The Amalekites — First in a series
Time began with Seth in the sense that we learn Adam's age at Seth's birth, so from then on we know what year it is.
We read that Adam lived 130 years and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth (Gen 5:3), and that Adam lived 800 years after the birth of Seth. Genesis 5 gives the ages of the patriarchs who descended from Seth.
Though some have speculated that not every generation or son is recorded, conservative Bible scholars agree we live on a young earth and many say we are now roughly 6000 years beyond "In the beginning."
Time began to be marked at the start of a new race of men who called on [in fact, were called by] the name of the Lord. (Gen 4:26) It was not framed by the line of Cain even though his progeny invented music, metallurgy and the science of animal husbandry (Gen 4:19-22) Time is bounded by those who are alive to God, who live for God.
When Christ, the second Adam (1 Cor 15:45), was born, time reversed because men came to recognize in the centuries following there had been a sea change in the world's understanding of life and God.
To preserve a race of men so that Christ would be born in a sanctified family, God carefully guided history. The line of Seth was preserved through Noah, whose son Shem became the forbearer of Abraham. Abraham's grandson Jacob was chosen to become Israel.
Why did the Lord select Jacob and not Esau, the firstborn? Practically speaking, it was because Esau did not demonstrate much interest in God's world. God's world is full of unseen yet very important concepts such as headship which must be exercised, and submission, honor, patience, and glory; things that might never be thought about much, if you're lucky, and Esau was.
Jacob was instead blessed, which is always better than being fortunate. Perhaps, too, God chose Jacob because He desired to create a "breach," that is, to upend the established order. The firstborn should be the leader, but Cain had marred that concept, so to honor Abel, God at times remembered his perfect sacrifice (Gen 4:4) by favoring the second born. Thus we are kept "on our toes." We cannot predict God's movements, so that we must strive to stay close to him, to find out his mind.
Amalek was Esau's grandson, born to a father and mother outside the chosen race. But let's be careful in that observation. Branches were broken off so that you could be grafted in. But if God spared not the natural branches, take heed … (Rom 11:19-21) And remember, the branches referred to are the Jews, so that the sons like Amalek and all us Gentiles could be brought into God's family. But in the end, the Jews will be re-grafted after the fulness of the Gentiles be come in (Rom 11:25) O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable [are] his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? (Rom 11:33, 34)
Was Amalek any worse than Jacob's grandsons, Er or Onan? Was Jacob somehow better than Esau? Jacob was a terrible person. When Esau asked him for food, why did he not graciously feed his brother, his twin, seeing he was famished and weak? Why barter for what was rightfully Esau's?
Perhaps his mother had told him God's explanation to her as to why her twins struggled within her: Two nations [are] in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and [the one] people shall be stronger than [the other] people; and the elder shall serve the younger. (Gen 25:23)
Jacob saw a way to make God's words true. What if, instead, he had determined never to do anything in his own power to reverse the birthright order? What if you and I would resolve never to force events, but always to wait on the Lord? Yes, what if, but we often fail and sin.
Isaac and Rebekah were not good parents in certain respects. Each had a favorite son, and that is no way to rear happy children. The Bible does not varnish the lives of those we read about. They are simply presented to us, and we certainly have no difficulty in identifying with them.
We do find that distinctions are drawn and punishments are given, for all. Jacob deceived Esau to gain the blessing (in addition to the birthright), but soon discovered what it feels like to be deceived, when he was given Leah and not Rachel for the wife he worked seven years to attain. God is not mocked. The one who transgresses will be punished and there is no favoritism. Yet, there are distinctions in judgments.
Esau was judged for despising his birthright. His sin is described in Hebrews 12:16 and in verse 17 it is explained: For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
Who rejected him? Not Isaac. Rebecca arranged for the deception, but God alone was the arbiter.
Does verse 17 really mean there is no place for repentance in God's providence? Of course not. It means Esau sought his father's blessing with tears because he wanted the privileges; however, he was not willing to exercise obedience to God's rules for life. He had married two Canaanite women, which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah (Gen 26:35) — not just to Rebekah, but to Isaac as well.
The generations of Esau are named in Genesis 36. His first born, Eliphaz, had five sons by an unnamed wife (Gen 36:11), and one by a concubine named Timna. That one was Amalek. (Gen 36:12) He is then noted as a duke, a leader or sheik, of the sons of Adah, Esau's first wife, though he was her grandson. (Gen 36:16). And though a duke, he is not mentioned further in the chapter as having possessed land within Esau's territory.
In First Chronicles, Esau's sons are recorded ahead of Jacob's, and again, Amalek is mentioned last among Eliphaz's sons as a son of Timna, but is not further recognized. (1 Chron 1:36)