The Murmuring at Massah and Meribah
v. 1. And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, after several days' marching, on each of which they encamped for the night, Num_33:12, according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim, on the boundary of the wilderness of Sinai; and there was no water for the people to drink.
v. 2. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses and said, Give us water that we may drink. They deliberately challenged Moses for an explanation; they started a quarrel, they wrangled. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord? The second question was the explanation of the first, for in attacking Moses the people rebelled against the Lord and provoked Him to anger.
v. 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? So this was the substance of their complaint, of their doubt as to the merciful presence of the Lord.
v. 4. And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this people? They be almost ready to stone me. They held Moses responsible for the impending ruin, and assumed such an ugly attitude as to cause Moses to fear the worst.
v. 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, the shepherd's staff which was his symbol of authority, take in thine hand and go. The solemn departure of Moses and the elders from the camp was to draw the attention of the entire army to their actions.
v. 6. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb, whose foot-hills extended down to the neighborhood of the camp; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it that the people may drink. God assured Moses of His presence and definitely promised him a miracle. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. They were witnesses to the miracle and could testify before the people as to the manner in which water had been produced.
v. 7. And he called the name of the place Massah (temptation) and Meribah (strife) because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us or not? So that had been their real transgression, the doubts as to the presence of the Lord with their army, the pillar of cloud and of fire apparently not being sufficient any more to uphold their faith. The events here narrated were considered an example of warning throughout the time of the Old Testament as well as in the New, Psa_95:8; Heb_4:9. And as it was Christ who journeyed with His people at that time and strengthened the faith of those who noted His presence in the miracle, so it is He who gives us at all times the true spiritual water to quench the thirst of our souls.
The Battle with the Amalekites
v. 8. Then came Amalek, the nation which had descended from Amalek, the grandson of Esau, Gen_36:12, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.
v. 9. And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek; for the soldiers of the heathen nation had fallen upon the rear-guard of Israel and smitten the faint and weary, Deu_25:18. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand, the same staff with which he had performed so many miracles.
v. 10. So Joshua, or Hoshea, a prince of the tribe of Ephraim, Num_13:8-16; Deu_32:44, did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek, for these Edomites were here trying to vent their spite against the chosen people of God; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur, the son of Caleb, the great-grandson of Judah, 1Ch_2:18-20, went up to the top of the hill, to assist their troops with the prayer of faith.
v. 11. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, in the attitude of fervent supplication, that Israel prevailed, the tide of battle went in their favor; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. It was not a battle in which mere prowess of arms brought about the decision, but one in which the powers of the true God battled with the enemies of His Church.
v. 12. But Moses' hands were heavy. It is a test of endurance for the strongest man to hold his hands out or up for any length of time. 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; they supported his hands in such a way that they would not sink; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun, until darkness put an end to the battle.
v. 13. And Joshua discomfited, struck down, conquered, Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword, without exercising pity.
v. 14. And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua, it should be revealed to Joshua and impressed upon his mind; for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven, the entire nation was to be annihilated, Deu_25:19.
v. 15. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi (Jehovah my banner);
v. 16. for he said, Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. It was a vow with his hand upon the banner of Jehovah, the altar which he had built, that Israel should continue the war against the Amalekites until their total extinction had been accomplished. The present victory was an earnest of future victories over all the enemies. Thus all the enemies of the believers, of the Church of Christ, will eventually be conquered, but our prayers must arise to the Throne of Mercy without ceasing.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Exodus 17". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany