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Objections To The Claim That The Amalekite
in 2 Samuel 1 Was Lying About Killing Saul


Concerning the discrepancies in 1 Samuel 31:4-6 and 2 Samuel 1:8-10 about the manner in which Saul died, the usual answer of the person who believes that there is no human error in the Holy Bible is that the Amalekite was lying.

Mr Bert Thompson, Ph.D. writes on a Christian apologetics website:

"It would not be unusual for a Bible writer to record a story that was told at the time as the truth when, in fact, it was a lie. Genesis 3:4, without comment on its false nature. The writer of 1 Kings 13 recorded the lie of the older prophet to the younger prophet (a lie that ultimately caused the younger prophet’s death). John recorded Peter’s three-fold lie when he denied being one of Christ’s disciples (18:15-27)".

With respect to Mr. Thompson, such passages do not offer any evidence at all that the Amalekite is lying in 2 Samuel 1:10. Indeed, because such passages offered by Mr Thompson are verifiable in the Bible as being lies, the assumption that the Amalekite is lying in 2 Samuel 1:10 becomes even more groundless because there is no Biblical verification or slight indication that the Amalekite is lying. Each of the passages mentioned by Mr. Thompson has a Biblical reference that a lie was told whereas - and this is the point - there is no Biblical reference indicating a lie being told in 2 Samuel 1:10, not even the slightest hint of it.

The author states that a lie was told in Genesis 3:4...
"And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die"...
...and that this is said "without a comment on its nature" (so says the author). However, on the contrary, the Bible states prior to this in verse 3:1 about the nature of the serpent...
"Now the serpent was more guileful/crafty (aruwm => sly, guileful, shrewd, crafty) than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made".
This is more than a mere indication that the word of the serpent cannot be trusted, it is a comment on the nature of any speech coming from the serpent. Thus, in essence, it is untrue to say that the lie spoken by the serpent just three verses later is "without a comment on its nature". Furthermore, there are references to the devil being in the "beginning" (Genesis), which strongly infers the serpent: In John 8:44, Jesus told the religionists of the day...
"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it".
Further references strongly indicating that the serpent and the devil are either one and the same or closely allied are: II Corinthians 11:3, Ezekiel 28:15, I John 3:8, Ezekiel 28:13. All this would clearly indicate that the serpent in Genesis could not be trusted to tell the truth. Genesis 3:4 does not indicate in any way a Biblical inference that the Amalekite is lying in 2 Samuel 1 as one passage has a Biblical "witness" to the lie and the other passage does not.

Next, we are told by the author that the lie in 1 Kings 13 "was told at the time as the truth when, in fact, it was a lie", and we are expected to believe this as proof that the Amalekite is lying in 2 Samuel 1:10. However, in 1 Kings 13:18, we read this...
"He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him".
In the very same verse as the lie, the lie itself is declared as a lie: "But he lied unto him". How does this in any way prove that the Amalekite is lying in 2 Samuel 1:10 when there is no Biblical clue or reference to the fact that the Amalekite is lying?

Next, we are referred to "Peter’s three-fold lie when he denied being one of Christ’s disciples", and we are expected to believe that this shows that the Amalekite is lying in 2 Samuel 1:10. Before Peter's denials, Christ Himself prophesised that Peter would deny Him three times (Mark 14:30, Matthew 26:34). Not only did we know that Peter was one of Christ's disciples and therefore the fact that he lied is obvious, but also Christ Himself proclaims prior to Peter's denials that the denials are expected! Peter's three lies (denials: John 13:38) were well known by the writer, John, and so it is hard to see how this episode can be claimed by the author as "a story that was told at the time as the truth when, in fact, it was a lie". Therefore, it is also difficult to see how this episode relates to someone else recorded in the Bible (the Amalekite in 2 Samuel 1:10) as being a liar when there is no Biblical suggestion at all that he is a liar.

