Amalek (Hebrew: עֲמָלֵק</span>, Modern Amalek, Tiberian ʻĂmālēq) occurs in the Hebrew Bible and may refer to the grandson of Esau, the descendant nation of Amalekites, and the territories of Amalek for which they inhabited.
According to the Book of Genesis and 1 Chronicles, Amalek was the son of Eliphaz and the concubine Timna. Timna was a Horite and sister of Lotan. Amalek appears in the genealogy of Esau (Gen. 36:12; 1 Chr. 1:36) who was the chief of an Edomite tribe (Gen. 36:16). Amalek is described as the "chief of Amalek" in Genesis 36:16, in which it is surmised that he ruled a clan or territory named after him. In the chant of Balaam at Numbers, 24:20, Amalek was called the 'first of the nations', attesting to high antiquity. Josephus refers to Amalek as a 'bastard' (νόθος), though in a derogative sense.
In the Hebrew Bible, the Amalekites were a nomadic, or seminomadic people who inhabited ancient Israel. They are commonly considered to be Amalek's descendants through the genealogy of Esau. This is probably based on the association of this tribal group with the steppe region of the Negev and the area of Kadesh (Genesis 14:7). As a people, the Amalekites are identified as a recurrent enemy of the Israelites.
- 1 Etymology of Amalek
- 2 Amalekites in the Hebrew Bible
- 3 Exegesis of origins
- 4 Judaist views of the Amalekites
- 5 Crusades
- 6 See also
- 7 Footnotes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Etymology of Amalek
Amalek may mean "dweller in the valley", or possibly "war-like", "people of prey", "cave-men". In some rabbinical interpretations, Amalek is etymologised as a people am, who lick blood, but most specialists regard the origin to be unknown. In Arabic, the corresponding term for the Biblical Amalek is Imlīq, whose descendants Al-′Amālīq were early residents of the ḥaram at Mecca, later supplanted by the Banu Jurhum, and formed one of the first tribes of ancient Arabia to speak Arabic.
Amalekites in the Hebrew Bible
In Genesis 14:7, the writer relates events in Abraham’s day (before Amalek was born) anachronistically, whereby “the whole field of the Amalekites” described a region that was understood by the people of Moses’ time. The center of this Amalekite territory was North of Kadesh-barnea in the Negev desert in the southern part of Palestine, with their tributary camps radiating out into the Sinai Peninsula and northern Arabia (1 Sam. 15:7). At one time their influence may have extended into the hills of Ephraim (Judg. 12:15). There nomadic lifestyle led to widespread distribution, mostly along the fringe of southern Canaan's agricultural zone (Num. 13:29, Judg. 12:15, 1 Sam. 15:7; 30:1-2). They also made extensive use of camels (Judg.6:5; 7:12).
Conflicts with Israel
The Amalekites were "the first one of the nations" to launch an unprovoked attack  on the Israelites after the Exodus, at Rephidim near Mount Sinai. As a consequence, YHVH decreed ultimate extinction for the Amalekites (Num. 24:20; Exod. 17:8-16; Deut. 25:17-19). A year later, when the Israelites attempted to enter the Promised Land contrary to the word of YHVH, they were repulsed by the Amalekites (Num. 14:41-45). Twice during the days of the Judges these adversaries shared in assaulting Israel in the days of Eglon king of Moab (Judg. 3:12, 13). Again, with the Midianites and Easterners, they pillaged the land of Israel seven years before Gideon and his 300 men dealt them a smashing defeat (Judg. 6:1-3, 33; 7:12; 10:12). Because of this persistent hatred, during the period of the kings, YHVH ‘called to account’ the Amalekites, commanding that King Saul strike them down, which he did “from Havilah as far as Shur, which is in front of Egypt.” However, Saul, overstepping the order of YHVH, spared the kingly Agag of Amalek. "God was not mocked", for “Samuel went hacking Agag to pieces before Jehovah in Gilgal.” (1 Sam. 15:2-33) Some of King David’s raids included Amalekite villages, and when they in return attacked Ziklag and carried off David’s wives and goods, he and 400 men overtook them, recovering all that had been stolen (1 Sam. 27:8; 30:1-20). During the reign of Hezekiah, some of the tribe of Simeon annihilated the remnant of the Amalekites (1 Chr. 4:42, 43).
