THE SPIRIT OF AMALEK and the War on Israel
By Dr. Juergen Buehler, ICEJ President
Israel is at war! After the mass terrorist attack on October 7, Israel finds itself in one of the most challenging situations since its founding in 1948. The nation currently has its standing army with advanced military equipment, plus a record call-up of over 300,000 reservist soldiers, all deployed on three battle fronts—Gaza in the South, Judea/Samaria (West Bank) in the Center, and the Lebanese border in the North.
However, we must understand that this battle is of a spiritual nature and needs to be engaged as such, particularly by the church. The apostle Paul said, “Our fight is not against flesh and blood but against … the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The same holds true today.
On October 7, the world witnessed the worst manifestation of antisemitism since the Holocaust. The attack caught Israel by utter surprise. But even more shocking were the reports coming from the dozens of besieged Israeli communities around Gaza. Most victims were not IDF soldiers who fought bravely that day. Instead, the main targets were women, children, and the elderly, who were brutally murdered, mutilated, raped, tortured, and burned alive in their homes or taken hostage to Gaza. To erase any doubt, the terrorists themselves recorded their atrocities on body cameras, leaving behind a chilling record of their vile atrocities.
Their utter cruelty, however, should not have come as a surprise since, over recent decades, Hamas leaders and clerics have called for the annihilation of every Jew on Earth. And the Hamas Charter expressly cites the hadith (tradition) that “Judgment Day” will not come until Muslims kill Jews to the point the rocks and trees cry out, “O Muslims, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!” And Hamas insists this fight must liberate every inch of Israel from Jewish rule.
An ancient hatred—even a demonic spirit—is at work that shares these exact aspirations. It manifested itself repeatedly through the descendants of Amalek and eventually infected many other peoples as well. This vicious “spirit of Amalek” arose once more on October 7. Rabbinic literature presents Amalek as the archenemy of the Jewish people. Today, we call it violent antisemitism.
Amalek and Esau’s Hatred
The spirit of Amalek is the oldest enemy of Israel. The Amalekites were the first people to attack Israel when they left Egypt for the promised land (Exodus 17:8ff). Amalek was a grandson of Esau (Genesis 36:12) who, according to the rabbis, inherited his grandfather Esau’s envy and hatred for his twin brother, Jacob.
This ancient hatred is rooted in certain events in their lives. When their mother, Rebekah, was still pregnant with twin sons, she received a word from God that the “elder will serve the younger.” This divine election is referenced by Paul in Romans 9:10–13, and it grew into a root of jealousy in Esau’s heart. Second, the Bible describes Esau as a “profane” (ungodly) man who despised his birthright and sold it to his younger brother, Jacob, for a bowl of stew (Genesis 25:29ff; Hebrews 12:16–17). Third, Jacob deceived his father, Isaac, to also receive the blessing of the firstborn (Genesis 27). Altogether, these events created a root of bitterness in Esau that left him ready to kill Jacob (Genesis 27:41).
Years later, this hatred stirred Esau’s heart to mobilize 400 armed men to “welcome” his brother as he returned to the promised land. Jacob knew the depth of his twin brother’s hatred and was concerned for his wives and children (Genesis 32:11). So, the night before Esau’s army arrived, Jacob wrestled with God and became “Israel.” In answer to his prayer, God touched Esau’s heart, and the brothers reconciled.
Yet Esau’s grandson Amalek retained that jealous spirit and became Israel’s archenemy down through history (Numbers 14:25; Judges 3:13, 6:3, 10:12; Psalm 83:7). Amalek often appeared at critical moments in Israel’s history, which teaches us important principles for today. The nature of this murderous hatred of Jews is jealousy over Israel’s calling and election for world redemption, its inheritance of the land, and the blessing passed down from Abraham to Isaac, and from Isaac to Jacob—and then to Jacob’s 12 sons.
Amalek at Rephidim
Amalek first appears as a nation in Exodus 17:8: “Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim.” In this well-known story, Moses instructed Joshua to draft an army while he, together with Aaron and Hur, went up a hill to pray. These prayers became the decisive factor in the outcome of the battle: “So it came about, when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed; but when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed” (Exodus 17:11).
Amalek and David
Right before David became king of Israel, we read about the Amalekites burning David’s camp at Ziklag and abducting his wives (1 Samuel 30:1–2). But David “strengthened himself in the Lord” and inquired whether to attack. God told him to pursue and overtake the enemy and rescue the hostages. Amazingly, this all took place near Kibbutz Be’eri and Kfar Aza, where the worst atrocities of the recent Hamas massacre took place. So that is our prayer in this current situation—that Israel may pursue, overtake, and rescue!
Haman the Amalekite (Esther 3–7)
The last time Amalek appears in the Word of God is in the story of Esther. Haman, the archenemy of the Jews, was an Agagite—that is, he came from the house of Agag, the Amalekite royal family (see 1 Samuel 15; Numbers 24:7). His scheme was the most vicious of all previous attacks, as Haman planned to ethnically cleanse Persia of all Jews—men, women, and children (Esther 3:8–9).
For Esther to approach the king on this matter, she needed spiritual support as Moses did with Aaron and Hur. She called all of Israel to a three-day fast (Esther 4:16).
