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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 17

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-16

Chapter 17

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 they pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water to drink. Moses said unto them, Why chide you with me? why do you tempt the LORD ( Exodus 17:1-2 ).

Now their murmuring and their complaining was really classified by Moses as a "tempting of God". We are warned in the New Testament concerning the failure of the children of Israel because they were guilty of tempting God, and proving Him, murmuring against Him.

And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that you have brought us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? ["Why have you brought us out of Egypt to kill us with thirst?"] Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What am I going to do with these people? they're ready to kill me ( Exodus 17:3-4 ).

Poor Moses. I'll tell you the position of leadership is not an easy position. Moses didn't have an easy task at all. Here the people now ready to stone him.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, where you smote the river, take it in your hand, and go. And behold, I will stand before you 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. And he called the name of the place Massah, [Which means "temptation"] and Meribah, because of the chiding [Or the "striving"] of the children of Israel, because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not? ( Exodus 17:5-7 )

So first of all it was their hunger. Now God has promised to provide all of our needs according to His riches and glory. Having led them out, God would've provided and taken care of them. Their first complaint was that of their hunger, the second was that of water. These are two necessities, food and drink, especially in a wilderness area. So I think that it is important to notice that though Moses was really upset with the people, there's no indication that God was upset with them, for their needs were natural needs.

Now the way they were going about the accusations that they were making were extreme and wrong; and yet, their need was a natural need. God recognized that. God does not show any displeasure with the people; so much as He does show with, as Moses actually shows to the people. But God now tells Moses, "Take the rod and strike the rock and water will come forth."

Now in the New Testament we are told that these things are all figures. It doesn't mean that it's mythology. It's actual history. But they all have a spiritual counterpart. We are told by Paul that that rock was Christ.

Now you remember Jesus, on the last day of the great day of the feast cried, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink"( John 7:37 ). This was the Feast of Tabernacles in which they were celebrating how God preserved their fathers through the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. A part of the preservation was the providing of the water out of the rock.

So during the Feast of Tabernacles, the priest would go down to the Pool of Siloam with these water jugs. They would fill them with water, and they would come back up to the steps where several hundred thousand Jews would be gathered in the Great Temple Mount area. In front of all of the people, as they were singing the Halel songs, the priest would pour the water out on the pavement there of the Temple Mount. That was to remind them how that God gave water to their fathers out of the rock in the wilderness. This was just sort of weaved in to the celebration of Tabernacles, the Booths, where they had to make their little booths, again to remind them how their fathers lived out in the wilderness for forty years. So this pouring out of water ceremony was a reminder of the water out of the rock, this experience.

Now Jesus, even as He took the Passover and applied it to Himself personally, and said, "This bread is My body broken for you. This cup is My blood shed for the remission of your sins". Now here at the Feast of Tabernacles, on the last day, the great day of the feast, they would not go down and get the water. They didn't pour out. They'd do it for the seven days of the feast. The eighth day, the great day, they wouldn't do it, which was symbolic of the fact that we are now in the land that God promised to our fathers. We don't need the miraculous water out of the rock. On that day as the people were gathered, the great assembly of people there on the Temple Mount, Jesus stood and cried, "If any man thirsts let him come unto Me and drink. And he who drinks of the water that I give, out of his innermost being, there will flow rivers of living water"( John 7:38 ).

So Paul tells us that Jesus is the rock. He is the rock from which the living waters flow. In that land where water was such a premium, and thirst is almost constant. The idea of Christ as the water of life is probably much more significant than it is to us here where you just go turn a spigot on and just go get a drink whenever you're thirsty. There you really had to think about water. You had to-you had to be constantly thinking about water. Wherever you go you'd have to think about, "Well where will I get my water?" The water supply was an important thing.

So Jesus, the fountain of living waters, and so the final invitation of Revelation, "Is him that is athirst, let him come and drink of the water of life freely"( Revelation 22:17 ). Partake of Christ. So Christ is the rock, the fulfillment of this Feast of the Tabernacle. The rock, from which the water flows, the water of life, by which we might have life.

Now this is why when later on the people came to Moses again, and they were thirsty, and Moses went in before the Lord, and said, "God I can't stand it, these people are complaining again." God said, "That's all right Moses, go out and speak to the rock, and water will come forth." Moses went out and he was angry with the people. He said, "Must I smite this rock again and give you water?" And he smote the rock with his rod. Water came forth.

But God called Moses in, and said, "Moses that was a bad mistake. I told you to speak to the rock. You disobeyed Me; you misrepresented Me before those people. Because of that Moses, you can't go into the Promised Land." "Oh God please, I'm sorry, please let me go in." "Don't talk to Me anymore about it, Moses. It's the way it's gotta be." Why? Because now the symbolism is broken.

