The Torah has some interesting commandments concerning Amalek and the Amalekites; such as, “remember what Amalek did to you along the way as you came out from Egypt” and “blot out the memory of Amalek.” Who is Amalek and how does one fulfill these commandments?
Dt. 25:17-19 (TLV) Remember what Amalek did to you along the way as you came out from Egypt— 18 how he happened upon you along the way and attacked those among you in the rear, all the stragglers behind you, when you were tired and weary—he did not fear God. 19 Now when Adonai your God grants you rest from all the enemies surrounding you in the land Adonai your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, you are to blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Do not forget!
This article will explore these questions in both a literal and figurative sense. On the surface, it appears that centuries later King David fulfilled this commandment. In 2 Samuel 8 and 1 Chronicles 18, King David’s exploits of war are enumerated, with Amalek being mentioned along with other nations that he had subdued.
2 Sam. 8:11-12 (TLV) These too King David consecrated to Adonai, along with the silver and gold that he had consecrated from all the nations that he had subdued: 12 from Aram, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines, Amalek, and from the spoil of Hadadezer, son of Rehob, king of Zobah.
1 Chron. 18:11 (TLV) King David dedicated these articles to Adonai, along with the silver and gold that he had taken from all the nations: from Edom and Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines and Amalek.
Yet, Adonai also says this of Amalek in the Torah, “By the hand upon the throne of Adonai, Adonai will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” (Ex. 17:16) Has HaShem been perpetually warring with the Amalekites? In EVERY generation? I submit to you that the answer is yes.
Amalek was a descendant of Esau and a chief of his people. Thus, if we want to know who Amalek and the Amalekites are, we must first understand who Esau is physically and spiritually. The Book of Bereshit (Genesis) reveals the seed to this story on day 6 with the creation of man and beast. Adam is formed from the adamah or ground (earth). I explain this in the Biblical Role of Women Series. But his (and her – adam is also the word for mankind) name reveals much more.
The word Adam is aleph, followed by dalet and mem, which is the Hebrew word dam, blood. Life is in the blood of mankind (and beasts – day 6 creatures). Blood, the red stuff that sustains man, is also the root of Esau and Edom, the Red One. In this way, all people share in the lineage of Adam and Esau. We, like it or not, are also linked to Amalek. Obviously, this is in the figurative sense, not the physical.
The Root Story
My readers may tire of how often I bring up the story of Jacob and Esau. But, there are so many branches that spring forth from this root story! We would be negligent if we did not trace them from seed to fruit and vice versa, for the seed is in the fruit producing like kind.
Like Rivka (Rebecca), we each have “two nations,” a Jacob and an Esau that wars in our members. One is born first, the flesh, and is red and hairy like a beast. And like all beasts of the field, it is ruled by instinct, appetites, and desires. But we also have a Jacob, the second born – think of the second Adam and being born again, meaning second in order. This one receives a new name, Israel, one that struggles with Adonai, seeks peace, and dwells in tents of Torah learning.
While there are real outside enemies (people ruled by the Esau nature – which fuels hot tempered demonic activity), our primary battles are internal, a struggle with the callused hands of the hunter, Esau. Greed, lust, thirst, and hunger for the appetites of the flesh, constant fear of death and self-preservation at all costs… these are the traits of Esau. You and I are Esau until we struggle all night with the angel and never walk the same way again. This, however, doesn’t guarantee that Esau, the Red One, Edom, will not continue to try to gain the upper hand the minute we grow weary or desperate. Just ask Amalek.
Consider the physical (fleshly) state of Esau when he sold his birthright to Jacob.
Gen. 25:29-32 (NKJV) Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” 32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?”
Have you ever been so weary that death didn’t seem so bad after all? Have you ever hyperbolically stated, “I’m starving to death!” I have. I’ve also been weary enough from work, pain, and emotional stress to just keel over and be fine with it. As hard as it is to swallow, this is Esau talking to us. He can reason away or make light of the things that should matter the most to us, especially (consider this carefully) when life’s battles have completely worn us out.
