Verse 16. "The Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek, &c." - This is no translation of the words hy sk l[ dy yk hmjlm ki yad al kes yah milckamah, which have been variously rendered by different translators and critics; the most rational version of which is the following: Because the hand of Amalek is against the throne of God, therefore will I have war with Amalek from generation to generation. This gives a tolerably consistent sense, yet still there is considerable obscurity in the passage.
Houbigant, a most judicious though bold critic, supposes that, as ysn hwhy Jehovah-nissi, Jehovah my ensign, was spoken of immediately before, sk kes, a throne, in this verse, is an error of some transcriber for sn nes, an ensign, which might be readily occasioned by the great similarity between the k caph and the n nun. He thinks farther that the two letters hy yah, which are supposed to be here a contraction of the word hwhy Yehovah, are separated, the y yod from the sn nes, which should be written yćn nissi, and the h he, from hmjlm milchamah, which should be written hmjlmh hammilchamah, and then the whole verse will run thus: For the hand shall be upon the ensigns of war unto the Lord, against Amalek for ever, i.e., God makes now a declaration of war against the Amalekites, which shall continue till their final destruction. The conjecture of Mr. Julius Bate, in his Literal Translation of the Pentateuch, deserves attention. He supposes that, as sk cos signifies a cup, and a cup is emblematically used for wrath, on one of the stones of the altar, mentioned in the preceding verse, a hand holding a cup was sculptured, this being a memorial, according to the custom of hieroglyphical writing, that the Lord would continue the cup of wrath, portending continual war, against Amalek for ever. I prefer Houbigant's exposition.
1. THIS first victory of Israel must have inspired them with a considerable measure of confidence in God, and in his servant Moses. Though God alone could give them the victory, yet it was necessary to show them that it was by the influence of Moses they got it. Moses could not deliver Amalek into their hands; yet if Moses did not continue to hold up his hands, i.e., to pray, Amalek must prevail. God, therefore, wrought this work in such a way as to instruct the people, promote his own glory, and secure the true honour of his servant. The Divine Being always performs the greatest number possible of ends, by the fewest and simplest means. In every work of God there is as much of wisdom and economy, as there is of sovereign uncontrolled power.
2. It is not probable that the people whom Joshua chose out to lead against Amalek were unarmed; and we have already seen that it is not at all likely that they came armed out of Egypt. And as the whole circumstances of this case show that those who fought against the Amalekites were properly equipped for the fight, we may then safely presume that they got their arms from the Egyptians, whose bodies were thrown on the shore after having been overwhelmed in the Red Sea. Thus, what was a judgment in the one case, was a most gracious providence in the other. Judgment on God's foes is mercy to his friends.
3. Of the efficacy of prayer we have already had the most striking examples. He who has the spirit of prayer, has the highest interest in the court of heaven; and the only way to retain it, is to keep it in constant employment. Apostasy begins in the closet: no man ever backslid from the life and power of Christianity who continued constant and fervent, especially in private prayer. He who prays without ceasing is likely to rejoice evermore.