How did God command the killing of children and woman when the commandments command us not to kill. I understand that God has right to kill who He pleases but why did he command the Israelites (humans) to kill others when thou shalt not kill

  • Welcome to the site, Angela. Your brief Q would be improved if you quoted the verse in question, and if you included verse 2, it would be even better, as a reason is given there! Likewise with Exodus 17:8-15. Further, you need to state the case for claiming that "thou shalt not murder" (Ex.29:13) actually means "kill".
    – Anne
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 17:05

3 Answers 3


God's reasons for commanding the destruction of the Amalekites were many. Some of them were:

  • To punish the crimes of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:2: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.')
  • To continue the transfer of the promised land to Israel
  • To keep his word, as his prophets had previously announced this judgment (See Exodus 17)
  • To test the obedience of King Saul and the Israelites (see Judges 2:20-23)
  • As continued military training for the Israelite soldiers (Judges 3:1-2)

Part of Exodus 17 says this:

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”

15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. 16 He said, “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

The question always comes down to the children. I guess we are like Saul. If God asked us today to obey him and gave us such a command, we would second guess him and spare the children and the animals because in our eyes, that is the merciful thing to do. However, look at the Amalekites. By the word of God given to Moses, their whole nation was under an edict of destruction. Yet that edict was not enforced immediately. What did they do with the grace period given to them? Did they repent and beg God to spare them? Look at what happened in other situations:

  • Jonah went to Nineveh, capital of Assyria, a wicked empire that oppressed the Jews, to tell them that God would overthrow their city in forty days. They repented in dust and ashes and God spared them and even their cattle.

  • Abraham pleaded with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if ten righteous people could be found in them. Of course none were found except Lot, who was then sent away, just as the Kenites were sent away by Israel so they would not be killed along with the Amalekites.

  • If Saul really cared about sheep and babies, he would have had the heart of Abraham and pleaded for the Amalekite children to be spared.

  • If the Amalekites loved their own children and feared God, they would have repented of their wickedness and been spared.

This teaches us a terrible lesson. If we sin and do not repent, our own children will be swept away with us on the day God sends judgment. Their deaths are on our heads, not God's. Lot's wife was warned not to look back, but she ignored the warning and perished. People are only saved if someone obeys. Noah was saved. He spent a hundred years building that boat. If any of his contemporaries had feared God and loved their children, they could have built their own boats and saved their children. The death of children is due to the disobedience of the ones commanded to care for them.

  • 1
    Saul didn't spare the children and animals because that was merciful. He took them as the spoils of war, as livestock/beasts of burden and as slaves.
    – jaredad7
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 20:05
  • 1
    My meaning was unclear. The point is that if someone thinks that God is asking one to do something unjust, one can appeal in prayer. IF Samuel was merciful AND obedient AND had faith that God was a just and compassionate God then he could have prayed to God or asked Samuel to try to persuade God to change his orders. Insubordination is not mercy. Appealing to God in humility is mercy. And yes, Saul just wanted plunder. Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 20:32
  • This response may well answer the underlying question that was not asked, but it does not answer the actual question posted. I would upvote this if it did. You have given some good, sound reasoning, and what you have said is theologically correct, but the real answer here has to do with being commanded not to "kill" in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 (KJV mistranslation of Hebrew "ratsach") and later commanded to "kill" (Hebrew "muwt") in 1 Samuel 15:3. The Hebrew uses different words because they mean different things--as brought out in @RoelfMartins correct response.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 12:02

The word "Kill" has different meanings/definitions depending on the context. For example:

  • to kill an animal
  • to kill/execute/hang a murderer
  • to kill/murder a person
  • to kill time

The word kill(H7523) in Exodus 20:13 does not have the same meaning as the word kill(H4191) in 1 Sam 15:3. Kill in Exodus 20:13 is like murder, whereas kill in 1 Sam 15:3 is like an execution.

