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AMALEKITES (ă-măl'ĕk-īts, ăm'a-lĕk-īts Heb. ‘ămālēqî). An ancient and nomadic marauding people dwelling mainly in the Negev from the times of Abraham to Hezekiah, c. 2000-700 b.c.

Distribution of the Amalekites was primarily in the Negev SW of the Dead Sea but also in the Sinai Peninsula from Rephidim (Exod.17.8) to the border of Egypt (1Sam.27.8); northward at Jezreel (Judg.6.33), Pirathon (Judg.12.15), and at or near Jericho (Judg.3.13); and eastward to Mount Seir (1Chr.4.42). See also Num.13.29.

The origin of the Amalekites is not known for sure. If Amalek, the grandson of Esau (Gen.36.12), is the nation’s father, the note in Gen.14.7 must be seen as proleptic. Accordingly, “first among the nations” in Num.24.20 can be first in time, first in preeminence, or first to molest liberated Israel (at Rephidim). Arab traditions, late and conflicting, have the Amalekites stem from Ham.

In character the Amalekites were warlike, usually confederate with the Canaanites (Num.14.45) or Moabites (Judg.3.13), but sometimes alone, as at Rephidim (Exod.17.8) and Ziklag (1Sam.10.1). They “cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God” (Deut.25.18), and they destroyed crops (Judg.6.4).

At Rephidim the Lord said, “I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven” (Exod.17.14), and through Balaam, “Amalek...will come to ruin at last” (Num.24.20). Saul failed to destroy the Amalekites, but David reduced them to inactivity, and the Simeonites at Mount Seir “killed the remaining Amalekites who had escaped” (1Chr.4.43). Archaeology has produced no evidence of them thus far.