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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 17

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-16


The journey through the wilderness to Sinai. Want of water. Marah. Elim. The Wilderness of Sin. Quails. Manna. Rephidim (Massah and Meribah). The Amalekites. Jethro and his advice, a human prelude of the divine legislation

Exodus 15:22 to Exodus 18:27

The stations as far as Sinai

1. Marah

Exodus 15:22-26

22So [And] Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. 23And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the [drink the] waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore the name of it was called Marah. 24And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? 25And he cried unto Jehovah, and Jehovah showed him a tree, which, when he had cast [and he cast it] into the waters, the [and the] waters were made sweet: there Hebrews 2:0; Hebrews 2:06made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved [tried] them, And said, If thou wilt diligently [indeed] hearken to the voice of Jehovah thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these [the] diseases upon thee, which I have brought [put] upon the Egyptians: for I am Jehovah that healeth thee.

2. Elim. Exodus 15:27

27And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells [fountains] of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.

3. The Wilderness of Sin. (The Manna and the Quails.)

Exodus 16:1-36

1And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. 2And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God [Would that] we had died by the hand of Jehovah in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and [flesh-pots,] when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with 4hunger. Then said Jehovah [And Jehovah said] unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate [a daily portion] every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no [not]. 5And it shall come to pass that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. 6And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then shall ye know that Jehovah hath brought you out from the land of Egypt. 7And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of Jehovah; [since] he heareth your murmurings against Jehovah: and what are we, that ye murmur against us? 8And Moses said, This shall be, when [And Moses said, Since] Jehovah shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that [since] Jehovah heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him, and [against him,] what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against Jehovah. 9And Moses spake [said] unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before Jehovah: for he hath heard your murmurings. 10And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the 11glory of Jehovah appeared in the cloud. And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, 12I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God. 13And it came to pass that at even [at even that] the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host [camp]. 14And when the dew that lay [the layer of dew] was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay [the wilderness] a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. 15And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna [What is this?],7 for they wist [knew] not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the 16bread which Jehovah hath given you to eat [for food]. This is the thing which Jehovah hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man [a head], according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which [that] are in his tents [tent]. 17And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. 18And when they did mete [And they measured] it with an [the] omer, he [and he] that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. 19And Moses said [said unto them], Let no man leave of 20it till the morning. Notwithstanding [But] they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them [and some] left of it until the morning, and it bred worms,8 and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. 21And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. 22And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man [each man]: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23And he said unto them, This is that which Jehovah hath spoken, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath [is a day of rest, a holy sabbath] unto Jehovah: bake that which ye will bake to-day [bake], and seethe [boil] that [that which] ye will seethe [boil]; and that which [all that] remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. 24And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. 25And Moses said, Eat that to-day; for to-day is a sabbath unto Jehovah: to-day ye shall [will] not find it in the field. 26Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the [onthe seventh day is a] sabbath, in [on] it there shall be none. 27And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to [day to] gather, 28and they found none. And Jehovah said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? 29See, for that Jehovah hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. 30So the people rested on the seventh day. 31And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made [like cake] with honey. 32And Moses said, This is the thing which Jehovah commandeth, Fill an omer of it [An omer full of it] to be kept for [throughout] your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt. 33And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot [basket], and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay 34it up before Jehovah, to be kept for [throughout] your generations. As Jehovah commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept. 35And the children of Israel did eat manna [the manna] forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna [the manna], until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan. 36Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah.

4. Rephidim. The place called Massah and Meribah

Exodus 17:1-7

Exodus 17:1 And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys [journey by journey], according to the commandment of Jehovah, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the 2people to drink. Wherefore [And] 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 Jehovah? 3And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast [Wherefore hast thou] brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? 4And Moses cried unto Jehovah, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to [a little more, and they will] 5stone me. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Go on [Pass on] before the people, and take with thee of the elders of the people; and thy rod wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine [thy] hand, and go. 6Behold, 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 [and] the people may [shall] drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted Jehovah, saying, Is Jehovah among us, or not?

5. Amalek. The dark side of heathenism

Exodus 17:8-16

8Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. 9And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to-morrow I will 10stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine [my] hand. So [And] 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. 11And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12But 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. 13And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge 14of the sword. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a [the] book, and rehearse [lit. put] it in the ears of Joshua: for [that] I will utterly put 15[blot] out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. And Moses built an 16altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi: For [And] he said, Because Jehovah hath sworn that [For a hand is upon the throne of Jah;9] Jehovah will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.

6. Rephidim and Jethro. The bright side of heathenism

Exodus 18:1-27

1When [Now] Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and [how] that Jehovah had brought Israel out 2of Egypt; Then [And] Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back [after she had been sent away], 3And her two sons; of which [whom] the name of the one was Gershom; for he said, I have been an alien 4[a sojourner] in a strange land: And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine [my] help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh: 5And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped [was encamped] at the mount of God: 6And he said unto Moses, I thy father-in-law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her. 7And Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent. 8And Moses told his father-in-law all that Jehovah had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, and [sake] all the travail [trouble] that had come upon them by the way, and how Jehovah delivered them. 9And Jethro rejoiced for [over] all the goodness [good] which Jehovah had done to Israel whom he had delivered [in that he had delivered them] out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10And Jethro said, Blessed be Jehovah, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11Now I know that Jehovah is greater than all [all the] gods: for [yea], in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above [dealt proudly against] them. 12And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt-offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God. 13And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. 14And when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? Why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even? 15And Moses said unto his father-in-law, Because the people come unto me to inquire of God: 16When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make 17[I make] them know the statutes of God, and his laws. And Moses’ father-in-law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. 18Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this [the] thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself [able to do it] alone. 19Hearken now unto my voice. I will give thee counsel, and God shall be [God be] with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward [before God], that thou mayest bring [and bring thou] the causes [matters] unto God: 20And thou shalt teach [And teach] them ordinances and laws [the statutes and the laws], and shalt shew [and shew] them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. 21Moreover [But] thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness [unjust gain]; and place such over them, to be [as] rulers of thousands, and [thousands,] rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: 22And let them judge the people at all seasons [times]: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they [they themselves] shall judge: so shall it be [so make it] easier for thyself, and they shall [let them] bear the burden with thee. 23If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt [wilt] be able to endure, and all this 24people shall also [people also will] go to their place in peace. So [And] Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in-law, and did all that he had said. 25And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 26And they judged the people at all seasons [times]: the hard causes [matters] they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves. 27And Moses let his father-in-law depart; and he went his way into his own land.


[Exodus 16:15 מַן הוּא. Gesenius and Knobel derive מַן from מָנַן, to apportion; Fürst (Concordance) from the Sanscrit mani. But most scholars, following the evident implication of the narrative itself, regard מַן as the Aramaic equivalent of מַה. Even Fürst so renders it in his “Illustrirte Pracht-Bibel.” Comp. Michaelis, Supplementa ad Lexica Hebraica.—Tr.].

[Exodus 16:20. “And it bred worms:” וַיָרֻם תּוֹלְעִים. The Heb. word seems to be the Fut. of רוּם defectively written, and therefore to mean: “rose up into (or with) worms.” Kalisch says, that the form וַיָרֻם is used instead of וַיָוָם to show that it comes from רָמָה (רָמַם?) in the sense of putrefy. So Maurer and Ewald (Gr., § 281, d). But it is doubtful whether רָמַם (assumed as the root from which comes רִמָּה “worm”) really means putrefy at all. Fürst defines it by “crawl.” Moreover, it would be inverting the natural order of things to say, that the manna became putrid with worms; the worms are the consequence, not the cause, of the putridness. Rosenmüller, Fürst, Arnheim and others render by “swarm,” “abound,” but probably as a free rendering for “rose up.” De Wette: da wuchsen Würmer. The A. V. rendering may stand as a substantially correct reproduction of the sense.—Tr.].

