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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Exodus 17

 

 

Verses 1-16


Rephidim. Murmuring for Water. Opposition of Amalek

Leaving the maritime plain the Israelites now strike inland, and after halting at Dophkah and Alush (see Numbers 33:12-13) they come to Rephidim. This is usually identified with the modern Wady Feiran, lying about 20 m. N. of Sinai. It is one of the oases of the peninsula, very fertile and usually well watered. On this occasion the brook was dry.

1. After their journeys] RV 'by their journeys' (RM 'stages').

2. Tempt the Lord] challenge His power and willingness to provide for them, put Him to the proof by their unbelief: cp. Exodus 17:7 see also Numbers 14:22; Numbers 20:13; Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7. Their unbelief was the less warranted as they had lately experienced God's providence in supplying their wants. This is the fourth murmuring: see on Exodus 16:2.

5, 6. The elders] as representing the people (see on Exodus 3:16), are to be the witnesses of the miracle. The people, perhaps on account of their sin, are to stand at a distance: cp. Exodus 19:17. Thy rod] see on Exodus 4:2, Exodus 4:20. The river is the Nile: see Exodus 7:20.

6. Horeb] see on 31. Tradition identifies the rock with a great detached fragment under the ridge of Ras es-Sufsafeh. This, however, is a long way from the supposed site of Eephidim. At the same time Moses and the elders are represented as going on before the people, so that the people obtained the water not at the rock, but some distance down the stream that flowed from it. If the stream continued to flow for some time, as seems natural to suppose, perhaps during the eleven months of the sojourn in that neighbourhood, the people would drink it at various points. This is probably the origin of the rabbinical legend, alluded to by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 10:4), that the rock followed the Israelites on their march. The apostle spiritualises the rock, making it a type of Christ, from whom flows a perennial stream of grace to Hi people.

7. Massah] 'trial' or 'proving.' Meribah] 'chiding.' The names are formed from the words used in Exodus 17:2. Meribah is the name given to the place where water was again provided (see Numbers 20:13), but to distinguish it from the present Meribah it is called Meribah Kadesh in Deuteronomy 32:51. Some commentators hold that the account given here and that in Numbers 20 refer to the same occurrence. The resemblances are striking, but there are also manifest points of difference.

8. Amalek] The Amalekites, here described collectively in the singular number, were a nomadic tribe, very fierce and warlike, roaming over the desert country S. of Canaan, including the Sinaitic peninsula where the Israelites first encountered them. They probably regarded the Israelites as their rivals for supremacy. They gave them much trouble, not only at various times during the desert wanderings (see e.g. Numbers 13:29; Numbers 14:25, Numbers 14:43-45), but down to a late period of their history: see Judges 6:3; 1 Samuel 15:1-8; 1 Samuel 30; 1 Chronicles 4:43.

9. The first mention of Joshua. He was an Ephraimite, the son of Nun. He appears here as captain of the host, and later as the personal attendant of Moses (Exodus 24:13; Exodus 32:17; Exodus 33:11). He was one of the spies sent to view the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:8; Numbers 14:6), and was afterwards chosen as the successor of Moses: see Numbers 27:18-23 and on Numbers 27:18. His name was originally Oshea, 'help' or 'salvation.' Moses afterwards changed his name to Joshua, 'Jehovah is my salvation.' The Gk. form of Joshua is Jesus: see Matthew 1:12. In Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8; Joshua the son of Nun is meant: see Intro, to Joshua.

10. According to Jewish tradition, Hur was the husband of Miriam: see on Exodus 31:2.

11. The holding up of Moses' hands signified an appeal to God in intercession. His holding up the 'rod of God' in his hand was, at the same time, an appeal to his fighting men to remember what God had already done for them. The rod was associated with many wonderful deliverances, notably that at the Red Sea, so that the sight of it would inspire the warriors with courage and hope. On both grounds one can understand how it was that the fortune of the battle corresponded to the steadfastness with which Moses held up his hands. The story illustrates the value of prayer, in particular of intercessory prayer, and, at the same time, the necessity of prayer being accompanied with believing effort. Moses praying on the hill while the people are fighting in the valley is also an emblem of Christ interceding in the heavenly places for His people struggling upon earth: see Hebrews 4:14-16.

14. Write this., in a book] Written records, contemporary with the events described in them, were no doubt preserved for many generations, and would afford material for future historians. One of these early records was called the 'Book of the Wars of Jehovah': see on Numbers 21:14.

15. Built an altar] for the double purpose of offering sacrifices of thanksgiving, and of commemorating the victory by means of a monument: cp. Genesis 33:20; Genesis 35:7; Joshua 22:26, Joshua 22:27. Jehovahnissi] 'Jehovah is my banner,' meaning, 'under His banner, in His name and strength, I fight and conquer': cp. Psalms 20:5-7.

16. For he said] RV 'and he said.' The words following are literally, 'because a hand upon the throne (of) Jah,' which may be rendered, 'because his (i.e. Amalek's) hand is against the throne of Jehovah, (therefore) will the Lord,' etc.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Exodus 17:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/exodus-17.html. 1909.

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Sunday, January 26th, 2020
the Third Sunday after Epiphany
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