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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Amalek; Amalekite

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am´a -lek , a -mal´e -kı̄t , am´a -lek -ı̄t ( עמלק , ‛ămālēḳ , עמלקי , ‛ămālēḳı̄ ): A tribe dwelling originally in the region south of Judah, the wilderness of et-Tih where the Israelites came into conflict with them. They were nomads as a people dwelling in that tract would naturally be. When they joined the Midianites to invade Israel they came "with their cattle and their tents" (Judges 6:3-5 ). They are not to be identified with the descendants of Esau (Genesis 36:12 , Genesis 36:16 ) because they are mentioned earlier, in the account of the invasion of Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14:7 ) and in Balaam's prophecy (Numbers 24:20 ) Amalek is called "the first of the nations," which seems to refer to an early existence. We are uncertain of their origin, for they do not appear in the list of nations found in Gen 10. They do not seem to have had any relationship with the tribes of Israel, save as, we may surmise, some of the descendants of Esau were incorporated into the tribe. It is probable that they were of Semitic stock though we have no proof of it.

The first contact with Israel was at Rephidim, in the wilderness of Sinai, where they made an unprovoked attack and were defeated after a desperate conflict (Exodus 17:8-13; Deuteronomy 25:17 , Deuteronomy 25:18 ). On account of this they were placed under the ban and Israel was commanded to exterminate them (Deuteronomy 25:19; 1 Samuel 15:2 , 1 Samuel 15:3 ). The next encounter of the two peoples was when the Israelites attempted to enter Canaan from the west of the Dead Sea. The spies had reported that the Amalekites were to be found in the south, in connection with the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites (Numbers 13:29 ). The Israelites at first refused to advance, but later determined to do so contrary to the will of God and the command of Moses. They were met by Amalek and the Canaanites and completely defeated (Numbers 14:39-45 ). Amalek is next found among the allies of Moab in their attack upon Israel in the days of Eglon (Judges 3:13 ). They were also associated with the Midianites in their raids upon Israel (Judges 6:3 ), and they seemed to have gained a foothold in Ephraim, or at least a branch of them, in the hill country (Judges 5:14; Judges 12:15 ), but it is evident that the great body of them still remained in their old habitat, for when Saul made war upon them he drove them toward Shur in the wilderness toward Egypt (1 Samuel 15:1-9 ). David also found them in the same region (1 Samuel 27:8; 1 Samuel 30:1 ). After this they seem to have declined, and we find, in the days of Hezekiah, only a remnant of them who were smitten by the Simeonites at Mount Seir (1 Chronicles 4:41-43 ). They are once mentioned in Psalms in connection with other inveterate enemies of Israel (Psalm 83:7 ). The hatred Inspired by the Amalekites is reflected in the passages already mentioned which required their utter destruction. Their attack upon them when they were just escaped from Egypt and while they were struggling through the wilderness made a deep impression upon the Israelites which they never forgot, and the wrath of David upon the messenger who brought him news of the death of Saul and Jonathan, declaring himself to be the slayer of Saul, was no doubt accentuated by his being an Amalekite (2 Sam 1:1-16).

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Amalek; Amalekite'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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