[Exodus 17:16. We have given the most literal rendering of this difficult passage. But possibly כִּי, instead of meaning “for” (or “because”), may (as ὅτι often in Greek) be the mere mark of a quotation, to be omitted in the translation. The meaning of the expression itself is very doubtful. The A. V., following some ancient authorities, takes it as an oath; but for this there is little ground. Keil interprets: “The hand raised to the throne of Jehovah in heaven; Jehovah’s war against Amalek,” i.e. the hands of the Israelites, like those of Moses, must be raised heavenward towards Jehovah’s throne, while they wage war against Amalek. Others interpret: “Because a hand (viz. the hand of the Amalekites) is against the throne of Jah, therefore Jehovah will forever have war with Amalek.” This interpretation has the advantage over Keil’s of giving a more natural rendering to עַל, which indeed in a few cases does mean “up to,” but only when it is (as it is not here) connected with a verb which requires the preposition to be so rendered. Others (perhaps the majority of modern exegetes) would read נֵם (“banner”), instead of כֵּם (“throne”), and interpret: “The hand upon Jehovah’s banner; Jehovah has war,” etc. This conjecture is less objectionable than many attempted improvements of the text, inasmuch as the name of the altar, “Jehovah-nissi” (“Jehovah, my banner”), seems to require an explanation, and would receive it if the reading were נֵם, instead of כֵּם—Tr.].


General Survey of the Section. Israel’s journey from the shore of the Red Sea to Mt. Sinai. The host enters the wilderness of Shur (the same as the wilderness of Etham), and its first camping-place is by the bitter waters of Marah. The second is Elim. Next comes the encampment on the Red Sea recorded in Numbers 33:0. Still later the entrance into the wilderness of Sin, and the encampment in it. With this is connected the sending of the manna and of the quails. Then follows the stay in Rephidim with three leading events: the water from the rock, the victory over Amalek, and Jethro’s advice concerning an orderly judicial system. According to Numbers 33:0 it must be assumed that the people encamped on the Red Sea just as they touched the wilderness of Sin; for it was not till after this that they entered the wilderness (Exodus 16:11), as they also at the first entered the wilderderness of Shur, on the borders of which they found themselves at the very outset. Between the encampment on the Red Sea and that in Rephidim we find in the Book of Numbers Dophkah and Alush; and it is said that they journeyed from the wilderness of Sin to Dophkah. Knobel observes that these two stations, not mentioned in Exodus, are omitted because nothing of historical importance is connected with them. Also about this journey from Ayun Musa to Sinai there has been an immense deal of discussion, as well as about the journey from Raemses to the Red Sea. Vid. Robinson I., p. 90, Bräm, Israel’s Wanderung von Gosen bis zum Sinai (Elberfeld, 1859); Strauss, Sinai und Golgotha, p. 124; von Raumer, Palästina, p. 480; Tischendorf, Aus dem heiligen Lande, p. 23; Kurtz, History of the Old Covenant III., p. 15 sqq.; Bunsen V., 2, p. 155; and the commentaries.

There is general agreement as to the locality of the first stations. It is assumed that Israel, after the passage of the sea, encamped at Ayun Musa (the Wells of Moses), opposite the high mountain Atakah, on the other side of the Red Sea. The next camping-place, Marah (Bitterness), is found about sixteen and a half hours, or a three days’ journey beyond, by the well Howara or Hawara, of which Robinson says: “The basin is six or eight feet in diameter, and the water about two feet deep. Its taste is unpleasant, saltish, and somewhat bitter.… The Arabs … consider it as the worst water in all these regions” (Pal. II., p. 96). Cf. Seetzen III., p. 117, and Keil II., p. 58, who quotes divergent opinions of Ewald and Lepsius.—The next camping-place, Elim, is two and a half hours further south, in what is now the Wady Ghurundel, with a beautiful vegetation consisting in palms, tamarisks, acacias, and tall grass,—a prominent stopping-place on the way from Suez to Sinai. “The way from Howara to this place is short, but the camping-places of an army in march, like that of the Israelites, are always determined by the supply of water” (Keil). The fourth stopping-place, called in Numbers 33:10 the one on the Red Sea, is found at the mouth of Wady Taiyibeh (Robinson I., p. 105), eight hours beyond Wady Ghurundel. From this point the route becomes less easy to fix. In Numbers 33:11 we read: “They removed from the Red Sea, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin.”10 Here in Exodus it is said that the wilderness lies between Elim and Sinai. This addition seems designed not only to give the general direction (since that would be quite superfluous), but to designate the middle point between Elim and Sinai. The chief question here is, whether the wilderness of Sin as traversed by the Israelites, is to be located further south on a sea coast, where the plain is for the most part a good hour wide, as is assumed by many (not all, as Bräm says), or whether the high table land el Debbe, or Debbet en Nasb, with its red sand and sand-stones, is to be taken for the Wilderness of Sin (Knobel). Accordingly, there are two principal routes, of which the first again branches into two. By the coast route one can go along the coast as far as Tur (Ewald), and from that in a northeast direction come to Sinai; or more directly (i.e., at first in an inland direction from the fountain Murkha) enter through the wadies Shellal and Badireh (Butera) into the wadies Mukatteb and Feiran, and reach Mt. Horeb (de la Borde, von Raumer, and others).11 The other route, the mountain or highland route (Burckhardt and others) turns from Taiyibeh “southeast through Wady Shubeikah over a high table-land, with the mountain Sarbut el Jemel, then through Wady Humr upon the wide sandy plain el Debbe, or Debbet en Nasb” (Keil), and on through several wadies directly to Horeb. For and against each of these routes much may be said. Cf. Knobel, p. 162 sqq.; Keil II. p. 61. According to the latter view, advocated by Knobel and Keil, the camping-place in the wilderness of Sin is to be sought in Wady Nasb, where among date-palms a well of ample and excellent water is to be found. The second seacoast route was taken by Strauss and Krafft (Sinai und Golgotha, p. 127). Also the last time by Tischendorf (Aus dim heiligen Lande, p. 35). The same way is preferred by Bräm in his work “Israel’s Wanderung,” etc. Likewise Robinson regards this as the course taken by the Israelites, though he himself took the one on the table-land. To decide is not easy, and is of little importance for our purpose. But the following observations may serve as guides: (1) If, as is most probable, the names Sin and Sinai are connected etymologically, this is an argument for the table-land route, especially as it also seems to lie more nearly midway between Elim and Sinai; (2) the water seems here to be, though less abundant, yet better, than in most of the salty fountains on the seacoast, whose turbidness also is easily to be explained by its situation on the coast (vid. Robinson, p. 110); (3) on the table-land, in the depressions of which vegetation was everywhere found, there was certainly better provision for the cattle than on the seacoast, where they were often entirely separated from pasture land by mountain barriers; (4) if the encampment in the wilderness of Sin was also an encampment on the Red Sea, the preceding encampment could not, without causing confusion, be designated by the term “on the Red Sea.” So much for the mountain route. Ritter has argued against the view that the journey was made on the table-land through Wady Nasb, in the Evangelischer Kalender. Vid. Kurtz III., p. 61. For the rest, each way had its peculiar attractions as well as its peculiar difficulties. The mountain route allowed the host to spread itself, as there was much occasion for doing; it presented grand views, and prepared the people for a long time beforehand for its destination, Sinai. It is distinguished by “the singular and mysterious monuments of Surabit el-Khadim” (Robinson I., p. 113; Niebuhr, p. 235). By the way which runs half on the seacoast, half through the mountains, we pass through the remarkable valley of inscriptions, Mukatteb, and through the grand valley Feiran, rich in tamarisks, in whose vicinity lies the lofty Serbal, regarded by Lepsius as the mountain on which the law was given. On the inscriptions on the rocks and cliffs in the valley Mukatteb, see Tischendorf, “Aus dem h. Lande,” p. 39 sqq.; Kurtz III., p. 64. By these they are ascribed for the most part to Nabatæan emigrants and to pilgrims going to attend heathen festivals. On the “rock of inscriptions” see also Ritter’s reference to Wellsted and von Schubert, Vol. XIV., p 459. On the former city Faran in Feiran, see Tischendorf, p. 46. The camping-place in the wilderness of Sin is, as follows from the above, variously fixed; according to some it is the plain on the sea south of Taiyibeh, which, however, must then be called the wilderness of Sin up to the mountain range, if the camping-place is to be distinguished from the one on the Red Sea; according to Bunsen and others, the camping-place was in the place called el Munkhah. According to others, it is the large table-land el Debbe or Debbet en Nasb. The camping-places in the wilderness of Sin being indeterminate, so are also the two following ones at Dophkah and Alush (Numbers 33:12). Conjectures respecting the two stations beyond the wilderness of Sin are made by Knobel, p. 174, and Bunsen, p. 156. The last station before the host arrives at Sinai is Rephidim. This must have been at he foot of Horeb, for “Jehovah stood on the rock on Horeb, when He gave water to the people encamped in Rephidim (Exodus 17:6), and at the same place Moses was visited by Jethro, who came to him at the mount of God” (Knobel). This is a very important point fixed, inasmuch as it seems to result from it, that Serbal is to be looked for north of, or behind, Rephidim and Horeb, but the Mt. Sinai of the Horeb range in the south.12 The great plain at the foot of Horeb, where the camp of the Israelites is sought, is called the plain er-Raha (Knobel derives רְפִידִים, “breadth,” “surface,” “plain,” from רָפַד, to be spread).13 For a refutation of Lepsius. who finds Rephidim in Wady Feiran, and Sinai in Serbal, see Knobel, p. 174. On Serbal itself (Palm grove of Baal) vid. Kurtz III., p. 67. Between Serbal and the Horeb group lies Wady es-Sheikh. From the mouth of this wady towards Horeb the plain of Rephidim is thought to begin. Other assumptions: The defile with Moses’ seat, Mokad Seidna Musa, or the plain of Suweiri. Perhaps not very different from the last mentioned (vid. Keil II., p. 79; Strauss, p. 131). The most improbable hypothesis identifies Rephidim with Wady Feiran (Lepsius).14

