Amalek – Revived Against Israel

Written by Michael

February 21, 2024

In the annals of ancient history, few adversaries have left as indelible a mark on the collective consciousness of a people as Amalek has on the nation of Israel. The enmity between the Israelites and the Amalekites dates back to biblical times, with its roots firmly embedded in a narrative of defiance, divine retribution, and the consequences of disobedience. As the modern state of Israel grapples with ongoing conflicts and challenges, many scholars and religious leaders see the enduring hostility as a continuation of that age-old conflict, stemming from the actions of King Saul and his failure to fully carry out God’s commands. So what is it about Amalek…its relevance to contemporary conflicts in Israel, and the lasting impact of King Saul’s disobedience on the nation’s destiny?

To understand the significance of Amalek in the context of Israel’s history, one must turn to the pages of the Hebrew Bible. The first mention of Amalek appears in the book of Genesis chapter 36 in the lineage of Esau (Edomite) – who married Adah (Hittite). They gave birth to Eliphaz who married Timna (Horite) and they birthed Amalek. So, Amalek is made up of Edomite, Hittite, and Horite genealogy. These people produced the everlasting enemy of Israel. In Exodus,  we see the Amalekites launch a surprise attack on the Israelites shortly after their liberation from slavery in Egypt. This unprovoked assault, targeting the most vulnerable members of the Israelite community, earns Amalek God’s long wrath and sets the stage for a prolonged and bitter struggle between the two nations. This took place in Exodus 17 when Aaron and Hur held up his hands to see the victory come to Israel – after the battle, God speaks to Moses in verses 14-16:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner; and he said, “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”

So what we see here is that Amalek will be a thorn in the side of Israel – UNTIL the coming of Messiah.

Fast forward several centuries and the conflict with Amalek reaches a pivotal moment during the reign of King Saul. In 1 Samuel 15:1-35, God commands Saul to annihilate the Amalekites utterly, sparing neither man nor beast. However, Saul’s obedience proves incomplete; he spares the Amalekite king, Agag, and allows some of the livestock to survive. My wife and I had a conversation about this earlier today. The wonder is how in the world Saul concludes to spare Agag against the backdrop of specific instruction. Some scholars speculate that Agag had his wealth hidden and revealed its location – thus paying Saul for his own life to be spared. However, this act of disobedience by Saul incurs the wrath of the prophet Samuel, who delivers a scathing rebuke to the king and prophesies the loss of his kingdom as a result of his actions…David steps in.

Psalm 83:1-8 includes Amalek in its description of the plea to God by Asaph to turn against Israel’s enemies:

O God do not remain quiet; Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still. For behold, Your enemies make an uproar, And those who hate You have exalted themselves. They make shrewd plans against Your people And conspire together against Your treasured ones. They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, That the name of Israel be remembered no more.” For they have conspired together with one mind; Against You they make a covenant: The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab, and the Hagrites; Gebal and Ammon and Amalek, Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also has joined with them; They have become a help to the children of Lot.”

The Amalekites inhabited the region of the Negev desert and the area surrounding Canaan, establishing themselves as a nomadic tribe known for their aggression and hostility towards the Israelites. Moreover, Saul’s disobedience undermines his legitimacy as a ruler and paves the way for the rise of David, who ultimately succeeds him as king.

The conflict with Amalek takes on symbolic significance, representing the perennial struggle between good and evil, obedience and defiance. The commandment to “blot out the memory of Amalek” is reiterated in Deuteronomy 25:19, serving as a reminder of the dangers of complacency and moral compromise. Throughout the centuries, Jewish sages and scholars have grappled with the theological and ethical implications of the commandment, debating its applicability to contemporary politics and modern adversaries… thus you have the condition of the modern state of Israel battling the same geography and spiritual impetus.

In the State of Israel, signs are posted all over Israel about the rooting out of Amalek.  This idea has surfaced as a result of the current war in Israel because of the parallels between ancient biblical narratives and contemporary geopolitical realities.

The legacy of King Saul’s disobedience serves as a cautionary tale, reminding leaders and nations of the consequences of moral compromise and the importance of fidelity to divine commandments. Yet, there is the promise of Amelek, given to Moses, to be an enemy from “generation to generation”.

So what is the lesson for us today? Because of Esau’s willingness to give up his birthright (which he did not think he was doing by simply asking for lentil stew) – but in Jacob’s mind he was…BECAUSE of this – the envy and loss Esau suffered transmitted to his children’s children. The generational foment of this hatred became engrained in an individual and his generations to hate in ignorance. Amalek was not Esau…yet his hatred goes on – like the waves of the ocean – and continues to arise when there is weakness sensed in its nostrils because of his animus towards Israel.

The memory of Amalek serves as a stark reminder of the enduring nature of evil and the imperative of moral vigilance. In the ongoing struggle for peace and justice in the Middle East, the lessons of the past offer guidance and inspiration for the future, reminding us that the legacy of Amalek is not merely a relic of ancient history but a living spiritual reality that continues to affect Israel and thus other nations, like ours and our allies.  We can see those affected by it in the words and actions of those who hate Israel. They have taken on ancient envy (without realizing it) and participated in the enemy’s subversion of stealing support of Israel through ignorant thinking and actions because of the envy and hatred that is deep-seated within.

Where is your heart today?

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