Thoughts of a former evangelical Christian

“Good News Club” on the Slaughter of the Amalekites

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Christianity as Tribalism: Initiation, Good News Club on April 19, 2010 at 2:09 am

One of the most horrifying narratives in all of the Bible — a blasphemy if there be a good God in heaven — is in I Samuel 15, where God is credited with commanding the Israelites to slaughter the Amalekites completely, including “women, children, and infants.”

Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD.   This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.  Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ “

The I Samuel narrative continues with how Saul carried out the genocide — “all his people he totally destroyed with the sword” (v. 8′) — but disobeyed God by sparing king Agag and some animals.  The prophet Samuel rebuked Saul for sparing even one person: “The LORD anointed you king over Israel.  And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.’  Why did you not obey the LORD ?”  (v. 17-19).

Ranked one of God’s Top 50 Killings, you might be surprised to know that the story has been illustrated on flannelgraph to thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of impressionable boys and girls.  I was one of them.  I was 8 or 9 years old.

You should find it disturbing that the flannelgraph story is published by none other than Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) — an enormous evangelical organization with 700 full-time workers and 40,000 volunteers and the developer of the Good News Clubs.  Yes, CEF regards the story of the Amalekite slaughter (and Saul’s incomplete execution of it) as an important children’s Bible lesson on how important it is to completely obey God.

It’s at the very heart of Lesson 2 of “David: A Man After God’s Heart,” a series of Bible lessons published by CEF.  Although I quote from a 1972 edition of the Bible lesson guide, CEF’s website description of lesson 2 doesn’t suggest any changes:

Lesson 2 – Saul’s Disobedience (1 Sam. 12:1-25; 13:1-14; 15:1-35): Seek God’s strength when you’re tempted to disobey. Memory verse: James 4:17

So let’s take a look inside the CEF teacher’s manual.  Below is an excerpt directly from text teachers are encouraged to tell the young:

The CEF manual continues: “Soon afterward Saul and his army met the Amalekites on the battlefield.  The Amalekites were completely defeated.  But all was not well…”  because Saul spared king Agag, the animals, and erected a monument of the battle.  Several paragraphs later, the lesson describes Samuel’s rebuke of Saul:

 “The Lord chose you to be king over Israel when you didn’t think you were so important.”  Samuel must have been thinking about that monument that Saul had built to honor himself.  He continued, “The Lord sent you out under His orders.  He said ‘Completely destroy the Amalekites, those evil doers.’  Now why haven’t you done it?”

Proud Saul refused to admit the sin of disobedience.  Not only was he disobedient, he also was dishonest.  He lied when he said he did all that God told him to do.  It is a very serious thing not to agree that we are wrong when the Lord points it out to us.  The Lord can neither save nor bless us if we do not admit our sins….

That’s right.  This CEF children’s Bible lesson stresses how sinful and disobedient Saul was for failing to “completely destroy the Amalekites, those evil doers.”  This is followed by a long lecture on sin, repentance, and the need for “complete obedience”:

When Saul heard again that he was to be rejected as king, he was sad.  But he was not sorry about his sin.  If we truly want God to forgive us our sins, we must not only admit that we have sinned, but we must be sorry about sin and turn from it….

How dreadful to refuse God’s way for our own proud way.  God is not satisfied with anything but complete obedience.  But you cannot obey the Lord until you’ve trusted Him as your Savior from sin.

And then — of course — the teacher follows this up by leading the children, as he/she is supposed to do every week, in a sinner’s prayer that reminds them that they deserve to die for their sins, but that Jesus died in their place:

If you have never received the Lord Jeus you can do it right now.  Tell God that you know you have sinned — you have done wrong things.  Tell Him that you believe His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, died and rose again for your sins.  (Death is the punishment for sin.  He was punished for your sins when He shed His blood on the cross.)  If you would like to receive the Lord Jesus as your Saviour from sin, would you raise your hand just now?

P.S.:  Ken Pulliam, Ph.D., provides an extensive critique, in over a dozen blog posts, of the various apologetics Christians put forward to justify this divinely inspired genocide.

  1. Eric,

    Thanks for the post. I am not surprised that this is included in CEF literature. Its a favorite text for a lot of evangelicals with regard to obedience. I remember many sermons in which this passage was used to illustrate that “partial obedience” is still “disobedience.” The moral crime of killing infants and children is just glossed over and ignored. You wonder how a SS teacher might respond if a young child raised his hand and asked why did God want to kill all the little children? I thought Jesus loved all the little children of the world?

  2. […] I wrote a few months ago in “Good News Club” on the Slaughter of the Amalekites, CEF uses this Bible story to emphasize the importance of “total obedience” to […]

  3. […] posts on this blog–see here and here and here–have discussed the dark gospel of Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Good News […]

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