Exegesis of origins
It is generally accepted that the Amalekites are descendants of Amalek, a grandson of Esau, who derive their origins from Edom (Genesis 36:11-12, 15-16). In exegesis of Genesis 14:7, the use of "Amalekites" seems out of place in a passage that concerns the days of Abraham. Bible scholar David Noel Freedman considers the anachronism to be an editorial insertion. Rashi explains that the writer was making a reference to the country which was afterwards inhabited by the Amalekites. C. Knight elaborates this concept by making the comparison: "Caesar went into France" because Gaul was afterward occupied by the Franks, as Gaul is present day France.
Alternatively, during the Islamic Golden Age, certain Arabic writings claimed that the Amalekites existed long before Abraham. Some Muslim historians claimed that the Amalekites who fought Joshua were descendants of the inhabitants of North Africa. Al-Masudi said that the Amalekites originated in the region of Mecca well before the days of Abraham. Ebn Arabshah purported that Amalek was a descendant of Ham, son of Noah. Even medieval Jewish historian Nachmanides argued that the Amalekites were not descended from the grandson of Esau but from a man named Amalek, from whom the grandson took his name. It is, however, possible that the name Amalek may have been given to two different nations. The Arabians mention Imlik, Amalik, or Ameleka among the aborigines of Arabia, the remains of which were mingled with the descendants of Joktan and Adnan and became Mostarabs or Mocarabes, that is, Arabians mixed with foreigners.
By the 19th Century, there was strong support by Western theologians for the idea that the nation of Amalek could have flourished before the time of Abraham. Matthew George Easton advocated that the Amalekites were not descendants of Amalek, by taking the literal approach to Genesis 14:7. However, the modern biblical scholar David Freedman uses textual analysis to glean that the use of Amalekite in Genesis 14:7 is actually an anachronism, a chronological inconsistency of (in this case) a group of people in a misplaced time. Also in the early 19th century, Richard Watson enumerated several speculative reasons for having a "more ancient Amalek" than Abraham. However, there is no physical evidence nor any solid factual grounds to support the belief that the Amalekites had a much earlier origin than Abraham.
In the exegesis of Numbers 24:20 concerning Balaam's utterance: “Amalek was the first one of the nations, but his end afterward will be even his perishing”, Richard Watson attempts to associate this passage to the "first one of the nations" that developed post-Flood. However, according to Samuel Cox, Balaam was not speaking here of the origin of nations that developed just after The Flood, but with the history in connection to the Israelites. Balaam was hired to curse Israel who were about to enter the Promised Land. Balaam lists Moab, Edom, and Seir as Israel’s opponents, then he declares that the Amalekites were “the first one of the nations” to rise up in opposition to the Israelites, for the Amalekites were the "first" in their hostility toward the Israelites.
Many nomadic groups from the Arabian desert, apparently including Amalekites, have collectively been termed "Arab(s)". While considerable knowledge about nomadic Arabs have been recovered through archeological research, no specific artifacts or sites have been linked to Amalek with any certainty. However, it is possible that some of the fortified settlements in the Negev highlands and even Tel Masos (near Beer-sheba) have Amalek connections. Easton claims that the Babylonian inscription Sute refers to the Amalekites, as well as the Egyptian term Sittiu. Easton also claims that the Armana tablets refer to the Amalekites under the general name Khabbatti, or "plunderers".
Judaist views of the Amalekites
In Judaism, the Amalekites came to represent the archetypal enemy of the Jews. In the Jewish folklore the Amalekites are considered to be the symbol of evil. This concept has been used by some hassidic rabbis (particularly the Baal Shem Tov) to represent atheism or the rejection of God. Nur Masalha, Elliot Horowitz and Josef Stern suggest that Amalekites have come to represent an "eternally irreconcilable enemy" that wants to murder Jews, and that Jews in post-biblical times sometimes associate contemporary enemies with Haman or Amalekites, and that some Jews believe that pre-emptive violence is acceptable against such enemies.
