One of Israel's most unrelenting enemies, at least in the early periods, Amalek is first referred to in Abraham's day, in Genesis 14.7, which speaks of the Amalekite field. But later in Genesis (36.12), Amalek is made the son of Eliphaz, son of Esau, rendering the earlier reference anachronistic.

Shortly after the Exodus, the Amalekites attacked Israel (Exod. 17.8–16), but Israel succeeded in repulsing the attack. The enmity created is reflected in the bloodthirsty declaration “I will blot out the name of Amalek.… The Lord's war against Amalek is from generation to generation” (Exod. 17.14, 16; see Deut. 25.17–19).

The Amalekites raided the Israelites in the days of the judges (Judg. 3.13; 6.3, 33; etc.). Later, King Saul made a concerted effort to destroy Amalek, following the prophet Samuel's call for the ban (1 Sam. 15), but enough Amalekites survived to destroy David's city of Ziklag (1 Sam. 30.1). Nevertheless, after Ziklag the Amalekites ceased to trouble Israel. 1 Chronicles 4.42–43 depicts the tribe of Simeon as eradicating the remnant of Amalek, fulfilling God's earlier promise.

Philip Stern