Attacked by Amalek

Exodus 17:8-16

Our portion ends with an account of an attack by Amalek against the Children of Israel. Moses sends Joshua out to lead the people in battle, while he, supported by his brother Aaron and nephew Hur, held his arms up in supplication to God throughout. When is hands were raised, the Israelites rallied, but as they drooped, Amalek began to gain. Aaron and Hur brought him a rock to sit on and helped hold his arms aloft.


Following the battle, God requires Moses to record that He will surely erase the memory of Amalek from the Earth, for an enmity will exist for all time between Amalek and God.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

We are told the story of Amalek again in Deuteronomy 25, which is read in synagogues worldwide the Sabbath before the Purim holiday, whose villain was descended from Amalek. What do you think was so severe about Amalek’s actions that would cause the eternal enmity of God?


Comments ( 11 )

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  • Donald Harvey

    I have a question not related to this lesson which is in Leviticus 11:3-4 in "The Israel Bible" edited by Rabbi Tuly Weisz in which it reads "3 any animal that has true hoofs, with clefts through the hoofs, and that chews the cud-such you may eat. 4 The following, however, of those that either chew the cud or have true hoofs, you shall not eat: the camel–although it chews the cud, it has no true hoofs: it is unclean for you. The only difference I see is "with clefs through the hoofs." What is the clefs through the hoofs, and what does this refer to?

  • Herman Arentsen

    They cowardly attacked old persons and children (see Samuel’s remarks) and these were at the end of the Israeli caravan on their way through the wilderness. So it was as if they planned to destroy Israel’s past (the old people )and to destroy Israel’s future (the children). It is exactly like what happens nowadays: trying to wipe out Our History (which at the same time is G-d History) and the future : the coming of Massiach This is the goal of HaShem for our nation . So it is a kind of prophetic action which endures time hence there will always a battle between Amalek and Israel, between the forces that try to reach their ungodly purposes and the people of G-d executing HIS plans.

  • Diana Brown

    Goliath is a perfect example of Amalek for me. He stood up in defiance of the Lord God and openly demoralized Israel for faithfully trusting in Him. The Spirit of Amalek will be forever defeated once we don’t listen to that voice on an individual basis and once nations don’t listen to that voice and truly listen to G-d’s Voice. He echoes through our generations…”Let My People Go.” I hope now is the time that world will listen. History shows what happens when the world doesn’t listen to the L-rd G-d who spoke us into existence. I do pray for people to have ears to listen and eyes to see. Then war will be no more.

  • Drew

    The Israelites sang a song and finally seemed to be free, when something untoward and unexpected happened. They were attacked by a new enemy, the Amalekites, a nomadic group living in the desert. Moses instructed Joshua to lead the people in battle. They fought and won. But the Torah makes it clear that this was no ordinary battle:
    Then 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 name of Amalek from under heaven.’ Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, ‘The hand is on the Lord’s throne. The Lord will be at war with Amalek for all generations.’ (Ex. 17:14-16)
    This is a very strange statement, and it stands in marked contrast to the way the Torah speaks about the Egyptians. The Amalekites attacked Israel during the lifetime of Moses just once. The Egyptians oppressed the Israelites over an extended period, oppressing and enslaving them and starting a slow genocide by killing every male Israelite child. The whole thrust of the narrative would suggest that if any nation would become the symbol of evil, it would be Egypt.
    But the opposite turns out to be true. In Deuteronomy the Torah states, “Do not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a stranger in his land” (Deut. 23:8). Shortly thereafter, Moses repeats the command about the Amalekites, adding a significant detail:
    Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God … You shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! (Deut. 25:17-19)
    We are commanded not to hate Egypt, but never to forget Amalek. Why the difference? The simplest answer is to recall the rabbis’ statement in The Ethics of the Fathers: “If love depends on a specific cause, when the cause ends, so does the love. If love does not depend on a specific cause, then it never ends.” (2) The same applies to hate. When hate depends on a specific cause, it ends once the cause disappears. Causeless, baseless hate lasts forever.
    The Egyptians oppressed the Israelites because, in Pharaoh’s words, “The Israelites are becoming too numerous and strong for us” (Ex. 1:9). Their hate, in other words, came from fear. It was not irrational. The Egyptians had been attacked and conquered before by a foreign group known as the Hyksos, and the memory of that period was still acute and painful. The Amalekites, however, were not being threatened by the Israelites. They attacked a people who were “weary and worn out,” specifically those who were “lagging behind.” In short: the Egyptians feared the Israelites because they were strong. The Amalekites attacked the Israelites because they were weak.
    In today’s terminology, the Egyptians were rational actors, the Amalekites were not. With rational actors there can be negotiated peace. People engaged in conflict eventually realise that they are not only destroying their enemies: they are destroying themselves. That is what Pharaoh’s advisers said to him after seven plagues: “Do you not yet realise that Egypt is ruined?” (Ex. 10:7). There comes a point at which rational actors understand that the pursuit of self-interest has become self-destructive, and they learn to co-operate.
    It is not so, however, with non-rational actors. Emil Fackenheim, one of the great post-Holocaust theologians, noted that towards the end of the Second World War the Germans diverted trains carrying supplies to their own army, in order to transport Jews to the extermination camps. So driven were they by hate that they were prepared to put their own victory at risk in order to carry out the systematic murder of the Jews of Europe. This was, he said, evil for evil’s sake.. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

