Exodus 17:4
And Moses cried to the LORD, saying, What shall I do to this people? they be almost ready to stone me.
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(4) They be almost ready to stone me.—Heb., Yet a little and they will stone me. On tumultuary stoning, see the second Note on Exodus 8:26.

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.Tempt the Lord - It is a general characteristic of the Israelites that the miracles, which met each need as it arose, failed to produce a habit of faith: but the severity of the trial, the faintness and anguish of thirst in the burning desert, must not be overlooked in appreciating their conduct. 4. Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this people?—His language, instead of betraying any signs of resentment or vindictive imprecation on a people who had given him a cruel and unmerited treatment, was the expression of an anxious wish to know what was the best to be done in the circumstances (compare Mt 5:44; Ro 12:21). No text from Poole on this verse. And Moses cried unto the Lord..... Or prayed unto him, as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan; which shows the distress he was thrown into, the vehemence of his prayer, and perhaps the loud and lamentable tone in which he expressed it: this was the method he always took, and the refuge he fled unto in all his times of trouble; in which he did well, and set a good example of piety and devotion to God, of faith and trust in him: saying:

what shall I do unto this people? or, "for this people" (h); to relieve them in their present exigency; suggesting his own inability to do any thing for them: yet not despairing of relief, but rather expressing faith in the power and goodness of God to keep them, by his application to him; desiring that he would open a way for their help, and direct him what he must do in this case for them: something, he intimates, must be done speedily for the glory of God, for his own safety, and to prevent the people sinning yet more and more, and so bring destruction upon them; for, adds he:

they be almost ready to stone me or, "yet a little, and they will stone me" (i); if the time of help is protracted, if relief is not in a short time given, he had reason to believe from the menaces they had given out, the impatience they had showed, the rage they were in, they would certainly take up stones and stone him, being in a stony and rocky place; and this they would do, not as a formal punishment of him as a false prophet, telling them they should be brought to Canaan, when they were brought into the wilderness and perishing there; which law respecting such an one was not yet in being; but this he supposed as what an enraged multitude was wont to do, and which was more ready at hand for them to do than anything else, see Exodus 8:26.

(h) "populo haic", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, &c. (i) "adhuc paululum et lapidabit me." V. L. "parum abest", Tigurine version; "adhuc modicum", Pagninus, Montanus; "adhuc paulisper", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; so Ainsworth.

And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to {c} stone me.

(c) How ready the people are to slay the true prophets for their own purposes and how slow they are to take up God's cause against his enemies and false prophets.

4. cried unto Jehovah] Exodus 14:15, Exodus 15:25.

to stone me] Cf. 1 Samuel 30:6.Verse 4. - And Moses cried unto the Lord. It is one of the most prominent traits of the character of Moses, that, at the occurrence of a difficulty, he always carries it straight to God. (See Exodus 15:25; Exodus 24:15; Exodus 32:30; Exodus 33:8; Numbers 11:2, 11; Numbers 12:11; Numbers 14:13-19, etc.) They be almost ready to stone me. This is the first which we hear of stoning as a punishment. It is naturally one of the easiest modes of wreaking popular vengeance on an obnoxious individual, and was known to the Greeks as early as the time of the Persian war (Herod. 9:5), to the Macedonians (Q. Curt. Vit. Alex. 6:11, 38), and others. There is, however, no trace of it among the Egyptians. As a constant memorial of this bread of God for succeeding generations, Jehovah commanded Moses to keep a bowl full (העמר מלא, the filling of a bowl) of the manna. Accordingly Aaron placed a jar of manna (as it is stated in Exodus 16:34, Exodus 16:35, by way of anticipation, for the purpose of summing up everything of importance relating to the manna) "before Jehovah," or speaking still more exactly, "before the testimony," i.e., the tables of the law (see Exodus 25:16), or according to Jewish tradition, in the ark of the covenant (Hebrews 9:4). צנצנת, from צנן to guard round, to preserve, signifies a jar or bottle, not a basket. According to the Jerusalem Targum, it was an earthenware jar; in the lxx it is called στάμνος χρυσοῦς, a golden jar, but there is nothing of this kind in the original text.
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