Exodus 17:1
And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XVII.

THE MURMURING AT REPHIDIM AND THE FIGHT WITH AMALEK.

(1) The children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin.—The route by which Rephidim was reached is very uncertain. From El Markha there are three modes of reaching the Wady Feiran, where Rephidim is placed by most critics. One route (the shortest) is from the northern part of El Markha by Wady Shellal and Wady Magharah, where there was an important Egyptian settlement. This the Israelites would probably have avoided. Another, from the central part of El Markha, leads through the Wady Seih Sidreh to Magharah, and would, therefore, have been equally inconvenient. The third is circuitous, but has the advantage of being very open, and therefore suitable for a vast host. It passes through the whole of El Markha, and then, skirting the mountain, enters Wady Feiran at its south-western extremity. The probability seems on the whole to be that the Israelites pursued this last route.

After their journeys.—We find from Numbers 33:12-13, that Rephidim was reached from the wilderness of Sin by three journeys—from Sin to Dophkah, from Dophkah to Alush, and from Alusb to Rephidim. The distance by the route which we have supposed the Israelites to have taken is about fifty miles.

Rephidim means rests, or resting-places, and is an appropriate name for the central part of the Wady Feiran—the most fertile spot in the whole peninsula, where there is usually abundant water, rich vegetation, and numerous palm-trees. (Lepsius, Tour from Thebes to Sinai, pp. 21, 37; Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, pp. 40, 41.) According to Dean Stanley, “the oldest known tradition of the peninsula” identifies Rephidim with Paran—the seat of an early bishopric—undoubtedly the same word with Feiran.

There was no water.—Though Feiran is usually watered by a copious stream, there have been occasions when the brook has been dried up. Graul found it dry in March, 1858. (Stanley, p. 40, Note 3.)

Exodus 17:1. The children of Israel journeyed — By divers stations, recorded Numbers 33:12-13, but here omitted, because nothing extraordinary happened in them. According to the commandment of the Lord — Signified either by word, or by the motion or rest of the pillar of cloud and fire. Although led by this, they came to a place where there was no water for them to drink — We may be in the way of our duty and yet meet with troubles, which Providence brings us into for the trial of our faith.17:1-7 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 apostle says, that Rock was Christ, 1Co 10:4, it was a type of 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.According to their journeys - The Israelites rested at two stations before they reached Rephidim, namely, Dophkah and Alush Numbers 33:12-14. Dophkah was in the Wady Sih, a day's journey from the Wady Nasb. The wilderness of Sin Exodus 16:1 properly speaking ends here, the sandstone ceases, and is replaced by the porphyry and granite which belong to the central formation of the Sinaitic group. Alush may have been near the entrance to the Wady Sheikh.

Rephidim - (Variously placed at Feiran at the base of Mount Serbal, or at the pass of El Watiyeh.)

CHAPTER 17

Ex 17:1-7. The People Murmur for Water.

1. the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin—In the succinct annals of this book, those places only are selected for particular notice by the inspired historian, which were scenes memorable for their happy or painful interest in the history of the Israelites. A more detailed itinerary is given in the later books of Moses, and we find that here two stations are omitted (Nu 33:1-56).

according to the commandment of the Lord, &c.—not given in oracular response, nor a vision of the night, but indicated by the movement of the cloudy pillar. The same phraseology occurs elsewhere (Nu 9:18, 19).

pitched in Rephidim—now believed, on good grounds, to be Wady Feiran, which is exactly a day's march from Mount Sinai, and at the entrance of the Horeb district. It is a long circuitous defile about forty feet in breadth, with perpendicular granite rocks on both sides. The wilderness of Sin through which they approached to this valley is very barren, has an extremely dry and thirsty aspect, little or no water, scarcely even a dwarfish shrub to be seen, and the only shelter to the panting pilgrims is under the shadow of the great overhanging cliffs.The children of Israel come to Rephidim; there is no water, therefore murmur against Moses, Exodus 17:1-3. Moses crieth to the Lord, Exodus 17:4. The Lord sendeth Moses to Horeb; he smiteth the rock, and water cometh out, Exodus 17:5,6. He names that place, and the reason of it, Exodus 17:7. Amalek warreth against the Israelites, Exodus 17:8. Moses appointeth Joshua to fight with him, Exodus 17:9. Joshua’s success when Moses held up his hand; when let down, Amalek prevailed, Exodus 17:11-13. Moses buildeth an altar, and nameth it, Exodus 17:15. The reason of it, Exodus 17:16.

