Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/420

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AMALEC 378 AMALEC cites. Moses, putting J'lsue in command, went up to the top of a hill, with .aron and Hur, and it was on this occasion that the fortune of battle was de- cided by "the rod of God" held in the hands of Moses, Israel prevailing while his hands upheld the rod .malec when thev dropped, the victory finally going to the Israelites (Ex., xvn). There is little in this account of Kxodus to show why the Amalecites should be singled out to incur the special animosity of the Israelites, yet it concludes with the decree of Jehovah that He will destroy the memory of Amalec from under heaven, and that His hand will be against Amalec from gi^nerat ion to generation. Amalec, how- ever, was the aggressor (ibid., 8); though it must be borne in mind that the Israelites had invaded their country. The reason for Israel's hatred, which is wanting in this historical account, may be supplied from the later (and hortatory) account given in Dent., xxv, where it is incidentally stated that the head of Amalec's offending lay in his cruel and treacherous attack, by which he disregarded the laws of Bedouin hospitality, which was an affront to God as well as to man. Instead of showing ordinary humanity to the feeble stragglers of the Israelite army, "spent with hunger and labour", they ruth- lessly slew them. Now, "according to the rules of ancient Arabian hospitality, and with some sense of God, the .malecites ought to have spared, and indeed, rather assisted, those who lagged behind, unfit for battle. That they did the contrary was inhuman and barbarous" (Dillman). Cruelty such as this was considered to render a tribe unfit for existence; so hatred of the Amalecites, even unto extermination, was enjoined upon the Israelites as a religious duty. Even apart, however, from this cruelty, rivalry between the two tribes was almost inevitable, as Amalec could not be expected to regard with complacency Israel's invasion of his rich pasture-lands. No further molestation from the Amalecites is related during the journey of the Israelites to Mt. Sinai, or their stay there, or their march to Cades, near ihe southern boundary of Palestine. It was from this side that the Israelites first attempted the entry into the Promised Land; and here they again encountered the Amalecites, at the place where the ancestors of the latter had been defeated by Chodor- lahomor. Israel had got as far as the wilderness of Pharan (Paran) and from there they sent spies into Palestine to spy out the peoples there, with their lands and cities. The Amalecites were found in the south of the country and apparently at the head of a confederacy of different tribes, or nations, since they soon led a concerted attack on the Israelites; but the spies also brought back reports of giants living in the land, in comparison with whom, they said, "we were in our own sight as grasshoppers; and .so we were in their sight" {sic Heb. text. Num., xiii, M). These stories of the giants frightened the people and " the whole multitude crying wept that night", and they began to murmur and to wish they had died in Kgypt or in the wilderness, rather than be doomed by ttic Lord to undertake the conquest of the land of giants. Mo.ses, Aaron, and Josue con- tended against their foolish rebellious spirit, but only gained their hatred; and the Lord then passed on them the punishment of the forty years' wander- ing, decreeing that none of them should enter the Promised Land. This grieving the people exceed- ingly, they determined to go up into the land and attack the .malecites and the Chanaanites. But Moses forbade it, prophesying evil because the Lord was not with them. They presumed, nevertheless, to go up, though Moses would not accompany them, and they met the fate foretold; the Amalecites, with their allies, attacking them with considerable slaughter and driving them as far as Horma (Num., xiv, 4.5). The subsequent history of the Amalecites during the time of Moses is obscure. Their destruc- tion is foretold by Balaam in his famous oracle uttered on the top of Phogor, while he viewed the nations around. "And when he saw Amalec he took up his parable and said: 'Amalec, the first of nations, thy latter end shall be destruction,' " a f)rophecy (whatever be its date) which shows at east that Amalec once held an important place among the Semitic tribes or nations surrounding Israel (Num., xxiv). The fulfilment of this prophecy is enjoined upon the Israelites by Moses in a farewell discourse as a sacred duty. "When they shall have established peace with all other peoples, then shall they blot out the remembrance of Amalec from under heaven: see thou forget it not" (Deut., xxv, 19). And if this seem an inhuman command, let us remem- ber the prevailing sentiment that the Amalecites were "inhuman and barbarous; a people with such evil customs deserves no mercy "; for it is a question of national life or death. It is plain, however, that we are far from the Sermon on the Mount. IV. Period of the Judges. — Under Josue, Israel, entering Palestine from the east, did not come in contact with the Amalecites, but was kept bu.sy with other enemies, whose territories they were endeavouring to capture. As soon, howe'er, as the Israelites were well established in Palestine, the old enmity became active again. When Eglon, King of Moab, went up against Israel, he was joined by the Amalecites and Ammonites as allies, and togetlier they subdued the Israelites; and the Israelites remained in subjection for fourteen years till, through the cunning and treachery of Aod (Ehud) the Benjamite, King Eglon met his tragic death (Judges, iii). Petty warfare between the Amalecites and the Israelites was incessant during a good part of the period of the Judges. The Israel- ites had by this time become an agricultural people, while the Amalecites remained Bedouin, and made frequent incursions into the land of their enemy and destroyed their crops and cattle (Judges, vi). On one occasion, they accompanied the Madianites on an invasion of Palestine, forming an almost innumer- able host; they were unexpectedly attacked at night by Gedeon and 300 picked men, and through panic (and perhaps distrust) turned the sword on one another and fled, with Gedeon in pursuit (Judges, vii). V. S.vuL. — This defeat of the Amalecites, it seems, had the effect of quieting them for many years, for they are not heard of again till the early days of Saul. Saul began his reign by vigorous military operations, waging war, with great success, against "enemies on every side"; among them, the Amale- cites, who had been harassing the Israelites (I K., xiv, 48). Then came the prophet Samuel and re- minded Saul of Amalec's old offence and Gotl's decree of extermination. The prophet's words made it clear (xv, 1-3) that no enemy was hated like Amalec and that his extermination was regardeil as a religious duty, imposed by God. All, man, woman, child, and beast, were to be destroyed and Israel was to covet none of Amalec's possessions for spoils. Saul proceeded to carry out this injunction, anil its character as special punishment upon the Amale- cites is emphasized by his mercy to the Cinite (Ken- ites). Saul invaded the territory of the Amalecites to the south of Palestine and smote them from Hevila in the extreme east, to Sur near the border of I'gypt — a campaign of unusual magnitude — and put all to the sworil, — men, women, and children — except the King, Agag, whom he took alive, and the best of the animals, which he reserved for sacrifice. I'or this disobedience in sparing .gag and the best of the flocks and herds, Saul was rejected in the name of God by Samuel who hewed down .Vgag in his presence; from that day his fortune changed, and