Amalek (Amaleq) or the Amalekites:
Their "Possible" Appearance in Geographical Toponyms
for the Negev and Sinai

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

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06 September 2004
(Revisions through 22 January 2007)

This brief article first notes a few gleaned facts on Amalek from Mattingly's research, which observed that the name is unattested in any source outside of the Bible. This observation has caused me to see if the name "might" be preserved in Arabic as a geographical toponym in the Negev, the Hill Country and Sinai, areas associated with Amalek. Perhaps the Hebrew form, Amaleq survives in Arabic as Malaq or Malaqa? If so, then a number of sites are suggested for these regions. If Arabic Malaq/Malaqi is NOT an acceptable preservation of Amalek then the name does not appear anywhere topographically to my knowledge, which strikes me as odd indeed, as Egypt or Hebrew Mizraim survives today in Arabic as Misr, and Midian as Madyan in NW Saudi Arabia.


"Amalek [Hebrew 'Amaleq]...a grandson of Esau, whose mother was Timna, Eliphaz's concubine (Genesis 36:11-12; cf. 1 Chr 1:36). Amalek was one of the chiefs of Eliphaz in the land of Edom (Ge 36:15-16)...Amalekites are used to designate the descendants of Eliphaz who, like Esau, are linked with the land of Edom. The Amalekites were a nomadic or seminomadic people...They are not mentioned by name in any extra-biblical source, so the Old Testament provides the only written evidence on this relatively obscure people.

Origin. Genesis 14:7 says that Chedorlaomer and the coalition of eastern kings "subdued all the country of the Amalekites" at a place called Enmishpat, i.e., Kadesh (Khirbet el-Qudeirat in N Sinai ?). Various explanations have been given for the apparent contradiction this verse seems to raise: how a "country of the Amalekites" could be attached to an episode that antedated Esau, Eliphaz and Amalek. Some scholars regard this reference as a blatant anchronism, while others say it is simply an editorial insertion, an updating of the text by a later editor who knew the Amalekites occupied the region mentioned in Genesis 14:7 during his lifetime or before. It would have been perfectly normal to link Kadesh with the Amalekites through much of Israel's history.

Territory. As reported in Gen 36:16 Amalek was associated initially with Edom..."Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt." Thus the Amalekite tribes inhabited the wilderness between the western Sinai and the Arabah of Arabia...The hostilities between Amalek and Israel began during the Hebrew sojourn in the Sinai. Exodus 17:8-13 describes the first encounter, an apparent unprovoked attack upon Israel at Rephidim. It is possible that the Amalekites feared the Israelite incursion into the region of Kadesh (cf. Gen 14:7 where this place is linked with Amalek)...With the defeat of the Amalekites, Israel controlled Kadesh-barnea (cf. Nu 10:11-21:3). When the Hebrew spies returned to Kadesh (13:26), they reported that the Amalekites, among other peoples, blocked Israel's ambition to enter and occupy Canaan (13:29)...Saul moved against the Amalekite frontier to the south of Judah and attacked "the city of Amalek" (1 Sam 15:4-5)...some scholars have identified this ancient place with Tel Masos...located 7 miles ESE of Beersheba...Others locate the Amalekite center in N Sinai, somewhere in the vicinity of Kadesh-barnea.

In 1 Sam 15:6 ...reference is made to the presence of the Kenites among Amalek...Saul allowed the Kenites to depart...he took Agag, the king of Amalek...a traditional name or title for Amalekite kings (cf. Num 24:7)..."

(pp. 169-171. Vol. 1. Gerald L. Mattingly. "Amalek" David Noel Freedman. Editor.
The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday. 1992)

"Archaeological remains...Landes (Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible vol. 1, p. 102) and other scholars state that archaeological research has thrown no light on the Amalekites. Though some progress has been made in associating specific groups of nomads with archaeological evidence (cf. Parr 1982; Sawyer & Clines 1983; Rosen 1988), no recovered data attributed to Amalek with any degree of certainty.  Intensive surveys make it possible to say that the Negev had very little occupation in the Late Bronze Age and that its resettlement began in the early Iron Age, especially in the 11th-early 10th centuries BC. As Rothenberg (1967:92-97) suggested, some of the small fortified settlements in the Negeb highlands can be linked to the Amalekites. Certain scholars (e.g. Herzog 1983:43, 47) have identified Tel Masos with the place called the city of Amalek" in 1 Samuel 15:5. Of course, more data must be recovered before such conjectures can be verified." (p. 171. Vol. 1. Gerald L. Mattingly. "Amalek" David Noel Freedman. Editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday. 1992)

The thought has occurred _to me_ that perhaps the enigmatic Amalek, Hebrew Amaleq, might survive in geographical placenames or "toponyms" in the Negev, the Hill Country, and the Sinai, so I have conducted a search of these areas and have come up with the following as "possible clues" for the territorial range of Amalek or Amaleq.

