Amalek in Esther

The Amalekites — Tenth and final in a series

My NIV Bible has this note about the book of Esther: "An outstanding feature of this book …is the complete absence of any explicit reference to God, worship, prayer or sacrifice."

Likewise, there is none to the Amalekite, but the book of Esther presents the culmination of God's war against Amalek. Ultimately, the Lord called on all of his inheritance to stand against the attacks rained upon them by the command of Amalek's descendant, Haman, and to defeat the enemy. By this we perceive his call to each Christian to actively defend his life against the adversary.

This story is set in the mid-to-late fifth century B.C. when the Jews still resided throughout the Persian empire that succeeded the Babylonians who had forced the Jews into captivity, but it would not be long before they would begin to return to their land. Xerxes was on the throne in Susa with Queen Esther who was Hadassah the Jewess. Susa was not far from Ur which Abraham departed when called to the Promised Land. Talk about going backward!

Xerxes ruled from Ethiopia to India over 127 provinces, and he was not aware his wife was a Hebrew until it became necessary for him to know. The key people in the book are: Xerxes and Esther; Haman, the king's highest official who was the son of Hammedatha the Agagite; and Mordecai the Jew who was Esther's cousin and guardian.

Even though the king had commanded that all people in his kingdom would honor and bow to Haman, Mordecai refused. This was because God had sworn, "The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation" (Ex 17:16), following the Amalekites' unprovoked and prideful attack on Israel when she had just stepped forth from slavery.

An Agagite was a descendant of King Agag who was spared by Saul though the Lord had required that he completely annihilate the tribe. The kingdom was torn from Saul and given to David because Saul did not carry out God's fierce wrath against the Amalekites. (1 Sam 28:17-18) Agag was killed by Samuel, but in Esther we find that some of his family survived.

Haman did not know that Mordecai was a Jew and when he found out, he devised a plan to kill not only him but all Jews throughout the kingdom. He consulted with astrologers to discern the best time to carry out the scheme and gained the King's unwitting approval, even sealing the order to destroy them with the King's ring, given to him for this cause. Now, God began to deliver his people from the Amalekite's scheme.

On discovering the plot, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth with ashes and went into the city crying loudly. As the edict went forth to each province, the Jews mourned and wailed. Esther was among the last to hear the news. Mordecai urged her to use her influence with the King but that was not so easy, since no person could come before him uninvited or they would die, unless he held out his scepter to permit their intrusion.

Esther asked Mordecai to gather the Jews of Susa for them to fast three days and nights, and then she would ask King Xerxes for mercy and help. So, though we have no mention of prayer in Esther, we are presented with the importance of fasting when in extreme peril; in this way the Lord draws near as our own strength dies and our hearts are emptied of their own devices.

Esther is a book of literary enjoyment by its well-crafted plot that builds suspense so that the demise of Haman and the salvation of the Jews causes the reader to laugh and rejoice. Of course, it is more than a tale, it is the true account of how the annual Jewish holiday of Purim came into being.

A brief blog post can only encourage a reader to enjoy the entire book at leisure, and to think on some of its important points relating to the Amalekites, to finish our series.

  1. Though King Xerxes' edict could not be revoked, the Jews were permitted to defend themselves against their enemies, and the fear of God fell on their attackers so that they were victorious throughout the kingdom. As God's people fought for their lives assured He was with them, the bitterness of their national disgrace was forgotten. Their successful defense sharpened their instinct for self preservation and enlivened their hearts, making them proud once again of their heritage and their God.
  2. God chose the time when the Jews were scattered among heathens to permit Amalek's terror, to show his people that he was yet with them. Likewise, when we are cast down and forsaken, God shows us his faithful love and help after we have suffered for a time (1 Peter 5:6-10). This was an encouragement to the Jews to yearn for their homeland, and for us, the story beckons our return to the Lord from wandering or bitter isolation.
  3. No matter where we are, how far from home, or by analogy, how distant from our roots of faith, God is watching over us and has a plan to bring us home. You need not be far away to benefit from a reviving touch. How easily we part company with the Lord!
  4. When enemies attack at your lowest point, when you have barely crawled out of a place of agony and oppression, when you least expect it, or when they provoke by their boastful, high handed, hotheaded, lying ways, remember: You are under orders to come against them. You have the right! But the weapons of your warfare are not carnal. They are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds — For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor 10:3-5)
  5. When that discouraging, mean, persistent and ugly thought or feeling descends, agitates or seizes you, remember, it's only an Amalekite, and you are Christ's and Christ is God's. (1 Cor 3:23) Don't forget, take EVERY thought captive! Never let the Amalekite win; you not only have the right to defend against his prideful attack, it is your sacred duty, and glorifies the Lord.

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)

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