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Who are the Amalekites?

Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu has been trying to use Jewish and Christian eschatology to stir up support for his nation's war with Hamas. Hamas is the governing political party for the Gaza Palestinians. It seems Netanyahu is equating Hamas with the ancient nation of Amalek. On Saturday, November 28, Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that Israelis were united in their fight against Hamas, whom he described as an enemy of incomparable cruelty. "They (the Israelis) are committed to completely eliminating this evil from the world," Netanyahu said in Hebrew. He added, "You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible. And we do remember."

If you are familiar with the Genealogy of the Bible, you will recognize when I say that Amalek was a second cousin to Abraham. Amalek and Abraham had the same great-grandfather, Joseph, who had been sold off as a slave to Egypt. Joseph had two sons, Esau, the firstborn, and Jacob, his brother. Abraham's family tree came from Jacob, and Amalek's heritage came from Esau. The story in the Bible says Esau was tricked out of his birthright by Jacob for a bowl of porridge. Amalek grew up in Esau's household, imbibing Esau's pathological hatred of Jacob's descendants. His offspring became the nation of Amalek, and they lived to the south of the Land of Israel, in what is now known as the Negev Desert.

The Amalekites

The Amalekites were not of Canaan, per se, but were nomadic tribes or a collection of tribes who lived in the Sinai desert between the southern edge of the Dead Sea and the Egyptian border. They were the first to attack the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt in the 14th century BCE. After the Jewish people crossed the Red Sea, they encamped in Rephidim, a barren location in the Sinai Desert. While the Jews were still at Rephidim, recuperating from their escape from Egypt, the Amalekites launched a vicious surprise attack on them—though the Jews had no designs on Amalekite territory and were not even headed in that direction (Exodus 17:8–13). Over time, the Amalekites would strike alliances with different Canaanite tribes and attack the Israelites when it was to their advantage (Numbers 14:45; Judges 3:13; Judges 6:3).

Four hundred years later, God spoke to King Saul through the prophet Samuel: "Now go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Do not spare them. Kill men and women, infants and nursing babies, oxen, and sheep, camels, and donkeys." (1 Samuel 15:3). King Saul had a chance to wipe out the tribe, and when the opportunity arose, he failed. Consequently, God rejected Saul as King (1 Samuel 15:23). The escaped Amalekites continued to harass and plunder the Israelites in successive generations that spanned hundreds of years.

The immediate reaction of most people, non-Christians and Christians alike, is to ask, how could God command this? Even God's judgment on evil should bring grief and the joy of justice. God says, "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live" (Ezek. 33:11).

The last mention of the Amalekites is found in the book of Esther, where Haman the Agagite, a descendant of the Amalekite King Agag, conspires to have all the Jews in Persia annihilated by order of King Xerxes. This story takes place in the 5th century BCE. God saved the Jews in Persia; however, Haman, his sons, and the rest of Israel's enemies were destroyed instead (Esther 9:5–10).

Who are the Palestinians?

The Levant was never a well-defined territory. Sometimes referred to as Canaan, this territory included southern Lebanon, present-day Israel, the Palestinian territories, and western Jordan. After the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135 CE), the Romans lumped Canaan in with Syria and made it a province; the Provincia Syria Palaestina, later shortened to Palaestina. Palestine took its name from "Philistia" (the land of the Philistines) on the southern coast of Israel. The Romans, having fought two wars with the Jews in 70 and 135 CE, sought to decouple the region from Jewish influence. They barred Jewish people from Jerusalem, and they renamed the territory Palestine.

The Bible reports the Philistines came from Crete, but DNA analysis of ancient Philistine graves indicates their origins as most likely Southern Europe/Greece. So, who are the present-day Palestinians? Most likely, they are descendants of the indigenous people who have lived in the Levant for the past three thousand years. Many tribes could be part of the mix: Hittites, Amorites, Arabs, Jebusites, Philistines, Jewish, and yes, there is probably some Amalekite blood mixed in for good measure.

In conclusion

While the Amalekites are not around anymore, it can be said their spirit still lives. For example, the Hamas Charter supports the destruction of Israel and condones an unrestrained jihad to achieve this goal. Hamas's actions on October 7 suggest this belief is a tenable step on their checklist of things to reestablish Islamic rule in the Holy Land.

I, too, hate to see all the innocent victims killed by both sides as they each try to fight this war to meet their own political goals. Since 1948, when Israel became a nation, the vanquished Palestinians have tried numerous times to raise their case to the world. Until their problem is fixed, the Palestinian conflict will keep bubbling up to the surface. Israel, believing they are God's elite, knows the solution to take. It was given to them 3,500 years ago.

I see three outcomes for this problem. First, the Israelis will prevail. It may take months, but the Hamas organization will be smashed with the help of the US. Of course, the public relations damage to Israel and the US will be incomprehensible. It will place Europe and the US in a declining economic spiral as most of the world will shun our leadership.

The second outcome will place the Palestinian people and territories under UN control. Israel will sign a peace treaty allowing unaffiliated non-Muslim countries like China, India, and Brazil to host peace-keeping forces that will protect Israel's sovereignty. Transportation corridors will enable trade and travel between the West Bank, Gaza, and the rest of the world.

The third outcome will be an expanded conflict with countries like Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran taking a direct part in the conflict while other countries like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Indonesia are participating in a trade embargo with the West. In past conflicts, oil embargos did occur but were not that effective. Now, there are many more Muslim countries to consider, and these countries would have a more significant impact.

The real sticking point will be Jerusalem. While the Palestinians demand access, the Israelis would rather die than cede sovereignty to the temple mount. Some earth-shattering arrangements will have to be worked out.

The crisis boiling point is reaching a crescendo, and the pot will soon boil over. Israeli pundits and Western journalists have concluded that the war is a stalemate. Most officials recognize that a military solution is not realistic. Both sides are losing, and it's a vicious circle of blood with no end in sight. There is an old (1985) tautology that says, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." This saying applies here as well.

Credit to Wikimedia for providing the 1856 painting by Aasta Hansteen of Moses asking God for victory over the Amalekites at their first battle at Rephidim in the Sinai, present-day Egypt.

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