“As therefore,” I say, “while Moses was still among men, God took of the spirit which was in Moses and put it on Joshua, even so God was able to cause [the spirit] of Elijah to come upon John; in order that, as Christ at His first coming appeared inglorious, even so the first coming of the spirit, which remained always pure in Elijah like that of Christ, might be perceived to be inglorious. For the Lord said He would wage war against Amalek with concealed hand; and you will not deny that Amalek fell. But if it is said that only in the glorious advent of Christ war will be waged with Amalek, how great will the fulfilment of Scripture be which says, ‘God will wage war against Amalek with concealed hand!’ You can perceive that the concealed power of God was in Christ the crucified, before whom demons, and all the principalities and powers of the earth, tremble.”… A sign of Him that was to be crucified was made… in the type of the extending of the hands of Moses, and of Oshea being named Jesus (Joshua); when you fought against Amalek: concerning which God enjoined that the incident be recorded, and the name of Jesus laid up in your understandings; saying that this is He who would blot out the memorial of Amalek from under heaven. Now it is clear that the memorial of Amalek remained after the son of Nave (Nun): but He makes it manifest through Jesus, who was crucified, of whom also those symbols were fore-announcements of all that would happen to Him, the demons would be destroyed, and would dread His name, and that all principalities and kingdoms would fear Him; and that they who believe in Him out of all nations would be shown as God-fearing and peaceful men.

Justin Martyr

And in the Apocalypse the same exhortation of divine preaching speaks, saying, “Hold fast that which thou hast, lest another take thy crown;” which example of perseverance and persistence is pointed out in Exodus, when Moses, for the overthrow of Amalek, who bore the type of the devil, raised up his open hands in the sign and sacrament of the cross, and could not conquer his adversary unless when he had stedfastly persevered in the sign with hands continually lifted up. “And it came to pass,” says he, “when Moses raised up his hands, Israel prevailed; but when he let down his hands, Amalek grew mighty. And they took a stone and placed it under him, and he sate thereon. And Aaron and Hur held up his hands on the one side and on the other side, and Moses’ hands were made steady even to the going down of the sun. And Jesus routed Amalek and all his people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this, and let it be a memorial in a book, and tell it in the ears of Jesus; because in destroying I will destroy the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.”



1 Answer 1


Why do some Church Fathers say that Jesus exterminated the Amalekites?

Before going into this subject matter, it should be known that the names of Joshua and Jesus are interchangeable in Hebrew.

Some people claim that our Lord should not be referred to as “Jesus.” Instead, we should only use the name “Yeshua.” Some even go so far as to say that calling Him “Jesus” is blasphemous. Others go into great detail about how the name “Jesus” is unbiblical because the letter J is a modern invention and there was no letter J in Greek or Hebrew.

Yeshua is the Hebrew name, and its English spelling is “Joshua.” Iesous is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name, and its English spelling is “Jesus.” Thus, the names “Joshua” and “Jesus” are essentially the same; both are English pronunciations of the Hebrew and Greek names for our Lord. (For examples of how the two names are interchangeable, see Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8 in the KJV. In both cases, the word Jesus refers to the Old Testament character Joshua.) - If His name was Yeshua, why do we call Him Jesus?

The reason why some Church Fathers say that Jesus exterminated the Amalekites, is in order to show in a metaphorical sense that Jesus saved mankind from sin as Joshua saved the ancient Hebrews from the Amalekites!

The Church Fathers made many comparisons between Moses and Jesus; between Joshua and Jesus. The Early Church Fathers were masters in their spirituality and conceptual comparisons of Jesus Christ with various biblical characters in the Old Testament. That is definitely brought out with the Joshua and Jesus intertwining we see here.

