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Queen Esther Before King Ahasuerus, ca. 1815

Francesco Caucig (Austro-Hungarian, 1755–1828)
University of Virginia Art Museum




Purim, the Amalekites and the Justice of the Lord


A Study in the Purim Festivals of the Lord

By Robert D. Mock MD

February, 2004



Amalek and the Festival of Purim

Haman, descendant of Agag, King of the Amalekites

King Saul and the Amalekites

Who was Amalek?




Amalek and the Festival of Purim


On the fourteenth day of Adar in late winter (early March), is celebrated the Feast of Esther, called Purim.  Here is the story of a young Jewish heroine called Hadassah meaning ‘myrtle and who became the Queen of the Persia because of an intra-court intrigue and in order to hide her Jewish identity was given a new Persian name, Esther meaning ‘star’


The Megillot Esther (the scroll of Esther) is read every year as a reminder of how the Lord of hosts works through whatever political condition His chosen people have gotten themselves into. And it also portrays how important it is to understand the wisdom of the Lord of hosts, the One who knows the beginning from the end.  An act of obedience on the part of King Saul of Israel could have changed the history of the Jewish, much less the Nation of Israel.  Because the king of Israel thought that his wisdom was greater than the wisdom of the God he served, it almost cost the complete annihilation of the Jewish people, the remnant of the House of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 


The heroine of the story was a young orphaned Jewess who was cared for by her uncle, Mordecai a minor courtier in the palace of Ahasuerus (Xerses).  She became Esther the Queen of Persia with a hidden ancestry.  The villain of the story is Haman the Agagite, who ascended to the position as the Prime Minister of Persia by greed and by bribing the Persian emperor is also a story of a race or tribe of people who developed a genetic hatred towards God’s chosen people.  These were the ancestors of Haman, the Amalekites.


For a historical view of the life of Esther, Mordecai, Haman and King Ahasuerus open up the link to The Festival of Purim, the story of Queen EstherThe implications of the act of obedience of this brave Jewess resulted in the preservation of the chosen people of God. Without Esther we would not have had King Artaxerses I who gave freedom to the Jews to return to their own land.  Without Esther’s brave obedience, we also would not have had the scribe Ezra who gave us the Old Testament (TaNaKh), Nehemiah the governor, Zechariah and Haggai the prophets and Zerubabbel who built the temple of the Lord and the ancestor of Jesus, the future messiah of all mankind.  All of these would have potentially been killed in the Haman’s pogrom of genocide in Persia.  Without Esther, the Jews may have never returned to their land and the New Testament would never have been written.


Haman, descendant of Agag, King of the Amalekites


The Megillat of Esther – Balkans, 16th century


Who was Haman the descendant of Agag?  And what are the spiritual effects that the Hamans have upon the children of Israel and the Land of Israel today. Our introduction to Haman comes in the Book of Esther,


Esther 3:1 – “After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advance him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him.”


From all appearances, Haman took the seat as the Prime Minister of Persia that the prophet Daniel once held.  Our first pursuit as a BibleSearcher will be to understand who was Agag and why was this genealogy important to the story?


Agag enters the Biblical story in the days of King Saul, the Benjamite ruler over the United Monarchy of Israel and Judah.  The Lord of hosts had a mission for the newly anointed Saul, a mission that has perplexed and plagued the sensitive minds of God’s people since that day.  The words of the Lord did not come directly to Saul. The Lord did not want His message to be mistaken, so he sent the message through Samuel the prophet, the one who informed Saul that he was the selected prince of Israel for the throne and the prophet who anointed Saul as the new king.  If there was one man in Israel that Saul should have had respect for, it was the prophet Samuel.  Samuel was the messenger of the Lord.


After the anointing and coronation of Saul, the first call for the leader of the united tribes of Israel was a plea from the elders of the town of Jabesh-gilead.  Their town was surrounded by the Ammonites who were still smarting over their defeat many years earlier by Judge Jephthah after ruling over the tribes of Israel for eighteen years.  The elders of Jabesh-gilead offered a league of covenant with the Ammonites but the conditions given to them by the Amorites were to be: cut out the right eye of all the males in the city.  Saul, recently anointed, was still plowing his field until a kingly duty would be given to him.  When he received the emissaries of Jabesh-gilead, the bible states:


1 Samuel 11:5 – “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul when he heard this news, and his anger was greatly aroused.” 


Invoked by the ‘Spirit’, Saul gathered all the tribes together for the first time since the days of Joshua, and with 300,000 of the children of Israel and 30,000 of the tribe of Judah, and in a forced march across the Jordan, they surprised the Ammonites at the morning watch and as scriptures states, the battle of the amalekites“those who survived were scattered so that no two of them were left together.”  (1 Samuel 11:11)  Here with the first mission of Saul and with the ‘Spirit of the Lord’ he sealed his rulership over all the tribes of Israel and Judah.     


