth an affirmative case in this
exchange. His first article is disappointing but not unexpected.
Before responding to Mr. Till's "affirmative," I must address three matters. First,
questions about the existence of Amalekites after the battle recorded in 1 Samuel 15 are
not relevant. Mr. Till obligated himself to show that Israelite conduct in this incident con-
stituted a moral atrocity. Raising such issues does not establish his case. I refuse to chase
that rabbit, except to say that Amalekite military units that were out of the country when
Saul's army swept through would have escaped destruction. Note further that Saul defied
God's instructions concerning the Amalekite king and the best of the cattle. Who knows
what more he neglected to do in carrying out God's instructions?
Second, Mr. Till posed a series of questions to me. This was not part of our agree-
ment; therefore, I will not answer his questions. He knows it is the place of the negative
disputant to question the affirmative side. I did not make such a request of Mr. Till be-
cause of my desire to grapple with his affirmative. However, he has provided precious little
in the way of an affirmative case.
Third, Mr. Till threw out two incidents in which Jewish rulers engaged in conduct he
considers morally atrocious. Citing these incidents does not establish his case. His job is to
show that Israelite conduct in the battle recorded in 1 Samuel 15 constitutes a moral atroci-
ty. David's conduct in 2 Samuel 8:2 and Menahem's conduct in 2 Kings 15:16 are not the
points at issue.
Mr. Till's affirmative consists of nothing more than asking us to visualize the
Amalekite experience when the Israelites marched against them. He reminds us of the
primitive weapons used. He asked us to consider what it was like to hear the shrieks and
cries of the women and children as the soldiers of God pursued their grim mission. He
reminds us that each of the Amalekites had individual names and personalities. I would
have noted that each one was created in God's image, but Mr. Till does not believe that.
He thinks man ascended from bugs and other lower life forms. The tragedy is enormous,
and we recoil at the thought of such utter destruction. It is a graphic illustration of the
terrible cost paid by a society that persisted in rebellion against God. It is a powerful
reminder that the actions of leaders have enormous effects on the lives of their people.
The scene evokes powerful emotions, but intense emotions do not establish Mr. Till's case.
He is obligated to demonstrate that what took place was a moral atrocity, not that it was a
terrible calamity. No one disputes that fact.
Understanding the background leading to this battle helps us understand God's
order to exterminate the Amalekites. Amalek was a tribe of Bedouins living in the country
to the south of Judah. They were enemies of Israel from the time of the Exodus. They
attacked the refugees from Egypt in Rephidim (Ex. 17:8-16) and blocked their entrance
into Canaan from the South (Num. 14:45). In Deuteronomy 25:17-19, they are condemned
for having picked off stragglers from an Israelite column on the march. The wonder is that
God's holiness had spared the ruthless Amalekites for so long. Decades of patience had
not produced any positive change.
What could better impress upon the Israelites the monstrous nature of sin than
being required to administer punishment for sin? Thus, God declared a "holy war." In such
a conflict, the adversary along with his possessions was placed under a ban (cherem), i. e.,
no booty was to be taken from the vanquished foe. All people and animals were to be
killed, and all property of value was to be burned as consecrated to the Lord (Josh.
6:17,21). The total destruction of the adversary and his goods removed all personal profit
motives. Those who participated in battle fought only as avenging agents of God.
Mr. Till, a pro-death advocate of abortion, is concerned about the fate of the
Amalekite children but has no concern for 1.5 million innocents slaughtered in this country
annually. He will not allow the Omniscient God to look down the corridors of time and see
that the babes of Amalek were destined to become vicious beasts like their ancestors. He
will not allow the Lord of creation to mete out justice upon the wicked and call the inno-
cent into the protection of his heavenly city. He is distressed about the "thousands" of
Amalekites, but 25-30 million Americans murdered by abortion are of no concern to him.
He asked us to look with disdain on that horrible day when God punished the sin of
Amalek, but he supports the wanton slaughter of innocents occurring all about him. Mr.
Till defends death by dismemberment via the dilation and curettage abortion procedure.
He supports covering infants with a corrosive, forcing it into their lungs and stomach, and
leaving them to convulse for hours until death mercifully comes. This is accomplished
through salt poisoning abortion. Given a choice, I would much rather die by sword or
Mr. Till will not concede that God stands ontologically on a higher plane than man,
which qualifies him to justly require actions that no man could require. He says there is no
evidence that God exists, but he spends a considerable portion of his time fighting against
him. He tells us that this is done in an attempt to free people from harmful religious super-
stitions, but Mr. Till is obviously not free. His life is consumed with rebellion against what
he says does not exist.
Despite the restrictions Mr. Till places on God, he is confortable condoning the
brutal death of over 4,000 infants every day. According to Mr. Till, the population might
get out of control, and he would not have enough to eat.
After countless decades of rebellion, God passed judgment on the Amalekites.
Proving themselves intractable foes and a relentless threat to Israel, they were destroyed.
