What the Bible says about
Ambush by Amalekites
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Though Esau himself was full of bitter hatred, and Ishmael is described as a wild man, Amalek seems to have been the worst of the Edomite-related peoples. The Bible records that even God has a special enmity for Amalek, saying in Exodus 17:16, "Because the LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." What is it about the Amalekites that turns God against them?
The story begins as the Israelites are fleeing from Egypt, having just crossed the Red Sea, as Exodus 17:8 chronicles, "Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim." Evidently, the Amalekites had heard of Egypt's total defeat at the Red Sea and decided to take advantage of its usually more powerful neighbor's weakness. Between them and their prize, however, walked a strung out line of Israelite wanderers, who seemed to be, not only laden with Egyptian loot, but also easy pickings.
Deuteronomy 25:17-18 fills out the story: "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God." The Amalekites, not daring to take on the main host of Israel, attacked the tail end of the line, where the slow and weak plodded along. Yet, as Moses notes, the Amalekites did not include God in their calculations.
Moses commanded Joshua to select men to fight, and the Israelites met the Amalekites in battle. The result of this seesaw fight appears in Exodus 17:13-16. Forty years later, when Israel is about to cross over Jordan, God reminds Israel of Amalek's perfidious act and charges them:
Therefore it shall be, when the LORD your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget. (Deuteronomy 25:19)
The Amalekites appear again in the well-known episode in which God instructed King Saul to carry out this command:
Thus says the LORD of hosts: "I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey." (I Samuel 15:2-3)
However, despite winning the battle, Saul did not follow God's instructions completely: "But Saul and the people spared Agag [king of the Amalekites] and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed" (verse 9). God sent the prophet Samuel to tell Saul that He had rejected him as king, as well as to execute Agag.
Obviously, some Amalekites escaped Saul's army. Five centuries later, as recorded in the story of Esther, an evil man named Haman plotted genocide against the Jews in Persia during the reign of Xerxes. Haman was "the son of Hammedatha the Agagite" (Esther 3:1), probably directly descended from the Amalekite king Samuel killed.
These accounts relate the sort of trickery, terrorism, and underhandedness that the Amalekites seem to use perpetually. One can only conclude that these tactics are passed from generation to generation, becoming a hereditary trait. God has recorded these episodes to indicate to us how Amalek historically treats Israel. If a confederacy is formed against Israel, the Amalekites will be a part of it, and they will be eager to use any means to bring her down.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Two)
The Edomites' record of brutality and aggression against Israel is found throughout Scripture. Earlier, we saw Esau's personal hatred and murderous vow against Jacob (Genesis 27:41), the Amalekites' sneaky attack against the Israelite stragglers in the wilderness (Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19), Amalek's alliances with other nations against Israel (Judges 3:12-14; 6:1-6), and even Haman's attempt to exterminate the Jews in Persia (Esther 3:1, 8-11, 13). Beyond these, the Bible provides more examples of Edom's almost incessant hostility against Israel and Judah and against God's will.
Psalm 137 is a lament describing the Jews' grief and longing for Jerusalem while they were held captive in Babylon. They were too forlorn even to sing "the LORD'S song in a foreign land" (verse 4). The later verses tell of the Edomites' role in the sack of Jerusalem, and the psalm ends with the Jews' hope that the Edomites will suffer as they had:
Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom, the day of Jerusalem, who said, "Raze it, raze it, to its very foundation!" O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed, happy the one who repays you as you have served us! Happy the one who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock! (Psalm 137:7-9)
Evidently, in 586 BC, the Edomites had joined with Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian forces against Judah and reveled in the Jews' defeat, committing atrocities against defenseless babies and youngsters.
Other Old Testament chroniclers add to the tally against Edom. God, through the prophet Ezekiel, relates the same account of fratricide, as well as what He has determined to be His just response to Edom's cruelty against His chosen people. These prophecies agree in full with Obadiah's:
»Because of what Edom did against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and has greatly offended by avenging itself on them, therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "I will also stretch out My hand against Edom, cut off man and beast from it, and make it desolate from Teman; Dedan shall fall by the sword. I will lay My vengeance on Edom by the hand of My people Israel, that they may do in Edom according to My anger and according to My fury; and they shall know My vengeance," says the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 25:12-14)
»"Because you have had an ancient hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel by the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, when their iniquity came to an end, therefore, as I live," says the Lord GOD, "I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you. . . . Because you have said, 'These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess them,' although the LORD was there, therefore, as I live," says the Lord GOD, "I will do according to your anger and according to the envy which you showed in your hatred against them. . . . The whole earth will rejoice when I make you desolate. As you rejoiced because the inheritance of the house of Israel was desolate, so I will do to you; you shall be desolate, O Mount Seir, as well as all of Edom—all of it! Then they shall know that I am the LORD." (Ezekiel 35:5-6, 10-11, 14-15)
»Surely I have spoken in My burning jealousy against the rest of the nations and against all Edom, who gave My land to themselves as a possession, with whole-hearted joy and spiteful minds, in order to plunder its open country. (Ezekiel 36:5)
Jeremiah also refers to Edomite perfidy in the same destruction of Jerusalem:
Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, you who dwell in the land of Uz! The cup shall also pass over to you and you shall become drunk and make yourself naked [see Jeremiah 25:15-38]. . . . He will punish your iniquity, O daughter of Edom; He will uncover your sins! (Lamentations 4:21-22)
Among these, the prophecy in Joel 3:19 is most interesting, since the prophet Joel lived in the latter half of the ninth century BC, 250 years before Jerusalem fell to the Neo-Babylonians! He writes, "And Edom [shall be] a desolate wilderness, because of violence against the people of Judah, for they have shed innocent blood in their land." Amos, writing in the mid-eighth century BC, accuses Edom of similar crimes:
For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because he pursued his brother with a sword, and cast off all pity; his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever. But I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah. (Amos 1:11-12)
In the Bible, we have a comprehensive record of the violence that Edom has perpetrated against ancient Israel and Judah. The evidence from Obadiah reveals that the Edomites will continue their anti-Israel crime spree until God Himself intervenes in the last days. He takes great offense to these heinous acts, and thus He promises, they "shall be cut off forever" (Obadiah 1:10).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Five): Obadiah and God's Judgment
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