Q. I was asked, and don’t know the answer behind the story, so I’m hoping you can explain; why did God (and why would he) command Saul in 1 Samuel 15:3 “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.”
If children are innocent, why the children? I’ve heard other commentators suggest that Agag’s family-tree eventually led to Yasser Arafat and that if Saul had followed God’s command, today there would be no Palestinian issue haunting the Jews.
A. In Exodus 17:8-16 the Amalakites attacked the Israeiltes and were defeated, but the Lord swore vengeance on them and said He would completely blot out the memory of them. The fact that it took supernatural power to defeat the Amalekites and the severity of the Lord’s pledge to destroy them indicates there was more going on here than the text reveals.
When Saul was chosen as Israel’s first king he was told to completely destroy the Amalekites as an instrument of the Lord’s vengeance (1 Sam 15:3). He botched the assignment which cost him his position. He didn’t kill King Agag (1 Samuel15:20) and he allowed others from the Amalekites to escape (1 Chron. 4:43). The descendant of one of these was Haman the Agagite who almost succeeded in destroying the Israelites in the time of the Persian Kingdom. The Book of Esther records this story which is memorialized in the feast of Purim.
Since then, evil men who have in mind the destruction of the Jews are often said to be Amalekites. Adolph Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat, and Iranian Pres. Ahmadinejad are the ones most often mentioned. I think the association is more based on the similarity of their intent than on actual blood lines.