Am'alektite (Hebrew Amaleki', עֲמָלֵקִי, also the simple AMALEK SEE AMALEK , used collectively; Sept. Α᾿μαλήκ, Josephus Α᾿μαληκίτης, Auth. Vers. often "Amalekites"), the title of a powerful people who dwelt in Arabia Petraea, between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, or between Havilah and Shur (1Sa 15:7), south of Idumaea, and east of the northern part of the Red Sea. The Amalekites are generally supposed to have been the descendants of Amalek, the son of Eliphaz and grandson of Esau (Vater, Comm. Ub. Pent. 1, 140 sq.); but Moses speaks of the Amalekites long before this Amalek was born, i.e. in the days of Abraham, when Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, devastated their country (Ge 14:7); from which Le Clerc inferred that there was some other and more ancient Amalek from whom this people sprung. The supposition that this people are there proleptically spoken of (Hengstenberg, Genuineness of the
Pentateuch, 2, 247 sq.) is hardly a satisfactory solution of the difficulty (Kurtz, Hist. of the Old Covenant, 3, 1 sq.). Arabian historians represent them as originally dwelling on the shores of the Persian Gulf, whence they were pressed westward by the growth of the Assyrian empire, and spread over a portion of Arabia at a period antecedent to its occupation by the descendants of Joktan. This account of their origin harmonizes with Ge 14:7; it throws light on the traces of a permanent occupation of central Palestine in their passage westward, as indicated by the names Amalek and mount of the Amalekites (Jg 5:14; Jg 12:15); and it accounts for the silence of Scripture as to any relationship between the Amalekites and either the Edomites or the Israelites (Ge 36:16, does not refer to the whole nation).
The physical character of the district which the Amalekites occupied, SEE ARABIA, necessitated a nomadic life, which they adopted to its fullest extent, taking their families with them even on their military expeditions (Jg 6:5). Their wealth consisted in flocks and herds. Mention is Made of a nameless "town" (1Sa 15:5), and Josephus gives an exaggerated account of the capture of several towns by Saul (Ant. 6, 7, 2); but the towns could have been little more than stations, or nomadic enclosures. The kings or chieftains were perhaps distinguished by the hereditary title Agag (Nu 24:7; 1Sa 15:8). Two important routes led through the Amalekite district, viz., from Palestine to Egypt by the Isthmus of Suez, and to Southern Asia and Africa by the AEtlanitic arm of the Red Sea. It has been conjectured that the expedition of the four kings (Genesis 14) had for its object the opening of the latter route; and it is in connection with the former that the Amalekites first came in contact with the Israelites, whose progress they attempted to stop, adopting a guerrilla style of warfare (De 25:18). The Amalekites, suspecting that the Israelites were advancing to take possession of the land of Canaan, did not wait for their near approach to that country, but came down from their settlements on its southern borders to attack them at Rephidim. Moses commanded Joshua with a chosen band to attack the Amalekites, while he, with Aaron and Hur, went up to the mount of Horeb. During the battle Moses held up his hands to heaven; and as long as they were maintained in this attitude the Israelites prevailed, but when through weariness they fell, the Amalekites prevailed. (See Verpoorten, De bello in Amalek, Ged. 1736; Sartorius, De bello Domini in Amalek, Danz. 1736.) Aaron and Hur, seeing this, held up his hands till the latter were entirely defeated with great slaughter (Ex 17:8-13; comp. De 25:17; 1Sa 15:2). In union with the Canaanites they again attacked the Israelites on the borders of Palestine, and defeated them near Hormah (Nu 14:45). Thenceforward we hear of them only as a secondary power, at one time in league with the Moabites (Jg 3:13), when they were defeated by Ehud near Jericho; at another time in league with the Midianites (Jg 6:3), when they penetrated into the plain of Esdraelon, and were defeated by Gideon. Saul in his expedition overran their whole district and inflicted immense loss upon them, but spared Agag, their king, and the best of the cattle and the movables, contrary to the divine command (1Sa 14:48; 1Sa 15:2 sq.). After this the Amalekites scarcely appear any more in history (1Sa 27:8; 2Sa 8:12). Their power was thenceforth broken, and they degenerated into a horde of banditti (גּדוּד, predatory band). Such a "troop" came and pillaged Ziklag, which belonged to David (1 Samuel 30); but he returned from an expedition which he had made in the company of Achish into the valley of Jezreel, pursued them, overtook and dispersed them, and recovered all the booty which they had carried off from Ziklag. This completed their political destruction, as predicted (Nu 24:20); for the small remnant of Amalekites whose excision by the Simeonites is spoken of in 1Ch 4:43, were the descendants of another family SEE AMALEK. Yet we meet again with the name of Amalek (according to Josephus, Ant. 11, 6, 5) in the history of Esther, in the person of Haman the Agagite, in Es 3:1,10; Es 8:3,5, who was most likely an Amalekite of the royal house of Agag (Nu 24:7; 1Sa 15:8), that fled from the general carnage, and escaped to the court of Persia.
