AMALEK (ăm'a-lĕk, Heb. ‘ămālēq). Son of Eliphaz (eldest son of Esau) by his concubine Timna (Gen.36.12; 1Chr.1.36). A “chief” of Edom (Gen.36.16).

AMALEK ăm’ ə lĕk, AMALEKITES ăm’ əl’ ĕk īts (עֲמָלֵ֑ק, עֲמָלֵקִ֗י; Gr ̓Αμαλήκ, ̓Αμαληκίτης). An ancient marauding people in the S of Canaan and the Negeb who were fierce enemies of Israel particularly in the earlier part of her history.

Early history.


The Amalekites as a nomadic desert tribe moved in the area from the Sinaitic region and the steppe land of the Negeb in S Canaan, S of Beersheba, over E to include the Arabah region N of Elath and Ezion-geber and possibly the more interior Arabia. See 1 Samuel 15:7 where Saul is said to have “defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt.” This seems to have been the same general area inhabited by the Ishmaelites about whom it is stated: “They dwelt from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria” (Gen 25:18). 1 Samuel 30:1, 2 points to the Amalekite heavy raiding activity in the area of the Negeb, and Judges 6:3, 33 in speaking of the Amalekite association with the kings of the E in their raiding parties suggests that they may have lived sometime together in the Arabian territory toward the E.

The Amalekites also extended their influence farther N into the Philistine country and the region of Ephraim. This is borne out by Judges 12:15 where the area of Ephraim around the town Pirathon (not far from present-day Nablus) is called “the hill country of the Amalekites.” See 1 Samuel 27:5-7 and 30:1 for the fact that Amalek raided Philistine towns like Ziklag (a few m. N of Beersheba) which Achish, king of Gath, had given to David.

Amalek and Israel.

In the wilderness wanderings.

In the period of the Judges.

Later in the time of the Judges the Amalekites showed continued harassing activity against Israel. When some men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who exercised some control over the Negeb and the area of Hebron, presumably they also came in contact with the Amalekites who roamed the same general area. This is seen by observing the Kenites who lived with the Amalekites at the city of Amalek (1 Sam 15:5, 6) and that they earlier had taken up this residence with the people in the region of the Negeb near Arad (Judg 1:16), which was only about twenty m. S of Hebron. Observing this connection, there is no need, as some have attempted, to emend the text of Judges 1:16 from “the people” (Heb. הָעָֽם; LXX ὁ λαός) to Amalekite (עֲמָלֵקִ֗י), to try to make agreement with 1 Samuel 15:6, since the connection of the Kenites in these two passages is clear and evidence for changing the text is lacking.

In the time of Saul.

In the time of David.

David’s initial encounter with the Amalekites, in the OT record, took place during the time of his association with Achish, king of Gath, when the young Israelite made raids in the S against the Amalekites and others (1 Sam 27:8). Later Amalek raided the Negeb and, in David’s absence, completely conquered Ziklag, taking captive the inhabitants including David’s two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail (1 Sam 30:1-6). Then the future king, through the help of an abandoned Egyp. servant of an Amalekite (30:11-15), found the Amalekite camp, defeated the enemy, and recovered his wives and possessions (30:16-20).

Next, the Amalekite who claimed he had finished killing Saul (cf. 1 Sam 31:3-5; 2 Sam 1:4-10) was killed by David because he had slain “the Lord’s anointed” king (1:14-16), and also had confessed he was an Amalekite (1:8, 13). This demonstrates again Israel’s strong antipathy to Amalek. The psalmist (Ps 83:7) lists Amalek with the avowed enemies of Israel. A summary of David’s conquests of Amalek is given in 2 Samuel 8:12 and 1 Chronicles 18:11.

Amalek in later history.

The Amalekites seem to have been fairly well controlled under the monarchy, for the OT does not mention them again until the time of Hezekiah (c. 700 b.c.) and only as a remnant whom some of the Simeonites defeated at Mount Seir (i.e., Edom; Gen 32:3; 1 Chron 4:41-43). There is no further Biblical reference.


G. A. Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land (1896), 282; D. Baly, The Geography of the Bible (1957), 159.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The son, by his concubine Timna, of Eliphaz, the eldest son of Esau. He was one of the chiefs (the King James Version dukes) of Edom (Ge 36:12,16). See Amalekite.

am’-a-lek, a-mal’-e-kit, am’-a-lek-it (`amaleq, `amaleqi): A tribe dwelling originally in the region south of Judah, the wilderness of et-Tih where the Israelites came into conflict with them. They were nomads as a people dwelling in that tract would naturally be. When they joined the Midianites to invade Israel they came "with their cattle and their tents" (Jud 6:3-5). They are not to be identified with the descendants of Esau (Ge 36:12,16) because they are mentioned earlier, in the account of the invasion of Chedorlaomer (Ge 14:7) and in Balaam’s prophecy (Nu 24:20) Amalek is called "the first of the nations," which seems to refer to an early existence. We are uncertain of their origin, for they do not appear in the list of nations found in Ge 10. They do not seem to have had any relationship with the tribes of Israel, save as, we may surmise, some of the descendants of Esau were incorporated into the tribe. It is probable that they were of Semitic stock though we have no proof of it.

H. Porter