Numbers 35:16 clearly shows a difference between the kill that God fordids in Exodus 20:13 and the kill that God commands in 1 Sam 15:3

Num 35:16  And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer[H7523 as in Ex 20] shall surely be put to death [H4191 as in 1 Sam 15:3]

*H7523 & H4191 are the Strongs numbers for the Hebrew words translated.

  • H7523, meaning "murder" is the Hebrew word "ratsach"
  • H4191, meaning "die" or "put to death", is "muwt". Note that God never commanded "ratsach" (murder)--which is what is forbidden in the Ten Commandments
  • 2
    +1 for a good answer. This is the correct answer; however, it would be strengthened by the addition of the transliterated Hebrew words, not just their Strong's numbers. H7523, meaning "murder" is the Hebrew word "ratsach"; whereas H4191, meaning "die" or "put to death", is "muwt". And you are absolutely correct that Numbers 35 is the Bible chapter which defines "murder" and distinguishes it from accidental killing or judicious killing. It would be good to note that God never commanded "ratsach" (murder)--which is what is forbidden in the Ten Commandments.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 11:25

Since this site goes beyond biblical hermeneutics to deal with Christianity in general, we should move beyond the bible quotes to the thorny ethical and theological problem that underlies the OP. Obviously the 10 Commandments do not outlaw all killing, for this would contradict many other instructions from God in the Hebrew Bible, from the specific case mentioned in the OP to general commandments such as: "thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life..." (Deuteronomy 19:21) and "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." (Exodus 22:18)

But the problem is not solved by saying this killing was not murder, for women and children are non-combatants. They were not collateral damage but intentional targets. Nor should the question be limited killing women and children. That issue is difficult enough. But it is also a question of genocide, because God reportedly ordered the elimination of entire Amalekite people, saying, as quoted by the prophet Samuel:

"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... fight against them until they be consumed." (1 Sam. 15:3,18)

Today we need to ask: did God really command such things? Whether he did or not, we must stand against it today.

Thus, the U.S. National Council of Churches, repenting 36 Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox denominations, condemned the Holocaust and supported legislation condemning the Armenian genocide. It has been addressing the broader issue as well.

Catholic teaching similarly condemns genocide and other crimes against humanity.

So how could God command the genocide of the Amalekites, including their women and children? The OP question has no simple answer other than to justify holy war against the Amalekites based on other OT standards which are no longer operative either for Christians or Jews.

The answer for some of us that God did not command the murder of women and children then, and he does not now. However, this implies a skepticism toward the Bible than many find unacceptable. For others, such commands were necessary in God's plan in the OT Age, but not now that Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. In either case, Christians and Jews today have reached consensus today that God does not command us to kill women and children in war, no matter how sinful the enemy.

  • 2
    The views expressed in this answer appear biased by the modern heresy circulating through the churches that claims God does not kill or destroy. This error also forces its adherents to eventually reject the Old Testament, thinking that in the New Testament God is more loving. True, Jesus did not kill anyone. But he did curse the fig tree simply for having no fruit, and taught that those who do not know him will be cast into outer darkness (hell). There is a tough side to love, and God is sometimes forced to kill and to destroy for the greater good. Sinners will not live forever.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 11:47
  • Better the "modern heresy" than believing that God is a jihadist as bad or worse than the Taliban. I do not reject the OT however. But God weeps that his children would believe him to have ordered the murder of women and children. Those who don't see the difference between a just war and genocide have lost the moral compass that God gave them. Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 20:17
  • Most who have a "moral compass" will recognize God's fairness and justice in not merely letting unrepentant criminals off scot-free with an "I forgive you" and "I won't punish you." Most who claim that God will never kill or destroy would be hard-pressed to forgive the rapist and murderer of their innocent daughter, or to agree with the judge who acquitted the villain. Neither will God be so unjust as to overlook the heinous crimes committed by unrepentant sinners. However, even when God performs His "strange act" (see Isaiah 28:21) of justice, it is the most loving thing He could do.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 20:28

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