Beshalach | Exposing the inner Amalek

Beshalach | Exposing the inner Amalek

Reuven deals with the idea that within each person is a struggle to do good and pursue Torah. The sages of blessed memory say that Amalek in a metaphor for internal fight of a person that is striving for righteousness.

“Amalek”  is the name of a nomadic nation south of Palestine. That the Amalekites were not Arabs, but of a stock related to the Edomites (consequently also to the Hebrews), can be concluded from the genealogy in Gen. xxxvi. 12 and in I Chron. i. 36. Amalek is a son of Esau’s first-born son Eliphaz and of the concubine Timna, the daughter of Seir, the Horite, and sister of Lotan (Gen. xxxvi. 12; compare Timnah as name of an Edomite chief or clan, verse 40). On the other hand, Gen. xiv. 7 speaks of Amalekites, in southern Palestine, in the time of Abraham. That they were of obscure origin is also indicated in Num. xxiv. 20, where the Amalekites are called “the first of the nations.” The Amalekites were the first to come in contact with the Israelites (Ex. xvii. 8), vainly opposing their march at Rephidim, not far from Sinai (compare Deut. xxv. 17, “smiting the hindmost, all that were feeble behind,” and I Sam. xv. 2). Consequently, they must be considered as possessors of the Sinaitic peninsula, of the modern desert et-Tih, or at least of the northern part of it. According to Num. xiii. 29, xiv. 25, which speaks of Amalekites defeating the Israelites in the lowland (verses 43, 45), they occupied also southern Palestine, partly together with the Canaanites; see also Gen. xiv. 7 (Amalekites in “En-mishpat, which is Kadesh”). The extreme south seems to be meant, the pasture lands of the Negeb, not the arable parts.

The relation of the Kenites to the Amalekites is not quite plain. According to I Sam. xv. 6, they live with them (or at their side; compare Judges, i. 16; Num. xxiv. 21), while elsewhere they are associated with Israel (I Sam. xxvii. 10) or even specially with the tribe of Judah (I Sam. xxx. 29; I Chron. ii. 55). This would indicate that the Kenites formed a connecting-link between the Israelites, or their southern tribes, and the Amalekites. Gen. xv. 19, which foretells dispossession of the Kenites by Israel, would agree with this (see CainKenites). A similar relationship might be assumed for the Kenezites.

Enmity to Israel.

The Amalekites themselves always appear as hostile to Israel. Thus (Judges, iii. 13), together with the Ammonites, they assist Eglon of Moab, and (Judges, vi. 3, 33, vii. 12) they aid the Midianites and the children of the East against Israel. Ps. lxxxiii. 7 refers to both occasions. It is on this account that Saul leads an expedition against them (I Sam. xv.). The defeat and capture of the Amalekite king, Agag (the only Amalekite name preserved), by Saul seem to be referred to also by Balaam (Num. xxiv. 7). It is not known what locality is meant by “the city of Amalek,” which evidently was situated “in the valley”—that is, the plain (I Sam. xv. 5). One would not expect that the settlements of such a wandering nation would deserve the name of a city.

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