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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 17

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



The children of Israel come to Rephidim; there is no water, therefore murmur against Moses, Exodus 17:1-3.

Moses crieth to the Lord, Exodus 17:4.

The Lord sendeth Moses to Horeb; he smiteth the rock, and water cometh out, Exodus 17:5,Exodus 17:6.

He names that place, and the reason of it, Exodus 17:7.

Amalek warreth against the Israelites, Exodus 17:8.

Moses appointeth Joshua to fight with him, Exodus 17:9.

Joshua’s success when Moses held up his hand; when let down, Amalek prevailed, Exodus 17:11-13.

Moses buildeth an altar, and nameth it, Exodus 17:15.

The reason of it, Exodus 17:16.

Verse 1

After their journeys; by divers stations, recorded Numbers 33:12,Numbers 33:13, &c., but here omitted, because there was nothing extraordinary happened in them.

According to the commandment of the Lord, expressed either by word of mouth, or by the motion or rest of the cloudy pillar, Exodus 13:21.

Verse 2

By distrusting God’s power, and providence, and faithfulness, and goodness, upon such a small occasion, by refusing to submit to God’s will, and to wait upon him by humble and fervent prayers for relief, and instead thereof quarrelling with me, as if it were my fault, and murmuring against God under my name.

Verse 5

Take with thee of the elders of Israel, that they may be eye-witnesses of this glorious work, and may report it to the people.

The river; either the Red Sea, for an arm of the sea is sometimes called a river; or the river Nilus.

Verse 6

I will stand before thee there, in my cloudy pillar, which shall stand over that place.

Horeb and Sinai are sometimes spoken of as the same place, and sometimes as two differing places, as here, compared with Exodus 19:2. The learned write, that this was one long mountain, whereof there were two eminent parts or tops, the one at a considerable distance from the other, and Horeb was the first part of it, and near Rephidim; and Sinai the more remote, to which they came afterwards.

Moses did so, i.e. smote the rock, and the waters flowed out plentifully and continually, making a river, which God caused to follow them to their several stations. See 1 Corinthians 10:4.

Verse 7

viz. To protect and provide for us according to his word given to us. Will God be as good as his word, or will he not? For it is to us very doubtful.

Verse 8

Then, i.e. when they were upon their march from Rephidim to Horeb, Deuteronomy 25:17,Deuteronomy 25:18.

The ground of the quarrel was the prosecution of the old hatred of Esau a against Jacob, and-the revenging of themselves and their father upon the posterity of Jacob; for which they thought this the fittest season, they being now great and potent people, Numbers 24:20, and Israel now weak, and unarmed, and dispirited with long servitude.

Verse 9

Go out; out of the camp to meet the enemy.

I will stand on the top of the hill, both to observe thy carriage, and success or defeat, that I may govern myself accordingly, and that I may in that retirement pour out my soul unto the Lord of hosts, that he may give thee victory.

With the rod of God; by which having done so great exploits formerly, doubt not of the same Divine assistance to accompany it, and make thee victorious.

Verse 10

Hur; a person of eminency both for wisdom and experience, and for place and authority, supposed to be the husband of Miriam. See Exodus 24:14.

Verse 11

Moses held up his hand, with the rod of God in it. This gesture, though fervent prayer was doubtless joined with it, seems not to have been the gesture of praying, which is the lifting up of both hands, but of an ensign-bearer, or of one ready to smite his enemies. Howsoever this was only a sign whereby Moses strengthened his faith, and quickened his prayers, and heightened the courage of the soldiers below, and protested that he expected victory not from the skill and prowess of his army, but from the assistance of God.

When he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed; God so dispensing his favour, that the honour of the day and victory might be wholly ascribed to the rod and power of God, not to Israel.

Verse 12

Not that both hands were erected and joined together, which was not a fit posture for one holding a rod in his hand; but that Moses shifted the rod out of one hand into the other when the former was weary, and that

Aaron and Hur did each of them with both hands hold up that hand which was next to them, successively, that they also might relieve one the other.