Mr Thompson then concludes his article stating, in order to prove that the Amalekite in 2 Samuel 1:10 was not telling the truth: "we know he was not [telling the truth] because elsewhere (e.g., 1 Samuel 31:4-5) the actual facts of the case are presented with great clarity".
Again, the whole point is evaded. There is no evidence to suppose that the Amalekite in 2 Samuel 1:10 was not telling the truth, and there is no evidence to prove that the way Saul died in 1 Samuel 31:4-6 is the true method of his death. We see here...
"4 ...Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.
5 And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him.
6 So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together".
The Bible tells us that all of Saul's men died together that very day (v.6). If anything is shown in this passage, it is that anyone associated with Saul who could see the events clearly because they were in the midst of the affray, who could report back the truth about Saul's death, was in fact dead because they all died "together that very day". Therefore, if anything is to be deduced from 1 Samuel 31, it is that, during battle, those in close enough proximity to Saul to see his manner of death were also killed there and then, and there was no accurate eye-witness left to relate the manner of Saul's death. If this is the case, then the testimony of the Amalekite in 2 Samuel 1:7-10 has a stronger likelihood of being true...
"7 And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called unto me. And I answered, Here am I.
8 And he said unto me, Who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite.
9 He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me.
10 So I stood upon him, and slew him".
Samuel 1:14-16 states...
"14 And David said unto him, How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the Lord's anointed?
15 And David called one of the young men, and said, Go near, and fall upon him. And he smote him that he died.
16 And David said unto him, Thy blood be upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the Lord's anointed".
These verses strongly indicate that David believes the Amalekite to be guilty of killing Saul. David asks the Amalekite...
"How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the Lord's anointed?"
Why would David bother to ask the Amalekite why he was not afraid to stretch forth his hand to destroy the Lord's anointed, if David did not believe the Amalekite's report? There is no indication or even the slightest hint that David does not believe the Amalekite.

In summary, Mr Thompson claims that the Amalekite wanted monetary reward and so lied about killing Saul to gain a reward. However, why does the Amalekite have to have been a liar? Why pick on him and invent some "truth"? There are many different scenarios that could have taken place. It could easily have been an Israelite who was mistaken (if not lying) and who was "on the other side of the valley" (1 Samuel 31:7) and who therefore could not see what was going on but assumed erroneously that he saw Saul fall on his sword. It could even have been David himself ordering the record of Saul's death to be changed because he wanted a more fitting end for "the Lord's anointed" (but the truth also getting out that the Amalekite killed Saul thus producing two versions). Or it could even have been the scribe or the one who ordered the scribe to write the record because he thought it more holy and fitting for "the Lord's anointed" to honourably kill himself than have a low Amalekite run him through. Or it could have been such a long time period before the event was written down that it altered through the years from its original and perhaps there became two versions due to lack of communication between story-keepers.

In his book, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Gleason L. Archer writes:

"Coming with Saul’s crown and bracelet in hand and presenting them before the new king of Israel, the Amalekite obviously expected a handsome reward and high preferment in the service of Saul’s successor".

With respect to Mr Archer, this assumption is stretching liberties past credibility. To say that the Amalekite expected a reward is quite presumptuous, and the use of the word "obviously" is even more so. If the Amalekite wanted profit then he could easily have disappeared with the crown and bracelet (of a king no less), and bartered them elsewhere and in so doing the Amalekite would have avoided what he must have realised would have been a charged situation. Also, we do not know that the Amalekite was not an ally to Saul, we are not told in the Scripture. We do not know that the Amalekite was not very heavy of heart after having to run through someone he admired and to whom he was loyal, and felt that the only noble thing to do would be to take the royal jewellery to David - we do not know. We do not know that the Amalekite had no interest in material gain but that David felt in his anger that the one who had slain "the Lord's anointed" must be executed - we do not know because we are not told in Scripture.

Mr Archer is merely making an assumption of the avaricious and foolish nature of the Amalekite, who may have been of very noble character indeed - we do not know - in which case it would be wrong to denigrate the character of the Amalekite.

We cannot have two sets of criteria by which to assess Scripture: either the Bible "witnesses" our facts or it remains unknown as it could be another possibility. We have to be honest with ourselves and realise that perhaps we are attempting to erroneously make everything fit in with our belief that a set of ancient sacred records that were passed on by word-of-mouth for many years is inerrant.

Whatever scenarios a person can come up with, there is no Biblical inference in any way or manner that the story of the Amalekite in 2 Samuel 1 is not perfectly true and that the Amalekite was not telling the exact truth. If a person wants to convince himself that the Amalekite was lying about Saul's manner of death, it may very well not be Biblical truth, in which case he errs. It would be better to keep an open mind.

Other attempts to "prove" that the Amalekite was lying:

"Proposal: The Amalekite said he talked to Saul before he died yet the armour bearer isn't mentioned and the armour bearer was actually there at the time of Saul's death. Why didn't the Amalekite mention the armor bearer since the amalekite claims to have killed Saul? The armor bearer certainly would have tried to stop the amalekite from killing Saul, but Scripture says the armour bearer watched terrified as Saul died".