The Arabians relate of the Amalek destroyed by Saul that he was the father of an ancient tribe in Arabia, which contained only Arabians called pure, the remains of whom were mingled with the posterity of Joktan and Adnan. According to Josephus (Ant. 3, 2, 1), the Amalekites inhabited Gobolitis (Ps 78:8) and Petra, and were the most warlike of the nations in those parts (comp. Ant. 2, 1, 2); and elsewhere he speaks of them as "reaching from Pelusium of Egypt to the Red Sea" (Ant. 6, 7, 3). We find, also, that they had a settlement in that part of Palestine which was allotted to the tribe of Ephraim (Jg 12:15; see also 5:14). According to Schwarz (Palest. p. 219), traces of this name are preserved in that region to this day. The editor of Calmet supposes that there were no less than three distinct tribes of Amalekites:
(1.) Amalek the ancient, referred to in Genesis 14; (2.) A tribe in the region east of Egypt, between Egypt and Canaan (Ex 17:8; 1Sa 15, etc.); (3.) Amalek, the descendants of Eliphaz.
No such distinction, however, appears to be made in the biblical narrative, at least as regards the former two of these tribes; their national character is everywhere the same, and the different localities in which we find these Amalekites may be easily explained by their habits, which evidently were such as belong to a warlike nomade people (Reland, Palest. p. 78 sq.; Mannert, Geogr. VI, 1, 183 sq.). Arabian writers mention Amalika, Amalik, Imlik, as an aboriginal tribe of their country, descended from Ham (Abulfeda says from Shem), and more ancient than the Ishmaelites (D'Herbelot, Bibl. Orient. s.v. Amlac; De Sacy, Excerpta ex Abulf. in Pococke's Specim. p. 543 sq.; Michaelis, Spicileg. 1, 170 sq.). They also give the same name to the Philistines and other Canaanites, and assert that the Amalekites who were conquered by Joshua passed over to North Africa (Ewald, Isr. Gesch. 1, 300, 450). Philo (Vita Moysis, 1, 39) calls the Amalekites who fought with the Israelites on leaving Egypt Phoenicians. The same writer interprets the name Amalek as meaning "a people that licks up or exhausts" (Legis Allegor. 3, 66). From the scriptural notices of their location south of Palestine (Nu 13:29), in the region traversed by the Israelites (Ex 17:8 sq.), and their connection with the Ammonites (Jg 3:13), Midianites (Jg 6:3; Jg 7:12), Kenites (1Sa 15:6), as well as their neighborhood to the Philistines (1Sa 27:8), Mount Soir (1Ch 5:26), and the city of Shur or Pelusium (1Sa 15:7), it is evident that their proper territory was bounded by Philistia, Egypt, Idumaea, and the desert of Sinai. — Van Iperen, Histor. Crit. Edom. et Amalecitar. (Leonard. 1768); Jour. of. Sac. Lit. Apr. 1852, p. 89 sq.; Noldeke, Ueber die Amalekiter. etc. (Gotting. 1863). SEE CANAANITE.
On the apparent discrepancy between De 1:44 and Nu 14:45, SEE AMORITE.