During the Purim festival, the Book of Esther is read in the commemoration of the saving of the Jewish people from Haman (considered to be an Amalekite) who leads a plot to kill the Jews. On the basis of Exodus 17:14, where the Lord promised to "blot out the name" of Amalek, it is customary for the audience to make a noise whenever "Haman" is mentioned, in order to desecrate his name.
Extermination of the Amalekites
Of the 613 mitzvot (commandments) followed by Orthodox Jews, three refer to the Amalek: to remember what the Amalekites did to the Israelites, not to forget what the Amalekites did to Israelites, and to destroy the Amalekites utterly. The rabbis derived these from Deuteronomy 25:17–18, Exodus 17:14 and 1 Sam. 15:3. Rashi explains the third commandment:
- From man unto woman, from infant unto suckling, from ox unto sheep, so that the name of Amalek not be mentioned even with reference to an animal by saying "This animal belonged to Amalek"..
- 598 Deut. 25:17 — Remember what Amalek did to the Israelites
- 599 Deut. 25:19 — Wipe out the descendants of Amalek
- 600 Deut. 25:19 — Not to forget Amalek's atrocities and ambush on our journey from Egypt in the desert
Some commentators have discussed the ethics of the commandment to exterminate all the Amalekites, including the command to kill all the women, children, and the notion of collective punishment. Maimonides explains that the commandment to destroy the nation of Amalek requires the Jewish people to peacefully request that they accept upon themselves the Noachide laws and pay a tax to the Jewish kingdom. Only if they refuse must they be physically killed. Some commentators, such as Rabbi Hayim Palaggi (1788–1869) argued that Jews had lost the tradition of distinguishing Amalekites from other people, and therefore the commandment of killing them could not practically be applied ("...We can rely on the maxim that in ancient times, Sennacherib confused the lineage of many nations." [Eynei Kol Ḥai, 73, on Sanhedrin 96b])
Armenians associated with Amalekites
This ascription of Armenians is seen in the context of indifference, which was widely criticized by the Israeli historian Ya'ir Oron in his book The Banality of Indifference that dealt with the inaction of overall members of the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian Genocide in the beginning of the 20th century.:124
This indifference was noted inside the Jewish community of the Ottoman Empire, during the 1909 massacre of Armenians in Adana by Itamar Ben-Avi, the first native speaker of Modern Hebrew in the newspaper HaZvi. In an editorial named "We", he intervened to speak about the attitude of the Jews during the upheaval and widespread carnage that ensued during the Ottoman countercoup of 1909, while protesting the general indifference to calls to help alleviate the plight of the Armenians. Outlining the attitude and loyalties of the Ottoman Jews at the time, with regards to other subjects, he wrote: “We did nothing, because we were timid, because the matter did not affect us directly, utterly. Unfortunately these Turks were not Jews. Unfortunately we had covert sympathy for the enemy of the Turkish Parliament, Abd-Hamid II. Sympathy because we believe that Abd-al Hamid would always be our friend, our generous and merciful supporter. That is why we stood aside; that is why we chose to be, in the words of the wise commander, the rearguard; that is why we continue today, two weeks after the revolution and a week after the victory of the 'Young Turks' to be indifferent. We are watching from the side and waiting. We are a peculiar people. Yes we!”:125 Regarding the attitude of the Jews towards the Armenians, he wrote: “A slight grimace on their lips, a short heartfelt sigh, and nothing more. The Armenians are not Jews, and according to folk tradition the Armenians are nothing more than Amaleks! Amaleks? We would give them help? To whom? To Amaleks? Heaven forbid!”.:126
The tradition of identifying Armenians as Amalekites goes back to the 10th century, when it was first attested in the Byzantine Hebrew chronicle Josippon attributed to the Southern Italian Jew Joseph ben Gorion.:122
The Italian rabbi Obadiah ben Abraham of Bertinoro wrote to his father of the sects in Jerusalem, to which he had made aliyah late in the 15th century, he listed among the Christians "the Latins, Greeks, Jacobites, Amalekites, Abyssinians." It may be that Byzantine Jews made the identification of Armenians and Amalekites to distinguish the former from the Greek Orthodox Christians, and its continued use seems primarily aimed to register the idea that the Amalekites still existed within the realm of Christendom.:122–3
