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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 17

Simeon's Horae HomileticaeHorae Homileticae

Verses 5-6


Exodus 17:5-6. 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, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, 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 the people may drink. And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

THE whole of man’s pilgrimage on earth is but a succession of trials and deliverances. And God so ordains it to be, because it is for our greatest good: “Trials work patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” The frequent recurrence of difficulties to the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness may serve as a glass wherein to view the state of the Church in this world, and, more or less, of all the individuals that are in the world: and the interpositions of God on their behalf shew, what is the real, though less visible, course of his providence at this time. Scarcely had the waters at Marah been sweetened for their use, and manna been given them for their support, than they again experienced a most afflictive pressure (a want of water for themselves and their cattle); and again a miraculous deliverance, at Massah or Meribah.

We propose to notice in our present discourse,


The circumstances of this miracle—

And here there are two things to which we would call your attention:


The time—

[The Israelites had renewed their murmurs against God; and were so incensed at a renewal of their difficulties, that they were ready to stone Moses for having brought them into their present trying situation. As for their Divine Benefactor, they even questioned whether he were with them in the camp or not; assured that, if he was, he was unmindful of their necessities, or unable to relieve them.
Yet at the very moment that they were so offending the Divine Majesty, did God interpose for their relief. What an exalted idea does this convey to us of the patience and long-suffering of God! And, if we were to mark the seasons of God’s interpositions in our behalf, we should find abundant matter for admiration and gratitude — — —]


The manner—

[This singularly displays the grace of God. God makes Moses, whom they were ready to kill as their enemy, the instrument of their deliverance. He orders the rod, which had wrought such wonders in Egypt and at the Bed Sea, to be used, not for their destruction (as might have been expected), but for the supplying of their necessities. He himself, whose very existence they had questioned, went to preside visibly on the occasion; and the elders, who had so unreasonably doubted his power and love, were suffered to be eye-witnesses of the miracle wrought for their preservation.
How remarkably does this illustrate the precept which God has given us, “not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good!” And what convincing evidence does it afford us, that, “where sin has abounded, his grace shall much more abound!”— — —]
But though these circumstances are instructive, the chief thing to he noticed in the miracle, is,


The hidden mystery contained in it—

We can have no doubt but that this part of sacred history was intended to typify and prefigure Christ [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:4.], as a source of all spiritual blessings to the world; as a spring,


Divinely appointed—

[No one would have conceived the idea of looking for water in that rock, any more than in any other spot throughout the plain whereon it stood: nor would it have entered into the mind of man to bring water out of it by the stroke of a rod or cane. But God appointed both the rock and the rod to be means and instruments of communication between himself and his distressed people. And who would ever have thought that God’s only dear Son should be given unto us; and that blessings should be made to flow down to us through the wounds inflicted on him both by God and man? Yet “was all this done according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” “He was smitten, stricken of God. and afflicted,” that our souls might be redeemed from death: “He was wounded for our transgressions, that by his stripes we might be healed.” Yes, it is a faithful saying, that “the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” “It pleased the Father that in Christ should all fulness dwell;” and that “we should receive out of his fulness” “every thing that pertaineth to life and godliness.”]



[“The water gushed out of the stricken rock, and flowed like a river; so that it abundantly supplied the whole camp of Israel, (both men and beasts,) following them in all their journeyings for the space of eight and thirty years. And who ever lacked, that has once drunk of the water that Christ gives to his Church and people? Never did any of them, never shall any, thirst again: for “the water that Christ gives them shall be in them a well of water springing up unto everlasting life [Note: John 4:13-14.] ”— — —]


Universally accessible—

[The water from the rock flowed to every quarter of the camp; and the people instantly dug pools for its reception, so that men and cattle were supplied without the least difficulty [Note: Numbers 21:16-18.]. And how free is our access to Christ; free to all persons, and at all times! Hear his own invitation, and the invitation of his Spirit, of his Church, and of all that know the value of those living waters [Note: Revelation 21:6-7.] — — —As the vilest murmurers in the camp drank of that stream, so may even the most flagrant rebels in the universe drink of this [Note: Psalms 68:18.] — — — “Christ has within him the residue of the Spirit [Note: Malachi 2:15.] ;” and “pours out that Spirit abundantly [Note: Titus 3:6.] ” upon all who call upon him; upon all, without price [Note: Isaiah 55:1.], without parsimony [Note: John 7:37-39.], and without upbraiding [Note: James 1:5.] — — —]