In Torah Portion Beshalach (when he sent), the children of Israel experience the pillars of cloud and fire, miraculously cross the parted Sea of Reeds, watch the Egyptians and Pharaoh drown, sing the triumphal Song of Moses & Miriam, taste bitter waters that have been made sweet, eat heavenly manna, and then say to Moses:
Ex. 17:3 “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
Can you hear the echo of Esau’s words? YHWH responds by providing water from the Rock. BUT, Moses calls that place by two names: Massah, which means temptation, and Meribah, meaning contention.
Ex. 17:7 (NKJV) So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”
Though the people had witnessed unprecedented miracles, their doubt and consequent complaining caused them to be contentious with YHWH and His servant Moses. This attitude “tempted” the LORD. (Yikes!) The very next verse begins with the conjunction “and,” connecting their cynical question with the LORD’s answer:
Ex. 17:8 (LITV) And Amalek came and fought against Israel in Rephidim.
I don’t want you to miss this association. After becoming thirsty, the children of Israel immediately accused Moses (and YHWH) of delivering them to then only “kill” them with thirst. Though we may laugh, we are fools if we think we are any different. What was their (and our) real problem? Amalek.
According to Brown, Driver, and Briggs’ Hebrew Lexicon (BDB), Amalek means “dweller in a valley,” derived from the Hebrew emek, valley. While there are other etymological possibilities for Amalek, BDB’s assumption is intriguing considering the spiritual state of Israel when they were attacked. They were in a proverbial rut or valley of doubt. Moses, Aaron, and Hur ascend a hill overlooking the people as they battle Amalek. Rephidim, the place of their combat, comes from a word that means the bottom or back of something, like a chair or a place of rest. If the place mark is describing the landscape, they were warring the “valley dwellers” in a literal valley on account of their sunken and hollow faith. Did you catch the irony?
Instead of striking a rock to alieve the thirst of the people, this time Moses had to hold his hand up with the staff in the air for Israel to prevail.
Ex. 17:9-11 (LITV) And Moses said to Joshua, choose men for us, and go fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill, and the staff of God in my hand. 10 and Joshua did as Moses had said to him, to fight against Amalek. And Moses, Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 And so it was that when Moses lifted his hand, Israel prevailed. And when he rested his hand, Amalek conquered.
Moses was holding the “staff of God.” When it is lifted up, we prevail. If we put it down, Amalek (Esau) conquers. Adonai purposely had this story memorialized. He doesn’t want anyone to forget it. He even reveals a new facet of Himself in this account by the Name Adonai (YHWH) Nissi. (Adonai is my Banner.)
Ex. 17:14-16 (TLV) Adonai said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book, and rehearse it in the hearing of Joshua, for I will utterly blot out the memory of the Amalekites from under heaven.” 15 Then Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Adonai-Nissi. 16 Then he said, “By the hand upon the throne of Adonai, Adonai will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
Nissi comes from the word nes, miracle, but it literally means something lifted up.
John 12:31-32 (NASB) “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.“
Who is the ruler of this world? We could give more than one answer, but the most obvious one (in the natural) is beast-like men. It is those ruled by Esau, the red one. Greed and lust for money, power, and the appetites of red flesh rules the world. It is a low place, a deep valley, emek.
John 3:13-15 (NASB) “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
The serpent on the pole was another nes, a miracle – lifted up. The serpent on the pole isn’t that different from Moses’ staff, for even it could turn into a serpent. This account has several similarities to the battle with Amalek. Adonai had the Children go around the land of EDOM (Esau) to avoid a confrontation, but this took longer than people liked, so they became impatient. In reality, they had to spiritually confront Edom after all. Consider the bolded words below. What do they have in common with Esau and the children of Israel in the account with Amalek?
Num. 21:4-5 (NASB) Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. 5 The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.”