The Battle of the Amalekites – Brussels Tapestries in the Workshop of Frans and Pieter van der Borcht, (mid 18thcentury)  


Saul was ruler for two years and his second test came.  The Philistines were a major power in the valleys around the mountain sites where the Hebrews lived.  Along the coastline, they had built up a major civilization and had an advance military armament unknown to many other nations; iron.  The Egyptians were still in the Bronze Age and so were the Israelites.  Saul along with his son Jonathan were to advance against the Philistines but were first told to wait seven days for the prophet Samuel who would bring instructions from the Lord.  Seven days were over and there was no prophet. Saul, now confident as the new king, decided to go ahead and offer a sacrifice to their God.  Then along came the prophet with this message:


1 Samuel 13:13 – “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have establish your kingdom over Israel forever.  But now your kingdom shall not continue.  The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”


It was such a simple test.  Wait for seven days for the prophet.  There were two parts to this command: wait for seven days and wait for the prophet.  This time King Saul chose what he wanted to obey and in essence usurped the role of the prophet and seeks the word of the Lord directly.  Even as the King of Israel, he failed to obey.

King Saul and the Amalekites


Then the Lord of hosts brought a third test to King Saul.  The Prophet Samuel once again came to the king and said,


1 Samuel 15:1-3 – “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the Lord.  Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have and do not spare them but kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” 

 Nicolas Poussin The Battle of Joshua with Amalekites


So King Saul again set out to do the work of the Lord. He gathered 200,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 men of Judah and marched to the city of the Amalekites.  What is important is that we do not really know the where the land of the Amalekites was except it was near the land of the Kenites, known as the cliff dwellers.  Many scholars believe this was in the land of Petra with the famous dwellings carved in the steep mountain canyons.   The city of Petra was a city in the land of the Edomites on the Jordanian side east of the southern end of the Dead Sea. Secret dispatches were sent to the Kenites to flee and the army of Saul pursued the Amalekites from Havilah to the approach to Shur which faces Egypt.    


When the battle was over, the empathy of the Israelite soldiers implored the king to spare King Agag, a custom typical throughout all the Middle East.  The command of the Lord was fulfilled only in part; save King Agag and with a few personal modifications to the Lord’s command, they decided what was good and kept them and what was ‘despised and worthless’, they threw away.  Oh yes, a God who knows the end from the beginning, a God who understands the future effect of our actions today, was a God to King Saul whose commands he felt could be modified.


I Samuel 15:9 - “Saul also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.  But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.”


Why did Saul choose to modify the command of the Lord?  Did he not believe the Lord?  Maybe he felt that his wisdom knowing the circumstances at the time of the battle were better than the Lords.  In the meantime, back in Israel, after Saul with the prisoner King Agag had returned into the Land of Israel, Samuel was revealed by the Lord of hosts that Saul had deliberately disobeyed his commands.  The aging prophet Samuel knew that the long term implications would be disastrous and he cried all night. 


What is important is that the most bitterest enemy of Israel, the Amalekites, who were the first of the nations to seek to destroy the children of Israel in the Sinai wilderness at their greatest moment of weakness were destroyed except for King Agag.  If King Agag had been killed by King Saul in the land of the cliff dwellers, Haman the Agagite would never have lived and the story of Esther may not have been written.  The actions of one king of Israel may have cost the annihilation of the Jewish race, except that it was not God’s will.


The military forces of Saul returned back to the Land of Israel and traversed from the southern reaches of the Dead Sea up to Gilgal. After crossing the Jordan River, Saul took King Agag to Shechem.  Think carefully.  The Lord of hosts gave the king of Israel, Saul, a direct command to go into the land of Edom and destroy an entire tribe of people whose whole history since the exodus had been spent in seeking to destroy the children of Israel.  Now King Saul was bringing that enemy king, who was known by the title of Agag, back into the land of Israel to live.


Most of us are revolted by the thought that the Lord of hosts commanded Saul to exterminate the entire nation of the Amalekites.  In our eyes all men are created equal but in God’s eyes all men are not born equal.  It is the Lord of hosts who knows the hearts of mankind and some men, women and children are born with evil continuously in their own lives and body.  Genetic evil was so permanently engrained in the ancestry of the Amalekites that the Lord of hosts could not reach in and save any of them.  For the Lord of hosts who knows the beginning from the end and also knows the outcome of our actions, made a command that appears heinous to our moral sensitivity yet the reason He did so was to protect His chosen people in the future.  How so?