1. Marah. Exodus 15:22-26

On the wilderness of Shur, vid. Keil II., p. 57. Particulars about Howara [Hawara (Robinson), Hawwara (Palmer)], Knobel, p. 160.—The bitter salt water at Marah.15 The miracle here consists in great part in the fact that Jehovah showed Moses a tree by which the water was made drinkable. That the tree itself was a natural tree is not denied by the strictest advocates of a literal interpretation. A part of the miracle is to be charged to the assurance of the prophetic act, and the trustful acceptance of it on the part of the people. Various explanations: The well was half emptied, so that pure water flowed in (Josephus); the berries of the ghurlud shrub were thrown in (Burckhardt). According to Robinson, the Beduins of the desert know no means of changing bitter salt water to sweet. “In Egypt,” as Josephus relates, “bad water was once purified by throwing in certain split sticks of wood” (Bräm). This leads to the question, how far the salt water might have been made more drinkable by Moses’ dipping into it a crisp, branchy shrub, as a sort of distilling agent. For this the numerous clumps of the ghurkud shrub which stand around the well, and whose berries Burckhardt wished to make use of, are very well suited. The distillation consists in the art of separating, in one way or another, salt, from water, especially by means of brushwood; generally, for the purpose of getting salt; but it might be done for the opposite purpose of getting water. In proportion as a bunch of brushwood should become incrusted with the salt, the water would become more free from the salt. For the rest, Robinson observes, concerning the water of the fountain Hawara, “Its taste is unpleasant, saltish, and somewhat bitter; but we could not perceive that it was very much worse than that of Ayun Musa.” It must further be considered that the Jews had the soft, agreeable Nile water in recollection. Kurtz has even found an antithesis in the fact that Moses made the undrinkable water at Marah drinkable, as he had made the sweet water of the Nile un-drinkable. We are here also to notice that the effect of Moses’ act was not permanent, but consisted only in the act itself, the same as is true of the saving effect of the sacraments in relation to faith. Here, too, is another proof that Moses had a quite peculiar sense for the life of nature, a sense which Jehovah made an organ of His Spirit. With the curing of the well Jehovah connected a fundamental law, stating on what condition He would be the Saviour of the people. Bräm (p. 114) points out, with reason, that the Israelites, in drinking salty water, which has a laxative effect, might well apprehend that the much-dreaded sicknesses of Egypt, the pestilence, the small-pox, the leprosy, and the inflammation of the eyes, caused by the heat and the fine dry sand, together with the intense reflection of light, might attack them here also in the wilderness, the atmosphere of which otherwise has a healing effect on many diseased constitutions. Therefore, in curing that well, Jehovah established the chief sanitary law for Israel. It is very definite, as if from the mouth of a very careful physician well acquainted with his case. General rule: perfect compliance with Jehovah’s direction! Explanation of it: if thou doest what is right in His eyes, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes (in reference to the means of spiritual recovery, dietetics), then I will put none of the diseases upon thee which I have put upon the Egyptians, for I am Jehovah, thy physician.—But how can it be added, “and there he proved them?” The whole history has been a test of the question, whether the people would obey the directions of Jehovah given through Moses, and particularly whether, after the singular means employed by Moses, they would drink in faith. Every test of faith is a temptation for sinful man, because in his habituation to the common order of things lies an incitement not to believe in any extraordinary remedy, such as seems to contradict nature. But out of the actual temptation which the people had now passed through, proceeded this theocratic sanitary law, as a temptation perpetually repeating itself. There is even still a temptation in the principle of the theocratic therapeutics, that absolute certainty of life lies in absolute obedience to God’s commands and directions. According to Keil, the statute here spoken of does not consist in the divine utterance recorded in Exodus 15:26, but in an allegorical significance of the fact itself: the leading of the Israelites to bitter water which the natural man cannot and will not drink, together with the making of this water sweet and wholesome, is to be a הֹק, that is, a statute and a law, showing how God at all times will lead and govern His people, and a מִשְׁפָּט, that is, an ordinance, inasmuch as Israel may continually depend on the divine help, etc. If this is so, then the text must receive an allegorical interpretation not obviously required.

Furthermore, it is a question whether, after the tremendous excitements through which the people had passed, bitter and salty water like that at Marah, might not have been more beneficial than hurtful to them. Salt water restores the digestion when it has been disturbed by excitement. Notice, moreover, the stiff-neckedness or stubbornness peculiar to the disposition of slaves just made free, as it gradually makes its appearance and increases. It was in their distress at Pi-hahiroth that they first gave utterance to their moroseness; true, they cried to Jehovah, but quarrelled with Moses. They seemed to have forgotten the miracle of deliverance wrought in the night of Egypt’s terror. Here they even murmur over water that is somewhat poorer than usual. The passage through the Red Sea and the song of praise seem to be forgotten. In the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation murmurs against Moses and Aaron, i.e., their divinely appointed leaders, from fear of impending famine, probably because the supplies brought from Egypt were running low;—the ample refreshment enjoyed at Elim seems to be forgotten. In Rephidim they murmur on account of want of water;—the miraculous supply of manna and quails seems to be forgotten. On the other hand, however, the wise augmentation of severity in the divine discipline becomes prominent. At Marah nothing is said of any rebuke uttered by Jehovah, as is done later, Numbers 11:14; Numbers 11:20. Especially noticeable is the great difference between the altercation at Marah, in the wilderness of Sin, and the mutiny at Kadesh, Numbers 20:0. The altercation there is expressly called a striving with Jehovah, Exodus 15:13