After their journeys; by divers stations, recorded Numbers 33:12,13, &c., but here omitted, because there was nothing extraordinary happened in them.

According to the commandment of the Lord, expressed either by word of mouth, or by the motion or rest of the cloudy pillar, Exodus 13:21.

And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin,.... Where they had stayed some time, at least a week, as it should seem, from the gathering the manna there six days, and resting on the seventh:

after their journeys: first from the wilderness of Sin to Dophkah, and from Dophkah to Alusb, and from Alush to Rephidim, as appears from Numbers 33:12 their two stations at Dophkah and Alush are here omitted, nothing very remarkable or of any moment happening at either place:

according to the commandment; or "mouth of the Lord" (d), who, either with an articulate voice out of the cloud, ordered when they should march, and where they should encamp; or else this was signified by the motion or rest of the pillar of cloud or fire, which always went before them, in which the Lord was:

and pitched in Rephidim; which was a place on the western side of Mount Sinai: according to Bunting (e), Dophkah was twelve miles from the wilderness of Sin, and Alush twelve miles from Dophkah, and Rephidim eight miles from Alush: and Jerom says (f), according to the propriety of the Syriac language, it signifies a remission of hands: and to which the Targum of Jonathan seems to have respect, adding,"the place where their hands ceased from the precepts of the law, wherefore the fountains were dried up;''and it follows:

and there was no water for the people to drink; being a sandy desert place.

(d) "super ore", Montanus, "ad os", Vatablus. (e) Travels, p. 82. (f) Epist. ad Fabiolam de 42 mansion. tom. 3. fol. 15. B.

And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in {a} Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.

(a) Moses does not note every place where they camped as in Numbers 33, but only those places where some notable thing was done.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1a. the congregation] see on Exodus 12:3.

journeys] better, as marg., stages; lit. pluckings up, i.e. (see on Exodus 12:37) breakings up of camp. The same expression, Genesis 13:3, Numbers 10:12; Numbers 33:2. The stations between the wilderness of Sin and Rephidim, at which the Israelites thus halted, were, according to Numbers 33:12-14 (P), Dophḳah and Alush (both unidentified). ‘Journey’ (from journée) is probably used here in its old sense of a day’s travel.

according to the commandment (Heb. mouth) of Jehovah] A frequent expression in P: Numbers 3:16; Numbers 3:19; Numbers 3:51; Numbers 4:37; Numbers 4:41, &c.

Rephidim] Probably in the upper part of the broad and long Wâdy Feiran, the ‘finest valley in the Peninsula’ (Burckh.). As was mentioned on Exodus 16:1, W. Feiran could be reached from the plain el-Markhâ, either from the middle of the plain up the Seiḥ Sidreh on the E., or, 7 miles beyond the end of the plain, from the mouth of W. Feiran itself: the two routes converge at a point about 16 miles from the mouth of W. Feiran. The W. Feiran leads up Eastwards into the heart of the Peninsula. At about 30 miles from its mouth (see the Map), the traveller sees, 3 miles on his right, between W. ‘Ajeleh and W. ‘Aleyat, the lofty peaks of J. Serbâl; continuing up W. Feiran, he reaches, after 30, 37, or 41 miles, according to the route taken (see p. 182), J. Mûsâ. At the junction of W. ‘Aleyat with W. Feiran are ruins of the ancient episcopal town of Pharan, and of the churches and monasteries connected with it. For about 4 miles above these ruins there extends the oasis of W. Feiran, watered by a never-failing stream, in which the date palm is largely cultivated: Burckhardt (p. 602) says that the gardens and date plantations, nearly every one irrigated by its own well, extended uninterruptedly along the whole of the 4 miles: cucumbers, melons, gourds, also, as well as acacias, tamarisks, and other trees grew there (cf. Palmer, Desert of the Ex., pp. 154, 158, who describes this as the most fertile part of the Peninsula). The name Rephidim has not been preserved: but it is placed by Eusebius (Onom. 145. 25) near Pharan, and identified with it by Cosmas Indicopleustes, c. 535–40 a.d. (Rob. i. 126; Ordn. Surv. p. 199); and Antoninus (Itin. § 40), writing c. 570 a.d., states that a chapel was shewn there, the altar in which was supposed to stand upon the stones which supported Moses’ hands. This identification of Rephidim has been accepted by Lepsius, Ebers, and the members of the Ordnance Survey party (except the Rev. F. W. Holland), the Israelite encampment, it is supposed, having been, not as far up the valley as the oasis itself (in which water would hardly have been needed, v. 1b), but 3 or 4 miles below it, and the Amalekites having come down the valley to prevent the Israelites from gaining possession of the oasis (Major Palmer, Sinai,2 pp. 207 f., 86). A hill, on the N. edge of the Wâdy, about 720 feet high, called Jebel el-Taḥuneh (the ‘Mount of the Windmill’), covered with remains of chapels, cells, and tombs, has been suggested as the spot from which Moses viewed the battle (Ordn. Surv. p. 212; Prof. Palmer, Desert of the Ex. p. 162, with view, and map opposite p. 165; Major Palmer, Sinai, p. 138). (The Rev. F. W. Holland and Canon Cook (Speaker’s Comm. pp. 138–40) placed Rephidim some 27 miles beyond Feiran, at the narrow defile el-Waṭiyeh; and Keil placed it even beyond el-Waṭiyeh, at the point where W. Sheikh enters the plain er-Râḥah, just N. of J. Mûsâ.) Dillm. describes the different views that have been taken about the situation of Rephidim; but wisely makes no attempt to decide between them.