The Byzantine Emperor Leo V the Armenian, who ruled from 813 AD to 820 AD until his assassination by one of his top generals, Michael the Amorian, was known as "the Amalekite" apparently because of his approval of the Islamic prohibition against the depiction of sacred images.In 1839 the British Jewish-Christian missionary Joseph Wolff was struck by what he thought remarkable, namely
'that the Armenians, who are detested by the Jews as the supposed descendants of the Amalekites, are the only Christian church who have interested themselves for the protection and conversion of Jews.':10 Other missionaries visiting the Holy Land that same year, namely the Scottish missionaries Andrew Bonar and Robert Murray M'Cheyne suggested that what they saw as “the peculiar hatred which the Jews bear toward the Armenians may arise from a charge often brought against them, namely that Haman was an Armenian, and that the Armenians were the Amalekites of the Bible, attributing this to the fact that Armenians were the first nation to adopt Christianity in 301 AD.:10–11 Late in the nineteenth century, the Russian traveller of Jewish origin Joseph Judah Chorny reported hearing from the Jews of Georgia that the Armenians were descendants of the Amalekites.:124 In another anecdote, a Jewish traveler reported that among Armenians who traded with Jews in eastern Galicia, there was a practice of mourning Haman’s death on Purim, and lighting candles in his memory.:124
Nazis associated with Amalekites
A prominent 19th and early 20th century rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, claimed upon Kaiser Wilhelm's visit to Palestine in 1898, three decades before Hitler's rise to power, he had a tradition from his teachers that the Germans are descended from the ancient Amalekites.
Samuel's words to Agag: "As your sword bereaved women, so will your mother be bereaved among women." (Samuel 1:15:33) were quoted by Israeli President Itzhak Ben-Zvi in his handwriting in response to a telegram sent by Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann's wife pleading for clemency after he was taken to Israel and sentenced to death.
According to the Hebrew Bible, Amalek lived in Canaan:"Amalek dwells in the land of the Negev" (Numbers 13:29). The Israelites were instructed to kill all those who dwelled in Canaan: "thou shalt save alive nothing that breathes" (Deuteronomy 19:16) otherwise "it shall come to pass, that I shall do to you, as I thought to do to them" (Numbers 33:56). The Hebrew Bible ascribes Haman, who tried to commit a genocide of the Jewish people, to Agag, whom the Israelites, led by Saul, failed to kill. According to these verses Hitler may be seen as a result of this failure.
Zionists associated with Amalekites
The anti-Zionist Haredi rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum denounced the proposed draft of Haredi men by the Israel Defense Forces by saying "the Zionists came from the seed of Amalek. There has never been such a sect that caused so much damage to the Jewish people." A senior rabbi in Israel's Shas party, Shalom Cohen, publicly labeled Religious Zionists as Amalek, but later clarified that his remarks were aimed only at The Jewish Home party, not all Religious Zionists. Another rabbi associated with Shas, Shimon Badani, referred to Finance Minister Yair Lapid and The Jewish Home party as Amalek.
The Neturei Karta are a Haredi group known for their radical opposition to the state of Israel and extreme wariness with regard to non-Haredi Jews. Historically, Neturei Karta equated Zionism with Amalek and Nazism. For some Neturei Karta rabbis the very word 'amalek' is read in gematriya to mean 'politics', which in their view is something pious Jews should never engage in, since politics for them constitutes galut, or exile.
In the religious teaching of Meir Kahane (1932 - 1990), Amalek is a mythical enemy of Israel, embodied in different actual enemies throughout Jewish history. Since God and the Jewish people, according to Kahane, are ontologically related, the contemporary enemies of Israel are allegedly threatening existence of God himself. In the contemporary meaning, "Amalek" refers to the hostile Gentiles who are to be revenged for the near annihilation of Jews and their God, or calls for the analogous actions in future. Metaphysics of Kahane, borrowed from the earlier Jewish authors (Judah Halevy, Abraham Isaac Kook), provided justification for the radical movement known as Kahanism, presently banned in Israel.