Please click here for the maps accompanying 'most' of the below sites identifications

For the Negev :

Alois Musil. Karte von Arabia Petraea. 1907. Vienna. 1:300,000. This rare map that I am using exists at the University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Baden-Wurttemburg, Germany, in the  Bibliotheke (Library) of the Department of Egyptology in their maps or "karten" drawer (in 1995) :

Note: Musil employs an "antiquated" transliteration schema for rendering Arabic toponymns into English that is no longer followed today (R = G, J = Y, K = Q, etc. for example, he renders Gaza as Razze with a dot under the R). I have not attempted to render the diacriticals which appear for the various letters (marks for pronunciation appearing above or beneath a letter). I might add that Musil's map is the _most detailed and comprehensive_ that I have ever seen in its listing of site names for its period of time. The actual location of wadies is slightly out of alignment by today's standards, but by comparing these forms with modern maps one can locate the sites without too much difficulty.

Rmejlet el-M'allaka, a plain to the SW of Beersheba and N of el-Halasa

Wadi el-M'allaka, on the south side of Rmejlet el-M'allaka, coming from el-Halasa
Note : The preceeding is rendered as Wadi Mu'alleqa, with a Bir Mu'alleqa on its west side by Ernst Hohne (cf.his map titled Sud Blatt ["south sheet"] in Ernst Hohne. Palastina Historisch-Archaologische Karte. [Einfuhrung und Register] Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Gottingen, Deutschland. 1979. ISBN 3-525-50157-9. Which consists of a paperbound Register of sites giving occupation periods, Stone Age to Islamic periods with two topographical maps, 1;300,000 scale, for Palestine and adjacent regions)

Musil notes a site or city (?) called Malek, which is strangely demarcated with a sexagonal perimeter wall (?) with houses (?) inside and outside of it. This site lies just W of Tell al-Fire (modern Tel Farah, W of Beersheba).

Rugm al-Hagg, to the NE of Rmejlet el-M'allaka. Could Hagg be an Arabic rendering of Agag, a "title" of Amalekite chieftains according to Mattingly (cf. above) ?

Wadi el-Keni draining to the SE of Tell Arad towards the Dead Sea, may recall the Kenites (Hebrew Qeni) who settled in the Negev of Arad and who lived near Amalek. Note: Hohne shows a Gebel el-Qeni at the same location (cf. Sud Blatt. 1979).

For the Hill Country which is also called the Negev :

Note : I understand that the "upper and lower springs in the Negev" received by Achsah from her father Caleb are  Ghuwein el Foka and Ghuwein et Tahta, whose names appear in the Septuaginta as  Gonaethla the upper and Gonaethla the lower (LXX: Joshua 15:16-19). That is to say, I suspect the "Greek rendering" of these sites passed from Christian Byzantine Greek times into Islamic times as Ghuwein.

Joshua 15:16-19 (Septuaginta)

"And Chaleb said, Whosoever shall take and destroy the city of Letters, and master it, to him I will give my daughter Ascha to wife. And Gothoniel the son of Chenez the brother of Chaleb took it; and he gave him Ascha his daughter ro wife. And it came to pass as she went out that she counselled him, saying, I will ask of my father a field; and she cried from off her ass; and Chaleb said to her, What is it? And she said to him, Give me a blessing, for thou hast set me in THE LAND OF NAGEB; give me BOTTHANIS: and he gave her GONAETHLA THE UPPER and GONAETHLA THE LOWER."

