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God uses Joshua to bring victory over the Amalekites
The Amalekites were descendants of Esau (Genesis 36:12) who lived in the region north of Kadesh. They were an old tribe (Numbers 24:20) and probably resented the fact that a strange multitude was wandering through their country and drinking from their oases. They could not fail to see a massive crowd of 2-3 million men, women, and children - and consider them as undesirable and potentially threatening to their own way of life. Joshua was the military leader for the Israelites against Amalek. This is the first mention we have of this great warrior who was to succeed Moses as the leader of God's people. He is thrust into the narrative without any introduction, but we may assume he had enjoyed a close relationship with Moses and had established himself as a leader before this occasion. Amalek and his army had chosen to come in from the flank and from the rear, attacking those people who were at the rear of the column and who lagged behind due to age or infirmity while they were encamped at Rephidim.
This battle was the beginning of a long and bitter feud that was to last over four hundred years. Because of the unjustified attack on His people, God told Moses that he intended eventually to "utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven." Verse 16 adds that, "the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." According to the scriptures, the Lord had war with Amalek from generation to generation until finally, in the reign of Hezekiah (1 Chronicles 4:42-43), the last remnant of the Amalekite tribe is annihilated.
This was the first battle in which the Israelites engaged and it set the pattern for future battles. Israel would fight, but it would be clear that the victory really belonged to God. As the battle began, Moses climbed to the top of a nearby hill and stood with "the rod of God," (Exodus 17:8) extended toward the battle. As long as he held his arms up, this same rod that had devoured the magicians' serpents in the court of Pharaoh served to rally the power of the Lord to the side of the Israelites. When his weary arms drooped, the Amalekites prevailed. With the aid of Aaron and Hur, whom tradition has called the husband of Miriam, Moses managed to hold his arms upward until the sun set (Exodus 12-141):
12 But Moses' hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. 13 So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. 14 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this in a book as a memorial, and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven."
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