by Father Mike Stubbs
While the soldiers are fighting, others are staying behind the battle lines to lend them support. Others are there to cook their meals, to tend the wounded and to carry away the dead for burial. And Moses is there: to pray. That sets the scene for Sunday’s first reading, Ex 17:8-13.
That is Moses’ part in the battle — to pray. As long as he holds up his hands in the classic posture of prayer, the tide of the battle favors the Israelite soldiers. But, if he falters, if he grows weary and lowers his hands, the tide of the battle turns against the Israelites.
To keep that from happening, they place a stone for Moses to sit on. Aaron and Hur stand on either side of Moses to support his hands. They want Moses to persevere in prayer. They want the Israelites to persevere in their battle against Amalek.
The Israelites win. Amalek is defeated. But that is not the ultimate strike against him. How is that so?
After some of the recent mass shootings, the public authorities have declined to release the names of the shooters responsible for those tragedies.
The authorities wish to deprive the shooters of the publicity that they earnestly sought from their crimes. May their names be blotted out from our memory!
Something similar happens to Amalek.
After the battle, the Lord gives further instruction to Moses: “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” (Ex 17:14).
Strangely enough, the name of Amalek is recorded here in the Book of Exodus, as well as a few other places in the Bible — Gn 14:7; Nm 13:29 and 14:25. Otherwise, Amalek would have faded into oblivion.
Does this mean that the Lord’s wish has been thwarted? Not at all! How would you like it if the only thing for which you were remembered is that you were a loser?
In another sense, the battle against Amalek did not end with his death. The story concerning Amalek adds the footnote, “The Lordwill war against Amalek through the centuries” (Ex 17:16).
Seizing upon these words, Jewish tradition viewed Amalek as an eternal force of evil, a sort of demon, that would continue to attack Israel, and that God would continue to oppose.
Amalek would have a part to play in the struggle of evil against good. The fight continues on.