Let us examine St. Justin Martyr (2nd century). He began the practice of using Old Testament historic passages describing the Christian Creed. He appeals to historical events for validation of Christian interpretations of the fulfillment of prophecies. The Apologist also accentuates the contrast between the faith of the gentiles and Jewish incredulity. This point of view did not please to the Jewish scholars46. The Dialogue with Trypho points out that Justin apart from his profound knowledge of the Bible, he knew very well the Jewish. In some parts of his Dialogue the apologist presents the pre–announcement about the crucifixion of Christ in the Old Testament. In Exod 17: 8–16 he notes two symbols of the passion of Christ. The first is Moses who prayed like Jesus with the opened arms on the cross. According to Justin the final victory on the Amalekites took place on the Christ’s cross. In fact only in this moment the Evil was completely destroyed.

“A sign of Him who was to be crucified was given to you..., both in the case of the serpents that bit you... and in the case of Moses, by the sign of his outstretched arms, and of Hoshea, by his being named Jesus when they were waging war against Amalek, which fact God commanded to be recorded, having admonished you not to forget the name of Jesus, who was to erase the memory of Amalek from the face of the earth. However, it is obvious that the memory of Amalek still remains after the time of the son of Nave. God makes it clear that by the Crucified Jesus (of whom even those signs were predictions of what would happen to Him) the demons were to be destroyed, and to shudder at His name; and that all the authorities and kingdoms were to tremble before Him; and that out of every nationality those who believe in Him would be shown to be pious and peaceful”.

The presence of Christ in the world, in the Church and also in the every believers, is the key which permit to open the mystery of the Bible. For Justin the passage from the darkness to the light of the true it is possible exclusively to the person who accepts the true of the salvation in the Christ. Joshua is compared to Christ: “This name then being given him when he sent him to spy out the land, he said: «Take a book into thy hands, and write what the Lord declares, that the Son of God will in the last days cut off from the roots all the house of Amalek». Behold again: Jesus who was manifested, both by type and in the flesh, is not the Son of man, but the Son of God”.

Irenaeus of Lyon mentions Amalek three times in his work Adversus Haereses (books III and IV). The Lyon’s bishop makes an analysis of the different adorations of Jesus as a child. At the very beginning, he deals with the visit of Mages who came from the East, and then he makes the reference to Is 8:458. “«He shall receive the power of Damascus, and the spoils of Samaria, against the king of the Assyrians» (Is 8:4); declaring, in a mysterious manner indeed, but emphatically, that the Lord did fight with a hidden hand against Amalek (see Exod 17:16).

For this cause, too, He suddenly removed those children belonging to the house of David, whose happy lot it was to have been born at that time, that He might send them on before into His kingdom; He, since He was Himself an infant, so arranging it that human infants should be martyrs, slain, according to the Scriptures, for the sake of Christ, who was born in Bethlehem of Judah, in the city of David (see Mt 2:16)”.

He made a traditional exegesis of this passage in the way which was known already in Justin’s times. Christ is the one who destroy the magic cult, and for this reason He receives the “power of Damascus, and the spoils of Samaria”. In this way Irenaeus try to say that it is the hidden power of Christ, who destroys the power of demons, meaning Amalek, because until the incarnation day, the “Word was invisible”.

Presumably he is referring to the hiddenness of God’s providential hand in the Saviour, Baby Jesus. The second mention (the third being similar) links Exod 17:10–13 and Num 21:6–9. The Lord like Moses „by the spreading forth of hands, did destroy Amalek, and vivify man from wound of the serpent, by means of faith which was [exercised] towards Him”. Jesus Christ „destroyed and conquered the enemy of Man, and gave to His handiwork victory against the adversary”

Amalek would appear to be the snake of Gen 3:14–15, and Jesus crucified is prefigured by the lifting up of the snake in the desert and by Moses outstretched arms on the hill above the battle against Amalek. Irenaeus uses a common typology of the Moses’ prayer and the symbol of the copper snake.

Interestingly, the third mention is followed by a proof against Marcion66, just as Origen spiritualizes Amalek in his proof against Celsus, who, like Marcion, was trying to drive a wedge between Jesus and the God of the Old Testament. - Amalek and the Amalekites in the Ancient Christian Literature

The Amalekites were amongst the most ferocious enemies of Israel. Evil (Satan) and sin are the ultimate enemies of Christendom. The Church Fathers are simply making spiritual metaphorical comparisons and to show the pre-existing Person of the Second Person of the Trinity.

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