Amalekites

1 Samuel 15:2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.
1 Samuel 15:3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

The language we use to discuss art and culture is shaped by that same art and culture. There’s nobody alive who doesn’t know a few Shakespearean words even if they can’t tell you where they came from. There are idioms and turns of phrase we have that owe their genesis – ohoh, there’s one now – to one of a tiny number of literary works that are just so old, and so foundational, they helped shape our very language. These are fountains of our culture – places from whence words flow, change, and are reshaped by the surfaces over which they run.

The word philistine is typically only used in modern culture by people who are either very cultured, or parodying people who consider themselves very cultured. It’s a term that was more popular in the past to refer to uncultured people, others, people who did not respect God, or beauty, or culture. It was a fancy, Biblical way to call someone a Barbarian, or as we might say it today, a redneck or bogan.

One word that is similar in its origin but less popular in its use – ie, I don’t think anyone uses it at all – is Amalekite. I’ve written about the Amalekite Genocide before, but it was in passing as part of another, larger work, and honestly, it was probably the weakest, most confusing part of that story. If you’d like an acquaintance with the text itself, here is one of the most readable versions of it you’ll find, which doesn’t do the normal Biblical retelling of hiding the fact that this was about the wholesale slaughter of a civilisation. Modern Biblical critics often refer to this as The Amalekite Genocide.

In summary, at some point leaving Egypt, Amalek and his children – possibly a tribe – attacked the Israelites as they fled Egypt. Since we know that no, that didn’t happen, we can just as easily project that Amalek’s attack probably didn’t happen. This didn’t stop the Biblical God – or more likely, Samuel as the figurehead of religious power – from using that attack, four hundred years later, to order the absolute genocide and destruction of the Amalekite people. Biblical apologists like to point out the Amalekites are once again mentioned, many hundreds of years later, suggesting that the genocide wasn’t successful, which of course, makes it all better…? Anyway.

The Amalekites were numerically inferior, they were swept underneath Saul’s army so easily as to avoid even mentioning the fights. Saul acted without even the strength of the Lord on his side – some say – which suggests that from the Bible’s perspective, this genocide was truly an oppressive act against a weaker people.

The Amalekites did not die.

Think about that. God himself, supposedly, wanted these people dead, and they did not die.

“Be not,” said God.

“No.” They answered.

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