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Remember

By R. J. Rushdoony
May 04, 2013

(Reprinted from Deuteronomy [Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2008], 435-438.)

17. Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt;
18. How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.
19. Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it. (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

The word "remember" appears repeatedly in the Old Testament, and over twenty times in Exodus, Leviticus, and especially Deuteronomy. The Hebrew word means to mark and to recognize, and it has a positive, masculine note. It means to remember and thereby command and exercise dominion. We are to remember so that we might act.

What we are to remember is Amalek, an historical example of evil and a type of pleasure in depravity. Amalek's hatred of God was manifested in their hatred of the covenant people. It was not simply that they warred against Israel but that they began by attacking the stragglers in the wilderness march. These were the weak and the feeble, the faint and the weary.

This encounter had been at Rephidim near Sinai (Ex. 17:8-16). The attack by Amalek had been an unprovoked one. If, as Velikovsky held, Amalek used the occasion of God's devastation of Egypt as an opportunity to conquer Egypt, Amalek should have been grateful to Israel rather than hostile. The attack was thus an act of contempt for God and Israel. The nations had reacted to God's judgment on Egypt with terror. Some forty years later, Rahab spoke of the continuing "terror" because of God's acts and fear for His covenant people (Josh. 2:9-11) and the great triumphs over Egypt known to all. The animosity of Israel to Amalek was a religious one, as 1 Samuel 15:2-3 makes clear. It was a duty to oppose Amalek. This text is not comprehensible apart from that fact. There are religious boundaries on pity and friendship, and we are not allowed to transgress in these spheres.

This is an aspect of Scripture too seldom noted. In the New Testament we see limits placed on our fellowship:

17. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
18. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Rom. 16:17-18)
10. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;
11. Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. (Titus 3:10-11)
9. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
10. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
11. For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. (2 John 9-11)

Some will argue that there is a difference between these New Testament texts and the law concerning Amalek, in that one commands simply a separation while the other orders death. This is not an honest interpretation, because no unprovoked attack on Amalek is ordered. Attention is called to the unremitting hostility of Amalek; the law then requires no mercy in time of war. There is no instance of lawless violence against Amalek. However, when Amalek had gained a portion of Canaan, Samuel ordered war against them, and their destruction. Saul's sin was that he sought a treaty with them after defeating them (1 Sam. 15:1-25). What is forbidden, thus, is any compromise between causes which cannot be reconciled.

Those who believe in the reconciliation of all differences either want the surrender of one side, or else they believe that nothing exists which cannot be compromised. False doctrines of reconciliation are basic to many of the most bitter conflicts of the twentieth century. Because some men believe that truth and justice can be compromised does not make it so. Since God is the author of all truth and justice, we can have neither except on His terms.

In v. 19, we see that God ties Israel's inheritance of the covenant land to the destruction of Amalek. When God gives Canaan to Israel, "thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek." Remembrance in Hebrew is a word, Zeker, related to remember, zakar. The Bible sees history as in part a memory war. Jeremiah sees his enemies as men seeking to obliterate the very memory of him (Jer. 11:19) because their cause in history is anti-God. As against this, God seeks another goal, which Isaiah 2:4 describes thus:

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

This peace comes not by compromise but by conversion and victory, by a rejection of every attempt to reject the antithesis between good and evil, right and wrong. When the moral fact of all human action is ignored, then change between one force and another is a matter of compromise. Issues then not being moral, they are thus amenable to rearrangements designed to obscure differences. For the moral antithesis in history, Hegelians have substituted a dialectical one, so that thesis and antithesis lead to synthesis, i.e., "right" and "wrong" come together in a new formulation. This becomes a perpetual conflict, a continual antithesis to every new synthesis, because nothing is nor can by definition be called true. This has been described as "perpetual war for perpetual peace."

This text concludes with the words, "thou shalt not forget it." With some things, there can be no peace. "Thou shalt not forget it" again invokes, as does the first word, "Remember," memory. Without memory, we are miserable creatures; we do not know ourselves because we then have no past. True amnesia is rare, and disastrous. Our text warns us against religious and historical amnesia. We have today, as a result of our humanistic faith, a prevalence of abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, and other evils. We are oblivious to a variety of evil forces around us because of our moral and historical amnesia. We are as a result moving blindly into disasters. In Isaiah 59:7-10, we have a vivid description of such moral blindness:

7. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.
8. The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosever goeth therein shall not know peace.
9. Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.
10. We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.

Moral blindness means historical death. The Biblical emphasis on memory is an important aspect of its moral demands. Memory is not normally seen as a theological concern, nor is history, but any intelligent reading of the Bible makes it clear how important both are.

An old American proverb says, "Memory is the guardian of the mind." We can add that it is also important to our future.

Existentialism in the twentieth century has done much to destroy historical knowledge and memory because it is very specifically governed by the present, not the past nor the future. As a result, it has lost command of even the present.


Topics: Biblical Law, New Testament History, Old Testament History

R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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