...“Their king will be greater than Agag;their kingdom will be exalted." (NIV)

1 Sam. 15:8-9 speaks of specific king "Agag" whom Saul defeated:

" And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.

9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly." (KJV)

But, in prophesy many times a name will be used collectively for the whole. I have found one reference source that states "Agag" was title of the kings Amalek much as Pharaoh was the title of the kings of Egypt.

"The Meaning of the Name Agag

The name in Arabic means, to "Burn". It is not a person's name but his title, as Pharaoh is a title of the Kings of Egypt. This was the 'Flame' that would lead his nation to attack and burn Israel repeatedly." Souce: here

Can anyone offer other sources or confirm this source?

Or, was Balaam's prophesy only concerning one king of Amalek?

  • "Agag" does not mean "burn" in Arabic.
    – fdb
    Oct 8, 2017 at 16:28

3 Answers 3


It's unknown whether this was:

  • a name of the king of the Amalekites
  • a title of the king of the Amalekites
  • a Hebrew epithet for any of the above or any leaders of the adversaries of Israel

From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

AGAG āʹgag [Heb. ’ag̱āg̱].

  1. The name or title of an Amalekite king mentioned by Balaam (Nu. 24:7).
  2. Another Amalekite king defeated by Saul but spared, along with the choicest spoil, in contravention of the divine command (1 S. 15:8f). After rebuking Saul, Samuel himself killed Agag for all the Amalekite atrocities.

AGAGITE ā‘gag-īt [Heb. ’ag̱āg̱î—‘member of the house of Agag’]. An opprobrious adjective applied to Haman (Est. 3:1, 10; 8:3, 5; 9:24). Jewish tradition has always credited the adversaries of the nation with membership in the house of Amalek, the hereditary foe of Israel. The LXX has Bougaíos in Est. 3:1 and Makedōn (Macedonian) in 9:24, to signify “enemy.” See BOUGAEAN. Bromiley, G. W. (Ed.). (1979–1988). Agagite. In The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 1, pp. 65–66). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

See also the Harper Collins Bible Dictionary:

Agag (ay´gag). The apparent name of two non-Israelite kings, though some scholars speculate that Agag might not be a proper name, but a designation (analogous to “Pharaoh”) for all Amalekite rulers. 1 The name of an unknown king referred to in Num. 24:7 (called “Gog” in the LXX). Balaam prophesies that Israel’s future king will be more exalted than Agag. 2 The name of the king of the Amalekites whom Saul defeated but spared, contrary to divine command. After rebuking Saul bitterly, Samuel hewed Agag to pieces in Gilgal “before the LORD” (1 Sam. 15). Powell, M. A. (2011). Agag. In M. A. Powell (Ed.), The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (Third Edition, p. 15). New York: HarperCollins.

Note that this is similar to 'Gog', which is just Agag without the Aleph, which reinforces the idea of this being an epithet.

Gog, a king who, in Ezek. 38–39, is described as an apocalyptic figure who marches from the north (38:6, 15; 39:2) and ravages Israel before being destroyed by God (38:19–22; 39:3–5). This mythical or eschatological ruler is probably based on the historical figure of Gyges, a seventh-century BCE king of Lydia. In describing his activities, Ezekiel is thought to draw upon Jeremiah’s writings about an “enemy from the north” (1:14; 4:6; 6:1, 22; 10:22; 13:20) as well as on Isaiah’s motif of the destruction of Israel’s foes on the mountains of Israel (14:24–25; 17:12–14; 31:8–9). Gog reappears in the NT, paired with Magog (Rev. 20:8–10); in Ezek. 38:2 Magog is probably not a ruler, but a phrase from the Akkadian language (mat Gog) meaning “land of Gog.” Kselman, J. S. (2011). Gog. In M. A. Powell (Ed.), The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (Third Edition, p. 334). New York: HarperCollins.

  • Thank you, Robert. I am going to accept this answer as my search has found that the definite articles "the" for Agag, the king of" most probably is a specific king. But in other places it appears to be a compilation or metaphor of the enemies of Israel..
    – Gina
    Sep 6, 2021 at 7:28

Yes, the word "Agag" was a title of Amalekite kings, just like "Pharaoh" was a title for Egyptian kings.

We have only a few references to "Agag" in the Bible, but we can glean some information from the fact that Balaam's words preceded Saul's time by well over three centuries. Saul, we recall, was the one whom God commanded to destroy the Amalekites and who, contrary to God's directions, saved Agag, their king, alive. Samuel finished what Saul had left undone, but this judgment had waited, by God's mercy, since the days when the Amalekites had fought against Israel during their journey from Egypt (see 1 Samuel 15:2; Exodus 17:8).

Strong's lexicon gives the following definition for "Agag":

אֲגַג ʼĂgag, ag-ag'; or אֲגָג ʼĂgâg; of uncertain derivation (compare H89); flame; Agag, a title of Amalekitish kings:—Agag.

So it is known to be "a title of Amalekitish kings."

The meaning of the word itself is given as "I will overtop."

BlueLetterBible shows these Strong's references HERE.

  • Thank you. I appreciate the source.
    – Gina
    Sep 6, 2021 at 7:24

It concerns more than one person, but I don't want to used the definition of king.

Balaam spoke in a parable, so the intention is to conceal information. (Num. 24:3 example) The parables extend through time all the way to the latter days, or the end of the age. (Num. 24 : 14) In addition to the Aggag in Saul' s era, Haman was an Aggite. Mordicia and Esther went after the house of Haman and attempted to perform what Saul did not. They are attempting to destroy his line of decent. ( Esther 9 : 10) It does not appear certain to have worked.
Amelek remains alive in the latter days but is destroyed. ( Num. 24 : 20)

That leaves the question regarding Aggag. Is he still existing at the end or mearly the general descendents of Amelek? Remember that it is written, Essua is Edom. (Gen. 36 : 8) Fathers and their children are accounted, or seen as one and the same, based on the context of the story.

These men are accounted as alive, even though dead. The story appears to very much still in progress.

  • 1
    What support can you bring for making the identification of the Agag in Numbers 24:7 with the Agag in 1 Samuel 15:9 and the Agagi in Esther 3:1? How does this post answer the OP's question about if "Agag" is a proper name or a title like "Pharaoh"?
    – user17080
    Oct 7, 2017 at 19:46

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