Verse 13


1. The king of the Amalekites, and his people. Or,

2. The people of the Amalekites, and those other people who were leagued with them.

Verse 14

In a book; even in this book, which Moses was to write by God’s inspiration and appointment. See Exodus 34:27; Deuteronomy 31:9,Deuteronomy 31:22. In the ears of Joshua, thy successor, and the captain of my people, that he and all succeeding governors may watch all occasions to execute this command.

I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek, i.e. I will utterly destroy them; for a person or people dead or destroyed are soon forgotten, Psalms 31:12, and the grave is called the land of forgetfulness, Psalms 88:12. Or thus, Though they are now a numerous and flourishing people, and in great repute, I will make them few and inglorious, for such are little minded or remembered; for this is not to be understood absolutely of a speedy and utter extinction of them, for he supposeth their being from generation to generation, Exodus 17:16, but comparatively. From under heaven; from the face of the whole earth.

Verse 15

Moses built an altar, both for the offering of sacrifices of praise unto God, and to be a monument of this victory, and of the author of it. The name of it, viz. of the altar, which he so calls metonymically, because it was the sign and monument of Jehovah-nissi; even as circumcision is called God’s covenant, Genesis 17:13, and the lamb, the passover, Exodus 12:11, and the cup, the new testament, Luke 22:20, because they were the signs of them. Or the word altar is to be repeated out of the former member, which is frequent, and the place to be is read thus,

he called the name of it the altar of

Jehovah-nissi. Or the name given to it signifies only the inscription engraven upon it, which was not the single name of God, but an entire sentence, the lord my banner. By which words he takes all the praise of the victory from the Israelites, and gives it to God.

Verse 16

For, or, and, as the Hebrew particle properly signifies; for these words are not a reason of the passage next preceding, but an additional sentence.

Because, or, surely, (as that particle is oft used, as Job 8:6; Job 20:20; Psalms 10:14; Psalms 44:22, &c.) Heb. the hand upon the throne of the Lord, for the hand of the Lord upon his throne, which is perfectly the same thing, only the order of the words is a little varied after the manner of the Hebrew tongue. These words then are a paraphrastical description of a solemn oath, by the usual posture of it, viz. the lifting up the hand, which is usually put for swearing, and in that sense is ascribed both to men, as Genesis 14:22, and to God, as Deuteronomy 32:40. And this hand of God lifted up upon his throne, where his majesty doth peculiarly and gloriously dwell, signifies that God swears by himself, as is said Hebrews 6:13. And thus the Chaldee and Arabic interpreters understand it. Others render the place thus, Because the hand (or, his hand, the pronoun being here understood, as it frequently is in the Hebrew language, of which several instances have been given before, i.e. the hand of Amalek, which may easily be understood out of the following clause, in which Amalek is named) was against the throne of the Lord, i.e. was stretched out against God himself; for so God esteems it, because it was done against that people among whom God had placed his throne, or seat, or dwelling, according to his covenant made with them; which also was well known to the Amalekites by the relation of their progenitors, who in all probability had acquainted them with their own rights, and with Jacob’s arts, whereby he robbed Esau, the father of Amalek, Genesis 36:15,Genesis 36:16, of his birthright and blessing, and consequently of the land of Canaan, to which now God was bringing them, that he might plant them there, and set up his throne among them. And the Amalekites doubtless heard, as the other neighbours also did, in what a miraculous manner God had brought them out of Egypt, and over the Red Sea. And they knew better than others, by tradition from their parents, that God had promised Canaan to them, and now they saw that he was conducting them thither, and therefore to prevent this they now commence a war against them, and against God or his throne, whose presence with and conduct over them was most manifest; which was a great aggravation of their sin. And this latter translation and interpretation seems most probable,

1. Because it exactly agrees with the Hebrew words, and the order in which they are placed.

2. It makes the coherence more clear than our translation doth, the former part of the verse containing a reason of the latter, to wit, of that severe curse and everlasting war denounced against Amalek, because they attempted by force to overthrow God’s throne and people, and that with so many aggravating circumstances; of which see Deuteronomy 25:17,Deuteronomy 25:18.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Exodus 17". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/exodus-17.html. 1685.
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