  • Kenneth Osterman

    Very interesting verse. Amalek, Blot out, Memorial, Rehearse in the ears of Joshua. I appreciate the various comments of Casey & Magda.
    The first time blot is used in the Bible is when God blots out evil men in Noah’s day.
    This battle against Amalek (the epitomy of evil) continues throughout Israel’s existence (on a personal and national level).
    Moses pictures one type of deliverance and Joshua the greater deliverance when evil is forever blotted out.

  • Magda

    Amalek was Esau’s grandson (Gen36:12) and referred to by the prophet Bilaam as ‘the first among nations’ (Numbers 24:20), that is the leading force of evil, against Israel as the leading force of good. (Stone ed Tanach commentary) Israel’s commission is to be a light to the nations, whereas Amalek turns out to be the personification of evil and modern-day terrorism. This is the eternal struggle of good versus evil. In this battle – one of many to follow of Israel as good (putting their trust in God) against evil (those rebelliously and viciously opposed to God and His people), Israel prevails when Moses’ hands are upwards (emunah – in faithful prayer) and falls / Amalek became stronger when Moses’ hands became heavy and he lowered them. Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 3:8 teaches: “As long as Israel looked heavenward and subjected their heartto their Father in Heaven, they would prevail. But when they did not, they would fail” So it’s all about trusting and looking towards our Heavenly Father 100%, it’s His victory, but for Israel to have if they turn towards Him. A remnant of Amalek pestered Kind David and King Saul and prevails to this day in modern day terrorism against Israel with their full-blown hatred of the Creator of the Universe and His people and their cowardly practice of attacking from behind. Exodus 17:16 Moses prophesies that God will continue to wage war against Amalek, until their memory is obliterated. Israel’s duty is only to keep their eyes heavenward – all the time.

    • Angela B

      Thanks for this explanation Magda, they are insightful and true in my opinion, Amalek is the first born among the nations and hence representing the cradle of evil. Yahweh stands for holiness hence will forever destroy evil.

      • Angela B

        Sorry, a correction to my comment above, Amalek was not the first born among the nations. I have learnt from a Rabbi that Amalek has always tried to fight for Israel's position as the first born among nations and hence Yahweh can never allow this; this is why Amalek has to be wiped out forever.

  • Drew

    Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)
    by Moshe Erlbaum
    10 great Torah teasers.
    1. Which son of Yaakov is mentioned in this parsha?

    2. Aside from Egypt and Israel, which four other nations are mentioned in the Song of the Sea (“Az Yashir”)?

    3. Aside from this parsha, where else does the Torah use the expression “Az Yashir”?

    4. In this parsha, which verse has five words in a row beginning with the same letter?

    5. In what two contexts is a wall mentioned in this parsha?

    6. In what three contexts is a stone (evven) mentioned in this parsha? [Not a flint/rock (tzur) which is struck by Moshe to bring forth water.]

    7. In this parsha, in what three contexts did Moshe take his mateh (staff)?

    8. Besides Moshe and Aharon, who else in the Torah has a staff? (2 answers)

    9. What verse in this parsha has five two-letter words in a row?

    10. Thought question: What blessing would we say when eating manna?

  • Casey

    Purim, Esther, Amelek, and the single most specific prophecy in the entireTanakh. Fullfilled by yod hay vav hay 2300 years after Esther states “if it please the King hang these…..” For a deeper understand or take on Amalek I highly recommend watching this. It all comes together at the end, there are no shortcuts, you need view it all. In my opinon this is greater than any and all the physical miracles of the Exodus combinded, as it is beyond an human explanation from Napolean or anyone else.

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