2. Elim. Exodus 15:27

A fine contrast with Marah is afforded here, both in nature, and in the guidance of the people of God, and in the history of the inner life. In Elim, Baumgarten and Kurtz find a place expressly prepared for Israel, inasmuch as by the number of its wells and palm trees it bears in itself the seal of this people: every tribe having a well for man and beast, and the tent of each one of the elders of the people (Exodus 24:9) having the shade (according to Baumgarten, the dates) of a palm-tree. Even Keil finds this too supernaturalistic; at least, he observes that, while the number of the wells corresponds to the twelve tribes of Israel, yet the number of the palm trees does not correspond to that of the elders, which, according to Exodus 24:9, was much (?) greater. On neither side is the possibility of a symbolical significance in the numbering thought of; without doubt, however, the emphasis given to the number seventy is as significant as that given to the number twelve. Keil’s allusion to the 23d Psalm is appropriate. See particulars about Elim in Knobel, p. 161; Tischendorf, p. 36.16

3. The Wilderness of Sin. Chap. Exodus 16:1-36

Notice first the aggravated character of the murmuring. Now the whole congregation murmurs. And not against Moses alone, but against Moses and Aaron, so that the murmuring is more definitely directed against the divine commission of the two men, and so against the divine act of bringing them out of Egypt, that is, against Jehovah Himself. Moreover, the expression of a longing after Egypt becomes more passionate and sensual. At first they longed resignedly for the graves of Egypt, in view of the danger of death in the desert. The next time, too, they say nothing about their hankering after the Nile water in view of the bitter water of Marah. But now the flesh-pots of Egypt and the Egyptian bread become prominent in their imagination, because they conceive themselves to be threatened with famine. Corresponding to the aggravation of the murmuring are the beginnings of rebuke. Says Knobel, “What the congregation had brought with them from Egypt had been consumed in the thirty days which had elapsed since their exodus (Exodus 16:1), although the cattle brought from Egypt (Exodus 12:38) had not yet all been slaughtered or killed by thirst (?), since after their departure from the wilderness of Sin they still possessed cattle at Rephidim, which they wished to save from thirsting to death (Exodus 17:3). For the herds had not been taken merely to be at once slaughtered; and meat could not take the place of bread. In their vexation the people wish that they had died in Egypt, while filling themselves from the flesh-pots, ‘by the hand of Jehovah,’ i.e., in the last plague inflicted by Jehovah upon Egypt, rather than gradually to starve to death here in the wilderness.” In the verb used (לוּן Niph.) is expressed a murmuring just passing over into contumacy. Yet here too Jehovah looks with compassion upon the hard situation of the people, and hence regards their weakness with indulgence.

The natural substratum of the double miracle of feeding, now announced and brought to pass, is found in the food furnished by the desert to nomadic emigrants. The manna is the miraculous representative of all vegetable food; the quails denote the choicest of animal prey furnished by the desert. The first element, in the miracle is here too the prophetic foresight and assurance of Moses. The second is the actual miraculous enhancement of natural phenomena; the third is here also the trustful acceptance of it: the miracle of faith and the religious manifestation answering to it. The ultra-supernaturalistic view, it is true, is not satisfied with this. It holds to a different manna from that provided by God in nature, and ought, in consistency, to distinguish the quails miraculously given from ordinary quails.

In this case, too, the trial of faith was to be a temptation (Exodus 16:4), to determine whether the people would appropriate the miraculous blessing to themselves in accordance with the divine precept, and so recognize Jehovah as the giver, or whether they would go out without restraint I and on their own responsibility to seize it, as if in a wild chase. Here, therefore, comes in the establishment of the fundamental law concerning the healing of life; and this is done by the ordaining of the seventh day as a day of rest, the Sabbath. As man, when given over to a merely natural life, is inclined to seek health and recuperation without regarding the inner life and the commandments of God, so he is also inclined to yield himself passionately and without restraint to the indulgence of the natural appetite for food, and, in his collection of the means of nourishment, to lose self-collection, the self-possession of an interior life. As a token of this the Sabbath here comes in at the right point, and therefore points at once from the earthly manna to the heavenly manna, (vid.John 6:0).17

The announcement of the miracle. I will rain. The first fundamental condition of the feeding: recognition of the Giver, comp. James 1:17.—From heaven. Though this in general might also be said of bread “from the earth,” yet here a contrast is intended. From the sky above, i.e., as a direct gift.—The people shall go out and gather. A perpetual harvest, but limited by divine ordinance.—A daily portion every day. Reminding one of the petition, “Give us this day,” etc. An injunction of contentment.—On the sixth day. They will find, on making their preparation of the food, that the blessing of this day is sufficient also for the seventh.—At even. A gift of flesh was to precede the gift of manna. Thereby they are to understand that Jehovah has led them out of Egypt, that He has provided for them a substitute for the flesh-pots of Egypt. But on the next morning they shall see the glory of Jehovah, i.e., they shall recognize the glorious presence of Jehovah in the fact that He has heard their murmuring against Moses and Aaron, and has applied it to Himself, in that He presents them the manna—For what are we? Thus do the holy men retire and disappear behind Jehovah.—But the people also must come to this same conviction, must repent of their murmurings, and feel that they have murmured against Jehovah, not against His servants. Thus with perfect propriety is a sanction of the sacred office interwoven into the same history into which the history of the Sabbath is interwoven. Hence it follows also that the true sacred office must authenticate itself by miraculous blessings. Both are sealed by a specially mysterious revelation. It is significant that in this connection Aaron must be the speaker (Exodus 16:9), that he must summon the people before Jehovah to humble themselves before His face on account of their murmuring. Equally significant is it, that the congregation, while Aaron speaks, sees the manifestation of Jehovah’s glory in the cloud. Especially significant, however, is it, that they see this glory rest over the wide wilderness, as they turn and look towards it. A most beautiful touch! With the wilderness itself the way through the wilderness is transfigured at this moment. If we assume (with Keil) that the summons to appear before Jehovah is equivalent to a summons to come out of the tents to the place where the cloud stood, then it must be further assumed, that the cloud suddenly changed its position, and removed to the wilderness, or else appeared in a double form. Neither thing can be admitted. Hereupon follows the last solemn announcement of the miraculous feeding, as the immediate announcement of Jehovah Himself.

The double miracle itself.—The quails came up.—This narrative has its counterpart in the narrative of the quails in Numbers 11:4 sqq., just as the chiding on account of want of water at Rephidim has its counterpart in the story of the water of strife (Meribah), distinctively so-called in Numbers 20:0. The relation of the narratives to one another is important. The murmuring of the people in the beginning of their journey through the wilderness is treated with the greatest mildness, almost as a child’s sickness; but their murmuring towards the end of the journey is regarded as a severe offence, and is severely punished; it is like the offence of a mature man, committed in view of many years’ experience of God’s miraculous help. At the water of strife even Moses himself is involved in the guilt, through his impatience; and the gift of quails in abundance is made a judgment on the people for their immoderate indulgence. Another difference corresponds to the natural features of the desert: the quails do not keep coming; but the people find themselves accompanied by the manna till they are tired of eating it.—Came up.—עָלָה. The coming on of a host of locusts or birds has the optical appearance of a coming up.—הַשְּׂלָו, “with the article of a word used collectively of a class” (Keil). LXX. ορτυγομήτρα, Vulg. coturnices. Large quails, whose name in Arabic comes from their fatness—שְׂלָו, fat. Says Knobel: “They become very fat, increase enormously, and in the spring migrate northward, in the autumn southward. Here we are to conceive of a spring migration. For the events described took place in the second month, i.e. about our May (Exodus 16:1; Numbers 10:11), and the quails came to the Israelites from the south-east, from the Arabian Gulf (Psalms 78:26 sq.; Numbers 11:31). In his journey from Sinai to Edomitis in March, Schubert (II., p. 360 sq.) saw whole clouds of migratory birds, of such extent and denseness as never before; they came from their southern winter-quarters, and were hastening toward the sea-coast (?). Probably they were quails, at least in part.” Further particulars on the abundance of quails in those regions, see in Knobel (p. 166) and Keil (II., p. 66). “They are sometimes so exhausted that they can be caught with the hand” (Keil). Some identify the fowl with the kata of the Arabs [a sort of partridge]. Of course it must be assumed that the Israelites in the wilderness were no more confined to the quails for meat than to the manna for bread.

