Josephus’s View of the Amalekites -- By: Louis H. Feldman

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 12:2 (NA 2002)
Article: Josephus’s View of the Amalekites
Author: Louis H. Feldman


Josephus’s View of the Amalekites

Louis H. Feldman

Yeshiva University

Josephus elevates Moses’ role and diminishes the miraculous in the Amalek episode. In the Pentateuch Josephus, defensive about the charge that Jews preach genocide, omits the command to eliminate Amalek; rather, Moses predicts it. In 1 Samuel he explains that G-d so hated them as to order it. As to the parallel command to exterminate the seven Canaanite nations, this was necessary, says Josephus, for the national survival of the Israelites.

Key words: Agag, Amalek, Amalekites, Canaanites, David, holy war, Josephus, Joshua, Kenites, Moses, Nabateans, Pseudo-Philo, Rome, Samuel, Saul

The Importance Of Amalek For Josephus

That the Amalekites are important for Josephus may be seen from the fact that, though he often, in his paraphrase of the Bible in his Antiquities, omits passages of lesser importance or passages that seem repetitious, he has seen fit to include no fewer than thirteen passages referring to them: Ant. 1.174 (= Gen 14:5-7), Ant. 2.5-6 (= Gen 36:40- 41), Ant. 3.39-61 (= Exod 17:8-16), Ant. 4.304 (= Deut 25:17-19), Ant. 5.210 (= Judg 6:3, 6:33, 7:12), Ant. 6.129 (= 1 Sam 14:47-48), Ant. 6.131- 55 (= 1 Sam 15:1-35), Ant. 6.323 (= 1 Sam 27:8-9), Ant. 6.336 (= 1 Sam 28:18), Ant. 6.356-67 (= 1 Sam 30:1-31), Ant. 6.371-72, 7:1-6 (= 2 Sam 1:1-16), Ant. 9.188--98 (= 2 Chr 25:5-20), and Ant. 11.209, 11.211, 11.277 (= Esth 3:1; 3:10; 8:3; 8:5; 9:24).1 The seven major references to the Amalekites are Ant. 3.39-61, containing the account of the attack of the Amalekites on the Israelites in the wilderness; Ant. 4.304, containing the commandment to eradicate the Amalekites; Ant

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