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The Amalekites were the descendants of Esau’s grandson Amalek after whom they were named (Gen. 36:12). This group of people lived in the Sinai Peninsula, in what is now known as the Negev Desert. Though a race close to Israel, they rejected the Hebrews after the Exodus, and were bent upon their utter destruction. They were moved by the same hate spirit that Esau had for Jacob.
After the Jewish people crossed the Red Sea, they encamped in Rephidim. The Amalekites viciously attacked them, showing no mercy even for their own kindred (Deut. 25:18). This attack which was not provoked showed their hostility and defiance to God and wrapped their destiny as a nation.
Moses commanded Joshua to march his soldiers into battle to defend the camp from the Amalekites. Moses himself ascended a nearby mountain to pray for God’s deliverance. And the Lord heard his prayer and granted Israel a great victory.
Beginning with the first encounter at Rephidim, a long and bitter feud developed between the two nations. A year later the Israelites were defeated by the Amalekites, who joined forces with the Canaanites at Kadesh-barnea. This defeat occurred because the Israelites disobeyed God and didn’t heed His instructions that were given to Moses (Num. 14:45).
In the period of the judges, the Amalekites sought to subjugate Israel but were defeated by the band of Gideon that was made up of only 300 men. For it came to pass that when Geodon’s band blew their trumpets that the Lord set every man’s sword against his companion in the enemy camp and the army was defeated before the Israelites (Judges 6:33; 7:1-25).
During the kings’ era, Saul and David also repeatedly defeated the Amalekites (1 Sam. 14:48; 15:7; 27:8; 30:17, 18; 2 Sam. 8:12). The last remnant of that nation, who had taken refuge in Edom from Saul’s wars of extermination (1 Sam. 14:48; 15:8; 2 Sam. 8:12), were finally destroyed by the Simeonites during the reign of King Hezekiah (1 Chron. 4:41–43).
In His service,