The manna. Exodus 16:13-14. A layer of dew. A deposit or fall of dew.—A dust, i.e. an abundance of small kernels. If the ἅπαξ λεγ. מְחֻםְפָם is explained simply according to the verb חָסַף, to peal off, scale off, we get the notion of scaly or leaf-shaped kernels, but not that of coagulated kernels. But perhaps the notion of shelled kernels of grain is transferred, in accordance with appearance, to these kernels. “According to Exodus 16:31 and Numbers 11:7,” says Knobel, “the manna resembled in appearance the white coriander seeds (small, round kernels of dull white or yellowish green color) and the bdellium (resin).” Again he says: “According to the Old Testament, the dew comes from heaven (Deuteronomy 33:13; Deuteronomy 33:28; Proverbs 3:20; Zechariah 8:12; Haggai 1:10); with it the manna descended (Numbers 11:9); this seems therefore like bread rained down from heaven, and is called ‘corn of heaven,’ ‘bread of heaven’ (Psalms 78:24; Psalms 105:40).” Further on Knobel relates that the ancients also supposed, that honey rained down from the air; hence he should more exactly distinguish between the notions of atmosphere and of heaven as the dwelling-place of God, comp. John 6:31-32.—Man hu.—The explanation that מָן is to be derived from מָנַן, to apportion, and that this expression therefore means: “a present is that” (Kimchi, Luther, Gesenius, Knobel. Kurtz), does not suit the context, which would make Moses repeat what the people had said before him, to say nothing of the fact that the derivation of the notion “present” from the verb is disputed. On the contrary, the interpretation of the LXX., Keil and others, τί ἐστι τοῦτο, perfectly accords with the connection. They said: “What is that?” because they did not know what it was. “מָן for מָה belongs to the popular language, and is preserved in Chaldee and Ethiopic, so that it is indisputably to be regarded as an old Shemitic form” (Keil).

The natural manna and the miraculous manna.—Comp. the articles in the Bible Dictionaries. Keil says: “This bread of heaven was given by Jehovah to His people for the first time at a season and in a place where natural manna is still found. The natural manna is now found in the peninsula of Sinai usually in June and July, often even as early as in May, most abundantly in the vicinity of Mt. Sinai, in Wady Feiran and Es-sheikh, but also in Wady Ghurundel and Tayibeh (Seetzen, Reisen, III., p. 76, 129), and some valleys south-east of Mt. Sinai (Ritter, XIV., p. 676), where it in warm weather oozes by night out of the branches of the tarfa-tree, a sort of tamarisk, and in the form of small globules falls down upon the dry leaves, branches, and thorns which lie under the trees, and is gathered before sunrise, but melts in the heat of the sun. In years when rain is abundant, it falls more plentifully for six weeks; in many years it is entirely wanting. It has the appearance of gum, and has a sweet, honey-like taste, and when copiously used, is said to be a gentle laxative (Burckhardt, Syria, p. 600; Wellsted in Ritter, p. 674). There are thus presented some striking points of resemblance between the manna of the Bible and the tamarisk manna. Not only is the place where the Israelites first received manna the same as that in which it is obtained now, but the time of the year is the same, inasmuch as the 15th day of the second month (Exodus 16:1) falls in the middle of our May, or even still later. Also in color, form and appearance the resemblance is unmistakable, since the tamarisk manna, though of a dull yellow color, yet when it falls upon stones is described as white; the resemblance is likewise seen in the fact, that it falls in kernels upon the earth, is gathered in the morning, melts in the sun, and tastes like honey. While these points of agreement indubitably point to a connection between the natural and the Biblical manna, yet the differences which run parallel with all of the resemblances indicate no less clearly the miraculous character of the heavenly bread.” Thus Keil leaves the matter, without reconciling the two positions. The miraculous manna, he says, was enjoyed by the Israelites forty years long everywhere in the wilderness and at all seasons of the year in quantity equal to the wants of the very numerous people. Hengstenberg’s theory (Geschichle des Bileam, p. 280) that the natural manna which is formed on the leaves of the tarfa-bush by the sting of an insect (according to a discovery of Ehrenberg’s), is the natural substratum of the miraculous abundance of manna, is combated by Kurtz III., p. 34. Kurtz can conceive that the people lived at Kadesh thirty-seven years in apostasy, and that nevertheless during all this time they received regularly their portion of manna for every man. By this method of distinguishing the miraculous from the natural manna, we come to the hypothesis, that the people of Israel were fed with two kinds of manna; for it will certainly not be assumed that the natural fall of manna during all this time was supernaturally suspended, as in a similar manner Keil on Exodus 16:10 makes out two pillars of cloud. Von Raumer and Kurtz, we may remark, go as much beyond Keil, as Keil does beyond Hengstenberg. Vid. Keil, p. 72, and the note on the same page. Between the baldly literal interpretation and the embellishments of wonder-loving legends the view above described recognizes nothing higher; it does not understand the symbolic language of the theocratic religion, nor see how an understanding of this lifts us as much above the mythical as the literal interpretation. The defect of the latter consists, as to substance, in the circumstance that it identifies the conception of nature with that of the common external world raised by a Providential government only a little above a material system; as to form, it is defective in that it identifies the word and the letter, and cannot understand and appreciate the specific difference between the heathen myth and the symbolical expression of the theocratic spirit as it blends together ideas and facts. Kurtz refers to the miracle in John 2:0, without clearly apprehending that this miracle would be the merest trifle, if his notion of the miracle of the manna is the correct one, to say nothing of the evident conflict of this with John 6:32. Knobel, whose learned disquisition on the manna (p. 171 sqq.) should be consulted, thus states the distinctive features of the miraculous manna, which he regards as a legendary thing: (a) The manna, according to the Biblical account, “comes with the mist and dew from heaven (Exodus 16:14);”—so Kurtz III., p. 28. But since the mist does not come down from the throne of God, the meaning is simply that it comes from above, not from below. (b) “It falls in such immense abundance that every person of the very numerous people daily receives an omer (Exodus 16:16; Exodus 16:36).” The omer, however, is a very moderate hand measure, the tenth part of an ephah, originally hardly a definite quantity, vid. Keil II., p. 74. (c) Furthermore, “those who gather the manna collect always only just what they need, no more and no less.” This is clearly to be symbolically explained of contentedness and community. (d) “The manna falls only on the six working-days, not on the seventh day, it being the Sabbath (Exodus 16:26 sq.).” On this is to be observed that this extraordinary fact was needed only once, in order to sanction the Sabbath; the fact may also be explained by the circumstance that on the day before an extraordinary, double fall of manna took place. (e) “The manna which is kept over from one working-day to another becomes wormy and offensive (Exodus 16:20), whilst that preserved from the sixth day to the seventh keeps good (Exodus 16:24), for which reason, except on the sixth day, the manna must always be eaten on the day when it is gathered.” This too is a singular, enigmatical fact; but it is cleared up by looking at it in its rich ideal light. The supply which heathen providence heaps up breeds worms, decays, and smells offensively: not so the supply required by the Sabbath rest, sacred festivities, and divine service. (f) “It is ground in the hand-mill, crushed in the mortar, and cooked by baking or boiling, made e.g. into cakes (Exodus 16:23, Numbers 11:8). (g) It appears in general as a sort of bread, tasting like baked food (Exodus 16:31, Numbers 11:8), and is always called לֶחֶם, even דָּגָן (vid. Exodus 16:15), to say nothing of the miraculous doubling of the quantity (Exodus 16:5; Exodus 16:22).” This latter feature comes at once to nothing, if we assume that on the sixth day there was a double fall of manna.18 How far the manna, which contains no farinaceous elements, but only glucose, was mingled with farinaceous elements, in order to be used after the manner of farinaceous food, we need not inquire; at all events the Israelites could not afterwards have said, of a properly farinaceous substance, and that too of a superior kind, “Our soul loatheth this light food.” The splendor with which faith, wonder, and gratitude had invested the enjoyment of the miraculous food had vanished. According to Keil, the connection of the natural manna with the miraculous manna is not to be denied, but we are also not to conceive of a mere augmentation, but the omnipotence of God created from the natural substance a new one, “which in quality and quantity as far transcends the products of nature as the kingdom of grace and glory outshines the kingdoms of nature.” But Christ, in John 6:0, speaks of a manna in the kingdom of grace and glory, in contrast with the Mosaic manna.—According to Kurtz, who, especially in opposition to Karl Ritter, follows the opinion of Schubert, the manna was prepared by a miracle of omnipotence in the atmosphere; according to Schubert, that “tendency to the production of manna which at the right time permeated the vitalizing air, and with it all the vital forces of the land, has propagated itself still, at least in the living thickets of the manna-tamarisks.” The natural manna, then, is a descendant of the Biblical manna, but a degenerate sort, developed by the puncture made by the cochineal insect in the branches of the tarfa-shrub !

