The Destruction of the Amalekites

The Amalekites attacked the Israelites without apparent provocation as they were traveling during the Exodus (Ex 17:8). "When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind" (Dt 25:17-18). They later attacked Israel during the time of the Judges (Jdg 3:13) and often raided the Israelites' land after they had planted crops, leaving them with nothing (Jdg 6:2-5). God punished the Amalekites by ordering Saul to destroy them (1 Sam 15:2-3) - over 300 years after they had first attacked Israel. During that time, the Amalekites had contact with the Israelites and would have heard about God. They could have repented and changed their ways, but they continued to raid and plunder other cities up to the time of Saul and David (1 Sam 30:1-3). The Amalekites that Saul and David warred against were clearly no better than their ancestors who had first waylaid Israel.

Did God "blot out the memory of Amalek" or not?

The LORD said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven."

Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, "For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation." (Ex 17:14-16)

"Blot out the memory of Amalek" refers to the extinction of the descendents of Amalek. Clearly God was not referring to the world's knowledge that Amalek existed, else he would not have commanded the Amalekites' defeat to be recorded. He wanted the incidents to be remembered, so that future generations would realize that God, not the Israelites, defeated the Amalekites and avenged their unjust treatment of others.

The Amalekites presumably would have been wiped out by Saul in 1 Samuel 15 if he had followed God's instructions. He did destroy the city of Amalek, but other raiding parties/nomadic bands of Amalekites survived. These were defeated by David in 1 Samuel 30 with the exception of a few hundred who escaped (30:17). The remnant of the Amalekites were finally destroyed by the Israelites many years later (1 Chr 4:43). Thus, while God did blot out the memory of Amalek by wiping out his descendents, he was at war with them for many generations.

Wasn't this unjust revenge?

The revenge was in fact punishment from God on an unrepentant nation. As noted above, they were given ample time to change their ways. While it was the descendents of the original attackers who were punished, they led the same evil lifestyle that their ancestors had (and possibly one that was worse - in dealing with evil nations in the OT, God often withheld punishment until their wickedness reached a particularly high level). Furthermore, it was God who was avenging the Israelites, not the Israelites themselves. God, who has perfect knowledge, wisdom and justice, has the authority to avenge; humans, including the Israelites, do not have this authority.

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