Exodus 17

Water From the Rock

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.
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?”
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?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
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.
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.
7 And he called the place Massah[a] and Meribah[b] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

The Amalekites Defeated

8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim.
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.”
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.
11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.
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.
13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
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.”
15 Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner.
16 He said, “Because hands were lifted up against[c] the throne of the LORD,[d] the LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

Exodus 17 Commentary

Chapter 17

The Israelites murmur for water at Rephidim, God sendeth it out of the rock. (1-7) Amalek overcome, The prayers of Moses. (8-16)

Verses 1-7 The children of Israel journeyed according to the commandment of the Lord, led by the pillar of cloud and fire, yet they came to a place where there was no water for them to drink. We may be in the way of duty, yet may meet with troubles, which Providence brings us into, for the trial of our faith, and that God may be glorified in our relief. They began to question whether God was with them or not. This is called their "tempting God," which signifies distrust of him after they had received such proofs of his power and goodness. Moses mildly answered them. It is folly to answer passion with passion; that makes bad worse. God graciously appeared to help them. How wonderful the patience and forbearance of God toward provoking sinners! That he might show his power as well as his pity, and make it a miracle of mercy, he gave them water out of a rock. God can open fountains for us where we least expect them. Those who, in this wilderness, keep to God's way, may trust him to provide for them. Also, let this direct us to depend on Christ's grace. The ( 1 Corinthians. 10:4 ) him. While the curse of God might justly have been executed upon our guilty souls, behold the Son of God is smitten for us. Let us ask and receive. There was a constant, abundant supply of this water. Numerous as believers are, the supply of the Spirit of Christ is enough for all. The water flowed from the rock in streams to refresh the wilderness, and attended them on their way towards Canaan; and this water flows from Christ, through the ordinances, in the barren wilderness of this world, to refresh our souls, until we come to glory. A new name was given to the place, in remembrance, not of the mercy of their supply, but of the sin of their murmuring: "Massah," Temptation, because they tempted God; "Meribah," Strife, because they chid with Moses. Sin leaves a blot upon the name.

Verses 8-16 Israel engaged with Amalek in their own necessary defence. God makes his people able, and calls them to various services for the good of his church. Joshua fights, Moses prays, both minister to Israel. The rod was held up, as the banner to encourage the soldiers. Also to God, by way of appeal to him. Moses was tired. The strongest arm will fail with being long held out; it is God only whose hand is stretched out still. We do not find that Joshua's hands were heavy in fighting, but Moses' hands were heavy in praying; the more spiritual any service is, the more apt we are to fail and flag in it. To convince Israel that the hand of Moses, whom they had been chiding, did more for their safety than their own hands, his rod than their sword, the success rises and falls as Moses lifts up or lets down his hands. The church's cause is more or less successful, as her friends are more or less strong in faith, and fervent in prayer. Moses, the man of God, is glad of help. We should not be shy, either of asking help from others, or of giving help to others. The hands of Moses being thus stayed, were steady till the going down of the sun. It was great encouragement to the people to see Joshua before them in the field of battle, and Moses above them on the hill. Christ is both to us; our Joshua, the Captain of our salvation, who fights our battles, and our Moses, who ever lives, making intercession above, that our faith fail not. Weapons formed against God's Israel cannot prosper long, and shall be broken at last. Moses must write what had been done, what Amalek had done against Israel; write their bitter hatred; write their cruel attempts; let them never be forgotten, nor what God had done for Israel in saving them from Amalek. Write what should be done; that in process of time Amalek should be totally ruined and rooted out. Amalek's destruction was typical of the destruction of all the enemies of Christ and his kingdom.

Cross References 32

  • 1. S Exodus 16:1
  • 2. ver 8; Exodus 19:2; Numbers 33:15
  • 3. Numbers 20:5; Numbers 21:5; Numbers 33:14
  • 4. Numbers 20:2; Numbers 33:14; Psalms 107:5
  • 5. S Exodus 14:12
  • 6. Deuteronomy 6:16; Psalms 78:18,41; Psalms 106:14; Matthew 4:7; 1 Corinthians 10:9
  • 7. S Exodus 15:22
  • 8. S Exodus 15:24; Exodus 16:2-3
  • 9. S Exodus 14:11
  • 10. Numbers 14:10; 1 Samuel 30:6; S John 8:59
  • 11. S Exodus 4:2; S Exodus 10:12-13
  • 12. Exodus 7:20
  • 13. S Exodus 3:1
  • 14. Numbers 20:8
  • 15. Numbers 20:11; Deuteronomy 8:15; Judges 15:19; 2 Kings 3:20; Nehemiah 9:15; Psalms 74:15; Psalms 78:15-16; Psalms 105:41; Psalms 107:35; Psalms 114:8; Isaiah 30:25; Isaiah 35:6; Isaiah 43:19; Isaiah 48:21; 1 Corinthians 10:4
  • 16. Deuteronomy 6:16; Deuteronomy 9:22; Deuteronomy 33:8; Psalms 95:8
  • 17. Numbers 20:13,24; Numbers 27:14; Psalms 81:7; Psalms 106:32
  • 18. S Genesis 36:12; Deuteronomy 25:17-19
  • 19. S ver 1
  • 20. Exodus 24:13; Exodus 32:17; Exodus 33:11; Numbers 11:28; Numbers 27:22; Deuteronomy 1:38; Joshua 1:1; Acts 7:45
  • 21. S Exodus 4:17
  • 22. ver 10-12; Exodus 24:14; Exodus 31:2
  • 23. James 5:16
  • 24. Joshua 8:26
  • 25. ver 8
  • 26. Exodus 24:4; Exodus 34:27; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 31:9; Job 19:23; Isaiah 30:8; Jeremiah 36:2; Jeremiah 45:1; Jeremiah 51:60
  • 27. Exodus 32:33; Deuteronomy 29:20; Job 18:17; Psalms 9:5; Psalms 34:16; Psalms 109:15; Ezekiel 18:4
  • 28. ver 13; S Genesis 36:12; Numbers 24:7; Judges 3:13; 1 Samuel 15:3; 1 Samuel 30:17-18; Psalms 83:7
  • 29. S Genesis 8:20
  • 30. S Genesis 22:14
  • 31. Numbers 24:7; 1 Samuel 15:8,32; 1 Chronicles 4:43; Esther 3:1; Esther 8:3; Esther 9:24
  • 32. Esther 9:5

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. "Massah" means "testing."
  • [b]. "Meribah" means "quarreling."
  • [c]. Or "to"
  • [d]. The meaning of the Hebrew for this clause is uncertain.

Chapter Summary


The children of Israel coming to Rephidim, want water, and chide with Moses about it, who, crying to the Lord, is bid to smite the rock, from whence came water for them, and he named the place from their contention with him, Ex 17:1-7 at this place Amalek came and fought with Israel, who, through the prayer of Moses, signified by the holding up of his hands, and by the sword of Joshua, was vanquished, Ex 17:8-13, for the remembrance of which it was ordered to be recorded in a book, and an altar was built with this inscription on it, "Jehovahnissi": it being the will of God that Amalek should be fought with in every generation until utterly destroyed, Ex 17:14-16.

Exodus 17 Commentaries

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