You see the rock was smitten, and from the smitten rock comes life, from Jesus being smitten, there comes forth life to you. But once the rock has been smitten, it never needs to be smitten again. He died once and for all, so that we need not to smite the rock to get the water. All we need to do is by faith, ask, speak to the rock and water will come forth. So we are not in the position of smiting the rock, that has already happened. Christ was smitten and the water of life came forth. Now all that is necessary is just speak, ask, and ye shall receive the water of life freely. So the whole scene here as God was setting the thing up.

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

Now Amalek was the grandson of Esau, who was of the fleshly seed, and represents the flesh. So in scripture, Amalek is always a type of the flesh, the flesh-life, the fleshly seed. There's a spiritual seed; there's a fleshly seed. There's a spiritual side of my nature, there is a fleshly side of my nature, and the spirit and the flesh are in conflict. A constant warfare, my spirit lusting against my flesh, my flesh against the spirit, these two are contrary. Every child of God knows what it is to have a conflict with his flesh.

Now Amalek is a type of the flesh. Here God's people, the spiritual seed is coming in to take the land, but the flesh is the first thing that moves in the way to stop them, and to hinder them from going in and taking, and possessing that which God has promised to give to them. One of the biggest barriers to our receiving the full promises of God for our lives is our flesh. The flesh is always warring against the spirit. Our flesh would keep us from entering into the fullness of God's promises, and into the fullness of God's blessings. Amalek came out to meet them, the picture of the flesh, and fought with them.

And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, and fight with Amalek: tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said unto him, and he fought with Amalek: and Moses, and Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses; hands were heavy; and so they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat on the stone; and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, the one on the one side, the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword ( Exodus 17:9-13 ).

Joshua of course is the name "Jesus" in Greek, which means, "Jehovah is salvation". So God's salvation. Joshua was sent to fight against them, was put over the servants of God, and fought against Amalek the picture of the flesh, and they prevailed.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book ( Exodus 17:14 ),

So Moses was already writing the events that were transpiring, and later on was to write and to compile these first five books of the Old Testament. So the compiling of the book no doubt was already in progress at this time. God told him to write this in a book for a memorial.

and to rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven ( Exodus 17:14 ).

Now have you met an Amalek lately? Amalikite? No. God's wiped them out, He said He would.

And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi: [The Lord has become our banner.] For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation ( Exodus 17:15-16 ).

The Lord has sworn that you're gonna have a battle with your flesh from generation to generation. So it is true.

You remember later on in the history God gave a command that is difficult for many people to understand and because of this, many of the critics have faulted the Bible, and faulted God. At the time when Saul was king of Israel, God ordered Saul, through Samuel, to go down and to utterly slay the Amaleks. Remember that? "Utterly slay them, don't even leave an animal alive. Slay all the men, women, and children and every animal, wipe them out completely"( 1 Samuel 15:3 ). As I say, people have great difficulty in understanding this particular command of God.

But when we realize that Amalek represents the flesh, what God is saying is that you can't make any truce with your flesh. God has no remedy for your flesh. God's only answer for your flesh is crucifixion, put it to death. "You by the spirit, mortify the deeds of your flesh." God didn't want them to make any truce. God didn't want them to leave anything of the flesh. "Utterly destroy it, wipe it out completely." That was the command of God unto Saul.

Now Saul failed to obey God, and God was angry with Saul. And God said, "Because you have rejected God from ruling over you, you've refused to obey God, thus God has rejected you from being king over Israel." It was as a result of this that Saul was dethroned, rejected by God, his failure of complete obedience in totally wiping out the flesh, Amalek.

Now later on in the Jewish history, we come across another man who was of the tribe, or of the people of Amalek. Because Saul failed to wipe them out completely, Amalek came close to wiping out the children of God.

It was the time when Ester was queen. Her uncle Mordecai refused to bow to this wicked Haman. And so Haman was so angered by this man's refusal to bow to him that he went to the king to sign the decree that on a particular day every Jew in all the kingdom should be destroyed. Do you remember the story of Haman? Haman was an Amalek. He was of Amalek. Because Saul failed to totally destroy the flesh, the flesh came back and almost destroyed the people of God. But the king signed the decree, and the day was appointed and all of the people from Israel were to be slain, in all of the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians.

So Amalek whenever you read of it in the scripture is always a type of the flesh, the flesh life. As I say God doesn't have any reformation programs, which we're always trying to reform our flesh. God has no reformation programs. He has only one edict for the flesh; that's crucify it. "I am crucified with Christ." That's God's only solution for your flesh. You try to pamper it, you try to nurture it, you try to keep alive the best part of it. You say, "Oh well, I'll just keep the best part of my flesh for God" like Saul. "Lord I saved the best for you, I want to make a sacrifice." "To obey is better than to sacrifice, and hearken to it, it's better than the fat of rams" ( 1 Samuel 15:22 ).

So, "Make no covenant with them", God said, "There's gonna be warfare with Amalek from generation to generation." "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Exodus 17". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/exodus-17.html. 2014.
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