After this fast, things changed quickly, with a complete reversal. The Jews were allowed to defend themselves for two days, and their enemies perished. Amazingly, Haman was hanged on the very gallows he built for the Jews.
Three Spiritual Principles in the Fight against Amalek
These stories contain several common themes that instruct us how to pray strategically in these days
1. The Nature of the Amalek Spirit
The severe judgment from heaven was due to the type of conflict waged by Amalek. At the end of his life, Moses reminded Israel to “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way when you came out of Egypt, how he confronted you on the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God” (Deuteronomy 25:17–18).
Amalek’s enmity went beyond a mere dispute—it was a vicious, blood-thirsty rivalry. His main targets were the faint and weary and stragglers in Israel’s camp. They mainly targeted civilians—like today’s grim specter of Hamas terrorism. That is why Jacob was afraid for his wives and children. And Amalek kidnapped the women and children in David’s time. Finally, in Esther’s day, all of Israel was targeted—men, women, children, and the elderly.
This same demonic spirit of violence was on display in the brutal Hamas slaughter of innocent Israeli civilians. Israeli doctors have concluded that 80 percent of the Hamas victims identified so far had been raped or tortured. Many remain hostage. In addition, Amalek is distinct from other historical enemies like Egypt or Babylon in its declared purpose to annihilate the Jewish people: “They have said, ‘Come, and let’s wipe them out as a nation, so that the name of Israel will no longer be remembered’” (Psalm 83:4).
2. The Nature of the Battle
All these battle stories involving Amalek had one thing in common—they were won through prayer and fasting. For example, after Israel’s victory at Rephidim, the story in Exodus makes several significant statements that bear comment:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly wipe out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner; and he said, “Because the Lord has sworn, the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.” (Exodus 17:14–16)
- Prayer moves heaven. Moses made a rather amazing statement after this battle. He declared Yad al kiseh Adonai, or “The hand on the Lord’s throne!” Moses understood that as he prayed, he touched the very throne of heaven. His prayer moved the heavenly realm and released heavenly armies to battle on Israel’s behalf.
- In every generation, an Amalek will arise against the Jewish people. It was a great challenge in biblical times and throughout history, but it continues today with its latest manifestation witnessed in the western Negev.
- Amalek’s ultimate fate is already sealed. God will blot out their memory from under heaven (see Numbers 24:20). It means that as we apply Moses’ strategy, we can expect victory!
The way to overcome this militant, violent spirit of hatred manifesting all over the world now is by targeted, militant prayer with fasting that persists until the breakthrough comes. The end is sealed, and God will have the final word! Today, it is the hands of the church that need to be lifted up. We must be like Moses and Aaron and Hur, supporting each other in prayer. Israel is in desperate need of this prayer covering, and it is for “such a time as this” that we are called.
3. Amalek, the Enemy of the Crossroads
The spirit of Amalek manifested itself mainly at significant crossroads in Israel’s history. When Esau planned his attack with 400 militants, Jacob was about to cross over the river Jabbok back into the promised land. Jacob was entering his inheritance and destiny when Esau attacked. At this crossroad, Jacob became “Israel”—the one who saw God face to face (Genesis 32:30ff).
When Amalek attacked Israel at Rephidim, they were at their final stop before Mount Sinai and the most transforming moment in Old Testament history. God came down in fire, made a covenant with Israel, and gave the children of Israel the Ten Commandments.
David’s challenge with Amalek could have led to his stoning by his own people, and the man after God’s own heart would have missed his destiny. But David strengthened himself in the Lord, won the battle, and two chapters later, became king of Israel.
Finally, if Haman had prevailed, two great heroes of Israel would have perished as well: Nehemiah (who rebuilt Jerusalem) and Ezra (who brought significant spiritual reforms) were still teenagers in Persia and would have been slain. Even in modern times, we see that just after the birth of the global Zionist movement, the emergence of the worst manifestation of the Amalek spirit in the heart of enlightened Europe. Adolf Hitler and the powerfully seductive Nazi spirit gripped most of the German people, and Nazi Germany slaughtered 6 million Jews just when they established the modern State of Israel.
Application for Today
Thus, the recent atrocities by Hamas should make us think. Is Israel at another crossroads? Are we about to enter a season of spiritual revival in Israel when the ancient prophecies of God pouring out His Spirit upon Israel will be fulfilled? Maybe we are near the promise of Zechariah 12:10–14—when God will pour out a Spirit of grace and supplication, and they will “look upon him whom they pierced.” Maybe the times of Ezekiel 36:24–38 will come when God promises to sprinkle clean water on Israel and remove hearts of stone for hearts of flesh.
This is a critical time, not just for Israel but also for the church. It is no longer enough to just profess our love for Israel—it is time for action. Concerted prayer and fasting are urgently needed. Please join our various prayer initiatives and prayerfully consider holding a three-day Esther Fast for Israel in this time of need.
As Moses, Aaron, and Hur saw the breakthrough, and Esther saw a complete reversal of her situation, we are trusting for a big breakthrough for Israel both for its military and soldiers—but also for the spiritual state of the nation. Please join us in this battle.
You can help with protect Israelis and contribute to our war relief efforts by donating today!