WE may learn from hence—

The experience of real penitents—

[Their thirst after the Saviour is urgent and insatiable [Note: Matthew 5:6.] — — — What a blessed sight would it be to behold a whole congregation as eager in their desires after Christ as the Israelites were after a supply of water for their bodies! — — — The Lord hasten the season when this thirst shall prevail throughout all the world!]


The mercy reserved for them—

[They may feel many painful sensations, and be greatly disquieted for a season: but the promise which God has given them shall surely be realized by all [Note: Isaiah 41:17-18; Isaiah 43:20.]. — — —]

Verse 11


Exodus 17:11. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

IT pleases God, in general, to effect his purposes by certain means; yet the very means he uses are, for the most part, such as tend only to illustrate his power, and to lead our minds up to him as the first great Cause of all. But on no occasion has the truth of this observation more manifestly appeared, than in the history now before us, wherein we are informed, that the success of the Israelites in an engagement with Amalek was made to depend, not on the bravery of the soldiers, or the skill of their commander, but on the holding up of the hands of Moses at a distance from the field of battle.
In discoursing on this remarkable event, we shall consider it as,


A typical history— The whole history of the Israelites, from their deliverance out of Egypt to their establishment in the land of Canaan, was altogether of a typical nature: but we shall limit our observations to the circumstances now under our consideration.

We may notice then a typical reference,


In the conflicts which the Israelites maintained—

[The Israelites were scarcely come out of Egypt, before they were attacked by the Amalekites, though no provocation had been given on their part. This represented the opposition which the world and Satan make to the true Israelites, as soon as ever they separate themselves from the ungodly, and set their faces towards the promised land. Though they do nothing to merit persecution, yea, though, in every point of view, they are become more excellent and praiseworthy, and desire nothing but to prosecute their journey peaceably through this dreary wilderness, yet are they hated, reviled, persecuted; nor can they obtain the inheritance prepared for them, without arming themselves for the combat, and “warring a good warfare.”]


In the commander under whom they fought—

[Joshua was appointed to set the army in array, and lead them out to battle. Now the very name of Joshua is precisely the same with that of Jesus [Note: Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8.], who is “given to us of God to be our leader and commander [Note: Isaiah 55:4.].” He is “the Captain of our salvation,” under whom we are enlisted, and under whose banners we fight. Whether we bear more or less the brunt of the battle, it is He who appoints us our respective stations; and it is to Him that we must look for direction and support. And while, “as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we endure hardness” at his command, we may depend on him for all necessary provision, and for an abundant share of the spoils of victory.]


In the means by which they obtained the victory—

[The rod of Moses was that with which he had wrought his wonders in Egypt; and it was a special emblem of the divine power. This he was to hold up in the sight of Israel on an adjacent hill: and, while he held it up, they prospered; but when, through infirmity, he let it down, their enemies prevailed against them. Now it is thus that we are to obtain the victory against our enemies: we must have our eyes fixed on the power of God exerted in our behalf: as long as we have clear views of this, we shall vanquish every adversary; but, if at any time this cease to be exalted in our eyes, we shall surely faint and fail.
The lifting up of the hands of Moses may further denote the efficacy of prayer. And it is certain that our success will fluctuate, according as our applications at the throne of grace are continued or relaxed.]
But this history may further be considered as affording us,


