Remember Amalek

Exodus 17:14.  Then the Lord said to Moses, Write this for a memorial (zikrown) in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance (zeker) of Amalek from under heaven.                                                            

While a memorial (zikrown) exists to help perpetuate a memory (zakar); a remembrance (zeker) refers to the effect the memory has on a person, or people. For example, the memorials of the Confederacy continue to be controversial in the South. Statues of Civil War heroes have been removed. The Confederate flag, the most visible memorial of that period, has been banned from flying over municipal and state buildings. This has been necessary, because the remembrances associated with them are polarizing to society. Ideally, memorials should unite the people in a society. For the Memorials found in the Torah, the purpose is to bind the people to God.

Notice the verse states that this memorial exists for the sake of Joshua. The incident with Amalek occurred shortly after passing through the Red Sea. So God intends to settle this issue later, by the hand of Joshua. This ultimately will not take place until much later.

Deuteronomy 25:17-19.    Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God.  Therefore it shall be, when the Lord your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.                  

Now forty years later, Moses addresses the next generation on the steppes of Moab in preparation for entering the promised land. The older generation who came out of Egypt has all passed away. The text says “zakar Amalek”, and the translation implies that the people are being instructed to remember this incident. This would not be the case, for the narrative of the Exodus would have included this as a part of the stories told by the adults to the children they were raising. The stories involving Amalek were not just about a merciless attack, but also a rousing tale of Joshua and a group of valiant men who went out against them. They could not prevail unless Moses held his staff above them on the overlooking mountain. The correct translation, therefore, would be ‘you have been perpetuating the memory of Amalek’. With this story comes the concern over the remembrance of what the Amalekites did in attacking the weakest of the people. God is dealing with bitterness, hatred and the desire for vengeance.  This is the remembrance which must be blotted out. 

The avenging of blood is one of God’s priorities and the Law of Moses required the establishment of sanctuary cities for a man to flee to if he witnessed an accidental death. If he feared that he would be held accountable for the death by a family member; ‘the avenger of blood’ would seek to slay him.  (Deuteronomy 19, Joshua 29).

Vengeance is Mine, and recompense…Deuteronomy 32:35.

The avenging of blood has to be handled only in accordance with God’s instructions. Once the vengeance has been granted, the remembrance must be blotted out.

The final word of the text in Deuteronomy 25:19 is ‘shalach’ and means ‘forgotten, to become oblivious to’, and yet the translator decides to translate into the exact 180 degree opposite, saying ‘Do not forget’. Thus the instruction becomes, ‘do not ever let go of that bitterness, that hatred. No! That is not God’s Will for the heart of man, and especially His people. The instruction is shalach, Let it be forgotten!. Blot out the remembrance. This was not a plan for genocide, this was a plan for healing the hearts of man. This is God’s heart for man, not vengeance.

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