- J. Macpherson, 'Amalek' in James Hastings,(ed.) A Dictionary of the Bible: Volume I (Part I: A -- Cyrus), Volume 1, University Press of the Pacific, Honolulu, (1898) 2004, pp.77-79,p.77.
- Louis H. Feldman, '"Remember Amalek!": Vengeance, Zealotry, and Group Destruction in the Bible According to Philo, Pseudo-Philo, and Josephus, Hebrew Union College Press, 2004 pp.8-9
- Eerdmans 2000, p. 48.
- Mercer Dictionary 1990, p. 21.
- Easton 1894, p. 35 Am’alek.
- Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi, Kabbalah and Exodus,Weiser Books 1988 p.101.
- David Patterson, A Genealogy of Evil: Anti-Semitism from Nazism to Islamic Jihad, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp.43,244.
- M. Weippert, Semitische Nomaden des zweiten Jahrtausends. Biblica vol. 55, 1974, 265-280, 427-433
- Elise W. Crosby,Ubayd ibn Sharīyah, The History, Poetry, and Genealogy of the Yemen: The Akhbar of Abid B. Sharya Al-Jurhumi. Gorgias Press LLC, 2007 p.81 n.65 Imlīq is a back-formation from Amālīq, which was considered to be a broken Arabic plural.
- Insight 1988, p. 86.
- Knight 1833, p. 411.
- Watson 1832, p. 50.
- Easton 1894, p. 35, Am’alekite.
- Insight 1988, p. 86, “the whole field of the Amalekites” (Genesis 14:7) described the region as it was understood by people of Moses’ time.
- Cox 1884, p. 125-126.
- Eerdmans 2000, p. 49.
- Masalha, Nur, Imperial Israel and the Palestinians: the politics of expansion, Pluto Press, 2000, pp 129–131.
- Stern, Josef, "Maimonides on Amalek, Self-Corrective Mechanisms, and the War against Idolatry" in Judaism and modernity: the religious philosophy of David Hartman, David Hartman, Jonathan W. Malino (Eds), Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2004 page 360-362
- "The example concerns the set of biblical commandments … centered on Amalek, the ancient nation that ambushed Israel during the Exodus from Egypt… What does it mean to 'blot out the name of Amalek'? We have evidence of what this meant for biblical Israel … where the commandment is taken literally to mean: destroy by actually killing every Amalekite, man, woman, and child…. Some rabbis allegorize Amalek, taking it as a eupemism for the evil inclination; others have it symbolize the enemies of Israel throughout history; yet others make it the personification of evil…. There are also more specific historical identifications of the people of Amalek. It is well known that in medieval rabbinic literature Esau, and his land Edom, are typologically identified with Rome and, in turn, with Christianity. It is less widely known that Amalek … also came to be conflated with his ancestor and identified with Rome and then Christianity. By the early medieval period, the descendants of the ancient nation of Amalek were identified by some Jewish authors as the Armenians…. Jewish authors could put a biblical face on this overarching foe by identifying it with Amalek and find hope for ultimate victory in the biblical promise that 'God is at war with Amalek from generation to generation' (Ex. 17:16)."
- Hunter, Alastair G. "Denominating Amalek: Racist stereotyping in the Bible and the Justification of Discrimination" in Sanctified aggression: legacies of biblical and post biblical vocabularies, Jonneke Bekkenkamp, Yvonne Sherwood (Eds), Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003, page 99-105.
