Last post I mentioned that Rashi in Sefer Shmuel explains that the reason the animals of Amalek had to be killed is because the people of Amalek had the ability through kishuf to make themselves look like animals. The question was raised [offline] what this means. Now, I don’t have a problem with the idea that Amalek may have had access to certain magical powers that we lack understanding of (also strange to be discussing this on the heels of my mention of fantasy literature -- shapeshifting is a favorite device), but assuming you want to either make Rashi fit into a rationalist framework or interpret his answer in a way that speaks to a modern reader, you have some explaining to do. Besides which, as far as answers go, kishuf amounts to a deus ex machina solution. (The better question to ask is why Rashi resorted to kishuf as an answer instead of using the answer given by other meforshim: the animals had to be destroyed so that people should not say, “That’s the sheep/ox/cow of Amalek,” and perpetuate Amalek’s memory.)
Here is my speculative non-literal interpretation of Rashi: Wars are fought between equal or near equal combatants. Imagine leading an American expedition into the bush or jungle somewhere and coming upon some primitive caveman-like tribe. The tribe identifies you as an enemy, girds their loincloths (literally), and the 20 or so warriors sharpen their toothpicks and prepare to attack. Would it make sense to call in some supersonic jets to thwart their attack? Or to maybe stage an aircraft carrier off the coast of the jungle and call in a battalion of marines? It would be silly. You probably would just pack your gear, deflect a few spears, and head home – it’s just now worth the fight. It would be like stepping on ants or swatting flies -- leave the poor cavepeople alone.
Maybe this is the idea Amalek becoming like animals intends to convey. Amalek’s could appear so barbaric that instead of a dangerous foe, they looked like a bunch of primitive cavemen, like animals more than people. It’s dangerous to go hunting wild animals, but that danger is in no way comparable to fighting a sophisticated human enemy who can fight back with cunning and strategy. Amalek’s lulled others into dismissing them as savages not worth the effort to destroy, but this was just a mask of their true nature.