Why Amalek Matters

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"The Victory of Joshua over the Amalekites" Nicolas Poussin
“The Victory of Joshua over the Amalekites”
Nicolas Poussin

A Jewish friend once told me that in some Jewish circles the way to celebrate Purim is to drink so much at the party that it becomes difficult to distinguish Esther from Haman.  I have not been to such a Purim party, but I do understand (thanks to certain indiscretions in my misspent youth) what it means to forget what happened at a party.  It seems to me that God wanted His people to observe the events of Purim, but probably not in that particular way.

Purim is now upon us.[1]  As explained in a previous post (Assorted Antichrists, February 16, 2014), Purim is the celebration of God’s salvation of the Jews in the time of King Xerxes I (Ahasuerus), Queen Esther, and Grand Vizier Mordechai.  The Jews at that time (c480 BC) were, and still are, the visible remnant of Israel, and God intervened to save them from the wicked Haman, a descendant of Agag, King of Amalek (Esther 3:1; I Samuel 15:1-9).  And while we remember God’s great work at the time of Esther, there is more that should come to our awareness, if not our remembrance, at this time.  This was the point in a teaching published by The Temple Institute on March 14, 2014, entitled “Remember What Amelek Did”.  The teaching explains this about our collective memory:

Memory is much more than the recalling of things past.  It is more than nostalgia and more than reverie.  Memory is most commonly associated with the past.  In truth memory has as much to do with the future as it has to do with the past.  But memory, in its purest and most essential state, is all about the present.  We are instructed to remember Amalek precisely because Amalek attacked Israel because Israel had forgotten.  Had Israel forgotten their forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, whom G-d had recalled to Moshe?  No.  Had Israel forgotten the signs and wonders G-d performed for them in Egypt?  No.  Had Israel forgotten how G-d delivered them from Pharaoh’s army at the Sea of Reeds?  No.  All these memories were firmly planted in Israel’s hearts and souls.  What Israel had forgotten was themselves.  They had forgotten who they were, what their purpose was and the destiny toward which they were heading.  It was a momentary loss, to be sure, but enough to awaken Amalek, the hater of Israel, who sensing any weakness in Israel, leaps at Israel’s jugular, determined to destroy her.  And there is no greater weakness than the loss of memory.

A person who has no memory has no identity, no sense of self.  A person who suffers a severe trauma to their brain and as a result loses their memory must be retaught who they are by retracing their past and reconstructing their present before they can move forward in life.  An elderly person whose memory is failing them is no longer themselves, as family members can attest to.  A person who loses their past loses their future.  They lose who they are.[2]

How is this important to us at Purim?  Because the spirit of Haman is the spirit of Amalek, and the spirit of Amalek is the spirit of Antichrist.  It is that spirit which opposes all that the Lord is doing to bless all the families of the earth through the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3, 26:1-5, 28:13-15; Acts 3:25-26).  This spirit has from the beginning sought to thwart the salvation that comes through Israel.  Over the last several thousand years it has been recognized only as a spirit that attacks Jews, but it is in reality the enemy of all Israel.  Remember that Israel has separated into two camps for 3,000 years, ever since the Northern Kingdom of Israel broke away from Judah in the days of Jeroboam and Rehoboam (I Kings 12:1-24).  Israel has been dispersed for 2,700 years, ever since the Assyrian conquest of the Northern Kingdom.  The Amalekite spirit has had no need to concentrate on the Northern Tribes, or the House of Ephraim, because they have been scattered among the nations and have forgotten their identity.  The fight has been against the Southern Tribes, the House of Judah, the Jews, because they alone retain their identity as Israelites, and from them has come Messiah Yeshua (John 4:22).[3]

Now, in our day, something new is happening:  Christians around the world are awakening to the fact that we are Israelites.  We may not be natural-born descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but we are their spiritual heirs by virtue of our being grafted into the nation through the work of Messiah Yeshua and our faith in Him.[4]  There are physical descendants of the House of Ephraim and they will be identified in time, but until God sorts that out we can rest assured that those who call on the Name of The Lord Yeshua (Jesus) are the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel whom Yeshua came to seek and to save (Matthew 15:24).

So if we are Israelites, what lessons can we learn from the Amalekites?  Consider their first appearance in scripture, just after Israel had escaped from Egypt, and just before they reached Mount Sinai:

Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called its name, The- Lord -Is-My-Banner; for he said, “Because the Lord has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”  (Exodus 17:8-16 NKJV)

It was this incident that caused the Lord to say years later:

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.  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 25:17-19 NKJV)

The people of Israel came out of Egypt as a mixed multitude (Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4).  Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians, Libyans, Nubians, Ethiopians, Hittites, Greeks, Cretans, Canaanites, and other peoples joined with Israel to leave Egypt.  They were not yet organized into the tribes as they marched across the Sinai desert.  The first census of Israel and the organization of the camp into tribal units would not happen until the second year of the Exodus (Numbers 1:1-4).  Consequently, many of these stragglers whom Amalek attacked would have been the strangers who didn’t really know where they belonged.  Eventually they connected with one of the Twelve Tribes, but at first all they knew to do was follow the crowd out of slavery in Egypt.


And that is where we are now.  In time the Lord will organize His camp and put us into tribes (Ezekiel 47:21-23, 48:1-35; Revelation 7:1-8, 21:9-13), but at the moment we are still many thousands of denominations and sects bickering at one another, not really sure what we believe or where we belong, and not quite certain who we are.  We are fair game for Amalek.  Therefore our lesson in this season of Purim is to connect with our identity as Israelites and learn what that means.  Until we do, and until we greet our brethren of Judah as our fellow countrymen, the One New Man will never come about, and Amalek will continue to wreak havoc in the camp.

[1] For more information on Purim and the Hebrew calendar, see Demystifying the Calendar, posted on The Barking Fox February 2, 2014.

[2] The Temple Institute, “Remember What Amalek Did”, March 14, 2014.  This teaching was distributed in the Temple Institute’s weekly email newsletter, and unfortunately is not available online as of publication of this blog post.

[3] For more on this subject, see Is Jesus on Vacation?, posted on The Barking Fox March 1, 2014.

[4] See Commonwealth and Cooperation:  How Jews and Christians Can Work Together, posted on The Barking Fox in three parts, January 3-9, 2014.

© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2014.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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