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Exodus Seventeen

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

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Exodus 17:1 And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.

Exodus 17:2 Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD?

Exodus 17:3 And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?

Exodus 17:4 And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me.

ready to stone me. In effect the people were accusing God of covenant breaking and decided judicially to stone His representative. God therefore “stands before” them (Exodus 17:6) as the accused on the rock, and the rock is then smitten with the rod of judgment—the same rod with which Moses had visited judgment on Egypt (Exodus 17:5).

Exodus 17:5 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go.

Exodus 17:6 Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

smite the rock. Critics are repeatedly confounded when they try to explain the many miracles of the Exodus on a naturalistic basis. This was a uniquely significant period in world history and God was once again revealing Himself as the world's Creator, miraculously creating bread and water in the desert for a whole generation of Israelites. Moses was not a gifted “water witch,” locating an underground stream of water, but God's prophet. God created a river of water that followed their itinerary throughout the forty years of wandering, “for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4).

rock in Horeb. This is the first mention of “rock” in Scripture, and it is significantly taken by Paul as a type of Christ (see note above). Just as Moses smote the rock with his rod of judgment (Exodus 17:5), so Christ had to be “smitten of God” (Isaiah 53:4) before He could invite men to “come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37).

Exodus 17:7 And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not?

Exodus 17:8 Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.

Then came Amalek. The Amalekites were a powerful and notoriously cruel people that were frequently at war with the nation of Israel. The only Amalek mentioned in the Bible was a grandson of Esau (Genesis 36:12). But that this Amalek was the ancestor of the Amalekite nation is doubtful in view of the reference to them in the time of Abraham (Genesis 14:7). There are some who have argued (Velikovsky, Courville, etc.) that these were none other than the Hyksos (a name supposedly meaning “shepherd-kings”), and that they were on their way toward invading Egypt when they encountered the fleeing Israelites. According to this scenario, it was the plagues and the destruction of Pharaoh's army that enabled them to conquer Egypt and to rule there for two hundred years or more.

Exodus 17:9 And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.

Joshua. This is the first reference to Joshua. Evidently he was already recognized by Moses as the probable future leader in the coming war of conquest in Canaan.

Exodus 17:10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.

Hur. Little is known about Hur, except that he was a faithful aide to Moses, along with Moses' brother Aaron (Exodus 24:14). It is possible he was Miriam's husband, at least according to an uncertain Jewish tradition.

Exodus 17:11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

Exodus 17:12 But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

Exodus 17:13 And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

Exodus 17:14 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.

in a book. This is the first reference to Moses actually writing down the events that were transpiring. There are a number of other such references throughout the last four books of the Pentateuch (e.g., Numbers 33:2). Although this is the first specific command of God to write His words down in a book, there is a much earlier reference to “the book of the generations of Adam” (Genesis 5:1). See also Exodus 24:4; 34:27.

remembrance of Amalek. The Amalekites, whoever they were, continued in existence until well into the period of Israel's kings, possibly even to the time of Hezekiah (1 Chronicles 4:43). Eventually they vanished, so completely that none today can even be certain who they were.

Exodus 17:15 And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi:

Jehovah-nissi. The name of Moses' altar, commemorating this initial victory over the Amalekites, means “The Lord is my banner.”

Exodus 17:16 For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.