Divided worlds

The Amalekites — Ninth in a series

The Amalekites were agitators, frequently joining in battle with those who opposed Israel (Ps 83:7), or attacking alone. They never learned.

Even though Saul was mortally wounded by the Philistines and then took his own life by falling on his sword (1 Sam 31:4), an Amalekite took credit for killing him. David had been home in Ziklag only three days when the young and boastful Amalekite escaped from Saul's camp and reported the defeat of Israel and the death of Saul to David. He proved it by giving David Saul's crown and bracelet. Imagine, an Amalekite presented David with the crown of Israel's king!

Lying, he explained, "He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life [is] yet whole in me. So I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that [was] upon his head, and the bracelet that [was] on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord." (2 Sam 1:9, 10)

"How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the LORD'S anointed?" David asked him, and then had one of his men kill him. "Thy blood [be] upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the LORD'S anointed." (2 Sam 1:14, 16)

Had the Amalekite youth hoped to find a home with David, the legendary warrior? Did he think David would admire him for being Saul's assassin? Did he think he could as easily escape David as Saul, and wished to brag about this death of an enemy? He discovered at his last moment that there are loyalties, ideals, and greater loves and goals than he had known.

David, "persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;" (2 Cor 4:9) probably looked like a man who would reward a messenger who reported the death of his adversary, and doubly reward the one who killed him. But under the worn out appearance and downcast heart was a different reality.

There is an unseen world inside even the weakest man of God, and David was by no means the weakest. He had been sustained by God's Word, law, promises, Spirit, guidance, close companionship and strengthening love. He had been obedient to the best of his understanding in most instances and had waited on the Lord for his kingship to materialize. Such ideals as respecting the anointed king, patience and long suffering, setting a godly example for his troops, and practicing humility as a way of life, were ways that the Amalekite could not comprehend.

We later discover that David dedicated the silver and gold he took from Amalek as spoils for the Lord, and this went toward building the temple. (2 Sam 8:10-12; 1 Ch 18:11) The shining obedience of David proved he understood who had won all his battles. This, perhaps, the Amalekites could understand, if they would only think.

The heathen and the godly live worlds apart. There is little beyond what is seen that they can both relate to, for what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? … Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord … and I will receive you. (2 Cor 6:17)

Our separation from those who worship false gods and hate the people of the Lord is a principle of our doctrine that was illustrated in the wars of Israel against her enemies. We, too, must war against the Enemy to stand firm in our separate world while living and working in the company of Belial's children.

This means we do not marry or form partnerships with unbelievers, and we are not to "company" with believers who break God's law without repentance. It does not mean we have no friendships or associations with unbelievers. (1 Cor 5:9-13)


We are winding down our study of the Amalekites in the Bible, looking at final mentions.

The Lord is entreated in Psalm 83 to save Israel from Amalek who was confederate with other nations determined to destroy God's nation. Chronologically, Psalm 83 was written following the overthrow of Athaliah, Israel's woman king. (2 Ch 23:12-17)

A last mention of the Amalekites is in I Chronicles. A band of them is noted as those "who were escaped," and were killed by the sons of Simeon during the reign of Hezekiah. (1 Ch 4:43) And there is a final story of those who descended from Amalek by way of King Agag whose life was spared by Saul …

The Amalekites burn down David's refuge!

The Amalekites — Eighth in a series

Saul waged war on the Amalekites all across the northern Sinai Peninsula, but they were not annihilated. They continued to attack Israel and even burned to the ground David's city, which takes some explanation.

The Philistines were Saul's nemesis, and in the earlier days of his reign, their legendary warrior was Goliath. He demanded that Saul send a Hebrew to fight him, one on one. If the Hebrew won, the Philistines would become the servants of Israel, and vice versa.

Saul had been king only a few years when the kingdom was taken from him. David had been anointed the new king by Samuel only a short time when he became Saul's armor bearer and harpist. To most intents and purposes, Saul was the king and David his underling, however, the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul and now was upon David. (1 Sam 16:13-14)

When David stepped forward to kill Goliath without armor or fanfare, he became a cult figure — and the object of Saul's envy and hatred. Soon, a new war with the Philistines erupted, and David was the man to defeat them. (1 Sam 19:8) For this, Saul tried to kill him (once again) with a javelin, but David escaped with his wife's help, who was Saul's daughter. He remained in hiding, but warred against Israel's enemies, Philistines included, with those who were loyal to him.

Over many years, David had opportunities to kill Saul but always refused. Saul gave David's wife to another and David married two more women; he gathered followers from among the distressed, and life went on. It seemed impossible that anything would change, after so long. Saul would say he wanted David to trust him and no harm would come, but David knew better.

Finally, David gave up — and joined the Philistines! He went to dwell among the very ones who had been his fierce enemy, thinking Saul would not look for him there. In fact, he took up residence in Gath, Goliath's home town!

And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: [there is] nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand. (1 Sam 27:1)

What a strange thing to say. Obviously, the man "after God's own heart" had given up on God's promises. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick (Prov 13:12). Trials that last many years confound our sense of right; only the Lord can sustain us through the spiritual warfare and waiting.

Had God not sustained David? It is somehow comforting to know that even the great saints were occasionally overwhelmed by discouragement — we have our treasure in earthen vessels. (2 Cor 4:7)

David did not completely give way. Gath's leader, Achish, gave him the city of Ziklag for a home, and from there he continued to war against Israel's enemies, the Geshurites, Gezrites, and the Amalekites, (1 Sam 27:8) but was not honest with Achish about it. He was in a place of compromise, deceit, discouragement and frayed devotion. He was in a "blind zone" about to be sideswiped by the Lord in the form of the Amalekites.

