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There seems to be a contradiction is scriptures. 1 Samuel 15:15 says:

And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto Jehovah thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed. (I Samuel 15:15 ASV)

Saul spared only the best of the sheep and of the oxen, besides Agag.

However, in 1 Samuel 30:17,18 we read:

And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, who rode upon camels and fled. And David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken; and David rescued his two wives. (I Samuel 30:17,18 ASV)

How come David fought an Amalekite army that Saul has already eradicated a few years earlier?

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    vs06 I edited your question, feel free to revert to original or edit further as you wish.
    – bach
    Commented Jan 6, 2019 at 15:34
  • @Bach The problem stands: Samuel told Saul to kill all men, women, children and animals (15:3) and yet it only says that he spared Agag and the animals (15:9) implying that he did kill all men, women and children
    – b a
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 23:41
  • @ba your right, I had missed that.
    – bach
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 0:58
  • This is extremely FASCINATING for many reasons. It seems that somehow or other, an Amalekite or two continued to survive and their theme always seems to be the destruction of the Jewish people: Aka Haman. I'd be interested if that Amalekite bloodline still survives aka Hitler etc. You never know
    – user51411
    Commented Aug 11, 2022 at 15:27
  • He only attacked one city in Havilah. Why do you think they all lived in that city?
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 11, 2022 at 15:48

7 Answers 7

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Based on the information in 1 Samuel 15:4-9, God instructs Saul to attack the Amalekites and totally destroy them; men, women, children, infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys. So Saul puts together an army of two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand men from Judah. The record says that Saul “took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword.”

But does that mean the entire nation of the Amalekites was destroyed, including all the women and children? The Hebrew word which is usually translated as "the nation" or "the people" can also refer to military troops as in 1 Samuel 15:4. The Hebrew word used in 1 Samuel 15:7 has the same meaning as in 1 Samuel 15:4 (and 15:20). It was only the Amalekite army who were destroyed (apart from King Agag). Source: Did Saul lie to Samuel in 1 Samuel 15:7?

The biblical account records events as described by Saul, which, given his character, may not have been the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Consider his excuse for not killing all the livestock, for example. Rather than there being a contradiction in scripture, the more obvious reason for the conundrum is that although Saul attacked the Amalekite army he did not not complete the task according to God’s instructions. Saul’s rebellion against God was so serious that he was rejected by God as king:

“For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:23).

How come David fought an Amalekite army that Saul had allegedly eradicated a few years earlier? (1 Samuel 30:17-18) Perhaps the Amalakites conscripted the help of their friendly neighbours. Israel had many enemies and it is possible that the Amalekites who had not been killed by Saul sought the help of neighbouring tribes to harass David by stealing and by abduction. When David came against the army of the Amalekites it may have been composed of warriors from various tribes – mercenaries or soldiers of fortune who had joined up with the Amalakites against Israel.

Because of Saul’s failure to wipe out the Amalekites, they continued to harass and plunder the Israelites over hundreds of years. During the reign of King Hezekiah, a group of Simeonites “killed the remaining Amalekites” who had been living in the hill country of Seir” (1 Chronicles 4:42–43). The last mention of the Amalekites is found in the book of Esther where Haman the Agagite, a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag, connives to have all the Jews in Persia annihilated by order of King Xerxes. God saved the Jews in Persia, however, and Haman, his sons, and the rest of Israel’s enemies were destroyed instead (Esther 9:5–10).

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The Amalekites, throughout their history, were aggressive to the Israelites.

  1. Their first encounter with Israel was when they attacked the rear of Israel but were defeated by Joshua at Rephidim (Ex 17:8-13, Deut 25:17, 18). This brought a curse of ultimate annihilation from Moses (Ex 17:14-16, Deut 25:19) and Balaam (Num 24:20).
  2. Amalekites oppresses Israel with the help of Moab (Judges 3:12, 13)
  3. Amalekites appressed Israel with the help of Midian (Judges 6:3, 7:12)
  4. Saul conducted military campaigns against the Amalekites that while under God's instruction did not please God because the annihilation was far from complete and probably only included most of the army. Samuel executed their king Agag (1 Sam 15) because Saul had not! Saul was severely rebuked for this incomplete job and his attempt at "spin" by suggesting that all had been eliminated when, clearly, they had not.
  5. King David fought several battles with the Amalekites (1 Sam 27:8, 30:1, 17, 18).
  6. The last remnants appear to have been largely eliminated by the tribe of Simeon during the time of Hezekiah (1 Chron 4:42, 43)
  7. Haman in the Book of Esther was a descendant of the king Agag that Samuel executed (see 4 above).

Therefore, Saul's boast the he had destroyed the Amalekites was not true and he was rebuked for this and other matters. The Amalekites clearly survived well after the time of Saul, despite his hollow boasts.