1b–7. Water given to the people from the rock in Horeb.Verses 1-7. - THE SECOND MUMURING FOR WATER. When the Israelites had come to Rephidim which was probably in the Wady Feiran, near its junction with the Wady Esh-Sheikh, complaint arose, not, as at Marah (Exodus 15:23), that there was no drinkable water, but that there was no water at all. Water had been expected, and consequently no supply had been brought; but none was found. Violent murmurs arose, and the people were ready to stone their leader (ver. 4), who had, they considered, brought them into the difficulty. As usual, Moses took his grief to God, and laid it before him, with the result that God gave miraculous relief. Moses was bidden to take his rod, and go with the elders to a particular rock known as "the rock in Horeb" (ver. 6), and there strike the rock, and water would flow forth. This he did, and a copious stream welled out, which furnished abundant drink to the whole multitude. In remembrance of the murmuring, he called the place Massah (trial) and Meribah (quarrel). Verse 1. - From the wilderness of Sin. See the comment on Exodus 16:1. The sandy coast tract (El Murka) was probably quitted in lat. 28° 42' nearly, and the Wady Feiran entered on at its south-western extremity. Two stations, Dophkah and Alush, lay between the Sin wilderness and Rephidim, as we learn from Numbers 33:12, 13. It is impossible to locate these places with exactness. After their journeys. The three stages - from Sin to Dophkah, from Dophkah to Alush, and from Alush to Rephidim - seem to be alluded to. According to the commandment of the Lord. Literally, "at the mouth of Jehovah," i.e. as God ordered them. The command was signified by the movement of the "pillar of the cloud." And pitched in Rephidim. The word Rephidim signifies "resting places," and "is the natural name for the paradise of the Bedouins in the palm-grove where the church and palace of the bishops of Paran formerly stood "(Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 41). There was no water. The Wady Feiran is watered ordinarily by a copious stream; but at times the brook is dry (ibid. p. 40, note 3). The manna was "like coriander-seed, white; and the taste of it like cake with honey." גּד: Chald. גּידא; lxx κόριον; Vulg. coriandrum; according to Dioscorid. 3, 64, it was called γοίδ by the Carthaginians. צפּיחת is rendered ἔγκρις by the lxx; according to Athenaeus and the Greek Scholiasts, a sweet kind of confectionary made with oil. In Numbers 11:7-8, the manna is said to have had the appearance of bdellium, a fragrant and transparent resin, resembling wax (Genesis 2:12). It was ground in handmills or pounded in mortars, and either boiled in pots or baked on the ashes, and tasted like השּׁמן לשׁד, "dainty of oil," i.e., sweet cakes boiled with oil.

