The Commission of Judgment
1 Samuel 15:2-3
Thus said the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way…

The Amalekites are supposed by some to have descended from Amalek. grandson of Esau (Genesis 36:12) But against this view it may he forcibly objected:

1. That a nation so powerful and so widely diffused, could scarcely have sprung up in so short a period;

2. That the seat of Esau and his posterity was much more easterly than the realm of the Amalekites; and

3. That it is not easy to suppose such near relatives of Israel exposed to such a doom, while Edom and Moab were so scrupulously spared on account of their relationship. But it is not improbable that a brave and warlike chief like Esau might, through his family, wield a powerful influence among the desert tribes, and even supply them with a name. The matter, however, is not of importance, compared with the consideration of their crime and its punishment. The assault of the Amalekites was an offence of high aggravation. It was made when Israel had newly entered on their wanderings (Exodus 17:8-16); and as the first onset of enemies it was marked by singular audacity, and attended with peculiar danger to Israel. They were ringleaders They broke the peace, and inaugurated a hostile dealing with the people. Moreover, their attack was entirely unprovoked. Besides. the manner of attack was treacherous and cruel (Deuteronomy 25:17-19), "he smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary." Hence, in Deuteronomy 25:18, the real point of the charge against Amalek is this: "he feared not God."There was something peculiarly daring and insolent in his conduct. He seems to have deliberately chosen the earliest period of assaulting them, undismayed by the terrible doings of the past, and undeterred by the pledged protection and guidance of the future. It was an eager and determined defiance of the God of Israel. Such an attitude and bearing must be providentially taken notice of. The sovereign Lord will set Himself right at once with the nations. "His counsel shall stand." The daring sinners have despised His covenant with Israel; He will meet this by another covenant regarding them. Their destruction is decided by oath. Such is the whole case against Amalek. It might seem as if the bare statement of it were enough to vindicate the Divine dealing with them. But inasmuch as ungodly men have inveighed against this dealing, and have drawn from it dark colours wherewith to sketch a gloomy caricature of the Most High; and, particularly, inasmuch as natural feeling even in the good is ever liable to a relapse into disloyal sympathy with offending fellows, a few further remarks on the subject may do some useful service.

1. Whatever objection may be raised against the dealings of God in the case of Amalek applies equally to innumerable similar cases. Take, for example, the destruction of Lisbon by an earthquake in 1755. Here we find actually occurring substantially the same woe that was denounced against Amalek. There is the same sudden, violent, widespread, indiscriminate ruin. The only differences are these: The destruction affected only a portion of the people; and the instrument employed was a blind material force, instead of an army of rational and moral beings. But these affect not the real identity of the two cases. On the question of justice, or of mercy, they fall into the same category. He who impeaches the justice of Amalek's overthrow must be prepared in consistency to carry his condemnation over the whole breadth of God's providential government. To slay a great criminal, fierce, malignant, and strong, was in one view an act of self-defence, in another, an act of retribution; and to do it at the command of a holy God was a teat and a training of the highest spiritual affections of a creature.

2. No individual Amalekite suffered more than he deserved. To this it will be immediately answered: This is impossible, for children were involved in the doom of adult sinners. We own the fact, and the difficulty growing out of it. We are persuaded, moreover, that no reasoning of man shall ever fully dissipate the mysterious darkness that hangs about the death of infants. But the mystery and gloom refer mainly to the fact, not to the matter of its occurrence. It is indeed a sad and awful thing to see young buds torn violently from the stem of life by the rude hand of war. But, alas! the hand of other spoilers has made larger havoc. Disease has filled, by millions, more infant graves than war. Will they who cavil at the commanded slaughter of the sword explain and vindicate the larger mortality of disease? They call the ills of infancy natural. It is a gross mistake. They are unnatural, abnormal, manifestly punitive. And when we say punitive, we approach nearer a solution of the great problem — instead of, as some affirm, adding to its gloom. For whether does it present, most difficulty, to view this wide-wasting death of yet irresponsible beings as the infliction of pure sovereignty, or as the result of violated law! Is it not clear that when we interpose the idea of a federal relationship, a principle of representation, by which sin transmits its doom, as by natural descent it transmits its virus, to each rising generation, we have advanced a step outwards from the dark nucleus of the difficulty.

3. The visitation of vengeance was a valuable means of moral influence. To Israel's heart it was fitted to carry impressive conviction of God's immovable determination to carry out, His purposes of love, to be their bulwark against surrounding heathenism, and to preserve them for the glories and the happiness of the future. To Israel's conscience it was fraught with most powerful stimulus — awfully reminding them of the lofty supremacy, unswerving veracity, and unsparing righteousness of their God. And so this dreadful sentence of extermination is most useful. The Lord has need of it. It is one of a series of judgments that lift their terrible tops in sight of hostile heathenism, and stand as sentinels of God around the sacred people. Human life is a sacred thing. But He surely knows this full well who has so carefully hedged it about, who marks even a sparrow's fall, and who has in gratuitous tenderness left yet to this abode of rebels its music and its flowers. And the honour of that mighty Lord, the safety of His people, the accomplishment of His grand remedial designs, are immeasurably more sacred.

(P. Richardson, B. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.

WEB: Thus says Yahweh of Armies, 'I have marked that which Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way, when he came up out of Egypt.

National Sins and National Punishments
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