God commands that we not murder, but then he orders murder in 1 Samuel 15:3. How can I resolve this difficulty?
Did God order that 6th commandment be broken when in 1 Samuel 15:3 He ordered the murder of the innocent children and infants (innocent in terms of them not having done the things the Amelikites did that forced God to order their killing). Or am I confusing the definition of murder? The reason I ask is because I believe in objective morality, so murder, rape, stealing, etc is wrong (because God created these objective moral laws) no matter what anyone thinks/feels or where they are born. So if God really did tell the Israelites to murder (again I think I might have a wrong def of murder) the innocent, would that mean that murder, rape, stealing, etc is bad unless God tells someone to do it? Thanks for your time and patience, you are a major help to many brothers and sisters in Christ and even non-believers with your God given plethora of knowledge!!
Murder, by definition, is the taking of a human life by another human for personal reasons. Capital punishment is not considered murder. Killing of or by a soldier in war is not considered murder. The killing of another in an act of self-defense is not considered murder in any society that I know of. God did not command murder at any time, including the destruction of the Amelekites in 1 Samuel 15:3. He ordered the taking of life in a military action. The fact that God ordered the taking of life in a battle is a difficult thing to contemplate to be sure, and I do not mean to minimize this difficult question of why God authorizes the Israelites to make war on their enemies. However, to call this murder is to miscategorize the situation. Murder is always wrong in all situations. It is the taking of a life for selfish reasons or for reasons that are clearly not justified by legal authority.
Again, the question of why God commanded his people to make war, including offensive war in the Promised Land is a difficult issue and it should not be shoved under the rug. However, the commandment to not murder is found in both the Old and the New Testaments (Rev 21:8, etc.), and 1 Samuel is NOT an example of God asking someone to commit murder.
In fact, in the first and second millennium BC, in order for God’s people to possess and to hold land it was literally impossible for them to do so without being prepared to take life in war. It was both impossible to occupy the land in the first place and then to hold that land if Israel was not willing and able to defend the land using military force, and to kill those who attacked their land. In ancient times it was inconceivable that Israel’s enemies would not go after them in raids and warfare.
So, if it was God’s plan to create a people and a place to bless and through whom to sent the Messiah, involvement in warfare was absolutely unavoidable. But, murder was never authorized or condoned anywhere in the Bible.
Might murder rape and stealing ever be OK? What about lying? Now we are talking about situational ethics. I believe that situational ethics is not a contradiction in terms. There are examples of behaviors which would not normally be right that a situation may justify. For example, if a murderer were to break into the home of a Christian and ask whether there were other people in the house for him to murder, I believe it would be acceptable and not a sin to lie about people in the house in order to protect those people. In this rather unlikely situation, I believe that the ends would justify the means. However, there is no way that rape or murder could ever be justified by situational ethics. Period. Could lying be justified by circumstance? I believe so. What about stealing in order to not starve? I believe perhaps so. However, murder does not belong in this category. Period.