Strangers, Widows, and Amalek

March 22, 2024

As you read this on your phone or your computer, you’re probably thinking – if this essay is about Amalek and the commandment in the Bible is to obliterate them as a nation, why does it begin with a verse  about strangers and the treatment of widows? 

Stay with me. This is no mixup, and momentarily, you’ll see why.

But first, why do you think I shared this quote here? What do widows and strangers have to do with the wars between nations?

Let’s take a look at that fateful day Amalek attacked Israel with a brutal display of barbarity. Israel has finally escaped the clutches of Pharoah’s evil grasp, slaves no longer. The children of Israel were free at last. Their escape was so narrow and quick that they certainly did not have time to let their bread rise, let alone catch their breath and regroup as a nation. Their joy knew no bounds, as they broke into spontaneous song and dance after crossing the Rea Sea, and the weight of four hundred years of slavery was finally lifted from their shoulders. I’m smiling just thinking about it.

And yet, at that moment of joy, relief, and vulnerability – in the days after the Jews found their freedom, the Nation of Amalek attacked.

Following a heated battle, and with God’s aid, Israel emerges – yet victorious to continue their journey to the promised land. Immediately afterward, God famously commands Israel:

The severity of such a declaration is incalculable, coming from God Himself. This highlights a fascinating mystery – when the Jewish people left Egypt, they were not commanded to wipe out the Egyptians’ name forever. And similarly, though other nations have shown aggression towards the Jewish people too, the messaging is not the same. 

Why this declaration here? Why now? 

What is so horribly special about Amalek is that, unlike other nations, they targeted the Children of Israel specifically in their most vulnerable, life-affirming moments. Here was a group of slaves, literally on exodus from their slave masters, and Amalek ambushed them. As it says in Deuteronomy

Can we understand now just how significant the war with Amalek was? Picture this: a group of people devoted to their God, to ultimately keeping God’s commandments, are then violently ambushed in the cruelest of ways by Amalek. Unprovoked. Unsolicited. 

This brings us full circle to strangers and widows, for just as the censure of Amalek is the single most severe of its kind in the Bible, the command in the Bible to remember and protect the stranger and widow is one of the most frequent, literally repeated dozens of times. Indeed, they nearly bookend the Ten Commandments, with the Amalekite war occurring just before, and the injunction to protect the most vulnerable in society occurring just after. We were once strangers in a strange land, the Bible reminds us, and so now we must embrace and defend those who need our support.

This Sabbath, as we read the chapter of the Bible, we are reminded of our eternal obligation to destroy Amalek. In Jewish tradition, it is universally accepted that Amalek as a nation can no longer be identified in modern times. Yet the broader lesson of committing ourselves to fight Amalek—to fight against those who would target the weak and vulnerable for slaughter—is exactly what we need today.  “Remember what Amalek did to you,” God commands. And so we still remember today.

Together let’s take a moment to put that into action. With your help, we have been providing critical assistance to some of Israel’s most vulnerable population: survivors of the October 7th massacre. Please consider donating to an incredible ongoing charity drive and aiding those who need our help. Presently, and quite terribly, survivors of the October 7th massacre are those who were “cut down in the rear.” Many of whom have lost friends and family, not to mention their homes and livelihoods in the aftermath of that deadly day. By helping them, you are taking part in an incredible mission to defend the stranger and the widow so that good ultimately wins the day.

We must remember that we will never let evil take advantage of our vulnerability. In doing so, we are actively blotting out the name of Amalek forever. 

Israeli soldiers are risking their lives to protect us all from Islamic terrorism. But they need our help. Sign up for Israel365 Action to receive updates on how YOU can help fight Hamas and its supporters in the United States and around the world.

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

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