This is mixing up two separate Scriptural accounts here - elements from 1 Samuel 31:4-6 and 2 Samuel 1:8-10. In 2 Samuel 1:8-10 there is no armourbearer mentioned. How is it known that armourbearer was not killed elsewhere or in that spot on the battlefield while Saul was still alive but wounded? The armourbearer may easily have been dead before the Amalekite arrived.

It was the fiercest of battles. It is wishful thinking to conjecture on this account and not conjecture the account in 1 Samuel 31:4-6 which could have been brought about by a whole set of different scenarios. Nobody witnessed it and so that account could have been recorded in any one of a number of ways.

In reality, Saul falling on his own sword may never have even happened. It could simply be made up by David, a scribe or his masters for political reasons or reasons of morale (David certainly didn't like the idea of the Amalekite taking Saul's life), a mistake of a band of Israelites who couldn't even see the faces of the people in battle, it could have been misreported or the story changed before it was written down and ended up being a second way that Saul died even though it never happened...the list of conjecture could go on and on, in the same way as conjecture about the Scripture in 2 Samuel 1. But none of it is provable by the Bible, the assumption that the Amalekite lied is only wanting it to be true without the real facts to secure the conjecture as verifiable. One cannot claim adherence to facts only written in the Bible as being God's truth and then claim conjecture as being truth without written facts in the Bible

The scripture 1 Samuel 31 says the armourbearer watched terrified as Saul died, but the scripture about the Amalekite in 2 Samuel 1 is a separate scripture and there is nothing bar pure assumption to suggest 2 Samuel 1 is related to 1 Samuel 31. Just because Saul was still alive it does not mean his armourbearer was alive too. There was a lot of death in those hours.

"Proposal: Saul asks the Amalekite to stand over him and kill him but Saul was standing up so the Amalekite was lying".

Indeed, when the Amalekite saw Saul, he was leaning on a spear but that does not mean that Saul was standing up. Saul could easily have been severely wounded on the ground but propping himself up with his spear with his arm around it and his other hand grasping it, using the spear to take the weight of his upper body.

Even if Saul was half-standing and leaning on his spear, he wanted desperately to be slayed because "agony (shabats) had come upon" him (v.9) but his "life is yet whole" in him. Saul wanted to die. How easy was it for Saul to simply slide down so that the Amalekite could place a foot on him and slay him. Saul was in agony, saw the Amalekite, wanted to die and had the thought that he could slip to the ground and be released from his agony and so asked the Amalekite to help him die.

Proposal: "David knew the Amalekite was lying for he said, "by your own words have you been convicted".

The text in question is this:

"14 And David said unto him, How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the LORD'S anointed?
15 And David called one of the young men, and said, Go near, and fall upon him. And he smote him that he died.
16 And David said unto him, Thy blood be upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the LORD'S anointed."

There is no reason to change the meaning of what is written in this Scripture and to add to it something that it does not say. David did not even hint that he thought the Amalekite was lying. Scripture would at least provide a hint if not state outright that David had the Amalekite killed because he lied about taking Saul's life - but there is nothing in the Old Testament or the New Testament to even slightly suggest that David thought the Amalekite was lying. Only by changing the meaning of this Scripture can the suggestion that the Amalekite lied have credence. And we are assessing this whole discrepancy by strict literalist rules!

What the Scripture does clearly explain is that David is aghast that the Amalekite could have the utter nerve to "destroy the LORD'S anointed" (v.14) and therefore passed judgement on him that he should die (v.15) because in his account of taking Saul's life ("by your own words have you been convicted" v.16), he had voiced the unthinkable to David: "I have slain the LORD'S anointed", and as far as David is concerned, nobody can slay "the LORD'S anointed" without losing his life.

"Proposal: There is no reason to believe the account of a non-believer over God's eyewitness inspired account."

This statement is assuming that 1 Samuel 31 is "God's eyewitness inspired account" and that 2 Samuel 1 is not "God's eyewitness inspired account". It is simply assuming. However, it doesn't mean 2 Samuel 1 is not "God's eyewitness inspired account".

Scripture tells us that there are no "believer" eyewitnesses left alive to explain Saul's suicide in 1 Samuel 31, therefore that account is no more likely to be true than 2 Samuel 1. Also, not all Amalekites were "unbelievers" as some were proselytised.

God inspired all Scripture but He has chosen to use humans to play a part in His Holy Purpose and that includes inspired opinions and keeping spoken historical records until such a time as they could be written down. It appears that God has allowed these records to be saved as open to conjecture until a future time and for a reason of His own.



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