Exodus 17:6
Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
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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.The rock in Horeb - (a rock situated, according to Arab tradition, in Wady Feiran. Horeb was a name given to the whole desert of Sinai and subsequently attached to the mountain. Palmer).

It is questioned whether the water thus supplied ceased with the immediate occasion; see 1 Corinthians 10:4, the general meaning of which appears to be that their wants were ever supplied from Him, of whom the rock was but a symbol, and who accompanied them in all their wanderings.

5. the Lord said unto Moses, &c.—not to smite the rebels, but the rock; not to bring a stream of blood from the breast of the offenders, but a stream of water from the granite cliffs. The cloud rested on a particular rock, just as the star rested on the house where the infant Saviour was lodged [Mt 2:9]. And from the rod-smitten rock there forthwith gushed a current of pure and refreshing water. It was perhaps the greatest miracle performed by Moses, and in many respects bore a resemblance to the greatest of Christ's: being done without ostentation and in the presence of a few chosen witnesses (1Co 10:4). I will stand before thee there, in my cloudy pillar, which shall stand over that place.

Horeb and Sinai are sometimes spoken of as the same place, and sometimes as two differing places, as here, compared with Exodus 19:2. The learned write, that this was one long mountain, whereof there were two eminent parts or tops, the one at a considerable distance from the other, and Horeb was the first part of it, and near Rephidim; and Sinai the more remote, to which they came afterwards.

Moses did so, i.e. smote the rock, and the waters flowed out plentifully and continually, making a river, which God caused to follow them to their several stations. See 1 Corinthians 10:4. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb,.... Or "upon that rock" (k), a particular rock which was pointed unto, where the Lord in the pillar of cloud would stand; not as a mere spectator of this affair, but as a director of Moses where to smite the rock; and to exert his power in producing water from it, and by his presence to encourage Moses to do it, and to expect and believe the issue of it:

and thou shalt smite the rock: or "on the rock", or "in it" (l); which made Jarchi fancy that the rod of Moses was something very hard, that it was a sapphire by which the rock was cleft:

and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink, they, their children, and their cattle, ready to die for thirst. Thus God showed himself gracious and merciful to a murmuring and ungrateful people:

and Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel; he smote the rock with his rod, and the waters gushed out in great abundance, like streams and rivers, for the refreshment of the people, and their flocks, Psalm 78:20. The Heathens have preserved some footsteps of this miracle in their writings, though disguised. Pausanias (m) speaks of a fountain of cold water springing out of a rock, and reports how Atalantes, coming from hunting thirsty, smote a rock with his spear, and water flowed out. This rock at Rephidim, and the apertures through which the waters flowed, are to be seen to this day, as travellers of veracity relate. Monsieur Thevenot (n) says the rock at Rephidim is only a stone of a prodigious height and thickness, rising out of the ground: on the two sides of that stone we saw several holes, by which the water hath run, as may be easily known by the prints of the water, which hath much hollowed it, but at present no water issues out of them. A later traveller (o) gives us a more distinct account of it: after we had descended the western side of this Mount (Sinai), says he, we came into the plain or wilderness of Rephidim, where we saw that extraordinary antiquity, the rock of Meribah, which was continued to this day, without the least injury from time or accidents. This is rightly called, from its hardness, Deuteronomy 8:15, , "a rock of flint", though, from the purple or reddish colour of it, it may be rather rendered the rock of or amethyst, or the amethystine, or granite rock. It is about six yards square, lying tottering as it were, and loose, near the middle of the valley, and seems to have been formerly a cliff of Mount Sinai, which hangs in a variety of precipices all over this plain; the water which gushed out, and the stream which flowed withal, Psalm 78:20 have hollowed across one corner of this rock, a channel about two inches deep, and twenty wide, all over incrusted like the inside of a tea kettle that has been long used. Besides several mossy productions that are still preserved by the dew, we see all over this channel a great number of holes, some of them four or five inches deep, and one or two in diameter, the lively and demonstrative tokens of their having been formerly so many fountains. Neither could art nor chance be concerned in the contrivance, inasmuch as every circumstance points out to us a miracle; and, in the same manner with the rent in the rock of Mount Calvary at Jerusalem, never fails to produce the greatest seriousness and devotion in all who see it. The Arabs, who were our guards, were ready to stone me in attempting to break off a corner of it: and another late traveller (p) informs us, that the stone called the stone of the fountains, or the solitary rock, is about twelve feet high, and about eight or ten feet broad, though it is not all of one equal breadth. It is a granite marble, of a kind of brick colour, composed of red and white spots, which are both dusky in their kind; and it stands by itself in the fore mentioned valley (the valley of Rephidim) as if it had grown out of the earth, on the right hand of the road toward the northeast: there remains on it to this day the lively impression of the miracle then wrought; for there are still to be seen the places where the water gushed out, six openings towards the southwest, and six towards the northeast; and in those places where the water flowed the clefts are still to be seen in the rock, as it were with lips. The account Dr. Pocock (q) gives of it is this,"it is on the foot of Mount Seriah, and is a red granite stone, fifteen feet long, ten wide, and about twelve high: on both sides of it toward the south end, and at the top of it for about the breadth of eight inches, it is discoloured as by the running of water; and all down this part, and both sides, and at top, are a sort of openings and mouths, some of which resemble the lion's mouth that is sometimes cut in stone spouts, but appear not to be the work of a tool. There are about twelve on each side, and within everyone is an horizontal crack, and in some also a crack down perpendicularly. There is also a crack from one of the mouths next to the hill, that extends two or three feet to the north, and all round to the south. The Arabs call this the stone of Moses; and other late travellers (r) say, that about a mile and a half, in the vale of Rephidim, is this rock; this, say they, is a vast stone, of a very compact and hard granite, and as it were projecting out of the ground; on both sides are twelve fissures, which the monk our guide applied to the twelve apostles, and possibly not amiss, had he joined the twelve tribes of Israel with them: as we were observing these fissures, out of which the water gushed, one would be tempted to think, added he, it is no longer ago than yesterday the water flowed out; and indeed there is such an appearance, that at a distance one would think it to be a small waterfall lately dried up: and one (s) that travelled hither in the beginning of the sixteenth century says, that to this day out of one of the marks or holes there sweats a sort of moisture, which we saw and licked.''We are taught by the Apostle Paul the mystical and spiritual meaning of this rock, which he says was Christ, that is, a type of him, 1 Corinthians 10:4 as it was for his external unpromising appearance among men at his birth, in his life and death; for his height, being higher than the kings of the earth, than the angels of heaven, and than the heavens themselves, and for strength, firmness, and solidity. The water that flowed from this rock was typical of the grace of Christ, and the blessings of it, which flow from him in great abundance to the refreshment and comfort of his people, and to be had freely; and of the blood of Christ, which flowed from him when stricken and smitten. And the rock being smitten with the rod of Moses, typified Christ being smitten by the rod of the law in the hand of justice, for the transgressions of his people; and how that through his having being made sin, and a curse for them, whereby the law and justice of God are satisfied, the blessings of grace flow freely to them, and follow them all the days of their lives, as the waters of the rock followed the Israelites through the wilderness.