In Hebrew, it says the nephesh (soul/flesh) of the people became impatient. Once that happened, they opened their mouths to speak against God and Moses, mentioning DEATH just like Esau did when he sold his birthright. They also complained of a lack of food and water, and even disparaged the heavenly manna. What was their problem? Fiery Snakes.
I hope you see that just as the Amalekites appeared on the heels of their doubt and dissention at Rephidim, so the serpents appeared here. Spiritually, these enemies ARE a mirror of the spiritual state of the Israelites. The red, hot flesh is what is in need of judgment in each case, and Adonai is quick to bring it. But, praise Adonai, He also brings the remedy. The staff is lifted, the serpent on the staff is lifted. Likewise, Yeshua is lifted up to bring healing and life to the guilty.
Balaam gives an oracle about Amalek:
Num. 24:20 (LITV) And he looked upon Amalek, and took up his parable and said, Amalek was the first of the nations, but his latter end is to destruction forever.
This is a mashal, a parable. Who is Amalek? Who is the “first” of the nations, proverbially speaking? Not Israel (Jacob). It’s Esau, the firstborn. Rivkah had two nations in her womb, remember? One day, we will no longer contend with the Esau within or without. Adonai says:
Dt. 25:17-18 (LITV) Remember what Amalek did to you by the way as you came forth out of Egypt; 18 how he met you on the way and attacked your back, all the feeble ones in the rear, when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God.
Amalek comes when one is weak, feeble, tired, exhausted, weary, hungry, and thirsty. This is the state that Esau was in when he sold his birthright. He whispers words of dissent and rebellion in your ear. These words please tired souls, enraging them with questions of “fairness” and “justice” and “desire.” These lies encourage jealousy, division, dissension, and justify every compliant of the flesh.
Beloved, if you’ve grown weary, if you feel that Adonai isn’t acting fast enough on your behalf, if you have grown jealous toward your neighbor because Adonai seems to have given them the thing or position you desire for yourself, if you just feel like giving up, if the journey has become too hot, dry, and difficult, if you have grown impatient, if Esau has been whispering all your neighbor’s faults in your ear, if the words fairness, justice, or “I deserve,” taunts you and tempts you to have contempt toward Adonai or your neighbor, if you suffer discontentment…
Then, you are at war with Amalek. He is at your back – where you aren’t looking. Run and get out of the valley. Repent, even though the flesh is weak. When you finally turn and see the real Amalek, he will not be your neighbor or the person or thing that you believe is distressing you. Instead, he will look an awful lot like the man or the woman in the mirror. It will sting like fire.
The miracle of Moses’ raised staff and the serpent on the pole is this: Those fleshy lies will be defeated. The memory of Amalek will be no more. Adonai has already given us the remedy. Look at why Yeshua was lifted up on the tree – it was on account of your fiery serpent, the Amalek and Esau of old. In order to gain your life, you must first lose it. (Mt. 10:34-39)
But, what if your warring with the Amalek (Valley Dweller) in someone else? More in Part II.
Gen 36:15-16 (NASB) These are the chiefs of the sons of Esau. The sons of Eliphaz, the firstborn of Esau, are chief Teman, chief Omar, chief Zepho, chief Kenaz, 16 chief Korah, chief Gatam, chief Amalek. These are the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Adah.
It’s not a coincidence that Isaac is sixty years old when the twins are born. The Torah is pointing us to the seed of day six with the creation of man and beast. The beast is born first, and like all firstborns, he is need of redemption.
Gen 25:26 (TLV) Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding onto Esau’s heel—so he was named Jacob. Isaac was 60 years old when he fathered them.
H6002 עמלק ‛ămâlêq BDB Definition: Amalek = “dweller in a valley” 1) son of Eliphaz by his concubine Timnah, grandson of Esau, and progenitor of a tribe of people in southern Canaan. 2) descendants of Amalek Part of Speech: noun proper masculine.
H6010 (Brown-Driver-Briggs) עמק ‛êmeq BDB Definition: 1) valley, vale, lowland, open country. Part of Speech: noun masculine. A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H6009