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    Mac, how does this answer the question?
    – bach
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 0:56
  • It shows that Saul's claim that he had destroyed all the Amalekites was quote false and hollow. He was rebuked by God for not doing just that. The King (and presumably many senior officials) survived and many others did as well.
    – user25930
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 12:12
  • Saul only targeted the Amalekites who lived in the Havilah to Shur region (1 Samuel 15:7). Surely, there were Amalekites who lived beyond this region. Commented May 4, 2019 at 13:08
  • That is possible but we do not have any documentation. What we do have is historical documentation that shows that some Amalekites lived well beyond the time of Saul.
    – user25930
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 21:55
  • Well, the city of Amalek (gotta attack the headquarters first before you plan a society's collapse) was located within the Havilah-Shur region. Assuming that everyone who died in the city of Amalek equates to the entire Amalek nation being exitinct is like assuming you've met every single American that exists upon visiting New York. Commented May 6, 2019 at 11:31
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I’m not suggesting this is the answer but it’s worth considering. If hypothetically Paris were to be invaded and all the Parisians were killed, but Paris’ infrastructure was still usable, would it be too much to consider another group of people move in? What would outsiders refer to them as? Parisians maybe? Suppose something similar occurred here, the Amalekites were completely killed off and some neighbors seeing the Amalekite cities empty sought to take advantage, moves in and became a people. Maybe the name stuck to the new people group even if they had no direct blood ties to Amalek.

“And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.” ‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭17:24‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Here we have an example of not the extermination of the Northern Ten Tribes but exiling them and replacing them with other people groups. Samaria was the capital of the Northern Kingdom. The new inhabitants are now referred to as Samarians. Were the previous Israelites living in Samaria called Samarians too? I’d say yes, if I had to guess.

Now if the Hebrew Samarians went to war with Assyria and lost and the New Samarians went to war with Assyria decades later did Assyria fight the same people group?

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There may have been multiple enclaves of Amalekites scattered throughout the Sinai peninsula. There is some evidence that they advanced into Egypt after the Israelites departed since Egypt was in ruins and could be easily conquered. Emmanuel Velikovsky, a relentless researcher, provided evidence for this possibility in his book Ages in Chaos. This book was written to address and resolve the 600 year disparity between Biblical history and secular ancient history.

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The Amalekites survived by living amongst other tribes. They lived amongst the Kenites, Canaanites, etc and if they lived amongst them there was definitely mixing and thus they was preserved. The royal line of the Kings is what led to Haman. The BIBLE never said every single Amalekite lived in their area of settling. They were nomadic and moved around.

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    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 13:59
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They Amalekites ranged fairly widely, having originated as one of the Edomite tribes. Their supposed founder was one Esau's sons, namely Amalek. [Genesis 36:12]

Regarding Samuel's destruction of them, a casual reading can lead to the assumption that one big battle was described. But 1 Sam 15 reports that Saul defeated them "from Hav′ilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt." These locations are uncertain but probably do not account for every nomadic clan of Amalekites, especially if they lived among other groups. Since they were descendants of Esau, some may well have lived in Edom. There, they might blend in, or even be protected under the terms of Dt. 23:7 -- "You shall not abhor an E′domite for he is your brother."

Also, the text describes "king Agag and his people" as being destroyed. Despite the title "king" the Amalekites were not a nation with fixed borders and a centralized administrative structure. So we should probably think of Agag as an important Amalekite clan leader, not a formal king of the 'nation' of Amalek. In other words, those Amalekites who lived in the area mentioned, and who adhered closely to Agag, may have been wiped out; but those who lived elsewhere could have survived or blended in with other Edomite groups.

So this explains why David would still be fighting Amalekites in his time. An Amalekite remnant is also described as still active during the reign of King Hezekiah in the eighth century B.C.E. in "hill country of Seir." This fits with their association with Esau/Edom, who established his lineage there. This group of Amalekites was reportedly destroyed by 500 Simeonite families who had migrated to the area, "because there was pasture for their flocks." [1 Chronicles 4] The mention of Haman the 'Agagite' [Esther 3.1] as the villain in the book of Esther provides further food for thought at a much later period.

The Edomites themselves survived beyond the time of Jesus. King Herod and his family were Idumean [Edomite] converts to Judaism, and Amalekites may have lived there long after the tribe fades from the biblical record.

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  • Very well done Dan. An upvote for you. Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 0:12
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If it helps, 1 Samuel 15:8-9, Saul did spared the king of Amalekites, Agag.

[8] He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. [9] But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

In which made it possible for Haman the Agagite [descendant of Agag] to appear (Esther 3:1); his cruel plot against the Jews could only be counteracted by another descendant of Kish, Mordecai.

Furthermore, it is possible that Saul is primarily engaged in battle against the Amalekites in a specific city—not on a massive geographical scale (c.f. 1 Sam. 15:5). As David Firth argues, this was probably "only one encampment was attacked, it would explain why Amalek continued to pose problem later" (1 & 2 Samuel, Downers Grove, IL/Nottingham, UK: InterVarsity/Apollos, 2009).

Perhaps, the statement where Saul struck the Amalekites from Havilah to Shur is hyperbolical. Shur is on the edge of Egypt; Havilah is in Saudi Arabia. That is pretty large distance of battle between Arabia and Egypt.

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