We are specially to consider further (1) the preservation of a pot, containing an omer of manna, in the sanctuary; (2) the specification of the time during which the use of manna by the Israelites lasted. As to the first point, the object was to preserve the manna as a religious memorial; hence the expression of the LLX., στάμνος χρυσοῦς, is exegetical. “The historian here evidently anticipates the later execution of the charge now given. Comp. Hengstenberg, Pentateuch II., p. 169 sqq.” (Kurtz). As to the second point, it is expressively said that Israel had no lack of the miraculous manna so long as they were going through the wilderness; but Kurtz infers from Joshua 5:11-12, that the Jews did not cease to eat manna till after the passover in Gilgal, though they had other food besides. The correct view is presented in the Commentary on Joshua, Exodus 5:12, where stress is laid on the contrast between Jehovah’s immediate preservation of the food of the wilderness, on the one hand, and the historical development that took the place of this, on the other hand, i.e., the natural order of things which belongs to civilized life; corresponding to the fact that the ark took the place of the pillar of cloud and fire, as leader of the people.

The question whether in this narrative the Sabbath is instituted for the first time (Hengstenberg), or again renewed (Liebetrut), is thus decided by Kurtz (III., p. 42): The observance of the Sabbath was instituted before the law, may even in Paradise, but “the law of the Sabbath first received a legal character through the revelation on Sinai, and lost it again through the love which is the fulfilling of the law, in the new covenant (Colossians 2:16-17).” In the fulfilment nothing indeed is lost, but every law becomes a liberating principle. It is noticeable how in the history of Moses, patriarchal customs, to which also probably the Sabbath belonged, are sanctioned by miraculous events and receive a legal character; as has already been seen in various instances (festivals, worship, sanitary laws, official rank, the Sabbath).

4. Rephidim

a. Rephidim and the place called Temptation and Strife.

Following the route of the mountain road the Israelites now came out of the region of the red sandstone into that of porphyry and granite (Knobel, p. 174). They came thither “according to their day’s journeys,” i.e., after several day’s journeys. In Numbers 33:12 the two stations Dophkah and Alush are mentioned. On the conjecture of Knobel (p. 174) concerning these places, vid. Keil II., p. 76.

According to Knobel (p. 176), “popular tradition transfers the occurrence here mentioned to Kadesh, therefore to a later time, (Numbers 20:8).” It is a universal characteristic of modern scientists that, not being free from the propensity to give predominant weight to sensible things, they are easily carried away with external resemblances, hence with allegories, and so may disregard the greatest internal differences of things. Thus as the external resemblance of man to the monkey is more impressive to the naturalist than the immense inward contrast, so Biblical criticism often becomes entangled in this modern allegorizing; even Hengstenberg pays tribute to it in identifying the Simon of Bethany with the Pharisee Simon on the Lake of Galilee, and so, the Mary of Bethany with the sinful woman who anointed Jesus.

As the sending of the quails in Numbers 11:5 sqq., forms a companion-piece to that in Exodus 16:0, so the water of strife in Numbers 20:2 sqq., to the water of strife in Rephidim. There is a resemblance even in the sounds of the names of the deserts Sin (סִין thorn?), and Zin (צִן low palm). So also the want of water and the murmurs of the people, and in consequence of this the seemingly identical designation of the place; also the giving of water out of the rock. Aside from the difference of time and place, the internal features of the two histories are also very different; even the difference in the designations is to be observed, the place Massah and Meribah (temptation and strife), and the water Meribah, over which the children of Israel strove with Jehovah, and He was sanctified (shown to be holy) among them. In the first account Jehovah is only tempted by the people; in the second, He is almost denied. In the one, Moses is said to smite the rock, away from the people, in the presence of the elders; in the other, he and Aaron are said to speak with the rock before all the people. Also the summary description of the journey in Deuteronomy 1:37, leaves no doubt that the second incident is entirely different from the first. Likewise in Deuteronomy 33:8, two different things are mentioned, and the temptation at Massah is distinguished from the strife at the water of strife, (comp. Psalms 95:8). It lies in the nature of the case that the religious mind would celebrate in a comprehensive way its recollection of the most essential thing in the two events, viz., the miraculous help of Jehovah, Deuteronomy 8:15, Isaiah 48:21, Psalms 78:15; Psalms 78:20; Psalms 105:41; Psalms 114:8, Nehemiah 9:15. Why chide ye with me?—The true significance of this chiding with him Moses at once characterizes: it is a tempting of Jehovah. This he could do after what he had affirmed in Exodus 16:8-9. After the giving of the quails and the manna, designed to confirm the divine mission of Moses and Aaron, they had now to do with Jehovah, when they quarrelled with Moses. But how far did they tempt Jehovah? Not simply “by unbelieving doubt of the gracious presence of the Lord” (Keil). They sinfully tested the question whether Jehovah would again stand by Moses, or would this time forsake him. Hence their reproach against Moses reaches the point of complaining that he is to blame for their impending ruin—a complaint which might well have been followed by stoning. Jehovah’s command corresponds with this state of things. Moses is to go confidently away from the people to the still distant Horeb, but to take with him the elders of the people as witnesses, and there to smite the rock with his rod. But Jehovah is to stand there before him on the rock. Does this mean, as Keil represents, that God humbles Himself like a servant before his master? He rather appears as Moses’ visible representative, who rent the rock and produced the miraculous spring. The rock that followed them, says Paul, was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). Thence again is seen the divine human nature of the miracle, a mysterious synthesis of natural feeling and prophecy of grace. On Tacitus’ invidious narrative of Moses’ having discovered a spring of water by means of a drove of wild asses, see Kurtz III., p. 48.

b. Rephidim and Amalek. Hostile Heathendom.