Achish trusted David so fully that he invited him on a campaign to war against Israel — in a battle that would be Saul's last, however Achish's men did not trust David, so after a hard journey, David with his troops returned to Ziklag. To their horror, the Amalekites had burned it down and taken their wives and children!

And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God. (1 Sam 30:6)

Where can we turn in our darkest times? We hide from God in God. Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel. (Ps 69:6)

Two hundred of David's troops were too weary to pursue the attackers, but 400 immediately went to take revenge, and providentially, they came upon an Egyptian who had been a servant of the Amalekites. Though he had been abandoned because of illness, he led them to the camp where the Amalekites were celebrating because of the spoil taken at Ziklag. David decimated them, except for 400 young men who rode on camels and escaped. All that the Amalekites had stolen was recovered, including all the people. (1 Sam 30:19)

From our vantage ground, we can see that David was in the end zone of his long trial when he gave up and tucked in with Achish. He remained there a year and four months (1 Sam 27:7), and then events began turning to make him king. No doubt in years to come when he would look back, he would remember how he had given up and hid his life with the enemy, but God had not given up on him. Instead, he used the Amalekites to encourage David by way of disaster. Sometimes, encouragement is a very hard bottle to open.

What a mighty and wonderfully loving God we serve! He did not cut short the reign of Saul but gave him 40 years as king. He enriched David with lessons in leadership and with the comforts of life and loyal friendship over many years, and David was only 30 when he began to reign. (2 Sam 5:4) Would he have been fit to reign before then?

And though he struck fear in David by the Amalekite attack, showing him his sin and foolishness, he preserved him from going out with Achish and the Philistines to battle against Saul, prevented him from being stoned by his own men, gave him a guide to find the enemies, and saved the lives of all who were captured, every last one, restoring all the goods and providing spoils for the troops. With only 400 troops, the Amalekites were beaten though 400 escaped, and these numbers are noted so that we today might be encouraged that our God has power to save us, too, even against overwhelming odds, even despite our foolish detours, deceptions and distrust.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives!

And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this [is] our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this [is] the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isa 25:9)

No nemesis here - Amalek not eradicated!

The Amalekites — Seventh in a series

Before Moses died, he recalled to the Hebrews the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments (Deut 6:1) that the Lord wanted them to perform in the promised land. It was a lengthy discourse —nearly all of Deuteronomy — and included orders regarding the Amalekites:

Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, [even] all [that were] feeble behind thee, when thou [wast] faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee [for] an inheritance to possess it, [that] thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget [it]. Deu 25:17-19

Not long after Israel's first king had been anointed, the moment arrived to eradicate Amalek. It had been about four centuries since the incident at Rephidim and the Amalekites had continued attacking Israel over the years (Judg 6:3, 10:12; 1 Sam 14:48).

An expression, not biblical, now comes to mind: The mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding fine. God never forgets to exercise justice, and in his providence he may begin with his own people. In this way, the refining retributions sift his own household (1Pet 4:17), even as they punish his enemies. So it was with King Saul. He had disappointed the Lord by his disobedience at Gilgal, and was sifted in the matter of annihilating the Amalekites. Again he disobeyed, and thus was rejected as king though his reign did not in fact end at the time.

At Gilgal, Saul offered the burnt offering rather than waiting for Samuel to do so. (1 Sam 13:9-14) Samuel warned him then …thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart (vs 14).

Again, when instructed to destroy the Amalekites, Saul disobeyed and disappointed. The Lord said to him through his prophet, I remember [that] which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid [wait] for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (1 Sam 15:2, 3) But Saul spared the Amalekite king Agag and the best of the sheep, oxen and lambs. He only destroyed what he considered to be vile.

Then the Lord told Samuel he was sorry he had made Saul the king, and Samuel reprimanded Saul,

Hath the LORD [as great] delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey [is] better than sacrifice, [and] to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion [is as] the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness [is as] iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from [being] king. (1 Sam 15:22, 23)

Another expression comes to mind: The Lord is doing many things at one time. In this incident, He punished Amalek severely while proving Saul was unfit for command, and importantly, he arranged a lesson for us, To obey is better than sacrifice. This brings up a question: Am I willing to remove or destroy the object or subject in my surroundings that offends the Lord?

In the passage cited, many things are equated with disobedience: rebellion, witchcraft, stubbornness, iniquity, idolatry and rejection of God's Word. Though presumably sparing many sheep for the purpose of sacrificing them in thankfulness to God, Saul failed in his mission. He attributed the oversight to his followers (1 Sam 15:24), but is held responsible for failing to command them.

Obedience is required in all things, particularly in offering sacrifices properly. In Old Testament days, a king was never to usurp the role of the priest; likewise, for us in New Covenant days, there must be a godly presentation and handling of the doctrine of Christ's perfect sacrifice. If a pastor were to tell us he could forgive our sins or that our sins could be forgotten if we would follow a prescribed regimen of prayer, Bible reading or good works, he would be mishandling truth and promoting error.

A last expression is pertinent, this one from the Bible: To whom much is given, much will be required. (Luke 12:48) In context, this passage speaks of a servant who knew the right thing to do, but did not do it. The one who is aware of God's laws and specific commands will be held fully responsible for complete obedience. Those less knowledgeable will enjoy lenience. Leaders are doubly responsible to set an example in obedience. They have power to guide people into truth or into error.

Attention Readers

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