Mr. Till will not allow justice to be served in this case, yet he defends the slaughter of
innocent infants who are an inconvenience or a source of embarrassment. He is comfort-
able with tax money financing the extermination of these unfortunate babes, because he
thinks they represent a threat to him. It is a moral atrocity for God to punish a wicked
nation, but modern men can justly kill people who are inconvenient. The Jewish nation
cannot destroy an enemy that has proved an unrelenting and brutal foe, but it is acceptable
to kill people whose presence would be embarrassing. The legs of the lame are unequal!
Three things make it impossible for Mr. Till to establish his case concerning Israel-
ite conduct in 1 Samuel 15. First, he admittedly labors under an enormous burden of
ignorance. He does not know what he is talking about and has candidly admitted it. In his
debate with H. A. Dobbs in Portland, Texas, Mr. Till readily conceded that he knows far
less than one percent of available empirical data. In his debate with Mac Deaver in San
Marcos, Texas, he admitted the possibility of being wrong in affirming that God is guilty of
moral atrocities. Until he knows what he is talking about, Mr. Till should not accuse God
of evil conduct.
Second, Mr. Till believes that man's knowledge is restricted to what he gains
through one of his five senses. Given that epistemological posture, he cannot know any-
thing he has not personally tasted, touched, smelled, seen, or heard. He has forever shut
himself off from any evidence that results from testimony. He has no literary historical
past. However, Mr. Till makes no attempt to be consistent in this matter. He readily ap-
peals to history when he deems it convenient to his cause. When an opponent appeals to
history to show the fallacies in his position, he hides behind his false epistemology limiting
knowledge to information derived through sensory perception. This will not pass. I insist
that he be consistent or give ground on this point.
Given his epistemology, we should not be engaged in this exchange! Neither of us
saw, smelled, heard, touched, or tasted the battle recorded in 1 Samuel 15. In fact, Mr. Till
doubts that the events described there ever occurred. Neither of us knows anyone who
knew someone who witnessed the events of 1 Samuel 15.
Given Mr. Till's view, I am not sure that a man named Farrell Till actually exists. I
do not know that Canton, Illinois, is a real place. Who knows where those long laborious
letters filled with great swelling words, laced with bitter invectives, signed by someone
purporting to be Farrell Till really came from? Such absurdity is the inevitable conse-
quence of the assertion that one can know only what comes to him through sensory percep-
tion. Mr. Till's adherence to this epistemological posture makes it logically impossible and
ethically duplicitous for him to affirm or deny anything that is not a part of his personal
sensory experience. Therefore, he cannot honestly hope to prove that Israelite conduct in 1
Samuel 15 was morally atrocious.
Third, Farrell Till believes that no absolute objective moral standard exists. If this is
true, he has no philosophical basis for objecting to any action, anywhere, anytime. It is
impossible to have a moral atrocity in the absence of an objective moral standard against
which to measure thoughts, words, and deeds. According to Mr. Till nothing is objectively
wrong. Nothing at all. Hence, he has no right to charge anyone with a moral atrocity.
All that he can logically say, given his philosophical stance, is that certain things
offend Farrell Till. To which I would only reply, if arguing from his perspective, "So what?
So what if you disapprove of my actions? I could not care less." There would be no moral
imperative, no logical intellectual basis for him to object to my actions. Unless he could
physically overpower me (which he cannot do), there would be no basis for him to demand
redress of his grievance. He is incapable of forcing the issue physically, and he has no intel-
lectual route of appeal in the absence of an objective moral standard. Given Mr. Till's view
that there is no such standard, I could assault him, inflicting multiple contusions and lacera-
tions about his head and body without being in error. He would not like it, it would be a
most unpleasant experience, but it would not be a moral atrocity. Remember, there is no
objective moral standard and no ultimate judge to enforce it. Hence, it would not be wrong
for me, accompanied by some of my ex-commando buddies, to go to Mr. Till's home to
spoil his goods, kill his children, ravage his wife, and mercilessly torture him because his
views are offensive to me. Thus, we are led by Mr. Till to the law of the jungle! It is vile
and repugnant, but it is the logical consequence of obliterating an objective moral standard.
I trust that in the next exchange the distinguished editor of The Skeptical Review will
honor his commitment to make the case that Israel's conduct in 1 Samuel 15 constituted a
moral atrocity. Emotive descriptions of the scene will not establish his case. Introducing
other incidents he finds objectionable will not establish his assertions. Attempting to shift
focus to the negative disputant by posing perplexing questions will never make Mr. Till's
case. What he must do is produce sensory evidence that compels the conclusion that Is-
rael's conduct in 1 Samuel 15 was morally atrocious. He must show that his conclusion is
logically demanded in the absence of an objective moral standard. Saying it is horrible and
offensive to his sensibilities will not suffice under Mr. Till's philosophical construct. Per-
haps he is saving the best for last. We shall see.
(Lindell Mitchell's address is P. O. Box 411, Livingston, TX 77351.)