As in the account of Amalek we see typically presented the relation of the people of God to the irreconcilably hostile heathendom; so in that of Jethro their relation to heathendom as manifesting a kindly disposition towards the theocracy.
Exhaustive treatises on the Amalekites may be found in the dictionaries and commentaries, especially also in Hengstenberg (Pentateuch II., p. 247 sqq., and Kurtz III., p. 48). In the way nations used to be formed, Amalek, a grandson of Esau, might quite well have become a nation by Moses’ time (vid. Genesis 36:0), Edomite leaders forming a nucleus around which a conglomerate multitude gathered. The Edomite tendency to barbarism was perpetuated in Amalek, and so in his descendants was developed a nation of Bedouin robbers, who might have spread from Idumea to Sinai, and perhaps in their capacity as waylayers had come to give name to a mountion of the Amalekites in the tribe of Ephraim (Judges 12:15). Thus might a little people, which was kindred to Israel in the same way as Edom was, after Israel was regenerated to be the people of God, be the first to throw themselves hostilely in their way, and thus become the representative of all hostile heathendom, as opposed to the people and kingdom of God. In accordance with this was shaped the theocratic method of warfare against Amalek. and the typical law of war (see Keil II., p. 77). It is significant that the Midianites in the branch represented by Jethro should present heathendom on friendly terms with Israel, although the relationship was much less close. On the denial of the identity between the Amalekites and the above-mentioned descendants of Esau, see Kurtz III., p. 49. The descendant of Esau might, however, have received his name Amalek by transfer from the Bedouin horde which became subservient to him.

Then came Amalek. According to Deuteronomy 25:18, the attack of the Amalekites was a despicable surprise of the feeble stragglers of the Israelites. “We have to conceive the order of the events to be about as follows: The murmuring on account of want of water and the relief of that want took place immediately after the arrival at Rephidim of the main part of the host which had hurried forward, whilst the rear, whose arrival had been delayed by fatigue, was still on the way. These were attacked by the Amalekites” (Kurtz). The several features in the contest now beginning are these: Joshua with his chosen men; Moses on the mountain; the victory; the memorial of the fight; the altar Nissi and its typical significance—eternal war against Amalek!

Joshua. Jehovah is help, or salvation. Thus, according to Numbers 13:16, his former name, Hoshea (help, or salvation) was enriched; and perhaps the present war and victory occasioned the change.—Choose us out men. It was the first war which the people of God had to wage, and it was against a wild and insidious foe. Hence no troops of doubtful courage could be sent against the enemy, but a select company must fight the battle, with Joshua at the head, whose heroic spirit Moses had already discovered. Precipitancy also was avoided. They let the enemy remain secure until the following day. The host of warriors, however, had to be supported by the host of spirits in the congregation interceding and blessing, as represented by Moses in conjunction with Aaron and Hur. See my pamphlet “Vom Krieg und vom Sieg.”

The completed victory was to be immortalized by the military annals (“the book”) and by the living recollections of the host (“in the ears of Joshua”).—The altar Nissi (Jehovah my banner), however, was to serve the purpose of inaugurating the consecration of war by means of right military religious service. Accordingly, the two essential conditions of the war were, first, Jehovah’s summoning the people to the sacred work of defense, secondly, Jehovah’s own help. And also the war against Amalek is perpetuated until he is utterly destroyed only in the sense that Amalek typically represents malicious hostility to the people and kingdom of God.

“Hur comes repeatedly before us (Exodus 24:14, Exodus 31:2) as a man of high repute, and as an assistant of Moses. Josephus (Ant. III. 2, 4), following a Jewish tradition, of the correctness of which there is much probability, calls him the husband of Miriam, Moses’ sister” (Kurtz). According to Exodus 31:2, he was the grandfather of Bezaleel, the architect of the tabernacle, of the tribe of Judah, and the son of Caleb (Chron. Exodus 1:17.)

It is clear that the transaction with the rod of Moses was in this case too a symbolic and prophetic, a divine and human, assurance of victory. Therefore the rod must be held on high, and inasmuch as Moses’ hands cannot permanently hold it up, they must be supported by Aaron and Hur. In the holy war the priesthood and nobility must support the prophetical ruler. Thus is produced an immovable confidence in Jehovah Nissi, afterwards called Jehovah Sabaoth (of hosts). From His throne, through Moses’ hand, victorious power and confidence flow into the host of warriors. The book begun by Moses, in which the victory over Amalek is recorded, is important in reference to the question concerning the authority of the Bible. “When Jehovah further commands Moses to intrust to Joshua the future extirpation of Amalek, it becomes evident even now that he is destined to be Moses’ successor” (Kurtz). A conjecture about the hill where Moses stood may be found in Knobel, p. 177; Keil, II., p. 79. Subsequent wars waged against Amalek by Saul and David are narrated in 1 Samuel 15:27, 1 Samuel 15:30. Kurtz regards the elevated hand of Moses not as a symbol of prayer to Jehovah, but only of victorious confidence derived from Jehovah, III., p. 51. Keil rightly opposes the separation of the bestowment of victory from prayer, p. 79, but goes to the other extreme when he says, “The elevated rod was a sign not for the fighting Israelites, since it cannot even be made out that they, in the confusion of battle, could see it, but for Jehovah.” In all human acts of benediction prayer and the impartation of the blessing are united.

c. Jethro, and heathendom as friendly to the people of God.

Inasmuch as chap. 19 records the establishment of the theocracy, or of the typical kingdom of God, it is in the highest degree significant that the two preceding sections fix the relation and bearing of the people of God towards heathendom. Out of one principle are to flow two opposing ones, in accordance with the twofold bearing of heathendom. The heathen, represented by Amalek, who are persistently hostile, wage war against Jehovah Himself; on them destruction is eventually to be visited. The heathen, however, represented by Jethro, who are humane and cherish friendship towards the people of God, sustain towards Christianity, as it were, the relation of catechumens. The people of God enter into commercial and social intercourse with them under the impulse of religion and humanity; similarly James defines the relation of Christianity to Judaism. [There is nothing about this in his Epistle. Is the reference to Acts 15:20-21?—Tr.]

(i.) The pious heathen as guest, relative, and protector of Moses’ family, and as guardian of the spiritual treasures of Israel. Exodus 18:1-4.

It seems like too legal a conception, when Keil calls Jethro the “first-fruits among the heathen that seek the living God,” and incidentally adduces his descent from Abraham. Jethro did not become a Jew, but remained a priest in Midian, just as John the Baptist did not become, properly speaking, a Christian, but remained a Jew. It is more correct, when Keil says that Amalek and Jethro typify and represent the two-fold attitude of the heathen world towards the kingdom of God. In opposition to the special conjectures of Kurtz and Ranke, especially also the assumption that there was not time enough in Rephidim for this new incident, see Keil, II. p. 84.19

(ii.) The pious heathen as sympathetic friend of Moses and of the people of God in their victories. Exodus 18:5-9.

Notice the delicate discretion which both men observe, with all their friendship towards each other. Jethro does not rush impetuously forward; he sends word of his approach. Moses receives him with appropriate reverence, but first leads him into his tent; for whether and how he may introduce him to his people, is yet to be determined.

(iii.) Religious song and thank-offering of the pious heathen. Exodus 18:10-12.

The lyrical,20 festive recognition of the greatness of Jehovah in His mode of bringing the Egyptians to confusion through their very arrogance does not involve conversion to Judaism; neither does the burnt-offering and the thank-offering: but they do indicate ideal spiritual fellowship, aside from social intercourse.

(iv.) The religious and social fellowship of the people of God, even of Aaron the priest, and of the elders, with the pious heathen. Exodus 18:12.

A proof that the religious spirit of the Israelites was as yet free from the fanaticism of the later Judaism is seen in the fact that Aaron and the elders could take part in a sacrificial feast with Jethro. Common participation in the Passover meal would have been conditioned on circumcision.

(v.) The political wisdom and organizing talent of the pious heathen thankfully recognized and humbly used by the great prophet himself. Exodus 18:13-26.

