Contributed by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis
The tribal and metaphysical nemesis of Israel. Originally identified in the Bible as a tribal people who massacred vulnerable Israelites coming up for Egyptian slavery, Deuteronomy commands Israel to "blot out" Amalek from under heaven, for God "will be at war with Amalek throughout the ages."1 The later failure of Saul to kill Agag, the King of the Amalekites, alienates God from him.
Because of Saul's error, descendants of the Amalekites continue to threaten Israel across the ages. Haman was a descendant of Agag. The Romans were also children of Amalek. Since the Middle Ages it has been an idiom to identify any implacable enemy of the Jews as "Amalek."
Article copyright © 2004 Geoffrey Dennis.
- Ant. 11; MdRI; Ex. R. 26; PdRK 27.