In the oral traditions of the Jews, the rabbis claim that the Amalekites king, Agag, was treated with royal courtesy and was given the choicest of the concubines of King Saul in a manner befitting a king.  Not only was King Agag living in the land of Israel, which that alone was an abomination to the Lord, but the progeny that were conceived by this union of Israelite maidens to the Amalekites king in the Land of Israel became the ancestry of Haman the Agagite and future ‘Amalekites’, all who will genetically retain a hatred toward the chosen people of God.  The strongholds of these ‘Amalekite-Israeli’ descendants were raised in the region of Shechem.  Is it any wonder that one of the bitterest and implacable enemies of Israel today is terrorist organization called Hamas.  Is it any wonder that one of the major stronghold of suicide bombers in the Land of Israel come from the city of Shechem.  Is it any wonder that like the Amalekites of old, the modern day Hamas especially target the woman, children and the weak and infirmed.  This reminds us again of what the Torah said:


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 rank, all the stragglers at your rear, when all you were tired and weary: and he did not fear God.


Therefore it shall be (a future era), when the Lord your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, (a future day when Israel’s enemies will be conquered) in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance (the Land of Israel) that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.”


Because King Saul did not obey the word of the Lord, the descendants of the children of Israel will have to revisit their enemies again, the descendants of the children of Amalek


Who was Amalek?


Who was Amalek?  The first mention of a person called Amalek in the Bible was in the genealogies of Esau the brother to Jacob. (Genesis 36:4)  Understandably there was no love lost with Esau to his brother, Jacob who legitimately bought the ‘Birthright’ of Esau the eldest, but stole the ‘Blessing’ of his father Isaac.  After the death of Abraham, Esau took his family and migrated to the southeast region beyond the Dead Sea, former the beautiful Vail of Siddim, to a land dominated by Mount Seir.  Here what is known as Edom, the home of Herod the Great the Idumean, the Jewish people also recognized as the ancestors of the Romans also known as Edomites


The genealogies are confusing in the family ancestry of Amalek, who was born to Eliphaz, a son of Esau by his concubine Timna.  Rightfully so, for according to the sages of Israel, Amalek was born and raised in a family with significant immorality and incest that affected the lineages of not only Eliphaz, the father of Amalek, but also Adah (Basemath) of the Hittites of the Family of Ishmael.  Out of lineage of a family that rejected the God of Abraham and Isaac, we also find throughout history the literal descendants or the typology of the people who have developed a inbred genetic hatred for the children of Israel that has not changed over the millenniums of time.  


What did God say of Amalek?  “He did not fear God”.  What did God say will happen to the descendants of Amalek?  “You will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.”


Amalek had to be dealt with again and again by the descendants of Israel. Here was a tribe of people that lived in the region of Arabia Petraea, descendants of Amalek ben Eliphaz, whose ancestors lived with the Ishmaelites in Arabia and the descendants of Esau, the Edomites or the Seirites, near Mount Seir in the land of Moab in southern Jordan today.  They lived next to the cliff dwellers, the Kenites in the land from Havilah to Shur (Number 13:29, 1 Samuel 15:7) in the valleys were the nomadic or Bedouin herdsmen lives.  Their kings appeared to have a hereditary name called Agag (Numbers 13:29, 1 Samuel 15:7) and they were the earliest of all the peoples of the Middle East to attack, seeking to destroy the children of Israel. (Exodus 17:8-13, Deuteronomy 25:17-18, 1 Samuel 15:2)  They later attacked the Israelites at Hormah (Numbers 14:45) and allied themselves with the Moabites (Judges 3:13), the Midianites (Judges 6:3) until Saul was given the command by the Lord of hosts to eliminate them entirely, which he refused in part. (1 Samuel 14:48, 15:3)   It was King David who did seek to eliminate them (1 Samuel 30:18-20.)  Modern scholars suggest that they were called the ‘Sute’ in the Babylonian inscription, the ‘Sittiu’ in the Egyptian hieroglyphic accounts and the ‘Khabbati’ meaning plunders in the Amarna tablets.


The images of Amalek and the incessant hatred against Israel made an impression on the mindset of the Jewish people.  In the days of Deborah and Barak, they understood that their enemy was also within their own people in what was called an ‘Amalek type’. 


Judges 5:14 – “From Ephraim were those whose roots were in Amalek.” 


The attitude of the descendants of Amalek was now spreading to other tribes, clans and people and could even be found within their own people.  It was Amalek that represented all the arch-enemies of Israel and those who faith is on the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  This ‘spirit of Amalek” is the frontal assault against the Almighty God and it was Moses who proclaimed,


Exodus 17:16 – “God has sworn by His throne; God is at war with Amalek for all generations.” 


The war against Amalek did not stop at the cross of Yahshua.  The chosen ones of Israel did not switch from literal to spiritual. The actors of the Drama along with the supporting staff are now being selected from the gentiles.  The ‘spiritual Israelites’ are rediscovering the roots of their faith and that home to them is with the ‘literal Israelites’ as modeled in the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia of Jerusalem under the leadership of James the Just, the brother of Jesus. 


