The Amalekite Attacks On The Israelites
The Amalekites were not even great fighters, or at least brave – another reason that History would ignore them, since they were unlike the all-conquering Assyrians or the later Macedonians.
This is evidenced by the first Amalekite interaction with the Israelites, which occurred almost immediately after the Exodus. In Exodus 17, the Israelites are still in Horeb. This is important, since it shows that they were attacked by Amalek, even though they were not yet in Palestine. Hence, this was an unprovoked attack.
Remember, they did not live in the Land of Promise, so they were not under threat from the Israelites and had they not attacked the Israelites, they would have been spared in the way the Canaanites could not be. Note the timingof their attack. This was when the Israelites were a group of refugee slaves with no military experience. From what we know of Amalek later, it is likely that they sought to gain easy booty from a group of vulnerable refugee ex-slaves – obviously, people who posed no threat and could be easily attacked and plundered. The Israelite liberation from Egypt had not been accomplished by their own violent insurrection, but by supernaturalintervention.
The Amalekites obviously thought the Israelites were easy pickings, but even then, they only attacked the most vulnerable – the stragglers at the back of the mobile community. Note that they attacked the vulnerable and defenceless– Deuteronomy 25: ‘17 “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt,18 how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God.’ They attacked the old and weak in the back of the train.
This is just what the Islamic State (IS) did when they attacked the vulnerable Yezidis – a peaceful people who never harmed anyone, had no military defences and posed no threat to IS or anyone else. It is interesting that we never hear about Amalekite religion – just that they ‘did not fear God’. Note what it does not say; it does not say that they did not fear YHWH, but rather God. This phrase underlines their criminality, their reckless disregard for civilised norms, like the Mafia or IS in Sinjar (the Yezidi home). There was no fear of God in their eyes – of any deity. They were like Louis Lepke, the 1930s American gangster who founded ‘Murder Incorporated’ for the Mob, and callously killed people without a second thought.
Later, in the Judges period, Amalek once again attacked a defenceless and vulnerable Israel: note what Amalek alongside Midian in plundering Israel – Judges 6: ‘3 For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them.4 They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey.5 For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted — so that they laid waste the land as they came in.’ Observe what this tells us about the Amalekites. Clearly, they were not pastoralists – they were not tending crops nor even sheep or cattle, since they had time to raid away from their homes. They simply stole the property of others.
Again, they were not even great fighters – even in this case, they attacked the Israelites only in alliance with other peoples (Midianites and ‘peoples of the east’). Essentially, Amalek behaved like a gang of armed robbers, preying upon the defenceless. They never conquered peoples or lands and ruled them like the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians or Macedonians, but rather simply raided and plundered them. This demonstrates their economic and cultural matrix. One cannot make peace with a criminal gang in the way one would with an enemy nation.
This continued unto the days of Saul and David, as evidenced by 1 Samuel 30:1-3: ‘Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire 2 and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. 3 And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.’ The captives included his wives. Notice this was not a conquest, but rather a raid for plunder. Amalek had no interest in occupying Ziklag – they simply destroyed it, perhaps another indication of their desert nomad condition, which had no need for any kind of urban existence. Observe the occasion of the attack – while Ziklag – a Philistine city given to David (1 Samuel 27:6) – was undefended, as the Philistines (under whom David served at this point) and Saul were fighting, Amalek again raided a defenceless, vulnerable people, seeing an opportunity for plunder while everyone was distracted. This tells us much about their character.
Next is Part 4 – The Malicious And Incorrigible Nature Of The Amalekites