(k) "super illam petram", Junius & Tremellius; "super illa petra", Piscator. (l) "in petram", Pagninus, Montanus, "in petra seu rupe"; so Jarchi, and the Targums. (m) Laconic sive, l. 3. p. 209. (n) Travels into the Levant, par. 1. B. 2. ch. 26. p. 167. (o) Dr. Shaw's Travels, p. 317. Ed. 2.((p) Journal from Cairo to Mount Sinai, A. D. 1722, 35, 36, 37. Ed. 2.((q) Travels, p. 148. (r) Egmont and Heyman's Travels, vol. 2. p. 174, 175. (s) Baumgarten. Peregrinatio, l. 1. c. 24. p. 62.

Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
6. stand before thee] be present with My omnipotence (Di.): a fine and striking anthropomorphism.

the rock] Not a particular rock, but the rocky mass in general (cf. Exodus 33:21-22).

in Horeb] The statement occasions great difficulty,—at least for those who place Rephidim in W. Feiran, and identify Sinai (substantially = Horeb) with J. Mûsâ, by the shortest route 24 miles (see above) beyond W. Feiran. If Sinai were J. Serbâl, the mountain above W. Feiran, on the S., there would be no difficulty; nor would there be any, if Sinai were J. Mûsâ, and Rephidim were where Keil places it, at the SE. entrance to the plain er-Râḥah, just N. of J. Mûsâ. ‘Horeb,’ however, is equally with ‘Sinai’ the scene of the lawgiving (see Deuteronomy 4:15); so, even though (see on Exodus 3:1) it may have been a somewhat wider term than ‘Sinai,’ it is scarcely likely that it will have included territory separated from it by a rough mountainous country, and only to be reached by a mountain valley at least 24 miles long. If, therefore, Rephidim is rightly placed in W. Feiran, and J. Mûsâ is rightly identified with Sinai, the most natural supposition is that the author wrote without an accurate knowledge of the topography, and did not realize how far ‘Horeb’ was from ‘Rephidim.’ It is, however, a question whether ch. 17–18 did not originally stand at a later point of the narrative, after ch. 34 (cf. p. 162), in which case Rephidim might be near ‘Horeb.’Verse 6. - Behold, I will stand before thee there. A visible Divine appearance seems to be intended, which would guide Moses to the exact place where he should strike. The rock in Horeb must have been a remarkable object, already known to Moses during the time that he dwelt in the Sinai-Horeb region; but its exact locality cannot be pointed out. It cannot, however, have been very far distant from Rephidim. (See ver. 8.) In conclusion, the quantity of the manna collected for the daily supply of each individual, which was preserved in the sanctuary, is given according to the ordinary measurement, viz., the ephah. The common opinion, that עמר was the name for a measure of capacity, which was evidently shared by the Seventy, who have rendered the word γομόρ, has no foundation so far as the Scriptures are concerned. Not only is it a fact, that the word omer is never used as a measure except in this chapter, but the tenth of an ephah is constantly indicated, even in the Pentateuch, by "the tenth part of an ephah" (Leviticus 5:11; Leviticus 6:13; Numbers 5:15; Numbers 28:5), or "a tenth deal" (Exodus 29:40; Leviticus 14:10, etc.; in all 30 times). The omer was a small vessel, cup, or bowl, which formed part of the furniture of every house, and being always of the same size, could be used as a measure in case of need.

(Note: Omer proprie nomen poculi fuit, quale secum gestare solent Orientales, per deserta iter facientes, ad hauriendam si quam rivus vel fons offerret aquam.... Hoc in poculo, alia vasa non habentes, et mannam collegerunt Israelitae (Michaelis, Supplem. ad Lex. hebr., p. 1929). Cf. Hengstenberg, Dissertations on the Pentateuch, vol. ii. p. 172.)

The ephah is given by Bertheau as consisting of 198577 Parisian cubic inches, and holding 739,800 Parisian grains of water; Thenius, however, gives only 101439 Parisian, or 112467 Rhenish inches. (See my Archologie, ii.-141-2.)

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