Jethro’s advice given to Moses, like political institutions and political wisdom, is not a gift of immediate revelation, but a fruit of the sensus communis. But observe that Jethro acknowledges the prophetic vocation of Moses, and Jehovah’s revelation in regard to all great matters (questions of principle), just as Moses acknowledges the piety of his political wisdom. Moses and Jethro came nearer together than the mediæval church and ordinary liberalism. Exodus 18:17-18 contain very important utterances concerning the consequences of such a hierarchy. On the distribution of the people according to the decimal system, see Keil, II., p. 87. The decimal numbers are supposed by him to designate approximately the natural ramifications of the people [ten being assumed to represent the average size of a family]. A further development of the institution (comp. Deuteronomy 1:9) took place later, according to Numbers 11:16.

(vi.) Distinct economies on a friendly footing with each other. Exodus 18:27.

Analogous to this occurrence is the covenant of Abraham with Abimelech; the friendly relations maintained by David and Solomon with Hiram, king of Tyre, the queen of Sheba, etc.


[7][Exodus 16:15 מַן הוּא. Gesenius and Knobel derive מַן from מָנַן, to apportion; Fürst (Concordance) from the Sanscrit mani. But most scholars, following the evident implication of the narrative itself, regard מַן as the Aramaic equivalent of מַה. Even Fürst so renders it in his “Illustrirte Pracht-Bibel.” Comp. Michaelis, Supplementa ad Lexica Hebraica.—Tr.].

[8][Exodus 16:20. “And it bred worms:” וַיָרֻם תּוֹלְעִים. The Heb. word seems to be the Fut. of רוּם defectively written, and therefore to mean: “rose up into (or with) worms.” Kalisch says, that the form וַיָרֻם is used instead of וַיָוָם to show that it comes from רָמָה (רָמַם?) in the sense of putrefy. So Maurer and Ewald (Gr., § 281, d). But it is doubtful whether רָמַם (assumed as the root from which comes רִמָּה “worm”) really means putrefy at all. Fürst defines it by “crawl.” Moreover, it would be inverting the natural order of things to say, that the manna became putrid with worms; the worms are the consequence, not the cause, of the putridness. Rosenmüller, Fürst, Arnheim and others render by “swarm,” “abound,” but probably as a free rendering for “rose up.” De Wette: da wuchsen Würmer. The A. V. rendering may stand as a substantially correct reproduction of the sense.—Tr.].

[9][Exodus 17:16. We have given the most literal rendering of this difficult passage. But possibly כִּי, instead of meaning “for” (or “because”), may (as ὅτι often in Greek) be the mere mark of a quotation, to be omitted in the translation. The meaning of the expression itself is very doubtful. The A. V., following some ancient authorities, takes it as an oath; but for this there is little ground. Keil interprets: “The hand raised to the throne of Jehovah in heaven; Jehovah’s war against Amalek,” i.e. the hands of the Israelites, like those of Moses, must be raised heavenward towards Jehovah’s throne, while they wage war against Amalek. Others interpret: “Because a hand (viz. the hand of the Amalekites) is against the throne of Jah, therefore Jehovah will forever have war with Amalek.” This interpretation has the advantage over Keil’s of giving a more natural rendering to עַל, which indeed in a few cases does mean “up to,” but only when it is (as it is not here) connected with a verb which requires the preposition to be so rendered. Others (perhaps the majority of modern exegetes) would read נֵם (“banner”), instead of כֵּם (“throne”), and interpret: “The hand upon Jehovah’s banner; Jehovah has war,” etc. This conjecture is less objectionable than many attempted improvements of the text, inasmuch as the name of the altar, “Jehovah-nissi” (“Jehovah, my banner”), seems to require an explanation, and would receive it if the reading were נֵם, instead of כֵּם—Tr.].

[10]Inasmuch as Pelusium, as being a marshy city, is culled Sin, and Sinai, being a rocky mountain, is just the opposite, the question arises: What is the common feature of a marshy wilderness, and of a rocky mountain range? Possibly, the points and denticulations of the thorn-bush. An old interpretation calls Sinai itself a thorn-bush, from the thorn-bush (סְנֶה) in which Jehovah revealed Himself to Moses. The stony wilderness may have the thorn-bush in common with the marshy fens.

[11][Lange omits another way which might have been taken, viz., from el-Murkhah along the coast, and thence up Wady Feiran, instead of the more direct way through the wadies Shellal and Mukatteb into Wady Feiran. This is the course which the members of the Sinai Survey Expedition unanimously decided to be the most probable, inasmuch as the road over the pass of Nagb Buderah, between the wadies Shellal and Mukatteb, must have been constructed at a time posterior to the Exodus (E. H. Palmer: The Desert of the Exodus, p. 275). Robinson also mentions this route as at least equally probable with the other (I., p. 107). Palmer is quite decided that no other route afforded facilities for a large caravan such as that of the Israelites.—Tr.]

[12][This is not perspicuous. Inasmuch as Serbal is not mentioned in the Bible, no inference can be drawn from these circumstances respecting its location. Moreover, Serbal is not north of Sinai (Jebel Musa), but nearly east—a little north only. And why is “north” called “behind’? The “hinder” region, according to Hebrew conceptions, is in the west.—Tr.]

[13][The theory that Rephidim is to be sought in er-Raba (advocated by Knobel, Keil, Lange, and others), is certainly open to the objection that that plain is close by Mt. Sinai itself, and is in all probability the camping-place “before the mount,” mentioned in Exodus 19:1-2. Palmer (p. 112) and Robinson (I., p. 155) are emphatic in the opinion that the plain of Sebaiveh, south-east of Jebel Musa, is quite insufficient to have accommodated the Israelitish camp. Rephidim, therefore, being (according to Exodus 19:2) at least a day’s march from the place whence Moses went up to receive the law, cannot well have been er-Raha. Stanley (Sinai and Palestine, p. 40) and Palmer defend the old view that it is to be looked for at Feiran, near Mt. Serbal. Palmer argues that the distance, apparently much too great to have been traversed in a single day, is no insuperable objection, provided that by “the wilderness of Sinai” we understand the mouth of Nagb Hawa, which may have been reached in a single day by the direct route from Feiran.—Tr.]

[14][On this point see the last note. A good map of the whole peninsula is to be found in Smith and Grove’s Atlas of Ancient Geography.—Tr.]

[15]“The Arabs call the well exitium, interitus, probably in accordance with the notion that that which is bitter is deadly (2 Kings 4:40).” Knobel. The Arabs may make humorous remarks about bad wells of water, like the Germans on bad wines, in hyperbolical expressions which are not to be taken literally.

[16][Wilson, (Lands of the Bible, Vol. I., p. 174), would identify with Elim, not Wady Ghurundel, but Wady Waseit (Useit), five or six miles south of Wady Ghurundel.—Tr.].

[17]Further on follows the fundamental law of warfare in self-defence against heathen enemies, as well as the fundamental law for the unhesitating appropriation of heathen wisdom.

[18][This reply, apparently not very clear, is the same as the one made above to specification (d) of Knobel. Lange distinguishes between a miraculous fall and an extraordinary fall, and supposes besides that the extraordinary (double) fall may have been limited to one occasion.—Tr.]

[19][Kurtz’s conjecture is that what led Jethro to visit Moses was the report of the victory of the Israelites over Amalek; to which the reply is that nothing is said of this, but, on the contrary, that it was the report of the deliverance from Egypt that occasioned the visit. Ranke’s conjecture is that Jethro’s visit took place after the giving of the law, on the ground that the stay at Rephidim was too short; to which it is replied that, if (as is assumed from Exodus 16:1 and Exodus 19:1) half a month intervened between the arrival at the wilderness of Sin and the arrival at the wilderness of Sinai, ample time is afforded for all that is recorded in Exodus 18:0.—Tr.]

[20][Lange regards Exodus 18:10-11 as poetic in form.—Tr.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 17". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/exodus-17.html. 1857-84.
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