Fighting Cousins

A blessing? Esau hardly thought so. “Once dad has died,” he thought, “I’ll kill Jacob.” Anger gave way to revenge. Bitterness grew like a deep root in his heart, squeezing out his very life. He set his heart on killing his brother.

Time passed. Esau and Jacob died…but the bitterness lived on. Generations later Moses confronted the offspring from that root of bitterness. Esau fathered a son named Eliphaz. Eliphaz had a concubine, Timna who bore him a son. They named him Amalek. From Amalek, a people known as the Amalekites arose who became bitter enemies of Israel. Perhaps Amalek heard stories passed down from his father about Jacob’s deceit. Though Esau had forgiven Jacob (whose name had been changed to Israel), the anger and enmity between the Amalekites and the Israelites ran deep. The Hatfields and the McCoys were no match for the Israelites and the Amalekites. These cousins fought one another furiously.

Moses had just witnessed the parting of the Red Sea. Israel, pursued by an advancing army on one side and a raging sea on the other walked across on dry land. The same sea that became a dry bed for them swallowed Pharaoh’s army alive. Though the people had seen God’s hand in a mighty way, their celebration soon gave way to agitation when they ran out of food. They wished once more for the food of the Egyptians. Like Esau, their stomachs cried louder than the voice of their God. “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

God’s response: manna and quail. Every evening, the quail flew into the Israelite camp. Each family had enough to fill their stomachs. The next morning, once the dew evaporated, fine flakes of delicious bread, fresh from God’s bakery, with a dash of honey taste. What more could they ask? Perhaps a light, fluffy croissant dripping with honey would compare.

God’s provision. In His faithfulness, He provided. They moved on to Rephidim. The very name means “rest.” And the Israelites must have needed rest. Tens of years in captivity had come to an end. A pursuing army, a parting sea and the stubborn Mediterranean climate had taken their toll. And they were thirsty.

Rephidim. A river valley. Along this valley tall palms grew in long groves providing shade and rest for all who entered. Cool streams of water mixed with the shade from the palms created the most fertile place in the land. Towering mountains provided much needed protection from the enemy. Rephidim. A place of rest and refreshment. Here the Israelites would be renewed, revived, restored. Here they would receive much needed energy and refreshment. Here, their cousins showed up—the Amalekites!

They attacked Israel at their weakest point. The sick, the faint, the weary were their targets. Those who straggled behind the great Israelite host were suddenly attacked. Amalek, whose grandfather Esau lost his birthright when he was weary, now used the same plan of attack against the Israelites. Ruthlessly, the Amalekites sought to destroy the Israelites. Cousins bitterly engaged in war.