(p. 300. Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton. The Septuagint With Apocrypha: Greek And English. Peabody, Massachusetts. Hendrickson Publishers. 1986 reprint of 1851 originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London. Note: The Septuagint is presented in two columns, one in Greek, the other in English)

Joshua 15: 16-19 RSV

"And Chaleb said, "Whoever smites Kiriath-sepher, and takes it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter as wife. And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Chaleb, took it; and he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife. When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field; and she alighted from her ass, and Caleb said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to him, "Give me a present; since you have set me in the LAND OF THE NEGEB, give me also SPRINGS OF WATER." And Caleb gaver her the UPPER SPRINGS and the LOWER SPRINGS."

(Herbert G. May & Bruce M. Metzger. Editors. The New Oxford Annoted Bible With Apocrypha. [Revised Standard Version]. New York. Oxford University Press.  1973, 1977)

Joshua 15:16-19 TANAKH

"and Caleb announced, " I will give my daughter Achsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath-sepher." His kinsman Othniel the Kenizzite captured it; and Caleb gave him his daughter Achsah in marriage. When she came [to him], she induced him to ask her father for some property. She dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb asked her, "What is the matter?" She replied, "Give me a present; for you have given me away as NEGEB-LAND; so give me SPRINGS OF WATER." And he gave her UPPER and LOWER GULLOTH."

(TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures. Philadelphia, PA. The Jewish Publication Society. 1988. [5748th year since The Creation])

According to the Bible Amalekites dwelt in the Hill Country with Amorites and they chased Israel from Seir all the way to Hormah (cf. De 1:44 & Nu 14:45).

Note: The Palestine Exploration Fund Map's antiquated "K" is today generally rendered as "Q" on modern maps.

Bir el-Malaki, N of Ghuwein el Foka and S of es-Semua, and E of Khirbet 'Attir (Palestine Exploration Fund Map. Sheet XXV. 1:63,000 Scale. London. 1878). Bir el-Malaki is just west of the track ascending from Beersheba, via Ghuwein el Foka to es-Semua and on to Hebron.

Wady el Mu'allak, N of Khirbet 'Attir  (Palestine Exploration Fund Map. Sheet XXV. 1:63,000 Scale. London. 1878).

Umm es-Seir, a lower slope south of Khirbet 'Attir might be Seir where Israel was routed by Amaleq and the Amorites (cf. De 1:44 & Nu 14:45) ? A track from Beersheba passes the south slope of Umm es-Seir ascending to Khirbet 'Attir, thence to es-Semua. Wady el Mu'allak lies on the W side of this ascent, N of 'Attir, whilst Bir el Malaki lies to the E of the ascent.  (Palestine Exploration Fund Map. Sheet XXV. 1:63,000 Scale. London. 1878).

For the Sinai :

The below map being used is titled Gebel Katherina. Sheet 9. Egypt 1:100,000. Southern Sinai. Survey of Egypt. 1934.

Fersh Abu Malaqa, a plain N of the Watia Pass, N of Saint Catherine's Monastery.

El Urf Abu Malaqa, a plain just E of the Watia Pass, and ENE of Saint Catherine's Monastery.

Gebel Abu Malaq, a mountain WSW of Gebel Musa and Saint Catherine's Monastery, and due W of Gebel Katherina (Catherina). (Map titled Feiran. Sheet 8. Egypt. Southern Sinai. Survey of Egypt. 1:100,000)

Note: In Arabic, Abu means "father" thus Abu Malaqa is "Father Amaleq"???

Wadi el-Hagg (Agag ?), WNW of the Mitla Pass, E of the port of Suez (cf. Map Sheet NH 36-6. Ismailia. 1970. Wash. D.C. 1970. Scale: 1:250,000)

Bibliography :


Gerald L. Mattingly. "Amalek." pp. 169-171. Vol. 1. David Noel Freedman. Editor.
The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday. 1992.


Karte von Arabia Petraea. Alois Musil. 1907. Vienna, Austria. 1:300,000.

Feiran. 1934-1937. Sheet 8. Egypt. Southern Sinai. Survey of Egypt. 1:100,000.

Gebel Katherina. 1934-1937. Sheet 9. Egypt. Southern Sinai. Survey of Egypt. 1:100,000.

Ismailia.  1970. Map Sheet NH 36-6. Washington D.C. Scale: 1:250,000.

Palestine Exploration Fund Map. 1878. Sheet XXV. London. Scale: 1:63,000

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