Exodus 17:7
And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not?
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(7) Massah means trial, or temptation, being formed from the root used in Exodus 17:2 (“Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord ?”) It is the word translated by “trial” in Job 9:23, and by temptation” in Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 7:19; Deuteronomy 29:3, and Psalm 95:8.

Meribah means chiding, or quarrel, and is from the root rub, or rib, translated “chide” in Exodus 17:2, and rendered elsewhere generally by “strive,” or “contend.” The name Meribah was given also to the place where water was again produced miraculously by Moses striking the rock (Numbers 20:13.) It is this latter “Meribah” to which reference is made in Deuteronomy 33:8, and Psalm 81:7, and which is called by way of distinction in Deuteronomy 32:51, “Meribah-Kadesh.”

Exodus 17:7. Is the Lord among us or not? — To protect and provide for us according to his word; will he be as good as his word, or will he not? Words which implied that to them it was very doubtful. Against doubts of this kind we ought constantly to guard. For, whatever may be suggested to our minds by the enemy of our souls, we ought never to question whether God will be gracious to those that desire and endeavour to follow him in the ways of his appointment.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.Massah ...Meribah - See the margin. On the importance of this lesson see our Lord's words, Matthew 4:7. 7. called the name of the place—Massah ("temptation"); Meribah ("chiding," "strife"): the same word which is rendered "provocation" (Heb 3:8). viz. To protect and provide for us according to his word given to us. Will God be as good as his word, or will he not? For it is to us very doubtful. And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah,.... The former signifies "temptation", and the latter "contention": the reason of which names being given by Moses, or whoever was the name of the place, follows: "because of the chiding of the children of Israel"; that was the reason why it was called by the last name, Meribah, because here, the Israelites chid and contended with Moses, and used him opprobriously:

and because they tempted the Lord; therefore it had the former name of Massah:

saying, is the Lord among us or not? as if they should say, if we perish through thirst, the Lord is not among us, nor takes any care of us; nor was it he that brought us out of Egypt, but Moses; nor is he in the pillar of cloud and fire, as is said; but if he works a miracle, and gives us water, for us, our children, and cattle, then it will appear he is among us; and thus they tempted the Lord, though without this they had full proof, by many instances, that he was among them, and even in a very extraordinary manner.

And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the {d} LORD among us, or not?

(d) When in adversity we think God is absent, then we neglect his promise and make him a liar.

7. Massah] i.e. ‘Proving,’ from nissâh, to ‘prove,’ v. 2.

Meribah] i.e. ‘Strife’ (Genesis 13:8), from rîb, to ‘strive,’ v. 2. In Numbers 20:1-13 (J and P) there is a similar account, which reads like a variant tradition, of water produced by Moses from a rock (séla‘, not ṣûr as here) at Kadesh (‘Ain Ḳadish, 50 miles S. of Beersheba), the spring being afterwards called, from the fact that the Israelites ‘strove’ there with Jehovah, the ‘waters of Meribah’ (vv. 3, 13 al.), or ‘of Meribath-Kadesh’ (Numbers 27:14, Ezekiel 48:28 al.). It is strange in the present narrative that one place should receive two names; it is doubtless due, as suggested above, to the combination of two narratives. Massah is mentioned besides in Deuteronomy 6:16; Deuteronomy 9:22; Deuteronomy 33:8 ("" ‘the waters of Meribah,’ Numbers 20.), Psalm 95:8 ("" ‘Meribah’).

tempted the Lord] put Jehovah to the proof: see on v. 2.Verse 7. - He called the name of the place Massah. Massah is from the root nasah, "to try," or "tempt," and means "trial" or "temptation." Meribah is from rub, "to chide, quarrel," and means "contention, chiding, strife." Moses gave the same name to the place near Kadesh, where water was once more brought out of the rock, near the end of the wanderings. (See Numbers 20:13; Deuteronomy 32:51; Psalm 106:32.)

CHAPTER 17:8-16 Want of Water at Rephidim. - Exodus 17:1. On leaving the desert of Sin, the Israelites came למסעיהם, "according to their journeys," i.e., in several marches performed with encampings and departures, to Rephidim, at Horeb, where they found no water. According to Numbers 33:12-14, they encamped twice between the desert of Sin and Rephidim, viz., at Dofkah and Alush. The situation of Rephidim may be determined with tolerable certainty, partly from Exodus 17:6 as compared with Exodus 18:5, which shows that it is to be sought for at Horeb, and partly from the fact, that the Israelites reached the desert of Sinai, after leaving Rephidim, in a single day's march (Exodus 19:2). As the only way from Debbet er Ramleh to Horeb or Sinai, through which a whole nation could pass, lies through the large valley of es-Sheikh, Rephidim must be sought for at the point where this valley opens into the broad plain of er Rahah; and not in the defile with Moses' seat (Jokad Seidna Musa) in it, which is a day's journey from the foot of Sinai, or five hours from the point at which the Sheikh valley opens into the plain or er Rahah, or the plain of Szueir or Suweiri,

(Note: Burckhardt, p. 799; v. Raumer, Zug der Israeliten, p. 29; Robinson's Palestine, pp. 178, 179; De Laborde, comment., p. 78; Tischendorf, Reise i. p. 244.)

because this plain is so far from Sinai, that the Israelites could not possibly have travelled thence to the desert of Sinai in a single day; nor yet at the fountain of Abu Suweirah, which is three hours to the north of Sinai (Strauss, p. 131), for the Sheikh valley, which is only a quarter of a mile broad at this spot, and enclosed on both sides by tall cliffs (Robinson, i. 215), would not afford the requisite space for a whole nation; and the well found here, which though small is never dry (Robinson, i. 216), neither tallies with the want of water at Rephidim, nor stands "upon the rock at (in) Horeb," so that it could be taken to be the spring opened by Moses. The distance from Wady Nasb (in the desert of Sin) to the point at which the upper Sinai road reaches the Wady es Sheikh is about 15 hours (Robinson, vol. iii. app.), and the distance thence to the plain of er Rahah through the Sheikh valley, which runs in a large semicircle to Horeb, 10 hours more (Burckhardt, pp. 797ff.), whereas the straight road across el Oerf, Wady Solaf, and Nukb Hawy to the convent of Sinai is only seven hours and a half (Robinson, vol. iii. appendix). The whole distance from Wady Nasb to the opening of the Sheikh valley into the plain of er Rahah, viz., 25 hours in all, the Israelites might have accomplished in three days, answering to the three stations, Dofkah, Alush, and Rephidim. A trace of Dofkah seems to have been retained in el Tabbacha, which Seetzen found in the narrow rocky valley of Wady Gn, i.e., Kineh, after his visit to Wady Mukatteb, on proceeding an hour and a half farther in a north-westerly(?) direction, and where he saw some Egyptian antiquities. Knobel supposes the station Alush to have been in the Wady Oesch or Osh (Robinson, i. 125; Burckhardt, p. 792), where sweet water may be met with at a little distance off. But apart from the improbability of Alush being identical with Osh, even if al were the Arabic article, the distance is against it, as it is at least twelve camel-hours from Horeb through the Sheikh valley. Alush is rather to be sought for at the entrance to the Sheikh valley; for in no other case could the Israelites have reached Rephidim in one day.

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