- "The Amalekites could well be regarded as the archetypal victims in the Pentateuch, in that divine instructions to dispose of this people are given on more than one occasion… They also symbolize a further classic device: the rhetorical move … of portraying the victim as aggressor in order to justify his/her elimination…. For most Jews .. .the denunciation of Haman the enemy is part of the light-hearted celebration of a rather 'laid back' festival. But there are more sinister implications which have in recent years emerged on the political scene …. In the early 1900s Rabbi Hayim Soloveitchik of Brisk argued that … there was a possibility of contemporary war against Amalek … Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik used this position in the early 1940s to contend that the Allied war against Nazi Germany could be understood in Jewish law as a war against Amalek… [regarding the Sept 11 attacks] a couple of 'position pieces' draw disturbing parallels between the suicide plots and the enemy Amalek. The first is .. written by Rabbi Ralph Tawil, in which the writer … comes perilously close to equating President George Bush's war against terrorism with Israel's command to eradicate their troublesome enemy."
- Divine command ethics: Jewish and Christian perspectives, Michael J. Harris, pp 137-138
- The Bible's Top Fifty Ideas: The Essential Concepts Everyone Should Know, Dov Peretz Elkins, Abigail Treu, pp 315 - 316
- The ethics of war: shared problems in different traditions, Richard Sorabji, David Rodin, p 98
- Theory and practice in Old Testament ethics, John William Rogerson, M. Daniel Carroll R., p 92
- Ya'ir Oron, The Banality of Indifference:Zionism and the Armenian Genocide, Transaction Publishers, London, 2002, p.126.
- Elliott S. Horowitz,Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence, Princeton University Press, 2006
- Poliak, Abraham N. "Armenia." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 472-474. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
- Alice-Mary Talbot (ed.), Holy Women of Byzantium: Ten Saints' Lives in English Translation, Dumbarton Oaks, 1996 pp.172-3 n.60
- Joseph Wolff (1839). Journal of the Rev. Joseph Wolff. p. 255.
- Open wounds: the crisis of Jewish thought in the aftermath of Auschwitz, David Patterson, p 216
- Jewish literacy: the most important things to know about the Jewish religion, Joseph Telushkin, p 36
- The annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry, Ephraim Oshry, p 172
- The First Word: Are Jews still commanded to blot out Amalek? - Jerusalem Post
- Carmel, Yoseph, Itzchak Ben Zvi from his Diary in the President's office , Mesada , Ramat Gan, 1967 , page 179
- "Trial and History, Menahem Moutner Editor, The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, 1999, pages 395-421". Amalnet.k12.il. Retrieved 2014-02-08.
- "Satmar: IDF draft worse than annihilation".
- "Shas rabbi says 'Amalek' remarks only refer to Habayit Hayehudi".
- "Shas Rabbi Calls Religious Zionists 'Animals,' 'Idiots'".
- Gershon Greenberg, 'Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Thought About the Holocaust since World War Two:The Radicalized Aspect,' in Steven T. Katz (ed.), The Impact of the Holocaust on Jewish Theology, New York University Press, 2005 pp.132-159, p.136.
- Steven V. Mazie, Israel's Higher Law: Religion and Liberal Democracy in the Jewish State, Lexington Books 2006 p.57.
- Adam Afterman, Gedaliah Afterman. "Meir Kahane and Contemporary Jewish Theology of Revenge". Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 98, Number 2, 2015, pp. 192-217.
- "Is The Bible More Violent Than The Quran?". =National Public Radio.
- August. C. Krey (1921). The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants. pp. 33–36.
- Cox, Samuel (1884). Balaam: An Exposition and a Study. London: K. Paul, Trench, & Company.
- Easton, Matthew George (1894). Illustrated Bible Dictionary (2nd Ed ed.). London: T. Nelson.
- Freedman, David Noel (2000). Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, Astrid B. Beck ed.). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 9780802824004.
- Knight, Charles (1833). Penny Cyclopaedia, Volumes 1-2. Great Britain.
- Mills, Watson E.; associate editor, Roger Bullard (1997). Mercer Dictionary of the Bible (3rd and corr. print. ed.). Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press. ISBN 9780865543737.
- Insight (1988). Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 1. Pennsylvania: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.
- Sagi, Avi (1994). The Punishment of Amalek in Jewish Tradition: Coping with the Moral Problem, Harvard Theological Review Vol.87, No.3, p. 323-46.
- Watson, Richard (1832). A Biblical and theological dictionary. London: Publisher, John Mason.
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