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Israel and the Amalekites: a Study in understanding today's Middle East War

Israel and the Amalekites: a Study in understanding today's Middle East War

By David W. Virtue, DD
December 2, 2023

When the Jews were still in Rephidim, following the Exodus, the Amalekites, a mighty and fierce people, descendants of Esau, and well-trained in the art of warfare, suddenly attacked the people of Israel. It was an unprovoked and cowardly attack upon a tired and weary people, just liberated from slavery, on the way to the Promised Land.

Later in the book of Deuteronomy by way of retaliation, the Jews were ordered by God to destroy Amalek and to remember its evil deeds.

God never forgets. The Israelites had barely crossed the Red Sea that God miraculously opened before them sparing their lives and destroying the pursuing Egyptians, when they were attacked by this formidable tribe of nomads who lived south of Canaan.

Israel was not overcome, ultimately prevailing only to turn around to destroy the Amalekites including women and children. (Dt. 25: 17-19) Gods justice was sure.

We can see parallels in today's war between Israel and Hamas.

Israel thought they could live at peace, or at least a peace of sorts with a tiny group people firing rockets into their land. An iron dome minimized their effectiveness. The world yawned. A border confrontation not worth mentioning in the hallowed halls of the UN.

But then it took a demonic twist. This evil, monstrous group of nomads took it a stage further and attacked Israel, killing 1,200 and taking into captivity another 200 of their people. The beast that had laid dormant was now aroused.

Punishment was swift. Rockets and bombs rained down on the people of Gaza, killing both Hamas as well as ordinary citizens including women and children.

Unfair I hear you cry. But is it? Why women and children? In the Torah God commanded the death of all the Amalekites, (Dt. 25:17-19) none were to be spared including women and children. If Israel is not reading its own history, it should.

The death of innocent children would appear to be the actions of a callous God. Not really. Collective punishment for the sins of the few is a constant theme in the Old Testament. When Achan sinned, his whole family was punished by death. God's covenant with Israel demanded the death penalty to appease his righteous anger against Achan's disobedience. (Joshua 7: 10-26)

Death, of course is not the final word to those who truly believe. But in this instance Israel finds itself caught in the pincer movement of liberal governments and beneficent pro-Palestinian organizations determined to minimize the killings at the expense of Israel's very survival.

Why should Israel bend to this argument when their very existence is at stake. In war, women and children always die. This is not the peculiarity or particularity of this war in Gaza, it has been so from time immemorial.

Israel is doing its best to minimize deaths through leaflet drops and surgical bombing, not something a terrorist organization like Hamas would do if positions were reversed. Israel should not be blamed or held accountable, if in the course of this war, women and children die.

The story of the Amalekites gives us ample wisdom from history. Israel must do whatever it takes to keep its nation free and democratic even if innocent people, including women and children pay the ultimate price.


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