We have seen the insistence the Lord of hosts had against the people of the Amalekites. Every letter of the command of the Lord was to be fulfilled.  That King Saul chose to retain the best of the flocks plus the king to him seemed reasonable to him.  Yet the Lord of hosts had said, “You will blot out the remembrance of Amalek.  If your prized bull or lamb came from the flocks of the Amalekites, then the “name of Amalek” would be remembered.  It was not just the people, it was the memory and the attitude of the people of the Amalekites that had to be destroyed.  Amalek was a spirit of defiance and disobedience to the Almighty One. If it was not routed out of the land and the entire region, Israel would someday have to revisit the trials she failed to overcome in her youth.


David even before he was king had his wife and child kidnapped by the Amalekites from Ziglak and he zealously tracked and traced every Amalekite down and killed them all.  He knew that this was now a spiritual war that was moving beyond tribal conflicts and territorial claims.  In the Psalms of Asaph, the “spirit of Amalek” had now affected an entire region.  In a prophetic utterance that moved across the millenniums to the time of the end, it proclaims:


Psalms 83:1-8 - Do not keep silent, O God!  Do not hold Your peace and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against your sheltered ones.


They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.” For they have consulted together with one consent.  They form a confederacy against You; The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites; Gebel, Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also has joined with them; they have helped the children of Lot.  Selah.


Israel had not even been voted by the United Nations in 1948 when they were attacked by a confederation of five Moslem nations that surrounded them and wanted to ‘cut them off from being a nation.’  The motto of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Authority is one in purpose and intent, “Let us cut them off…that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.” 


This month some of the most serious negotiations are going on between the America, the EU, Russia, United Nations, Israel and the Confederation of Islamic States that have ever been seen.  We are moving rapidly between the Intifada, the Road Map, the Barcelona Accord, the Geneva Agreement, the unilateral withdrawal of Gaza by Sharon, the International Court in Brussels and ‘the Fence”, the Saudi Peace Plan.  Note in the text above, Assyria (Syria and Iran) is joining them but Libya, Iraq and Egypt are strangely absent.  The Ishmaelites are in Saudi Arabia and the Philistia is in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the Shomron (West Bank).  Tyre is the ancestor of Lebanon and the descendants of Esau and Lot (Edom, Amalek, Moab, and Ammon) in the present countries of Syria and Jordan.  All are represented in the geo-politics that is riveting the nations of the world today. 


The holiday of Purim with its festive atmosphere combines raucous shouting and noise making plus stomping the name of Haman written on the souls of their shoes while the name of Haman is mentioned in the Story of Esther.  This they do in blotting out the name and memory of Amalek. 


Yet it is a vivid reminder when the Hebrews were crossing the Sinai peninsula about 1450 BCE when they met a people who throughout all generations would hate them and do anything to secure their destruction.  That their first king failed to obey the word of the Lord only meant that time and time again they would have to meet Amalek until the time of the end when the memory of Amalek will be destroyed forever. 


All those who seek to obliterate the Name of the Holy One of Israel and to obliterate literally or spiritually the chosen ones of Israel will have their destiny and names eradicated from memory of man. 


For those looking for the coming of the Lord, today is the day when our eyes should be open.  For those looking for a glorified restoration of the Adamic condition of man must also be willing to look up vertically and witness the finger of the Almighty One who is mixing up the nations of the world and bring them kicking and screaming into the final culmination of the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan.  Did not the Psalmist proclaim,


Psalms 2:4-9 – “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision.  Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure:  ‘Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.


I will declare the degree:  The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.  Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession.   You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”


It was Jesus who proclaimed, “Watch and be ready” for those who awaited His return. Never since the prophets of old spoke to the Nations of Israel and Judah has the alignment of nations of the world been so accurately resurrected to fulfill the ancient prophecies that were left unfulfilled.  This is why BibleSearchers have a firm belief that the Models on the Restoration of God’s People and the prophecies of the time of the end should be inclusive rather than be exclusive.  God’s Plan of Salvation was a progressive revelation of the Almighty and one that will not be fully revealed or understood until the coming of the Lord.


All the prophecies given to all of God’s chosen ones, from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the Prophets of the TaNaKh (Old Testament) plus the Revelator of the B’rit Hadassah (New Testament) will be fulfilled and compressed into the final events of this era before the coming of the Moshiach (Messiah).  From every appearance the Lord of hosts will revisit every mini-drama of redemption shown to the children of Israel and every prophecy ever uttered in the Holy Script.  At the culmination of the Grand Finale of the Drama of the Ages, Yahshua will re-proclaim as was proclaimed upon the crucifixion stake, “It is finished.” 



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