Fr. Michael's Thoughts on Biblical Imagery: Amalek




            What is your life’s “Amalek?” I pose this question with the first reading in mind. Exodus 17:8-13 is a biblical passage that carries a dual representation of an actual historical event and at the same time carries a spiritual symbolism.

            As a historical event, the passage narrates a battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites; Moses used the power of persistent prayer to win the battle.

            The symbolism of the tribe “Amalek” comes to the modern reader as a fearsome challenge in the life of a Christian; a kind of challenge that one can never overcome without the intervention of God through one’s persistent prayers. Let us now take a closer look at the first reading.

            Moses met a lot of oppositions and natural challenges as he led the Israelites in the desert. Some of the challenges came in the form of lack of food, water and shelter for the ever-complaining Israelites but in the midst of all these challenges his battle with the Amalekites was the toughest.

One of the reasons why the Amalekites posed the greatest challenge for the Israelites was that they were the obstacle between them and their entrance into Canaan. God had promised the Israelites  a land flowing with milk and honey but the Amalekites were the people living in and around Canaan and so for the Israelites to get to the promised land they needed to conquer the Amalekites.

Apparently, they had become enemies because of the enmity between two brothers who had become God-fathers of the two nations. Israelites are descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob while the Amalekites were descendants of Esau’s grandson Amalek (Esau was one of Isaac’s children). Some commentators therefore put the rivalry between the two nations to generational conflict. Jacob may had used an unlawful and indecent means to acquire the blessings of his father Isaac (a blessing that was meant for Esau, the first son) but when Esau’s descendants through his grandson Amalek possessed the land of Canaan, they may had discussed it among themselves that they will not allow the Israelites to take possession of their ancestral inheritance.

            With this background one can understand why the Amalekites were the number one enemies of the Israelites. But with all this Moses did not want an age-long rivalry to stand between him and what God had promised the Israelites. Moses decided to settle everything on the battle field but he had a unique method for the warfare.

            Moses told Joshua to “pick out certain men…” who will help him to engage the Amalekites in battle while he took Aaron and Hur to the mountain for prayers. The inspired writer puts it graphically: “…after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur. As long as Moses kept his hands raised up Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight…” Aaron and Hur supported Moses’ hands till victory came their way.

            There is a great lesson to be learned here. The lesson is persistent prayer. If one employs persistent prayer to any form of human “warfare” (s)he can be sure of victory. Persistent prayer is the type of prayer Jesus himself recommended to his disciples. To stress his point, Jesus told his disciples a story of a Judge and a widow. The story was about a dishonest judge who initially denied a widow justice in her case but the judge changed his mind and gave the widow what she wanted because of the widow’s persistence. Jesus therefore advised his disciples that if they wish to change impossible things in their lives, they need to employ persistent prayer. Jesus concluded by saying: “…will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily…”

            As Catholics I would like to suggest how one can embark on persistent prayer:


  1. HOLY MASS – If you have a serious challenge in life, please frequent daily Mass. Book Mass every day and light a candle for your intention.
  2. ADORATION – If there is an adoration chapel near your residence, find time to visit the Lord when no one is there. Remember what Hannah did when she had the challenge of barrenness. We are told that she went to the temple when no one was there and persistently put her request before God and eventually God answered her. There is power in silent persistent prayer – try it.
  3. HOLY ROSARY – We are in the Rosary month and as Catholics we will not need a soothsayer to tell us that praying the Rosary is among the powerful persistent prayers we have in the Church. Remember the story of the battle of Lepanto where through the power of praying the Holy Rosary, Christian Europe was saved from the hands of a powerful Islamic Army. The Holy Rosary is a powerful weapon, please give it a try and you will not regret it.
  4. OTHER DEVOTIONAL PRAYERS – The Catholic Church is blessed with other devotional prayers that comes to us in the form of novenas. If one is tormented by the devil and his agents please try the novena to St Michael, the Archangel. Novena to St Anthony will help you find your lost article. There are other novenas for different problems in life; just ask a priest and he will find you one.
  5. CHARISMATIC PRAYERS – In our modern times some Catholics are more oriented to charismatic prayers – where through praise and worship and loud vocal prayers they make their voices heard. I can tell you that as this type of prayers have helped others, it may be of great help to you also.


            Let us join the Psalmist and say: “Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP PRAY FOR US.



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