Amalek and the Amalekites:
See also: Wilderness of Shur: Ishmaelites and Midianites
A. Similarity of territory between Amalekites and Ishmaelites:
"Ishmael settled from Havilah to Shur which is east of Egypt as one goes toward Assyria" Gen 25:18
"So Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, which is east of Egypt. " 1 Samuel 15:7
"the Amalekites ... were the inhabitants of the land from ancient times, as you come to Shur even as far as the land of Egypt." 1 Samuel 27:8
from Havilah to Shur
which is east of Egypt as one goes toward Assyria
1 Samuel 15:7
from Havilah as you go to Shur
which is east of Egypt
1 Samuel 27:8
Amalekites from ancient times
as you come to Shur
even as far as the land of Egypt
B. The territory of the Amalekites:
The Amalekites had their origin within the Edomites, being descendants of Esau. They are often associated with Edom, living in the same area as Edom.
Their traditional territory is transjordan between Babylon and the gulf of Aqaba.
The Amalekites were enemies of Israel.
The Amalekite territory very was similar to the Ishmaelites: "Ishmael settled from Havilah to Shur which is east of Egypt as one goes toward Assyria [this would indicate a route south east side of the dead sea]; he settled in defiance of all his relatives." Genesis 25:18
They liked to live in mountainous terrain: Judges 12:15
So based upon 1 Sam 15:6-7 and 1 Sam 27:8, we can see that the Amalekite territory was between Havilah and Shur. The Amalekites lived transjordan between Babylon and Ezion Geber. Saul defeated the Amalekites whose "city" where they lived, was in a region "from Havilah as you go to Shur" which is entirely "transjordan" between Midian and Babylon: 1 Samuel 15:7
The border between Israel and Egypt at the time of David was the Wadi el-Arish. Egypt controlled the entire modern Sinai Peninsula. We know that 1 Sam 15:6-7 and 1 Sam 27:8 say that the Amalekites lived as far as Egypt and east of the Arabah Valley. This proves Egypt's border was the Wadi el-Arish.
The Amalekites lived near Kadesh Barnea at the time of Abraham: Genesis 14:7
The Amalekites were living in Mt. Seir (Edom) at the time of the conquest: 1 Chronicles 4:42-43
One stop before they reached Sinai, Amalek came to fight Moses at Rephidim: Ex 17:8
At Kadesh Barnea (near or at Petra), when the spies brought back a bad report, Israel was warned not to enter the promised land or else the Amalekites and the Canaanites would defeat Israel. At this point, the Amalekites are living in the Negev which would become the territory of Judah: Numbers 13:29. Notice also that Moses told them to turn south away from the promised land and take the "wilderness by the way of the Red Sea": Numbers 14:25. This means that they went from Petra down towards Ezion Geber (modern Elat).
The Kenites lived in the mountains and with the Amalekites: Numbers 24:20-21; 1 Samuel 15:6
C. David drove the Amalekites out of Negev into transjordan Edomite territory at Mt. Seir:
At the time of the Exodus, the Amalekites had expanded west to in the Negev: Numbers 13:29
While we know the Amalekites lived in the Negev, there is no evidence in the Bible that the Amalekites lived in the modern Sinai Peninsula. The Negev represents a temporary expansion from their traditional transjordan territory.
The Amalekites allied with the Midianites to fight Israel even after they entered the promised land: Judges 6:3
After the time of David, the Amalekites withdraw from the Negev into Edomite territory at Mt. Seir: "From them, from the sons of Simeon, five hundred men went to Mount Seir, with Pelatiah, Neariah, Rephaiah and Uzziel, the sons of Ishi, as their leaders. They destroyed the remnant of the Amalekites who escaped, and have lived there to this day." 1 Chronicles 4:42-43
So after 1000 BC the Amalekites lived transjordan at Mt. Seir with the Edomites and just north of the Midianites.
D. The Amalekites did not live in the Modern Sinai Peninsula:
Those who oppose placing Mt. Sinai in modern Saudi Arabia incorrectly place the territory of the Amalekites in the modern Sinai Peninsula. They argue that is seems unlikely that they would attack Israel in Midian, but very likely to attack if the traditional location of Mt. Sinai is at Jebel Musa.