An instructive lesson—

It may well teach us,


That, whatever mercies we have received, we must still expect conflicts—

[The Israelites had been brought through the Red Sea, and fed both with manna from heaven, and water from the solid rock; and they might have fondly dreamed of nothing but security and peace: but they were rather called to scenes of difficulty and danger. Thus it is with us, when we commit ourselves to the guidance of the pillar and the cloud. We may think perhaps that, because we are reconciled to God, and made heirs of his kingdom, we are henceforth to enjoy uninterrupted tranquillity: but we shall soon find, that we have to “wrestle; and that too, not only with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers.” We may indeed be screened for a season by the good providence of God; as the Israelites were kept from going through the territory of the Philistines, lest they should be discouraged by the opposition that they would have met with from that warlike people [Note: Exodus 13:17.]: but we are men of war by our very profession; and, sooner or later, our courage and fidelity will be put to the test. It is through much tribulation that we must enter into the kingdom; and we must “fight the good fight of faith, before we can receive the crown of righteousness from the hands of our righteous Judge.”]


That we must not despond, though our success for a time should appear doubtful—

[The Israelites in this very first encounter were at times repulsed; and victory was long held in suspense, before it was finally declared in their favour. Thus we must expect, that cur enemies, though frequently beaten, will return to the charge, and often threaten our very destruction. But, if wounded, we must apply to Christ for healing; if faint, we must beg him to renew our strength; if driven before our enemies, we must rally, and resume the contest, ever remembering under whom we fight, and how much depends upon a victorious issue. We must also, like Aaron and Hur, assist each other; holding up each other’s hands, and animating each other’s hearts; nor ever terminate our exertions, till God shall scatter all our enemies, and bruise under our feet the vanquished foe.]


That a believing use of the appointed means, how inadequate soever, or even useless, they may appear, will be crowned with success at last—

[Nothing can be conceived less connected with the event, than the means which were used by Moses; yet were they necessary: for if, when through infirmity the use of them was intermitted, the scale of victory was instantly turned in favour of the Amalekites, much more, if he had disregarded them altogether, would the most fatal effects have followed: but the persevering use of them procured at last the desired success. Thus the attending of public ordinances, and waiting upon God in secret, may seem but ill calculated to produce such great effects as are said to depend upon them: but, as the occasional and unallowed neglect of these duties is attended with many painful consequences, so a wilful contempt of them would infallibly terminate in our destruction. On the other hand, a diligent and continued attention to them will and must prevail: our prayer shall go up with acceptance before God, and the word we hear shall prove “the power of God to the salvation of our souls.” Only let us “lift up holy hands without doubting,” until the evening of life, and we shall be “more than conquerors through him that loved us.”]


Those who know nothing of spiritual conflicts—

[If they, who are at ease in Zion, and experience no spiritual conflicts, were real Christians, there would be no resemblance at all between them and the Israelites, by whom they were typically represented; and all that is spoken about the Christian warfare, the armour provided for us, and the General under whom we fight, would be altogether without a meaning. But in vain shall the true Israelites expect peace, as long as there are any Amalekites in the world. Our Lord “came not to send peace on earth, but a sword:” and though he may, in some instances, cause our enemies to be at peace with us, yet will they never be so much at peace, but that we shall have many to contend with: or, if men should cease from troubling us, we shall have enough, both from Satan and our own lusts, to call forth all our exertions, and to make us fervent in imploring help from God. Let those, then, who feel not these conflicts, inquire whether their peace be not the consequence of a captivity to their enemies, instead of a victory over them: nor let them ever expect to reign with Christ, unless they first enlist under his banners, and fight after his example.]


Those who are ready to faint by reason of their conflicts—

[Your insufficiency to withstand your enemies often discourages and disquiets you: but the Israelites prevailed, notwithstanding their inexperience in the art of war, because they had God on their side. Fear not then ye, “whose hands are weak, whose knees are feeble, and whose hearts are faint; for, behold, your God shall come and save you [Note: Isaiah 35:3-4.].” Behold, his power is now exalted in your sight: look at it; remember what it has effected in the days of old: and know, that it shall be exerted in your behalf, if you do but trust in it. Nor forget, what a Captain you are fighting under: the world, which molests you, has been overcome by him; and “the prince of this world has been judged” by him. Fight on then a little longer, assured that you shall ere long put your feet upon the necks of your enemies, and enjoy the fruits of victory for ever and ever.]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Exodus 17". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/exodus-17.html. 1832.
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