The Long History Between Israel and Amalek

As the children of Israel were in the wilderness headed to Mount Sinai there was an enemy that arose against Israel. The Amalekites fought with Israel and Moses sent Joshua to lead the charge against Amalek. Israel prevailed when Moses’ hands were held up, so eventually Hur and Aaron held Moses’ hands up so Joshua and the people could win the fight (Exodus 17:11-13). At the end of the account the Scripture records, “The LORD has sworn; the LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation,” (Exodus 17:16). God had judged Amalek in their wickedness and their attempt to gain an advantage over the people of God and promised war for generations.

In 1 Samuel 15 the Lord told King Saul to punish the Amalekites by utterly destroying everything that they had. This was going to be God’s retributive justice against Amalek for attacking Israel as they came out of Egypt (1 Samuel 15:2, 6). God wanted Saul to kill every animal and every person. It was to be a complete and total destruction of the Amalekites. Yet, Saul was disobedient. He kept the king alive (1 Samuel 15:8). Agag was a royal title that applied to all of the kings of Amalek, similar to how the kings of Egypt were called pharaohs (cf Numbers 24:7). A remnant of the Amalekites remained alive because of Saul’s sin and failure to obey God’s commands. Later, David would raid the Amalekites (1 Samuel 27:8). When we fail to obey God, our sins will surely haunt us and find us out. That would happen later in Israel’s history.

During the time of the Babylonian captivity, the Jews were dispersed and moved from Judah. Eventually the Medes and Persians came into power. That’s where we find the story of Esther, who was a Jew, but became queen to the Persian king. Through her God was able to work and preserve the Jews alive. During that time though, there was a wicked man named Haman who was able to persuade the Persian king to put the Jews to death. Haman was an Agagite (Esther 3:1), a descendant of the Amalekites and the royal line of Agag. The enmity between Amalek and Israel that began in Exodus 17 continued to the end of the Old Testament history books. Haman was eventually destroyed by his own pride thanks to the bravery of Queen Esther (Esther 7:10).

Esther was a remarkable woman and hero of faith. She did not act alone, though. She was encouraged by her cousin, Mordecai, who had raised her. It is interesting to see the faith of Mordecai throughout the book of Esther as he reminds Esther of her position of power and influence and God’s providential care for the Jews (Esther 4:14). Notice the family and lineage of Mordecai and Esther, though. They were Benjamites, of the son of Kish (Esther 2:5). Mordecai shared common ancestry with the disobedient King Saul (1 Samuel 10:20-21)! While Saul was disobedient and allowed Agag to live, Mordecai and Esther acted faithfully and saved the Jews, destroying the family of Haman the Agagite (Esther 8:7). Faith was victorious and the family of Kish vindicated the Jews!

by Sean P. Cavender

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