Similarities between the Amalekites and our Flesh


Sometimes reading scripture can create more questions than answers for me. Recently while reading Exodus 17 about the defeat of the Amalekites, I thought I found a contradiction. Listen to the following verses of scripture.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and
recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from
under heaven.” Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is My Banner;
and he said, “The LORD has sworn; the LORD will have war against
Amalek from generation to generation.”
Exodus 17:14-16

Wait a minute! In verse 14, the Lord said that He would blot out Amalek from His memory and then in verse 16, the Lord says there will be war against Amalek in future generations. How can a person or a group of people be removed and yet there still be a need for war against them? I decided to look at some history regarding the Amalekites.

According to my online research, the Amalekites were described in the Hebrew Bible as being a nomadic tribe of people who inhabited ancient Israel. These descendants of Amalek trace their genealogy back to Esau. They are first mentioned during the time of Abraham in Genesis 14. Throughout the Old Testament there is a long-lasting feud between the Amalekites and the Israelites. In the Exodus 17 passage I quoted earlier, the Amalekites were unrelentingly brutal towards the Israelites in an attack at Rephidim. And, I am told that they were defeated. However, there are also other references to their defeat. In I Samuel 15:7-8,20, it says that Saul completely destroyed the Amalekites. I Samuel 27:8-9 declares that David completely destroyed the Amalekites. I Samuel 30:1-2,17 records that David destroyed a raiding party of Amalekites with only 400 men escaping. Finally, I Chronicles 4:42-43 declares that the Simeonites killed all the Amalekites. How many times can a tribe of people be completely destroyed? Further research shows me that each of these defeats relates only to the Amalekites in a specific area rather than complete elimination from the earth. This starts to make sense to me!

But Moses said, “Why then are you transgressing the commandment of the
LORD, when it will not succeed? “Do not go up, or you will be struck down
before your enemies, for the LORD is not among you. “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.”
Numbers 14:41-43

Although I have found numerous references to the Israelites defeating the Amalekites, these verses in Numbers 14 attract my attention because here is a time when the Amalekites overcame the Israelites. The reason for the turn of events was because the Israelites did not wait upon the Lord, but took the situation into their own hands. Now I start to see the Amalekites and their history from a different perspective. Interesting! I think there is more than history lessons for me to learn from these scriptures. Although the Amalekites were a real group of people, I also believe that they are a symbol of our flesh and human nature.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil
rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this
dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 NLT

I have chosen to highlight the New Living Translation because it uses the word “fight” that correlates well with the battles I have referred to between the Amalekites and the Israelites. However, I also like the New International Version that describes us a “struggling” against flesh and blood. That may be a word that better describes my daily encounters between good and evil or right and wrong. I see similarities between the Amalekites attacking the Israelites and the desires of my flesh attacking my spiritual intents. I want to learn from these people of the Old Testament.

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is
contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you
are not to do whatever you want.
Galatians 5:17

Overall, the Amalekites were a strong tribe of people who could be defeated but they continued to attack in hopes of victory. The desires of my flesh can be overcome when I choose to rely upon the help of the Holy Spirit, but my flesh will never stop attacking me with the expectation of influencing me to give in to fleshly desires. So, what do my battles look like? The enemy attacks my flesh in the areas of my weakness. It may be my health; it may be fear; it may be anger. The enemy, Satan, looks for the weakest area of my life to attack because it is there where I am most likely to be defeated or to give in to the desires of my flesh. My flesh and God’s Spirit are at war within me. So, what should I do?

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is
contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are
not to do whatever you want.
Ephesians 5:16-17

Although I have quoted the New International Version for this scripture from Ephesians, I again compare this with the New Living Translation that encourages me by saying “let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” “Craves” is an appropriate word because the flesh always wants what it wants right now. Another similarity I see between the Amalekites and the flesh is that although I may defeat a craving or desire in one area of my life at one time, I know that I will encounter a comparable battle or struggle at another time in a similar area of my life. Complete freedom from fleshly weakness is hard to achieve! I must be ready for another battle any time sin attacks. It is not uncommon for me to experience this because I think about to my original scripture from Exodus 17:16 that says the Lord knows there will be battles with the Amalekites, or the flesh, from generation to generation. However, I also have the promise of help from the Holy Spirit. I want to be cautious to always wait upon the Lord and not rush ahead relying only upon my own power as the Israelites did in Numbers 14:41-43. According to Exodus 17:14, the day will come when God will utterly block out the Amalekites, or the desires of the flesh, but until them I am ready to fight – not flesh-and-blood enemies, but principalities and rulers of darkness according to Ephesians 6:12. I do not want to forget the promise of Exodus 17:15 when the Lord promises to be my Banner, or Jehovah-Nisi, who will lead me to victory just as He did the Israelites. Because of this fact, I close with one more scripture. Again I like both the New International Version and the New Living Translations.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him
who loved us.
Romans 8:37 NIV
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through
Christ, who loved us.
Romans 8:37 NLT

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