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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Exodus

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FRAMEWORKS: Exodus 17: Testing & Conflict


v.1-7 Water From the Rock (THIRD Test)

v.8-16 Conflict: The Amalekites Attack and are Defeated


v.1-7 Water From the Rock (THIRD Test)


v.1 More desert, more need of water

v.1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.

v.2,3 The people complain & grumble

v.2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”

v.3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

v.4 Moses cries to the Lord

v.4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord , “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

v.5-7 The Lord instructs Moses

v.5 The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.

v.6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb . Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.

v.7 And he called the place Massah [means testing] and Meribah [means quarreling] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”


[Notes: Moses in this passage says Israel are putting God to the test, rather like saying, ‘If you are really God, wouldn't you be able to provide for us without all this stress?' [echoes of Mt 4:3 there?] Instead it was the other way round, God was testing them to see if they had yet come to the point of completely trusting Him. Note the order of events:

- Israel in the desert find no water [v.1] so they grumbled [v.2,3],

- Moses cries out to the Lord for help [v.4]

- the Lord instructs him, take his staff, and the elders, [v.5] and strike the rock at Horeb, and water will come forth [v.6]. He did and it did.

For the location, Horeb (as in 3:1,2) is taken to be Mount Sinai but can mean not only the peak but also the range. The rock presumably is in the foothills.]



v.8-16 Conflict: The Amalekites Attack and are Defeated


v.8 An Unprovoked Attack

v.8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim .

v.9 Moses lays down the strategy

v.9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”

v.10,11 Joshua fights, Moses prays

v.10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.

v.11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.

v.12,13 Aaron & Hur support & Joshua triumphs

v.12 When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.

v.13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

v.14 Instruction from the Lord

v.14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”

v.15,16 Moses commemorates the battle with an altar

v.15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner.

v.16 He said, “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”


[Notes: Israel are still at Rephidim and while there, they were attacked – their first battle and first encounter with the Amalekites.

The Enemy: the Amalekites were tribal descendants of Esau who may have felt proprietorial about this land. For this attack they receive God's censure [v.14], although the fulfilment of that was long-term: God later used them to repulse the disobedient Israel trying to enter the Land (Num 14), they were used to discipline Israel's disobedience again in the land (Jud 3:13 & 6:3) but were defeated by Gideon (Jud 6:33, 7:12 etc.) but still obviously held control of a part of the Land (Jud 12:15). Later Samuel was to command Saul to kill them (see 1 Sam 15) but he clearly failed to do that for David was still fighting them later (1 Sam 27:8, 30:1) and ironically it was an Amalekite who claimed he had eventually killed Saul (2 Sam 1 esp. v.8). It wasn't until much later that the tribe of Simeon finally dealt with them (1 Chron 4:43).

The Strategy: we see here Moses' remembering the authority of the staff [perhaps remembering its function in Egypt, perhaps in the water from the rock incident.] In the account we see two elements of ‘spiritual warfare':

i] the prayer element, involving Moses aided by Aaron & Hur, and

ii] the physical fighting element, led by Joshua.

As long as prayer was maintained, Israel prevailed. A significant lesson.]



Continue to Chapter 18