This "bread of heaven" (Psalm 78:24; Psalm 105:40) Jehovah gave to His people for the first time at a season of the year and also in a place in which natural manna is still found. It is ordinarily met with in the peninsula of Sinai in the months of June and July, and sometimes even in May. It is most abundant in the neighbourhood of Sinai, in Wady Feirn and es Sheikh, also in Wady Gharandel and Taiyibeh, and some of the valleys to the south-east of Sinai (Ritter, 14, p. 676; Seetzen's Reise iii. pp. 76, 129). In warm nights it exudes from the branches of the tarfah-tree, a kind of tamarisk, and falls down in the form of small globules upon the withered leaves and branches that lie under the trees; it is then gathered before sunrise, but melts in the heat of the sun. In very rainy seasons it continues in great abundance for six weeks long; but in many seasons it entirely fails. It has the appearance of gum, and has a sweet, honey-like taste; and when taken in large quantities, it is said to act as a mild aperient (Burckhardt, Syr. p. 954; Wellsted in Ritter, p. 674). There are striking points of resemblance, therefore, between the manna of the Bible and the tamarisk manna. Not only was the locality in which the Israelites first received the manna the same as that in which it is obtained now; but the time was also the same, inasmuch as the 15th day of the second month (Exodus 16:1) falls in the middle of our May, if not somewhat later. The resemblance in colour, form, and appearance is also unmistakeable; for, though the tamarisk manna is described as a dirty yellow, it is also said to be white when it falls upon stones. Moreover, it falls upon the earth in grains, is gathered in the morning, melts in the heat of the sun, and has the flavour of honey. But if these points of agreement suggest a connection between the natural manna and that of the Scriptures, the differences, which are universally admitted, point with no less distinctness of the miraculous character of the bread of heaven. This is seen at once in the fact that the Israelites received the manna for 40 years, in all parts of the desert, at every season of the year, and in sufficient quantity to satisfy the wants of so numerous a people. According to Exodus 16:35, they ate manna "until they came to a land inhabited, unto the borders of the land of Canaan;" and according to Joshua 5:11-12, the manna ceased, when they kept the Passover after crossing the Jordan, and ate of the produce of the land of Canaan on the day after the Passover. Neither of these statements is to be so strained as to be made to signify that the Israelites ate no other bread than manna for the whole 40 years, even after crossing the Jordan: they merely affirm that the Israelites received no more manna after they had once entered the inhabited land of Canaan; that the period of manna or desert food entirely ceased, and that of bread baked from corn, or the ordinary food of the inhabited country, commenced when they kept the Passover in the steppes of Jericho, and ate unleavened bread and parched cakes of the produce of the land as soon as the new harvest had been consecrated by the presentation of the sheaf of first-fruits to God.

But even in the desert the Israelites had other provisions at command. In the first place, they had brought large flocks and herds with them out of Egypt (Exodus 12:38; Exodus 17:3); and these they continued in possession of, not only at Sinai (Exodus 34:3), but also on the border of Edom and the country to the east of the Jordan (Numbers 20:19; Numbers 32:1). Now, if the maintenance of these flocks necessitated, on the one hand, their seeking for grassy spots in the desert; on the other hand, the possession of cattle secured them by no means an insignificant supply of milk and flesh for food, and also of wool, hair, and skins for clothing. Moreover, there were different tribes in the desert at that very time, such as the Ishmaelites and Amalekites, who obtained a living for themselves from the very same sources which must necessarily have been within reach of the Israelites. Even now there are spots in the desert of Arabia where the Bedouins sow and reap; and no doubt there was formerly a much larger number of such spots than there are now, since the charcoal trade carried on by the Arabs has interfered with the growth of trees, and considerably diminished both the fertility of the valleys and the number and extent of the green oases (cf. Rppell, Nubien, pp. 190, 201, 256). For the Israelites were not always wandering about; but after the sentence was pronounced, that they were to remain for 40 years in the desert, they may have remained not only for months, but in some cases even for years, in certain places of encampment, where, if the soil allowed, they could sow, plant, and reap. There were many of their wants, too, that they could supply by means of purchases made either from the trading caravans that travelled through the desert, or from tribes that were settled there; and we find in one place an allusion made to their buying food and water from the Edomites (Deuteronomy 2:6-7). It is also very obvious from Leviticus 8:2; Leviticus 26:31-32; Leviticus 9:4; Leviticus 10:12; Leviticus 24:5., and Numbers 7:13., that they were provided with wheaten meal during their stay at Sinai.

(Note: Vide Hengstenberg's Geschichte Bileam's, p. 284ff. For the English translation, see "Hengstenberg on the Genuineness of Daniel, etc.," p. 566. Clark. 1847.)

