Perpetuating Memories

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 ‘shahach’ 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 shahach, 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.

With A Strong Hand

Exodus 12:14.  So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.    

The first memorial found in the Law of Moses is to perpetuate the memory of the night The Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, while ‘passing over’ the houses of Israel having the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintel.                          The intent and purpose of this memorial feast is given as an answer to a question anticipated from the children of the household.

Exodus 12:26&27.  And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’ So the people bowed their heads and worshiped. 

In passing over the firstborn of man and beast among the people of Israel, a special relationship was established between the Lord and the firstborn, and the consideration of this fact carries over to the feast of unleavened bread.

Exodus 13:1, 12,13.  Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine.  And it shall be, when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as He swore to you and your fathers, and gives it to you, that you shall set apart to the Lord all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the Lord’s.              

Thus, the firstborn males who open the womb became the purchased possession of the Lord. This also was established as a memorial for every generation.  The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are linked for this purpose, to perpetuate this memory. 

Exodus 13:8-10.  And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, This is done because of what the Lord did for me when I came up from Egypt.  It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt.  You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year. 

Many consider that the observance of the Passover is to commemorate the deliverance of the children of Israel  from the bondage of slavery. This is actually given as the basis for keeping the Sabbath.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15.  Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.  And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.   

The feasts include special Sabbath Days for this observance. This makes the following exchange between Jesus Christ and the Jewish citizens of Jerusalem all the more fascinating.

The Truth Shall Make You Free

John 8:31-36. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered Him, We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free?  Jesus answered them,  Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but the son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. 

The intended memory to perpetuate in the keeping of the Sabbath failed to produce the desired remembrance!