Exodus 15:24
And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
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15:22-27 In the wilderness of Shur the Israelites had no water. At Marah they had water, but it was bitter; so that they could not drink it. God can make bitter to us that from which we promise ourselves most, and often does so in the wilderness of this world, that our wants, and disappointments in the creature, may drive us to the Creator, in whose favour alone true comfort is to be had. In this distress the people fretted, and quarrelled with Moses. Hypocrites may show high affections, and appear earnest in religious exercises, but in the time of temptation they fall away. Even true believers, in seasons of sharp trial, will be tempted to fret, distrust, and murmur. But in every trial we should cast our care upon the Lord, and pour out our hearts before him. We shall then find that a submissive will, a peaceful conscience, and the comforts of the Holy Ghost, will render the bitterest trial tolerable, yea, pleasant. Moses did what the people had neglected to do; he cried unto the Lord. And God provided graciously for them. He directed Moses to a tree which he cast into the waters, when, at once, they were made sweet. Some make this tree typical of the cross of Christ, which sweetens the bitter waters of affliction to all the faithful, and enables them to rejoice in tribulation. But a rebellious Israelite shall fare no better than a rebellious Egyptian. The threatening is implied only, the promise is expressed. God is the great Physician. If we are kept well, it is he that keeps us; if we are made well, it is he that recovers us. He is our life and the length of our days. Let us not forget that we are kept from destruction, and delivered from our enemies, to be the Lord's servants. At Elim they had good water, and enough of it. Though God may, for a time, order his people to encamp by the bitter waters of Marah, that shall not always be their lot. Let us not faint at tribulations.Marah - Now identified with the fount of Huwara. The fountain rises from a large mound, a whitish petrifaction, deposited by the water, and is considered by the Arabians to be the worst in the whole district.23. when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters—Following the general route of all travellers southward, between the sea and the tableland of the Tih ("valley of wandering"), Marah is almost universally believed to be what is now called Howarah, in Wady Amarah, about thirty miles from the place where the Israelites landed on the eastern shore of the Red Sea—a distance quite sufficient for their march of three days. There is no other perennial spring in the intermediate space. The water still retains its ancient character, and has a bad name among the Arabs, who seldom allow their camels to partake of it. No text from Poole on this verse.

And the people murmured against Moses,.... For bringing them into a wilderness where they could find no water fit to drink; saying:

what shall we drink? what shall we do for drink? where can we drink? this water is not drinkable, and, unless we have something to drink, we, and our wives, and children, and servants, and cattle, must all perish.

And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
24. murmured] as Exodus 16:2; Exodus 16:7-8, Exodus 17:3, Numbers 14:2; Numbers 14:27; Numbers 14:29; Numbers 14:36; Numbers 16:11; Numbers 16:41; Numbers 17:5, Joshua 9:18†. Cf. ‘murmurings,’ Exodus 16:7-9; Exodus 16:12, Numbers 14:27; Numbers 17:5; Numbers 17:10†.

Verse 24. - And the people murmured against Moses. As they had already done on the western shores of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:11, 12), and as they were about to do so often before their wanderings were over. (See below, Exodus 16:2; Exodus 17:3; Numbers 14:2; Numbers 16:41; Deuteronomy 1:27, etc.) "Murmuring" was the common mode in which they vented their spleen, when anything went ill with them; and as Moses had persuaded them to quit Egypt, the murmuring was chiefly against him. The men who serve a nation best are during their lifetime least appreciated. What shall we drink? Few disappointments are harder to bear than that of the man, who after long hours of thirst thinks that he has obtained wherewith to quench his intolerable longing, and on raising the cup to his lips, finds the draught so nauseous that he cannot swallow it. Very unpalatable water is swallowed when the thirst is great (Eothen, p. 197). But there is a limit beyond which nature will not go. There "may be water, water everywhere, yet not a drop to drink." Exodus 15:24Exodus 15:22-24

Leaving the Red Sea, they went into the desert of Shur. This name is given to the tract of desert which separates Egypt from Palestine, and also from the more elevated parts of the desert of Arabia, and stretches from the Mediterranean to the head of the Arabian Gulf or Red Sea, and thence along the eastern shore of the sea to the neighbourhood of the Wady Gharandel. In Numbers 33:8 it is called the desert of Etham, from the town of Etham, which stood upon the border (see Exodus 13:20). The spot where the Israelites encamped after crossing the sea, and sang praises to the Lord for their gracious deliverance, is supposed to have been the present Ayun Musa (the springs of Moses), the only green spot in the northern part of this desolate tract of desert, where water could be obtained. At the present time there are several springs there, which yield a dark, brackish, though drinkable water, and a few stunted palms; and even till a very recent date country houses have been built and gardens laid out there by the richer inhabitants of Suez. From this point the Israelites went three days without finding water, till they came to Marah, where there was water, but so bitter that they could not drink it. The first spot on the road from Ayun Musa to Sinai where water can be found, is in the well of Howra, 33 English miles from the former. It is now a basin of 6 or 8 feet in diameter, with two feet of water in it, but so disagreeably bitter and salt, that the Bedouins consider it the worst water in the whole neighbourhood (Robinson, i. 96). The distance from Ayun Musa and the quality of the water both favour the identity of Howra and Marah. A whole people, travelling with children, cattle, and baggage, could not accomplish the distance in less than three days, and there is no other water on the road from Ayum Musa to Howra. Hence, from the time of Burckhardt, who was the first to rediscover the well, Howra has been regarded as the Marah of the Israelites. In the Wady Amara, a barren valley two hours to the north of Howra, where Ewald looked for it, there is not water to be found; and in the Wady Gharandel, two hours to the south, to which Lepsius assigned it, the quality of the water does not agree with our account.

(Note: The small quantity of water at Howra, "which is hardly sufficient for a few hundred men, to say nothing of so large an army as the Israelites formed" (Seetzen), is no proof that Howra and Marah are not identical. For the spring, which is now sanded up, may have flowed more copiously at one time, when it was kept in better order. Its present neglected state is the cause of the scarcity.)

It is true that no trace of the name has been preserved; but it seems to have been given to the place by the Israelites simply on account of the bitterness of the water. This furnished the people with an inducement to murmur against Moses (Exodus 15:24). They had probably taken a supply of water from Ayum Musa for the three days' march into the desert. But this store was now exhausted; and, as Luther says, "when the supply fails, our faith is soon gone." Thus even Israel forgot the many proofs of the grace of God, which it had received already.

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