Many years ago when I started to think about questions I might eventually blog about, this question was not one of them. However, a decade or so ago, the idea that God loves everyone became more prominent. I believe this was at least in part due to a book called Love Wins (2011) by Rob Bell. This idea was at odds with what I had grown up with and had later come to believe for myself, so I decided it was time to look carefully at Scripture to see what it says. Perhaps what I had come to believe was wrong; maybe God really did, and does, love everyone.
Let’s start with Genesis 6:5, before the flood, where it says, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Two verses later: “So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth.'” In verse 8: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” In verse 13: “So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.'” You probably know the rest of the story: the Lord commanded Noah to build an ark, which he did, and he and his family (Noah, his wife, three sons, and three daughters-in-law) rode out the flood; the rest of mankind was wiped out. It doesn’t sound to me like God loved the evil people of Noah’s time.
Next, let’s take an extended look at a group of people called the Amalekites. They are first mentioned in Genesis 14:7, but they make their first major appearance in the Bible in Exodus 17:8-16. After the Israelites escaped from Egypt, with the Lord drowning Pharaoh and his troops, the Amalekites were the first group of people that attacked the Israelites, who defeated them. In verse 14, the Lord says, “I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
Here’s what Moses reminded the Israelites in Deuteronomy 25:17-19: “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!” Notice the identical phrase beginning with “blot out.”
Now look at I Samuel 15:2-3, where the prophet Samuel says to King Saul, “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.'” Maybe you know what happened next: Saul spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, along with the best of the sheep and cattle. Because Saul did not obey the Lord completely, the Lord rejected him as king. (This was not the end of the Amalekites; the last mention of an Amalekite descendant in the Bible is Haman the Agagite (a descendant of King Agag) in the book of Esther; in an interesting turn of events, Haman tried to wipe out the Jews, but his plot was foiled by Queen Esther.)
It doesn’t sound to me like the Lord loved the Amalekites; He repeatedly commanded the Israelites to destroy them because they had waylaid His weary people when they came up from Egypt. They also had no fear of God, as Deuteronomy and their own actions tell us. As a side note about the Amalekites, I find it very interesting that Amalek was Esau’s grandson (I Chronicles 1:36). And in Malachi 1:2-3, the Lord says, “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.” I agree with others who have said and written that we shouldn’t color this statement with our human emotions of love and hate. Rather, it refers to the Lord’s divine election (choosing) of Jacob and rejection of Esau.
The pre-flood people of Noah’s time and the Amalekites are striking examples from the Old Testament of people who at the very least we can question whether the Lord loved. There are other examples as well. Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19) come to mind; the Lord saves only Lot and his two daughters from destruction. In my next post, I will continue to answer this question by focusing on the New Testament.