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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 17

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-3


Verses 1-3:

"After their journeys" denotes the stages of Israel’s journey from

the camp in the wilderness of Sin, to the site of Rephidim. Nu 33:12-14 lists these as three: from Sin to Dophkah; from Dophkah to Alush; from Alush to Rephidim.

"Rephidim" means "resting places." It lies in the Wadi Feiran, in a wide, fertile plain surrounded by mountains. They had expected to find water at this site, but there was none. At that point in time, the springs in the valley were held by the Amalekites, who were descendants of Esau by his eldest son Eliphaz.

The Israelites must have been suffering from thirst. They had passed no springs on their way from the Wilderness of Sin, and their water supply was likely exhausted. They turned their wrath upon Moses, charging that he had brought them to this place to kill them with thirst.

Verses 4-7

Verses 4-7:

The people of Israel were so angry that they were almost ready to stone Moses. Jehovah heard Moses’ plea, and provided the solution for the problem.

Just before reaching the plain of Rephidim, Israel passed a large, bare, prominent rock. According to tradition, this is the rock to which Jehovah led Moses and Israel’s elders. Moses struck the rock with the rod he had lifted over the Red Sea. Artists picture this episode as a small group gathered round a rock, from which a trickle of water flows. The facts teach otherwise. A tremendous stream of water gushed forth from this rock, in volume sufficient to supply the needs of the host of Israel, and all their livestock. Other references to this event: De 6:16; Ps 78:15; 105:41; 114:8; 1Co 10:4.

Moses called this place "Massa," meaning "temptation," and "Meribah," meaning "chiding." Here Israel tempted Jehovah, and chided or complained in doubt that He was indeed with them.

1Co 10:4 identifies this rock as a type of Christ, who was smitten for the sins of men. From him flows the living water, Joh 4:10-15, free to all who will drink of it.

Verses 8-10

Verses 8-10:

Amalek was a grandson of Esau. His mother was a Canaanite, Ge 37:12. His descendants occupied much of the Sinai Peninsula, particularly the central hills and valleys. They were very jealous over the water and pasture rights in this area. When Israel approached this territory, Amalek met them with treachery and hostility. They attacked the stragglers when they were exhausted and unable to defend themselves, De 25:18; 1Sa 15:2. Then they launched an assault against Israel at Rephidim.

Moses assigned Joshua the command of Israel’s fighting forces.

He was of the tribe of Ephraim, about 45 years old. At that time his name was Oshea or Hoshea (Nu 13:8), meaning "salvation." Later, Moses changed his name to Jehoshua, meaning "Jehovah is salvation." This name was contracted to "Joshua."

The text implies it was late in the day when Moses heard of Amalek’s sneak attack upon the rearguard. He instructed Joshua to select as many men as he thought appropriate, to attack Amalek the next day. Moses would stand on the hill-top overlooking the battlefield, where he could see the battle, and where he could be seen. In his hand would be the "rod of God," the emblem of certain victory.

With Moses were Aaron and Hur. Jewish tradition says that Hur was the husband of Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron. He was later appointed with Aaron as a judge to hear disputes while Moses was in the mount with God, see Ex 24:14.

Verses 11-16

Verses 11-16:

So long as Moses’ hand was uplifted, Israel prevailed in battle. The uplifted hand symbolized a prayer to God for help. God saw this, and gave Israel strength for the battle. To emphasize the importance of continuing in prayer, God allowed Amalek to prevail when Moses’s had begun to grow weary and droop.

This teaches the importance of importunity in prayer, 1Ti 2:8; Lu 18:1-8; 1Th 5:17.

The problem of Moses’ weariness and the drooping of his hand was solved in a simple manner. Moses sat on a rock, and Aaron stood on one side, Hur on the other, and each supported an arm. They remained thus until sunset, when the victory over Amalek was complete.

This teaches the importance of co-operation in the work of the Lord. Moses was God’s chosen leader for Israel. But he needed the support of others to fulfill his mission. This principle applies today. God’s chosen leaders need the co-operation and support of brethren in life’s battles, 1Co 3:9.

Jehovah instructed Moses to record in a book and preserve it as a memorial for future generations, that Amalek was to be utterly destroyed. He was especially to instruct Joshua concerning this. This provision was to be fulfilled by future generations, see Nu 24:20; De 25:19; 1Sa 15:7; 30:1, 17; 2Sa 8:12. When Amalek lifted his hand against Israel, he was in reality lifting it against Jehovah. There would be war between Jehovah and Amalek from generation to generation.

Moses built an altar, to commemorate this victory. The building of an altar implies a sacrifice. Moses followed the patriarch’s example and named this altar (cf. Ge 33:20). He called it "Jehovah-nissi," meaning "Jehovah is my banner." In this, Moses ascribed the honor of victory to Jehovah.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 17". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/exodus-17.html. 1985.
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