Chapter 17

Water from the Rock

    • The Israelites left the Wilderness of Sin and traveled around according to where the Lord led them. They made camp at Rephidim, but there was no water to drink and the people again complained to Moses.

      • Clarke notes, “In Numbers 33:12-14 it is said, that when the Israelites came from Sin they encamped in Dophkah, and next in Alush, after which they came to Rephidim. Here, therefore, two stations are omitted, probably because nothing of moment took place at either.”

      • Guzik makes this important point in his commentary, “Israel did exactly what God commanded, following the pillar of cloud and fire; yet there was no water to drink. They were in the will of God but in a difficult time. It is possible to be completely in the will of God yet also in a season of great problems.”

    • Moses asked, “Why are you complaining about me and testing the Lord?”

    • But the thirsty Israelites still complained to Moses saying, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our livestock with thirst?”

      • Guzik does an excellent job of explaining the situation, “The people of Israel had a real problem – there was no water for the people to drink. This was not an imaginary problem and the people were right to be concerned. Yet when the people then contended with Moses, they did not respond with spiritual thinking or actions…The people focused their complaint against Moses, but Moses understood that their problem was with the Lord…When we have a problem it is much easier to blame someone than to think through the problem carefully and spiritually. In this situation Israel could have thought, ‘We are in a desert; it’s not surprising there isn’t much water here. We need to look to God to meet this need.’ Instead they blamed Moses and did nothing to help the problem.”

    • Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? They are going to stone me!”

      • Kaiser writes, “One of Moses’ most characteristic and praiseworthy traits was that he took his difficulties to the Lord.”

    • The Lord told Moses, “Take your rod and some of the elders of Israel with you to the rock at Horeb (Mt. Sinai). I will stand in front of you, and when you hit the rock with your staff, water will come out for the people to drink.”

      • Trapp writes, “If God had not stood upon the rock, in vain had Moses struck it. Means must be used, but God only depended upon for success.”

    • Moses did this and he named the place Massah (which means testing) and Meribah (which means arguing) because they tested the Lord asking whether he was really there with them or not.

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      • “Under the stress of an immediate lack, these people doubted the one fact of which they had overwhelming evidence.” (Morgan)

The Amalekites Attack

    • While the Israelites were still at Rephidim, the Amalekite army attacked them.

      • The NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Amalek was Esau’s grandson (Genesis 36:11-12). His descendants were nomadic, though loosly based in the land of Edom. They seemed to have supported themselves by raiding more settled peoples.”

      • Kaiser adds this insight, “There is every possibility that they had known about the promise of the Land of Canaan that had been given to Esau’s twin brother, Jacob; therefore, they should not have felt any threat to their interests in the Negev had this promise been remembered and taken seriously.”

    • Moses told Joshua to take some men and go fight the Amalekites. “Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill holding God’s staff.”

      • “Joshua was Moses’ most trusted assistant (33:11) who would eventually become his successor (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

      • An interesting fact to note, the Hebrew name “Joshua” is the equivalent of the Greek name “Jesus.” Clarke notes the parallel between Joshua and Jesus in his commentary, “Both in the Septuagint and Greek Testament he is called Jesus: the name signifies Saviour; and he is allowed to have been a very expressive type of our blessed Lord. He fought with and conquered the enemies of his people, brought them into the promised land, and divided it to them by lot. The parallel between him and the Saviour of the world is too evident to require pointing out.”

    • Joshua obeyed and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held his hands in the air, the Israelites prevailed, but when he lowered his hands, the Amalekites took the advantage When Moses got tired, Aaron and Hur brought a stone for him to sit down on and they each helped to hold his hands in the air until sunset.

      • “Prayer is sometimes sweet and easy; other times it is hard work. This is why Paul described the ministry of Epaphras as always laboring fervently for you in prayers (Colossians 4:12), and why Paul wrote we must continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2).” (Guzik)

      • “Praying Moses did not eliminate what Joshua had to do. The battle was won with prayer, but also through normal instruments – the work of the army, led by Joshua.” (Guzik)

      • “Prayer is a downright mockery if it does not lead us into the practical use of means likely to promote the ends for which we pray.” (Spurgeon)

      • Who was Hur?

        • Josephus documents in his Antiquities, that according to Jewish tradition, Hur was Miriam’s husband. So, Moses’ brother-in-law.

    • Joshua and the Israelites defeated the Amalekites and the Lord told Moses to write this down on a scroll and read it to Joshua, “I will completely erase the memory of the Amalekites from under heaven.”

      • Why does God pledge to deal with the Amalekites so harshly?

        • Guzik writes, “The method of attack used by Amalek was despicable. Deuteronomy 25:17-18 says: Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God.

      • Clarke says, “In the most treacherous and dastardly manner; for they came at the rear of the camp…The baggage, no doubt, was the object of their avarice; but finding the women, children, aged and infirm persons, behind with the baggage, they smote them and took away their spoils.”

      • Moses built an altar and named it Yahweh-Nissi, which means “the Lord is my banner.” He said, “They have raised their fists against the Lord’s throne, so He will be at war with them throughout their generations.”