May Israel dwell securely

In the Haftara of Parshat Zachor, we read about King Saul’s battle against King Agag of Amalek.

The name Agag is only found once in the Chumash, in Parshat Balak, as part of Bilam’s curse to B’nai Yisrael which God miraculously transforms to a blessing, Bamidbar 24:7, “Water flows out from his buckets and his seed will have an abundant flow; his king will be greater than Agag and his monarchy will be uplifted.”

Did Bilam already know that Agag who was not even born yet would one day fight B’nai Yisrael’s king?

According to Rashbam and Ramban, all of the kings of Amalek were called Agag in the same way that all of the kings of Egypt were called Pharaoh, all of the kings of the Plishtim were called Avimelech and all of the kings of Jerusalem were called Tzedek (justice).

Ramban agrees with Rashi’s interpretations that the first king (Saul) will conquer Agag, king of Amalek and that Yaakov’s kingdom will be exalted more and more because David and his son, Solomon will continue after Saul.

Ramban elaborates, when Bilam tells Balak “Ma Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov,”, “How goodly are Yaakov’s tents”, he is referring to the period that they would dwell in tents until they enter the Land of C’naan and “Mishkenotecha Yisrael”, “the dwellings of Israel” implies that they will dwell securely after the conquest and division of the Land. Israel will be full of all goodly things as it says in Yishayahu 58:11, “like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” and that Israel will conquer Amalek because he attacked him and he will destroy his memory. And the kingdom of Israel will once again be exalted, because they will have mighty kings who will be exceedingly elevated.

Bilam explains that Israel will dwell in the Land safely, fearing no people “as a lion and as a lioness that do not fear any ravenous beast” (Yishayahu 35:9). Balak decided to give up on fighting Israel for he realized that if he were to fight against him, he would truly be destroyed, for Israel would eat up all her adversaries in the same way that he would destroy Amalek because he attacked him. Therefore Balak told Bilam to flee to his place.

How the words of the Ramban ring true. Enemies on all sides are still looking to curse and attack Israel, yet with God on our side and a strong army, Israel will continue to dwell securely.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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