But notwithstanding all these resources, the desert was "great and terrible" (Deuteronomy 9:19; Deuteronomy 8:15); so that, even though it is no doubt the fact that the want of food is very trifling in that region (cf. Burckhardt, Syria, p. 901), there must often have been districts to traverse, and seasons to endure, in which the natural resources were either insufficient for so numerous a people, or failed altogether. It was necessary, therefore, that God should interpose miraculously, and give His people bread and water and flesh by supernatural means. So that it still remains true, that God fed Israel with manna for 40 years, until their entrance into an inhabited country rendered it possible to dispense with these miraculous supplies. We must by no means suppose that the supply of manna was restricted to the neighbourhood of Sinai; for it is expressly mentioned after the Israelites had left Sinai (Numbers 11:7.), and even when they had gone round the land of Edom (Numbers 21:5). But whether it continued outside the true desert, - whether, that is to say, the Israelites were still fed with manna after they had reached the inhabited country, viz., in Gilead and Bashan, the Amoritish kingdoms of Sihon and Og, which extended to Edrei in the neighbourhood of Damascus, and where there was no lack of fields, and vineyards, and wells of water (Numbers 21:22), that came into the possession of the Israelites on their conquest of the land, - or during their encampment in the fields of Moab opposite to Jericho, where they were invited by the Moabites and Edomites to join in their sacrificial meals (Numbers 25:2), and where they took possession, after the defeat of the Midianites, of their cattle and all that they had, including 675,000 sheep and 72,000 beeves (Numbers 31:31.), - cannot be decided in the negative, as Hengstenberg supposes; still less can it be answered with confidence in the affirmative, as it has been by C. v. Raumer and Kurtz. For if, as even Kurtz admits, the manna was intended either to supply the want of bread altogether, or where there was bread to be obtained, though not in sufficient quantities, to make up the deficiency, it might be supposed that no such deficiency would occur in these inhabited and fertile districts, where, according to Joshua 1:11, there were sufficient supplies, at hand to furnish ample provision for the passage across the Jordan. It is possible too, that as there were more trees in the desert at that time than there are now, and, in fact, more vegetation generally, there may have been supplies of natural manna in different localities, in which it is not met with at present, and that this manna harvest, instead of yielding only 5 or 7 cwt., as is the case now, produced considerably more.

(Note: The natural manna was not exclusively confined to the tamarisk, which seems to be the only tree in the peninsula of Sinai that yields it now; but, according to both ancient and modern testimony, it has been found in Persia, Chorasan, and other parts of Asia, dropping from other trees. Cf. Rosenmller ubi supra, and Ritter, 14, pp. 686ff.)

Nevertheless, the quantity which the Israelites gathered every day, - Viz. an omer a head, or at least 2 lbs., - still remains a divine miracle; though this statement in Exodus 16:16. is not to be understood as affirming, that for 40 years they collected that quantity every day, but only, that whenever and wherever other supplies failed, that quantity could be and was collected day by day.

Moreover, the divine manna differed both in origin and composition from the natural produce of the tamarisk. Though the tamarisk manna resembles the former in appearance, colour, and taste, yet according to the chemical analysis to which it has been submitted by Mitscherlich, it contains no farina, but simply saccharine matter, so that the grains have only the consistency of wax; whereas those of the manna supplied to the Israelites were so hard that they could be ground in mills and pounded in mortars, and contained so much meal that it was made into cakes and baked, when it tasted like honey-cake, or sweet confectionary prepared with oil, and formed a good substitute for ordinary bread. There is no less difference in the origin of the two. The manna of the Israelites fell upon the camp with the morning dew (Exodus 16:13, Exodus 16:14; Numbers 11:9), therefore evidently out of the air, so that Jehovah might be said to have rained it from heaven (Exodus 16:4); whereas the tamarisk manna drops upon the ground from the fine thin twigs of this shrub, and, in Ehrenberg's opinion, in consequence of the puncture of a small, yellow insect, called coccus maniparus. But it may possibly be produced apart from this insect, as Lepsius and Tischendorf found branches with a considerable quantity of manna upon them, and saw it drop from trees in thick adhesive lumps, without being able to discover any coccus near (see (Ritter, 14, pp. 675-6). Now, even though the manna of the Bible may be connected with the produce of the tamarisk, the supply was not so inseparably connected with these shrubs, as that it could only fall to the earth with the dew, as it was exuded from their branches. After all, therefore, we can neither deny that there was some connection between the two, nor explain the gift of the heavenly manna, as arising from an unrestricted multiplication and increase of this gift of nature. We rather regard the bread of heaven as the production and gift of the grace of God, which fills all nature with its powers and productions, and so applies them to its purposes of salvation, as to create out of that which is natural something altogether new, which surpasses the ordinary productions of nature, both in quality and quantity, as far as the kingdom of nature is surpassed by the kingdom of grace and glory.

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