They begin by imagining Mt. Sinai is in the same territory as the Amalekites: the modern Sinai Peninsula. In a "comedy of errors" they wrongly assume the Amalekites lived beside the land of Goshen, because they wrongly place the Shur on the east side of the Bitter lakes, instead of in the land of Midian. They correctly insist the Amalekites lived near Kadesh Barnea, but then wrongly place Kadesh Barnea within the promised land at Ein el-qudeirat, instead of near Petra, near Mt. Seir in the land of Edom where we know they did live.
But their comedy turns to horrors when they learn that the Amalekites were located "from ancient times" between Midian and Babylon, they revise their argument and say that they also dwelt in the Negev of Judah. When they clearly inhabited a territory from Babylon to Midian, some did spill over into the Negev, but the majority of their domain was north central Arabia. We know that the "city of the Amalekites" was transjordan at the time of David. But now that we have learned that the ancient domain of the Amalekites extended to Shur (Midian), we can easily see why they attacked Israel while Moses was at Rephidim, one stop before Mt. Sinai. (Ex 17:8).
At the time of David, the Amalekites joined the Midianites to attack Israel. It all makes perfect sense if Mt. Sinai was near Midian and less sense if Mt. Sinai was at Jebel Musa, the traditional in the modern Sinai Peninsula.
E. What the Bible says about Amalek and the Amalekites:
"Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and conquered all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, who lived in Hazazon-tamar." Genesis 14:7
"Timna was a concubine of Esau's son Eliphaz and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz. These are the sons of Esau's wife Adah. ... These are the chiefs of the sons of Esau. The sons of Eliphaz, the firstborn of Esau, are chief Teman, chief Omar, chief Zepho, chief Kenaz, chief Korah, chief Gatam, chief Amalek. These are the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Adah." Genesis 36:12,15-16
"Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim." Exodus 17:8
""Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan." Numbers 13:29
""Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valleys; turn tomorrow and set out to the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea. ... For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will be there in front of you, and you will fall by the sword, inasmuch as you have turned back from following the Lord. And the Lord will not be with you. ... Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down, and struck them and beat them down as far as Hormah. Numbers 14:25,43,45
"And he looked at Amalek and took up his discourse and said, "Amalek was the first of the nations, But his end shall be destruction." And he looked at the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said, "Your dwelling place is enduring, And your nest is set in the cliff." Numbers 24:20-21
"Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt. ... Therefore it shall come about when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget." Deuteronomy 25:17,19
"And he gathered to himself the sons of Ammon and Amalek; and he went and defeated Israel, and they possessed the city of the palm trees." Judges 3:13
""From Ephraim those whose root is in Amalek came down, Following you, Benjamin, with your peoples; From Machir commanders came down, And from Zebulun those who wield the staff of office." Judges 5:14
"For it was when Israel had sown, that the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites and the sons of the east and go against them. ... Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the sons of the east assembled themselves; and they crossed over and camped in the valley of Jezreel. ... Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore." Judges 6:3, 33; 7:12
"Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites." Judges 12:15
""Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt." 1 Samuel 15:2
"Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey." 1 Samuel 15:3
"Saul came to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the valley." 1 Samuel 15:5
"Saul said to the Kenites, "Go, depart, go down from among the Amalekites, so that I do not destroy you with them; for you showed kindness to all the sons of Israel when they came up from Egypt." So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. So Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, which is east of Egypt." 1 Samuel 15:6-7
"Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites and the Girzites and the Amalekites; for they were the inhabitants of the land from ancient times, as you come to Shur even as far as the land of Egypt." 1 Samuel 27:8
" Then it happened when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag, and had overthrown Ziklag and burned it with fire;" 1 Samuel 30:1
"The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zephi, Gatam, Kenaz, Timna and Amalek." 1 Chronicles 1:36
"From them, from the sons of Simeon, five hundred men went to Mount Seir, with Pelatiah, Neariah, Rephaiah and Uzziel, the sons of Ishi, as their leaders. They destroyed the remnant of the Amalekites who escaped, and have lived there to this day." 1 Chronicles 4:42-43
By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.
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