(Amʹa·lek), Amalekites (A·malʹek·ites).
Son of Esau’s firstborn Eliphaz, by his concubine Timna. (Ge 36:12, 16) Amalek, a grandson of Esau, was one of the sheiks of Edom. (Ge 36:15, 16) Amalek’s name also designated his tribal descendants.—De 25:17; Jg 7:12; 1Sa 15:2.
The belief of some that the Amalekites were of a much earlier origin and not descendants of Esau’s grandson Amalek is not founded on solid factual ground. The idea that the Amalekites predated Amalek was based on Balaam’s proverbial utterance: “Amalek was the first one of the nations, but his end afterward will be even his perishing.” (Nu 24:20) However, Balaam was not speaking here of history in general and the origin of nations seven or eight centuries earlier. He was speaking of history only in connection with the Israelites, whom he was hired to curse and who were about to enter the Promised Land. Hence, after listing Moab, Edom, and Seir as Israel’s opponents, Balaam declares that the Amalekites were actually “the first one of the nations” to rise up in opposition to the Israelites on their march out of Egypt toward Palestine, and for this reason, the end of Amalek “will be even his perishing.”
Moses, therefore, in relating events of Abraham’s day before Amalek was born, spoke of “the whole field of the Amalekites,” evidently describing the region as understood by people of Moses’ time, instead of implying that Amalekites predated Amalek. (Ge 14:7) The center of this Amalekite territory was N of Kadesh-barnea in the Negeb desert in the southern part of Palestine, with their tributary camps radiating out into the Sinai Peninsula and northern Arabia. (1Sa 15:7) At one time their influence may have extended into the hills of Ephraim.—Jg 12:15.
The Amalekites were “the first one of the nations” to launch an unprovoked attack on the Israelites after the Exodus, at Rephidim near Mount Sinai. As a consequence, Jehovah decreed ultimate extinction for the Amalekites. (Nu 24:20; Ex 17:8-16; De 25:17-19) A year later, when the Israelites attempted to enter the Promised Land contrary to Jehovah’s word, they were repulsed by the Amalekites. (Nu 14:41-45) Twice during the days of the Judges these adversaries of Israel shared in assaulting Israel. They did it in the days of Eglon king of Moab. (Jg 3:12, 13) Again, with the Midianites and Easterners, they pillaged the land of Israel seven years before Gideon and his 300 men dealt them a smashing defeat.—Jg 6:1-3, 33; 7:12; 10:12.
Because of this persistent hatred, during the period of the kings Jehovah ‘called to account’ the Amalekites, commanding King Saul to strike them down, which he did “from Havilah as far as Shur, which is in front of Egypt.” However, Saul, overstepping Jehovah’s order, spared Agag their king. But God was not mocked, for “Samuel went hacking Agag to pieces before Jehovah in Gilgal.” (1Sa 15:2-33) Some of David’s raids included Amalekite villages, and when they in return attacked Ziklag and carried off David’s wives and goods, he and 400 men overtook them, recovering all that had been stolen. (1Sa 27:8; 30:1-20) During the reign of Hezekiah, some of the tribe of Simeon annihilated the remnant of the Amalekites.—1Ch 4:42, 43.
There is no further direct mention of the Amalekites in Biblical or secular history. However, “Haman the son of . . . the Agagite” was probably a descendant, for “Agag” was the title or name of certain Amalekite kings. (Es 3:1; Nu 24:7; 1Sa 15:8, 9) Thus the Amalekites, along with others mentioned by name, were exterminated in order “that people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”—Ps 83:6-18.