My notes on 1 Sam. 15 covered the appalling (to a modern eye) story of the massacre of the Amalekites. God is depicted as ordering that an entire people be wiped out, regardless of age or sex, in revenge for a centuries-old quarrel, and as being angry only because the Israelites spare the king and the best animals rather than killing everything that moves, according to instructions.
This strikes me as an interesting text with which to confront those Christian and Jewish bigots who quote random nasty-sounding passages from the Koran and use them to sneer at the claim that al-Islam is a “religion of peace.” That’s especially true for those (Franklin Graham springs to mind) whose own religious commitments include belief in Biblical inerrancy.
Our little study group, having worked its way through Deuteronomy, is used to encountering in ancient Hebrew texts attributions to God of atrocious actions and commandments; much of the rabbinic tradition is devoted to interpreting some of those commandments (to stone to death the “stubborn and rebellious son,” to wipe out the “apostate village,”) so as to ensure they will never be invoked in practice.
Within contemporary Judaism, the distinction between the haredim on the one hand and the modern Orthodox, the Conservative, and the Reform traditions on the other has to do, among other issues, with the willingness of the latter groups to distance themselves from the repeated claims in the text (especially in the book of Joshua) that it was the Divine will that the Israelites commit genocide.
Theologically liberal Protestants and Catholics presumably find this problem even easier, since they can appeal to the New Covenant as superceding what Christians (but not Jews) call the Old Testament.
But I’m curious about what traditionalist Catholic and evangelical Protestant theologians have made of, and now make of, these passages. I know that slavery was defended on Biblical grounds; was genocide? And how, if at all, have things changed in the post-Holocaust period?
If you have expert knowledge in the area or can cite relevant authors or texts, please respond in the comments. If you feel a strong need to rehearse your contempt for evangelicals in particular or religion in general, or to argue that Jericho is a good model for dealing with Mecca or Teheran, please do so elsewhere.