he Amalekites were an enemy people of Israel who lived in the southern part of the promised land and in the Sinai desert. They were descendants of Amalek, Esau’s grandson. Because of their wickedness, God ordered the destruction of the Amalekites.
Isaac, the son of Abraham, had two twin sons: Jacob and Esau. Jacob became the ancestor of the people of Israel and Esau the ancestor of the people of Edom. One of Esau’s grandchildren was called Amalek. The Bible says he was the son of his father’s concubine (secondary wife) – Genesis 36:12 . The descendants of Amalek, the Amalekites, became a people separate from the rest of the Edomites, descendants of Esau.
Both the Edomites and the Amalekites became enemies of the people of Israel.
The Amalekites attack the Israelites
When the people of Israel left Egypt, they spent 40 years in the Sinai desert. Along the way, the Israelites were besieged by the Amalekites, who attacked the weakest who were left behind. This wickedness aroused the wrath of God, who declared that the people of Amalek would be destroyed ( Deuteronomy 25: 17-19 ).
Once, in the desert, the Amalekites gathered an army and attacked the Israelites. Joshua led the Israeli army in battle and Moses stood with his hands raised, praying to God for victory.
While Moses had his hands raised, the Israelites won, but when he lowered his hands to rest, the Amalekites won. So Aaron and Hur gave Moses a place to sit and held him in his arms. So the Israelites won the battle ( Exodus 17: 13-14 ). This was the first battle of the Israelites, after they left Egypt. It was also the first of many wars with the Amalekites.
See here: what does God say about war?
The wars between Israel and Amalek
The Amalekites occupied part of southern Canaan, the land promised by God to the Israelites. When they saw the strength of the enemies, the Israelites were afraid and wanted to return to Egypt. Therefore, God condemned them to wander in the desert. When they heard this, some Israelites changed their mind and decided to attack their enemies, but without God’s permission ( Numbers 14: 41-43 ). They invaded the Amalekites’ territory but were severely defeated and had to spend 40 years in the desert.
When they finally conquered the promised land, the Israelites were unable to expel all enemy peoples. The Amalekites and a few others continued to live in the region and struggle for power for several generations. Gideon fought against a coalition of thousands of Midianites and Amalekites, who had dominated Israel for seven years, and defeated them with only 300 men!
Read Gideon’s story here .
Saul and the Amalekites
Saul, Israel’s first king, fought hard against the enemy peoples who still lived in Canaan. God ordered him to completely destroy the Amalekites and everything that belonged to them, without sparing anyone or taking anything as spoil. This war should not be for profit, but to purify the land from the wickedness of the Amalekites ( 1 Samuel 15: 2-3 ).
Saul attacked the Amalekites and won. He killed all the people of Amalek that he encountered but spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, and kept the best of the enemy’s flocks. Only worthless things were destroyed. Saul did not obey God.
Saul’s disobedience showed that his heart was not turned to God. Therefore, the prophet Samuel announced that God had rejected Saul as king ( 1 Samuel 15: 22-23 ). Then Samuel killed King Agag.
Several Amalekites still escaped and had some clashes with the next king, David. An Amalekite even claimed to have killed King Saul. Only at the time of King Hezekiah, several generations later, did the rest of the Amalekites suffer a final defeat at the hands of the tribe of Simeon ( 1 Chronicles 4: 41-43 ).
Was Haman an Amalekite?
In Esther’s story, Haman, the villain who wanted to exterminate all Israelites, was a descendant of Agag ( Esther 3: 1 ). It is not known whether this Agag was the king of the Amalekites or someone else. However, it is possible that Haman was one of the last descendants of the people of Amalek.